Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hacks, Get Out of the Way; Vouchers ARE Coming

I don’t think I have to restate here the evidence of the failures of our public school system. While it is true that an education system cannot deal with the disintegration of American society that is ongoing (again, ample evidence of this is all around us), it is also true that those low-income families that want a good education for their children have no place to go.

After pouring more and more money into public school systems for 40-50 years with only further deterioration taking place, it is clear to those not feeding off the system that more money is not the answer.

This explains the appeal of educational vouchers, which have three potential good outcomes: 1. a quality education for the child receiving the voucher, 2. the reform of the public school or public school system losing students to vouchers, or 3. the destruction of the public school system that refuses to reform.

If vouchers are such a good idea, why are the opponents so successful in stopping or sidetracking their implementation? The answer is easy. The same forces that sustain the present bloated and failing system, that is, the alliance of public-school teacher unions and the Democratic Party draw their support from secular-progressive voters who want to stamp out any and every aspect of religious thought from American schools and American society. Since the schools that offer quality education are usually private and run by religious groups, the left cries “separation of church and state”, and goes to court to kill the program.

Nowhere has this been more evident than in Florida and in Washington, D.C. In Florida, the voucher program instituted by former Governor Jeb Bush was declared unconstitutional, however an amendment to Florida’s constitution is on next fall’s ballot, and a temporary program supporters hope will skirt the question just passed Florida’s House yesterday.

School vouchers on ballot
If passed, tax panel's proposal would reinstate Jeb Bush program
April 26, 2008 Herald Tribune (Excerpt)

TALLAHASSEE — “In a move that will almost certainly revive legal battles over using taxpayer money for private schools, a commission voted Friday to give voters a choice to essentially reverse a 2006 Florida Supreme Court decision that found then-Gov. Jeb Bush's prized voucher program unconstitutional.”

House extends voucher plan to poor
April 28, 2008 Herald Tribune (Excerpt)

“The House just agreed to expand a scholarship program (HB 653) that gives vouchers to poor children to attend private or religious schools. Sponsor Rep. Trey Traviesa, R-Tampa, initially wanted to expand the program by about 5,000 students per year for the next five years, but controversy over the bill pushed the expansion to one year.

The program allows corporations to divert a portion of their taxes to the scholarship fund instead of giving to the state. The expansion would allow companies to divert an additional $30 million next year.

Advocates say it gives poor families the choice to attend other schools and saves the state money: it costs more to send a child to public school than to pay for a voucher.”

I’m not sure of the wording of the Florida constitution, but the “establishment” clause of the U.S. Constitution requires that government not support a ‘particular’ religion. All documents and meeting minutes arising out of the activities of our Founding Fathers clearly show that they wove their belief in God throughout public business, and the words, “Endowed by their Creator” are beyond argument. The granting of publicly-funded educational vouchers that can be used at any accredited school operated by ANY faith cannot be held unconstitutional. The motivation of the opponents of vouchers is clearly understood. It is to protect the failing public school system and suck more money from taxpayers.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Democrats Hype ‘Change’; Some Changes We Need

There is a simple formula in play affecting the continued disintegration of American society: AFDC Welfare = unwed mothers, unruly male children and sexual active teenage females, eager to escape = more of the same. Public schools are in total disarray, but, although they cannot be expected to cure problems that overwhelm them, they just add to the disintegration. Transforming AFDC Welfare into a temporary help program for emergencies is the only way, long term, to turn this situation around, and school voucher programs are the only way to give short term and long term relief to families interested in seeing their children do more than survive.

Education Lessons We Left Behind
By George Will, RealClearPolitics, April 24, 2008

If an unfriendly power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. -- "A Nation At Risk" (1983)

WASHINGTON -- Let us limp down memory lane to mark this week's melancholy 25th anniversary of a national commission's report that galvanized Americans to vow to do better. Today the nation still ignores what had been learned years before 1983.

Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once puckishly said that data indicated that the leading determinant of the quality of public schools, measured by standardized tests, was the schools' proximity to Canada. He meant that the geographic correlation was stronger than the correlation between high test scores and high per pupil expenditures.

Moynihan also knew that schools cannot compensate for the disintegration of families, and hence communities -- the primary transmitters of social capital. No reform can enable schools to cope with the 36.9 percent of all children and 69.9 percent of black children today born out of wedlock, which means, among many other things, a continually renewed cohort of unruly adolescent males.

Chester Finn, a former Moynihan aide, notes in his splendid new memoir ("Troublemaker: A Personal History of School Reform Since Sputnik") that during the Depression-era job scarcity, high schools were used to keep students out of the job market, shunting many into nonacademic classes. By 1961, those classes had risen to 43 percent of all those taken by students. After 1962, when New York City signed the nation's first collective bargaining contract with teachers, teachers began changing from members of a respected profession into just another muscular faction fighting for more government money. Between 1975 and 1980 there were a thousand strikes involving a million teachers whose salaries rose as students' scores on standardized tests declined.

In 1964, SAT scores among college-bound students peaked. In 1965, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) codified confidence in the correlation between financial inputs and cognitive outputs in education. But in 1966, the Coleman report, the result of the largest social science project in history, reached a conclusion so "seismic" -- Moynihan's description -- that the government almost refused to publish it.

Released quietly on the Fourth of July weekend, the report concluded that the qualities of the families from which children come to school matter much more than money as predictors of schools' effectiveness. The crucial common denominator of problems of race and class -- fractured families -- would have to be faced.

But it wasn't. Instead, shopworn panaceas -- larger teacher salaries, smaller class sizes -- were pursued as colleges were reduced to offering remediation to freshmen.
In 1976, for the first time in its 119-year history, the National Education Association, the teachers union, endorsed a presidential candidate, Jimmy Carter, who repaid it by creating the Education Department, a monument to the premise that money and government programs matter most. At the NEA's behest, the nation has expanded the number of teachers much faster than the number of students has grown.

Hiring more, rather than more competent, teachers meant more dues-paying union members. For decades, schools have been treated as laboratories for various equity experiments. Fads incubated in education schools gave us "open" classrooms, teachers as "facilitators of learning" rather than transmitters of knowledge, abandonment of a literary canon in the name of "multiculturalism," and so on, producing a majority of high school juniors who could not locate the Civil War in the proper half-century.

In 1994, Congress grandly decreed that by 2000 the high school graduation rate would be "at least" 90 percent and that American students would be "first in the world in mathematics and science achievement." Moynihan, likening such goals to Soviet grain quotas -- solemnly avowed, never fulfilled -- said: "That will not happen." It did not.

Moynihan was a neoconservative before neoconservatism became a doctrine of foreign policy hubris. Originally, it taught domestic policy humility. Moynihan, a social scientist, understood that social science tells us not what to do but what is not working, which today includes No Child Left Behind. Finn thinks NCLB got things backward: "The law should have set uniform standards and measures for the nation, then freed states, districts and schools to produce those results as they think best." Instead, it left standards up to the states, which have an incentive to dumb them down to make compliance easier.

A nation at risk? Now more than ever.

Educational Vouchers, that give parents some choice and some power, are bitterly opposed by teachers unions and by liberals with a distorted view of the meaning of ‘separation of church and state’. My next post will discuss vouchers in more detail.


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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Some Cartoons for April, 2008


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Saturday, April 26, 2008

All Is Not Lost, The Future of Oil

Periodically people take a look at the plateauing of oil reserve discoveries and oil production and compare that to the rapid increases in demand – particularly as China and India become more industrialized. They then declare that “peak” oil supplies have been reached, and the world will soon be plunged into a struggle for the remaining supplies. I made this mistake a couple of years ago, when I also concluded that the “peak” was upon us. Now, we all know that something weird is going on in oil markets as the price of oil and gasoline is advancing in large increments on a daily basis. Some, who know nothing about how these prices are set, believe it is the result of a conspiracy by oil companies. Most knowledgeable people see the cause as a combination of a deteriorating dollar (oil is priced in dollars), and a continuing rapid increase in demand.

The good news is that I and others were wrong about reaching the “peak”; just last week a discovery of a huge deposit of oil off the coast of Brazil may yield the third largest oil pool in the world, and other discoveries of large, previously unknown, deposits have now been found in the Gulf of Mexico both in Cuban and in U.S. waters and also in the Rocky Mountain states within the continental U.S.A.

What we need to do now is elect conservative Republicans to Congress who will free us from the stupid restrictions preventing us from drilling for this oil and then refining it domestically. Now that the truth about the harmful aspects of ethanol is becoming widely known, we should be able to undo the harm that Democrats and RINO Republicans have foisted on us and on the poorer nations of the world.

Brazil Oil Finds May End Reliance on Middle East, Zeihan Says
By Joe Carroll (Excerpts)
April 24 (Bloomberg) – “Brazil's discoveries of what may be two of the world's three biggest oil finds in the past 30 years could help end the Western Hemisphere's reliance on Middle East crude, Strategic Forecasting Inc. said.

Saudi Arabia's influence as the biggest oil exporter would wane if the fields are as big as advertised, and China and India would become dominant buyers of Persian Gulf oil, said Peter Zeihan, vice president of analysis at Strategic Forecasting in Austin, Texas.”

Undoing America's Ethanol Mistake
By SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON | Posted Friday, April 25, 2008 Investors Business Daily
The Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman once said, "One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results."

When Congress passed legislation to greatly expand America's commitment to biofuels, it intended to create energy independence and protect the environment.
But the results have been quite different. America remains equally dependent on foreign sources of energy, and new evidence suggests that ethanol is causing great harm to the environment.

In recent weeks, the correlation between government biofuel mandates and rapidly rising food prices has become undeniable. At a time when the U.S. economy is facing recession, Congress needs to reform its "food-to-fuel" policies and look at alternatives to strengthen energy security.

On Dec. 19, 2007, President Bush signed into law the Energy Independence and Security Act. This legislation had several positive features, including higher fuel standards for cars and greater investment in renewable energies such as solar power.
However, the bill required a huge spike in the biofuel production requirement, from 7.5 billion gallons in 2012 to 36 billion in 2022.

This was a well-intentioned measure, but it was also impractical. Nearly all our domestic corn and grain supply is needed to meet this mandate, robbing the world of one of its most important sources of food.

We are already seeing the ill effects of this measure. Last year, 25% of America's corn crop was diverted to produce ethanol. In 2008, that number will grow to 30%-35%, and it will soar even higher in the years to come.

Furthermore, the trend of farmers supplanting other grains with corn is decreasing the supply of numerous agricultural products. When the supply of those products goes down, the price inevitably goes up.

Subsequently, the cost of feeding farm and ranch animals increases and the cost is passed to consumers of beef, poultry and pork products.

Since February 2006, the price of corn, wheat and soybeans has increased by more than 240%. Rising food prices are hitting the pockets of lower-income Americans and people who live on fixed incomes.

While the blame for higher costs shouldn't rest exclusively with biofuels — drought and rising oil costs are contributing factors — the expansion of biofuels has been a major source of the problem.

The International Food Policy Research Institute estimates that biofuel production accounts for between one-quarter and one-third of the recent spike in global commodity prices.

For the first time in 30 years, food riots are breaking out in many parts of the globe, including major countries such as Mexico, Pakistan and Indonesia.

The fact that America's energy policies are creating global instability should concern the leaders of both political parties

Restraining the dangerous effects of artificially inflated demand for ethanol should be an issue that unites both conservatives and progressives.

As a recent Time cover story pointed out, biofuel mandates increase greenhouse gasses and create incentives for global deforestation.

In the Amazon basin, huge swaths of forest are being cleared to meet the growing hunger for biofuels.

In addition, relief organizations are facing gaping shortfalls as the cost of food outpaces their ability to provide aid for the 800 million people who lack food security.

The recent food crisis does not mean we should entirely abandon biofuels.
The best way to lower energy prices, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, is to accelerate production of all forms of domestic energy.

Expanding biofuels while refusing to take other measures, such as lifting the ban on oil and natural gas production in Alaska and the Outer Continental Shelf, is counterproductive. We should be tapping into a broad portfolio of energy options, including clean coal, nuclear power and wave energy.

The key is increasing energy supply. By taking these measures, we can enable biofuels to be part of the energy solution, instead of contributing to the energy problem.

Congress must take action. I am introducing legislation that will freeze the biofuel mandate at current levels, instead of steadily increasing it through 2022.
This is a common-sense measure that will reduce pressure on global food prices and restore balance to America's energy policy.

As the Senate debates this issue, we must remain focused on the facts.
At one point, expanding biofuels made sense for America's energy security. But the recent surge in food prices has forced us to adapt. The global demand for energy and food is expected to rise about 50% in the next 20 years, and the U.S. is well-positioned to be a leader in both areas.

That will require a careful, finely tuned approach to America's farm products.
By freezing the biofuel mandate at current levels, we will go a long way to achieving that goal.

Freezing biofuel mandates at current levels is a good first step, but we have also learned that the production of a gallon of ethanol consumes at least a gallon of petroleum and contains less energy than a gallon of gasoline. Ethanol use only seems to shift pollution from cities to farming areas, and actually makes no sense at all. I hope that this is the beginning of the end for biofuel production in the USA, at least until we learn how to make it from non foodstuffs without consuming significant amounts of petroleum.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Why Is Obama Being Asked These Pesky Questions?

Senator Obama is being asked, repeatedly, to explain his associations with people on the radical, far left - people like William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, leaders of the infamous Weathermen, bombers and killers of Americans.

For those who have forgotten or weren’t born yet, here is a list of a few of their activities: (from the Chicago Daily Observer)

7 October 1969 – Bombing of Haymarket Police Statue in Chicago, apparently as a “kickoff” for the “Days of Rage” riots in the city October 8–11, 1969. The Weathermen later claim credit for the bombing in their book, “Prairie Fire.”

8 October-11, 1969 – The “Days of Rage” riots occur in Chicago in which 287 Weatherman members from throughout the country were arrested and a large amount of property damage was done.

6 December 1969 – Bombing of several Chicago Police cars parked in a precinct parking lot at 3600 North Halsted Street, Chicago. The WUO stated in their book “Prairie Fire” that they had did the explosion.

27 December-31, 1969 – Weathermen hold a “War Council” meeting in Flint, MI, where they finalize their plans to submerge into an underground status from which they plan to commit strategic acts of sabotage against the government. Thereafter they are called the “Weather Underground Organization” (WUO).

13 February 1970 – Bombing of several police vehicles of the Berkeley, California, Police Department.

16 February 1970 – Bombing of Golden Gate Park branch of the San Francisco Police Department, killing one officer and injuring a number of other policemen.

6 March 1970 – Bombing in the 13th Police District of the Detroit, Michigan. 34 sticks of dynamite are discovered. During February and early March, 1970, members of the WUO, led by Bill Ayers, are reported to be in Detroit, during that period, for the purpose of bombing a police facility.

6 March 1970 – “bomb factory” located in New York’s Greenwich Village accidentally explodes. WUO members Theodore die in t. The bomb was intended to be planted at a non-commissioned officer’s dance at Fort Dix, New Jersey. The bomb was packed with nails TO INFILICT MAXIMUM CASUALTIES UPON DETONATION.

30 March 1970 – Chicago Police discover a WUO “bomb factory” on Chicago’s north side. A subsequent discovery of a WUO “weapons cache” in a south side Chicago apartment several days later ends WUO activity in the city.

10 May 1970 – Bombing of The National Guard Association building in Washington, D.C..

21 May 1970 – The WUO under Bernardine Dohrn’s name releases its “Declaration of a State of War” communique.

6 June 1970 – The WUO sends a letter claiming credit for bombing of the San Francisco Hall of Justice; however, no explosion actually took place. Months later, workmen in this building located an unexploded device which had apparently been dormant for some time.

9 June 1970 – Bombing of The New York City Police Headquarters.

27 July 1970 – Bombing of The Presidio army base in San Francisco. [NYT, 7/27/70]

12 September 1970 – The WUO helps Dr. Timothy Leary, break out and escape from the California Men’s Colony prison.

8 October 1970 – Bombing of Marin County courthouse. [NYT, 8/10/70]

10 October 1970 – Bombing of Queens traffic-court building . [NYT, 10/10/70, p. 12]

14 October 1970 – Bombing of The Harvard Center for International Affairs [NYT, 10/14/70, p. 30]

1 March 1971 – Bombing of The United States Capitol . ” [NYT, 3/2/71]

April, 1971 – abandoned WUO “bomb factory” discovered in San Francisco, California.

29 August, 1971 – Bombing of the Office of California Prisons . [LAT, 8/29/71]

17 September 1971 – Bombing of The New York Department of Corrections in Albany, NY [NYT, 9/18/71]

15 October 1971 – Bombing of William Bundy’s office in the MIT research center. [NYT, 10/16/71]

19 May 1972 – Bombing of The Pentagon . [NYT, 5/19/72]

18 May 1973 – Bombing of the 103rd Police Precinct in New York

28 September 1973 – Bombing of ITT headquarters in New York and Rome, Italy . [NYT, 9/28/73]

6 March 1974 – Bombing of the Dept. of Health, Education and Welfare offices in San Francisco.

31 May 1974 – Bombing of The Office of the California Attorney General
17 June 1974 – Bombing of Gulf Oil’s Pittsburgh headquarters.

11 September 1974 – Bombing of Anaconda Corporation (part of the Rockefeller Corporation).

29 January 1975 – Bombing of the State Department in (AP. “State Department Rattled by Blast,” The Daily Times-News, January 29 1975, p.1)

16 June 1975 – Bombing of Banco de Ponce (a Puerto Rican bank) in New York.

September, 1975 – Bombing of the Kennecott Corporation.

October 20, 1981 – Brinks robbery in which several members of the Weather Underground stole over $1 million from a Brinks armored car near Nyack, New York. The robbers murdered 2 police officers and 1 Brinks guard. Several others were wounded.

1981 “Guilty as hel*. Free as a bird. America is a great country,” Ayers said when interviewed by David Horowitz.

September 11, 2001 “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough.” Ayers is quoted in NYT article.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Liberal Mind at Work

Two excellent articles concerning the inability of the liberal mind to face facts and set reasonable priorities caught my eye today.

Time Fights Carbon Emissions; Military Fights Evil

By Dennis Prager April 22, 2008 RealClearPolitics

The state of the liberal mind is on display on this week's cover of Time magazine.

The already notorious cover takes the iconic photograph of U.S. Marines planting the American flag on Iwo Jima and substitutes a tree for the flag. Why Time's editors did this explains much about contemporary liberalism.

The first thing it explains is that liberals, not to mention the left as a whole, stopped fighting evil during the Vietnam War. As I wrote in my last column, whereas liberals had led the fight against Nazism before and during World War II, and against Communism after the War, the liberal will to fight Communism, the greatest organized evil of the post-War world, collapsed during the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War did to American liberals what World War I did to most Europeans -- it rendered them anti-war rather than anti-evil.

That is why liberals have gone AWOL in the fight against Islamic totalitarianism. As during the post-Vietnam Cold War, when liberals fought anti-Communists much more than they fought Communists, they fight anti-Islamists much more than they fight Islamists. Thus, Democrats routinely dismiss the Bush administration's talk about the threat of Islamic terror as "scare tactics."

But -- and this is a primary reason for Time's cover -- liberals know that they have largely opted out of the fight against Islamists; their only passion on this matter is abandoning the war against Islamists in Iraq. But like nearly all people who believe in a cause, they know that they have to fight some evil -- after all, the world really seems threatened by something. So they have channeled their desire to fight threats to the world to fighting an enemy that will not hurt them or their loved ones -- man-made carbon dioxide emissions.

It is much easier to fight global warming than to fight human evil. You will be celebrated at Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, the BBC and throughout the media world, no one will threaten your life, there are huge grants available to scientists and others who fight real or exaggerated environmental problems, and you may even receive an Academy Award and the Nobel Peace Prize. Individuals who fight Islamists get fatwas.

The Time cover is cheap heroism. It is a liberal attempt to depict as equally heroic those who fight carbon emissions and those who fought Japanese fascists and Nazis.

Second, for much of the left, the cover reflects the primacy of environmental concerns over moral concerns. For example, the left seemed never to care about the millions of Africans who continued to die from malaria largely because of the environmentalists' worldwide ban on the use of DDT as pesticide. The same holds true for another leftwing environmentalist fantasy. Changing corn into biofuels is causing a surge in food prices throughout the world. The European Union continues this policy despite warnings even from some environmentalists that food shortages, starvation and food riots are imminent. But human suffering is not as significant as environmental degradation.

Third, the left is far more internationalist -- global, if you will -- in its orientation than national. As the Time article states, "Going green: What could be redder, whiter and bluer than that?" Whereas, for most Americans patriotism remains red, white and blue, for much of the left it is green.

Fourth, the further left you go, the more inclined you are to hysteria. From the threat of DDT to the threat of heterosexual AIDS in America to that mass killer secondhand smoke, the left believes and spreads threats that, unlike the threat of Islamic terror, really are "scare tactics."

Years from now, Time's cover will be regarded as another silly media-induced fear. But, as with Time's 1974 article warning its readers about "another ice age" and its many articles on the threat of heterosexual AIDS in America, Time will just let public amnesia deal with credibility problems. Until then, however, one fact remains: Today, conservatives fight evil and liberals fight carbon emissions. That's what this week's cover of Time is about.

And an excerpt to remind us of other, liberal-driven, environmental disasters:
The Truths Shall Set You Free
By Iain Murray 4/22/2008 American Spectator (Excerpt)

"About a year ago, I became convinced that the global warming debate was going the way of other environmental issues during the past 40 years. Dissenting voices were being silenced as America hurtled toward more laws, regulations, and bureaucratic control -- which, "informed" opinion makers insist, are the only solutions allowed to any problems global warming might bring.

Sadly, this pattern has repeated time and again on a wide array of environmental issues since the 1960s, when the lawyers of the nascent Environmental Defense Fund began lobbying for local, then national, and then international bans on the pesticide DDT. The results in virtually every case have been disastrous: significant losses of both liberty and prosperity and, in some cases, environmental and humanitarian catastrophe.

That's why I wrote my book, The Really Inconvenient Truths: Seven Environmental Catastrophes Liberals Don't Want You to Know About -- Because They Helped Cause Them. I wanted to show how the preferred response of command-and-control is precisely the wrong way to address environmental problems. In a very literal sense, the truths can set you free.

I wanted to warn people about the disastrous effects of biofuel policies around the world, and now events have justified my concern far more than I ever imagined. For years, biofuels were a bit player in the farm subsidies game, a losing proposition that politicians kept going to curry favor with the farm lobby.

Then, as concern over global warming began to heat up, biofuels came to be seen as an easy solution to loud calls on the political left to decarbonize the nation's energy supply. Left-liberal politicians did an about-face. Once seen as a political sweetheart deal, government mandating use of ethanol in gasoline and subsidizing its production became a vital component in the fight against global warming.

Yet all the world's various biofuels laws have done is to force industries to burn food as fuel. This has precipitated food shortages and massive increases in food prices around the world. There have been food riots in Indonesia, Mexico, Egypt, and most recently, Haiti -- where the poor have been reduced to eating cakes made with bleach and are on the verge of bringing the government down. Even in America, some grocery stores have begun to institute a form of rationing.

Meanwhile, massive tracts of rainforest are being cleared in Indonesia to produce biodiesel, threatening the orangutan and other magnificent animals with extinction. In Brazil, the growth of sugar cultivation for ethanol is forcing food producers into the Amazon. Little of this would have happened without the demands for less carbon-intensive energy from the environmental movement. Now they've let the genie out of the bottle.

THIS RESULT WAS inevitable given the model, which was first used in the campaign to ban DDT. There certainly was a minor problem with egg shell thinning in large predatory birds caused by mass agricultural use of DDT.

But in response, Rachel Carson, whom Al Gore cites as an inspiration, wrote a treatise, Silent Spring, which was the 1962 equivalent of a Michael Moore documentary -- loose with the facts and strong on hyperbole. While she didn't call for an outright ban on DDT, her followers demonized the product so much that the resulting ban can be attributed to Carson's book.

There were several effects in the U.S., not least the loss of the noble American elm tree, which was saved from Dutch Elm Disease only by DDT; its replacements simply weren't up to the job.

Internationally, the consequences have been much worse. Millions of Africans have perished from malaria, a disease that could have been well nigh eradicated long ago given judicious use of DDT. If you want to hear a true silent spring, go to the playground of a Ugandan orphanage in April.

The list goes on.

In the United States, restrictive forest management laws have led to a wildfire crisis. While Yellowstone National Park was being reduced to ash in 1988, park rangers and forest service officials were debating whether a fire caused by lightning striking a transmission line was natural or man-made, so as to decide whether they could put it out or not. Recent fires in California and throughout the West have been exacerbated by similarly absurd policies.

Then there's the Endangered Species Act, an approach so fundamentally wrong-headed to protecting rare animals and plants that it makes the value of a landowner's property go down when a rare species is discovered on it because the federal government then restricts the land's use.

Guess what the result is? A practice grimly known as "shoot, shovel, and shut up" is now common among landowners fearing loss of the use of their land. (The ESA was mercilessly parodied on The Simpsons as the "Rollback of Freedoms Act.")"

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

I’ll Take the Pope Over Bill Maher

As my good friends know, I lost a daughter to the ravages of alcoholism and a life ruined in her childhood by a child molester. I spent much of my life trying to help, but basically watching helplessly as she suffered and moved from crisis to crisis. As I said at her funeral, a child molester is worse than a murderer; at least when you kill someone they are dead and can’t suffer anymore, and their families have a chance to mourn and then get on with their lives. My child was not molested by a priest, but, because of my pain, I am sure I felt more outrage at priests and at the Catholic Church than did the average person.

When a child is molested sexually, their lives are ruined, and they never get over it. For the rest of their lives they suffer from the memories, and try to escape from them in a variety of ways – all of them harmful. If that were not bad enough, the misery is passed on to family and friends; if they marry, their spouse and their children also have to suffer from this curse, which may even be passed on to future generations. The children of adults molested in childhood often witness and suffer episodes that then can affect them as adults and as future parents.

I firmly believe that a child sexual molester convicted more than once should be castrated, or spend life in prison without the possibility of parole or be executed. I do not understand why we treat such monsters with such compassion. They never change, even after years of incarceration and treatment, and the harm that they do is incalculable. The deterrence and punishment measures I advocate would apply also to Catholic priests who sexually molest children. For this reason I may surprise my friends by my reaction to the vicious and sick comments made by Bill Maher about the visit of Pope Benedict. Bill Maher is a demented person who would sink to any depths to get a laugh.

There is no doubt that the Catholic Church has been a cauldron of homosexual child abuse and that the Church hierarchy has been worse than lax in dealing with this horrendous problem. In fact, the molestation problem and its aftermath may well eventually cause the demise of the Catholic Church in this country.

However, I have personal knowledge that the Church has been trying for many years to identify and prevent homosexuals and men with homosexual tendencies from entering the priesthood. I know this because a lady to whom I was married used to interview and administer tests to priest candidates for this very reason. Therefore, while I have contempt for the abusive priests and heartsick that the Church has not been more dedicated to eliminate them, I have not lost my respect for the Church and its mission.

Hopefully, the measures that Pope Benedict has now put in place will correct this situation, and we must remember that the estimate of the number of priests accused of this atrocity is about 4%. If correct, that means that 96% of American priests, as they struggle to carry out their mission in churches, schools, hospitals, colleges and nursing homes maintained by the Catholic Church in America, are being tarred by a small minority.

Bill Maher Insults Pope

April 15, 2008 By: Fred Lucas Newsmax (Excerpt)

“Comments by HBO's Bill Maher insulting the Pope and calling Catholicism a "cult" that promotes "organized pedophilia" have stirred resentment among many American Catholics upset he would say this the week before Pope Benedict XVI visits the United States.

The comments were made on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher" on Friday, Apr. 11. Maher went into a long monologue on his program comparing the Catholic church to a polygamous cult -- the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints -- which was raided on Apr. 3 and whose founder, Warren Jeffs, was convicted last year for being an accessory to the rape of a teenage girl.

Bill Maher compared the Texas scandal and its latest alleged abuse with the sexual abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic Church in the United States in 2002.

"I'd like to tip off law enforcement to an even larger child-abusing religious cult," Maher told his audience. "Its leader also has a compound, and this guy not only operates outside the bounds of the law, but he used to be a Nazi and he wears funny hats. That's right, the Pope is coming to America this week and, ladies, he's single."

Catholic League President Bill Donohue responded that Maher "lied when he said the Pope 'used to be a Nazi.' Like all young men in Germany at the time, he was conscripted into a German Youth organization (from which he fled as soon as he could). Every responsible Jewish leader has acknowledged this reality and has never sought to brand the Pope a Nazi. That job falls to Maher."”

American society is falling into depths of degradation as evidenced by the growing number of fatherless children and the violent acts committed on college campuses across the country. Over 75% of black children and over 50% of white children are now born out of wedlock (we used to call them, bastards). Our television and movies compete to see how low they can sink in showing pornography, casual sex and gratuitous violence. Large numbers of teenage girls are afflicted with STDS, and an American President introduced the subject of oral sex to junior high school students. I am not a Roman Catholic, but I believe that the Catholic Church, if it can get over these scandals and get back to its roots, is one of the best structures we have of turning around these depressing trends. That’s why I am encouraged by Pope Benedict’s visit as was Peggy Noonan as she wrote:
“He was referring, of course, to what the pope did regarding what American Catholics now call, simply, The Scandal. What he did was unprecedented, historic, but also a gift. In the past, the church has been defensive about the sexual-abuse scandals, or dismissive, or full of carefully worded semi-denials. That's over. The page has been turned. In Shepherd One, on the way to Washington from Rome, Benedict called the scandal a "shame." In almost every stop he addressed it, took responsibility, said,
in essence, never again. He charged the bishops to work hard, to move strongly. At St. Patrick's: The scandal "caused so much suffering"; this church, like so many elements and institutions in society, needs "purification."

Most moving, of course, was the meeting, in Washington, with five of those who had been abused, who had told their stories, who had previously not been listened to.

Now he was holding their hands, individually, and hearing them. It seemed to me a mirror of John Paul's historic meeting, 25 years ago, with Mehmet Ali Agca. The two of them talked and prayed, alone, in Agca's cell. Agca had attempted to kill the pope; John Paul wanted to forgive him. Now here with Benedict in Washington, a church that had killed the innocence of some children asked for forgiveness.

All of this was in some ways confessional; it set a tone that might be called the new humility; it identified the church once again with the powerless and abused, and in doing so seemed to move the church back closer to what it was in its beginnings, a place of the humble and hunted.”


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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Lets Have More Muslim-Only Public Schools

Another area of American society where a double standard is being applied by liberal journalists and activists is in the matter of religion and the requirement that there be no government support of it. If a public school student dares to utter a Christian prayer or put up a poster mentioning Christianity, the ACLU will sue the school principal and the city involved. If public school property were mistakenly to be used to host a Christian-oriented event, there would be outrage and more lawsuits. As we also know, if the ACLU were to carry such a case to a successful conclusion in a federal court, the ACLU’s legal costs would be paid for with taxpayer money – making the filing of such cases a profitable enterprise for the ACLU.

Now, I do not agree with the current, liberal-driven, popular definition of “separation of church and state”. The establishment clause in our Constitution pretty clearly refers to government support of a “particular” religion; it has nothing to do with stamping out of all public buildings all mention of God, Yahweh or Allah. We all know that our Founding Fathers believed that God belonged in public life. Regardless of how you interpret the Constitution, however, what is happening in a taxpayer supported, public Muslim school in Minnesota is clearly contrary to any interpretation. Where is the outrage? Where are the liberals? Why has the ACLU taken no action? This is a consequence of the poison of multiculturalism. This is another chapter in the Balkanization of America that modern liberalism is driving - with little understanding of its long-range consequences.

Wall of silence broken at state's Muslim public school
April 9, 2008

Recently, I wrote about Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TIZA), a K-8 charter school in Inver Grove Heights. Charter schools are public schools and by law must not endorse or promote religion.

Evidence suggests, however, that TIZA is an Islamic school, funded by Minnesota taxpayers.

TIZA has many characteristics that suggest a religious school. It shares the headquarters building of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, whose mission is "establishing Islam in Minnesota." The building also houses a mosque. TIZA's executive director, Asad Zaman, is a Muslim imam, or religious leader, and its sponsor is an organization called Islamic Relief.

Students pray daily, the cafeteria serves halal food - permissible under Islamic law -- and "Islamic Studies" is offered at the end of the school day.

Zaman maintains that TIZA is not a religious school. He declined, however, to allow me to visit the school to see for myself, "due to the hectic schedule for statewide testing." But after I e-mailed him that the Minnesota Department of Education had told me that testing would not begin for several weeks, Zaman did not respond -- even to urgent calls and e-mails seeking comment before my first column on TIZA.

Now, however, an eyewitness has stepped forward. Amanda Getz of Bloomington is a substitute teacher. She worked as a substitute in two fifth-grade classrooms at TIZA on Friday, March 14. Her experience suggests that school-sponsored religious activity plays an integral role at TIZA.

Arriving on a Friday, the Muslim holy day, she says she was told that the day's schedule included a "school assembly" in the gym after lunch.

Before the assembly, she says she was told, her duties would include taking her fifth-grade students to the bathroom, four at a time, to perform "their ritual washing."

Afterward, Getz said, "teachers led the kids into the gym, where a man dressed in white with a white cap, who had been at the school all day," was preparing to lead prayer. Beside him, another man "was prostrating himself in prayer on a carpet as the students entered."

"The prayer I saw was not voluntary," Getz said. "The kids were corralled by adults and required to go to the assembly where prayer occurred."

Islamic Studies was also incorporated into the school day. "When I arrived, I was told 'after school we have Islamic Studies,' and I might have to stay for hall duty," Getz said. "The teachers had written assignments on the blackboard for classes like math and social studies. Islamic Studies was the last one -- the board said the kids were studying the Qu'ran. The students were told to copy it into their planner, along with everything else. That gave me the impression that Islamic Studies was a subject like any other."

After school, Getz's fifth-graders stayed in their classroom and the man in white who had led prayer in the gym came in to teach Islamic Studies. TIZA has in effect extended the school day -- buses leave only after Islamic Studies is over. Getz did not see evidence of other extra-curricular activity, except for a group of small children playing outside. Significantly, 77 percent of TIZA parents say that their "main reason for choosing TIZA ... was because of after-school programs conducted by various non-profit organizations at the end of the school period in the school building," according to a TIZA report. TIZA may be the only school in Minnesota with this distinction.

Why does the Minnesota Department of Education allow this sort of religious activity at a public school? According to Zaman, the department inspects TIZA regularly -- and has done so "numerous times" -- to ensure that it is not a religious school.

But the department's records document only three site visits to TIZA in five years -- two in 2003-04 and one in 2007, according to Assistant Commissioner Morgan Brown. None of the visits focused specifically on religious practices.

The department is set up to operate on a "complaint basis," and "since 2004, we haven't gotten a single complaint about TIZA," Brown said. In 2004, he sent two letters to the school inquiring about religious activity reported by visiting department staffers and in a news article. Brown was satisfied with Zaman's assurance that prayer is "voluntary" and "student-led," he said. The department did not attempt to confirm this independently, and did not ask how 5- to 11-year-olds could be initiating prayer. (At the time, TIZA was a K-5 school.)

Zaman agreed to respond by e-mail to concerns raised about the school's practices. Student "prayer is not mandated by TIZA," he wrote, and so is legal. On Friday afternoons, "students are released ... to either join a parent-led service or for study hall." Islamic Studies is provided by the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, and other "nonsectarian" after-school options are available, he added.

Yet prayer at TIZA does not appear to be spontaneously initiated by students, but rather scheduled, organized and promoted by school authorities.

Request for volunteers
Until recently, TIZA's website included a request for volunteers to help with "Friday prayers." In an e-mail, Zaman explained this as an attempt to ensure that "no TIZA staff members were involved in organizing the Friday prayers."

But an end run of this kind cannot remove the fact of school sponsorship of prayer services, which take place in the school building during school hours. Zaman does not deny that "some" Muslim teachers "probably" attend. According to federal guidelines on prayer in schools, teachers at a public school cannot participate in prayer with students.

In addition, schools cannot favor one religion by offering services for only its adherents, or promote after-school religious instruction for only one group. The ACLU of Minnesota has launched an investigation of TIZA, and the Minnesota Department of Education has also begun a review.

TIZA's operation as a public, taxpayer-funded school is troubling on several fronts. TIZA is skirting the law by operating what is essentially an Islamic school at taxpayer expense. The Department of Education has failed to provide the oversight necessary to catch these illegalities, and appears to lack the tools to do so. In addition, there's a double standard at work here -- if TIZA were a Christian school, it would likely be gone in a heartbeat.

TIZA is now being held up as a national model for a new kind of charter school. If it passes legal muster, Minnesota taxpayers may soon find themselves footing the bill for a separate system of education for Muslims.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Expelled, Important and A Highly Enjoyable Movie To Boot

I just returned home from seeing the premiere of Ben Stein's new movie, "Expelled:No Intelligence Allowed". I was amazed that such an important movie that addresses serious questions would be so enjoyable and have such great entertainment value. The movie exposes Darwinism and the crushing of scientific inquiry going on in this country. Darwinism is the foundation science of modern liberalism, and just as liberalism is a failed philosophy and imposes political correctness to stifle debate, so is some of Darwinian theory wrong, and scientific study and debate about it is simiarly stifled. I urge everyone to see this movie and spread its messsage.

I also urge President Bush to bestow on Ben Stein the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our highest civilian award for the courage and genius he has shown in making this movie.

Ben Stein Vs. Sputtering Atheists
By Brent Bozell III
Friday, April 18, 2008 Townhall

I confess that when the producers of Ben Stein's new documentary "Expelled" called, offering me a private screening, I was less than excited.

It is a reality of PC liberalism: There is only one credible side to an issue, and any dissent is not only rejected, it is scorned. Global warming. Gay "rights." Abortion "rights." On these and so many other issues there is enlightenment, and then there is the Idiotic Other Side. PC liberalism's power centers are the news media, the entertainment industry and academia, and all are in the clutches of an unmistakable hypocrisy: Theirs is an ideology that preaches the freedom of thought and expression at every opportunity, yet practices absolute intolerance toward dissension.

Evolution is another one of those one-sided debates. We know the concept of Intelligent Design is stifled in academic circles. An entire documentary to state the obvious? You can see my reluctance to view it.

I went into the screening bored. I came out of it stunned.
Ben Stein's extraordinary presentation documents how the worlds of science and academia not only crush debate on the origins of life, but also crush the careers of professors who dare to question the Darwinian hypothesis of evolution and natural selection.

Stein asks a simple question: What if the universe began with an intelligent designer, a designer named God? He assembles a stable of academics -- experts all -- who dared to question Darwinist assumptions and found themselves "expelled" from intellectual discourse as a result. They include evolutionary biologist Richard Sternberg (sandbagged at the Smithsonian), biology professor Caroline Crocker (drummed out of George Mason University), and astrophysicist Guillermo Gonzalez (blackballed at Iowa State University).

That's disturbing enough, but what Stein does next is truly shocking. He allows the principal advocates of Darwinism to speak their minds. These are experts with national reputations, regular welcomed guests on network television and the like. But the public knows them only by their careful seven-second soundbites. Stein engages them in conversation. They speak their minds.

They become sputtering ranters, openly championing their sheer hatred of religion

PC liberalism has showered accolades on atheist author Richard Dawkins' best-selling book "The God Delusion." But when Stein suggests to Dawkins that he's been critical of the Old Testament God, Dawkins protests -- not that Stein is wrong, but that he's being too mild. He then reads from this jaw-dropping paragraph of his book:
"The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."

Dawkins has a website. Its slogan is "A clear-thinking oasis."

It's understood that God had nothing to do with the origins of life on Earth. What, then, is the alternate explanation? Stein asks these experts, and their very serious answers are priceless. One theorizes that life began somehow on the backs of crystals. Another states electric sparks from a lightning storm created organic matter (out of nothing). Another declares that life was brought to Earth by aliens. Anything but God.

The most controversial part of the film follows Stein to the Dachau concentration camp, underlining how Darwin's theories of natural selection led to the eugenics movement, embraced by Adolf Hitler. If there is no God, but only a planetary lab waiting for scientists to perfect the human race, where can Darwinism lead? Stein insists that he isn't accusing today's Darwinists of Nazism. He points out, however, that Hitler's mad science was inspired by Darwinism

Now that the film is complete, the evolutionist prophets featured in the film are on the warpath inveighing against it, and the alleged idiots who would lower themselves to watching it. Richard Dawkins laments how the film will solicit "cheap laughs that could only be raised in an audience of scientific ignoramuses." Minnesota professor and blogger P.Z. Myers predicts the movie is "going to appeal strongly to the religious, the paranoid, the conspiracy theorists, and the ignorant ---- which means they're going to draw in about 90 percent of the American market." Myers and Dawkins now both complain they were "duped" into appearing in the movie (for pay).

Everyone should take the opportunity to see "Expelled" -- if nothing else, as a bracing antidote to the atheism-friendly culture of PC liberalism. But it's far more than that. It's a spotlight on the arrogance of this movement and its leaders, a spotlight on the choking intolerance of academia, and a spotlight on the ignorance of so many who say so much, yet know so very little.

Founder and President of the Media Research Center, Brent Bozell runs the largest media watchdog organization in America.

I probably will not see it in my lifetime, but it is my hope that someday the American people will feel about Darwinism and abortion the same way they feel now about slavery, and wonder how their ancestors could ever have countenanced such practices and beliefs.


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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hello, We Liberated 50 Million People

San Francisco values and San Francisco culture are anathema to traditional Americans who understand that this country continues to be a beacon of hope to the world, most recently liberating 50 million people from the tyrannies of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban - including 25 million women among them. Still the San Francisco Chronicle gives over its editorial space to moonbats like Robert Scheer to publish such drivel as this:

The man who would be Bush
Robert Scheer
Wednesday, April 16, 2008 San Francisco Chronicle

Are Americans unusually stupid, or is it something our president put in the water? As millions surrender their homes and sacrifice other standards of our nation's economic and political reputation to the caprice of the Bush-Cheney imperium, a majority of voters tell pollsters that they might vote for a candidate who promises more of the same.

Assuming likely voters are not now thinking of yet another Republican president simply because John McCain is the only white guy left standing - an excuse as pathetic in its logic as the decision four years ago to return two Texas oil hustlers to the White House because they were not Massachusetts liberals - must mean that tens of millions of Americans have taken leave of their senses.

If not the white-guy syndrome, why would even a shocking minority of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama supporters say they prefer McCain to the other Democrat? How otherwise to explain the nation's widespread bipartisan rejection of the Bush presidency and yet a willingness to let McCain continue in that vein?

To be sure, as a senator, McCain has exhibited flashes of independence on behalf of taxpayers, as in his support of campaign-finance reform where he partnered with Democrat Russ Feingold. McCain's investigations of the military-industrial complex shamelessly exploiting terrorism fears set a high standard, as in exposing the air-tanker scandal that dispatched a Boeing exec and a former Pentagon employee to prison. But his political ambition is showing. While he previously harshly criticized the enormous waste in the Iraq occupation, today, as a presidential candidate, he opens the door to a hundred years of taxpayer dollars tossed down the drain in Iraq. The man who was tortured now hugs a leader who authorized the same.

By so unabashedly embracing the most glaringly failed U.S. president ever, McCain has surrendered the right to be considered an independent candidate, judged on his own merits and personal history. A vote for McCain is a vote for that rancid recipe mixing religious bigotry, imperial arrogance and corporate greed that he had stood against in the run-up to the 2000 presidential election when he challenged George W. Bush, but to which he now has capitulated.

Too harsh? Then consider just how tight the space is between the rocks of our failed Mideast policy and the hard place of our impending financial disaster. The sudden out-of-control spike in the cost of oil - the key short-term market variable, the specter that stokes inflation fear and limits moves to avoid recession - is not a natural disaster or in any realistic way the result of inefficiency in the use of energy. What more than doubled the price of petroleum in the short run was not that too many of us bought Hummers, but rather that the political stability of the region that contains the bulk of that oil was deliberately and recklessly roiled.

In the name of fighting the 9/11 terrorists, the Bush administration overthrew the one Arab government most adamantly opposed to the Saudi financiers of that son of their system, Osama bin Laden. Instead of confronting the royal leaders of a kingdom that supplied 15 of the 19 hijackers, we invaded a nation that supplied not a single one. While Bush overthrew Saddam Hussein, who had no ties to the hijackers, he embraced the leaders of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the only three nations in the world that had diplomatically recognized and supported the Taliban sponsors of al Qaeda.

Consider that historical marker at a time when the UAE and Saudi Arabia bankers are buying major positions in distressed U.S. financial and other key corporate institutions. I know, it all sounds too conspiratorial, like imagining that we might wake up from this national nightmare and discover that the CEO of Halliburton, who replaced Dick Cheney when the latter selected himself to be Bush's vice president, now has his headquarters in Dubai, tucked safely into the obscenely oil-revenue rich UAE that our troops were sent to Iraq to protect.

There is no national outrage, or even seriously sustained media interest, over the fact that Cheney's old company profited enormously from ripping off U.S. taxpayers to pay for the Iraq occupation. Nor is there even much curiosity about the shenanigans of Halliburton, which is doing business with Arab oil sheikhs at a time when the U.S. banks these Middle Eastern oil interests bought into are moving to foreclose on American homeowners.

It's just the sort of egregious betrayal of the trust of the taxpayers that Sen. McCain would have gone after, before he sought to don the soiled robes of the Bush presidency.

Is it too much to ask that a major newspaper not turn over its resources to extreme left-wing conspiracy theorists? Mr. Scheer thinks that the millions who twice voted for President Bush must therefore be stupid. When the arrogance of the left is exposed, it is stunning. So is its unwillingness to face facts regarding Islamic terrorism, the reasons behind increased oil prices and the secular-progressive degradation of American society.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Why the Furor Over the Movie, “Expelled”?

Some legislators in the state of Florida are trying to get the public schools to allow teachers to mention to students that there are scientists who disagree with Darwin’s theory of evolution. This wouldn’t seem to be earth-shaking, given the frauds committed in the name of Darwinism and the number of perfectly respectable people who have been pointing out the limitations of Darwinian theory for some time, but to Darwinists, this is like legalizing arson. As usual, the term, “creationism”, is hurled at these people, who are not creationists at all, and they are being treated in the same way that Barack Obama treats ordinary, working people – with contempt.

It’s very appropriate that this issue be raised at this time because a very special movie, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”, is being released to theaters this Friday, a movie produced by Ben Stein, the actor, author, economist and great American patriot.

I hope some of you will take the occasion to see this movie, which deals with Darwinism and the closing of minds to the idea that there may be something larger than ourselves, (and what happens to those who raise questions).

Darwin's Kool-Aid

J. Matt Barber
April 7, 2008, Renew America

There's a shakeup in the cult of neo-Darwinist pseudo-science, and that endearing, monotone high school teacher of "Ferris Bueller" fame is doing the shaking.

With his new feature documentary, "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" (opening in theaters April 18), Ben Stein — actor, economist, presidential speechwriter and all around really smart guy — squares off with some of the world's most prominent anti-theist elites as he gets to the heart of the question, "Who are we, and how did we get here?"

This is not your father's documentary. "Expelled" rocks the house both literally and figuratively. It's gripping, music-packed, comically wry and always entertaining.

But its entertainment value is yet surpassed by its educational merit. Throughout the film, Stein boldly shines a light of honest inquiry, revealing time and again that Evolution's Emperor has no clothes. In his trademark deadpan fashion, Stein skillfully debunks the dogmatic neo-Darwinist programming we've all had relentlessly rammed down our throats ever since "Big Science" went bananas over that cute little Scopes Monkey.

Unlike Michael Moore's anti-Bush propaganda flick "Fahrenheit 911" — which sold us a lemon with deceptive editing techniques and staged confrontations — "Expelled" is intellectually honest, cerebrally stimulating and delectably provocative.

Nonetheless, there are those who won't like it, not one little bit.

Enter Richard Dawkins. Dawkins, a prominent evolutionist, outspoken atheist and the best-selling author of "The God Delusion," is featured throughout the film. In one segment, he sits down with Stein for a heart-to-heart. After dancing around several pointed questions about how life began, Dawkins finds himself at a logical impasse with no surplus of sci-fi rhetoric. He's finally forced to concede that, indeed, an intelligent being may have created life on earth. However, that being could not have been "God," but rather, it must have been some organic, alien life form. Of course, that alien life form has to have been a product of "Darwinian evolution."

Through tears of wild laughter, audience members watch as Dawkins — apparently grasping the dizzying nature of his own circular argument — turns three shades of red and becomes purply tight-lipped.

Dawkins? ... Dawkins? ...

But apart from space aliens, the general consensus among the evolutionary scientists interviewed was that all life, including human life, likely began when lightening struck a mud puddle (you know, like Frankenstein but without all the prefab body parts). This was then followed by a series of unexplainable, improvable and totally random events that occurred over umpteen million years, eventually resulting in ... you.

Although "Expelled" indirectly makes a strong case for the scientific theory of intelligent design, its primary message drives home the need for academic freedom, intellectual honesty and open debate on all scientific fronts.

As the movie masterfully illustrates, we live in a cultural climate where secular elitists in academia, the media and the courts chew up and spit out anyone who dares to question the gospel according to Charles Darwin. They're absolutely terrified to follow the scientific evidence wherever it may lead.

They don't want to upset the morally relative applecart, which is loosely held together by the notion that we're all just a bunch of monkeys with an instinctive, biological excuse for all our behavioral choices. To them, life's a whole lot easier under the theory of evolution. Without a sovereign Creator to answer to, we get to scoot along and party hearty, free from accountability

Consequently, it's no wonder "Expelled" has Darwin's disciples scurrying for the shadows. Those secular humanist one-trick-ponies in the media, throughout academia, on the blogosphere and elsewhere are in full damage control. They're doing everything possible to discredit the film before it even opens. It's even been reported that two major networks are refusing to cover the movie. (Gotta love that journalistic objectivity.)

So, if you happen to be one of those evolutionary fundamentalists who were "randomly selected" to evolve with a built-in blindfold and earplugs, and you're comfy with your very limited worldview, be afraid of this film — be very afraid. However, if you're willing to have your eyes opened and are interested in looking at all the evidence, then suck it up, wipe away that Darwinian Kool-Aid mustache and hang out with Ben Stein for a night. What do you have to lose?

For everyone else, "Expelled" is a must-see. If you're already a person of faith, prepare to have your faith strengthened. And even if you're not, you can't possibly walk away without at least admitting that the debate over who we are and how we got here is far from over.

So hold on to your hat. "Expelled" is nothing short of earthshaking. And, as the scientific community clearly recognizes, its tremors may be felt for some years to come.


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Monday, April 14, 2008

Finally Even the Boston Globe and NY Times Get It

The following editorial appeared in the Boston Globe recently. The Globe, always a left-wing newspaper, has become even further to the left since its acquisition and control by the New York Times. It was with some surprise, then, that I read the following editorial criticizing our present policy on ethanol and pointing out ethanol’s deficiencies in our attempts to become energy self-sufficient.

I don’t think it was the number of scientific articles that have appeared illuminating ethanol’s failures and hidden costs that led to this editorial. I think it was the realization that food costs are exploding for everyone, and that people in poorer countries are even starving because of our foolish energy policies driven by Democrats in Congress.

Can't eat ethanol
April 13, 2008, Boston Globe
CORN should be used for food, not motor fuel, and yet the United States is committed to a policy that encourages farmers to turn an increasing amount of their crop into ethanol. This may save the nation a bit of the cost of imported oil, but it increases global-warming gases and contributes to higher food prices.

Candidates for president need to tell Americans the truth about ethanol, but they are falling over themselves in pursuit of the farm belt vote. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton want more ethanol factories built than even President Bush envisaged when he called for 15 percent of US gasoline consumption to be replaced by alternative fuels by 2017. John McCain, who correctly called the ethanol push a boondoggle in 2000, now says that it is "a very important way to achieve energy independence."

Ethanol consumes almost a quarter of US corn production. The energy self-sufficiency that all the candidates seek should not come at the expense of the environment or the food supply.

Increased ethanol production isn't the only reason for the spike in food costs, but it's more controllable than drought in Australia, higher fertilizer prices, or increased meat consumption by the Chinese. Unlike those other cost-drivers, ethanol production is encouraged by federal subsidies.

And it's not as though ethanol improves the environment. When emissions inherent in the production process are included, ethanol consumption generates more carbon dioxide per gallon than gasoline, according to a recent report in Science magazine. Conversion of other cultivated biomass, such as sugarcane or soy, presents the same problem. The only biofuel that produces a net benefit is agricultural waste, an uncertain source. The best way for American motorists to use less gasoline is to drive fewer miles in lighter vehicles, rather than rely on the false promise of biofuels.

Ethanol is now usually sold as 10 percent of a fuel mixture that includes 90 percent gasoline. The government is thinking of ordering refiners to raise the blend to 15 or 20 percent. Ethanol generates fewer miles per gallon than regular gasoline. And it's not yet clear, according to the Consumer Reports website, how the higher blends would affect engine reliability or longevity. Before the government insists on a new fuel blend, it ought to examine all the hidden costs.

Greater use of ethanol means more greenhouse gases and more expensive food for people and livestock, hardly a fair exchange. There's a limited role for biofuels, excluding corn, in reducing oil imports from volatile regions, but they are not the answer to the world's need for energy on the go.

Once a government program gets started, it becomes a behemoth almost impossible to change or end. Not only are Congressional Democrats erroneously pushing our ethanol foolishness, but enormous special interests benefit greatly from this program. It’s going to take a huge, concerted effort to end this boondoggle, the unintended consequences of which are killing people.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

If I Should Die Before I Wake, Part II

In 1994, the state of Oregon, the only state to do so, voted in favor of the Death With Dignity Act, and three years later they voted against repeal. The Oregon law allows terminally ill patients of sound mind who are likely to die within six months to receive lethal doses of pills after conferring with two doctors. A prescription for lethal drugs is then written by the doctor, and the patients administer the drugs themselves. Despite fears that ill people would flock to Oregon for assisted suicide, in the law's first seven years, only 208 people followed through to the end. When John Ashcroft became attorney general in 2001, he issued an edict that doctors who prescribe drugs that are used to commit suicide can be prosecuted under the federal Controlled Substances Act. The state of Oregon and a group of terminally ill patients challenged this Ashcroft directive and won. The decision was upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States in Gonzales v. Oregon in 2005.

The terrible deaths made possible by modern medical advances necessitate a change in thinking about the ethics of assisted suicide. Over 15 years ago, as I watched my mother’s health and body deteriorate and the likelihood of a very painful death process looming, I turned to the Hemlock Society and purchased the book, “Final Exit” by Derek Humphry. The book was a waste of time, giving no usable advice, and my conversations with her doctor and with my own doctor led nowhere. I concluded that in Rhode Island I could not even discuss the subject of giving her a way out if she were in excruciating pain and dying.

Nowadays, doctors assure me that they have the means to provide a pain-free existence to a person whose body is wasting away from cancer or from some other wasting disease. I think this is generally true, but I think also that there are many situations where either the doctors would be unwilling to provide the drugs in the amounts needed, fearing malpractice lawsuits from the family, where the person’s existence is so degrading that just stopping the pain is not enough, or where the drugs just don’t work. The flip side to the wonders of modern medicine is the prospect of a horrible, lingering death, and we do not even have the blessing of “the old man’s friend” anymore. A few years ago, I got a vaccination that protects me from pneumonia for the rest of my life.

If you don’t live in Oregon (and possibly even if you do), no help is available to those in such horrible situations. That is why the following report caught my eye; it may not be pleasant to read nor to contemplate, but someday it may provide an answer for some:

Death for hire - suicide machine lets you push final button
March 29, 2008, TimesonLine (Excerpt)

“One press of a button and you can end your life with a swift injection of potassium chloride. That is the boast of Roger Kusch, once one of Germany's most promising conservative politicians and now the improbable promoter of a mercy-killing machine.

If the “Perfusor”, designed to sidestep strict laws banning assisted suicide, goes into production then Germany rather than Switzerland could soon become the destination of choice for those seeking to kill themselves.

Some 700 patients, including several terminally ill Britons, have travelled to Zurich where the self-help organisation Dignitas arranges suicide. Assisted suicide has been legal in Switzerland since 1942 providing a doctor has been consulted and the patient is aware of the consequences of his decision.

But Dignitas has come under fire for experimenting with suicide techniques. According to video evidence presented to the Zurich state prosecutor, patients have been placing plastic bags over their heads and feeding in helium gas.

In four cases being studied by the prosecutor, one patient died after nine minutes and three after between 25 and 50 minutes. “The bodies twitched for several minutes,” Andreas Brunner, the prosecutor, said. Swiss papers compared the gassing method to the techniques used in the Third Reich.

Dignitas argued that gassing was faster than poisonous injection because helium did not require a prescription, eliminating the cost and the time involved in finding a sympathetic doctor.

These revelations have struck home in Germany, where direct assistance in mercy killing is illegal and where most Dignitas clients live. The theme is highly sensitive because of the systematic euthanasia practised by the Nazis on the physically and mentally disabled.

“The machine is simply an option for fatally ill people,” said Dr Kusch, 53, presenting the green machine that looks like a cross between an electric transformer and a paint spraygun. “Nobody is forced to use it but I do believe that it will contribute to a debate that is moving thousands of people.”

The machine would be lent or rented so that the patients could insert the needles themselves and then push the button releasing the potassium chloride, used to execute Death Row prisoners in some US states. Supporters say the machine will bring about death in seconds. Death Row cases suggest the process could be longer. One of the responsibilities of the organisation lending the machine will be to consult with doctors about the exact dosage.

Merely lending the machine to a prospective suicide is not, say legal experts, against German law. Gerhard Strate, a defence lawyer from Hamburg, said: “As long as the sick person is fully conscious and aware, then lending the machine to him is no more illegal than lending him a kitchen knife or a razor blade. It becomes illegal only if the potential suicide asks someone in the room to press the button for him.””

Hillary Clinton was asked what she thought of Oregon’s support of legalized assisted suicide.
She reportedly answered, “’I believe it's within the province of the states to make that decision.”

This may be the only position of Hillary’s with which I agree

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Airline Bomb Plot; What If It Succeeded?

The Airline Bomb Plot

By Daniel Henninger, April 10, 2008 RealClearPolitics

Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain brought their presidential campaigns to the Petraeus-Crocker hearings on Iraq this week. An Iraq-based reporter appearing on one of the cable networks in the evening said the hearings struck him as oddly decoupled from the daily reality of war for the Iraqi people and U.S. troops there. Yup, never hurts to pinch yourself hard on entering presidential campaign space right now.

The three candidates addressed Gen. David Petraeus in tones of high gravitas equal to the thin altitude of the American presidency. Sen. Obama colloquied with Gen. Petraeus about the status of al Qaeda in Iraq" asking whether the terrorist organization could "reconstitute itself" and said that he was looking for "an endpoint."

Here's another hypothetical: Would this conversation be different today if in August 2006 seven airliners had taken off from Terminal 3 at Heathrow Airport, bound for the U.S. and Canada and each carrying about 250 passengers, and then blew up over the Atlantic Ocean?

It is a hypothetical because, instead of the explosions, British prosecutors this week presented their case against eight Muslim men arrested in August 2006 and charged with conspiring to board and blow up those planes.

The details emerging from that case are quite remarkable and will be summarized shortly. Pause to reflect on the ebb and flow of public debate that has occurred over how free societies should order themselves after two airliners full of passengers knocked down the World Trade Center Towers on Sept. 11 in 2001.

The view that 9/11 "changed everything" did not hold up under the weight of our politics. Divisions re-emerged between Democrats and Republicans, in office and on the streets. These fights reignited over the Patriot Act, Guantanamo and the warrantless wiretap bill (or "FISA" revision). These arguers stopped to stare momentarily at their televisions when Islamic terrorists committed mass murder in the 2004 Madrid train bombing and the 2005 London subway bombing.

One sometimes gets the feeling that our policy debates over national security and the journalism that travels with them float, as it were, at 30,000 feet above the reality of the threat on the ground. A novelist or filmmaker, alert to the personal demons that drive modern terror, would with fiction better clarify what is at stake.

Start with the details of the eight defendants now on trial in England.

The names of the accused plotters, all men in their 20s, are Abdullah Ahmed Ali, Assad Sarwar, Tanvir Hussain, Mohammed Gulzar, Ibrahim Savant, Arafat Khan, Waheed Zaman and Umar Islam. They lived around London, in Walthamstow, Leyton, Plaistow and Barking. Most are Pakistanis.

Abdullah Ahmed Ali was caught on a wiretap telling his wife that he wished to bring his baby son along on the suicide mission. She resists. His suicide video, intended to become public after the planes blew up and shown at trial, promises "floods of martyr operations against you" and "your people's body parts decorating the streets."

Waheed Zaman studied biomedical science at London Metropolitan University. In his video Zaman says, "I have been educated to a high standard. I could have lived a life of ease but instead chose to fight for the sake of Allah's Deen [religion]."

Umar Islam mocks complacent Brits: "Most of you too busy, you know, watching Home and Away and EastEnders, complaining about the World Cup, drinking your alcohol."

This would be fascinating as one nut's reason for murder. It is instead the basis for an ideology to justify blowing up thousands.

The prosecution said a computer memory stick on one of the men at his arrest listed the targeted flights. They were: United Airlines Flight 931 to San Francisco; UA959 to Chicago; UA925 to Washington; Air Canada 849 to Toronto; AC865 to Montreal; American Airlines 131 to New York and AA91 to Chicago. The first flight would depart at 2:15 p.m., the last at 4:50 p.m., allowing all to be aloft and out of U.S. or British airspace when they fell.

The private intelligence-analysis agency, Stratfor, concludes from the trial that "al Qaeda remains fixated on aircraft as targets and, in spite of changes in security procedures since 9/11, aircraft remain vulnerable to attack."

The men planned to take the bomb pieces onboard for assembly: empty plastic bottles, a sugary drink powder, hydrogen peroxide and other materials to be detonated with the flash on disposable cameras.

The arrests of the men, who say they are innocent, were the result of broad and prolonged surveillance. For months, the suspects were bugged, photographed and wiretapped.

Here in the U.S., our politics has spent much of the year unable to vote into law the wiretap bill, which is bogged down, incredibly, over giving retrospective legal immunity to telecom companies that helped the government monitor calls originating overseas. Even granting there are Fourth Amendment issues in play here, how is it that Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama cannot at least say that class-action lawsuits against these companies are simply wrong right now?

Philip Bobbitt, author of the just released and thought-provoking book, "Terror and Consent," has written that court warrants are "a useful standard for surveillance designed to prove guilt, not to learn the identity of people who may be planning atrocities." Planning atrocities is precisely the point.

"Atrocity" is a cruel and ugly word, but it has come to define the common parameters of the world we inhabit. It is entertaining to watch the candidates trying to convince the American people of their ability to be presidential. It would be more than nice to know, before one of them turns into a real president this November, what they will do" or more importantly, will never do " to stop what those eight jihadists sitting in the high-security Woolwich Crown Court in London planned for seven America-bound airliners over the Atlantic Ocean.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Rush, Be Fair to Senator McCain

Rush Limbaugh again today castigated the Republican nominee for president, Senator John McCain, this time for suggesting that the government should "do something" about the excesses of CEO pay compared to the pay of the average worker.

There were two things wrong with this: in the first plaee, John McCain in no way suggested government action in interfering with a company's right to determine the pay of its workers - including its chief executive. The only politicians running for president who have favored such action are Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The news item reproduced near the end of this post reports that McCain actually said that "a light should shine on this unfair practice".

In the second place, Rush should realize that even conservatives like me think that the disparity in pays is a national disgrace, and that American companies should police themselves to reduce the disparity

Actually, particularly starting around the year 2000, people have been shining a light on this ratio and pressuring companies to reduce it - and this seems to have been paying off. From a peak in 2001, the ratio has actually been declining. In my opinion, it still has a long way to go.

In 2006, CEOs of major U.S. companies collected as much money from one day on the job as average workers made over the entire year. These CEOs averaged $10.8 million in total compensation, according to an Associated Press survey of 386 Fortune 500 companies, the equivalent of over 364 times the pay of anaverage American worker. “Executive Excess

As disproportionate as this seems, the ratio has been improving in recent years, although not steadily.

In 2004, the ratio of average CEO pay to the average pay of a production (i.e., non-management) worker was 431-to-1, up from 301-to-1 in 2003, also according to "Executive Excess," an annual report by the liberal research groups United for a Fair Economy and the Institute for Policy Studies.

That's not the highest ever. In 2001, the ratio of CEO-to-worker pay hit a peak of 525-to-1.

Even though the ratio for 2006 was down, it still ranks on the high end historically. In 1990, for instance, CEOs made about 107 times more than the average worker, while in 1982, the average CEO made only 42 times more.

McCain wants to shine light on huge CEO pay-aide

By Caren Bohan, Tue Apr 8, 2008, Reuters
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate John McCain has spoken out about lavish pay packages for corporate chiefs, but his top adviser said on Monday the senator wants to shine a light on the issue and is not offering specific new proposals to rein it in.

"Job No. 1 of the president is to use the bully pulpit to shine a light on behavior that is less-than-exemplary," McCain's top economic adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"That's certainly the case here," Holtz-Eakin said, referring to the issue of huge chief executive officer pay packages.

Holtz-Eakin said McCain would like to see shareholders and boards of directors take the initiative to ensure that pay packages for CEOs are reasonable and in line with performance. "We'll see what the response is," he said.

Lawmakers have expressed outrage over huge pay for executives at firms that were leading players in the subprime mortgage lending crisis, such as Bear Stearns Cos Inc (BSC.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and Countrywide Financial Corp (CFC.N: Quote, Profile, Research).

McCain added his voice to those expressing concern about the vast compensation earned by the executives of those companies at a time when their firms performed disastrously and most shareholders lost millions of dollars.

The disparity comes at a time when the ripple effects of the home mortgage crisis are leading to financial ruin for some middle and lower-income families unable to pay their mortgages.

"I think it is outrageous when someone who is the head of Bear Stearns cashes in millions and millions of dollars in stocks," McCain told reporters in Arizona on Saturday. "I think it is unconscionable when the guy who is the head of Countrywide and his co-conspirators make huge amounts of money when Americans face the threat of losing their homes.

"If there's ways we can motivate shareholders and boards of directors to punish these people we should do it," the Arizona Republican said. "If there's ways we can prevent this from happening again, we should exercise those options."

As the presumptive Republican nominee, McCain will run in November against either Sen. Barack Obama, an Illinois Democrat, or Sen. Hillary Clinton, a New York Democrat.

Obama, who leads Clinton in the delegate count, introduced "say-on-pay" legislation in the Senate last year to give investors more influence on the pay packages of executives.

Clinton supports the Senate bill. She has called the multimillion-dollar pay packages offensive and wants to eliminate tax breaks enjoyed by some Wall Street money managers.

Obama's aides have said that if the say-on-pay bill is not enacted into law this year, he would champion it as president.

In a speech last week to the AFL-CIO, Obama cited Countrywide as an example of a U.S. financial system that he said is in need of overhaul.

"There was this news story about the top two executives at Countrywide Financial, a company that's as responsible as any firm for the housing crisis we're facing today," Obama said in the speech in Philadelphia. "And what we learned is that when Countrywide was sold a few months ago, these two executives got a combined $19 million."

"So millions of Americans are facing foreclosure. Our economy is in turmoil. And the guys behind it all are getting bonuses for their bad behavior," the Illinois senator said.

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