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This Week In Crazy: The Liberals Have Conquered Mars

There’s water on Mars! Not to mention a nefarious evil liberal agenda. There’s a new Red Scare coming, America. Are you ready for it?

Welcome to “This Week In Crazy,” The National Memo’s weekly update on the loony, bigoted, and hateful behavior of the increasingly unhinged right wing. Starting with number five:

5. Rick Santorum

Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Martin Luther King, Jr. isn’t here to tell us where he would have stood on marriage equality. Luckily for us, conservative Republicans have been only too willing to invoke the late reverend’s name and character in the cause of “religious liberty.”

“Religious liberty,” of course, being the gloss right-wing politicians and pundits have tried to put on the privilege of florists, bakers, and — most controversially — government officials to discriminate against same-sex couples under the aegis of the First Amendment right to practice their religion.

(Recall that Glenn Beck notably bragged that he was going to become the MLK of fighting marriage equality. So brave.)

Perhaps noting that his poll numbers were scraping rock bottom, former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania Rick Santorum thought he’d get in on the game. A few weeks ago, shortly before the last GOP debate, Santorum appeared on the program Marcus and Joni (which airs on the Christian television network Daystar), and drew comparisons between Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who went to jail rather than let a gay couple get married on her watch, and — yes — MLK.

It’s possible that one reason Santorum is polling so low right now (0.5 percent right according to Real Clear Politics) is not that he fails to rattle off the conservative talking points — specious comparisons to Hitler and the Nazis, ignorance of the concept of judicial review, a willful misunderstanding of civil liberties as they apply to LGBT people — it’s that he’s so damn boring when he does it.

Take a double dose of Red Bull, scaffold your eyelids open, and behold SantorumBot 3000 process moldy right-wing analogies to Nuremberg and civil rights leaders of the past, not to mention a tasteless invocation of the Columbine shooting (Kim Davis is like the girl who was killed because she believed in God, Santorum had said, except that isn’t what happened).

Per Right Wing Watch:

Santorum defended Davis, claiming that she should be “applauded” for her “courageous” actions and asserting that the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage is illegitimate since it violates biblical precepts.

“Clearly, the laws on marriage don’t follow the natural law, they don’t follow God’s law, so in Martin Luther King’s viewpoint, he would have said that this is a law that you have an obligation to resist and that’s what Kim Davis is doing,” he said. “She is standing up and saying, ‘I am not going to follow an unjust law.’”

Let us give thanks to far-right ideologues like Santorum: As long as they are on hand to tell us what Martin Luther King, Jr. would have said and done, it’s almost like he’s still with us. Thank you, senator.

Via Right Wing Watch

Next: Donna Hearne

4. Donna Hearne

jpegAhmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old high-schooler who reassembled a digital clock in a pencil case and was arrested for his trouble, has become a flashpoint for conservative cranks who believe that the boy’s arrest and the subsequent backlash against the Irving, Texas police force and school officials responsible have all been part of a big fraud. Some theories are more elaborate than others.

Enter Donna Hearne, executive director of the Constitutional Coalition, whose mission is to educate “others to understand and know our Constitution, acknowledging absolutes as the basis for our laws and God as the giver of freedom, and researching issues through the lens of the Constitution.”

Hearne is a former Reagan appointee to the U.S. Department of Education, and is now an outspoken advocate against the Common Core — and when I say “outspoken,” I mean Hearne sees the Common Core as nothing less than a “long war” waged by “the progressive, autocratic elite to completely transfer all decisions concerning children from parents, teachers and school boards to themselves, and to completely transform America from a nation of responsible, moral, independent human beings endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to robots and servants of the state.”

Hearne, blogging in the Conservative Pundit Tuesday, said that liberals’ outpouring of support for Mohamed and condemnation of comments critical of Muslims, such of those of presidential candidate Ben Carson, is entirely misplaced:

Did the school board, the Irving police and Dr. Carson understand American’s founding principles as spelled out in the Declaration of Independence that there are certain truths that come from the Judeo-Christian God such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and that government is to secure these rights? Did they understand some of the basic tenants of Sharia law: Sharia trumps the Constitution? Sharia law condones female genital mutilation, honor killing, amputation, crucifixion, beheadings (all anti-life) and NO opposition voices or freedom of speech? Did they know that 51 percent of U.S. Muslims want Sharia law and of that 25 percent are okay with violence against Americans?

Whoa. If you think Hearne’s little sashay from discussing a teenage tinkerer in Texas to female genital mutilation (all in one paragraph) is a bit much, just wait. In distressingly quick fashion, she segues from the New York City school board’s decision to close schools for Muslim holidays to an Islamic plot to turn the U.S. into a “totalitarian slave camp.”

Just as quickly, she doubles back to her bête noire: the Common Core, which has undermined America by failing to teach children about their own heritage (“America’s Judeo-Christian foundations” and so forth) as well as the “dangers of civilization jihad.”

“Uninformed and ignorant citizens become slaves of the state,” Hearnes concludes. Her new self-published book is out now.

Next: Michael Savage 

3. Michael Savage

Screenshot: YouTube

Michael Savage would like educated Catholics to take a good long look at this pope fella, or as he calls him, the “atheist” who “genuflects.” It seems like Savage is going to go off on a mirthless riff off a Seinfeld routine (“What’s the deal with the pontiff, huh?”), but it turns out this is just the opening salvo in Savage’s weekly performance of metastatic indignation — where each outrage feeds a new, unrelated outrage — each more nonsensical than the last.

No, the real target of Savage’s ire on his Savage Nation show last week was presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, the “liberal weasel Jew.”

“Everything about him sets off comedic shockwaves in me,” Savage says, identifying Sanders with the type of “atheist Jew” he has avoided all his life. “They hated America. They hated Christians. I know the type. I ran from them. They made me sick.”

He further accuses Sanders of being “a running dog of the Hillary Clinton camp,” a “warmup act,” because his progressive “nonsense” makes her look like a centrist by comparison.

This is all pretty tame, considering just a few weeks ago, Savage likened Pope Francis and Sanders to the Cambodian genocidal dictator Pol Pot. Savage claimed that the reforms they suggested would turn “street thugs in Baltimore” into a homegrown Khmer Rouge.

Sanders, he said, would end up “giving them a gun and a badge, telling them to go out and round up anybody with eyeglasses, and call them the enemy of the state and put them into internment camps, work camps, and they wound up with a mountain of skulls. […] That’s where this rhetoric leads, don’t you understand that?”

That Savage — what a sensible fellow.

Via Right Wing Watch

Next: Rush Limbaugh

2. Rush Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh radioIf you are Rush Limbaugh, the velcro-voiced lout of the airwaves, the stunning announcement from NASA this week that there is flowing water on the surface of Mars is really just there to remind you of all the irksome, terrifying forces gathering to smother your way of life.

These include: the nefarious liberal agenda to foist phony climate change science upon the American public, the corrupting influence of President Obama on absolutely everything he touches, and the insidious Muslim plot to control and co-opt every branch of government — including those concerned with exploring space.

According to Limbaugh, the revelation of briny streams on the Martian surface was just an excuse for so-called “scientists” to trot out their theories about how Mars’ arid, lifeless surface is possibly attributable to an environmental calamity in the Red Planet’s past.

“I’m sorry folks, but that’s not science,” Limbaugh insists, shutting the experts down, “and that’s not even a good wild guess. How can there be a catastrophic event on Mars when there is nobody there to experience the catastrophe? How can there be a catastrophe on Mars when we can’t even prove it? All we can do is wild guess it?”

(This is the same limp canard creationists and climate change deniers wheel out when they want to dismiss the overwhelming body of geological, radiological, and biological evidence. Nobody was there, and so it can’t be known what happened. Talking snakes, on the other hand… but I digress.)

Limbaugh’s asinine aria (courtesy of some courageous transcribing from Media Matters) continues:

NASA wants to go to Mars. And Obama has turned NASA over to Muslim outreach, in case you’ve forgotten. NASA wants the money to go to Mars. It makes total sense in the world that they would time, NASA, the release of, “Look what we found! We found flowing water on Mars! On my god. there could be life! On my god, we gotta go we gotta go!” And here comes the movie [Ridley Scott’s new sci-fi film, The Martian]. They throw in climate change relationships just for a little dot the I, cross the T, and magic happens.

[…] NASA’s been converted to Muslim outreach. They want to go back to Mars. Hell, that’s fine. I mean, I’m not opposed to going to Mars. I’m big on exploring. The problem — everything that Obama touches has been corrupted and by corrupted, I mean converted to liberalism. Everything that exists here exists for the purpose of advancing the Obama agenda.

If Limbaugh really wants to go to exploring Mars, perhaps the Islamic-Obama-Space consortium can arrange a one-way ticket.

Via Media Matters

Next: Alex Jones

1. Alex Jones

Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 1.31.55 PMI think it’s safe to say nobody would ever turn to Alex Jones, the prolific conspiracy monger, for an insightful, rational take on the day’s events. This is the same man, after all, who fanned the flames on the mass delusion that a military training exercise was some kind of federal plot to conquer Texas. Jones, the country’s most reliably prodigious paranoiac, has also been one of the loudest proponents of the “theory” that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was staged. So I think it’s reasonable to assume that nobody listens to this crank. (Oh wait, never mind. Jones’ website got 8.5 million visitors last month.)

Anyway, the bombastic Jones recently cooked up a video that Addicting Info suggests is “easily the most batsh*t crazy” segment the InfoWars host has ever produced, which is no small claim.

Using Salon‘s controversial decision to publish an op-ed by an admitted pedophile as a peg, Jones weaves together his most inspired conspiracy tapestry yet, threading together a “greatest hits” of our nation’s pet paranoias into an elaborate Grand Unified Big Bad Government Theory.

Jones really gets the band back together here: disease-causing vaccines, defense contractors that feed on children’s brains, Jerry Sandusky, transgender bathrooms, the pope (whom The Big Evil State has apparently blackmailed), the sale of baby body parts, public human sacrifices perpetrated by (who else?) the United Nations, “trendy” liberals, the welfare state, death panels, “torture and necrophilia dungeons,” — it’s all part of “an act of domination, an act of control” perpetrated by what he calls the Pot Bellied Pedophile Network (PBP).

The fact that Jones spends the segment wearing a clown mask and blood soaked gloves, speaking in an occasionally incomprehensible voice pretending to be a serial killer in charge of the PBP, is the most reasonable thing in evidence here.

“We’re not just gonna sexually abuse your children,” Jones growls in his masked-clown-as-Big-Evil-State persona, “We’re gonna forcibly inoculate them with deadly pathogens known to brain-damage ’em. We’re gonna rape their brains, rape their minds, and make you take care of em for decades. […] Because that’s what we like to do. And you’re so weak and pathetic you’ll do whatever you tell you.”

“Crawl in your hole and die. The Earth belongs to us,” he concludes. “Your children belong to us now. Submit to the New World Order. Submit to liberalism. Submit to trendiness. Give us full control!” And he signs off with a maniacal laugh.

Via Addicting Info

Illustration: Marxist Mars (National Memo)

Check out previous editions of This Week In Crazy here. Think we missed something? Let us know in the comments!

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Water Still Flows On Mars, Scientists Say

By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

Where there’s brine, there’s water.

Scientists scouring the Red Planet using NASA’S Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter say they’ve found direct chemical evidence of transient saltwater flowing on the surface today.

Granted, they haven’t caught the liquid in the act — and what they’ve detected looks less like salty water and more like watery salt. But nonetheless, the discovery published by the journal Nature Geoscience helps solve a long-standing Martian mystery and sheds light on the potential for life on our nearest planetary neighbor.

“This is the first time we’ve found flowing water on a planet that’s not ours,” said lead author Lujendra Ojha, a planetary scientist and Ph.D. candidate at Georgia Tech.

Scientists got a tantalizing hint that there could be liquid water on the surface back in 2011, when Alfred McEwen, lead scientist for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE camera, along with Ojha and other colleagues, discovered these strange dark streaks on Martian slopes that seem to grow and fade with the seasons. These “recurring slope lineae,” which can stretch up to a few meters, extend downward when it gets warm and then later shrink and fade, reappearing each Martian year.

“Ever since the discovery in 2011 … a number of us have been incredibly excited by the prospect of liquid water on Mars,” said Bethany Ehlmann, a planetary geologist at Caltech who was not involved in the paper. Nonetheless, she added, “we try to be cautious — it’s a big thing to say there’s liquid water on Mars today.”

Granted, Mars’ atmosphere is cold and thin — which means that any pure water that made it to the surface would either freeze or immediately evaporate, depending on the temperature. But a recent study by scientists using NASA’s Curiosity rover found that water might indeed be able to exist briefly on the surface — provided there were enough salts, such as perchlorates, dissolved in the liquid. These salts would keep the water from freezing or evaporating quite as easily and could actually serve to suck moisture back out of the air.

So could liquid water — very salty, briny water — really explain these strange dark streaks on Martian slopes?

Theoretically, the scientists could look for water by using the orbiter’s Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars, or CRISM. CRISM can look for different chemicals in a given spot on the surface by studying the telltale signature of dark bands they’ve left in the light. The problem is, it’s hard to check the light’s chemical fingerprint at the recurring slope lineae, or RSL, because, according to the study, “few locations exist in which RSL are wide or dense enough to fill even a single CRISM pixel.”

So researchers used a method where they focused on the handful of individual pixels that were mostly filled by the recurring slope lineae. They looked at four different spots with recurring slope lineae and discovered a strong fingerprint for hydrated salts — salts with water locked into the mineral structure, a clear sign that saltwater likely had flowed there. The hydrated salts included magnesium perchlorate, magnesium chlorate and sodium perchlorate.

The findings may further whet the appetite of astrobiologists looking to probe past habitable environments on the Red Planet, researchers said.

“I think it’s incredibly exciting, because when we look back at the broad scope of Mars history, it’s always in the past where there’s evidence for the most water,” Ehlmann said. “But if there’s liquid water even today, when Mars is supposedly at its driest … I think that says that there was probably liquid water for all of the last 4.5 billion years, just like there was on Earth. Not in the same quantity, but at least ephemerally, episodically, it’s there.”

Still, the water is so incredibly briny that it’s difficult to imagine microbes being able to survive with the harsh fluid.

In the meantime, where exactly the water comes from, how it’s released, and how it gets back into the soil to repeat the cycle every year remain open questions, the scientists said. Such questions could be answered by a future orbiting mission to Mars, Ehlmann added.

(c)2015 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Portions of the Martian surface shot by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show many channels from 1 meter to 10 meters wide on a scarp in the Hellas impact basin, in this photograph taken January 14, 2011 and released by NASA March 9, 2011. REUTERS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona/Handout

Mars Rover Curiosity Offers Tantalizing Taste Of 2-Tone Mineral Veins

By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

Climbing up Mt. Sharp in the middle of Gale Crater, NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has discovered a two-tone vein of minerals that reveal multiple episodes of water flowing through rock — even after the lake that once filled the bottom of the crater had ceased to be.

The rover’s discovery points to an even more complex, and perhaps long-lived, watery environment on the Red Planet.

“Not only does this help us try to understand the chemistry of the rocks that we measure in the region, but on a different sort of scale it tells us that fluids were around on Mars for a long time,” said Linda Kah, a sedimentary geologist at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a member of Curiosity’s science team.

The duo-tone deposits, at a spot called Garden City, sit some 39 feet above the lower edge of the Pahrump Hills outcrop, which is part of the basal layer of the 3-mile-high Mt. Sharp. They feature both light and dark regions. They rise about 2.5 inches above the rock surface like ridges, because the rock that once surrounded them has worn away. These kinds of veins are formed when fluid flows through cracks in a rock and leaves some minerals behind.

Most veins have been bright and light-colored, Kah said, often filled with calcium sulfate. On Earth, such mineral deposits are often associated with salty water. But the dark deposits were somewhat unexpected, she said.

The dark parts often seem to line either side of the white veins, rather like an ice cream sandwich — a description Kah’s 10-year-old son Douglas came up with while looking over his mother’s shoulder at images of the deposits.

“I think they’re incredibly gorgeous and beautiful,” she said.

Whether appetizing or attractive, the two different tones are scientifically telling. Researchers look at Martian rocks in part to see how water (and the stuff in the water) may have affected a particular rock during a particular era. But if the same rock is getting soaked with very different kinds of water sources over time, then it may show a confusing mix of traits from a long period in which the environment dramatically changed over and over again.

That’s why the mineral veins are so helpful. The deposits in the cracks can look very different from the surrounding rock because they were formed much later than the rock itself. So while the rock’s chemistry and mineralogy will have been affected by multiple environments, the mineral vein offers a snapshot of at least one individual era in the Red Planet’s history.

In this case, this mineral vein actually offers snapshots into three environments. At first the scientists thought there were two different epochs, represented by the light and dark deposits, but it turns out that some dark spots are chemically very different from other dark areas.

“It was really very exciting for us,” Kah said. “Now we’ve just added complexity, so it makes it more fun to figure it out in the long run.”

The scientists think this environment existed long after the lake that once filled the bottom of Gale Crater dried up for good, and that these deposits were created by water under a significant amount of rock — enough to exert the kind of pressure that would force the fluid to push through cracks in the stone.

It’s also unclear how hot or cold or acidic or salty this water was; the fluid’s chemistry could have been very different from the potentially potable liquid in that long-gone lake.

But it’s still quite possible that microbial life, if it ever existed, could have thrived in this environment, just as they thrive in the rock fractures at the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park, she added.

(c)2015 Los Angeles Times, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA Launches Orion On Second Try

By Scott Powers and Marco Santana, Orlando Sentinel (TNS)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER — Atop the most powerful rocket available, NASA’s next generation space capsule Orion blasted off at 7:05 this morning against the backdrop of a rising sun at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

“Liftoff at dawn, the dawn of Orion and a new era of American space exploration,” said Michael Curie, NASA announcer.

Six minutes into the flight, the rocket successfully jettisoned its three boosters, and the second stage ignited. That stage’s burn ended 18 minutes into the flight as the spacecraft entered Earth orbit.

“Orion is functioning perfectly at this point,” Curie said.

The launch went off on NASA’s second attempt after wind and technical problems scrubbed a Thursday morning try.

But that was forgotten when the Delta IV Heavy rocket and Orion rumbled into the sky, to the delight of thousands of people along the waterfronts of Brevard County.

The four-hour, unmanned mission gives NASA a chance to test America’s new do-everything spacecraft. In coming decades, Orion is expected to carry astronauts deep into space to the moon, asteroids, Mars and beyond.

The launch literally is the beginning of NASA’s next big thing — deep space exploration — culminating in a Mars visit in about 20 years.

“This is Day 1 of the Mars era,” proclaimed NASA administrator Charles Bolden.

For now, Friday’s flight is expected to give critical information about how Orion jettisons parts of the rocket as it goes up; how aviation controls and computers function; and how electronics hold up in deep-space radiation.

Also being closely watched will be how its heat shields work as re-entry temperatures reach 4,000 degrees; and whether its three sets of parachutes make the landing safe enough for humans.

Orion is set to orbit Earth twice, swinging out to 3,600 miles away, farther than any spacecraft designed to carry humans has gone since Apollo. From there it will reach a re-entry speed of 20,000 mph and splash down in the Ocean about 600 miles west of Baja California, Mexico.

NASA and Lockheed-Martin, which developed Orion, will be able to gather much of the data they want during the flight, but a lot more will only be available off the capsule’s recorders, after it is recovered.

The Navy is in charge of recovery. Orion then will be taken back to Kennedy Space Center, returning before Christmas, Geyer said.

The next big test is scheduled for 2018, when NASA’s powerful new rocket, the Space Launch System, is ready. That will take another unmanned Orion for a trip around the moon.

The SLS is far more powerful, capable of 8.4 million pounds of thrust, about four times as much as the Delta IV Heavy. Orion and the SLS will be the backbone of NASA’s long-term human space exploration plans.

Bolden said his granddaughter recently reminded him of this long-term potential and vision: “Don’t get hung up on Mars, because there are other places to go once we get there.”

Photo: NASA has scrubbed the launch of a Delta IV heavy rocket Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014 at launch complex 37B at Cape Canaveral. Orion crew capsule will embark on it’s first voyage Friday morning. The two-orbit, four hour uncrewed flight test will evaluate the systems critical to crew safety. (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)