Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Questions on How We Got Here

Below is a portion of an essay that sets out, in language understandable by lay persons, the disagreements so many present-day scientists are having with the concepts now known as neo-Darwinism. Many of us who have considered some of the implications of modern-day discoveries in microbiology and archeology are just baffled that the science establishment continues to resist these implications. As of now, more than 800 scientists, all PhD’s or MD’s, have signed a pledge that they dissent from Darwinism.



“In this post I question some of the assumptions of both Darwinian evolutionists and intelligent designers. Intelligent designers are not to be confused with creationists. Creationists are people that refuse to consider any ideas or conjectures, no matter how they were arrived at, that are in conflict with the account of creation as found in the biblical Book of Genesis. Intelligent designers are people, often scientists, who reject Darwinian evolution as an explanation for the origin and development of life because they feel that it fails, as a theory, to explain the bewildering complexity and coherence of life forms.

Perhaps the population of creationists is dwindling as more progress is made in biological research, but with the use of modern instrumentation, including electron microscopes, X-ray crystallography and DNA micro arrays, and the fantastic complexity of life that is revealed at it's most minute and 'simple' level, the ranks of intelligent designers, as opposed to creationists, are swelling.

Just as people tend to confuse and conflate creationists with intelligent designers, there is much confusion and conflation regarding the theory of Darwinian evolution itself. There are really, as microbiologist Michael Behe, the 'father' of intelligent design explains, three separate yet related Darwinian notions. The first is the theory of common descent which states that all life forms have evolved from the same original ancestor. There is seemingly a lot of proof for this part of the theory, including many similarities of structures and function in all life at the molecular level and within phyla or kingdoms or species, a remarkable similarity of structure and function at the level of visible organs and traits.

From the perspective of modern science, including intelligent designers, this is powerful evidence for a common ancestor. And it does seem like a fairly reasonable assumption: if we have hair and an ape has hair and a raccoon has hair; then at some point in the very distant past, there was probably an ancestor of all three of ours that had hair. As I say, intelligent designers have no quarrel with this aspect of evolutionary theory, although I do, and will discuss this later on.

A second notion of evolutionary theory is natural selection, which is basically this: If there are a variety of species and a variety of different individuals within a species, then those species and those individuals that are more fit, that are better adapted to their environment, will survive more readily than those individuals and species that are not as well adapted. Over time the better adapted individuals will replace the more poorly adapted ones and will dominate that species, just as the better adapted species will dominate other species.

Natural selection, for the most part, is also not really argued among intelligent designers. It is obviously true, but perhaps, more complicated than originally thought. The qualities that make an individual member of a species better adapted are often other than the obvious qualities of stronger and faster. Sometimes species and individual members of species survive because they are better able to float below the radar of predators. Sometimes they are better able to cooperate among themselves to get their needs met, and function better in groups. And so on. Also, as the environment keeps changing, it favors certain individuals over others and certain species over others. As the weather gets hotter then colder, then hotter, different species and different individuals within species are favored. The same is true for cyclical changes in humid vs. dry environments, warmer vs. colder ocean water, and many chemical changes; more saline vs. less, more oxygenated vs. less, more carbonized vs. less, etc. Once the basic conditions on this planet stabilized and the atmosphere became oxygenated, all indications are that environmental changes have been cyclical rather than linear. It's hard to imagine a linear evolutionary path being naturally selected by cyclical changes in the environment.

It should be noted that both of these first two aspects of evolutionary theory, common descent and natural selection, have no power what so ever to explain how anything originally got here or how anything gets more complicated once it is here. The first part alludes to a common ancestor, but from where and how did this ancestor arrive? The second deals with selection not creation. Natural selection can cull from existing types, but how do those types find their existence in the first place?...”

“The only explanation for the creation of new species, new forms, new body plans and for the increase in complexity of these forms and plans in Darwinian evolution is through the avenue of blind, accidental and fortuitous mutations. Although Darwin had no way of knowing it in his day, these mutations take place, according to modern science, by an accident in the genetic copying of genes during the process of replication.

Genetic sequences are long strings of nucleic acid molecules, or nucleotides, which are coded for specific amino acids. In our cells, a long series of coded nucleic acids is transcribed within the nucleus onto an RNA molecule which transports this code outside of the nucleus of the cell to a ribosome where it is translated to a corresponding long series of amino acids that, when linked together and folded, form a protein.

A genetic copying accident can result in a change in a nucleic acid, which can result in a change in the amino acid that that nucleic acid is coded for. These accidental changes are very rare (about one 'mistake' in one hundred million copies) and are almost always either deleterious, and damage the mechanisms of the cell and the workings of the body; or neutral and have no visible effect at the level of either the cell or the organism; still, extremely rarely, there is a very, very rare mutation that, according to the theory, causes an improvement in the workings of the cell, that increases the survivability of the cell and the organism of which this cell is a part; and future generations will favor this positive change and in this way the organism will improve and eventually, over a very, very long time, undergo radical change.

This part, the random mutation part, is the one that most bothers intelligent designers. It just does not seem, to intelligent designers, to be a process that occurs frequently enough to deliver anything like the amazing variety and complexity of life forms that we find today. So the math does not work. Also you would expect from this sort of change a very gradual yet very consistent change among organisms so that not only would every organism be linked in very gradual clear steps to every other organism, but that these changes should have taken place at consistent, regular and frequent intervals in our history.

Yet, simple observation tells us that there are no such links. Each mammal is very much a mammal and not to be confused with a bird or an insect; just as every insect is very much an insect and not to be confused with a reptile or a fish. Not just on the outside of their bodies, but each has a completely distinctive internal form of organization; there is clearly a mammalian way of organizing internal organs, a mammalian kind of digestive, reproductive and nervous system, and there are very clear and distinct avian and insectivore forms of internal organization.

Also, historically, there is absolutely no evidence of this gradual, relentless change of species. In fact, quite the opposite is the case. All evidence points to the first cells appearing suddenly, about four billion years ago, at the moment that conditions on this planet supported their survival (when the surface of the Earth became cool enough to have non-boiling water). There are no traces of organic tide pools (the so-called pre-biotic soup), no traces of any organic material at all prior to the appearance of these photosynthetic, metabolizing, digesting, growing and environment sensing bacteria.

Then, for two billion years after that, fully half of the entire history of life on Earth, there was absolutely no evolutionary change, in the sense of life forms changing their basic structure or complexity. Four billion years ago there were bacteria and only bacteria; and two billion years later there were bacteria and only bacteria. Now among these bacteria there were all sorts of adaptations, so that bacteria were able to thrive in all kinds of environmental conditions: extreme heat, extreme cold, high acid, high base, little water, etc.

If by evolution one means adaptation, then, yes evolution was taking place. But what we commonly think of as evolution is the evolving of one species from another; of a change of shape, body plan and basic structure. In that sense of evolutionary change, for two billion years there was none.” Beyond Evolution


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Monday, March 28, 2011

Oh, Oh

Egypt Air wipes Israel off the map – a sign of where Egypt could be headed

Praveen Swami March 26, 2011 Telegraph

Israel has quietly dropped off Egypt Air’s route map this week.

The airline’s explanation is that “flights to Tel Aviv are operated by Air Sinai, which is a separate company.” It explains that “our website exclusively show destinations to which our own EA flights travel to.”

I’ve been unable to find a phone number, website or postal address for Air Sinai. That’s because it doesn’t seem to exist. Wikipedia states it “ceased airline operations in its own right in 2002 and operates as a ‘paper airline’ for its parent company, Egypt Air.”

Like a fair few other people, I suspect, I’m wondering if this is a sign of things to come in the Egypt-Israel relationship, because of the growing influence of people who would like to see Israel erased from maps, not just route maps.

Egyptians who backed the movement against Hosni Mubarak, the country’s unlamented former ruler, are beginning to realise that the revolution they sacrificed so much for isn’t headed quite where they’d expected

Earlier this month, more than three-quarters of Egyptian voters backed constitutional amendments which will facilitate the early election of a new parliament and new president. This gives the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s best-organised and largest political force, an advantage: its opponents just haven’t had time to get their act together.

Muhammad ElBaradei, the Nobel laureate, and Amr Moussa, the secretary general of the Arab League, both campaigned against the amendments, calling, along with other liberal-secular groups for alternative proposals which would have curbed presidential powers.

For its part, Muslim Brotherhood hung out banners saying a “yes” vote was a religious obligation. The Egyptian Revolution Society, an Islamist group, warned the alternative was “that the call to the prayer will not be heard any more like in the case of Switzerland, women will be banned from wearing the hijab like in the case of France and there will be laws that allow men to get married to men and women to get married to women.”

Part of the reason for the Islamist victory is that the revolution wasn’t – outside of the imaginations of some in the western media – a Woodstock-like flower-power upsurge. In a thoughtful report, the International Crisis Group observed that “the role of Islamist activists grew as the confrontation became more violent and as one moved away from Cairo; in the [Nile] Delta in particular, their deep roots and the secular opposition’s relative weakness gave them a leading part.”

There’s also the fact that the army, which now rules Egypt, trusts the Brotherhood more than the secular-democrats. Elijah Zarwan, an ICG expert, recently said there was “evidence the Brotherhood struck some kind of a deal with the military.” This makes perfect sense, if you consider the Brotherhood can deliver peace on the streets. It was, until its better-than-expected showing in the 2005 elections, a close ally of the military establishment that rules Egypt.

Essam Sharaf, Egypt’s new prime minister, thus made a speech in Tahrir Square with the Brotherhood leader Mohammad el-Beltagi standing by his side.

I’m guessing a harder line on Israel will be just part of the Brotherhood’s pound of flesh: its 2007 draft manifesto also calls for non-Muslims and women to be denied from standing for president, and an Iran-style council of clerics to guide the workings of government.


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Saturday, March 26, 2011

ACLU v. Religious Liberty

You would have to be brain-dead not to be aware of the number of incidents involving prayers, signs, decorations, sculptures, crèches, Christmas trees, Santa Clauses, blessings, etc., wherein the ACLU, famous defenders of the Nazis' right to march in Jewish Skokie, have harassed and brought charges against citizens attempting to do something worthwhile and in keeping with the traditions and history of our country – a country that was founded and established by Christians applying Christian principles.

What you may not know is that our government has in place a law that forces the loser, in a case involving religious liberty, to pay the court costs and attorneys’ fees of the plaintiff. This is why most cities, towns and organizations that are sued by the ACLU give up so quickly. They realize that the ACLU collects millions of dollars in attorneys’ fees, and to fight them in court risks bankruptcy.

The Democratic Party and the ACLU maintain that the “establishment” clause precludes any organizational unit that is wholly or partly supported by public funds, from allowing any display of religious beliefs, period. The rest of us maintain that the clause means just what it says – that the FEDERAL government cannot establish a state religion – as was the case in many foreign countries from which our Founding Fathers came. We also think it odd and significant that Congress has always been opened with a prayer.

The ACLU also intrudes in many other matters in a harmful way. In Rhode Island, a high school student wore a tee-shirt that said f**k Bush. When told to replace the shirt, the ACLU stepped in. In Massachusetts, the ACLU defended the right of a website that showed, in detail, how to seduce and molest a child, and then how to stymie any police investigation of the incident.

ACLU v. Religious Liberty

By J. Matt Barber March 24, 2011 The American Thinker (Excerpt)

“Irony is defined as "the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning." The term doublespeak means "evasive, ambiguous language that is intended to deceive or confuse."

There is perhaps no greater example of ironic doublespeak than inclusion of the phrase "civil liberties" within the inapt designation: "American Civil Liberties Union."

Indeed, few leftist organizations in existence today can compete with the ACLU in terms of demonstrated hostility toward what the Declaration of Independence describes as "certain unalienable rights" with which Americans are "endowed by their Creator."

Consider the doublespeak inherent throughout the "progressive" Goliath's flowery self-representation :

“The ACLU is our nation's guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country.”

Now contrast that depiction with ACLU founder Roger Baldwin's candid vision :

“I am for socialism, disarmament, and, ultimately, for abolishing the state itself... I seek the social ownership of property, the abolition of the propertied class, and the sole control of those who produce wealth. Communism is the goal.”

Ironic, isn't it? So much for "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." By combining straightforward segments from each ACLU rendering we arrive with an accurate portrayal. One that cuts through the doublespeak:

The ACLU is...working daily in courts, legislatures and communities. Communism is the goal….”

“Even the ACLU's own promotional materials overtly advocate religious discrimination: "The message of the Establishment Clause is that religious activities must be treated differently from other activities to ensure against governmental support for religion."

Utter hokum.

The First Amendment's Establishment Clause -- a mere 10 words -- says nothing of the sort. Its message is abundantly clear, requiring severe distortion to stuff within the ACLU's Marxist parameters. It merely states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..." That's it.

Now let's break it down. What do you suppose the Framers of the US Constitution -- a document expressly designed to limit the powers of federal government -- intended with the word "Congress"? Did they mean State government? Municipal government? Your local school district? Your third grade teacher?

Of course not. They meant exactly what they said: Congress . As in: The United States Congress! It takes someone with a distinctly disingenuous ulterior motive to derive anything else.

Now what did they mean by "...shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion?"

Well, in a letter to Benjamin Rush, a fellow-signer of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson -- often touted by the left as the great church-state separationst -- answered that question. The First Amendment's Establishment Clause was singularly intended to restrict Congress from affirmatively "establishing," through federal legislation, a national Christian denomination (similar to the Anglican Church of England).

Or, as Jefferson put it : "[T]he clause of the Constitution" covering "freedom of religion" was intended to necessarily preclude "an establishment of a particular form of Christianity through the United States."

How far removed we are today from the original intent of our Founding Fathers. The ACLU is largely responsible for creating the gulf between the Constitution's original construction and its modern misapplication.

The ACLU remains one of America's most powerful secular-socialist political pressure groups. It relentlessly tramples underfoot the First Amendment, which guarantees sweeping and absolute liberty for all Americans -- including government employees -- to freely exercise their faith both publicly and privately without fear of reprisal: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

Examples of its constitutional abuses are manifold, but one of the most recent involves an ACLU assault against a group of Christians in Santa Rosa County, FL. Liberty Counsel represents those Christians.

An ACLU-crafted Consent Decree has been used as a weapon to threaten school district employees with fines and jail time for merely praying over a meal, and for exercising -- even while away from school -- their sincerely held Christian faith. You read that right. The ACLU is literally seeking to criminalize Christianity.

In August of 2009, Liberty Counsel successfully defended staff member Michelle Winkler from contempt charges brought by the ACLU after her husband, who is not even employed by the district, offered a meal prayer at a privately sponsored event in a neighboring county.

Liberty Counsel also successfully defended Pace High School Principal Frank Lay and Athletic Director Robert Freeman against criminal contempt charges, after the ACLU sought to have the men thrown in jail for blessing a lunch meal served to about 20 adult booster club members.

Under the Consent Decree teachers are considered to be acting in their "official capacity" anytime a student is present, even at private functions off campus.

Liberty Counsel describes this unconstitutional decree:

Teachers cannot pray, bow their heads, or fold their hands to show agreement with anyone who does pray. Teachers and staff cannot 'Reply' to an email sent by a parent if the parent's email refers to God or Scripture. Teachers either have to delete such references from the original email or reply by initiating a new email. Teachers and staff are also required to stop students from praying in their own private club meetings.

During witness testimony, Mrs. Winkler sobbed as she described how she and a coworker, who had recently lost a child, literally had to hide in a closet to pray.

Although the case continues, on Monday the ACLU suffered a tremendous setback while freedom took a significant step forward. Federal District Court Judge M. Casey Rodgers granted in part a Preliminary Injunction in favor of Liberty Counsel's twenty-four Christian clients.

Judge Rodgers concluded that even though "a preliminary injunction is an extraordinary and drastic remedy," one aspect of the Consent Decree -- its attempt to prohibit school employees from fully participating in private religious events -- is so flawed that it must be immediately halted.

The Court thus enjoined the School Board "from enforcing any school policy that restrains in any way an employee's participation in, or speech or conduct during, a private religious service, including baccalaureate" pending a trial on the merits.

"Progressives" are nothing if not consistent. As they gain confidence, they invariably rush across that bridge too far. They engage wild-eyed efforts to "fundamentally transform America" to reflect their own secular-socialist self-image.

I'm certain that both the bare-knuckle spirit of the American people and Liberty Counsel's enduring 92 percent win record against the ACLU will maintain a durable safeguard - an "impenetrable wall of separation" if you will - between our constitutionally guaranteed liberties and a subversive "progressive" agenda built upon the distinctly un-American creed: "Communism is the goal."” The American Thinker


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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bush-Haters Squirm

I am not opposed to our intervention in Libya. I want this settled as soon as possible so that the Libyan oil production returns to normal levels, and I am overjoyed that the terrorist who orchestrated Lockerbie might finally be adequately punished (after hitting Gadhafi with a cruise missile, direct one at al-Megrahi). I am, however, distraught at the disarray, the delays, the confusion, the incompetence, the incoherence and, mostly, the just-plain Hutzpah that is being demonstrated by the actions of an (almost missing) President Obama. Those of us who believe that Obama has no love for his own country, and that many of his reluctant actions are taken exclusively for political reasons, understand what is going on. His hypocritical stance and his anti-colonialist motives are completely transparent.

Anti-Iraq War Bush-Haters Squirm to Justify Libya

By Larry Elder 3/24/2011 Townhall

"The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation," then-presidential candidate Barack Obama said in December 2007.

What a difference a change of job title makes.

"Let's just call a spade a spade. A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya," said Defense Secretary Robert Gates three weeks before President Obama ordered a no-fly zone over -- and other military action against -- Libya.

Like many anti-Iraq War/Bush-is-a-warmonger critics, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., supports the Libyan action. Bush-hater Rachel Maddow of MSNBC rationalized that unlike the bloodthirsty President George W. Bush, you see, Obama ordered the military into action under a different "narrative" -- that is, reluctantly and without zeal. Understand?

The non-unilateralist Nobel Peace Prize laureate Obama, unlike Bush, sought no congressional war resolution. Obama, therefore, ordered military action against Libya "unilaterally" -- without the congressional approval that he once argued the Constitution demanded.

As Obama further explained in his December 2007 statement, "In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent." So a president, according to Obama, does not need congressional authority -- provided the action involves "self-defense" or "stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."

What is the "actual or imminent threat" to America posed by Libya?

Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, spooked bleep-less after our invasion of Iraq, surrendered his WMD. The dictator admitted Libya's complicity in the bombing of the Pan Am plane over Lockerbie and paid financial settlements -- after which the U.S. removed Libya from the list of terror-sponsoring states. The U.S. imports less than 1 percent of its oil from that country. What threat to national security?

Fast-forward to March 2011. Rebels threaten to topple Gadhafi's brutal regime. But the dictator fights back, and unless stopped by outsiders, his military appears poised to put down and slaughter the rebels. Enter Obama. "We cannot stand idly by," he said, "when a tyrant tells his people there will be no mercy."

Obama thus approves this act of war -- for “humanitarian” purposes.

But Iraq's Saddam Hussein created a far greater humanitarian nightmare. "The Butcher of Baghdad" slaughtered, at minimum, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis -- far more people than were killed in Bosnia and Kosovo, where President Clinton ordered military force for humanitarian reasons. Yet, when weapons hunters found no stockpiles of WMD in Iraq, the dwindling number of pro-war Democrats turned against the war -- never mind the sickening sight of thousands of Iraqis found in shallow graves.

If U.S. foreign policy dictates intervention during humanitarian crises, why stop with Libya? Why “start” with Libya?

The list of brutal thug leaders is long. Nearly 40 percent of the world's population lives under un-free, often brutally repressive, governments, and another billion or so people have only partial freedom.

Humanitarian in-harm's-way deployment of the military is treacherous and unpredictable. Consider Somalia ("Black Hawk Down" Battle of Mogadishu in 1993); Lebanon (241 servicemen, mostly Marines, killed when terrorists blew up their barracks in 1983); and Bosnia/Kosovo (President Clinton promised troops out by Christmas 1995).

The purpose of the military is to act on behalf of our national security. We are not the world's hall monitor. Bush-hating Iraq War critics used to say stuff like that -- along with "war is not the answer."

Now, let's revisit the reasons for the -- as pre-President Obama called it -- "stupid" war.

Obama, like virtually everyone else, assumed Saddam possessed stockpiles of WMD while actively pursing a nuclear capability. President Bush sought and obtained congressional authorization. He called Saddam's Iraq a "grave and gathering threat" to our national security.

Ninety percent of Americans, in the dark days following Sept. 11, 2001, expected another attack within a year -- except perhaps this time with chemical or biological weapons. From the "oil-for-food" program, Saddam stole money, possibly re-routing it to terrorists. He financially rewarded families of homicide bombers. We learned, following the Persian Gulf War, that he was much closer to achieving nuclear capability than previously thought. Saddam kicked out the U.N. inspectors sent in to verify the promised dismantling and destruction of the weapons.

That Saddam possessed stockpiles of WMD, having used chemical weapons on the Iranians and his own people, was not in dispute. All 16 U.S. intelligences agencies thought so "with the highest probability." France, the United Kingdom, Russia, Egypt, Jordan, China, Israel -- and even Saddam's own generals -- assumed Iraq possessed WMD. Even U.N. weapons inspector and Iraq War critic Hans Blix thought Saddam likely possessed these weapons. As Blix admitted at a 2004 University of Berkeley forum: 'I'm not here to have gut feelings. But yes, in December 2002 (three months before the invasion) I thought Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.'"

Call Libya the Obama doctrine: non-national security, non-congressionally approved military attacks are perfectly legitimate for humanitarian reasons. Except not for Iraq under President George W. Bush -- who awaits his apology.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Evolution Battleground

On the question of Darwinism, my friends and readers know that I spent many years trying not to think too much about what I had been taught about purposeless evolution - versus belief in a Supreme Being. They know also that in my later years I have concluded that 1. evolution only plays a minor role in the development of life, 2. in any case evolution is most probably part of God's plan anyway, and 3. that Darwin was right about at least one thing: that all life forms are related.

A defining moment came for me when I read Dr. Michael Behe's book, "Darwin's Black Box", in which Behe, a prominent microbiologist, pointed out the existence of irreducibly complex mechanisms contained in living cells that could not possibly have come into existence through evolutionary processes. Said mechanisms could not be seen until the invention of the electron microscope, a tool that was unknown to scientists of Darwin's time. Behe has made further conclusions about the limits of evolution, and his thoughts have been complimented by many other scientists - most notably in my mind by Dr. Francis Collins, the leader of the project that mapped the human genome. Dr. Collins, the recipient of the nation's highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom, who had previously been an atheist, said of this experience, "I have looked into the mind of God".

Although the number of scientists who agree with Dr. Behe and Dr. Collins has grown tremendously, the scientific community which controls major organizations and publications continue to downplay their work, and, in the case of Dr. Behe, continuously attempt to refute his major conclusions. Just as global warming advocates constantly say that "the issue has been decided", so also do Behe opponents say over-and-over that "everyone knows that Behe has been proven wrong". One of Dr. Behe's major talents is his ability to explain complex phenomena to lay audiences. As a lay person, I don't understand the technical details discussed in the article below, but I thought it important to show that the argument isn't over, it has just begun. If you like, you can scan the article and focus on the conclusion (in red) at the end.

Michael Behe Hasn't Been Refuted on the Flagellum

Jonathan M. March 15, 2011 Evolution News

Those of us who have been reading the literature surrounding the ID/evolution controversy for any length of time will be quite acquainted with the standard Darwinian retort with regards the "Behean" argument for irreducible complexity as far as the bacterial flagellum is concerned. There seems to be this unanimity of opinion among Darwinian theorists that the claims of irreducible complexity with respect to the bacterial flagellum have been refuted, and that we ID proponents are constantly shifting the goal posts, burying our heads in the sand, and generally clutching at straws. Indeed, one person on Facebook recently remarked,
"My main gripe with the ID proponents is that they never seem to give up. How many times do you need to be told that something is wrong before you'll admit it? How many times does ID need to be refuted in the peer reviewed media before you'll give it up as a lost cause? The bacterial flagellum irreducible complexity story is completely and utterly dead. It's wrong. Get over it."

I recently brought up the flagellum, as a documented instance of irreducible complexity, at a lunch bar Q&A session on the science/faith intersect, and received responses to much the same effect.

But is this claim actually true? Has this argument been refuted by critics? About a year ago, I read Why Intelligent Design Fails - A Scientific Critique of the New Creationism (edited by Matt Young and Taner Edis). Chapter 5 of that book was contributed by Ian Musgrave and is titled "Evolution of the Bacterial Flagellum." Targeted as a response to Michael Behe and William Dembski, Musgrave attempts to dispel of the notion of irreducible complexity once and for all. Reading his chapter, I recall being deeply unimpressed. On page 82 of the book, Musgrave offers us the following argument:

Here is a possible scenario for the evolution of the eubacterial flagellum: a secretory system arose first, based around the SMC rod and pore-forming complex, which was the common ancestor of the type-III secretory system and the flagellar system. Association of an ion pump (which later became the motor protein) to this structure improved secretion. Even today, the motor proteins, part of a family of secretion-driving proteins, can freely dissociate and reassociate with the flagellar structure. The rod- and pore-forming complex may even have rotated at this stage, as it does in some gliding-motility systems. The protoflagellar filament arose next as part of the protein-secretion structure (compare the Pseudomonas pilus, the Salmonella filamentous appendages, and the E. coli filamentous structures). Gliding-twitching motility arose at this stage or later and was then refined into swimming motility. Regulation and switching can be added later, because there are modern eubacteria that lack these attributes but function well in their environment.(Shah and Sockett 1995). At every stage there is a benefit to the changes in the structure.Indeed, Mark Pallen and Nick Matzke make a very similar argument in their 2006 Nature Reviews article (a paper which was raised by an audience member during the recent UK Behe tour). Ken Miller is also reputed for routinely making similar claims regarding the flagellum's evolution from the Type III Secretion System based largely on considerations of protein sequence homologies.

So, do these points succeed in laying to rest that pesky business of intelligent design once and for all? Well, actually no; they don't. In fact, I submit that the arguments of all of the aforementioned gentlemen fundamentally trivialize several important issues.

First and foremost, it trivializes the sheer complexity and sophistication of the flagellar system -- both its assembly apparatus, and its state-of-the-art design motif. Actually, the process by which the bacterial flagellum is self-assembled within the cell is so sophisticated that I have long struggled to convey it in an accessible way to lay-persons. Its core concepts are notoriously difficult to grasp for those not accustomed to thinking about the system or for those encountering it for the first time. But, at the same time, the mechanistic basis of flagellar assembly is so breath-takingly elegant and mesmerizing that the sheer engineering brilliance of the flagellar motor -- and, indeed, the magnitude of the challenge it brings to Darwinism -- cannot be properly appreciated without at minimum a cursory knowledge of its underpinning operations. Let's take a peek.

The Self-Assembly of the Flagellar Apparatus

The synthesis of the bacterial flagellum requires the orchestrated expression of more than 60 gene products. Its biosynthesis within the cell is orchestrated by genes which are organised into a tightly ordered cascade in which expression of one gene at a given level requires the prior expression of another gene at a higher level. The paradigm, or model, organism for flagellar assembly is Salmonella, a bacterium of the family Enterobacteriaceae. My discussion thus pertains principally to Salmonella, unless otherwise indicated.

The flagellar system in Salmonella has three classes of promoters (promoters are akin to a kind of molecular toggle switch which can initiate gene expression when recognised by RNA polymerase and an associated specialised protein called a "sigma factor"). These three classes of promoters are uninspirationally dubbed "Class I," "Class II," and "Class III." This sequential transcription is coupled to the process of flagellar assembly. Class I contains only two genes in one operon (called FlhD and FlhC). Class II consists of 35 genes across eight operons (including genes involved in the assembly of the hook-basal-body and other components of the flagellum, as well as the export apparatus and two regulatory genes called "FliA" and "FlgM"). Those genes which are involved in the synthesis of the filament are controlled by the Class III promoters.

The Class I promoter drives the expression of a master regulator (particular to the Enterobacteriaceae of which Salmonella is a member) called "FldH4C2" (don't worry about remembering it!). This enteric master regulator then turns on the Class II promoters in association with a sigma factor, σ70 (remember, I said that a sigma factor is a type of protein which enables specific binding of RNA polymerase to gene promoters). The Class II promoters are then responsible for the gene expression of the hook-basal-body subunits and its regulators, including another sigma factor called σ28 (which is encoded by a gene called FliA) and its anti-sigma factor, FlgM (anti-sigma factors, as their name suggests, binds to sigma factors to inhibit their transcriptional activity). The sigma factor σ28 is required to activate the Class III promoters. But here we potentially run into a problem. It makes absolutely no sense to start expressing the flagellin monomers before completion of the Hook-Basal-Body construction. Thus, in order to inhibit the σ28, the anti-sigma factor (FlgM) alluded to above inhibits its activity and prohibits it from interacting with the RNA polymerase holoenzyme complex. When construction of the Hook-Basal-Body is completed, the anti-sigma factor FlgM is secreted through the flagellar structures which are produced by the expression of the Class II hook-basal-body genes. The Class III promoters (which are responsible for the expression of flagellin monomers, the chemotaxis system and the motorforce generators) are then finally activated by the σ28 and the flagellum can be completed.

But it gets better. The flagellar export system (that is, the means by which FlgM is removed from the cell) has two substrate-specificity states: rod-/hook-type substrates and filament-type substrates. During the process of flagellar assembly, this substrate-specificity switch has to flick from the former of those states to the latter. Proteins which form part of the hook and rod need to be exported before those which form the filament. But how does this switch in substrate-specificity take place?

A membrane-bound protein called FlhB is the key player in this process. There is also a flagellar hook-length protein which is responsible for making sure that the hook length is of the right size (around 55nm) called FliK. This same protein is also responsible for initiating the switch export substrate specificity. As it turns out, without FliK, both the ability to switch and export filament and the hook length control are completely lost. FliK has two key domains, i.e. the N-terminal and C-terminal domains. During hook assembly, FliKN functions as a molecular sensor and transmitter of information on hook length. When the hook reaches the right length, the information is transmitted to FliKC and FliKCT, resulting in a conformational change, which in turn results in FliKCT binding to FlhBC. This, in turn, results in a conformational change in FlhBC.
This causes the substrate specificity switch.

Flagellar assembly begins in the cytoplasmic membrane, progresses through the periplasmic space and finally extends outside the cell. The flagellum basically consists of two main parts: the secretion system and the axial structure. The principle components of the axial structure are FlgG for the rod, FlgE for the hook, and FliC for the filament. All of these assemble with the assistance of a cap protein (FlgJ, FlgD and FliD respectively). Of those, only FliD remains at the tip of the filament in the finished product. Other components of the axial structure (called FlgB, FlgC and FlgF) connect the rod and MS ring complex. The hook and filament are connected by FlgK and FlgL.

When the C ring and C rod attach to the M ring at its cytoplasmic surface, the MS ring complex -- which is the structural foundation of the apparatus -- can begin to secrete flagellar proteins.

The rod structure is built through the peptidoglycan layer. But its growth it isn't able to proceed past the physical barrier presented by the outer membrane without assistance. So, the just-alluded-to outer ring complex cuts a hole in the membrane, so that the hook can grow beneath the FlgD scaffold until it reaches the critical length of 55nm. Then the substrates which are being secreted can switch from the rod-hook mode to flageellin mode, FlgD can be replaced by hook-associated-proteins, and the filament continues to grow. Without the presence of the cap protein FliD, these flagellin monomers become lost. This cap protein is thus essential for the process to take place.

Why the Flagellum Evolution From the T3SS Doesn't Work

One might have thought that the description given above should be more than enough to render the hand-waving gestures of Kenneth Miller et al. trivializations in the extreme. But it gets even worse for the Darwinian story. Why exactly is flagellum biosynthesis so tightly regulated and orchestrated? Not only do the energy demands render the flagellum an extremely expensive system to run, but untimely expression of flagellum proteins may induce a strong immune response in the host system, something no bacterium wants to do.

What is the significance of this from the standpoint of evolutionary rationale?

Well, flagellin monomers are somewhat potent cytokine inducers. If you are a Yersinia organism in possession of a Type-III Secretion System the last thing you want to do is display those flagellin peptides to the macrophages. Such would be liable to significantly countermand the Yersinia's anti-inflammatory strategy.


My description, given above, has really only scratched the surface of this spectacular item of nano-technology (for more detail, see here). I have not, for the sake of brevity, even discussed the remarkable processes of chemotaxis, two component signal transduction circuitry, rotational switching, and the proton motive force by which the flagellum is powered. But the bottom line is that modern Darwinian theory -- as classically understood -- has come no where close to explaining the origin of this remarkably complex and sophisticated motor engine. Just as Darwinian "explanations" of the eye may, at first, appear convincing to the uninitiated, largely unacquainted with the sheer engineering marvel of the biochemistry and molecular basis of vision, so too do the evolutionary "explanations" of the flagellum rapidly become void of any persuasiveness when one considers the molecular details of the system. When one couples the above details with demonstrations of the sheer impotence of neo-Darwinism to produce novel protein folds and novel protein-protein binding sites, do you really think that this system can be cobbled together by virtue of slight, successive modification, one small step at a time? Given that neo-Darwinism's key selling point lies in its purported efficacy in explaining away the overwhelming appearance of design, doesn't it stand to reason that its demonstrable impotence throws the design postulate back on the table as a viable and respectable scientific proposition?

Douglas Axe of the Biologic Institute showed in one recent paper in the journal Bio-complexity that the model of gene duplication and recruitment only works if very few changes are required to acquire novel selectable utility or neo-functionalization.

If a duplicated gene is neutral (in terms of its cost to the organism), then the maximum number of mutations that a novel innovation in a bacterial population can require is up to six. If the duplicated gene has a slightly negative fitness cost, the maximum number drops to two or fewer (not inclusive of the duplication itself).

It seems that the bacterial flagellum is as much a -- and perhaps a greater -- challenge to Darwinism as it was when Behe first wrote Darwin's Black Box in 1996


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Friday, March 18, 2011

The $4-Per-Gallon President by Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin is about the only politician I trust to keep her campaign promises, and I also trust her instincts and values when it gets hard to do the right thing. Nevertheless, I understand that Sarah Palin will probably not be the Republican candidate for president in 2012. She is just too unpopular among Republican, blue-haired wives - and among women who fought for years for equal rights for women (they obviously didn't mean equal rights for a smart, tough, wonderful mother who lives her life as a practicing Christian).

One thing they cannot deny about Sarah, however, is that she became an expert on energy in her role as governor of Alaska. Her leadership, policies and tough dealing with oil companies have resulted in enormous benefits for Alaska's citizens. We can only pray that the price of gasoline in the rest of the country stops rising at $4.00. After all, didn't Obama say he favored $7.00 gas?

The $4-Per-Gallon President

by Sarah Palin March 15, 2011 Facebook

Is it really any surprise that oil and gas prices are surging toward the record highs we saw in 2008 just prior to the economic collapse? Despite the President’s strange assertions in his press conference last week, his Administration is not a passive observer to the trends that have inflated oil prices to dangerous levels. His war on domestic oil and gas exploration and production has caused us pain at the pump, endangered our already sluggish economic recovery, and threatened our national security.

The evidence of the President’s anti-drilling mentality and his culpability in the high gas prices hurting Americans is there for all to see.

The following is not even an exhaustive list:

Exhibit A: His drilling moratorium. Guided by politics and pure emotion following the Gulf spill instead of peer-reviewed science or defensible law, the President used the power of his executive order to impose a deepwater drilling moratorium.

The Administration even ignored a court order halting his moratorium. And what is the net result of the President’s (in)actions? A large drilling company was forced to declare bankruptcy, the economy of the region has been hobbled, and at least 7 rigs moved out of the Gulf area to other parts of the world while many others remain idle. Is it any surprise that oil production in the Gulf of Mexico is expected to fall by 240,000 bbl/d in 2011 alone?

But that’s just the Gulf. There’s also the question of a moratorium on the development of Alaska’s Outer Continental Shelf. It seems the Obama Administration can’t agree with itself on whether it imposed a moratorium there or not. The White House claims that they didn’t, but their own Department of the Interior let slip that they did. To clear up this mess, Gov. Parnell decided to sue the DOI to get a solid answer because such a federal OCS drilling moratorium would violate federal law.

Exhibit B: His 2012 budget. The President used his 2012 budget to propose the elimination of several vital oil and natural gas production tax incentives. Eliminating these incentives will discourage energy companies from completing exploratory projects, resulting in higher energy costs for all Americans – and not just at the pump. According to one study mentioned in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, eliminating the deduction for drilling costs “could increase natural gas prices by 50 cents per thousand cubic feet,” which would translate to “an increased cost to consumers of $11.5 billion per year in the form of higher natural gas prices.”

Exhibit C: His anti-drilling regulatory policies. The U.S. Geological Survey found that the area north of the Arctic Circle has an estimated 90 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil and 1,670 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable natural gas, one third of which is in Alaskan territory. That’s our next Prudhoe Bay right there. According to one industry study, allowing Royal Dutch Shell to tap these reserves in Alaska’s Chukchi and Beaufort seas would create an annual average of 54,700 jobs nationwide with a $145 billion total payroll and generate an additional $193 billion in total revenues to local, state, and federal governments over 50 years. This would be great news if only the federal government would allow Shell to drill there. But it won’t.

It’s been five years since Shell purchased the lease to develop these fields, but it’s been mired in a regulatory funk courtesy of the Obama Administration. After investing $3.5 billion in exploration programs (a significant portion of which went to ensuring responsible spill response and prevention), Shell announced last month that it has given up hope of obtaining the required permits to conduct exploratory drilling this year.

That means no jobs and no billions in oil revenue from the Arctic anytime soon thanks to this Administration. Let’s stop and think about this for a moment. Right now Beltway politicos are quibbling over cutting $61 billion from our dangerously bloated $3.7 trillion budget. Allowing drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas will enrich federal coffers by $167 billion without raising our taxes. If we let Harry Reid keep his “cowboy poetry,” would the White House consider letting us drill?

Taken altogether, it’s hard to deny that the Obama Administration is anti-drilling. The President may try to suggest that the rise in oil prices has nothing to do with him, but the American people won’t be fooled. Before we saw any protests in the Middle East, increased global demand led to a significant rise in oil prices; but the White House stood idly by watching the prices go up and allowing America to remain increasingly dependent on imports from foreign regimes in dangerously unstable parts of the world.

This was no accident. Through a process of what candidate Obama once called “gradual adjustment,” American consumers have seen prices at the pump rise 67 percent since he took office. Let’s not forget that in September 2008, candidate Obama’s Energy Secretary in-waiting said: “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.” That’s one campaign promise they’re working hard to fulfill
Last week, the British Telegraph reported that the price of petrol in the UK hit £6 a gallon – which comes to about $9.70. If you think $4 a gallon is bad now, just wait till the next crisis causes oil prices to “necessarily” skyrocket. Meanwhile, the vast undeveloped reserves that could help to keep prices at the pump affordable remain locked up because of President Obama’s deliberate unwillingness to drill here and drill now.

Hitting the American people with higher gas prices like this is essentially a hidden tax and a transfer of wealth to foreign regimes who are providing us the energy we refuse to provide for ourselves. Like inflation, higher energy prices are a hidden tax on Americans who are struggling to make ends meet. And these high gas prices will be felt in the form of higher food prices due to higher transportation costs. Energy is connected to everything in our economy. Access to affordable and secure energy is key to economic growth, which in turn is key to job growth. Energy is the building block of our economy. The President is purposely weakening that building block and weakening our country.

2012 can’t come soon enough.

- Sarah Palin

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Slouching Towards Argentina

Argentina has always been a fascinating place for anyone who takes a look at their history and the events that occur there. W.E.B. Griffin, my favorite author, has written a series of delightful books about the lives of American agents operating in Argentina during World War II. Argentina evokes a sense of ridicule as you read of their crazy customs and history, which has often involved violence and the really ugly side of socialism.

As we contemplate the economic policies of our current President and the actions of public service union members in Wisconsin and elsewhere (on Monday, Wisconsin school teachers brought young school children to the state capitol to chant insults at their governor in an atmosphere of serious death threats that are also being made against him), is it a great stretch to think that we are on the road to becoming another Argentina? Are we on the road to wasting our enormous natural resources as have the Argentinians? After all, our gasoline crisis is entirely man-made as extreme environmental foolishness has hamstrung an America that has enormous oil and natural gas deposits.

Slouching Towards Argentina

By Peter Ferrara on 3.16.11 American Spectator (Excerpt)

"Argentina enjoyed the world's fourth highest per capita GDP in 1929, on par with America at the time. But then the nation lost its way with a union dominated government taking control of the economy, and imposing wildly irresponsible taxes, spending, deficits and debt. After World War II, the hugely popular Juan Peron came to power in alliance with the unions, which effectively became part of the government. It has been all downhill for Argentina ever since.

The nation's currency lost 70% of its value in 2 years, and inflation roared to 50% in 1951, amidst out of control spending, deficits and debt, which the nation's monetary authorities accommodated through the "quantitative easing" of the time. The economy has never really recovered, as union dominated government only expanded and solidified control of the economy.

Further national debt was piled up in the 1970s for stimulus infrastructure projects and bailouts of private sector debts. The government in the early 1980s said unemployment was 5%, but private economists estimated it at 18%. Inflation rose to 10% to 20% per month. By 1989, it reached 200% per month, 5000% for the year. This effectively expropriated the savings of everyone in the country, from the rich to the middle class, as whatever anyone had managed to save was reduced to worthlessness. The inflation also cut real wages for working people almost in half.

This is what happens when the voting public proves incapable of self-government.

By 2001-2002 demonstrations turned violent, with noisy crowds breaking the windows of major businesses and setting fires at their doors. Many companies began erecting large metal barriers to deny access to the crowds.

Today, Argentina ranks 53rd in the world in per capita GDP according to the International Monetary Fund, 57th in the CIA World Factbook , at a level less than one third that of America. But its national debt at 51% of GDP is actually less than that of the United States under the Obama Administration at 61% of GDP and rocketing skyward. Peron's party, the Justicialist Party (PJ), remains a central factor in Argentina's Kirchner government to this day.

Barack Peron?

Is America now headed down this same road? Already, President Obama's own 2012 budget documents show that more national debt will be added in one term under Obama than under all previous U.S. Presidents combined, from George Washington to George Bush. That national debt is already on track to soar past the all-time record as a percent of GDP set at the end of World War II, and past the level that triggered bankruptcy for Greece.

Those budget documents also show that this year the federal deficit will be $1.645 trillion, the highest in world history, without comparison. The federal deficit last month alone, at $222.5 billion, was higher than the deficit for the entire year in 2007, at $161 billion, which was the last fiscal year for which the federal budget was adopted by a Republican-controlled Congress." American Spectator

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Monday, March 14, 2011

An Heroic American Muslim

After years of listening to American Muslim leaders who were always indignant that anyone would question the actions and motives of the Muslim community in the U.S., it was heartening to listen to Dr. Jasser's appearances on O'Reilly recently. Since 9/11, my readers have certainly noticed my slow metamorphosis from someone who knew very little about Islam - and did not blame the greater Muslim community for terrorism - to my certain knowledge that Muslims in America are complicit in terrorism through their silence and questionable contributions, and that the Muslim religion, which is also a political movement, is dangerously incompatible with American traditions and values.

I greatly admire Dr. Jasser, but I think he is tilting at windmills in his attempts to achieve a merger of Islam in America with American values - which would lead to the same kind of assimilation that other ethnic and religious groups have achieved here.

Given the Muslim birth rates, the only action that will save America from the fate of European countries like England and France is to shut down any further immigration of Muslims into this country.

Meet a True Muslim Patriot

By Joel Mowbray 3/11/2011 Townhall

Looking at Zuhdi Jasser, you wouldn't expect him to be a national lightning rod. Polished and polite, he is a medical doctor and Navy veteran who finds no contradiction between being a proud Muslim and a patriot willing to die for his country.

It is precisely that mutual love of Islam and America that led Dr. Jasser to speak out in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, when he was disgusted by a parade of Muslims taking to the media to blame "U.S. foreign policy" rather than Islamic fanaticism.

Of course, in covering Peter King’s (R-NY) hearings yesterday on Islamic radicalization at which Dr. Jasser testified, the media didn’t bother to tell his compelling and only-in-America life story.

Here’s the story that the mainstream media and left-wing critics have chosen to ignore.

Showing bravery that has been dishearteningly uncommon in the American Islamic community, Dr. Jasser decided to speak out not just against "terrorism" — most Muslim leaders have done that — but also against the teachings that foster the sense of Islamic victimization that motivates young Muslims to "defend" Islam and fellow Muslims by taking up arms.

While still maintaining a full-time medical practice, Dr. Jasser founded the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. He also joined with like-minded families in his community to start a new mosque in the Phoenix area. In the intervening years, his message has been gaining traction, and yesterday he was the star witness at the congressional hearings on Islamic radicalization.

Mainstream media and left-wing outlets alike have assailed the hearings almost from the moment they were announced earlier this year. What irks Dr. Jasser most about those critics is that they fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the hearings — just as they misunderstand the nature of the threat from homegrown terrorism.

Despite high-pitched critics painting a picture of Dr. Jasser as a sort of Islamic Uncle Tom, he never has said that violent rhetoric dominates discussion in mosques or elsewhere in the Muslim community. The problem is that the opposite isn't true, either.

Muslim leaders, he insists, have to be full-throated in condemning the justifications for violence against America — meaning that they need to be unapologetic in preaching the compatibility of deep Islamic faith and unabashed patriotism.

Thus, the problem he sees in the Muslim community isn't support for terrorism but rather a lack of clear opposition to the ideas of Islamic victimization that inspire and motivate young Muslims to become jihadists.

"I've never met a Muslim who wouldn't report violence," Dr. Jasser says. "But this isn't about violence; it's about walking back the ideas that can lead to violence, specifically those ideas that can implicitly justify actions against the 'oppressors.' "

Dr. Jasser, who has clear libertarian tendencies, does not want government legislation that attempts to fix problems in the Islamic community. But he believes that outside pressure is needed to trigger necessary debate within the Islamic community about what needs to be done to fight homegrown terrorism.

"Cooperation is also a continuum," he says of the controversial comments from Mr. King that the Muslim community has failed to cooperate fully with law enforcement. "It's not just about reporting violence but about reporting radicalism and then going further and countering those anti-American sentiments."

When the topic turns to accused Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, whose background bears more than a passing resemblance to his own, Dr. Jasser pauses for a moment. Like him, Maj. Hasan was a medical doctor and practicing Muslim, who was born and raised in America.

The key difference, though, was that while Dr. Jasser never wavered in his love for America, Maj. Hasan embraced anti-American propaganda, believing that his co-religionists were being slaughtered by the people wearing the same uniform as he was.

By contrast, Dr. Jasser's 11-year Navy tenure ended with him serving as one of three doctors in the medical office on Capitol Hill, treating members of Congress and the Supreme Court.

Not only did his Islamic faith not prevent him from serving his country, but Dr. Jasser says it was his faith that helped inspire his service. His grandfather, who was a devout Muslim, instilled in him a love of America and convinced him that Arab countries had fallen into dictatorships because "freedom-loving Muslims had abandoned the military to the thugs of society."

He even grew in his faith while in uniform, noting that his favorite imam to this day was at a civilian mosque in Hampton Roads, Va., which he attended while stationed in nearby Norfolk.

Even though many would consider high-profile congressional hearings a major victory, Dr. Jasser is realistic about the enormity of his struggle. He will continue to face detractors who will hurl a wide variety of insults and accusations, including from those who believe that reforming Islam is a lost cause.

Labeling himself "a fairly orthodox Muslim," Dr. Jasser does not hesitate to note that he and his wife are "raising our children conservatively in the Islamic faith."
His resolve to reform Islam now also stems from the world he envisions for his children.

"Ultimately and most importantly," Dr. Jasser says, his passion rising, "what I want is for my children to grow up in an Islamic community that rejects Islamism in favor of the principles of liberty."

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Wisconsin Video Explains Education Decline

Fifteen-year-old students from the United States rank 25th out of 30 advanced nations in math and 24th in science, according to The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).

"The longer kids are in school and the more money we spend on them, the further behind they get" , says Walter Williams in “Nation needs major reforms in education.”

Even worse, Latino and black students are two to three years behind white students of the same age, according to McKinsey & Company, in releasing its recent report entitled “The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America’s Schools”.

Could this video explain why education in the USA is failing so miserably? Do you want these thugs teaching your children?

If video doesn't load, go here.

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Friday, March 11, 2011

Boo Hoo, Congressman Ellison

As part of a well-orchestrated attack to smear Representative King and his Congressional Committee's attempt to define Islamic terrorism and its new tactics, Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota went on television yesterday, apparently sobbing uncontrollably at the unfairness of it all. We have written before about Ellison and his ties to Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam and his anti-Jewish associations. We hope no-one takes this performance seriously, just as we hope Rep. Ellison's attempts to advance the cause of Sharia in America fail completely.

Rep. Keith Ellison’s Bigotry

The congressman told a teachable story this morning. One problem: It’s untrue.

Matthew Shaffer MARCH 10, 2011 National Review

This morning, Rep. Keith Ellison (Democratic-Farmer-Labor party, Minn.) appropriated a hearing on Islamic radicalism by weeping his way through a speech about whata-buncha-nasty-bigots Americans are. He chose as his case in point Mohammed Salman Hamdani, a Pakistani-born Muslim American who rushed to lower Manhattan on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, to assist in rescue efforts, and died in the collapse of the World Trade Center. Here’s how Representative Ellison tells the story of the aftermath of his death:

"After the tragedy some people tried to smear his character solely because of his Islamic faith. Some people spread false rumors and speculated that he was in league with the attackers only because he was Muslim. It was only when his remains were identified that these lies were fully exposed. Mohammed Salman Hamdani was a fellow American who gave his life for other Americans. His life should not be defined as a member of an ethnic group or a member of a religion, but as an American who gave everything for his fellow citizens."

Does Ellison’s account check out with reality?

No. It is actually pretty close to the opposite of the truth. In fact, six weeks after the September 11 attacks — before Hamdani’s remains were identified, which Ellison implies to be the turning point of public perception — Congress signed the PATRIOT Act into law with this line included: Many Arab Americans and Muslim Americans have acted heroically during the attacks on the United States, including Mohammed Salman Hamdani, a 23-year-old New Yorker of Pakistani descent, who is believed to have gone to the World Trade Center to offer rescue assistance and is now missing.” That is, Hamdani was actually singled out for particular high honors among the thousands of victims of the September 11 attacks.

There’s little evidence of the “rumors” of which Ellison speaks, either. Poke around yourself. Go to Google and search for Mohammed Salman Hamdani’s name, using various time frames from before today’s hearings (say, in the week after the September 11 attack). You’ll discover two discordant sets of returns: none for sites and news reports accusing Hamdani of being a terrorist, and many thousands of pages honoring him as a hero while claiming that he was “widely accused” of being a terrorist.

Web pages that do source the claim that Hamndani was “widely accused” of being a terrorist typically trace back to a single report from the New York Post , dated Oct. 12, 2001, and titled “Missing — or Hiding? Mystery of NYPD Cadet from Pakistan.” The piece has been taken offline, but its content is preserved elsewhere.

Here’s what the New York Post wrote:

His family distributed missing-person fliers in the fear that the 23-year- old, who is trained as an emergency medical technician, went instead to the World Trade Center to help and was killed.

But investigators for the FBI and NYPD have since questioned the family about which Internet chat rooms he visited and if he was political.

Hamdani, a graduate of Queens College with a biochemistry degree, had been in the NYPD cadet program for three years. He became “inactive” because he needed to work full time, his mother said.

Police sources said he hadn’t been to work at the NYPD since April, but he still carried official identification.

One source told the Post : “That tells me they’re not looking for this guy at the bottom of the rubble. The thing that bothers me is, if he is up to some tricks, he can walk past anybody [using the ID card].”

Hamdani’s mother, who has been in the United States for two decades, denied her son was political or a religious fundamentalist. Cops at the Midtown Tunnel reported spotting someone who looked like Hamdani yesterday morning.

So the Post reported 1) that Hamdani’s family believed he died in the WTC attacks, 2) that the FBI asked Hamdani’s mother a few background questions after a mistaken sighting, and 3) that an unnamed source felt such questioning implied guilt. No doubt, that was hard on the grieving mother. But frankly, this — a mistaken sighting, and very preliminary investigations of many people, most of whom turn out to be innocent — is the kind of thing that inevitably happens after a major terrorist attack.

After that questioning, the FBI didn’t go farther in a serious investigation, and, a week later, Hamdani was singled out for honors by the United States’ executive and legislative branches with those lines in the PATRIOT Act that immortalized his story.

Then, he was eulogized by the New York Times , had scholarship funds named after him, was honored by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly (both of whom went barefoot to honor Muslim practice) at his funeral, and has been celebrated over and over again by the media.

The belief that Mohammed Salman Hamdani was a victim of anti-Muslim bigotry was never based in reality. It was manufactured by the Left as a rhetorical prop, exploited as a bludgeon against people who want to talk seriously about terrorism. If Hamdani was singled out for his faith, it would appear he was singled out for especially high honors. Most 9/11 victims were not half so celebrated as he was.

Rather than suffering from apocryphal American anti-Muslim bigotry, Salman Hamdani appears to have benefited from America’s eager inclusiveness.

Americans have long seen Mohammed Salman Hamdani as a hero. Too bad Representative Ellison saw him only as a prop.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Westboro Loons and Loons of the Left

There were so many perceptive articles published today that I decided to present excerpts from three of them, one regarding the absurd decision last week by SCOTUS that the Westboro loons have a right to hurl invective during private, military funerals of dead servicepeople, and two that discuss the delusion of the left that terrorism and Islam have no connection. In its delusion, the left then hurls scorn on anyone who differs from their madness. Click on the links to read the entire articles:

Justice Alito Was Right

By William Murchison on 3.9.11 American Spectator

“It fell to Justice Samuel Alito the other day to remind Americans how far their culture of liberation has veered from common sense and appreciation of the small decencies that undergird civilization.

On a question of "free speech" -- at its center a claimed right to begrime with taunts and insults the funeral of a U.S. Marine -- the four members of the U.S. Supreme Court's liberal-permissivist bloc weren't likely to find against the jeer leaders. It was the conservative bloc whose behavior startled. Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Antonin Scalia, and Justice Clarence Thomas went along with the permissivists, in the name of "robust, uninhibited, and wide-open" debate. As if the honored word "debate" applied to placards exhorting onlookers to "Thank God for Dead Soldiers."

Against his eight colleagues, Sam Alito stood in lonely, honorable dissent. "Our profound national commitment to free and open debate," he wrote, "is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case." Alito saw no free speech deprivation in the judgment a district court had levied against the traveling freak show known as Westboro Baptist Church, in Kansas: a gang keener on disrupting military funerals than on preaching the redemptive love of Jesus.

The picketers could have picketed almost anywhere in America, said Alito. Why at the church where the funeral of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder was being held? From the claim of free speech rights there was no logical pathway to the intentional infliction of "severe emotional injury on private persons at a time of intense emotional sensitivity.'"” American Spectator

Delusions of the Politically Correct

By Ruth Marcus March 9, 2011 RealClearPolitics

WASHINGTON -- "One of the odder exchanges I've ever seen during a congressional hearing involved Attorney General Eric Holder, Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith, and the phrase "radical Islam."

Smith, at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee last May, cited three recent terrorist incidents: the Fort Hood shooting rampage, the underwear bomber and the Times Square bomber. "Do you feel that these individuals might have been incited to take the actions that they did because of radical Islam?" he asked Holder.

The attorney general did his best not to go there. "There are a variety of reasons why I think people have taken these actions," he said. "I think you have to look at each individual case." RealClearPolitics

What Do They Fear From Peter King?

By Richard L. Benkin March 9, 2011 American Thinker

"I was educated as a social scientist; and as a social scientist, learned that if I wanted to understand a phenomenon and recognized a variable common to many examples of it, I would be remiss if I did not investigate it. It would be foolhardy to claim that a supposed defense of Islam has not been common to many terrorist events or to claim that there is no such thing as radical Islam. Now, if the political correctness crew wants to rename it something like "radicals-who-claim-they-represent-Islam-but-really-don't-and-certainly-cannot-be-used-to-call-all-Muslims-terrorists," they are welcome to do so; but for the sake of brevity, I will call it radical Islam, and they can consider it short for their mountain of PC qualifiers.

To hear a bevy of usual suspects tell it -- from the White House and Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) to hip hop mogul Russell Simmons -- Congressman Peter King (R-NY) should be outfitted with a white sheet and hood for daring to hold hearings on the threat of radical Muslims in the United States. Ellison criticized King for singling out a religious minority. Okay, well let's see. When was the last time a Christian "terrorist" flew an airplane into a skyscraper, killing thousands? Or how about an Irish one (since Ellison specifically warned us not to single out the Irish)? When was the last time those big, bad Jews strapped on a suicide bomb vest and blew themselves up in a Pakistani shopping mall?" American Thinker

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Saturday, March 05, 2011

Mark Steyn Gets It, Do You?

Once again I bring up the fact that fully a week after Major Hassan butchered so many of his fellow American soldiers at Fort Hood (and after it was well-known that he had shouted "Allahu Akbar", had contacted Al Queda trainers and had cards and a website promoting Islamic terrorism), my liberal friend strenuously argued that there was no evidence that Hassan was a Muslim terrorist. What is it with President Obama and his left-wing cohorts that they cast a blind eye to the obvious? Do they think it will go away if they pretend not to notice?

Why Are We Still In Germany?

By MARK STEYN 03/04/2011 Investors Business Daily

According to Bismarck's best-known maxim on Europe's most troublesome region, the Balkans are not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier. Americans could be forgiven for harboring similar sentiments after the murder of two U.S. airmen in Germany by a Kosovar Muslim.

Remember Kosovo? Me neither. But it was big at the time, launched by Bill Clinton in the wake of his Monica difficulties: Make war, not love, as the boomers advise. So Clinton did — and without any pesky U.N. resolutions, or even the pretense of seeking them.

Instead, he and Tony Blair and even Jacques Chirac just cried "Bombs away!" and got on with it. And the left didn't mind at all — because, for a modern western nation, war is only legitimate if you have no conceivable national interest in whatever war you're waging.

Unlike Iraq and all its supposed "blood for oil," in Kosovo no one remembers why we went in, what the hell the point of it was, or which side were the good guys. (Answer: Neither.) The principal rationale advanced by Clinton and Blair was that there was no rationale. This was what they called "liberal interventionism", which boils down to: The fact that we have no reason to get into it justifies our getting into it.

A decade on, Kosovo is a sorta sovereign state, and in Frankfurt a young airport employee is so grateful for what America did for his people that he guns down U.S. servicemen while yelling "Allahu akbar!"

The strange shrunken spectator who serves as President of the United States, offering what he called "a few words about the tragic event that took place," announced that he was "saddened," and expressed his "gratitude for the service of those who were lost" and would "spare no effort" to "work with the German authorities" but it was a "stark reminder" of the "extraordinary sacrifices that our men and women in uniform are making . . ."

The passivity of these remarks is very telling. Men and women "in uniform" (which it's not clear these airmen were even wearing) understand they may be called upon to make "extraordinary sacrifices" in battle. They do not expect to be "lost" on the shuttle bus at the hands of a civilian employee at a passenger air terminal in an allied nation.

But then I don't suppose their comrades expected to be "lost" at the hands of an army major at Fort Hood, to cite the last "tragic event" that "took place" — which seems to be the president's preferred euphemism for a guy opening fire while screaming "Allahu akbar!"

But relax, this fellow in Frankfurt was most likely a "lone wolf" (as Sen. Chuck Schumer described the Times Square Bomber) or an "isolated extremist" (as the president described the Christmas Day Pantybomber).

There are so many of these "lone wolves" and "isolated extremists" you may occasionally wonder whether they've all gotten together and joined Local 473 of the Amalgamated Union of Lone Wolves and Isolated Extremists, but don't worry about it: As any Homeland Security official can tell you, "Allahu akbar" is Arabic for "Nothing to see here."

Bismarck's second best-known maxim on the region is that the Balkans start in the slums of Vienna. The Habsburg imperial capital was a protean "multicultural society" wherein festered the ancient grievances of many diverse peoples.

Today, the Muslim world starts in the suburbs of Frankfurt. Those U.S. airmen were killed by Arid Uka, whose Muslim Albanian parents emigrated from Kosovo decades ago. Young Arid was born and bred in Germany. He is a German citizen who holds a German passport. He is, according to multicultural theory, as German as Fritz and Helmut and Hans. Except he's not. Not when it counts.

Why isn't he a fully functioning citizen of the nation he's spent his entire life in? Well, that's a tricky one.

Okay, why is a Muslim who wants to kill Americans holding down a job at a European airport? That's slightly easier to answer. Almost every problem facing the western world, from self-detonating jihadists to America's own suicide bomb — the multi-trillion dollar debt — has at its root a remorseless demographic arithmetic.

In the U.S., the baby boomers did not have enough children to maintain their mid-20th century social programs. I see that recent polls supposedly show that huge majorities of Americans don't want any modifications to Medicare or Social Security.

So what? It doesn't matter what you "want." The country's broke, and you can vote yourself unsustainable quantities of government lollipops all you like, but all you're doing is ensuring that when, eventually, you're obliged to reacquaint yourself with reality, the shock will be far more devastating and convulsive.

But even with looming bankruptcy America still looks pretty sweet if you're south of the border. Last week, the former director of the U.S. Census Bureau, Steve Murdock, told the Houston Chronicle that in Texas "it's basically over for Anglos." He pointed out that two out of every three children are already "non-Anglo", and that this gap will widen even further in the years ahead. Remember the Alamo? Why bother? America won the war, but Mexico won the peace.

In the Lone Star State, Murdock envisions a future in which millions of people with minimal skills will be competing for ever fewer jobs paying less in actual dollars and cents than they would have earned in the year 2000. That doesn't sound a recipe for social tranquility.

What's south of Europe's border? Why, it's even livelier. In Libya, there are presently one million refugees from sub-Saharan Africa whose ambition is to get in a boat to Italy. There isn't a lot to stop them.

Between now and mid-century, Islam and sub-Saharan Africa will be responsible for almost all the world's population growth — and yet, aside from a few thousand layabout Saudi princes whoring in Mayfair, they will enjoy almost none of the world's wealth.

Niger had 10 million people in 2000, and half-a-million of them were starving children. By 2010, they had 15 million, and more children were starving. By 2100, they're predicted to hit 100 million. But they won't — because it would be unreasonable to expect an extra 90 million people to stay in a country that can't feed a population a tenth that size.

So they will look elsewhere — to countries with great infrastructure, generous welfare, and among the aging natives a kind of civilizational wasting disease so advanced that, as a point of moral virtue, they are incapable of enforcing their borders.

The nations that built the modern world decided to outsource their future. In simple economic terms, the arithmetic is stark: In America, the boomers have condemned their shrunken progeny to the certainty of poorer, meaner lives.

In sociocultural terms, the transformation will be even greater. Bismarck, so shrewd and cynical about the backward Balkans, was also the father of the modern welfare state: When he introduced the old age pension, you had to be 65 to collect and Prussian life expectancy was 45.

Now life expectancy has near doubled, you get your pension a decade earlier, and, in a vain attempt to make that deformed math add up, Bismarck's successors moved the old East/West faultline from the Balkans to the main street of every German city.

Americans sometimes wonder why, two decades after the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, the U.S. Army still lives in Germany. The day is approaching when they will move out — if only to avoid any more "tragic events" "taking place."

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Friday, March 04, 2011

ObamaCare Is Already Damaging Health Care

ObamaCare Is Already Damaging Health Care

Many of its changes don't kick in until 2014. But the law is forcing dramatic consolidation and reducing choice in the industry.

By LLOYD M. KRIEGER February 23, 2011 Wall St Journal

The Republicans who now control the House of Representatives hope to repeal or defund ObamaCare, but the law has already yielded profound, destructive changes that will not be undone by repeal or defunding alone. Active steps and new laws will be needed to repair the damage.

The most significant change is a wave of frantic consolidation in the health industry. Because the law mandates that insurers accept all patients regardless of pre-existing conditions, insurers will not make money with their current premium and provider-payment structures. As a result, they have already started to raise premiums and cut payments to doctors and hospitals. Smaller and weaker insurers are being forced to sell themselves to larger entities.

Doctors and hospitals, meanwhile, have decided that they cannot survive unless they achieve massive size—and fast. Six years ago, doctors owned more than two-thirds of U.S. medical practices, according to the Medical Group Management Association. By next year, nearly two-thirds will be salaried employees of larger institutions.

Consolidation is not necessarily bad, as larger medical practices and hospital systems can create some efficiencies. But in the context of ObamaCare's spiderweb of rules and regulations, consolidation is more akin to collectivization. It means that government bureaucrats will be able to impose controls with much greater ease.

With far fewer and much larger entities to browbeat, all changes in Medicare and Medicaid policies will go through the entire system like a shock wave. There will be far fewer individual insurers, doctors, hospitals, device makers, drug manufacturers, nursing homes and other health-care players to resist.

Many doctors and hospitals have decided that they cannot survive unless they achieve massive size—and fast.

There is little mystery how the government will exercise its power. Choices will be limited. Pathways to expensive specialist care such as advanced radiology and surgery will decline. Cutting-edge devices and medicines will come into the system much more slowly and be used much less frequently.

This is why simply defunding enforcement of the individual mandate and other upcoming directives will not be enough: Given all this consolidation, limits on treatment choices are already becoming hardwired into the system. Lawmakers must take concrete steps to stop and reverse this.

On the provider end, this means enacting tax and other economic shields for insurers and providers that choose not to succumb to the financial pressure encouraging consolidation. It means unwinding all of the rules—about data compilation, reporting and compliance requirements, and information technology—designed to increase overhead to the point that only massive and easily regulated provider organizations can survive.

Legislators will have to scrub the 2,700-page ObamaCare law line by line to remove all of the disincentives for medical practices, hospitals and others to remain smaller and independent.

On the consumer end, reform means re-establishing choice at all levels of the system. Lawmakers at a minimum should change the individual mandate so that people can choose what type of coverage they buy. To do this, legislation has to ensure that all consumers have access to a menu of options for varying types of coverage, and that they are free to purchase policies across state lines. There should also be tax breaks for people who purchase medical care not covered by their insurance, so there is reasonable chance of escaping government-imposed limits on treatment choices.

System-wide, collectivization will be dismantled only by limiting the power of government agencies to determine what care gets funded. That means new legislation to supersede Section 1311 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which requires herding everyone into "qualified plans" and forcing doctors (via fines, penalties and nonpayment) to follow care guidelines determined by the secretary of Health and Human Services.

ObamaCare is already doing great damage, even years before its individual mandate and other controls kick in. Its systematic undoing is an urgent necessity.


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Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Consumer Reports Condemns GM"s Volt

GM’s Volt ‘doesn’t really make a lot of sense’

DAVID SHEPARDSON February 28, 2011 Detroit News (Excerpt)

Washington — "Consumer Reports offered a harsh initial review of the Chevrolet Volt, questioning whether General Motors Co.'s flagship vehicle makes economic "sense."The extended-range plug-in electric vehicle is on the cover of the April issue — the influential magazine's annual survey of vehicles — but the GM vehicle comes in for criticism.

"When you are looking at purely dollars and cents, it doesn't really make a lot of sense. The Volt isn't particularly efficient as an electric vehicle and it's not particularly good as a gas vehicle either in terms of fuel economy," said David Champion, the senior director of Consumer Reports auto testing center at a meeting with reporters here. "This is going to be a tough sell to the average consumer."
The magazine said in its testing in Connecticut during a harsh winter, its Volt is getting 25 to 27 miles (range) on electric power alone.

GM spokesman Greg Martin noted that it's been an extremely harsh winter — and as a Volt driver he said he's getting 29-33 miles on electric range. But he noted that in more moderate recent weather, the range jumped to 40 miles on electric range or higher.

Champion believes a hybrid, such as the Toyota Prius, may make more sense for some trips.

"If you drive about 70 miles, a Prius will actually get you more miles per gallon than the Volt does," Champion said.

But GM has noted that most Americans can avoid using gasoline for most regular commuting with the Volt, while its gasoline engine can allow the freedom to travel farther, if needed.

The magazine has put about 2,500 miles on its Volt. It paid $48,700, including a $5,000 markup by a Chevy dealer.

Champion noted the Volt is about twice as expensive as a Prius.

He was said the five hour time to recharge the Volt was "annoying" and was also critical of the power of the Volt heating system.

"You have seat heaters, which keep your body warm, but your feet get cold and your hands get cold," Champion said.

Consumer Reports will release a full road test of the Volt later this year and will update it." Detroit news


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