Bobby Jindal, the face of the new GOP, demonstrates how isolated the party has become

One of the rising stars in the Republican Party, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal was tipped as a possible running mate of John McCain and is now seen as one of the main players in the party’s bid to rebuild for a congressional comeback in the mid-terms and to mount a challenge to President Obama in 2012.

On the face of it he’s a good candidate: Jindal is an able politician with a good record, who as governor in 2008 oversaw, with Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans, the huge evacuation and preparations that saved hundreds of lives during the landfall of Hurricane Gustav.

But underneath it all, Jindal is still in hock to the religious right.  He has opposed embryonic stem cell research, abortion, gay marriage, refused federal aid in hate crimes investigations, and promoted the teaching of creationism.  During his time as a student he attended an “exorcism”, a procedure in which a young woman was detained and assaulted by people professing religious motives.  Such characteristics, as Sarah Palin found to her cost, are only attractive to the Republicans’  base of religious extremists.  To everybody else, they raise serious questions about a politician’s fitness for office.

More recently, Jindal has made some more serious faux-pas, announcing that Louisiana would reject state unemployment relief provided by the federal stimulus package.  Thus in a state already hit hard by natural disaster, the most vulnerable families are placed needlessly in hardship by the stupidity of their own governor.  Governor Jindal was also chosen to make the official Republican response to Obama’s stimulus proposals.  He was severely criticised for his poorly chosen words, particularly in a clumsy aside, so mind-bogglingly stupid that it might have come from Senator McCain, about volcano monitoring.

This week Obama’s poll ratings improved, largely as a result of a rally among Republican voters. The GOP needs to get its act together.  Revisiting the follies of the old Republican party, in new clothing, will not work.

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State of ignorance: sex education in Texas schools

RH Reality Check yesterday carried an article on a report about sex education in Texas schools, titled “When In Texas: Just Say I Don’t Know”.  The result of two years work by Dr. David Wiley, a health education professor at Texas State University-San Marcos, and Dr. Kelly Wilson, on behalf of the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund, the report is a damning indictment of a woefully inadequate system.

The problem seems to be that Texas receives some $18 million in federal funds annually for a program which is known as “abstinence-only education“, but is actually composed of feeding children scare-stories about sex and telling them not to do it. The results of such institutionalized idiocy are easy to predict: young people have sex anyway but are ignorant and unprepared for the consequences. It appears that most of this lunacy is presided over by religious organizations whose record of stupidity on matters related to sex is second to none.

Hopefully this disgusting behavior will be stopped and religious organizations will be chased out of the field of education, to the benefit of the young people of Texas.

I am pleased that Binyam Mohamed has today returned to the UK following his release from Guantanamo Bay

Statement by David Milliband, Foreign Secretary, on the return of Binyam Mohamed to British soil:

I am pleased that Binyam Mohamed has today returned to the UK following his release from Guantanamo Bay. This is the direct result of our request for his release and return, and follows intensive negotations with the US Government. Mr Mohamed was accompanied by FCO officials, officers of the Metropolitan police and the doctor who visited him at Guantanamo Bay last week. We have been in touch with Mr Mohamed’s family and legal representatives to inform them of his return.

The UK Government requested the release and return of all former legal UK residents detained at Guantanamo Bay in August 2007. In reaching this decision we have paid full consideration to the need to maintain national security and the Government’s overriding responsibilities in this regard. (FCO Press Release, February 23, 2009)

See also FCO Press Release, February 20, 2009

Getting an error fixed on the main page of Conservapedia

Conservapedia is an alternative to Wikipedia set up by conservative educator and activist Andrew Schlafly in late 2006, after Schlafly experienced difficulties editing Wikipedia from a conservative viewpoint.  Schlafly says Wikipedia is full of errors (I agree) and that it censors the conservative viewpoint.  A few weeks ago I had some interactions with the Conservapedia administrators, summarized here, after an inflammatory article was placed into Conservapedia by a vandal or parodist.

Like Wikipedia, Conservapedia has a main page that introduces the encyclopedia.  Like Wikipedia, Conservapedia carries news on its front page.  Like Wikipedia, Conservapedia protects the main page content, meaning that you need special privileges to edit it.

How does Conservapedia handle serious errors of fact?  There has been some talk in the news media about Conservapedia’s authoritarian and heavy-handed spproach to those who disagree with the opinions of Andrew Schlafly, but how does Conservapedia handle a simple error of fact?

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Col Allan doesn’t understand how he has offended many people. Perhaps this will help

"They'll have to find someone else to edit the New York Post"

"They'll have to find someone else to edit the New York Post"

The New York Post on Wednesday offended a lot of people by showing a cartoon depicting the recent shooting of a violently enraged chimpanzee, with the caption “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.”

After two days of protest the newspaper’s editor, Col Allan, issued an “apology” editorial in which he contrived to attack the very same people to whom he had caused offense.

As Mr Allan seems to be unable to understand why the cartoon caused such offense, I reproduce the cartoon here with an altered caption  intended as an aid to his comprehension..

Galaxy Quest

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey has imaged nearly a quarter of a million galaxies, the vast majority of them never known to astronomy before.  The task of cataloguing them is beyond the capability of current computer technology, and there aren’t enough astronomers to do the job.

Can you help?  If you can examine photographs and answer simple questions about them, yes you can.  This brief tutorial at the Galaxy Zoo website explains exactly what you need to do.  If you need more help, there’s a FAQ, a forum and a blog, and they’re on twitter.

There is no depth so low that a fundamentalist Christian cannot be found to plumb it

“Yesterday (Monday 9th February 2009) the front page of the Herald Sun newspaper reported ‘the darkest hour’ for Victoria. A few months ago the news media should have reported the darkest hour for the unborn, but unfortunately the decriminalisation of abortion bill went through parliament and was passed, thus making many people call Victoria the baby-killing state of Australia…In my dream I saw fire everywhere, with flames burning very high and uncontrollably. With this I woke up from my dream with the interpretation as the following words came to me in a flash from the spirit of God. That his conditional protection has been removed from the nation of Australia, in particular Victoria, for approving the slaughter of innocent children in the womb…Can we stop the fires? Yes we can! But it will take God’s children to rally together and repent and cry unto him as in 2 Chronicles 7:14 (The Holy Bible).” -Danny Nallah, Catch the Fire Ministries, February 10, 2009