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RAMSEUR, N.C. — The Randolph County School Board voted Monday night to pull Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” from its library shelves after a parent complained, The Asheboro Courier-Tribune reports.

In a  5-2 vote, the Randolph County Board voted during its regular meeting to remove all copies of the book from school libraries.

Both school and district committees recommended that the book remain in schools, however, a motion to the book on the shelves was defeated.

According to the paper, the school board members presented the issue on Monday in response to a 12-page complaint from the mother of a Randleman High School junior who said in part, “The narrator writes in the first person, emphasizing his individual experiences and his feelings about the events portrayed in his life. This novel is not so innocent; instead, this book is filthier, too much for teenagers. You must respect all religions…

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The Secular Jurist

If anyone doubts the complicity between the mainstream media and the titans of finance, one simply needed to watch Meet The Press with David Gregory yesterday [9/15/2013].  The seven plus minute segment started with David Gregory stating the obvious: An economy five years ago that was on the brink of collapse is now a high flying economy for the 1 percent and on the brink of collapse for the working middle class.

His guests were then-Secretary of Treasury and past CEO of Goldman Sachs Henry Paulson, CNBC mouthpiece and apologist Maria Bartiromo, and ex-Congressman Barney Frank. Most of the segment was the standard blabber of nonsensical statements on the economy.

* * * * *

The zinger of the segment however came from Barney Frank’s comment about the bankers. He said:

I do want to add one thing though to your question about those poor beleaguered bankers who have been…

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Ideas

At the age of 19, when I was a college freshman, motivated by the promise of some quick cash and adventure, I embarked on a Hunter S. Thompson–esque road trip. I got in my rusted-out Impala and drove from Berkeley to San Diego with a few kilos of marijuana in the trunk. It was an uneventful drive south. I delivered the weed to a friend of a friend, slept on his couch and headed home.

On the way home, however, I was stopped by a highway-patrol officer outside the city of Salinas. The officer called for backup and more police arrived. They thoroughly searched the car, even looking under the spare tire and unscrewing a flashlight. They found nothing, because there was nothing to be found. I look back with abject horror at how much my life since then would have been different if I’d been stopped on my way…

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Measuring American Legislatures

America’s state legislatures are polarized–just like Congress–between liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans. That polarization creates gridlock, when it’s difficult to get legislation passed and policy problems addressed.

But just how polarized are they? We haven’t been able to tell in the past, because we haven’t been able to determine just how liberal or conservative state legislators are in all 50 states. One major reason why is that each state in its own way is rather unique. Massachusetts Republicans aren’t the same as Texas Republicans; the same is true for each state’s Democrats. Nor do they vote on the same things. These immutable differences mean that measuring  ideology–and levels of polarization–in state legislatures is much more difficult than that for Congress.

Nolan McCarty (Princeton University) and I wrote an academic paper in 2011 that explained our method for overcoming this problem. We have been working diligently since then to update our data…

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A good overview of the various issues involved in the religion bullet NC residents unwittingly dodged. Still, too close.

Ideas

North Carolina legislators made national headlines last week with a bit of high-profile religious extremism. They introduced a resolution declaring that the state has the right to declare an official religion – presumably Christianity. The bill also contended that states are “sovereign” and that federal courts cannot prevent states “from making laws respecting the establishment of religion.”

The North Carolina bill—which appears to be dead for now—was one of two big church-state blow-ups last week. In Tennessee, legislators withdrew a school voucher bill that would have allowed parents to direct taxpayer money to private schools, including Christian academies. The reason they balked: it suddenly occurred to them that the bill would also allow parents to direct tax dollars to Islamic schools.

(MORE: Where Are the Most Religious States in America in 2013?)

State assaults on the separation of church and state are nothing new. What…

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As I have written about here many times, I consider myself a left-leaning centrist. I believe open-mindedness, moderation, and pragmatism are the keys to successful governing, and my views on many of the social issues I care about – separation of church and state being probably the biggest one – tend to skew left. In recent years, however, the failures of the current Democratic administration to live up to many of its important promises has caused me to take a serious look at the ideals of conservatism, and truth be told in many instances I like what I see. I’m in favor of individualism, of individual rights over group rights, I believe that citizens should be responsible for themselves, and should solve their own problems rather than expecting something from the government. I believe each citizen of appropriate age should be considered a rational, responsible adult, and treated as such, until there is evidence to the contrary. We should be given the benefit of the doubt by our government. Innocent until proven guilty. So why can’t I vote Republican for a high public office? Well, there are the social issues…

And then there’s this (and, as a bit of supplemental material I happened to find today, this): an article by John Avlon, writing for the Daily Beast, titled “False Flags, Sharia Law, and Gun Grabs: GOP Lawmakers Embrace The Crazy.”

It begins:

A few days after the Boston bombings, Stella Tremblay went to Glenn Beck’s Facebook page to express her conviction that the terror attack was, in fact, orchestrated by the U.S. government.

“The Boston Marathon was a Black Ops ‘terrorist’ attack,” she wrote. “One suspect killed, the other one will be too before they even have a chance to speak. Drones and now ‘terrorist’ attacks by our own Government. Sad day, but a ‘wake up’ to all of us.”

She then linked to a video at Infowars.com called Proof! Boston Marathon Bombing is Staged Terror Attack

Tremblay’s post, though, stood out from the wave of post-attack crazy because of her day job: she is a New Hampshire state legislator.

Like too many enthusiastic dupes, the Republican representative was echoing conspiracy entrepreneurs like Beck and InfoWars’ Alex Jones, who blend dark alternate history with a dystopian future, offering the listeners the “secret truth.”

Tremblay is part of a disturbing trend of – conservative state legislators and even congressmen entertaining conspiracy theories that are creepy and unseemly coming from average citizen, but a sign of civic rot when they start getting parroted by elected officials.

Of course, craziness is a bipartisan issue, with Republicans frequently pointing to former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney as a Democratic example – but the right has been particularly prone to paranoia since Bush Derangement Syndrome on the leftt gave way to an epic case of Obama Derangement Syndrome from the other side.

Derangement on the right has reached a peak as the proliferation and influence of gangrenous conspiracy theories creep into core beliefs and take hold, as Avlon puts it, as “civic rot,” causing the rational brain to have to be (at risk of over-extending the metaphor) amputated.

What is unprecedented is not so much the zaniness of the beliefs, but the fact that the people promoting them are often those in power. Fringe belief used to be called that for a reason; it was relegated to the fringes of society. But now fringe belief has entered the mainstream of political discourse in a disturbing and damaging way, one which those receptive to such belief find destructively compelling. From the same article:

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