Croker Sack

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." — Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956)

Friday, December 30, 2005

Freedom of Inquiry Meets Darwinism

This article from the London Telegraph indicates that some college-level professors are interested in discussing "intelligent design" with their students.

Darwin's defenders go into battle again
Alec Russell (Filed: 31/12/2005)
James Colbert has been on the frontline of America's culture wars for 20 years but his hoped-for final victory of reason over faith is not yet in sight.
Emotions are running high in his faculty and others across America over i.d., as academics fight for control over the minds of the nation's youth. For decades America has been riven by "culture wars" over science, religion and law, all set against the background of the ancient US debate over the separation of church and state. Traditionally the most heated argument has been over abortion but creation has emerged as a similarly contentious issue.
Prof Colbert says most scientists ignored such arguments as coming from a lunatic fringe until August when President George W Bush backed teaching i.d. alongside evolution. Alarmed at what he saw as the growing influence of some i.d. supporters in the science faculty, Prof Colbert drafted a petition condemning "attempts to represent intelligent design as a scientific endeavour".

In response more than 40 Christian faculty and staff members signed a statement calling on the university to uphold their basic freedoms and to allow them to discuss
intelligent design.

That is how the discussion of intelligent design ought to be introduced into the classroom -- by the teacher, not by some stupid, dishonest school board members who want to make it a part of the required curriculum.

The people for whom Darwinian theory (that is, random mutations plus natural selection equals new species) is dogma consider as heresy the mere mention of the question whether a complex design suggests the existence of a designer.

Here is a similar article from the classroom version of The Wall Street Journal.

Overshadowed by attacks on evolution in high-school science curricula, intelligent design is gaining a precarious and hotly contested foothold in American higher education. Intelligent-design courses have cropped up at the state universities of Minnesota, Georgia and New Mexico, as well as Iowa State, and at private institutions such as Wake Forest and Carnegie Mellon. Most of the courses, like Mr. Ingebritsen's, are small seminars that don't count for science credit. Many colleges have also hosted lectures by advocates of the doctrine.
Intelligent design's beachhead on campus has provoked a backlash. Universities have discouraged teaching of intelligent design in science classes and canceled lectures on the topic. Last month, University of Idaho President Tim White flatly declared that teaching of "views that differ from evolution" in science courses is "inappropriate."
At Iowa State, where Mr. Ingebritsen teaches, more than 120 faculty signed a petition this year condemning "all attempts to represent intelligent design as a scientific endeavor." In response, 47 Christian faculty and staff members, including Mr. Ingebritsen, signed a statement calling on the university to protect their freedom to discuss intelligent design.

This could get really interesting. Does the government have unconstrained authority to tell a teacher or professor to shut up? Since it's OK to speculate about the origin of the universe, the origin of life, and the origin of species, why cannot that speculation include a discussion of the possibility that a "designer" was involved?

Kyoto Protocol Freezes Europe

Apparently, the Europeans need to crank up the old carbon dioxide generators.

Is it Kyoto? Or, is this just another part of weather variability that is attributable to "global warming"?

Whatever it is, those low temperatures sure surprised me.

Europe slip-sliding around in sub-zero freeze
Germany among coldest spots, but Italy and France also in icy grip

Updated: 3:44 p.m. ET Dec. 30, 2005
BUDAPEST, Hungary - Driving snow and icy winds caused traffic chaos across much of Europe on Friday as temperatures dipped close to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit in some places, sending motorists slip-sliding and delaying flights and rail travel.
According to Meteomedia, a private weather service, the coldest temperature measured in Germany overnight was minus 38 Fahrenheit at Funtensee Lake in southern Germany.

Switzerland also shivered, with MeteoSwiss meteorological experts recording the lowest temperature so far this season. The coldest was La Brevine, 3,000 feet high and often dubbed “Switzerland’s Siberia,” with minus 33 Fahrenheit.

Two homeless people have been found dead in Rome over the past two days and Florence woke on Thursday to 10 inches of snow, the most in 21 years. Temperatures in the north reached minus 20 Fahrenheit.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Road from Rangoon

Rangoon, can you hear me? Come in, Rangoon! It seems no one is there.

Monday, December 26, 2005

An Irreducibly Random World

In an interesting New York Times article about quantum mechanics is a cousin of the "irreducibly complex" argument of Intelligent Design proponents -- except this argument is being made to show the existence of a material "reality," so it's scientifically OK, I guess:

One of the most extreme points of view belongs to Dr. Zeilinger of Vienna, a bearded, avuncular physicist whose laboratory regularly hosts every sort of quantum weirdness.
In an essay recently in Nature, Dr. Zeilinger sought to find meaning in the very randomness that plagued Einstein.
"The discovery that individual events are irreducibly random is probably one of the most significant findings of the 20th century," Dr. Zeilinger wrote.
Dr. Zeilinger suggested that reality and information are, in a deep sense, indistinguishable, a concept that Dr. Wheeler, the Princeton physicist, called "it from bit."
In information, the basic unit is the bit, but one bit, he says, is not enough to specify both the spin and the trajectory of a particle. So one quality remains unknown, irreducibly random.
As a result of the finiteness of information, he explained, the universe is fundamentally unpredictable.
"I suggest that this randomness of the individual event is the strongest indication we have of a reality 'out there' existing independently of us," Dr. Zeilinger wrote in Nature.
He added, "Maybe Einstein would have liked this idea after all."

I'll have to get that Zeilinger article from the December 8, 2005, issue of "Nature." It sounds as though it may be as fascinating as "Finding Darwin's God."

Imagine a world in which humans can exercise free will. Could it be possible without this "irreducibly random" aspect of the world?

Friday, December 23, 2005

Unwarranted Concern About Warrantless Radiation Checks

This has gotten to the silly point.

There is absolutely no reason to expect the federal government to seek a warrant before monitoring the air in public thoroughfares for the presence of radiation that would indicate the existence of terror weapons.

Yet, this is how reported the Associated Press article:

U.S. has been secretly testing for radiation
Monitoring from public places was conducted without warrants, officials say

Updated: 7:31 p.m. ET Dec. 23, 2005

A classified radiation monitoring program, conducted without warrants, has targeted private U.S. property in an effort to prevent an al-Qaida attack, federal law enforcement officials confirmed Friday.

While declining to provide details, including the number of cities and sites monitored, the officials said the air monitoring began after the Sept. 11 attacks and was conducted from publicly accessible areas, which they said made warrants and court orders unnecessary.

U.S. News and World Report first reported the program on Friday. The magazine said the monitoring was conducted at more than 100 Muslim sites in the Washington, D.C. area — including Maryland and Virginia suburbs — and at least five other cities when threat levels had risen: Chicago, Detroit, Las Vegas, New York and Seattle.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The mind of a "barking moonbat" revealed?

People who appear to go to extremes in matters of ideology are often puzzling.

The "Instawife" posted a couple of excerpts from an article that provides some possible insights into the minds of those who seem to have gone off the deep end in matters of politics and ideology.

While the article refers to leftist ideologues, the same things might be said about people on both the left and right ends of the spectrum. For example, in this sentence from the article, it's easy to agree even after "right-wing" is substituted for "leftist":

Leftist activists are prone to believe that their own thinking is rational and objective, while that of their opponents is distorted and biased.

There seems to be something about the mind that makes many people tend to adopt a view of the world which keeps them from thinking rationally -- and part of the problem is the tendency to presume conclusively that one's opposition has no ideas that could be even close to correct.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Oh, My Goodness, Canada!

Do they have "fundamental rights" in Canada, too?

Reuters ["News" Service; posted by MSNBC]
Updated: 2:33 p.m. ET Dec. 21, 2005
OTTAWA - Group sex among consenting adults is neither prostitution nor a threat to society, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on Wednesday as it lifted a ban on so-called “swingers” clubs.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Lack of Intelligence and Honesty on Dover Area School District Board

The school board members who voted in favor of putting "intelligent design" into the 9th grade biology curriculum of the Dover Area School District did their darnedest to discredit themselves and their religion.

The early Christians had a very low opinion of humanity. Perhaps they knew people like the ones who foisted their views on the Dover Area School District and then lied to the court; that is to say, they had empirical evidence in support of their religious views.

This long excerpt of the court's memorandum opinion summarizes the court's findings regarding the lying, stupid school board members. (Start reading at page 89 of the "pdf" file for a more detailed description of their mendacity, stupidity, and ignorance.)

From pages 130 – 132 of the court’s memorandum opinion in the Dover Area School District case [emphasis added]:

Although Defendants attempt to persuade this Court that each Board member who voted for the biology curriculum change did so for the secular purpose of improving science education and to exercise critical thinking skills, their contentions are simply irreconcilable with the record evidence. Their asserted purposes are a sham, and they are accordingly unavailing, for the reasons that follow.

We initially note that the Supreme Court has instructed that while courts are “normally deferential to a State’s articulation of a secular purpose, it is required that the statement of such purpose be sincere and not a sham.” Edwards, 482 U.S. at 586-87 (citing Wallace, 472 U.S. at 64)(Powell, J., concurring); id. at 75 (O’Connor, J., concurring in judgment). Although as noted Defendants have consistently asserted that the ID Policy was enacted for the secular purposes of improving science education and encouraging students to exercise critical thinking skills, the Board took none of the steps that school officials would take if these stated goals had truly been their objective. The Board consulted no scientific materials. The Board contacted no scientists or scientific organizations. The Board failed to consider the views of the District’s science teachers. The Board relied solely on legal advice from two organizations with demonstrably religious, cultural, and legal missions, the Discovery Institute and the TMLC. Moreover, Defendants’ asserted secular purpose of improving science education is belied by the fact that most if not all of the Board members who voted in favor of the biology curriculum change conceded that they still do not know, nor have they ever known, precisely what ID is. To assert a secular purpose against this backdrop is ludicrous.

Finally, although Defendants have unceasingly attempted in vain to distance themselves from their own actions and statements, which culminated in repetitious, untruthful testimony, such a strategy constitutes additional strong evidence of improper purpose under the first prong of the Lemon test. As exhaustively detailed herein, the thought leaders on the Board made it their considered purpose to inject some form of creationism into the science classrooms, and by the dint of their personalities and persistence they were able to pull the majority of the Board along in their collective wake. Any asserted secular purposes by the Board are a sham and are merely secondary to a religious objective.

# # #

Defendants’ previously referenced flagrant and insulting falsehoods to the Court provide sufficient and compelling evidence for us to deduce that any allegedly secular purposes that have been offered in support of the ID Policy are equally insincere.

Accordingly, we find that the secular purposes claimed by the Board amount to a pretext for the Board’s real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public school classroom, in violation of the Establishment Clause.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Sunnis in Iraq Consider Cooperation

Moving right along:

Sunnis ready to cooperate with U.S.
By Paul Martin
December 18, 2005

AMMAN, Jordan -- Key Sunni Muslim leaders in Iraq's violent Anbar province have concluded that their interests lie in cooperating with the United States, and they are seeking to extend a temporary truce honored by most insurgent groups for last week's elections.

But at the same time, they are demanding specific steps by the U.S. military, including a reduction in military raids and an increase in development projects for their vast desert province that stretches from the edge of Baghdad to the Syrian and Jordanian borders.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Election truce in Iraq

This is a possibly big development. As reported by The Washington Times and republished by the World Peace Herald, the U.S. forces in Iraq have agreed to a truce with some insurgent groups during the election and for a while afterwards.

U.S. military, insurgents agree on vote truce
By Paul Martin
December 15, 2005

After months of painstaking dialogue, U.S. officials have persuaded most of the main insurgent groups to cease violence for today's election and its immediate aftermath, U.S. officials said yesterday.

In return, the U.S. military agreed, despite severe internal disagreements, to halt "offensive operations" during the period, U.S. Embassy officials said on the condition of anonymity.

A transition from bullets to ballots has to come, if there is to be a stable government in Iraq.

Could the transition be starting already?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Read that back to me

In today's Chicago Tribune is an opinion article purporting to assess the Bush administration's case for invading Iraq. (Yes, they are rehashing what was said back in 2002 and early 2003.)

It's really not a bad article – so long as they are actually quoting Bush and members of his administration.

Then it comes to this jarring end:

But by stripping its rhetoric about Iraq and Al Qaeda of the ambiguity in the intel data, the White House exaggerated this argument for war.

Bush synthesized a better argument, properly invoking Sept. 11, during an Oct. 6, 2004, campaign stop in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. He said that given the dictator's prior use of illicit weapons, his record of aggression, his hatred for the U.S. and his identification by Democratic and Republican administrations as a terror sponsor, "There was a risk--a real risk--that Saddam Hussein would pass weapons, or materials, or information, to terrorist networks. In the world after September the 11th, that was a risk we could not afford to take."

That argument, before the war, would have lacked the impact of implying that Iraq played a role in attacking America. It would, though, have had the virtue of being true.
Not a word in the quoted statements of Bush and his administration implied “that Iraq played a role in attacking America.” Only their own columnist’s words refer to such an implication:

The Bush administration did not, before or after the war, accuse Iraq of perpetrating Al Qaeda's deadliest assault. In fact, on Sept. 18, 2003, Bush told reporters, "We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with Sept. 11." But as Tribune columnist Steve Chapman wrote, that was too little too late: "At a news conference shortly before the campaign in Iraq began, Bush invoked the memory of Sept. 11, 2001, no fewer than eight times. That was enough to foster the widespread impression that we were launching a retaliatory attack, not a pre-emptive one."

Their columnist took the mere mention of September 11th to be implying an Iraqi role in the attack, but the transcript of the press conference shows his impression to be false.

Here’s one interesting little excerpt from that press conference:

“Saddam Hussein has a long history of reckless aggression and terrible crimes. He possesses weapons of terror. He provides funding and training and safe haven to terrorists -- terrorists who would willingly use weapons of mass destruction against America and other peace-loving countries. Saddam Hussein and his weapons are a direct threat to this country, to our people, and to all free people.”

Ironic, isn’t it? That was the President making the very same argument that the Tribune claims was not, but should have been made before the invasion. The press conference was on March 6, 2003, which places it roughly two weeks before the invasion of Iraq.

Maybe there is a "hard-wired" problem in the brains of Bush critics. They cannot see the words they've quoted. Perhaps they should try having someone read the words aloud to them, just to find out whether they can hear the arguments they favor when the arguments are made by Bush.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

NASCAR Signs New Media Deal

The private side of the proposed public-private partnership that would bring NASCAR racing to Kitsap County has agreed to a new multi-year media contract.

Our would-be partner was selectively silent during the press conference when it came to a question about the revenue to be earned from broadcasting companies:

Q: Brian or Dick Glover, are reports of a nearly 40 percent increase over the $400 million dollar a year average contract?
France: We never get into the financial aspects of any of our agreements. Just can't comment on that.
I will tell you that the promotional value that all three companies have committed to is unprecedented. The amount of programming, as said earlier, is going to be quite a benefit to our NASCAR fan base. Just can't get into the financial details.

NASCAR and their subsidiary corporations can, of course, refuse even to give hints about the revenue on their side of the ledger; but how does that fit within the idea of a "partnership" involving the government?

The total of the broadcast media revenue may not be made public, but here's a description of the way the private parties plan to divide up the pie:

Q: Brian or Mr. Glover, one of the larger concerns in the garage anyway about the last television package was kind of how the money breakdown worked. From how we understood it, the vast percentage of that breakdown went to tracks and NASCAR corporate. Can you lay out for us just bare bones how the new percentage breakdown might work?
France: We don't necessarily have a new percentage breakdown. That is something that's not likely to change. We like the way it's allocated currently, which is 65 percent to the tracks, 25 percent directly to the teams, then that little left, that 10 percent, to the fine folks that I work for. It all works out. It's typically worked out fairly well.
Obviously we'll look at it as we go along, but we're pretty comfortable with where we are now.

So, if the state of Washington agrees to pay a little more than half the cost of building a speedway and an as yet unspecified part of the cost for off-site infrastructure improvements, can we look forward to future press conferences in which our private partners will proudly state that they are "pretty comfortable"? Probably so, since the reason for the government subsidy is to enlarge the potential profit for the private side of the public-private partnership.

Would it help if we changed the name of our county for the duration of the coming negotiations from Kitsap to Kitsharp?

Update, Dec. 8, 2005: Why be so coy at their press conference? Today, has the approximate amounts to be paid by each of the networks, and Investor's Business Daily notes the drop in the stock prices of International Speedway Corporation and Speedway Motorsports after the new media contracts were disclosed.
The analysts and investors had been anticipating a bigger increase in the revenue from these new contrasts, so the share price dropped with the disappointing news.
It seems that the approximate revenue from the new contracts is material information that must be disclosed by publicly traded corporations like ISC, so why not answer the question at the press conference?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Lord Tim

First impresssions can be misleading. Having heard Tim Botkin speak once at a forum for county commissioner candidates, I was puzzled at the fact that so many people passionately opposed his re-election as Kitsap County commissioner.

For a while he has been writing a column for The Sun, having quite a bit more time on his hands after his electoral defeat; and his writings reveal a lot more about his ideology than was apparent during that morning's forum.

In today's column, for example, he has again shown himself to be unable to acknowledge the fact that Iraqis are now free to choose their own government leaders. Notice how he couldn't bring himself to write the word, freeing, without using quotation marks:

Due to our continuing missteps in Iraq, our national credibility at home and abroad is in tatters. Our claims of "freeing" that country are discredited by reports of prisoner abuse, media interference and our inability to establish their military or rebuild their infrastructure — these on top of our reputation as self-serving, yet touting "globalism."

Read the whole thing, and keep in mind the existence of a large country with a powerful military force in opposition to our own during something called the Cold War -- you won't find it mentioned in Lord Tim's screed. He has a very odd view of the world.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Error, Not Lack of Dollars, Caused Flood Wall Failure in New Orleans

It appears that the flood wall failed along the 17th Street canal in New Orleans for the oldest of reasons: human error in its design and construction.

Instead of a lack of funding or care in maintenance, it seems to have been a simple design error:

Several high-level academic and professional investigations have found that the sheet piling used in the design to support the floodwalls was too short for the 18.5-foot depth of the canal.

(Hat tip: Instapundit)

Corporal Jeffrey Starr's last words: All of them

Danny Westneat of The Seattle Times is right: Anyone who wants to state the last words of the late Corporal Jeffrey Starr, U.S. Marine Corps, ought to include them all.

Even President Bush couldn't do it – omitting the part that said: "I kind of predicted this — that is why I'm writing this in November. A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances."

I suppose the president's speech writers didn't want to include anything that would remind people of the long passage of time since the invasion of Iraq – long enough for a young Marine to be facing his third time in country.

Corporal Starr's courage is evident from the omitted passage. He wasn't a naive and reckless young fellow who didn't realize the dangers. He knew full well what could be ahead, and he went willingly into harm's way.

His courage and commitment ought to be fully recognized, even if some people are reminded of how long our armed forces personnel have been in Iraq.

Best Unemployment Rate in 30 Years

Which came first -- the stagnant economy or the collective ideology?

When we have unemployment rates of 6.4 percent in the U.S., we often call it a recession.

For Canada, it's different. As reported today by the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Canada's unemployment rate unexpectedly fell to 6.4 per cent, its lowest in more than 30 years, as the economy added 30,600 jobs in November, Statistics Canada said Friday.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Washington Supreme Court Rejects "Recall Reed"

The wrongheaded effort to recall Secretary of State Sam Reed because of perceived failings in the certification of the last gubernatorial election was tossed out today by the Washington Supreme Court.

The court held that Reed's ministerial role under our constitution left him no choice but to hand the counties' election returns to the legislature:

Charge nine asserts that Secretary Reed failed to withhold certification of the manual recount of votes in the governor's election. State law requires that the canvassing boards of each county certify the results of the votes cast in their respective counties. RCW 29A.60.190. The county canvassing boards are charged by law with the duty to 'verify the results from the precincts and the absentee ballots.' RCW 29A.60.200. By contrast, the secretary of state's statutory duties are limited to compiling county election returns on a statewide basis. RCW 29A.60.250. See also WAC 434-262-100.
More fundamentally, the state constitution imposes upon the secretary of state a ministerial duty to certify the returns as submitted by the counties. Thus, the secretary of state has a constitutional duty to deliver the counties' respective returns to the speaker of the house. In light of the constitution's mandatory provisions, appellants' charge nine would require Secretary Reed to disregard a constitutional duty. Thus, charge nine is legally insufficient. [Emphasis added.]

Here's the pertinent language of Article III, Section 4 of the state constitution:

The returns of every election for the officers named in the first section of this article shall be sealed up and transmitted to the seat of government by the returning officers, directed to the secretary of state, who shall deliver the same to the speaker of the house of representatives at the first meeting of the house thereafter, who shall open, publish and declare the result thereof in the presence of a majority of the members of both houses. [Emphasis added.]

Note that the counties' returns are "sealed up" and sent to the secretary of state, who then delivers them -- unopened -- to the speaker of the house of representatives.

It's too bad the supreme court didn't quote that part of the constitution and point out the absurdity of claiming that Reed "certifies" the election of a governor.

The legislature certifies the election of the governor and issues the certificate of election. No one else in our state government has the authority to do so under our constitution.

The wording of our constitution is so plain in this regard that it is beyond imagining how anyone could misunderstand the meaning of the words.

So, can anyone explain how the legislature and their staff members and the secretary of state and his staff misunderstand that part of the constitution? Why does the secretary open and publish the counties' returns?