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Critical Thinking

Building a Nation of Know-Nothings

It’s not just that 46 percent of Republicans believe the lie that Obama is a Muslim, or that 27 percent in the party doubt that the president of the United States is a citizen. But fully half of them believe falsely that the big bailout of banks and insurance companies under TARP was enacted by Obama, and not by President Bush.

Timothy Egan, New York Times | NY

Submitted by Evergreene Digest Contributing Editor Marsha Aronson

Having shed much of his dignity, core convictions and reputation for straight talk, Senator John McCain won his primary on Tuesday against the flat-earth wing of his party. Now McCain can go search for his lost character, which was last on display late in his 2008 campaign for president.

Remember the moment: a woman with matted hair and a shaky voice rose to express her doubts about Barack Obama. “I have read about him,” she said, “and he’s not — he’s an Arab.”

McCain was quick to knock down the lie. “No, ma’am,” he said, “he’s a decent family man, a citizen.”

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Fact Check: Is Iraq combat really over for US?

  • Despite President Barack Obama's declaration Tuesday (August 31) of an end to the combat mission in Iraq, combat almost certainly lies ahead.
  • The occupation of Iraq isn't over - it's being rebranded

Calvin Woodward, Associated Press, New York Times | NY

Iraqi policemen stand guard at a check point in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the end of American combat operations Tuesday leaves his country independent and an equal to the United States and he assured his people their own security forces will protect them.

Despite President Barack Obama's declaration Tuesday (August 31) of an end to the combat mission in Iraq, combat almost certainly lies ahead.

And in asserting the U.S. has met its responsibilities in Iraq, the president opened the door wide to a debate about the meaning of success in the muddle that most — but not all — American troops are leaving behind.

A look at some of the statements Obama made in his Oval Office speech and how they compare with the facts:
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The occupation of Iraq isn't over - it's being rebranded, Debra Sweet, World Can't Wait

  • The occupation of Iraq is only being re-branded, not ended. Despite President Obama's fallacious claims that the war in Iraq is winding down, the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment is deploying!
  • We Are Not Your Soldiers!
  • Collateral Murder: U.S. Soldier Ethan McCord's Eyewitness Story

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Revised: Top 10 Myths About Islam

  • Introduction to Islam
  • The Right's Shameful Muslim-Bashing
  • Five myths about mosques in this country

Huda, About.com

Submitted by Evergreene Digest Contributing Editor Ken Mitchell

Islam is a widely-misunderstood religion. Those who are unfamiliar with the faith often have misunderstandings about its teachings and practices. Common misconceptions include that Muslims worship a moon-god, that Islam is oppressive against women, or that Islam is a faith that promotes violence. Here we bust these myths and expose the true teachings of Islam.

1. Muslims worship a moon-god
Some non-Muslims mistakenly believe that Allah is an "Arab god," a "moon god," or some sort of idol. Allah is the proper name of the One True God, in the Arabic language. The most fundamental belief that a Muslim has is that "There is only One God," the Creator, the Sustainer -- known in the Arabic language and by Muslims as Allah. Arabic-speaking Christians use the same word for the Almighty.

2. Muslims don't believe in Jesus
In the Qur'an, stories about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ (called 'Isa in Arabic) are abundant. The Qur'an recalls his miraculous birth, his teachings, and the miracles he performed by God's permission. There is even a chapter of the Qur'an named after his mother, Mary (Miriam in Arabic). However, Muslims believe that Jesus was a fully human prophet and not in any way divine himself.

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Introduction to Islam, Huda, About.com
What is Islam? The name of the religion is Islam, which comes from an Arabic root word meaning "peace" and "submission." Islam teaches that one can only find peace in one's life by submitting to Almighty God (Allah) in heart, soul and deed. The same Arabic root word gives us "Salaam alaykum," ("Peace be with you"), the universal Muslim greeting.

The Right's Shameful Muslim-Bashing, The Progress Report

  • "If the prospect of losing our Constitution to religious government frightens you, don't worry about the tiny Muslim-American minority. Worry about the anti-mosque majority Gingrich is working to mobilize." --Slate Magazine's Will Saletan
  • Zero Tolerance

Five myths about mosques in this country, Edward E. Curtis, IV, Minneapolis Star Tribune | MN

  • Through their mosques, U.S. Muslims are embracing the community involvement that is a hallmark of the American experience. In this light, mosques should be welcomed as premier sites of American assimilation, not feared as incubators of terrorist indoctrination.
  • Top 10 Myths About Islam


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The Myths of Austerity

  • The next time you hear serious-sounding people explaining the need for fiscal austerity, try to parse their argument. Almost surely, you’ll discover that what sounds like hardheaded realism actually rests on a foundation of fantasy, on the belief that invisible vigilantes will punish us if we’re bad and the confidence fairy will reward us if we’re good. And real-world policy — policy that will blight the lives of millions of working families — is being built on that foundation.
  • This isn’t a recovery, in any sense that matters.

Paul Krugman, New York Times | NY

Submitted by Evergreene Digest Contributing Editor Thomas Sklarski

John Darkow

When I was young and naïve, I believed that important people took positions based on careful consideration of the options. Now I know better. Much of what Serious People believe rests on prejudices, not analysis. And these prejudices are subject to fads and fashions.

Which brings me to the subject of today’s column. For the last few months, I and others have watched, with amazement and horror, the emergence of a consensus in policy circles in favor of immediate fiscal austerity. That is, somehow it has become conventional wisdom that now is the time to slash spending, despite the fact that the world’s major economies remain deeply depressed.

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This Is Not a Recovery, Paul Krugman, New York Times | NY

  • This isn’t a recovery, in any sense that matters. And policy makers should be doing everything they can to change that fact.
  • GDP Revised Down: Economy Grew At A Much Slower Pace Than Previously Thought
  • Tax Jujitsu: Why Democrats Should Propose a “People’s Tax Cut”
  • Jobless? Your leaders are at ease with that.


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Goodbye, Blog


  • The friend of information but the enemy of thought.
  • Facebook devolves into dark web of anonymous hate speech.


Alan Jacobs, Christianity Today

About two years ago, my online life began to be centered on a computer application: not my word processing program, or my email program, but my rss news reader. rss (which apparently stands for Really Simple Syndication, though there is some debate about that) is a technology for capturing news headlines and summaries of stories, or their first few sentences, from websites. A site that offers these headlines is said to be providing news "feeds" to those who ask for them. The advantage of such syndication is that you can scan many headlines quickly, and open in your browser only the ones you really want to read.

Using NetNewsWire, I found I could get news from dozens of sources every day and thereby keep myself informed on pretty much everything I am interested in. For me the most exciting features of NetNewsWire were two: first, I could set the frequency with which I wanted to check my sites for new items, as often as every half-hour; and second, I could organize my sites in folders. Pretty soon I had a Technology folder, a Macintosh folder, a News folder, a Culture folder, a Literature folder, a Christianity folder, and so on.

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Facebook devolves into dark web of anonymous hate speech, Mike Adams, NaturalNews.com

  • Facebook has, for reasons you'll soon see, brought out the worst in many people, devolving into a tangled web of anonymous hate speech directed to anything and everything within reach.
  • How Facebook became a hate engine
  • How Facebook Betrayed Users and Undermined Online Privacy
  • Write Congress Through Facebook!

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Economics for the Rest of Us: Debunking the Science That Makes Life Dismal ~ Moshe Adler

Filled with lively examples—from food riots in Indonesia to eminent domain in Connecticut, and everyone from Adam Smith to Jeremy Bentham to Larry Summers—Economics for the Rest of Us shows how today’s dominant economic theories evolved, how they explicitly favor the rich over the poor, and why they’re not the only or best options. Written for anyone with an interest in understanding contemporary economic thinking—and why it is dead wrong—Economics for the Rest of Us offers a foundation for a fundamentally more equal economic system.

Chat with Moshe Adler about his new book, hosted by Max Fraad Wolff, Progressive Reader

"In this brilliant eye opener, Moshe Adler shows how more than a century ago the man-made concepts of economics were transformed from egalitarian concern with the welfare of everyone into analytical tools biased in favor of the rich. With clarity, and in language any educated person can grasp, Adler shows how economics largely abandoned concern with how economic efficiency is affected by distribution of resources and equality in favor of precepts that favor concentration of wealth and income."
—David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Free Lunch and Perfectly Legal

Why do contemporary economists consider food subsidies in starving countries, rent control in rich cities, and health insurance everywhere "inefficient"? Why do they feel that corporate executives deserve no less than their multimillion-dollar "compensation" packages and workers no more than their meager wages? Here is a lively and accessible debunking of the two elements that make economics the "science" of the rich: the definition of what is efficient and the theory of how wages are determined. The first is used to justify the cruelest policies, the second grand larceny.

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Excerpt: Economics for the Rest of Us by Moshe Adler, Progressive Reader
Economics for the Rest of Us: Debunking the Science That Makes Life Dismal
By Moshe Adler
Introduction
Professors of introductory economics are fond of telling their students about the eternal quest for a one-handed economist who would not be able to say, “On the other hand . . .” Is the recession about to end? Economists always [...]

Book Discussion: Economics for the Rest of Us by Moshe Adler, Progressive Reader
A masterful and wonderfully accessible book that does for economics what Howard Zinn did for American history—Freakonomics crossed with The Tipping Point. 
Why do contemporary economists consider food subsidies in starving countries, rent control in rich cities, and health insurance everywhere “inefficient”? Why do they feel that corporate executives deserve no less than their multimillion-dollar “compensation” [...]

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Playing With Teen Sex Statistics: A Lesson in Lies

If most high school kids aren’t having sex yet, that means that it’s that much more important to get them good sex education, so when they start having sex---and statistics overwhelmingly show that they will---they know how to make healthy choices.

Amanda Marcotte,  RHRealityCheck.org

There are many goofy aspects to this Life Site News story arguing that because a slim majority of teenagers don’t have sex, we don’t need to teach them about contraceptive methods. Perhaps the most puzzling is why they came out with the story on July 14th, since the report came out a month and a half ago. (In classic Life Site fashion, they don’t actually link the report, for fear that a stray reader may actually read it an clue into the fact that their spin is dishonest.) Did it take the American Life League (ALL) this long to craft a response? If so, you’d expect them to come up with something less transparently silly than this:

ALL says that the CDC report, entitled “Teenagers in the United States: Sexual Activity, Contraceptive Use, and Child Bearing, National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG),” debunks Planned Parenthood’s constant mantra that most teens will not abstain. In particular the pro-life organization points to the words of Planned Parenthood Federation of America vice president of medical affairs, Vanessa Cullens, from a YouTube video directed toward teens: “Admit that you are a sexually active individual like most of us, and that you are going to have sex and that you need to take precautions in order to stay healthy.”

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Don't Try These GOP Alibis at Home

Not all Americans are equal. Some are so powerful and important that if they ever find themselves in a tight pinch, they can expect an “investigation” to turn logic on its head to establish their “innocence.”

Robert Parry, Consortium News

Submitted by Evergreene Digest Contributing Editoir Thomas Sklarski

In the world where most of us live, these “alibis” would not be considered very effective and indeed might make you look guiltier. The investigators also might get offended, thinking that you regard them as very stupid. [For the full details on these alibis, see “The Crazy October Surprise Debunking.”]

However, in Official Washington when the political desire is strong to get rid of some messy scandal, alibis of this sort will do just fine, as they did in dispensing with the nasty allegations that Ronald Reagan's campaign sabotaged President Jimmy Carter’s efforts to free 52 American hostages in Iran, a failure that paved the way for Reagan’s historic landslide in 1980.

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