Jan. 15, 2005

The New Monkey Trial

I'll have to admit to having just about pulled the pin on tonights reading of the .pdf link you posted here, especially when I came up against trying to wrap my head around applying the "lemon test to child evangelists and Kosher foods"* .

But then, Lo and Behold, "Nightline" comes on with the final installment of the very judgment I'm reading! Coincidence? I think not! Thusly reinvigorated and wholly inspired, read on I did. And yes, Koppel (at least) gets his documents authenticated first**.

In short, I was able to read enough dry material, including some of the best news I've heard in awhile, to insure the first nights good sleep in quite awhile.

G'night y'all

(Wifes back from Texas too)

Gary Williams


*Both the Supreme Court and the Eleventh Circuit have acknowledged that the second and third prongs of the Lemon test are interrelated insofar as courts often consider similar factors in analyzing them (snipped some cases and clauses thereof) In fact, the Eleventh Circuit, like several other circuit courts, has combined the second and third prongs of the Lemon analysis into a single "effect" inquiry, (snip) accord Child Evangelism Fellowship of New Jersey, Commack Self-Service Kosher Meats Inc. v . We1ss

**In sum, the Sticker in dispute violates the effects prang of the Lemon test and justice O'Connor's endorsement test, which the Court has incorporated into its Lemon analysis Adopted by the school board, funded by the money of taxpayers, and inserted by school personnel, the Sticker conveys an impermissible message of endorsement and tells some citizens that they are political outsiders while telling others that they are political insiders. Regardless of whether teachers comply with the Cobb County School District's regulation on theories of origin and regardless of the discussions that actually take place m the Cobb County science classrooms, the Sticker has already sent a message that the School Board agrees with the beliefs of Christian fundamentalists and crest ionrsts. The School Board has effectively improperly entangled itself whiz religion by appearing to take a position Therefore, the Sticker must be removed from all of the textbooks into which it has been placed .

L M wrote:


> A related breaking story from Georgia.

> > This is a PDF of the ruling, 44 pgs. Read the first ten or so and you > can see two things... >

> 1) It was a procedural issue as to how the need for stickers was derived in > an environment that is ostensibly operated as public government function. > (secret school board meetings with no minutes, limited number of public comments...) >

> 2) They are selling the need for the stickers as a "diversity in education" > issue, but the court (I believe) is not amused at the disingenuity. >

> http://news.findlaw.com/hdocs/docs/religion/selmancobb11305ord.pdf >

> Gary Williams

Armstrong Williams: I Am Not Alone

Armstrong Williams: I Am Not Alone David Corn January 10, 2004

Armstrong Williams: I'm Not the Only One

I had the guilty pleasure of being able to go on Fox News this weekend and join the pile-on atop Armstrong Williams. In leaping upon the scandal-struck right-wing commentator, I was accompanied by Tony Snow and Linda Chavez. But the real treat came when I encountered Williams in the green room after the show. He acknowledged he had messed up, but he told me he was not the only conservative pundit who has taken money from the Bush gang. He would not, however, reveal names. Below is how I wrote up this scooplet for my "Capital Games" column at www.thenation.com. And if you've already seen this column at that site, scroll down for a look at Williams' odd approach to job interviews.



-- Gary Williams

Jan. 14, 2005

Detained and threatened by METRA police (1984 yet?)

These comments about railfans taking pictures of their "love" diesel engines in the wild .. deserve wider circulation than just a railroad oriented list .. so I have removed the sender's name and am forwarding it on .. if anyone would like to contact the sender to assist in their getting this apparent new policy (Patriot Act anyone?) clarified, please, e-mail me and I will put you in touch with the sender. I am sure he and his friend will welcome the assistance.

Today we were set up on the Morton Grove IL METRA platform waiting to take a picture of a NB train. As listers will note, one of the F40C engines was running today and we hoped to "bag" it.

As the NB approached, three Morton Grove police cars appeared. The officers ordered us from the platform and detained us for approximately twenty minutes, until METRA officers arrived. Note that we were NOT in the right of way. We were on the PLATFORM, along with waiting passengers who were NOT ordered from the platform. During the interval when we were being held for METRA, the Morton Grove officers searched my vehicle.

The METRA officers then detained us for a further twenty-thirty minutes while our personal information was transmitted to the Federal Joint Terrorism Task Force. I questioned the officer as to what was happening and he said that the JTTF would either allow us to be released, or would order us detained and transferred into federal custody. He said that if the JTTF so ordered, our film would be confiscated. Randy and I both asserted our fourth amendment right to be secure from illegal search and seizure of our property without due process and our film was NOT confiscated.

After twenty minutes, the voice on the other end of the officer's radio said it was OK to release us, but that we would both be entered into the JTTF database. Further, the officer warned us that taking ANY train picture, as well as ANY picture of bridges, roads, railroads, aircraft, etc was now ILLEGAL, even from PUBLIC property and that we were liable to arrest if we were caught doing it again. I asked the officer to clarify his statement, to verify that he meant that even if we were on a public sidewalk or street, that if we took a picture of a train from public property, that it was illegal. He said yes.

Welcome to 2005, y'all.

Obviously this incident shows how completely out of control law enforcement has become in regards to supposed national security.

My intention is to contact the ACLU and ask them to ask METRA to clarify their position. I can only believe that these officers or their superiors have grossly misinterpreted the law, since what happened was a clear violation of our First Amendment rights. We were in a public thoroughfare, surrounded by other citizens who were NOT asked to leave or threatened with seizure of their personal property. Never mind the additional statement that taking pictures from the public sidewalk would also mean arrest and federal detention. If necessary, if METRA or any other agency really believes that they can behave in this manner, then my intention is to deliberately provoke arrest by METRA or another agency by taking train pictures from public property. Then it's off to court.

So be warned. Things are not what they used to be.

P B Homewood IL

Jan. 13, 2005

The New Monkey Trial

Jan. 10, 2005 | DOVER, Pa. -- It was an ordinary springtime school board meeting in the bedroom community of Dover, Pa. The high school needed new biology textbooks, and the science department had recommended Kenneth Miller and Joseph Levine's "Biology." "It was a fantastic text," said Carol "Casey" Brown, 57, a self-described Goldwater Republican and the board's senior member. "It just followed our curriculum so beautifully."

But Bill Buckingham, a new board member who'd recently become chair of the curriculum committee, had an objection. "Biology," he said, was "laced with Darwinism." He wanted a book that balanced theories of evolution with Christian creationism, and he was willing to turn his town into a cultural battlefield to get it.

"This country wasn't founded on Muslim beliefs or evolution," Buckingham, a stocky, gray-haired man who wears a red, white and blue crucifix pin on his lapel, said at the meeting. "This country was founded on Christianity, and our students should be taught as such."

Casey Brown and her husband, fellow board member Jeff Brown, were stunned. "I was picturing the headlines," Jeff said months later. "And we got them," Casey added.

Indeed, by the end of 2004, journalists from across the country and from overseas had come to Dover to report on the latest outbreak of America's perennial war over evolution. By then, Buckingham had succeeded in making Dover the first school district in the country to mandate the teaching of "intelligent design" -- an updated version of creationism couched in modern biological terms . In doing so, he ushered in a legal challenge from outraged parents and the ACLU that could turn into a 21st century version of the infamous "Scopes Monkey Trial."

The Dover case is part of a renewed revolt against evolutionary science that's been gathering force in America for the past four years, a symptom of the same renascent fundamentalism that helped propel George Bush to victory. Since 2001, the National Center for Science Education, a group formed to defend the teaching of evolution, has tallied battles over evolution in 43 states, noting they're growing more frequent.

After 1987, when the Supreme Court declared the teaching of creationism in public school unconstitutional in Edwards vs. Aguillard, the doctrine seemed to be shut out of public schools once and for all. In the last few years, though, intelligent design has given evolution's opponents new hope. Now, emboldened by their growing political power, religious conservatives are once again storming the barricades of science education. The same month Bush was reelected, the rural Grantsburg, Wis., school district revised its curriculum to allow the teaching of creationism and intelligent design. After a community outcry -- including a letter of protest from 200 Wisconsin clergy -- the district revised the policy but continued to mandate that students be taught "the scientific strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory," a common creationist tactic that fosters the illusion that evolution is a controversial theory among scientists.

Other anti-evolution initiatives have affected entire states. In the November election, creationists took over the Kansas Board of Education. The last time the board had a majority, in 1999, it voted to erase any mention of evolution from the state curriculum. Kansas became a laughingstock and the anti-evolutionists were defeated in the next Republican primary, leading to the policy's reversal. Now, newly victorious, the anti-evolutionists plan to introduce the teaching of intelligent design next year.

Similarly, this past December, the New York Times reported that Missourilegislators plan to introduce a bill that would require state biology textbooks to include at least one chapter dealing with "alternative theories to evolution." Speaking to the Times, state Rep. Cynthia Davis seemed to compare opponents of intelligent design to al-Qaida. "It's like when the hijackers took over those four planes on Sept. 11 and took people to a place where they didn't want to go," she said. "I think a lot of people feel that liberals have taken our country somewhere we don't want to go. I think a lot more people realize this is our country and we're going to take it back."

Right-wingers in Congress, on talk radio and on cable TV, are stoking the anti-evolution rebellion, insisting that academic freedom means the freedom to teach creationism. Having shown their strength in the election, cultural conservatives aren't in the mood to compromise. America is a democracy and they have the numbers. They see no reason why the principles of science shouldn't be up for popular vote.

On Dec. 14, the ACLU announced that it was representing 11 Dover parents in a lawsuit against the town. The school board's intelligent-design policy, their complaint said, had violated the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, "which prohibits the teaching or presentation of religious ideas in public school science classes."

That day, a few of the parents joined their attorneys for a press conference in the rotunda of Pennsylvania's capitol in Harrisburg. Reporters and cameramen crowded around the microphone as a succession of lawyers, liberal clergymen and scientists spoke. The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, came from D.C. for the event. "We've been battling this from Hawaii to California to New Hampshire to Cobb County," he said, referring to the suburban Atlanta school district that had recently put warning stickers on its biology textbooks calling evolution "a theory, not a fact."

As the cameras rolled, a few protesters tried to edge their way into the frame. A man named Carl Jarboe, in a purple sport coat and a fur hat, stood near the parents holding a fluorescent green sign saying, "ACLU Censors Truth." His wife, wearing a kerchief on her head and small round glasses, held a similar sign saying "Evolution: Unscientific and Untrue. Why Does the ACLU Oppose Schools Giving All the Evidence?"

The parents ignored them. Most were hesitant in front of all the cameras. They weren't culture warriors and they didn't speak in ideological terms. Instead, they talked about what Buckingham and the other creationists were doing to their school and their community.

"We don't believe that intelligent design is science, and we have faith in ourselves as parents that we can do a good job teaching our children about religion," Christy Rehm, a 31-year-old mother of four, said after the conference. "We have faith in our pastor, we have faith in our community that our children are going to be raised to be decent people. So we don't feel that it's the school board's job to make that decision for our children."

Jarboe, who introduced himself as a former assistant professor of chemistry at Messiah College, a nearby Christian school, was convinced that the parents were being used by the ACLU to further its sinister agenda. Like a great many members of the Christian right, he sees the ACLU as a subversive, possibly demonic institution. Quoting James Kennedy, an influential Fort Lauderdale televangelist, he called the ACLU the "American Communist United League." "I maintain it's a communist front," he said.

He then pressed a flier into my hand from a two-day creation seminar he'd attended at the Faith Baptist Church in Lebanon, Pa. It was run by Dr. Kent Hovind, a young-Earth creationist who argues that, as the flier said, "it has been proven that man lived at the same time as dinosaurs." To underline this point, Hovind runs Dinosaur Adventure Land, a theme park in Pensacola, Fla., with rides and exhibits about the not-so-long-ago days when humans and dinosaurs roamed the planet together.

A few feet from Jarboe stood Robert Eckhardt, a professor of developmental genetics and evolutionary morphology at Penn State. Eckhardt had spoken at the press conference about the central role of evolution in biology. "The idea that intelligent design is a powerful upwelling of controversy within the scientific community is absolute nonsense," he said. Jarboe was unfazed by Eckhardt's expertise; he called him a "screaming leftist unbiblical liberal."

A wry man with a lined face, tweed jacket and owlish glasses, Eckhardt, like most other experts in his field, has been dealing with creationists throughout his career and finds it tiresome to try to reason with them. He divided his opponents into several categories. "There are people who just feel that the world is changing very rapidly around them. Their children are coming home from school with ideas that are taught to them in biology class, the parents find this to be challenging and upsetting, and by God they're going to do something about it," he said. "They don't understand the world and they're trying to get the world to slow down and accommodate their thinking."

The second group, he said, are people "who are formerly associated with the creationist movement, who purposely misrepresent issues of science when in fact they are issues of religion." He didn't want to name names but it seemed he was speaking of the fellows at the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, headquarters of the intelligent-design movement. The third, he said, rolling his eyes a tiny bit toward Jarboe, who was listening to our conversation, "are people who are mentally unbalanced and who are so threatened by this that they perceive things going on around them that never happened."

As Eckhardt spoke, Jim Grove, the pastor of Heritage Baptist Church, a small congregation near Dover, stepped forward to challenge him to a debate. Eckhardt refused with a derisive laugh, saying, "I value my time." Grove interpreted this as a sign of evolution's weakness. "If he has facts, what about a forum to present them in public?" he asked. "It would be a perfect opportunity. If he has the facts."

Of Eckhardt's three categories of anti-evolutionists, the second -- the proponents of intelligent design -- are currently the most influential. They've created the terms that now dominate the debate from the halls of Congress to local school boards like Dover. They're the reason that, after a decade when the consensus on evolution in education seemed secure, Darwin's enemies are on the move. Although Buckingham first argued for teaching creationism in Dover biology classes, he soon started using the phrase "intelligent design" instead. The change in language was significant because intelligent design was created in part to circumvent the Supreme Court ruling that made it illegal for public schools to teach creationism. Masquerading as a science, it aims to convince the public that evolution is a theory under fire within the scientific community and doesn't deserve its preeminent place in the biology curriculum.

At Dover's June 14 school board meeting, Buckingham said he wanted the board to consider the intelligent-design textbook, "Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origin." According to Nick Matzke, a spokesman for the National Center for Science Education, the original version of "Of Pandas and People," published in 1989, contained one of the first uses of the phrase "intelligent design." Later, in the 1990s, the intelligent-design cause was taken up by the Center for Science and Culture.

Yet "Of Pandas and People" was never meant to be scientific. It was a strategic response to the Supreme Court's 1987 ruling in Edwards vs.Aguillard, which overturned a Louisiana law mandating that "creation science" be taught alongside evolution. Because the court ruled that "creation science" is a religious doctrine, savvy opponents of evolution sought to recast the central tenets of creationism in a way that hid their religious inspiration. Thus intelligent design was born.

Percival Davis, one of the coauthors of "Of Pandas and People," also co-wrote the old-school creationist text, "A Case for Creation." An online ad for "Pandas" on the Web site of the creationist group Answers in Genesis describes the text as a "superbly written" book for public schools that "has no Biblical content, yet contains creationists' interpretations and refutations for evidences [sic] usually found in standard textbooks supporting evolution!"

The core idea in "Pandas" -- and in the intelligent-design movement generally -- is that of "irreducible complexity," the theory that the structure of proteins and amino acids in cells -- the building blocks of life -- is so complex that only a supernatural force could have choreographed it. "Because of the high level of improbability that cells could be generated by the random mixing of chemicals, some scientists believe that the first cells were created from the design of some outside, intelligent force," the book says.

Indeed, some "scientists" do believe this -- the ones who work at the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. Outside the precincts of the religious right, though, the scientific consensus about evolution is very close to unanimous. For decades, biologists at the world's major universities, and in esteemed peer-reviewed journals, have proven that cellular processes have indeed evolved in sync with Darwin's theories. In November 2004, National Geographic ran a cover story asking, "Was Darwin Wrong?" Its subhead provided the answer: "No. The Evidence for Evolution Is Overwhelming."

"Evolution by natural selection, the central concept of the life's work of Charles Darwin, is a theory," wrote award-winning science author David Quammen in National Geographic. "It's a theory about the origin of adaptation, complexity, and diversity among Earth's living creatures. If you are skeptical by nature, unfamiliar with the terminology of science, and unaware of the overwhelming evidence, you might even be tempted to say that it's 'just' a theory. In the same sense, relativity as described by Albert Einstein is 'just' a theory. The notion that Earth orbits around the sun rather than vice versa, offered by Copernicus in 1543, is a theory ... Each of these theories is an explanation that has been confirmed to such a degree, by observation and experiment, that knowledgeable experts accept it as fact."

A statuesque woman with a strawberry blond bob and crisply proper diction, Casey Brown isn't a scientist, but she prides herself on being well read, and after 10 years on the school board, she knows what a good biology textbook looks like. When she saw "Of Pandas and People," she was appalled. "It's poor science and worse theology," she said.

Brown said that by the school board's August meeting, Buckingham had given up on the idea of using "Pandas" as the main text, but he insisted that the board buy it as a supplement. Otherwise, he said, he wouldn't approve the purchase of "Biology."

One of Buckingham's supporters on the board was out sick that night, and without her, the vote deadlocked, 4-4. Finally, worried that the school would have to start the year without textbooks, one member switched her vote and "Biology" was approved. The town's little drama seemed to be at an end.

In fact, it was just beginning.

Shortly after the motion to have the school board buy "Of Pandas and People" was defeated, the Dover School District received an anonymous donation of 50 copies of the book, and Buckingham and his allies set about figuring out how to integrate them into the curriculum.

On Oct. 18, the board voted on a resolution written by Buckingham and his supporters on the board. It said, "Students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin's theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design. Note: Origins of Life is not taught." The "Pandas" books were to be kept in the science classroom, and teachers were instructed to read a statement referring students to them.

Casey and Jeff Brown argued against it. "We kept maintaining this is going to get us into legal trouble," Casey said. "It was a clear violation." As an alternative, she proposed offering a comparative world religions elective, which would teach the creation myths of various faiths.

But Buckingham was determined. "Two thousand years ago, someone died on a cross," he said at the meeting. "Can't someone take a stand for him?" Jeff Brown spoke up in response, saying it was the wrong time and the wrong place for a religious debate. Buckingham called him a coward and said it was a good thing that he wasn't fighting the revolutionary war "because we would still have a queen."

Finally, they voted. The mandate to teach intelligent design passed 6-3. Casey and Jeff Brown quit the board in protest. The other dissenter, Noel Wenrich, turned to Buckingham and said, "We lost two good people because of you."

"And Mr. Buckingham said, with profanity, 'Good riddance to bad rubbish,'" Casey recalled. "And he called Mr. Wenrich every name in the book."

Buckingham may have started the Dover crusade himself, but the Center for Science and Culture laid the groundwork years before. The group provides the "scientific" and philosophical arguments to bolster the opponents of evolution in local political struggles.

CSC operates out of the Discovery Institute, a Seattle think tank that's funded in part by savings and loan heir Howard Ahmanson. As Max Blumenthal reported in a 2004 Salon article, Ahmanson spent 20 years on the board of R.J. Rushdoony's Chalcedon Foundation, a theocratic outfit that advocates the replacement of American civil law with biblical law.

The Center for Science and Culture also aims, in a far more elliptical way, to put God at the center of civic life. Originally called the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, CSC usually purports to be motivated by science, not religion. At times, though, it's refreshingly candid about its true goal -- a grandiose scheme to undermine the secular legacy of the Enlightenment and rebuild society on religious foundations. As it said in a 1999 fundraising proposal that was later leaked online, "Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies."

The proposal was titled "The Wedge Strategy." It began: "The proposition that human beings are created in the image of God is one of the bedrock principles on which Western civilization was built ... Yet a little over a century ago, this cardinal idea came under wholesale attack by intellectuals drawing on the discoveries of modern science. Debunking the traditional conceptions of both God and man, thinkers such as Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud portrayed humans not as moral and spiritual beings, but as animals or machines who inhabited a universe ruled by purely impersonal forces and whose behavior and very thoughts were dictated by the unbending forces of biology, chemistry, and environment. This materialistic conception of reality eventually infected virtually every area of our culture, from politics and economics to literature and art."

As "The Wedge Strategy" suggests, many CSC fellows are troubled more by the philosophical consequences of evolutionary theory than by the fact that it contradicts a literal reading of the Bible's book of Genesis. Most of them -- though not all -- are too scientifically sophisticated to hew to a young-Earth creationist line like Hovind's. In mainstream forums, they eschew sectarian religious language. As seekers of mainstream credibility, they don't want to be associated with the medieval persecutors of Copernicus and Galileo. Instead, they try to present themselves as heirs to those very visionaries, insisting that dogmatic secularists desperate to deny God are thwarting their open-minded quest for truth.

Most CSC fellows even accept that evolution occurs within individual species. What they dispute is the idea that random mutation and natural selection led to the evolution of higher species from lower ones -- of man from apelike ancestors. Such a process seems to them incompatible with the belief that man was created in the image of God and that God takes a special interest in him.

Several CSC fellows come with impressive credentials from prestigious universities, and they know how to argue in mainstream forums. Philip Johnson, one of the fathers of the movement, is a law professor at UC-Berkeley. Jonathan Wells, author of the influential intelligent-design book, "Icons of Evolution," has a Ph.D. in molecular and cell biology from Berkeley and another in religious studies from Yale. A member of the Unification Church whose education was bankrolled by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, he's written that he sought his degrees specifically to fight the teaching of evolution. As he put it in an article on the Moonie Web site True Parents, "Father's words, my studies, and my prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism, just as many of my fellow Unificationists had already devoted their lives to destroying Marxism. When Father [Sun Myung Moon] chose me (along with about a dozen other seminary graduates) to enter a Ph.D. program in 1978, I welcomed the opportunity to prepare myself for battle."

Armed with advanced degrees, CSC fellows have secured invitations to testify before state boards of education. They've published opinion pieces in mainstream newspapers and are regularly consulted for "balance" in stories about evolution controversies.

They've also found important allies within the Republican Party, especially Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. Santorum tried to attach an amendment to the No Child Left Behind Act that would encourage the teaching of intelligent design. It said, "[W]here topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society." The statement was eventually adopted as part of a Conference Report on the law, which means it has advisory power only.

The language sounds innocuous, but Santorum's intent was clear. In 2002, Ohio debated adding intelligent design to its statewide science standards. In a Washington Times Op-Ed supporting the change, Santorum quoted his amendment and then wrote, "If the Education Board of Ohio does not include intelligent design in the new teaching standards, many students will be denied a first-rate science education. Many will be left behind."

Santorum has also come out in favor of Dover's policy. The school board, in turn, distributed copies of one of Santorum's pro-intelligent design Op-Eds along with the agenda at its Jan. 3 meeting.

Oddly enough, although Santorum is supporting the Dover school board's policy, the Center for Science and Culture isn't. On Dec. 14, CSC put out a statement calling Dover's policy "misguided" and saying it should be "withdrawn and rewritten." The statement quoted CSC's associate director John West as saying that discussion of intelligent design shouldn't be prohibited but it also shouldn't be required. "What should be required is full disclosure of the scientific evidence for and against Darwin's theory," said West, "which is the approach supported by the overwhelming majority of the public."

This, of course, is a departure from the position laid out in "The Wedge Strategy," which specifically calls for the integration of intelligent design into school curriculum.

Why the change? Matzke, from the National Center for Science Education, is convinced that the CSC wanted to wait for a better test case and a friendly Supreme Court, which they'll get if Bush is able to nominate a few new justices. The Dover policy, Matzke said, probably won't survive a court challenge right now, and if it's overturned, the precedent will be a setback for the missionaries of intelligent design.

"Their current strategy is not to have an intelligent-design policy passed," Matzke said. "They just want a policy that says students should analyze the strengths and weakness of evolution." CSC did not return calls for comment.

It's not hard for creationists to convince the public that the evidence for evolution is weak. Scientists accept evolution as something very close to fact, but Americans never have. In a November 2004 CBS News/New York Times poll, about evolution, 55 percent of the respondents said that God created humans in their present form. Twenty-seven percent believed in the evolution of man guided by God, and 13 percent believed in evolution without God.

So it should come as no surprise that the majority of Americans -- 65 percent, according to the poll cited above -- favor teaching creationism alongside evolution in public schools. Creationism is the perfect culture-war issue because it inevitably pits majorities in local communities against interloping lawyers and scientists. In a country gripped by right-wing populism, it's not hard to stoke resentment against scientists who have the gall to think that they know more than everybody else.

In fact, some historians date the start of our culture wars to 1925, the year of the "Scopes Monkey Trial" in Dayton, Tenn. At the time, the battle over evolution had been raging throughout the country. It came to a head when 24-year-old teacher John Scopes challenged Tennessee's Butler Act, which prohibited the teaching of evolution in the state's public schools and universities. His persecution set the stage for a legendary courtroom showdown that pit celebrated Chicago defense attorney Clarence Darrow against Williams Jennings Bryan, the crusading populist, fundamentalist and three-time presidential candidate.

Bryan, the nation's leading anti-evolutionist, made his case in populist terms. In his 1993 book "The Creationists," historian Ronald Numbers wrote, "Throughout his political career, Bryan had placed his faith in the common people, and he resented the attempt of a few thousand elitist scientists 'to establish an oligarchy over the forty million American Christians' to dictate what should be taught in the schools."

Bryan and his fellow Scopes prosecutors won their trial, but the national mockery that followed it did much to alienate conservative Christians from secular society, setting the stage for the culture wars of later decades. In his Pulitzer Prize-winning history of the Scopes trial, "Summer for the Gods," Edward Larson wrote about the birth of the right-wing religious counterculture in the wake of the Pyrrhic victory in Tennessee: "Indeed, fundamentalism became a byword in American culture as a result of the Scopes trial, and fundamentalists responded by withdrawing. They did not abandon their faith, however, but set about constructing a separate subculture with independent religious, educational and social institutions."

Eventually, of course, the religious right emerged from its subculture to renew its attack on secularism. Today, cultural conservatives are mustering almost exactly the same arguments that Bryan made in Dayton 80 years ago. This past December, Republican strategist Jack Burkman appeared on MSNBC's "Scarborough Country" to back creationism in terms of populist democracy."Why should the state and the federal government have a monopoly on defining what constitutes science?" he asked. "I see no problem with presenting a creationist view in the schools, given that 70 percent of Americans want that. The law should reflect democratic desires. It should reflect public desires."

Of course, public desires don't determine the physical facts of the world. "The best argument that the creationists have got is that it's only fair to teach both sides," Matzke said. "The problem with that argument is that science is not a democracy and a lot of times there aren't two correct sides. There are people who believe that the sun goes around the earth. They're called geocentrists. That doesn't mean we should teach that."

In Dover, though, people tend to interpret positions like Matzke's as elitism. Much of the public seems to desire schools that teach creationism, although many balk at the cost of a lawsuit. For defenders of Darwin, the most troubling thing isn't that the Dover school board is dominated by extremists -- it's that the board is, in a local context, fairly mainstream. Supporters of evolution are the ones who stand out. Resentment of the ACLU runs high even among some who opposed the school board's intelligent-design policy. Most opposition to the policy comes from worry over the cost of the lawsuit.

Most people in Dover say that the town is split fairly evenly over the school board's intelligent-design policy. The division isn't one of principle, though. People know that the ACLU's lawsuit is going to be expensive and are worried that defending the policy in court will drain the school budget and force a tax increase.

"I would say that people who are against what the school board is doing in principle are a minority, a great minority," former school board member Noel Wenrich told me. "However, when it comes to spending money on it, it's a whole other issue. When you ask people, Do you support the board's decision on this? they say yes." Ask them if they're willing to pay more taxes to finance a court case, though, and they'll give you a resounding no, he said. "It's a money issue."

The school board doesn't need to worry about most of its legal fees, however. It's being represented pro bono by the Thomas More Law Center, a right-wing Catholic firm that describes itself as "the sword and shield for people of faith." Wenrich told me that Thomas More lawyers had been advising Buckingham for months.

Despite the law firm's help, though, the lawsuit will likely be financially devastating to the district, the second poorest in the county. Dover would have to pay for lost wages of people called to testify, and it would have to provide outside counsel for some witnesses, like the Browns, who don't want Thomas More representing them. Jeff Brown guessed that depositions alone would cost the district $30,000. Then, if Dover loses, federal civil rights law would make it liable for the ACLU's legal fees. "It won't be cheap," said Witold Walczak, the ACLU's Pennsylvania legal director.

"It will kill us," said Casey Brown. In fact, Dover is already broke. The board had just been forced to cut its library budget almost in half, from $68,000 to $38,000, and to eliminate all field trips.

Wenrich himself, a 36-year-old Army veteran and father of two, doesn't believe in evolution. But he felt honor-bound to put his duty to the school above his personal politics. "If it were my money, I'd have no problem," he said. "I'd go out and fight it. But to use the public's money that's supposed to be educating our kids is absolutely irresponsible. They're already looking at putting off buying textbooks, not buying library books, not updating computer equipment. When we're looking at those budget cuts, it's irresponsible to go out and pick a fight with the Supreme Court."

If Wenrich is angry with Buckingham, though, he's even angrier at the outside forces that are challenging the school district. "It is going full circle now from the religious community ruling what can be thought -- that's what they tried to do in the Middle Ages," he said. "We've come down to the scientific community trying to tell us what we can think. Basically what the scientific community currently is doing is saying, 'You'll have no god before mine. Mine happens to be Darwin.' Any other thought will not be tolerated."

Evolution's allies might win the battle for Dover's biology classes, but they're losing America.


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"A little patience and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles. It is true that in the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public debt. But if the game runs sometimes against us at home we must have patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are at stake." --Thomas Jefferson

First They Came For The Terrorists...

First They Came For The Terrorists...: "First They Came For The Terrorists... by Thom Hartmann

The Gonzales confirmation is not just about the torture memos. It's much bigger than that.

If Bush continues to roll back human and civil rights - and the installation of Alberto Gonzalez as America's chief law enforcement officer is very much a part of his campaign to do so - we may be facing a 'Pastor Niem�ller moment' sooner than most of us could have imagined.

Tuesday, January 10, 2005, is the third anniversary of the opening of America's first concentration camp since Japanese Americans were shamefully interred during WWII. Since the first Guantanamo camp was opened, the Bush administration has built additional concentration camps - the latest known as Camp Five - in Cuba, and is asking Congress for $29 million to build concentration Camp Six.

These concentration camps detain uncharged, untried, unconvicted individuals, who may be held for the rest of their lives because, as the UK's Guardian newspaper noted on January 5th of this year, the Bush administration 'lacks proof' that they are either criminals or POWs.

This is one of the more visible parts of a much larger campaign the Bush administration has embarked on to reverse not only 229 years of the American rule of law regarding the rights of average citizens, but nearly eight centuries of human rights that go back to an epic moment in 1215 on a meadow by the River Thames.

The modern institution of civil and human rights, and particularly the writ of habeas corpus, began in June of 1215 when King John was forced by the feudal lords to sign the Magna Carta at Runnymede. Although that document mostly protected 'freemen' - what were then known as feudal lords or barons, and today known as CEOs and millionaires - rather than the average person, it initiated a series of events that echo to this day.

Two of the most critical parts of the Magna Carta were articles 38 and 39, which established the founation for what is now known as "habeas corpus" laws (literally, "produce the body" from the Latin - meaning, broadly, "let this person go free"), as well as the Fourth through Eighth Amendments of our Constitution and hundreds of other federal and state due process provisions.

Articles 38 and 39 of the Magna Carta said:

"38 In future no official shall place a man on trial upon his own unsupported statement, without producing credible witnesses to the truth of it.

"39 No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land."

This was radical stuff, and over the next four hundred years average people increasingly wanted for themselves these same protections from the abuse of the power of government or great wealth. But from 1215 to 1628, outside of the privileges enjoyed by the feudal lords, the average person could be arrested and imprisoned at the whim of the king with no recourse to the courts.

Then, in 1627, King Charles I overstepped, and the people snapped."


Jan. 12, 2005

Bush in the National Guard: The Real Story

"Bush in the National Guard: A primer The flap over dubious documents has obscured the real story. Here it is.

- - - - - - - - - - - - By Eric Boehlert

Sept. 20, 2004 | Under order from U.S. District Court Judge Harold Baer Jr. to find and make public any of President Bush's military records that had not already been released, the Pentagon late on Friday released yet another batch of documents. None of the new paperwork addresses the lingering questions surrounding Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard during the height of the Vietnam War, how Bush's own records indicate he missed mandatory duty for months at a time, or how he managed to go unsupervised for nearly two years. The federal court order stems from an ongoing lawsuit filed by the Associated Press in June to obtain all of Bush's relevant records. In February, when White House aides told reporters they had made public 'absolutely everything' about Bush's military service, the AP noticed several obvious gaps and went to court to obtain additional documents.

The lawsuit had already resulted in the disclosure of previously unreleased flight logs that indicated that Bush, a fully trained pilot since 1970, often flew two-seater training jets in March 1972, shortly before he piloted a plane for the last time. This despite his promise, when he entered the Guard's training program, to serve as a full pilot until 1974.

What is also already known is that in the spring of 1972, with 770 days left of required duty, Bush unilaterally decided that he was done fulfilling his military obligation. Also in the spring of 1972, Bush refused to take a physical and quickly cleared out of his Guard base in Houston, heading off to work on the Senate campaign of Winton 'Red' Blount in Alabama. Referring to that period, one of Bush's Guard flying buddies remarked to USA Today in 2002, 'It was an irrational time in his life.'

"None of the discrepancies detailed below between Bush's accounts and what his records show are based on the disputed memos reportedly written by Lt. Col. Jerry Killian that were aired by CBS News two weeks ago. CBS executives now concede they have concerns about the memos' authenticity, but stress that the contents accurately reflect the turmoil Bush and his chronic absenteeism created for the Texas Air National Guard, as reported by others who worked with Killian. In an interview with New Hampshire's Manchester Union Leader on Saturday, Bush would not say the documents were forgeries. He added, "There are a lot of questions about the documents and they need to be answered." But the authenticity of the memos, which contain very few facts about Bush's actual service, is a sideshow in the effort to determine the truth about Bush's military service. (Independent researchers such as Paul Lukasiak, retired Army Col. Gerald Lechliter and Marty Heldt have contributed to this ongoing effort to uncover the facts.)

Consider the following anomalies:

(Note that statements below that certain documents do not exist, or that Bush failed to obtain proper authorization, are based on the White House's repeated insistence that all relevant Bush military documents have been made public. Some of these documents, of course, may yet turn up.)

# Bush flew for the last time on April 16, 1972. Upon entering the Guard, Bush agreed to fly for 60 months. After his training was complete, he owed 53 months of flying.

But he flew for only 22 of those 53 months.

# Upon being accepted for pilot training, Bush promised to serve with his parent (Texas) Guard unit for five years once he completed his pilot training.

But Bush served as a pilot with his parent unit for just two years.

# In May 1972 Bush left the Houston Guard base for Alabama. According to Air Force regulations, Bush was supposed to obtain prior authorization before leaving Texas to join a new Guard unit in Alabama.

But Bush failed to get the authorization.

# In requesting a permanent transfer to a nonflying unit in Alabama in 1972, Bush was supposed to sign an acknowledgment that he received relocation counseling.

But no such document exists.

# He was supposed to receive a certification of satisfactory participation from his unit.

But Bush did not.

# He was supposed to sign and give a letter of resignation to his Texas unit commander.

But Bush did not.

# He was supposed to receive discharge orders from the Texas Air National Guard adjutant general.

But Bush did not.

# He was supposed to receive new assignment orders for the Air Force Reserves.

But Bush did not.

# On his transfer request Bush was asked to list his "permanent address."

But he wrote down a post office box number for the campaign he was working for on a temporary basis.

# On his transfer request Bush was asked to list his Air Force specialty code.

But Bush, an F-102 pilot, erroneously wrote the code for an F-89 or F-94 pilot. Both planes had been retired from service at the time. Bush, an officer, made this mistake more than once on the same form.

# On May 26, 1972, Lt. Col. Reese Bricken, commander of the 9921st Air Reserve Squadron at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, informed Bush that a transfer to his nonflying unit would be unsuitable for a fully trained pilot such as he was, and that Bush would not be able to fulfill any of his remaining two years of flight obligation.

But Bush pressed on with his transfer request nonetheless.

# Bush's transfer request to the 9921st was eventually denied by the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver, which meant he was still obligated to attend training sessions one weekend a month with his Texas unit in Houston.

But Bush failed to attend weekend drills in May, June, July, August and September. He also failed to request permission to make up those days at the time.

# According to Air Force regulations, "[a] member whose attendance record is poor must be closely monitored. When the unexcused absences reach one less than the maximum permitted [sic] he must be counseled and a record made of the counseling. If the member is unavailable he must be advised by personal letter."

But there is no record that Bush ever received such counseling, despite the fact that he missed drills for months on end.

# Bush's unit was obligated to report in writing to the Personnel Center at Randolph Air Force Base whenever a monthly review of records showed unsatisfactory participation for an officer.

But his unit never reported Bush's absenteeism to Randolph Air Force Base.

# In July 1972 Bush failed to take a mandatory Guard physical exam, which is a serious offense for a Guard pilot. The move should have prompted the formation of a Flying Evaluation Board to investigation the circumstances surrounding Bush's failure.

But no such FEB was convened.

# Once Bush was grounded for failing to take a physical, his commanders could have filed a report on why the suspension should be lifted.

But Bush's commanders made no such request.

# On Sept. 15, 1972, Bush was ordered to report to Lt. Col. William Turnipseed, the deputy commander of the 187th Tactical Reconnaissance Group in Montgomery, Ala., to participate in training on the weekends of Oct. 7-8 and Nov. 4-5, 1972.

But there's no evidence Bush ever showed up on those dates. In 2000, Turnipseed told the Boston Globe that Bush did not report for duty. (A self-professed Bush supporter, Turnipseed has since backed off from his categorical claim.)

# However, according to the White House-released pay records, which are unsigned, Bush was credited for serving in Montgomery on Oct. 28-29 and Nov. 11-14, 1972. Those makeup dates should have produced a paper trail, including Bush's formal request as well as authorization and supervision documents.

But no such documents exist, and the dates he was credited for do not match the dates when the Montgomery unit assembled for drills.

# When Guardsmen miss monthly drills, or "unit training assemblies" (UTAs), they are allowed to make them up through substitute service and earn crucial points toward their service record. Drills are worth one point on a weekday and two points on each weekend day. For Bush's substitute service on Nov. 13-14, 1972, he was awarded four points, two for each day.

But Nov. 13 and 14 were both weekdays. He should have been awarded two points. Adblock

# Bush earned six points for service on Jan. 4-6, 1973 -- a Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

But he should have earned four points, one each for Thursday and Friday, two for Saturday.

# Weekday training was the exception in the Guard. For example, from May 1968 to May 1972, when Bush was in good standing, he was not credited with attending a single weekday UTA.

But after 1972, when Bush's absenteeism accelerated, nearly half of his credited UTAs were for weekdays.

# To maintain unit cohesiveness, the parameters for substitute service are tightly controlled; drills must be made up within 15 days immediately before, or 30 days immediately after, the originally scheduled drill, according to Guard regulations at the time.

But more than half of the substitute service credits Bush received fell outside that clear time frame. In one case, he made up a drill nine weeks in advance.

# On Sept. 29, 1972, Bush was formally grounded for failing to take a flight physical. The letter, written by Maj. Gen. Francis Greenlief, chief of the National Guard Bureau, ordered Bush to acknowledge in writing that he had received word of his grounding.

But no such written acknowledgment exists. In 2000, Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett told the Boston Globe that Bush couldn't remember if he'd ever been grounded.

# Bartlett also told the Boston Globe that Bush didn't undergo a physical while in Alabama because his family doctor was in Houston.

But only Air Force flight surgeons can give flight physicals to pilots.

# Guard members are required to take a physical exam every 12 months.

But Bush's last Guard physical was in May 1971. Bush was formally discharged from the service in November 1974, which means he went without a required physical for 42 months.

# Bush's unsatisfactory participation in the fall of 1972 should have prompted the Texas Air National Guard to write to his local draft board and inform the board that Bush had become eligible for the draft. Guard units across the country contacted draft boards every Sept. 15 to update them on the status of local Guard members. Bush's absenteeism should have prompted what's known as a DD Form 44, "Record of Military Status of Registrant."

But there is no record of any such document having been sent to Bush's draft board in Houston.

# Records released by the White House note that Bush received a military dental exam in Alabama on Jan. 6, 1973.

But Bush's request to serve in Alabama covered only September, October and November 1972. Why he would still be serving in Alabama months after that remains unclear.

# Each of Bush's numerous substitute service requests should have formed a lengthy paper trail consisting of AF Form 40a's, with the name of the officer who authorized the training in advance, the signature of the officer who supervised the training and Bush's own signature.

But no such documents exist.

# During his last year with the Texas Air National Guard, Bush missed nearly two-thirds of his mandatory UTAs and made up some of them with substitute service. Guard regulations allowed substitute service only in circumstances that are "beyond the control" of the Guard member.

But neither Bush nor the Texas Air National Guard has ever explained what the uncontrollable circumstances were that forced him to miss the majority of his assigned drills in his last year.

# Bush supposedly returned to his Houston unit in April 1973 and served two days.

But at the end of April, when Bush's Texas commanders had to rate him for their annual report, they wrote that they could not do so: "Lt. Bush has not been observed at this unit during the period of this report."

# On June 29, 1973, the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver instructed Bush's commanders to get additional information from his Alabama unit, where he had supposedly been training, in order to better evaluate Bush's duty. The ARPC gave Texas a deadline of Aug. 6 to get the information.

But Bush's commanders ignored the request.

# Bush was credited for attending four days of UTAs with his Texas unit July 16-19, 1973. That was good for eight crucial points.

But that's not possible. Guard units hold only two UTAs each month -- one on a Saturday and one on a Sunday. Although Bush may well have made up four days, they should not all have been counted as UTAs, since they occur just twice a month. The other days are known as "Appropriate Duty," or APDY.

# On July 30, 1973, Bush, preparing to attend Harvard Business School, signed a statement acknowledging it was his responsibility to find another unit in which to serve out the remaining nine months of his commitment.

But Bush never contacted another unit in Massachusetts in which to fulfill his obligation.

Despite the laundry list of Guard discrepancies, Bush, when asked about his service this weekend, insisted, "I did everything [my superiors] asked me to do."


Air America Radio | The Al Franken Show

BUSH REJECTS BAD NEWS The Nelson Report is a daily political tip sheet and analysis written for the past 20 years for the (US and Asian) corporate and government clients of Chris Nelson, a former Capitol Hill staffer and UPI reporter. (He was actually the first to break the looted explosives story before the election; Josh Marshall then posted it to his blog.) This Monday, he wrote: There is rising concern amongst senior officials that President Bush does not grasp the increasingly grim reality of the security situation in Iraq because he refuses to listen to that type of information. Our sources say that attempts to brief Bush on various grim realities have been personally rebuffed by the President, who actually says that he does not want to hear “bad news.” Rather, Bush makes clear that all he wants are progress reports, where they exist, and those facts which seem to support his declared mission in Iraq...building democracy. “That’s all he wants to hear about,” we have been told. So “in” are the latest totals on school openings, and “out” are reports from senior US military commanders (and those intelligence experts still on the job) that they see an insurgency becoming increasingly effective, and their projection that “it will just get worse.” Our sources are firm in that they conclude this “good news only” directive comes from Bush himself; that is, it is not a trap or cocoon thrown around the President by National Security Advisor Rice, Vice President Cheney, and DOD Secretary Rumsfeld. In any event, whether self-imposed, or due to manipulation by irresponsible subordinates, the information/intelligence vacuum at the highest levels of the White House increasingly frightens those officials interested in objective assessment, and not just selling a political message. Genuinely scary. Ben Wikler

The Conservative Marketing Machine

The Conservative Marketing Machine By Laurie Spivak, AlterNet. Posted January 11, 2005. Armstrong Williams being paid to promote Bush administration policies in his columns is just one part of the behemoth marketing effort that the right wing has perfected. The Armstrong Williams story that surfaced last week is unquestionably a juicy one: the conservative, African-American commentator was paid a sweet $240,000 (in taxpayer dollars), by the Department of Education to promote President Bush's No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation. Ketchum, a public relations firm, served as the intermediary, contracting with Williams to promote the controversial law in op/ed pieces and on his nationally syndicated television show 'The Right Side,' to urge other black journalists and producers to 'periodically address' NCLB, and to interview Education Secretary Rod Paige for radio and television spots promoting the legislation. Does Ketchum PR sound familiar? If it does, it's because these are the good folks who brought America Karen Ryan last year. Remember Karen? 'In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan reporting.' She was the PR hack who posed as a reporter back in early 2004 to tout President Bush's Medicare reform plan in fake news spots paid for by taxpayer dollars. In May, 2004, the nonpartisan General Accounting Office investigated the Medicare spots and determined that they were illegal because they violated a ban on publicly funded 'covert propaganda.' Lest a little thing like legality stop this administration, Karen Ryan surfaced again in October in her latest fake news story touting" continued......

Jan. 11, 2005

Is Al Qaeda Just a Bush Boogeyman?

Robert Scheer: Is Al Qaeda Just a Bush Boogeyman? Is it conceivable that Al Qaeda, as defined by President Bush as the center of a vast and well-organized international terrorist conspiracy, does not exist? To even raise the question amid all the officially inspired hysteria is heretical, especially in the context of the U.S. media's supine acceptance of administration claims relating to national security. Yet a brilliant new BBC film produced by one of Britain's leading documentary filmmakers systematically challenges this and many other accepted articles of faith in the so-called war on terror. 'The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear,' a three-hour historical film by Adam Curtis recently aired by the British Broadcasting Corp., argues coherently that much of what we have been told about the threat of international terrorism 'is a fantasy that has been exaggerated and distorted by politicians. It is a dark illusion that has spread unquestioned through governments around the world, the security services and the international media.' Stern stuff, indeed. But consider just a few of the many questions: • If Osama bin Laden does, in fact, head a vast international terrorist organization with trained operatives in more than 40 countries, as claimed by Bush, why, despite torture of prisoners, has this administration failed to produce hard evidence of it? • How can it be that in Britain since 9/11, 664 people have been detained on suspicion of terrorism but only 17 have been found guilty, most of them with no connection to Islamist groups and none who were proven members of Al Qaeda? continued.....

Bush, Osama and Israel

"Bush, Osama and Israel Concealing Causes and Consequences By William A. Cook 01/10/05 'Counterpunch.org' -- As we approach the crowning of our Emperor for another four years, a short two months to the day when he launched the United States into its imperialist policy of pre-emptive invasions of foreign states, we might pause to reflect on how deeply this administration analyzed the causes that gave rise to the atrocity of 9/11, the ostensible basis for our attacking a nation that had done nothing to the US to warrant its destruction and occupation. Consideration might be given, for example, to the two antagonists who entered the lists recently, appearing almost simultaneously before the American public, Osama bin Laden via a recent tape aired by al Jazeera and Mr. Anonymous, Michael Scheuer, author of the recent CIA approved Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror. Interestingly, while they carry lances from opposing Lords, bin Laden's lifted on behalf of Allah and Scheuer's questioning our Lord of Misrule, George W, both proffered the same perspective, the causes that gave rise to the atrocity of 9/11 have never been addressed." continued......