Archives for July 2005
Charles Krauthammer layeth down the smack on the creationist attempts to re-write science curricula:
The half-century campaign to eradicate any vestige of religion from public life has run its course. The backlash from a nation fed up with the A.C.L.U. kicking crèches out of municipal Christmas displays has created a new balance. State-supported universities may subsidize the activities of student religious groups. Monuments inscribed with the Ten Commandments are permitted on government grounds. The Federal Government is engaged in a major antipoverty initiative that gives money to churches. Religion is back out of the closet.
But nothing could do more to undermine this most salutary restoration than the new and gratuitous attempts to invade science, and most particularly evolution, with religion…
This conflict between faith and science had mercifully abated over the past four centuries as each grew to permit the other its own independent sphere. What we are witnessing now is a frontier violation by the forces of religion. This new attack claims that because there are gaps in evolution, they therefore must be filled by a divine intelligent designer.
How many times do we have to rerun the Scopes “monkey trial”? There are gaps in science everywhere. Are we to fill them all with divinity? There were gaps in Newton’s universe. They were ultimately filled by Einstein’s revisions. There are gaps in Einstein’s universe, great chasms between it and quantum theory. Perhaps they are filled by God. Perhaps not. But it is certainly not science to merely declare it so.
To teach faith as science is to undermine the very idea of science, which is the acquisition of new knowledge through hypothesis, experimentation and evidence. To teach it as science is to encourage the supercilious caricature of America as a nation in the thrall of religious authority. To teach it as science is to discredit the welcome recent advances in permitting the public expression of religion. Faith can and should be proclaimed from every mountaintop and city square. But it has no place in science class. To impose it on the teaching of evolution is not just to invite ridicule but to earn it.
Meanwhile, the idiots are marching in Missouri:
“I knew you’d be excited to hear my bill,” Davis begins. “Good things are going on in Missouri education today.”
It’s a cheerful introduction to a case that later will link the lessons Missouri students yawn through in high school biology to the Holocaust.
Eager to present her witnesses, Davis gets to it.
“My bill is only three sentences,’’ she says. “It says that all biology textbooks sold to the public schools of the state of Missouri shall have one or more chapters containing a critical analysis of origins. The chapters shall convey the distinction between data and testable theories of science and philosophical claims that are made in the name of science. Where topics are taught that may generate controversy, such as biological evolution, the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society.”
Yes, we must examine this controversy.
To Davis, evolution means “we all come from pond scum.”
“It’s saying that human life came from nothing, and that makes no sense to reasonable people,” Davis says.
Science refers to evolution, sometimes called microevolution, as inheritable changes within a population over generations. Evolutionary theory, or macroevolution, says that all life on Earth evolved from a common ancestor and that the processes propelling the diversification of living organisms are gene mutation, which creates variety, and natural selection, which filters it.
The theory of evolution makes no claims about the origin of life, although much of evolutionary criticism, including Davis’ bill, tackles the two in the same breath.
Sitting before the committee, Davis abstains from making scientific claims. Instead she turns the floor over to Ann Ihms, a chemistry teacher from Indiana, who gasps through her testimony without pause.
“Columbine. Despair. There’s trauma, there’s panic, there’s depression among our young people at levels that have never been before,” Ihms says. “And part of that is the evolutionary teaching.”
A few committee members fidget in the chairs. The evolutionists who have come to testify put palms to foreheads as Ihms continues.
“There are some reasons that evolution does lead to the conclusion that some human beings cleanse the gene pool — Hitler’s ideas — which is an evolutionary idea.”
I need a new set of knives, as I almost lopped my finger off with a semi-dull knife. What do you all think of these?
What knive sets would you recommend?
*** Update ***
OK. Unless George Soros and Donald Trump read this website, and decide to hit the tip jar to the tune of $1800.00, I think we can rule out the speculation about me purchasing a set of CutCo knives.
AIN’T… GONNA… HAPPEN…
While I am grateful to the NY Times and WaPo for a day off from the Plame affair, I really didn’t want to read this:
Public health officials preparing to battle what they view as an inevitable influenza pandemic say the world lacks the medical weapons to fight the disease effectively, and will not have them anytime soon.
Public health specialists and manufacturers are working frantically to develop vaccines, drugs, strategies for quarantining and treating the ill, and plans for international cooperation, but these efforts will take years. Meanwhile, the most dangerous strain of influenza to appear in decades — the H5N1 “bird flu” in Asia — is showing up in new populations of birds, and occasionally people, almost by the month, global health officials say.
If the virus were to start spreading in the next year, the world would have only a relative handful of doses of an experimental vaccine to defend against a disease that, history shows, could potentially kill millions. If the vaccine proved effective and every flu vaccine factory in the world started making it, the first doses would not be ready for four months. By then, the pathogen would probably be on every continent.
Theoretically, antiviral drugs could slow an outbreak and buy time. The problem is only one licensed drug, oseltamivir, appears to work against bird flu. At the moment, there is not enough stockpiled for widespread use. Nor is there a plan to deploy the small amount that exists in ways that would have the best chance of slowing the disease.
This isn’t going away, it can’t be negotiated, so we better start preparing. Just as a curious side note, the the late night crazies at Art Bell’s Coast to Coast have been fretting about this for years.
I have written at length about my disgust for the irresponsible spending undertaken by the current administration and the ‘faux’ fiscal conservatives in the House and Senate, so I am glad that Adam at Red State is equally disgusted:
On Friday, the Senate passed a slew of major bills. Looking specificially at the Transportation Bill and Energy Bill it is clear that despite the well-earned reputation of fiscal conservatism, Republicans seem determined to match or surpass the 1960-1980s Democrats on pork barrel politics. In the Senate, the Transportation Bill and the Energy Bill passed by lopsided votes of 91-4 and 76-24. The only silver lining, if it can be called that, is that Democrats generally joined in on the pork barreling thus giving up the chance of winning over good government, anti-pork moderates that put Republicans in power in the 1994 revolution.
Insert Pogo quip.
Iran’s president-elect Mahmoud Ahmadi Nejad’s spiritual guide, Ayatollah Muhammad Taqi Messbaah-Yazdi, is also the brains behind recruiting suicide bombers. He does so via ads placed in some of the Iranian daily papers…
Nourizadeh also reports that the volunteers are put through rigorous training in four camps funded and run by Al-Quds Brigade (a.k.a. The Jerusalem Brigade) and the Revolutionary Guard. The boot camp includes physical training, ideological indoctrination, building explosives, code-cracking classes, and finally foreign languages classes, specifically Arabic and English as well as many other ‘useful’ languages.
The terrorist-breeding regime of the Mullacracy has also now taken to pitching tents in the streets of Tehran in order to facilitate the registration process for those interested in joining up. An approximate 95% majority of those registering are in fact Iraqi, Syrian, Afghani and Palestinian. Iranians registering are recruited from among the poor.
Read the whole depressing thing, including the reports that suicide bombers are being deployed nationwide to quell domestic political uprisings.
A lot of news today about the development of the Iraqi Constitution, and the NYT magazine breaks down the difficulties:
For the Iraqis, the elephant in the room is the relationship between government and religion: can Iraq be a democracy and an Islamic state at the same time? When I worked as an adviser to the Iraqis who drafted last year’s interim constitution, this fraught question occupied the authors until almost the last minute. Leaked portions of the new constitution, still open to debate and revision, show that the matter remains as tricky as ever. Equality for all citizens is guaranteed, but Islamic law is also prescribed for marriage, divorce and inheritance. Of course, some elements of Islamic family law might mandate gender inequality; to address that possibility, one draft reportedly provides that religion would trump equality if the two conflict.
These tentative efforts to reconcile Islam and democratic equality ensure that future Iraqi legislators and jurists will have to figure out just what it means to treat Islam as ”a source of law” or, perhaps, ”a main source.” At this time, it is simply not possible to work out Iraq’s religious identity without alienating either clerics or secular rights organizations.
It has been slow going, and the WaPo is reporting that several of the authors are contemplating a delay:
Drafters of Iraq’s new constitution said Sunday they were considering a 30-day extension, in a potentially serious setback to a U.S. push to complete the charter on time.
The debate over extending the Aug. 15 deadline for drafting a new constitution came amid reports Sunday of continuing insurgent violence. At least 10 people were reported killed, including five U.S. soldiers who died in roadside bombings in Baghdad Saturday. U.S. Marines said they killed “several” insurgents early Sunday in a battle in western Iraq that involved U.S. aircraft and tanks.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had made a special trip to Baghdad on Wednesday to press for completion of the constitution by the deadline, tying it to Washington’s hopes for significant spring troop withdrawals.
But Iraq’s Shiite Arabs, Kurds and Sunni Arabs have been unable to reach agreement on topics including a Kurdish-led push for a regionally-driven system of federal government.
Under an Iraqi timetable, any request to extend the deadline for writing the constitution must be submitted the National Assembly, or parliament, by Aug. 1.
Bahaa Araji, a Shiite delegate, said constitutional committee members had decided to ask for a 30-day extension. Araji said the 30-day delay represented a compromise with delegates of the Kurdish minority, whom he said initially had demanded a six-month postponement.
“Tomorrow this request will be presented to the National Assembly, and we hope they approve it,” Araji said. The Associated Press also quoted the committee chairman, Humam Hammoudi, as saying a 30-day extension would be sought. Hammoudi later denied making such a statement.
And Reuters news agency later quoted Araji as denying that an extension had been agreed upon. Delegates were still discussing it, Araji said.
I think the appropriate way to examine this is in the context of the entire reconstruction. This is a marathon, and while the development of the Iraqi Consitution is an important milestone (just like th January vote), the race will go on. The question is, which mile-marker is this?
Let’s just hope the Constitution is one they can live with, and things get better.
Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., could be in serious trouble if Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., challenges him for his Senate seat, according to a national columnist and pundit.
“If the Republicans get Capito, I think Byrd could very well lose,” said Eleanor Clift, a contributing editor for Newsweek magazine and a regular on Fox News and the PBS show “The McLaughlin Group.”
Clift spoke Saturday to more than 200 people at the Snowshoe Institute, an educational and cultural event at Snowshoe Mountain Resort.
Byrd alienated many West Virginians with his outspoken opposition to the Iraq war, Clift said. And Republicans will exploit his advanced age in the 2006 election, she said.
Meanwhile, Capito is a rising star in the Republican Party. They allowed her to vote against President Bush last week on the Central American Free Trade Agreement, Clift said, in order to bolster her political chances. CAFTA passed by a two-vote margin.
GOP leaders are pushing her to run, but Capito is reluctant to take on a living legend, for personal reasons, Clift said.
“She’s going to be a senator someday, why should she rush?” Clift said. “If she does, I think he’s in real trouble.”
This is going to be interesting. Should Capito choose to not run, Don has come up with a list of possible other GOP candidates.
This is fascinating:
Two marketing professors — Barbara Kahn of the Wharton School and Elizabeth Gelfland Miller of Boston College — have conducted some experiments to try to figure out what sort of effect mysterious names of colors and flavors have on consumers. They divided such names into categories: typical color names might be either ”common,” like dark green, or ”common descriptive,” like pine green; atypical names could be either ”unexpected descriptive” (Kermit green) or flat-out ”ambiguous” (friendly green). Nars Orgasm blush is certainly an atypical name, although I will leave it to the reader to decide whether it falls under ”unexpected descriptive” or simply ”ambiguous.”
Kahn and Miller found that unusual names were more popular, unless the person was distracted during the process of choosing — that is, the unexpected won out when subjects were given the opportunity to think about it, as a shopper at a cosmetics counter generally does. Kahn suspected that certain words (like anything to do with sex) would always spark positive responses. But instead, the key seemed to be unexpectedness itself, which essentially engages the consumer in an attempt to solve the puzzle of the name. This rapid, essentially unconscious cognitive process, Kahn and Miller wrote recently in The Journal of Consumer Research, ”results in additional (positive) attributions about the product and thus, a more favorable response.” This seems to affect not only whether a person chooses to buy something but also, oddly, how much she enjoys it.
Kahn and Miller cite two theories of mental processing that may be at work. In the case of ”unexpected descriptive” names, we may be able to solve the puzzle to our satisfaction. With the more logic-defying names, we essentially conclude that there must be some reason for it, and given the circumstances (it’s a product for sale in a market society), the reason must be positive. A spokeswoman for Nars declined to share the company’s reasons for calling blush Orgasm or Deep Throat, perhaps sensing that the mystery is good for business.
But not as interesting as this examination of how our perceptions of color are shaped by the surrounding environment in which colors exist.
Josh Trevino writes that we should treat our eviction from Uzbekistan as a badge of pride.
Fabulous. Remember the donor conference held in 2003 that garnered all the promises of international aid?
How much financial aid for Iraq was pledged at the October 23-24 Madrid donor conference?
About $33 billion in grants and loans, almost two-thirds of it from the United States. The widely used estimate of Iraq’s reconstruction needs is about $55 billion over several years. Still, the Bush administration was pleased with outcome of the conference, because non-U.S. pledges totaled more than many U.S. policymakers had expected.
Not surprisingly, some countries appear to be holding back:
The U.S.-led effort to rebuild Iraq’s devastated infrastructure is falling short because of a lack of financial support from other countries, the head of the Army Corps of Engineers said.
“There’s lots of good news, and good things are happening,” Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, the Corps’s chief of engineers, told The Hill, “but on the international effort, there’s simply not enough to get the Iraqis to where they need to be.”
Strock, whose agency acts as a middleman between the Agency for International Development (AID) and U.S. contractors and oversees actual construction, said about 2,500 projects valued at $5.8 billion have been started as of June, with 3,000 or so others on the drawing boards…
“What happened was that we are standing by our commitment but we have not seen the donor nations stand by theirs. The Iraqis are generating some income, primarily from oil, but right now we are the only show in town. We’re not going to get to where we need, given the current level of investment.”
Strock’s downbeat assessment comes as the new U.S. envoy to Iraq, Zalmay Khalizad, told reporters in Washington that he wants to give Iraqis “greater control and responsibility” over the reconstruction effort.
However, the reconstruction efforts, which to date have been bogged down by the violence and bloodshed, appear to be continuing forward, albeit slowly:
One of the biggest problems is the poor condition of the infrastructure, Strock explained.
“First, there was a lot of damage caused by sabotage and looting, but the real problem was that just about every area of the infrastructure suffered from 35 years of neglect by Saddam. We went in with the idea of repairing the infrastructure, but when we got in, we found that it simply was not going to be enough.”
Strock pointed to the oil infrastructure as “the area where we’ve made the most progress. We’re up to the point where we are producing about 2 million barrels a day and we’re working toward 3 million.” Slightly more than half of the oil is exported, he said.
“The bottom line is, I think we’ve turned the corner,” he said. “I really do.”
Read the whole thing.
Thousands of miles of column inches have been writen on the topic of originalism, and the question of whether or not Judge Roberts shares this perspective is receiving the same voluminous treatment. Wikipedia describes originalism in this manner:
The term originalism refers to two distinctly different ideas: One version, known as original intent, is the view that interpretation of a written constitution is (or should be) consistent with what it was originally intended to mean by those who drafted and ratified it. The other version, known as original meaning, or textualism, is the view that interpretation of a written constitution should be based on what it would commonly have been understood to mean by reasonable persons living at the time of its ratification.
Last week, Matt Welch suggested several questions he would like asked of Judge Roberts:
You’re on a lifeboat, but it can only hold 8 of the original 10 amendments without sinking, killing your whole family. Which ones go?
What about 20 of the 27? With that in mind, my question:
“Do originalists place more primacy on the bill of rights than they do the subsequent 17 amendments?”
Again, this may highlight my ignorance more than anything, but I am curious as to what you think.
Thursday, I wrote about the underhanded methods used to extend the vote in CAFTA until leadership like the outcome. Today, let’s look at what CAFTA cost. According to the Opinion Journal, it cost billions right off the bat:
President Bush had to twist a lot of arms to squeak his Central American Free Trade Agreement through Congress this week, but Republicans are about to make sure he pays for a whole lot more than their chiropractor bills. Having sacrificed to support free trade, the Members prepared for the August recess by throwing themselves a giant spending party.
Speaker Dennis Hastert had barely waited for dawn to break after the midnight Cafta vote before he directed the House to pass a $286.4 billion highway bill. He expects Mr. Bush to sign this because it is “only” $2.4 billion more than the President’s 2005 veto limit, which is “only” $28 billion more than his 2004 veto limit of $256 billion, which was “only” a 17% increase over the previous six-year highway spending level. “Only” in Washington could spending so much money be considered an act of fiscal discipline.
The bill is all about “jobs, jobs, jobs,” declared Mr. Hastert, and he’s right if he’s referring to the Members’ re-election prospects. The House version alone contained 3,700 special earmarks, doled out liberally across state and party lines.
Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) files this dispatch:
The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) today opposed the pork projects and special interest tax breaks found in the conference report on the Transportation Equity Act A Legacy for Users (TEA-LU). The conference version of the bill passed the House of Representatives today by a vote of 412-8. The Senate is scheduled to take up the bill before recess.
“This legislation is yet another example of lawmakers catering to special interests,” CAGW President Tom Schatz said. “The pork projects were not enough; Congress also had to include unrelated tax breaks in this bloated highway bill.”
The bill includes $200 million for the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere,” now renamed “Don Young’s Way,” connecting Gravina Island (population: 50) with the Alaskan mainland.
Also coming to light are questionable tax breaks in the bill that have little to do with transportation, including:
– Repeal of special occupational taxes on producers and marketers of alcoholic beverages
– Income tax credit for distilled spirits wholesalers
– Cap on excise tax on certain fishing equipment
– Tax breaks for luxury transportation: Exemption from taxes on transportation provided by seaplanes and certain sightseeing flights exempt from taxes on air transportation
Read the entire CAGW write-up.
Long story short, we massaged/bent/broke the rules to get the vote we wanted on an unrelated bill, and then spent billions of taxpayer money to grease the wheels.
Somehow, the argument that I should vote Republican because ‘the Democrats are worse’ is becoming less palatable by the minute.
*** Update ***
The good folks at Q and O are also observant of the decline of the ‘fiscally responsible’ Republican party.