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Thursday, January 13, 2005

I Ran for President and All I Got Was This Blog

Former presidential candidate Dennis J. Kucinich has recently started a blog. He does not post too often, but his posts are startling in their honesty and content, considering he is still in Congress. (Thanks to Steve S. for directing me to this.)

The Violence We Bring is A-O-K

"The uncomfortable reality is that the purposeful suffering inflicted by armed conflict is more morally tolerable than suffering caused by natural disasters."

Read on here.

Scopes Monkey See, Scopes Monkey Do

For non-Christians, like myself, the idea that creationism should be taught on equal footing is absurd. The philosophical teachings in The Bible, which are based on stories that almost by rule cannot be proven, are no match for the massive body of evidence supporting evolution.

The only reason to believe in creation is if you have "faith" that it is true. There are no facts, and almost all of the suppositions behind creationism are contradicted by science.

Of course, Christian faith is a helluva drug. It blinds most creationists to rational debate about the issue, because they can answer any evidence of evolution with some variation of this argument: God is testing our faith by planting false clues. When you have faith, you can believe anything. As the evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould once wrote:
"The rise of creationism is politics, pure and simple; it represents one issue (and by no means the major concern) of the resurgent evangelical right. Arguments that seemed kooky just a decade ago have reentered the mainstream."
For example, a federal judge ruled this week that that school officials in Cobb County, Georgia (one of the reddest of red states), must remove stickers placed in textbooks two years ago that said this:
"This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."
The judge said that the stickers were added at the behest of Christian groups who want children to think of evolution as a hunch. The groups were troubled that evolution was taught as a fact and not countered with rival theories, namely creationism.

If Christians want to believe that, that is fine with me, but keep that at home or in church where it belongs.

Gould has an excellent essay on the fundamentalists effort to undermine evolution education here. I suggest you read it.

UPDATE: Teachers at a Pennsylvania school are refusing "the instructions of local officials to read a statement in class today questioning the theory of evolution". In this case, Christian dogma is being disguised as science, which is exactly what Gould addressed in the abovementioned essay. They anti-evolutionists call their theory "intelligent design," which argues that life is too complicated to have evolved into its present state. Gould, as you can see in the essay, shows how this tactic is used to "disprove" evolution without really disproving anything, while advancing a theory that is "proven" because the other theory has been "disproven." Confused? You should be.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

DeLaney to Citizens: Screw You

It sure didn't long for Paula DeLaney to prove me right. Her first big vote as a new Alachua County commissioner was to switch the county's plan to make Southwest 24th Avenue a two-lane road into a four-lane road, at the behest of developer Clark Butler, who needs the extra lanes to gain state approval for a massive expansion to Butler Plaza.

As noted previously on the blog, the project has always been controversial. Butler and other developers have been asking for a four-lane road so they will have the road capacity to build large commercial and housing developments in the relatively undeveloped area west of 34th Street and north of Archer Road.

However, a group of citizens working with local elected officials devised a plan for the area that would develop it into a walkable, bikable student village with student housing connected via a grid of two-lane roads with bike lanes, bus bays and sidewalks. This was done at a series of public meetings in which all views were heard and officials from the city and county commissions considered.

As part of that plan, 24th Avenue, currently a dirt road leading west from 34th Street to Southwest 42nd Street, would be part of the two-lane road grid.

That, however, does not provide enough road capacity to handle the additional traffic that would be created by Butler's desired expansion to his already massive Butler Plaza. So, through access and influence gained by giving large campaign contributions to state and federal officials, he got some federal funding for the road project that requires it to be a four-lane road.

And, more importantly, he helped get DeLaney elected. She replaces Penny Wheat, who retired. Wheat was the architect of the student village concept and was one of the three commissioners who voted for the two-lane proposal for Southwest 24th Avenue, which was already proceeding through the engineering phase. DeLaney, elected last November, agreed to revisit the issue so she could switch the vote.

Many progressives and environmentalists supported DeLaney during her campaign, and now they must be smarting. Butler will likely get his expansion, which will make the traffic nightmare that is Archer Road into a traffic night terror from which we will be hard pressed to wake. The student village concept will die, as his project will eat up the road capacity.

Worse, DeLaney's switcheroo is all that is wrong with government. The rich (Butler) become the powerful who can use their money to manipulate the system. The citizens who worked so hard on the student village concept are right to lose faith in the system, because all it took was a developer pulling strings to make the citizens' efforts irrelevant.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

I'm Back

Sorry for the delay in posting, but first I was traveling for the holidaze, and then came the wave of death and suffering from the earthquake and resulting tsunamis. I am the kind of person that takes such things hard, and most recent squabbles and events at home just seemed too trivial to address.

I am still trying to shake off the feeling, so I may be slow in blogging again. I still plan to post an eletronic version of my January article in The Satellite magazine (which the editors butchered by the way, but that's another story) so people can read the source materials themselves. Give me a break. More than 150,000 deaths is one swoop is a pretty sizable rift in the Force, from where I sit.

Right-wing to Dissenters: Shut Up

If there is one thing that the right wing conservative nutballs hate, it is dissent. Bush and his cabinet, and even more so their television and radio spokespeople that dominate the airwaves, have been telling us repeatedly since the Sept. 11 attacks that it is unpatriotic to criticize the government during war.

Rather than engage and debate the issues raised by those opposed to war or even just opposed to invading Iraq (while still supporting other wars and invasions), the right waves the flag and calls its opposition traitors and such. The goal is to associate opposing views with criminal acts and to frighten/bully dissenters into silence.

Michael Moore, whose Fahrenheit 911 movie exposed how Bush ignored the threats from Osama bin Laden and then exploited the Sept. 11 attacks to invade a country not involved in the attacks, is of course the left-wing commie pinko poster child for all of the Archie Bunkeresque commentators and politicians.

Enter David T. Hardy, a lawyer who filed a complaint against UF and several other universities last year after they booked Moore to speak. He claims the universities broke federal campaign laws because Moore was trying to influence the outcome of the 2004 presidential election.

On Monday, the university answered the complaint, and unless sanity is on holiday, the case will be handily dismissed. Not withstanding the fact that UF (and I imagine the other schools involved in the case) bring speakers from all political ideologies, there are no laws governing such speech, except of course the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which specifically protect our freedom of speech.

I am sure that Hardy's intent is not to win the case or set some precedent, unless he is one to wear tin foil hats and paper his walls with magazine cutouts of Moore, which would not surprise me. His intent more likely is to make UF and other schools think twice about booking someone like Moore because it might lead to the type of hassle right-wing lawyers like to create – namely a lawsuit or government complaint.

If you are one of my conservative readers (I have millions, I am sure of it), then just think of it this way. If a Democrat lawyer filed the same complaint about New York Gov. George Patatki's speech last fall, in which he urged people to vote for President Bush, how would you react?

I will say this. If somehow Hardy wins this, I am immediately going to file the same type of complaint against Fox News, MSNBC, CNN and every media outlet I can find for doing the same exact type of thing for Bush.