Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Illness as an act of Faith

Remember the 11-year old girl that died from a treatable form of diabetes while her family prayed for her to get better?

Allow me to refresh your memory. It occurred in Wisconsin in March of 2008. Last spring her mother was convicted of second-degree reckless homicide and her husband is now on trial facing the same charges.

The AP reported yesterday that the wife testified at her husband’s trial. What this lady apparently told the court is beyond belief. Allow me to quote the AP story.

“…she believes sickness is caused by sin and can be cured by God.”

The idea that sickness can be cured by God is pretty much universal among theists. However the sane ones understand the old saying “It’s ok to believe in miracles but don’t depend upon them.”

As for the idea that sickness is caused by sin, only a first class idiot could believe that.

“…she did not realize her daughter was seriously ill until the day before her death, when the girl was weak and pale and had trouble speaking.”

Ok, so why didn’t you do something then? The doctors appear to believe the girl could have been saved even at that late date.

"We thought even the lifelessness was something that she would come out of."

You’ve heard many recent stories about folks rising from the dead? There really is no excuse for this degree of ignorance.

"Everything for us is about faith. It is about trusting in God. We either believe in God's word or we don't."

I said this last time as well, did you ever consider the idea that doctors and medical science were the tools that God chose to use in order to answer your prayers?

Ok, I can’t talk about this anymore. This kind of thing makes me sick to my stomach. Here's hoping hubby gets convicted as well. The maximum sentence is 25 years but I suspect they'll get little more than a slap on the wrist. Our society appears willing to put up with a lot in the name of religion.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Prom Night in Mississippi

I watched the HBO documentary “Prom Night in Mississippi.” If you’re not familiar with it, it’s about a small town in Mississippi called Charleston, which up until 2008 always had separate white and black proms for the town’s high school seniors.

That was 2008, not 1958, not 1968, but 2008. Morgan Freeman lived there until the age of six and he offered to pay for it if they had one integrated prom.

Well, it almost worked. Most of the kids seemed to like the idea but more than a few white parents didn’t. They organized their own “whites only” prom anyway.

The white kids at the school seemed to split over the issue. Some went to the integrated prom only; some went to the white prom only and a few went to both proms. The comic relief was this one dude who went to the white prom, due to pressure from his parents, and then ended up with two dates to the integrated prom. So I guess he had three prom dates?

Anyway, perhaps the community has been bootstrapped into the 1960’s. Now that they’ve caught up to integration we can begin working on the Separation of Church and State. At the start of the integrated prom, which I would say was a school sanctioned function even though Freeman paid for it, a teacher led a prayer. A prayer that appealed to simply “God” would have been bad enough but she led a Christian prayer that called upon the name of the Lord Jesus. In another segment the football coach led the team in a prayer before the game but all I heard was "let us pray."

One would think that teachers and principals would know better.

Explain to me again why we didn’t let them secede?

This is the kind of thing we tend to wink at. I’m sure all of the students and teachers were devout Christians that may have even attended the same church. So what’s the harm right?

The harm is that it is a violation of the law. These people are sending the message to these kids that Christianity trumps the Constitution of the United States and that is a very dangerous message to send.

If there is another civil war in this country it will be over religion. Sounds ridiculous? Don't be too sure. The rest of the country is becoming more and more secular while the south is remaining devoutly conservative Christian. Already there are rumblings of "what happened to my country" from Christians, especially white evangelical Christians, and it's only going to get worse. By ignoring things like a prayer to Jesus at a public school prom we are simply moving the problem into the next generation. It really needs to stop.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

In God We Trust on the Visitor Center

Representative Dan Lundgren, R-Cal., wants the new Capitol Visitor Center to have “In God We Trust” and the Pledge of Allegiance, with its proclamation of “Under God,” engraved in prominent places.

Apparently he got the House, and Senator Jim DeMint, R-SC, got the senate, to pass similar resolutions to that effect. However they both overlooked the folks from the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FfRF) who are suing to prevent it from happening.

I think “In God We Trust” should be scrapped and “Under God” removed from the pledge. I also think the chances of that happening are somewhere between “not a snowball’s chance in hell” and “not in this lifetime.”

However, with that being said, the two Christian congressmen may have overstepped themselves this time. The Visitor Center appears to have been developed as an extension to the Capitol itself and not as a standalone structure. This makes the argument that an “In God we Trust” engraving is an endorsement of religion a little hard to walk away from.

I see three possible decisions. Decision #1, and the one I expect, is the court throws out the case and the engravings are made. I’d say that the chances of this occurring are about 90%.

The second possibility is that the court rules that the engravings can’t be made but leaves the status of the motto and the pledge’s “Under God” unchanged. I see absolutely no real justification for such a decision. It would be “ad hoc” law created by compromise. Still, I give it around a 9% chance.

That leaves only a 1% possibility that the court will do what is right and strike down both the motto and the “Under God” in the pledge as violations of the 1st Amendment.

Friday, July 17, 2009

And that’s the way it is…

Walter Cronkite died today at the age of 92. There is something fundamentally wrong with having to say that. Walter Cronkite is always supposed to be there. He’s always supposed to be there so that you know there is at least one honest man in this world that you can trust.

It’s another empty chair from my youth. Good bye Walter. I’m sure God will be looking to you for advice and honesty just like we always did.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pew Research Science Poll

The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press has just released a survey centered on science in the U.S.

The survey compares the attitudes of the general public versus those in the science profession on a wide of variety of topics but I would like to discuss the findings associated with Evolution and a related topic or two.

According to the survey, 97% of scientists and 61% of the general public accept that living things evolved over time. 87% of scientists, but only 32% of the general public, believe that evolution was due to natural processes. Only 31% of the general public, and a minuscule 2% of scientists, believe that living things have always existed in their present form.

The 61% number is the largest number I’ve ever seen supporting Evolution. This is very encouraging even if 22% think Evolution was guided by a supreme being. Let’s see now, 32% plus 22% equals 54%. I wonder what the other 7% think?

Males, 36%, and younger people between the ages of 18 and 29, 40%, are more likely to accept Evolution by natural processes than women, 29%, and those over 65, 23%.

College graduates, 45%, and the religiously unaffiliated, 60%, are more likely to accept Evolution by natural processes than those with a High School education or less, 26%, and evangelical Christians, 9%.

Only 4% of the general public admits to being atheist or agnostic while 28% of scientists say they’re either atheist or agnostic. An additional 12% of the general public, and 20% of scientists, say they’re “Nothing in Particular.”

Now here’s the really interesting one. Pew asked about Party affiliation. In the general public, 35% said they were Democrats, 33% Independents and 23% Republican. Among scientists, 55% said they were Democrats, 32% Independents and a paltry 6% Republican.

I’ve never seen that question before but, to be honest, it doesn’t surprise me that the most intelligent and best educated people in the country shy away from the current Republican Party where the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin and Tony Perkins wield such influence.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Sotomayor Hearings

I have nothing to complain about so far. The Republican members of the committee are doing exactly what they should be doing. They’re asking most of the right questions. Unfortunately there’s no one that’s going to address Sotomayor’s stance on the Separation of Church and State although I doubt that’s going to be much of an issue.

I’m still sort of lukewarm about her if the truth must be told. I see very little in her judicial record to give me a warm fuzzy feeling about how she’ll make decisions.

I grew up in a housing project in the Bronx as well, but in the more Liberal North Bronx. I had a pretty good Cuban buddy in high school that lived around Simpson Street in the South Bronx and he was a hell of a lot more conservative than I was.

He’s probably a big Republican contributor these days. We used to fight like cats and dogs when the conversation got to politics. Luckily we had more in common than not in those days.

The thing is he wasn’t the exception. In general the Hispanics I knew tended to be well to the right of center on a lot of things. They also all tended to be very religious.

Well, maybe not all. I had a Mexican friend that I used to go to church with every Sunday until we figured out that we could hang out in the bowling ally near Burke Avenue for an hour or so and then go back home.

The only Hispanic friend I had in college was also Cuban and he was a little nuts. We used to smoke grass and hit the bridge clubs in Manhattan together. He finally ended up working as a pharmaceutical salesman but, when people asked him what he did, he used to say he was a drug dealer. I remember some interesting facial expressions after that one.

To be honest with you I knew more about Alito than I do about Sotomayor and, while clearly I generally don’t agree with many of Alito’s positions, I felt reasonably comfortable with him. Perhaps because he was so much better than that washer woman Bush first nominated or because he made it clear that he stood by the principle of stare decisis.

Anyway, we shall see what we shall see.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Let’s Talk about Guns

The 2nd Amendment to the Constitution says “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

Ok, I can live with that. Have as many guns as you want. It’s the bullets I want to regulate. I propose making the possession of bullets outside of licensed preserves a felony punishable by up to five years as Bubba’s roommate.

I also want to tax them to death. How does a 100% Federal Sales Tax on all ammunition sound? And that’s not to mention the licensing fees for the preserves. On second thought, maybe we should make that 200%.

We could balance the budget in no time as well as take a massive bite out of crime and deaths through accidental shootings. As an extra added bonus, the only gun fatalities will be gun nuts so slowly, but surely, we might drive the breed to extinction.

The dum-dums that just have to have 40 rifles and pistols around the house wouldn’t have anything to complain about either. They only need bullets when they go to the range or hunting and all of those places would be licensed preserves with a generous supply of the best ammunition money could buy.

So feel free to curl up with, feel up, and use for various forms of pleasure your now guaranteed safe firearms.

Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech – Chase Harper

Chase Harper was a student at Poway High School in San Diego. Every year the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) sponsors the “Day of Silence” to protest the bullying and harassment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students.

On the other side of the coin is the “Day of Truth” sponsored by the Christian based Alliance Defense League and supported by Christian organizations like Focus on the Family which claims that events like the “Day of Silence” promote homosexuality and “creates a hostile climate for students of faith.”

Exactly how promoting tolerance for gays creates a hostile climate for Christians escapes me at the moment. Then again, I never expect sense from Focus on the Family.

On the “Day of Truth” supporters are encouraged to spread the message "true tolerance means that people with differing -- even opposing -- viewpoints can freely exchange ideas and respectfully listen to each other. It's time for an honest conversation about homosexuality. There's freedom to change if you want to. Let's talk.”

The problem of course with this message is the assumption that homosexuality is a choice and an immoral choice at that. A Christian’s idea of “true tolerance” is to let them disparage folks for something they don’t appear to have any control over because of the ignorant mumblings of unwashed nomads and a repressed homosexual named Paul.

Again, I digress. Let’s get back to Chase.

Chase was apparently a good Christian and, since there didn’t appear to be any organized counter demonstration to the call for tolerance for homosexuals at his school, Chase decided to take matters into his own hands. He put two strips of adhesive tape, one on the front and one on the back, on a T-shirt. On the tape on the front he wrote “Be Ashamed, Our School Embraced What God Has Condemned” and on the tape on the back he wrote “Homosexuality Is Shameful.”

He then wore the T-shirt to school as a protest to the “Day of Silence.” He sure was demonstrating tolerance wasn’t he?

The school demanded that Chase remove the messages, remove the shirt or go home. Chase and his family eventually sued the Poway school for violating Chase’s 1st Amendment rights.

This is a tricky one. Chase is entitled to his opinion and he is entitled to express his opinion regardless of how rotten that opinion might be. The question is whether he is entitled to express it anywhere and at any time?

I see two problems with Chase. The first is that invoking your right to free speech is not always appropriate. Someone might think that profanity and pornography are acceptable but wearing a T-shirt covered with four letter words and naked bodies to a little league baseball game would understandably be frowned upon by even the most liberal individuals. I have serious problems with Christians and with Christianity but wearing something proclaiming those issues to work or to the local church carnival would be equally inappropriate.

The second problem I have with Chase, and why I think the school was right, is that his T-shirt was an expression of intolerance. Even if you find someone’s ideas or lifestyle distasteful, you are still obligated to tolerate them.

Tolerate does not mean approval or respect. I don’t approve of the Nazi Party or the KKK and I certainly don’t respect them but I am obligated to tolerate them. That is a fundamental principle of secular Western and American Democracy.

Schools are obligated to teach secular Western Principles including tolerance for things that you may personally disapprove of. It’s a fundamental part of their educational mission. Chase’s action was an action of intolerance and totally incompatible with the democratic principle of tolerance. In other words it was in direct conflict with the school's mission. Therefore I agree that they had every right to make him remove the messages.

The ACLU didn’t agree with me and filed an Amicus brief in support of Chase but I don’t always agree with ACLU on everything. The U.S. district court determined that the school did do the right thing. Allow me to quote the court’s opinion.

“Public school students who may be injured by verbal assaults on the basis of a core identifying characteristic such as race, religion, or sexual orientation have a right to be free from such attacks while on school campuses. …students have the right to 'be secure and to be let alone.'...Being secure involves not only the freedom from physical assaults but from psychological attacks that cause young people to question their self-worth and their rightful place in society. The 'right to be let alone' has been recognized by the Supreme Court … as the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men.''

In other words, your rights end where the next guy's begin.

Imagine the reaction if someone came to school with a T-shirt disparaging Blacks or Jews or Christianity? The howls of outrage would be echoing from sea to shining sea with nary a naysayer outside the lunatic fringe. Why is it ok then to disparage homosexuals because someone’s religion says homosexuality is sinful?

As has been noted by President Obama, because your religion says so is not a valid argument in the secular arena and this is still a secular country operating under secular laws.

Chase Harper was, and apparently still is, a Christian that thinks it's ok to condemn homosexuals. If he wanted to wear his silly T-shirt in the park or walking down a public street, he would have been within his rights, uncouth, but within his rights, but wearing it to school was wrong.

He is entitled to his opinion even if it stinks like last week’s garbage. If he wants to express his opinions about homosexuality, allow me to suggest he try it in Greenwich Village in NYC. I’m sure his message will be warmly received there.

Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech - Dhabah "Debbie" Almontaser

Debbie Almontaser is an Arab American and a veteran of the New York City school system. In 2007 Debbie was slated to be the principal of an Arabic-English dual language school in Brooklyn called the Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA).

The academy was one of a series of dual language schools in New York City. Most of them paired Spanish with English but there were also French, Chinese and Korean versions.

Nevertheless the Arabic academy was controversial right from the start and having Almontaser slated to be principal didn’t appear to help any. The school and Almontaser were accused of everything from intending to teach Sharia law to setting up a radical anti-American Madrassa right in New York City.

The whole thing was a volatile mix of anti-Arab sentiment and Christian vs. Muslim bickering in the city that suffered the major brunt of 9/11.

The primary opposition appears to have come from an Islam-phobic group called “Stop the Madrassa.” One wacko in the film is shown bemoaning the fact that he can’t get a crèche set up in his kid’s classroom but the Muslims get a whole school just like that. I checked their blog based website and they seem to have been pretty much inactive since July of 2008.

No matter how many times the Department of Education pointed that this was to be a public school that would tolerate no religious education whatsoever, opponents continued to brand the academy as an Islamic indoctrination center complete with prayers to Mecca and the teaching of revisionist Arab centric history.

The opposition also appeared to have it in for Debbie Almontaser. They considered her a Muslim extremist and didn’t trust her one bit. They called her a 9/11 denier despite the fact that her son was called up to his National Guard unit as a result of 9/11.

Almontaser’s personal life activities probably didn’t help much. She was active in Arab-American politics and a board member of the Saba Association of American Yemenis. Saba happened to share building space with a group called Arab Women Active in Art and Media (AWAAM) on Third Avenue in Brooklyn.

Saba and AWAAM both participated in Arab-American cultural events around the city. Events which were apparently stalked by opponents of KGIA searching for ammunition and eventually they found it.

At one event the AWAAM group was selling T-shirts labeled “Intifada NYC.” Well that caused big trouble. The word “Intifada” has come to be associated with the Gaza uprisings against Israel and is widely recognized as referring to a violent Arab uprising or rebellion.

Personally I interpret the T-shirts as expressing the solidarity of NYC Arabs with the struggles of the Palestinian people. Since we’re talking about Free Speech here, I’d like to point out that they are entitled to express that solidarity. But you have to admit that using the term “Intifada NYC” was a highly questionable idea. It implies a call for violence rather than peaceful support. You can peaceably assemble but you cannot advocate blowing stuff up.

Now, Almontaser had nothing to do with the T-shirts but even the tenuous association of the mutual participation in an Arab cultural event led the New York Post to request an interview with Almontaser on the matter. The NYC Department of Education (DOE) ordered her to comply with the request.

The interview was a complete disaster. Almontaser, rather than simply disavowing the T-shirts and explaining that she knew nothing about them, went into an explanation about the root meaning of the Arabic word “Intifada” being “shrugging off” or “throwing off” and speculating that the AWAAM girls were simply expressing their inclusion in NYC society.

Yeah, that explanation went over big. Her answers made her sound evasive and made her look like she was trying to hide something. To make matters worse it turned out that the founders of AWAAM were also supposedly active in the more militant al-Awda which the B’nai B’rith Anti-defamation League claims actively supports Hamas and Hezbollah.

Needless to say the Post absolutely crucified poor Debbie. The New York Post is a rag, and has been since it was bought out by Rupert Murdoch, but it knows when it has a blockbuster story and Almontaser gave them one on a silver platter.

I’ve read the Post article and it is a masterpiece of ripping someone completely to shreds while staying well within the rules of the libel laws. It sticks to the facts but the implications left to the imagination of the reader are devastating.

After the interview, and the Post article, Almontaser became a liability. The NYC DOE demanded her resignation as principal of KGIA and promised her an assistant principal position somewhere in the NYC school system. Uh-huh. Can you say “relegated to the outer Siberian banks real quickly?”

The school did open and appears to be currently active so the opposition seems to have only won a partial victory. I guess with the opening of the school the ludicrous fears which fueled the rhetoric of “Stop the Madrassa” dissipated in the light of reality.

Of course that didn’t do Almontaser any good. She’s suing the NYC DOE for violating her 1st Amendment rights and she’s suing them in Federal Court claiming they discriminated against her on the basis of race, religion, and national origin.

She may get a settlement but personally I don’t think she has a snowball’s chance in hell in either suit.

As a matter of fact, I don’t even see this as a Freedom of Speech issue. You might claim that the Post misused the Freedom of the Press but that would be a stretch. What they reported was 100% factual. The yellow journalism part was in leading the reader to a series of unexpressed disturbing conclusions about the trustworthiness of Almontaser as the principal of an Arab-English school.

The NYC DOE didn’t ask for her resignation because of her opinions, but because she totally botched the New York Post interview and placed herself and the DOE in an untenable position. Even the head of the NYC Teacher’s Union called for her resignation. I mean, forget it, as soon as she went around O’Houlihan’s barn explaining the root meaning of “Intifada” she was toast. If nothing else a teacher should understand that the meaning of words evolve with usage. Consider the word “gay” for example.

I sympathize with her. If it hadn’t been for the yahoos of “Stop the Madrassa” she’d be happily working at her dream job as principal of an Arabic-English dual language school but she has only herself to blame.

Perhaps my opinion is slightly tainted by my inbred general distrust of Islam but I don’t think so. I don’t have a problem with the school and I don’t have a problem with Almontaser and I think the marriage of her as principal and KGIA would have been a match made in heaven. But that ship has sailed. That wouldn’t be a good idea any more.

The NYC DOE did what it had to do to protect the school and the needs of the school children of NYC. Isn’t that what it’s there for?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech – Ward Churchill

Ward Churchill was a tenured professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado. Ward is not what you would call bashful about expressing his opinion.

Shortly after 9/11 he wrote an article pointing out that the U.S. State Department’s history of foreign policy abuses were at least partially responsible for the attack. Of course he was right.

Let’s get one thing straight. An act of terrorism against unarmed civilians is an act of cowardice. I’ve said that before and I’ll say it again. If we agree on that then let’s talk about what is an “act of terrorism.”

An “act of terrorism” is an attack designed to induce fear in a population in order to bring about some goal. The rounding up and execution of the men of Lidice by the Nazis in World War II was an act of terrorism. The lynching of blacks in the Jim Crow South was an act of terrorism. The firebombing of Tokyo was an act of terrorism. The bombing of Dresden was an act of terrorism. A Palestinian suicide bomber blowing up a supermarket is an act of terrorism. The shelling of West Bank Palestinian towns by the Israeli army is an act of terrorism. A Shiite suicide bomber exploding a bomb in the midst of mourners at a Sunni funeral is an act of terrorism.

Unfortunately, there’s no shortage of acts of terrorism to go around. Yet while the U.S. cries foul at every act of terrorism aimed at itself or its allies, it tends to feel it’s ok to commit or condone acts which are just as bad.

Let’s face it, our hands are not exactly clean of blood. You can draw a direct line between our support for Israel ,through our supplying of arms to Saddam Hussein during the Iraq-Iran war, to the rubble of the twin towers.

That’s all Ward Churchill was saying and he was saying it because those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Now this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t wipe the scum that attacked the World Trade Center off the face of the earth. I thought that was a real good idea and I still do. I agree with Belgarath. "Good and Evil" and "Right and Wrong" are too messy and complicated. I prefer "Us and Them." It's simple and let's you get past the preliminaries and down to the main event quickly.

Too bad Little Georgie got distracted by Iraq, who had nothing to do with the World Trade Center attack and who Bush and Rumsfeld knew had nothing to do with the World Trade Center attack, and let the real bad guys off the hook. Looks like Obama is in the process of correcting that mistake. But I digress. Let’s get back to Ward.

His article sort of languished in the archives of the internet until one day it came to the attention of the American Council of Trusties and Alumni (ACTA). While ACTA states that one of its objectives is to “safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus,” they weren’t real happy with Ward’s ideas and began to put pressure on the University of Colorado to terminate him.

ACTA is clearly a conservative right wing group that throws out all the nice sounding glittering generalities to advance or defend positions that they agree with. But apparently they’ll do everything they can to suppress ideas they don’t agree with and they sure as hell didn’t agree with Ward.

Right now universities tend to be dominated by liberal viewpoints so ACTA is screaming for “Intellectual Diversity.” Yet you can take it to the bank that if academia was dominated by conservatives, they’d be defending “Traditional Values” and “Academic Privilege.”

I hear them attacking Harvard, Yale and Stanford but they appear to be mum about Brigham Young, Oral Roberts and Liberty University.

Still, they were perfectly within their rights to disagree with Ward, point out why Ward had his head up his ass and call him nasty names. Even I admit that he went way over the line when he referred to some of the victims of 9/11 as “little Eichmanns.” He clearly deserved to be criticized and have someone tear him a new one for that pronouncement.

But what ACTA did not have the right to do was pressure the University of Colorado to silence him. It never ceases to amaze me how conservatives fail to understand the principles that they claim so loudly to love and support. If you can deny someone you disagree with his right to free speech, then someone else can deny you yours. Either everyone is protected by the Constitution or no one is protected. And they call themselves Patriots.

What? What’s that you say? Doesn’t the left do the same thing? Aren’t Creationism and Intelligent Design being censored? No. Despite Ben Stein’s absurd claims, no one is trying to silence Creationists. No one is petitioning Lehigh to terminate Michael Behe because they disagree with his viewpoint.

We will loudly and often point out Creationist misconceptions, distortions and outright falsehoods and we reserve the right to call them morons for ignoring the overwhelming evidence in nature and clinging to the fairy tales and myths of a group of ignorant unwashed nomads. But we’re not trying to silence them. If YouTube tried to shut down Creationist accounts, simply because they were promoting Creationism, their opponents in the Evolution-Creationism debate would be among the loudest howling “foul” in indignation. Yet I will bet you that the Creationists wouldn't let out the slightest whimper if YouTube decided to shut down their critics.

What's that you say? What about the Left’s fight to keep Creationism out of the science classroom? Isn’t that the same thing as ACTA trying to silence Ward Churchill?

We fight to keep Creationism out of the science classroom because being recognized as a scientific theory is not available on-demand. It has to be earned.

You can’t pick up a degree at the local Rite-Aid. It has to be earned with time and effort. You can’t order a Purple Heart from Amazon.com. It has to be earned with blood and pain. Your opinions aren’t accorded the recognition of being a scientific theory simply by you declaring they’re worthy of that recognition. You have to do the research; you have to write the papers; you have to present the evidence. The distinction of being recognized as a scientific theory has to be earned. Creationism hasn’t earned it. It hasn’t even tried to earn it. So no, it’s not the same thing at all.

The University of Colorado, under pressure from ACTA, decided to investigate Ward’s work to see if he had violated any academic ethics. They looked for skeletons and apparently found enough to revoke his tenure and terminate his teaching position.

I didn’t read the report on Ward’s termination issued by the university so I can’t pass judgment other than to say that I doubt that any of us could undergo a really intense scrutiny without something turning up. I know of a few lines of text here and there that I’ve written that someone could claim was plagiarized. I know in my storage account at work and in e-mails I’ve sent that there are things that violate the “Terms of Use” for computers and e-mail that they make me swear to abide by every year or so.

I didn’t read the report, but the courts did, and decided that the University of Colorado wrongefully terminated Ward Churchill. How’s that for a kick in the face ACTA? Yet ACTA continues to grind this axe. In their publications directory you can find a paper which moans that “throughout American higher education, professors are using their classrooms to push political agendas in the name of teaching students to think critically” entitled “How Many Ward Churchills?”

Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech

I watched the HBO documentary “Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech” the other night. I found it quite well done.

The primary source throughout the program was Martin Garbus, a 1st Amendment attorney and father of the filmmaker Liz Garbus.

The show covered a number of historical and contemporary stories including the Alien and Sedition Acts, McCarthy, The Pentagon Papers and the Nazi march in Skokie Illinois. The show was supposedly centered on the balancing act between free speech and security but some of the stories had nothing to do with that. Some stories did, perhaps even most, but the three I found most interesting either had nothing to do with national security or were, at best, on the remote outer fringe of the security question.

I want to focus on these three contemporary stories because they have a modern face that you can relate to as an individual and because I think they address some fundamental flaws in current American culture. Rather than do them in one long essay, I’ve decided to address each separately in future posts.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Pew News IQ Score

Every so often I go take the Pew News Test at Pewresearch.org. I’m not sure how often they update it but if you go back about every 3 months it’s usually different.

There are 12 questions and after you finish they compare how you did to the demographic scores on each question compared to a random survey. I usually get all 12 right. If you read or listen to the news with any regularity it’s sort of hard not to. This time around 6% got all the questions right.

Men do better than woman answering an average of 8.3 questions right to 6.7. Not surprisingly the more education you have the higher you tend to score. College graduates averaged 8.7 correct while those having graduated High School got an average of 6.2 correct.

The older you were, the better you did. Those over 50 years of age got 8.4 correct, those between 30 and 49 got 7.8 correct and those between 18 and 29 5.9 correct.

The question that the most people got correct was which party controlled the House of Representatives. 86% knew it was the Democrats. The question that the fewest got right was approximately how many U.S. military deaths have occurred in Iraq. Only 38% knew it was approximately 4,300. I find that sort of disturbing.

I guess it could be worse. But then again, it could also be a whole lot better.

Residents Protest Atheist Sign

According to WSVN-TV, the Florida Atheist and Secular Humanist Society (FLASH) has erected a billboard just off of Route 95 in Ft. Lauderdale which reads "Being a good person doesn't require God. Don't believe in God? You're not alone. www.FreeThoughtFlorida.com."

Apparently some residents of the area are unhappy with the sign and want it taken down because it’s “offensive to Christians.” Protesters cite two main problems with the sign: it’s right next to a business owned by born again Christians and it’s in the middle of an African-American community.

I say, remember Freedom of Speech? Christians are fast enough to raise the Freedom of Speech issue when they want access to public facilities for religious functions. Well, this is Freedom of Speech too. I don’t see how the billboard being near a born again Christian store makes a damn bit of difference.

As for it being in an African-American community, allow me to remind those folks that they were happy enough to have the support of free thinkers during the Civil Rights movement but now they’d like to restrict the Freedom of Speech of Atheists and the equal rights of gays.

Tell you what, next time those good ol’ boys come by with a rope; you’re on your own. FLASH intends to keep the billboard up for four weeks. I say more power to them.

Why is Sarah Palin Resigning?

I figure there are four possibilities. The first is that she’s finally realized what an idiot she is and is going to go live in a cold water walk-up and mercifully disappear from sight. No, I don’t think that’s it. Too damn bad if you ask me.

The second is that she’s just fed up with all the nonsense and is going to live a quit and respectable life somewhere and only appear on rare occasions. No, I don’t think that’s it either.

The third is there’s a big scandal brewing and she’s tossing in the towel in exchange for it remaining out of public view. She’ll show up and annoy us from time to time but her public life is basically over if she doesn’t want it to hit the fan. Nah, no such luck, as entertaining as this might be, I doubt it.

That leaves she’s starting the 2012 campaign three years early. If you’re looking for definitive evidence that conservatives and evangelical Christians have their heads so far up their asses that they always think it’s nighttime, the fact that they seem to think Palin should be President should do it.

She hasn’t got the brains of a moose in heat so how the hell could anyone with an ounce of sense consider her for President? Oh wait, that’s right, we’re talking about evangelical Christians and conservatives. They’d be lucky to find a half dozen triple IQs in the whole bunch.

The fact that we have to take this insanity seriously shows how far this country has sunk. I’d rather have Dubyah back, or maybe even Jeb. This is truly pathetic.

As much as I had contempt for Little Georgie, I never wished him harm. This lady however, I’d like to see staked out on a convenient ant hill, or even an inconvenient ant hill. If she was drowning and I had 10 life preservers I would suddenly become attached to all 10 of them. She makes you realize what salmonella is good for.

Ok, Barack baby, don’t you dare screw up.