Monday, July 23, 2012

The Gaskell Affair

C. Gordon Gaskell is an astronomer with an impressive record who sued the University of Kentucky because he was allegedly denied a position as an observatory director because of his religious beliefs, and instead the position was given to an applicant with a "less qualified" record.

It so happens I worked at a campus that routinely turns down top-tier applicants in favor of "less qualified" applicants. It all hinges on how you define "qualified." The most common scenario is to get an application from someone with a dazzling research record who tells us she wants to teach, say, graduate level courses in oxygen isotope geochemistry. However, since jobs at that level are hard to come by, she'll condescend to grace us with her presence until that job at Harvard opens up. Never mind the fact that we don't have a course in geochemistry, still less one in oxygen isotope geochemistry, let alone one at the graduate level. We need generalists, people who can cover a broad variety of courses, especially at the introductory level. It's called "programmatic fit," and our job descriptions always stress things like breadth and versatility. Moral, a raw resume is only part of the story. That's why there are interviews. Someone like our hypothetical applicant isn't "overqualified;" she's unqualified.

Fortunately, the National Center for Science Education has posted all the documents pertaining to the case. The most informative documents are Gaskell's deposition dated January 13, 2010, and UK's defense memorandum of September 29, 2010.

Gaskell has an impressive record with more than 200 professional publications going back 25 years and a sustained history of getting grants. His first professional position was a tenure track appointment at the University of Michigan, but he was denied tenure after four years, in his words, because he hadn't been aggressive enough in applying for funding. Now, for the record, if there's one thing I would ban, it's using grantsmanship in hiring and promotion, but getting grants was part of the job expectations. There's already enough here to make my Spidey-sense tingle:

    • Most universities have a six year probationary period. The tenure decision is made in the fifth year to give the candidate a year to find another position if the decision is negative. Early tenure is usually a sign that a candidate has a really extraordinary record. What made Gaskell think he had a strong enough record to make early tenure at a research institution like the University of Michigan?
    • Why did he leave, even though he had time remaining? Was he so far behind the curve he couldn't catch up?
    • Even given the truly crappy job market in astronomy, why wasn't he able to find a tenure-track position somewhere else?

      He finally ended up at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, teaching astronomy and doing research, and also running a small observatory, which would seem to make him a perfect fit for the UK job. But this was not a tenure-track position, it was a short-term position repeatedly renewed. The job in Nebraska finally terminated in 2007 when the Astronomy program was ended and merged with the Physics program.

      After his initial application, Gaskell requested that UK not contact his boss in Nebraska. This has red-flag potential. Some supervisors might retaliate if they knew an employee was seeking a job elsewhere, though why it would be an issue in a job that was about to end isn't clear. But when Gaskell obtained a position elsewhere (again, temporary), the search committee at UK felt it was appropriate to contact Roger Kirby, Gaskell's boss at Nebraska. According to the UK defense memorandum:

      Kirby said that Gaskell’s main source of conflict with the UNL faculty was his constant desire to decrease his teaching load. (Cavagnero, p. 95). Although Gaskell had been hired to primarily teach, Kirby told Cavagnero that Gaskell applied some of his research funding toward the hiring of an instructor to replace him as a teacher so that he could focus more exclusively on research. (Id.). Kirby was placed in a difficult position of having to hire replacement instructors.

      Whoa! Bridge Out! The guy was hired at Nebraska to teach. Then he used some of his research money to hire replacements, or more precisely, foist the job of hiring them onto his boss. Believe it or not, I once ran into this myself. I was chair of a large unit with people from numerous programs. One guy applied to take a year leave of absence. After a number of things aroused my suspicions, I finally asked him "This is going to be an unpaid leave, right?" "Oh, no," came the reply. He was going to collect his paycheck and use it to hire ad hoc lecturers to cover his courses. I thought: You. Have. Got. To. Be. F#@#$#%. Kidding. Me. If the legislature or the media had ever found out, they'd have had a feeding frenzy. If you can hire someone to do your job at half pay, what are we paying you the rest for? So we voted no.

      Gaskell's job at UK would have been running the observatory, teaching intro astronomy, and public outreach. His record at Nebraska suggested strongly that his intent was to do research and use his grant money to pay other people to cover his primary responsibilities. Also he wanted a salary at the upper end of the range in the position announcement (about $70K). If I'd been on the search committee, I'd have said "Stick a fork in it. We're done."

      Gaskell also has a personal page on connections between science and religion. Gaskell is not a creationist and has no problems with the conventional chronology of the earth and universe, or even with biological evolution guided by God. Nevertheless, it's pretty cringe-worthy reading, even if - especially if - it's aimed at a non-specialist audience. A big chunk of it is devoted to quotes demonstrating that famous scientists of the past believed in God. It's not at all the level of writing or analysis I'd expect from someone with 200 research publications. Then there's a fairly appalling section devoted to trying to reconcile the scientific view of the universe with a rather literal reading of Genesis. But the really damaging portion comes right at the very end:

      There is a profound difference between believing that God created the world and people in the world rather than insisting that the origin of our universe and of ourselves is to be traced to an accidental chance combination of blind impersonal physical forces.  It as been said that it is doubtful whether the latter, purely mechanistic, atheistic view of our origins can be a sufficient basis for such human values as goodness, truth, justice and beauty, etc.

      Where does the science of evolution promote a "purely mechanistic, atheistic view of our origins?" Tell me that lots of atheists have misused evolution as a prop for their ideology, and there would be no problem whatsoever. But failing to distinguish between science and the ideological abuse of it is absolutely inexcusable in someone with Gaskell's record.

      Gaskell's religious views came up during his interview, given the religious climate of Kentucky and the opening of the Creationism museum tourist trap not far away. Gaskell could have made his beliefs a good selling point by arguing that he knows how to address religiously conservative audiences, and that he knows some of the things not to say. Instead he became defensive and criticized the questions as "inappropriate," thereby reinforcing concerns about his ability to separate his personal beliefs from his duties, and indeed, showing a complete lack of sensitivity to the likelihood that it could even be an issue.

      I really hoped UK would take this case down to the mat instead of selling science out and settling. The fact that he used grant money to buy out his teaching duties - for which he was hired! - at his previous position is enough to knock him out of contention. Especially since he expected a high end salary. Hire someone who has a demonstrated willingness to do the job, instead.

      It will also be interesting to find out what Gaskell hopes to gain from this case. He won't get the job at UK, and he has a position elsewhere (after being turned down by sixty institutions,) so he's going to have a hard time proving damages. Is he being supported by someone in this case?

      Win or lose, unfortunately, Gaskell will end up in the pantheon of creationists who were martyrs to their beliefs, like Raymond Damadian, who was denied a share in the Nobel Prize for developing MRI scans solely for being a creationist. Well, that and the pedantic reason that his method took hours, never yielded detailed information, and the actual winners spent seven years working on ways to develop what we now have, which is detailed images in seconds. Damadian made some key initial discoveries, to be sure, but he didn't develop a practical scanner.

      UK folded like a cheap card table. They settled with Gaskell for $125K, and each side pays its own legal bills. It's small consolation that Gaskell won't have much left after paying his legal tab, but he'll still paint himself as having "won." Gutless and spineless. If you want to major in craven cowardice, consider UK, which apparently stands for University of Kowardice.

      Privileges and Immunities

      Conservatives have recently discovered the 14th Amendment's clause protecting "privileges and immunities." The attempt to use it in attacking Washington D.C.'s gun prohibition was rebuffed, but it won't be the last we hear of it. Columnist George Will wrote that one question he would ask Elena Kagan during her Supreme Court nomination hearings was exactly what she would consider the privileges and immunities protected by the 14th Amendment. Here's my list. So (drum roll), the envelope, please.

      • You have the right to freedom from criminal attacks on your person, property, family, wealth, and freedom. This of course includes freedom from cybercrime. All crime is a civil rights violation.
      • You have the right to defend yourself, your property, and other people and their property against criminal attack.
      • You have the right to complete compensation for damages from criminal attack. (Ideally from the offender)
      • You have the right to complete compensation for all costs arising from any legal or administrative procedure for which you are found not guilty or the case is dropped. This includes false or wrongful arrest, wrongful prosecution, defending against investigations, and costs of civil suits. (Loser pays in civil suits, the prosecution or regulatory agency in all other cases. And it comes from their base budget.)
      • You have the right to presumption of innocence in all cases, civil and criminal, and all administrative procedures.
      • You have a right to a jury trial in all cases where you may suffer any loss of liberty or property; civil, criminal, and regulatory cases.
      • Innocence shall be an absolute bar to imprisonment or any other punishment.
      • You have the right to use any argument whatsoever in court in your defense. Prosecutors shall have no right to object in court.
      • You have the right to urge jury nullification.
      • You have the right to argue in court that charges brought against you violate your immunities and privileges, and charges shall be dismissed if the claim is upheld.
      • You have the right not to be arrested or prosecuted for any action if you can show it does not present a danger to anyone else. (so much for speed traps on empty roads at 3 AM)
      • You have the right to resist wrongful arrest and to flee from wrongful confinement.
      • You have the right to self defense against force applied by law enforcement. (That taser won't be quite so attractive if the guy being tased can legally fight back)
      • You have the absolute right to document wrongdoing by law enforcement and government officials using electronic or other means.
      • You have the right to be left alone. You have the right not to be regulated in any activity that does not infringe on the rights of others.
      • You have immunity from having to report any of your activities to any government agency provided your activities do not infringe on the rights of others.
      • You have the right to be free of surveillance in public places.
      • You have the right to maintain only whatever records you deem necessary to your own purposes. There shall be no laws requiring anyone to keep records solely for the convenience of the government.
      • There shall be no laws that infringe on personal liberty solely for the convenience of the government or ease of enforcement. (True story: California once tried to ban open beverage containers of any kind in motor vehicles because the CHP was embarrassed at stopping so many soda drinkers.)
      • You shall not be required to keep records to demonstrate your compliance with the law or your innocence if charged with an offense.
      • Government agencies shall charge fees only for services that directly benefit the payer. Fees shall not be charged for defraying the cost of administering regulations that restrict the liberty of the payer or provide no perceptible benefit. (True story: Black Hills National Forest charges educational institutions for using National Forest lands. Their justification is that the money is needed to "administer regulatory activities.") Licensing and inspection shall never incur fees.
      • You have the right to compensation for all regulatory or other actions that impose expenses or reduce the utility of your property to you.
      • There shall be no retroactive legislation or regulation of any kind.
      • Any action not explicitly forbidden by law is permissible, and requires neither permission from nor notification to the government.
      The point of all these proposals is to make the Government more burdensome to Government than it is to individual citizens. Of course, loads of people in government will be quick to point out they won't be able to do their jobs under these restrictions. My response is, if you can't do your job, resign. Repeat after me: "Do you want fries with that?"

      The Most Evil People in American History

      When RightWingNews polled a group of conservative bloggers for the most evil people in American History, they got a list notable for its historical illiteracy. For people who rant about the lessons we supposedly are not learning from history, the bloggers showed an incredibly limited knowledge. They named a few historical low-lifes like Benedict Arnold and John Wilkes Booth, but mostly they dwelt on insignificant recent figures. When a fluff-ball like George Soros makes such a list, you know you're dealing with superficiality. On a scale of evil, Soros ranks about with the guy who dreamed up the Burger King masked character. Worthy of death by slow torture, maybe, but not historically evil.

      Still, it's a fun exercise, so I made a list of my own. My criterion was the person had to have done serious harm in space or time, or left a lingering bad legacy. Criminals, no matter how heinous, mostly don't make the list. Benedict Arnold, whose plot failed, also doesn't make the list. The only people he really hurt are himself and his hapless and honorable courier, Major Andre. Just plain nasty people, like Frank Lloyd Wright or even Leona Helmsley, don't make the list. Some of the people on the list weren't so much malevolent as clueless, but their legacy is disastrous. I think it's a pretty bipartisan list. Conservatives, prepare to be enraged in 3...2...1...

      • Antonin Scalia. "Innocence is not a Constitutional bar to incarceration." Why hasn't this dimwit been impeached?
      • J. Edgar Hoover. May or may not have been a closeted gay. Pure evil, on the other hand, beyond doubt. Preferred chasing imaginary Communists to confronting real organized crime.
      • Joe McCarthy. Did more to advance Communism through sheer ineptitude than the whole Comintern. He screwed up our foreign service so badly you really have to wonder if he might not have been paid by the Russians. In fact, at least one alternative history story claims he was a Soviet mole, not from conviction but simple corruption.
      • George Patton. An inspiration to generations of mediocrities who equate spit shines with competence. The reasoning goes like this: "Patton was an @$$****, and he was brilliant; so if I act like him, I'll be brilliant, too." If he'd gotten his war with the Russians, the "greatest generation" would have died in the Gulag.
      • William Westmoreland. Lost the Vietnam War and built a tissue of lies to conceal it.
      • Cotton Mather. Any similarity between his name and the venomous serpent the cottonmouth has to be divinely ordained.
      • Jonathan Edwards. He and Mather helped weave the thread of persistent nastiness in American Christianity.
      • Henry Morris. A principal founder of the Scientific Creation cult, more or less guaranteeing that conservatism will never, ever, be taken seriously by intellectuals.
      • William Callahan. Judge during the infamous Scottsboro trials who set records for judicial misconduct seldom surpassed.

      Okay, liberals, your turn now.

      • Earl Warren. As governor of California, pushed to intern the Japanese, then passed himself off as a champion of civil rights.
      • William O. Douglas. Loopiest. Justice. Ever. He and Warren pretty much guaranteed that there would never, ever again be an apolitical Supreme Court nomination.
      • William Proxmire. Wisconsin's bookend to Joe McCarthy. Praised for his "courage" in setting up the Golden Fleece Awards, as if it's ever required courage in American politics to ridicule research. Not one Golden Fleece ever went to LBJ's "Great Society."
      • John Brown. America's very own Osama bin Ladin.
      • Abbie Hoffman. Architect of the Sixties cultural disaster. Next time you lament single issue politics, remember "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?"
      • Timothy Leary. Founder of the drug culture.
      • Eldridge Cleaver. His book Soul on Ice is an icon of the "criminal as political prisoner" mindset.

      And now some creeps of no particular political orientation.

      • Andrew Jackson. Just ask the Cherokee. Single most evil act ever by an American President.
      • Jimmy Hoffa. Did more to undermine the union movement than any other person. Made "union" synonymous with "organized crime."
      • Ben Butler. Political hack turned Civil War general and war criminal.
      • William Quantrill. Thug and murderer masquerading as guerrilla.
      • Nathan Bedford Forrest. When military skill crosses the line into cold blooded murderer. Went on to found one of the vilest terrorist organizations ever. A brutal thug before the Civil War, during the war, and after it.
      • Jay Fisk and James Gould. Vanderbilt was a robber baron but he built railroads. Carnegie made steel. Rockefeller found oil. These guys, like Gordon Gekko, produced nothing. Spiritual forebears of Bernie Madoff and his ilk.
      • Allan Pinkerton. His intelligence estimates during the Civil War were so bad you really have to wonder who he was really working for. Went on to supply rent-a-goons for strikebreaking.
      • Roger Taney. Author of the Dred Scott decision, a ham-fisted attempt to settle the slavery issue by Supreme Court fiat. Pioneer of the imperial Supreme Court approach.
      • James Buchanan. Coward who hunkered down and waited out his term rather than trying to avert the Civil War.

      And now some Dishonorable Mentions:

      • Lillian Hellman and Paul Robeson. Isn't Stalin just dreamy? Those purges and labor camps are just propaganda.
      • Father Coughlin. Before there was pedophilia to disgrace the priesthood, there was this rabble rouser.
      • John Nance Garner. If you think having Dan Quayle a heartbeat from the Presidency was scary, check out this character.
      • Sonny Bono. Author of the bill extending copyrights to 95 years, one of the worst assaults on free speech in American history.
      • L. Ron Hubbard and Jeremy Rifkin. Two of the most dangerous cranks in American history.
      • William Kunstler. Defender of sociopaths.
      • Robert Moses. Inventor of freeways as social barriers.
      • Aimee Semple McPherson. Cult leader. Falling from grace and shacking up with your radio technician is merely sin. Covering your absence by claiming you were kidnapped by evolutionists and liquor interests gets you on this list.
      • Boss Tweed. Redefined corruption.
      • Huey Long. A jambalaya of craziness and corruption as only Louisiana can cook up.
      • Anthony Comstock. Professional prude. Here, let me mind your own business for you.
      • Hugh Hefner. The pictures are relatively harmless. It's the snotty attitude in Playboy's articles and commentaries that have done the real damage to the culture. Ask me how I know, Sherlock.
      • William Randolph Hearst. Wars are good for circulation. His castle shore is purty, though. Rosebud.
      • Edmund G. (Pat) Brown. California might have become a moonbat state without him, but he certainly helped.
      • Caryl Chessman. Rapist whose lengthy battle to avoid the gas chamber fostered the illusion that articulate writers can't be vicious criminals, and laid the foundations for the "endless frivolous appeals" model of jurisprudence.
      • Ralph Nader. If there's an inconvenient and useless "safety" feature on anything you own, thank Ralph. Gore voters in 2000, thank Ralph as well.
      • George B. Seldon. The original patent troll. Realizing that many people were working on mechanized transport, he patented a nonexistent, generic automobile (just the concepts) and then milked every early auto manufacturer.

      Sunday, July 22, 2012

      This Time It's Biblical

      In the superb Nova documentary, In The Path of a Killer Volcano, about the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, one of the scientists on the scene described the climax of the eruption as "Events were ...[searching for word]... Biblical. That could easily describe events in American politics now. Considering all the cultish bilge spewing forth from the Religious Right, I'd like to offer an alternative interpretation.

      In C.S. Lewis' book The Great Divorce, one visitor to heaven keeps demanding his rights. His guide says "I didn't get my rights, or I wouldn't be here." This is important. We have no rights at all in the eyes of God. If God decides to do something, what court will we go to overturn His decision? What higher standard of justice will we appeal to force him to change His mind? We have no property rights with God. We only have stewardship, and if we fail to exercise stewardship properly, He can and often does take it away from us.

      The travelers on the Jericho road were perfectly within their legal rights to ignore the robbery victim. There was no law forcing them to stop and help. The robbery victim could not have sued them in court. The victim had no right to accost passers-by and demand help, or attack them if they didn't offer assistance, or steal from them because he had been robbed. There was only the moral obligation, which only the Samaritan obeyed.

      A more modern example was the Marshall Plan after World War II. Britain and France had no right to demand that we help them, still less Germany and Italy, who had been our enemies. We offered aid to friend and foe alike out of a sense of moral obligation, coupled with enlightened self interest. We were the only intact industrial power. Had we not exercised that stewardship wisely, the result might very well have been a Communist takeover of Europe, with us eventually reduced to impoverished isolation if not actual subjection.

      If we do not exercise our stewardship faithfully, God can take it away from us. Rand Paul, the GOP candidate in Kentucky, is under fire for expressing doubts about the Civil Rights Act. In principle, the decision whether to rent or sell to or hire another person should belong solely to the owner of a business. In practice, so many people abused their property rights to harm other people that God stripped that right away. In fact, pretty much every Government regulation that people complain about was God stripping away rights because people failed to exercise proper stewardship. If you use your freedom to produce defective products or engage in deceptive practices, or pay slave wages just because you can get away with it, God will take that freedom away from you. Don't like teachers' unions? You should have thought of that every time a teacher got fired for discussing something controversial in class, or decisions were based on cronyism rather than quality. (What do you suppose happened at the foot of Mount Sinai when Moses announced the Ten Commandments and some toddler asked "Mommy, what's adultery?")

      Once upon a time, Christians ruled supreme in America. They had every chance to build decent roads, give every child an education, create public libraries, pay decent living wages, and keep the water clean. They did not. So God stepped in and used non-Christians to to the job for Him. Even now, what is stopping Christians from setting up a universal health care system? Every single regulatory or spending program that conservatives oppose exists because the free market failed to deliver or failed to live up to its responsibilities.

      Here's what happens when you don't exercise stewardship:

      (Jeremiah 22, NIV) This is what the LORD says: "Go down to the palace of the king of Judah and proclaim this message there: 2  'Hear the word of the LORD, O king of Judah, you who sit on David's throne—you, your officials and your people who come through these gates. 3 This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the alien [that means foreigners, in case you were wondering], the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place. 4 For if you are careful to carry out these commands, then kings who sit on David's throne will come through the gates of this palace, riding in chariots and on horses, accompanied by their officials and their people. 5 But if you do not obey these commands, declares the LORD, I swear by myself that this palace will become a ruin."

       6 For this is what the LORD says about the palace of the king of Judah:
             "Though you are like Gilead to me,
             like the summit of Lebanon,
             I will surely make you like a desert,
             like towns not inhabited.

       7 I will send destroyers against you,
             each man with his weapons,
             and they will cut up your fine cedar beams
             and throw them into the fire.

       13 "Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness,
             his upper rooms by injustice,
             making his countrymen work for nothing,
             not paying them for their labor.

      [Isn't it amazing that in 150 years, no Southern apologist for the Civil War has wondered whether that verse might have some relevance? Whether, maybe, the South was visited by judgment?]

       14 He says, 'I will build myself a great palace
             with spacious upper rooms.'
             So he makes large windows in it,
             panels it with cedar
             and decorates it in red.

       15 "Does it make you a king
             to have more and more cedar?
             Did not your father have food and drink?
             He did what was right and just,
             so all went well with him.

       16 He defended the cause of the poor and needy,
             and so all went well.
             Is that not what it means to know me?"
             declares the LORD.

      [I wonder how many people who ask "Do you know the Lord?" know that verse?]

       17 "But your eyes and your heart
             are set only on dishonest gain,
             on shedding innocent blood
             and on oppression and extortion."

      Note that the destroyers didn't have a legal or moral right to plunder. The Israelites could stand there and scream about their rights being violated and they'd have been 100 per cent correct. It's about consequences. Fail to meet your moral obligations and God may just remove His protection from you and allow your rights to be violated.

      Then there's the warning of James in the New Testament:

      14  What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2: 14-17)
      If James were writing today about the health care debate, he might well write:
      Suppose a brother or a sister is sick and cannot afford a doctor. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; stay healthy and get that cancer treated,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?
      He'd also be bothered by the way conservative Christians favor the rich: "Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? (James 2: 6)

      I've been watching the teabagger and birther movements, and there is only one thing that can explain how so many people got so deranged and irrational so fast. God has utterly removed His grace and protection from them. "Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden." (Romans 9:18) "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear" (Romans 11:7) "Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done." (Romans 1:28). Or, as the writer Euripides put it, "Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad."

      Christians are not shielding America from judgment. America is shielding Christians from judgment. America doesn't prosper because Christians tithe. Christians prosper because America tithes. The Old Testament Jews tithed and got nothing in return except a smug, self-righteous, corrupt class of priestly parasites who did nothing at all to benefit the society. I paid more than 10% of my gross salary last year in taxes, and I got roads, schools, airports, weather satellites, national parks, and a host of other things in return. Also I helped pay for efforts to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty and nurse the sick.

      The Old Testament world was pretty primitive. The bar is set far higher for us. "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked" (Luke 12:48). We know how to grow abundant food; therefore stewardship requires us to see that everyone is fairly fed. We know how to cure disease, therefore stewardship requires us to treat the sick. How are we going to answer God when he asks us about feeding the hungry and points out we didn't even need to lift a finger to do it ourselves, all we needed to do was not obstruct the people who were doing it?

      Liberals have their own stewardship sins, the worst of which is adamantly refusing to couple benefits to socially responsible individual behavior. I voted for McCain, and I see serious problems with some of Obama's reforms, but at least he is trying to exercise the stewardship that Christians have so miserably failed to exercise responsibly. We have a choice in 2012. If we turn America over to the teabaggers and birthers and the likes of Glenn Beck, Rand Paul, Bryan Fischer and Joe Arpaio, we may just bring God's judgment down on us in a way that the most ardent fire and brimstone preacher can't even begin to imagine.