30 June 2007

In a 5-4 Supreme Court decision this past Monday, Chief Justice Roberts decided to take a narrow view of the First Amendment's free speech clause, and allow government officials to punish a student for holding up a hilarious sign off school property, as the Olympic torch passed on the streets of Alaska.

In 2002, the Winter Olympic Torch Relay was set to pass through the city of Juneau, Alaska. Joseph Frederick did not even show up for school that day, which had dismissed its students so that they could watch the torch pass, or wander off at their pleasure. Frederick was not on school property, but had gathered nearby with some friends. When the television cameras turned on, Frederick unfurled a 14-foot banner saying "BONG HiTS 4 JESUS." Deborah Morse, the school's principal, raced across the street and ordered the students to take down the banner. Frederick did not comply, and the banner was snatched from his hands. Morse suspended Frederick for five days, but doubled the suspension to ten days after Frederick quoted Thomas Jefferson on free speech.

The Supreme Court has consistently held that you do not forfeit your First Amendment rights when you enter a school zone. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court has, in past cases, allowed teachers to discriminate in school newspapers with regard to what student speech it will positively endorse (Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier). It has also allowed school officials to discipline students for disrupting school assembly events by giving clearly disruptive and sexually explicit speeches to large student audiences on school property (Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraser). However, in its majority opinion, the court here doesn't argue that this speech would lead bystanders to think that the school endorses taking bong hits. Nor does the court argue that the speech here was offensive and disruptive. That's good, because both of those positions are untenable. However, the Roberts opinion does carve out a new area where schools can suppress student speech: where it can reasonably be seen by a third party as promoting illegal drug use. Drug use is apparently so horribly, awfully bad that we have to squash speech that might have a positive tilt on marijuana use.

The court talks a lot about "illegal drugs" (the opinion uses this general term to draw on images of kids on PCP rather than the simple marijuana to which the sign referred) and how teachers have an "important - indeed, perhaps compelling" government interest in preventing "severe and permanent damage to the health and well-being of young people." But in reality, this banner was no more damaging to students than a sign saying "HOMER SIMPSON DRINKS BEER." That is to say, there is no harm at all, let alone a compelling interest sufficient to overcome the First Amendment's free speech guarantees.

All in all, I'd say that this was a very disappointing opinion. At least they didn't take Justice Thomas's super-restrictive approach by overturning Tinker and doing away with student speech rights altogether.

The Alito/Kennedy concurring opinion was at least a little better. They ultimately agreed with Roberts, but added that they wouldn't restrict speech that can plausibly be interpreted as a comment on social or political issues, including "the wisdom of the war on drugs or of legalizing marijuana for medicinal use." But still, I see no compelling basis for restricting speech that's incidentally favorable to the idea of doing drugs. And under our First Amendment, you should really have a very compelling reason for punishing someone's speech.


SCOTUS: One more thing...

29 June 2007

Just when you think it's all over.

"The Supreme Court, reversing course, agreed Friday to review whether Guantanamo Bay detainees may go to federal court to challenge their indefinite confinement."
And in related news, 145 lawmakers from the House of Representatives sent this letter to the President:

June 29, 2007

President George W. Bush

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

Recent reports in the media have suggested that your administration is now considering reversing its position to keep open the detention facilities at Joint Task Force-Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO). If accurate, we applaud the decision. Since the time that captured "enemy combatants" were first brought to Guantanamo Bay in 2002, the detainment facility has undermined America's image as the model of justice and protector of human rights around the world. Holding prisoners for an indefinite period of time, without charging them with a crime goes against our values, ideals and principles as a nation governed by the rule of law. Further, Guantanamo Bay has a become a liability in the broader global war on terror, as allegations of torture, the indefinite detention of innocent men, and international objections to the treatment of enemy combatants has hurt our credibility as the beacon for freedom and justice. Its continued operation also threatens the safety of U.S. citizens and military personnel detained abroad. The House-passed National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 (H.R. 1585) included a provision requiring the Secretary of Defense to develop a plan to transfer detainees from Guantanamo Bay. United States military barracks have the capability to provide for the secure detainment of foreign nationals while ensuring the safety of communities within their proximate geographic location. Further, the military locations afford on-site access to military courtrooms for the timely adjudication of all legal proceedings. The closure of the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay would represent a positive first step toward restoring our international reputation as the leader of democracy and individual rights. We also feel that it is necessary to restore the right of habeas corpus to the detainees. This will allow for the implementation of fair and transparent trials to bring enemies of our country to justice. The global war on terror cannot be won through military might alone. It is a war of ideas and philosophies. A liability of our own creation, the existence of the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay is defeating our effort to ensure that the principles of freedom, justice and human rights are spread throughout the world. We look forward to working with you on what we hope is a shared objective to close the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay.

Tom Delay and the False Choice

28 June 2007

Tom "The Hammer" Delay wrote an article at Politico on Monday containing his opinions on climate change and energy policy. But before looking at what Delay has to say on the topic, let's review the logical fallacy of False Dilemma:

The formal fallacy of false dilemma—also known as false choice, false dichotomy, falsified dilemma, fallacy of the excluded middle, black and white thinking, false correlative, either/or fallacy, and bifurcation—involves a situation in which two alternative statements are held to be the only possible options, when in reality there exist one or more other options which have not been considered. The fallacy relies on a misuse of the or operator.

And just to be sure, here's an example:

"Mark is late for work. Either his car has broken down, or he has overslept. We telephoned and learned he isn't at home, so his car must have broken down."

Now let's see what The Hammer has to say:

"[W]e have two options. First of all, we can stop. Everything. In order to make a real change, a revolutionary change, in our "carbon footprint" or whatever idiotic standard Al Gore is using to scold the American people this week, we would have to shut down every combustion engine in the country. No cars. No trucks. No planes. We'd also have to shut down every earth-moving vehicles and no excavation construction projects...we wouldn't have any building materials, because we'd have to shut down the timber new resources, no manufacturing industry, rationed goods and service, rationed electricity availability, no supermarkets (no trucks, remember). Basically, we'd hop into our time machines and land back in the, say, 1920s..."

Okay, I don't think that anyone has ever proposed that. But anyway, what are our other options, Mr. Hammer?

"So what's left? Two viable political options.

First, someone could propose a truly workable package of reforms -- a series of tax credits and market-based incentives for companies to reduce their emissions, for instance, rather than the zero-sum silliness of current cap-and-trade schemes.

Any serious proposal would have to begin with increasing domestic production, which could be done "green" by way of modern drilling technology or nuclear energy. But then again, no one's going to vote for a Republican because of his campaign's clever environmental white paper."

Hm. So that's the totally innovative Republican position that no Democratic politician has ever even proposed? Because all that business about tax credits and market based incentives were a part of Al Gore's 2000 Presidential platform, and are still included in every Democratic candidate's current platform. (Also, what's this about "green drilling"?)

And our second option?

"This brings us to option No. 2, the liberals' preference: insincere hectoring."

So there you have it. According to The Hammer, if anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases contribute to atmospheric warming, Democrats can either (1) shut down everything, (2) give a few tax cuts here and there, or (3) bitch and moan without doing anything at all.

Senate Energy Bill

27 June 2007

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources posted the full text of the new energy bill here. The bill is titled "An Act to reduce our Nation's dependency on foreign oil by investing in clean, renewable, and alternative energy resources, promoting new emerging energy technologies, developing greater efficiency, and creating a Strategic Energy Efficiency and Renewables Reserve to invest in alternative energy, and for other purposes."

Washington Post on Dick Cheney

Giuliani Supports Regent University

26 June 2007

Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani spoke at Pat Robertson's Regent University (formerly "Christian Broadcasting Network University") today.

I am very, very impressed with Regent University, when I consider that it was founded just a short while ago. The number of graduates that you have and the amount of influence that you have is really, really terrific.

And of all the many things that you've done - and there have been many, and many contributions...

Regent University is ranked as a fourth tier law school, where it is tied for the the position of "worst school." It is simply the lowest ranked. Despite this academic ineptitude, one in six Regent grads are employed by the government, and 150 are specifically serving in the Bush administration (Monica Goodling is a Regent U. grad). We've got retards running wild, and Rudy Giuliani is congratulating them for carrying so much influence.

And just for fun, let's take a look at a few choice quotes from their leader, "Dr." Pat Robertson.

  • "If anybody understood what Hindus really believe, there would be no doubt that they have no business administering government policies in a country that favors freedom and equality."
  • "[Homosexuals] want to come into churches and disrupt church services and throw blood all around and try to give people AIDS and spit in the face of ministers."
    -The 700 Club 1/18/1995
  • "I know this is painful for the ladies to hear, but if you get married, you have accepted the headship of a man, your husband. Christ is the head of the household and the husband is the head of the wife, and that's the way it is, period."
  • "Just like what Nazi Germany did to the Jews, so liberal America is now doing to the evangelical Christians. It's no different. It is the same thing. It is happening all over again. It is the Democratic Congress, the liberal-based media and the homosexuals who want to destroy the Christians. Wholesale abuse and discrimination and the worst bigotry directed toward any group in America today. More terrible than anything suffered by any minority in history."
    -Interview with Molly Ivins
  • "I'm not necessarily saying it's going to be nuclear. The Lord didn't say nuclear. But I do believe it will be something like that."
    -Recounting how god talked to him about an upcoming disaster
  • "Presbyterians are the spirit of the Antichrist."
    -The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, p. 239
  • "When lawlessness is abroad in the land, the same thing will happen here that happened in Nazi Germany. Many of those people involved with Adolph Hitler were Satanists, many of them were homosexuals – the two things seem to go together."

Clinton and Stem Cell Misinformation

25 June 2007

Hillary Clinton made the following statements at a Take Back America conference last week:

“You know, later today, apparently, the president will veto a bill passed by Congress to support stem cell research.

“Now, this is research that…holds such promise for devastating diseases. Yesterday, I met with a group of children suffering from juvenile diabetes. I co-chair the Alzheimer's caucus in the Senate. I've worked on helping to boost funding for research to look for cures and a way to prevent so many devastating diseases. And we know that stem cell research holds the key to our understanding more about what we can do. So let me be very clear: When I am president, I will lift the ban on stem cell research.

“This is just one example of how the President puts ideology before science, politics before the needs of our families, just one more example of how out of touch with reality he and his party have become. And it's just one more example as to why we're going to send them packing in January 2009, and return progressive leadership to the White House.”

Whoa, there. Let's make sure we've got this straight. There is no "ban on stem cell research," not even on embryonic stem cell research. Private individuals are free to fund and perform research on embryonic stem cells, and nobody in Congress has the political power or will to change that. That is a good thing. All that this veto means is that federal funds cannot be spent on embryonic stem cell research. That is a bad thing. But let's not go crazy and start making things up, or spreading popular misconceptions.

SCOTUS Term Ending - 3 Cases

With the Supreme Court term coming to an end, the Court released a flurry of decisions today.

I'll write more later as I read the opinions. In the meantime, here are some links discussing the cases, starting off with Marty Lederman, who briefly discusses all the different decisions here.

Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation
-Decision can be found here
-Megan Greer summarizes the decision here.
-FFRF responds here.
-David Stras explores what decision is controlling here.
-Timothy Sandefur evaluates the implications here.
-Don Byrd pulls out some representative quotes here.

Morse v. Frederick (the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case)
-Decision can be found here.
-Eugene Volokh's analysis can be found here.

National Association of Home Builders v. Defenders of Wildlife
-Decision can be found here.
-Jonathan Adler's analysis can be found here.

Debate - Frank Zappa and John Lofton on Crossfire (1986)

22 June 2007

The Debaters:
Frank Zappa, awesome musician.

John Lofton, member of the Constituion Party, radio talk-show host, editor of the American View blog, and former Washington Times columnist. Lofton recently referred to public education as "spiritual child abuse" and said that:

To put a child through 15,000 hours of Godless, Christless, Holy Spiritless, no-Bible, non-Christian “education” (K through 12) is sin and ignores what has been said by many of the greatest teachers of the Reformed faith. A Godless “education” is not bringing children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Such an “education” is not “for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31) — or which we are commanded to do everything.
Topic: Music censorship.

Lessig Shifts Goals

21 June 2007

It looks like Lawrence Lessig is leaving copyright behind to pursue other goals.

I have decided to shift my academic work, and soon, my activism, away from the issues that have consumed me for the last 10 years, towards a new set of issues: Namely, these. "Corruption" as I've defined it elsewhere will be the focus of my work. For at least the next 10 years, it is the problem I will try to help solve.

Yeah, I don't know exactly what this means or how Lessig plans on fighting this "corruption," but I still look forward to seeing what the hell happens next.

Stem Cell Bill Vetoed

20 June 2007

Currently, the federal government is not allowed to spend any funds on embryonic stem cell research unless it involves one of the limited lines created before 9:00 PM EDT on August 9, 2001.

Congress recently passed this bill to ease restrictions on federal funds for embryonic stem cell research. It would only open the door to federal funding of embryos that were created in fertility clinics for other reasons, and would be discarded anyway. The House voted 247-176 in favor of the bill (role call here), as did the Senate in a 63-34 vote.

Today, President Bush vetoed the bill. Again. At today's press meeting, Bush repeatedly stated that embryonic stem cell research amounts to the "destruction of human life" and that it "crosses an ethical barrier," even though he also bragged about being the first to fund it and would never dare to treat such research on the same level as murder.

In an attempt to cushion the blow, President Bush cited recent research which indicates that scientists may, at some point in the future, be able to convert skin cells into pluripotent stem cells comparable to the embryonic stem cells currently available. In reality, this only means that the federal government will spend a good amount of money to research how to get something we already have (and which will be either frozen or discarded anyway), thus significantly delaying any potential benefits. It's also worth noting that the researchers President Bush cited here have themselves said: "we're just not there yet, and it's going to take a long time to demonstrate that. Meanwhile, other techniques already work well. So let's get on with it."

EDIT: The Democratic Caucus's Senate Journal comments on the speech here.

CNN Takes Apocalypse Seriously

18 June 2007

CNN recently aired an hour-long presentation entitled "Honest Questions About the End of Days." In it, host Glenn Beck interviewed Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye, authors of the Left Behind series (which even spawned a video game) about how Russia and Iran are probably going to fulfill some biblical prophecies and bring about the rise of the antichrist, etc. The whole program is ridiculous, but here are a few quotes to capture the flavor.

First, they ackowledge that people consider them crazy.
GLENN BECK: "This is a show that I`ve wanted to do for a while, but quite honestly, what stops me from doing it is people think I`m nuts."
JOEL ROSENBERG, AUTHOR, "EPICENTER": "people, for years, have been saying that evangelical Christians who talk about the Book of Revelation or the last days are sort of the weird and spooky ones."
JERRY JENKINS, CO-AUTHOR, "LEFT BEHIND" SERIES: "We get labeled as crackpots"
GLENN BECK: "It might sound nuts, but I encourage you to listen and, at the end of the hour, judge for yourself. Is this nuts, or is it possible that this is happening?"
JERRY JENKINS: "they`re saying we`re crazy"
GLENN BECK: "There are times I think I`m nuts"
TIM LAHAYE: "I was afraid that people would come to this conclusion and think we`re crazy and then, after they read it, then they knew we were crazy."
GLENN BECK: "there would be people that would say, this is nuts"

So what prophecies have been fulfilled so far?
TIME LAHAYE, CO-AUTHOR, "LEFT BEHIND" SERIES: "In Daniel 12, he talks about in the last days -- he specifies when it will be -- the people will be running to and fro on the earth and knowledge will be increased. You talk about evidence of the supernatural in the Bible, how in the world did that prophet, 2,500 years ago, link up knowledge and travel? And yet, that`s exactly what we have. Because of the increase in knowledge, there has been an increase in the speed of travel. And people are running everywhere in the world."

When will this happen?
TIM LAHAYE: "I`ve come to the conclusion that the world cannot last, prophetically, more than 25 to 50 years."

This isn't the first serious treatment of apocalyptic scenarios I've seen on CNN. But what's most distressing to me is that it's not just CNN who takes this crap seriously.
JOEL ROSENBERG: "And what`s fascinating to me, since I have, I`ve been invited to the CIA, invited to the Pentagon, to the White House, to speak to people on Capitol Hill, and in countries all over the world -- privately, it`s almost, you know, off the record, we want to sit and ask you, Joel, do you really believe that Iraq is going to rise as the most wealthy and powerful country on the face of the planet? A senior adviser to the prime minister of Iraq had breakfast with me in Washington to ask me that question."

EDIT: Glenn Beck also reveals his fears that global warming is merely an excuse for the UN to create the one-world government that the bible prophecies predict the anti-christ will run.

Nope, still don't get it

I don't get your point, Mike

15 June 2007

Iranian Bill Proposes Death Sentence For Porn Stars

13 June 2007

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran's parliament on Wednesday voted in favor of a bill that could lead to the death penalty for persons convicted of working in the production of pornographic movies.

With a 148-5 vote in favor and four abstentions, lawmakers present at the Wednesday session of the 290-seat parliament approved that "producers of pornographic works and main elements in their production are considered corrupter of the world and could be sentenced to punishment as corrupter of the world."

The term, "corrupter of the world" is taken from the Quran, the Muslims' holy book, and ranks among the highest on the scale of an individual's criminal offenses. Under Iran's Islamic Penal Code, it carries a death penalty.

Homosexuality* and adultery* are already death penalty offenses in Iran. The Iranian penal code even specifies the type of rock to use when stoning such a person to death.

Pat Robertson Says Some Crap

12 June 2007

From "The 700 Club":

"Ladies and gentlemen, we have to recognize that Islam is not a religion. It is a worldwide political movement meant on domination of the world. And it is meant to subjugate all people under Islamic law. In the Quran, it says it very clearly. There are two spheres. One is the Dar al-Harb, which is the realm of war. The other is Dar al-Islam, which is that part that's under submission to Islam. There is no middle ground. You're either at war or you're under submission. Now, that's the way they think.

Now, sure, over here, you've got Islam light and you've got all these various things, but the idea is we don't want just accommodation, we want to take over and we want to impose Sharia on you. And before long, ladies are going to be dressed in burqas and whatever garments they would put on them, and next thing you know, men are going to be allowed to have wife-beating and you'll be beheading adulterers and so on and so forth. That's Saudi Arabia. We don't want that here in America. If they don't like it here in America, then let them go to Saudi Arabia, to Kuwait, to Yemen, to all those wonderful nations around the Middle East. "

Muslim-baiting aside, I have to agree with Pat that Sharia law is 100% undesireable. That being said, I'm glad that a good number of Muslims practice "Islam light" and forego the whole Sharia law thing. Likewise, I'm glad that today most of the Judeo-Christian community practices "Christianity/Judaism light" and sidesteps the whole Mosaic law thing as well. Let's not forget that the god of the Old Testament also instructed his followers to kill adulterers (Lev. 20:10), and subjugate women (Ephesians 5:22-24).

Happy Loving Day

Today is the 40th Anniversary of the aptly named Loving v. Virginia case, in which the Supreme Court recognized the unconstitutionality of interracial marriage bans.

Mildred Loving recently had this to say on the topic:

"When my late husband, Richard, and I got married in Washington, DC in 1958, it wasn't to make a political statement or start a fight. We were in love, and we wanted to be married. Not a day goes by that I don't think of Richard and our love, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the 'wrong kind of person' for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. I am proud that Richard's and my name are on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight, seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That's what Loving, and loving, are all about."

Gallup Poll - GOP and Evolution

11 June 2007

A new Gallup poll on evolution shows that a majority of Republicans (68%!) are scientifically illiterate. C'mon guys, you're making the rest of the country look bad.

Although the correlation is even stronger in this group:

It's worth reading the link, which outlines the reasons why people tend to not believe in evolution. The #1 reason? "I believe in Jesus Christ." Seriously. Other popular reasons include "I believe in the almighty God, creator of Heaven and Earth," "Due to my religion and faith," "I believe in what I read in the Bible," and "I'm a Christian." According to Gallup, "The majority of these responses are clearly religious in nature."

Abstinence-Only Renewal

The United States spends somewhere around $87.5 million each year on abstinence-only education. Given this hefty bill, Congress recently commissioned a study to determine if it was paying off. The result?

"The impact results from the four selected programs show no impacts on rates of sexual abstinence."

And just for good measure, here are a few more.

"Current research findings do not support the position that the abstinence-only approach to sexuality education is effective in delaying the onset of intercourse."

"…It is a matter of grave concern that there is such a large incentive to adopt unproven abstinence-only approaches." "…the effective programs identified to date provide information about safer sex, condoms, and contraceptives, in addition to encouraging abstinence."

"…Investing hundreds of millions of dollars of federal and state funds over five years in abstinence-only programs with no evidence of effectiveness constitutes poor fiscal and public health policy…. Congress, as well as other federal, state and local policy makers, [should] eliminate requirements that public funds be used for abstinence-only education."

"Proponents of abstinence-only policies argue that providing information about contraception or providing condoms to adolescents sends a mixed message to youth and may promote sexual activity." However, "expert panels that have studied this issue, have concluded that comprehensive sex and HIV/AIDS education programs and condom availability programs can be effective in reducing high-risk sexual behaviors among adolescents. In addition, these reviews and expert panels conclude that school-based sex education and condom availability programs do not increase sexual activity among adolescents."

"…Two trends have contributed to the declines in teenage birth and pregnancy rates. First, the long-term increase in the proportion of teenaged women who were sexually experienced leveled [off]… In addition, among sexually experienced teenagers who used any method of contraception, condom use increased substantially."

"Although sexual abstinence is a desirable objective, programs must include instruction in safer sex behavior, including condom use. The effectiveness of these programs is supported by strong scientific evidence."

"All adolescents should be counseled about the correct and consistent use of latex condoms to reduce risk of infection."

Basically, the program is a failure and doesn't even increase abstinence, let alone reduce teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. So what does Congress do in response? Well, the House subcommittee wants to increase federal funding by $27.8 to $141 million. Apparently, the Democrats are complying with this in order to persuade Congressional Republicans to go along with their other domestic spending plans. But there's not even any guarantee that that will happen.

So what we have here is an expensive program that the majority party says it doesn't want, that the data shows doesn't work, and which apparently will just increase incidents of teenage pregnancy and STDs. And the Democrats are agreeing to increase its funding.

It's also worth noting that federal funding of abstinence-only education has a history of subsidizing religious proselytization. For example, over $1 million in federal funds were spent on the Silver Ring Thing, an abstinence-only group that attempted to achieve its goal by handing out silver rings lined with bible quotes. Currently, the Stop and Think program is receiving funds for abstinence-only education in Oregon. This group requires that its supervisors “possess an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ; possess knowledge of the Word of God, and the ability to communicate it’s [sic] truth; exhibit a loving and merciful spirit; [and] attend a Bible believing local church or fellowship.”

And just for fun, what do the presidential candidates think about this?
  • John McCain "strongly opposes efforts by the Democratic-controlled Congress to eliminate abstinence-only sex education classes for school-aged children."
  • Mike Huckabee says
    "Abstinence education provides a valuable counterweight to peer pressure and the message young people get from the popular culture encouraging casual relationships and separating sex from love, commitment and marriage. I do not believe in teaching about sex or contraception in public schools. That is the responsibility of parents. I am disappointed that funding for abstinence education is not likely to be renewed by the Democrat Congress. This reversal only emphasizes how important it is for Republicans to take back Congress and win the White House with an authentic conservative in 2008. I miss the America I grew up in where the Gideons gave Bibles to fifth graders instead of school nurses giving condoms to eighth graders. With so much at stake, it's important that we return to the core values and guiding principles which have made our country great."
  • Sam Brownback says
    "Abstinence-only programs are great examples of curriculums that send positive messages to young people encouraging them to protect themselves and their future. Teens who abstain from sexual activity are less likely to have children out-of-wedlock; less likely to live in poverty and on welfare; and more likely to have stable marriages as adults. Title V of the Social Security Act supports abstinence education and aims to keep our youth out of harm's way by protecting them from sexually transmitted diseases and other risky situations. Accordingly, I support the reauthorization of Title V and have recently sent a letter to the Senate Finance Committee asking Chairman Baucus and Ranking Member Grassley to make this reauthorization a reality."

Stem Cell Bill

10 June 2007

Congress recently passed this bill, which would lift certain restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. It only applies to stem cells that "have been donated from in vitro fertilization clinics, were created for the purposes of fertility treatment ... were in excess of the clinical need of the individuals seeking such treatment ... would never be implanted in a woman and would otherwise be discarded." In other words, it frees the federal government to perform research on embryos that will be destroyed anyway. Unfortunately, the vote was only 63-34 in the Senate and 247-176 in the House, not enough to survive the promised veto.

Presidential Candidates' Energy Policies

08 June 2007

A basic breakdown of all the candidates' positions can be found here, and a handy chart with more specific policies can be found here.

NPR has yet another breakdown here.

CNN on Creationism

Michael Smerconish interviewed creationist Ken Ham on CNN last night. It started off with an endorsement ("If you`re looking for a great vacation for the family this summer, you might want to forget about Disney World or Six Flags and try the brand spanking new Creation Museum in Kentucky") and then continued with softball questions ("so dinosaurs co-existed with man, with Adam and Eve?") and statements of support ("what I`m upset about is when we see like we`re giving shelter to the kids by hiding them from different theories [creationism] that are out there"). Reading the transcript, it becomes very clear that Smerconish is just setting Ham up to give his spiel, without even a whiff of criticism. But still, even with these easy set-up questions, Smerconish assures Ham that "I'm not giving you a workout," and that "I want to take my kids to your -- to your place."

Then the interview ends:
HAM: You know, there`s information being censored from the public. I believe that they all need to hear this and be challenged in their thinking. I was taught to be a teacher, to teach students critical thinking skills, so I think that`s a great idea.
SMERCONISH: Amen to that, and no pun intended. Thank you, Dr. Hamm. Appreciate you being here.

Discovery Institute v. Peter Irons

07 June 2007

The University of Montana Law Review recently featured an exchange between the Discovery Institute, a think-tank that advocates for Intelligent Design, and Peter Irons, a Supreme Court historian from Harvard.

The DI's first article, titled "Intelligent Design Will Survive," can be found here.

Peter Irons' reply, titled "Disaster In Dover," can be found here.

The DI's response ("Rebuttal To Irons") can be found here.

Finally, Irons'reply to the DI rebuttal can be found here, via Ed Brayton.

GOP Talk Clock

06 June 2007

Wolf Blitzer Is A Joke

From the Situation Room today:

WOLF BLITZER: Some people think you can learn a lot about a person by the pet they own. So, the Associated Press is breaking down the presidential field between dog and cat lovers. Six contenders cast their votes for canines. Hillary Clinton and John Edwards are proud dog owners.

Dennis Kucinich and Mike Huckabee and Duncan Hunter each have more than one pooch in the family. Mitt Romney's dog Marley recently passed on.

Barack Obama, Rudy Giuliani, Tom Tancredo, and Chris Dodd currently are petless.

In our next hour, cat lovers, they will get equal time.

Brownback on Evolution

MR. BLITZER: I wonder if you’d want to spend 30 seconds and tell our audience out there where you stand on the issue of evolution.

SEN. BROWNBACK: I’d be happy to. And it’s interesting that we’re doing this here, at St. Anselm’s, who this — that saint had a philosophy of faith seeking reason. And that’s the issue that’s missing here, if I could highlight that point, is that I believe that we are created in the image of God for a particular purpose. And I believe that with all my heart. And I’m somebody — I’ve had cancer in the past. I’ve had a season to really look at this and study it and think about the end of life. And I am fully convinced there’s a God of the universe that loves us very much and was involved in the process. How he did it, I don’t know.

One of the problems we have with our society today is that we put faith and science at odds with each other. They aren’t at odds with each other. If they are, check your faith or check your science. And we should have a discussion.

MR. BLITZER: Thank you.

SEN. BROWNBACK: And we should engage faith and reason, like Saint Anselm did.

MR. BLITZER: Thank you.

SEN. BROWNBACK: That’s something we should do.

MR. BLITZER: Thank you
So Brownback is complaining that other people put faith and science at odds with each other, but just last week he had this to say on the topic:
"Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science."

Translation: I have a religious conviction that this event happened in the past, and any science that contradicts with that is atheistic nonsense. But it's them, not me, who's pitting science against faith by not tailoring their science to my faith.

Huckabee on Evolution

From the GOP debate last night:

Why is Huckabee so surprised that this question would come up? Even though the president doesn't personally write school curriculum, he does have the power to sign or veto legislation touching on the issue (see the Santorum amendment), and he has significant power and influence in the Department of Education. If you support taking biology education back to the Middle Ages, then that's a perfectly fair question to ask. Especially since you have said in the past that "I think that students also should be given exposure to the theories not only of evolution but to the basis of those who believe in creationism."

After complaining that the question was unfair and that it simply asked if he believed in god or not (which is 100% not what the question asked and completely ignores the fact that most people reconcile their belief in god with evolution), Huckabee makes a strange assertion: "But I’ll tell you what I can tell the country. If they want a president who doesn’t believe in God, there’s probably plenty of choices." Actually, there are no choices. Unless Huckabee equates belief in evolution with godlessness (as it appears he might be doing here), in which case there are thankfully other options.

When asked if he believes that the earth was literally created in a six-day period 6,000 years ago, Huckabee made a joke about not being there. Here's a hint: you could always look at the evidence. I don't know why this ridiculous comment received so much laughter and applause (I'm looking at you, Rudy). Especially in this context, where Huckabee refused to distance himself from the scientifically untenable position of a 6,000 year-old earth.

...Also, I don't understand the bizarre argument that somehow "days" could really mean "periods of time" (up to and including millions of years, to be safe).

In the end, Huckabee concludes with a bit of sniping masked as something resembling tolerance: "If anybody wants to believe that they are the descendants of a primate, they're certainly welcome to do it." Uh, Mike, not only have we descended from primates, but we are taxonomically classified as primates ourselves!

Despite this all-around horrible response, CNN commentators ate it up:
ANDERSON COOPER: Certainly, the question of creationism came up tonight. Mike Huckabee talked about it very eloquently.
MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think Governor Huckabee was very eloquent.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I thought the most eloquent person I heard, either tonight or Sunday night, was Mike Huckabee. I thought his answer about evolution and his one about what it means to be pro-life were breathtaking.
AMY HOLMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I thought again Huckabee did a great job of actually turning that question around. It's not such an unusual thing to believe in creationism. And this isn't an exotic point of view; it's one that's held by many Americans.
TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR, "HUMANT EVENTS": He's a very eloquent man.
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: A lot of people very impressed with his performance, calling him polished and funny, particularly interested in his answers to the questions about evolution and his belief in God. They thought that he was very succinct and very, very polished.

C'mon guys, you're just easily impressed by anything that sounds good. How about examining the content?

UPDATE: CNN continues to embarass itself with poor coverage of this issue. Instead of saying even once that the overwhelming majority of geologists, paleontologists, biologists, etc. believe young-earth creationism (what Huckabee was asked about) to be incredibly silly, CNN just states that "former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, offered a spirited defense of the biblical creation narrative," and then uncritically repeats his arguments.

The Economist on Climate Change

04 June 2007

The Economist has several articles on "how business is tackling climate change," and they're all available for free online.

Democratic Debate

03 June 2007


01 June 2007

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), seen on the above making a presentation to the Senate, recently published an op-ed in the NY Times in which he explains exactly why he does not believe in evolution. No scientific arguments are included, even though it is really a scientific question. Instead, Brownback talks about how great faith is and how reason cannot contradict faith, concluding that "Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science." My reaction can be found here.