Tuesday Reads: GOP Wackos, Oliver Sacks, and Other News

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Good Morning!!

Today is September 1, and Summer is almost over. How did it go by so quickly? Pretty soon the 2016 campaign will begin to heat up; but for now we are still in the silly season and Donald Trump is still grabbing all the headlines.

The Hill: Trump pledges to reverse Obama’s mountain renaming

Donald Trump promised Monday that he would return the name of North America’s largest mountain to Mount McKinley, undoing President Obama’s decision to call it Denali.

Calling Obama’s act a “great insult to Ohio,” Trump, who is running for president next year,tweeted late Monday that Obama reversed the name the peak had for more than 100 years, in honor of President William McKinley, an Ohio native.

Does Donald Trump even know anything about William McKinley? I doubt it. Why won’t this disgusting creep go away and leave us alone? John Kasich is upset too.

“You just don’t go and do something like that,” Kasich said, according to the Associated Press. “In Ohio, we felt it was appropriate. A guy saw that mountain when he was one of the first up there … named it after the president. No reason to change it.”

Um . . . no.

The mountain, in fact, got McKinley’s name before he was elected, and he never set foot inside Alaska.

Why Ohioans should have any say in the naming of a mountain in Alaska is a mystery. But the GOP candidates latch onto anything Obama does in order to get some media attention.

GOP Wackos

These days, when you see a crazy headline, you can be at least 99% sure that it involves a Republican politician.

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This headline from Local CBS5 in Arizona, for example: Matt Salmon facing parents’ anger over civics presentation to young kids.

GILBERT, AZ (KPHO/KTVK) – Several parents are demanding answers from Congressman Matt Salmon, saying they cannot believe what the lawmaker said to young school children during a visit to a Gilbert school.

“It should have probably just been a good civics lesson for kids who initially were excited to meet their congressman,” parent Scott Campbell said.

That excitement, however, turned into fear.

That fear, according to Campbell, was spawned by something Salmon said during a presentation he made Thursday about how bills become laws. The audience? Second- and third-graders at San Tan Charter School.

Campbell said the lesson took a dark turn when it came time to talk about vetoes.

“The congressman chose to give an example of the current situation in Iran, and made some inappropriate comments about ‘Do you know what a nuclear weapon is? Do you know that there are schools that train children your age to be suicide bombers?'” Campbell said.

He and other parents were shocked. He said he had to console his young daughter.

“After school my daughter was very concerned and said to me she actually didn’t even know what suicide was and was very afraid,” he explained.

WTF?!! Where do the Republicans dig these people up?

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Meanwhile most Americans want their Congresspeople to approve the Obama administration’s Iran deal, according to The Hill:

According to the survey from the University of Maryland, 55 percent of respondents said that Congress should get behind the agreement, despite some concerns.

Twenty-three percent, meanwhile, said that lawmakers should instead ratchet up sanctions, and 14 percent wanted U.S. officials to go back to the negotiating table.

In a key stat for Democratic backers of the agreement, 61 percent of independents recommended that Congress approve the deal, along with 72 percent of Democrats.

Just 33 percent of Republicans expressed support, highlighting the partisan divide that has erupted over the agreement, which sets limits on Iran’s nuclear ability in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.

The poll was conducted online, and the participants went through an in-depth process of listening to arguments from both sides. People were subjected to a detailed list of critiques of the agreement, followed by rebuttals to those arguments with reasons to get behind the deal.

Even the fact that 33 percent of GOP voters support the agreement is significant, considering their likely exposure to Fox News and talk radio.

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Speaking of wacko Republicans, even after the Supreme Court told weirdo Kim Davis she can’t refuse to issue marriage license to gay couples, she’s still doing it. NBC News reports:

Defying the Supreme Court and invoking “God’s authority,” a Kentucky county clerk on Tuesday turned away two same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses — touching off dueling protests until sheriff’s deputies cleared the room.

The clerk, Kim Davis of Rowan County, outside Lexington, has said that her personal religious objections preclude her from issuing the licenses.

The standoff came one day after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene in the case. That left in place a lower court ruling ordering Davis to issue marriage licenses.

Davis declined marriage licenses to two same-sex couples — two men and two women — who sought them at her office, in the small city of Morehead.

When is Kentucky going to get rid of this nutcase? She’s an embarrassment to her state and to all rational Americans.

RIP Oliver Sacks

Following the death of Oliver Sacks last week, I found myself browsing around looking for some of his writings on line. Sacks was a wonderful writer, and I’ve always enjoyed reading him. I haven’t read his book on hallucinations yet, and I think I’m going to get a copy and check it out. I have always been fascinated by altered states. Here are some links to essays by Sacks that you might want to check out if you haven’t read (or listened to) them already.

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In July, I wrote about my reaction to an NPR interview about face blindness, which Sacks suffered from. It was fascinating and led to my experiencing a very positive altered state–one of those “peak experiences” that Abraham Maslow wrote about. Check if out if you haven’t already.

Yesterday I read this piece on mystical experiences at the Atlantic: Seeing God in the Third Millennium. Sacks writes that when people have near death experiences, out of body experiences, and other altered states such as the auras that preceded epileptic seizures and migraines, the brain reflects the perceptions as if they are real. These often life-changing experiences have natural–not supernatural–causes, but they can have profound effects.

In 2012, Sacks wrote in The New Yorker about the history of mind altering drugs and his own experiments with them: Altered States: Self-experiments in chemistry.

From 1987, here’s an interview with Sacks on NPR’s Fresh Air: ‘Fresh Air’ at 20: Neurologist Oliver Sacks.

From Science of Us, a summary of a fascinating case study from The Lancet on which Sacks was one of the authors: The Strange Case of the Woman Haunted by Dragons. It’s about a woman who had altered perceptions of people’s faces–they looked “dragon-like.”

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Two recent NYT articles by Sacks:

From February 2015, My Own Life: Oliver Sacks on Learning He Has Terminal Cancer.

From August 2015: Oliver Sacks: Sabbath.

One of my favorite Sacks stories appeared in the book The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat. It was reprinted in the New York Review of Books in 1985: The President’s Speech. It’s about a group of aphasia patients and their reaction to seeing a Ronald Reagan speech on TV. Here’s the introduction:

What was going on? A roar of laughter from the aphasia ward, just as the President’s speech was starting, and the patients had all been so eager to hear the President speak.

There he was, the old charmer, the actor with his practiced rhetoric, his histrionics, his emotional appeal—and all the patients were convulsed with laughter. Well, not all: some looked bewildered, some looked outraged, one or two looked apprehensive, but most looked amused. The President is generally thought to be a moving speaker—but he was moving them, apparently, mainly to laughter. What could they be thinking? Were they failing to understand him? Or did they, perhaps, understand him all too well?

Read the rest at the link.

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Finally, from today’s Washington Post: The tragic story of Oliver Sacks’s celibacy.

When Oliver Sacks was 18, he faced a prospect most young people dread: a belated talk about the birds and the bees with his dad.

“You don’t seem to have many girlfriends,” Sacks wrote his father said in his memoir, “On the Move,” released earlier this year. “Don’t you like girls? … Perhaps you prefer boys?”

Sacks didn’t try to hide.

“Yes I do – but it’s just a feeling – I have never ‘done’ anything,” Sacks told his father.

He pleaded with his father not to tell his mother – but his father did. The news did not go over well — to say the least.

“You are an abomination,” she said. “I wish you had never been born.”

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How heartbreaking. Read more at the WaPo.

In The News, Links Only

The Guardian: Barack Obama in Alaska: global fight against climate change starts here.

Talking Points Memo: Trump’s Latino Bashing Risks GOP Senate Hopes In 3 Key States.

Pope Francis says priests can give absolution for “the sin of abortion.” From Time: What Pope Francis’ Abortion Announcement Really Means.

Jeb Bush tells the Pope how to do his job: Jeb Bush tells pope to focus on ‘mercy for the unborn’: Women should be ‘repentant’ for choosing abortion (Raw Story)

Jonathan Chait: Jeb Bush Responds to Insanely Racist Trump Ad by Calling Trump Liberal

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The Nation: The Trailer for ‘Concussion’ Should Give Roger Goodell Night Sweats.

The National Memo: Hillary Clinton Supports Ban On ‘Revolving Door’ Corporate Bonuses

US News: Clinton, aides stressed need to protect sensitive State Department information in email.

AP via Seacoast online: NH Sen Jeanne Shaheen will endorse Hillary Clinton.

Raw Story: Texas man walks free after alleged rape leaves 2-year-old girl in pool of blood.

AP via ABC News: Investigators: Georgia Officer Likely Shot by Other Officers.

What stories are you following today? Please share in the comment thread.