Saturday, December 31, 2005

Top 10 Political Predictions for 2006

Here's my off the cuff predictions for 2006. - IFK Editor

1. Bush's 2006 turn around plans won't go anywhere. His state of the union address will be another dud filled with little substance to solve real problems. Americans (especially independents) will yawn and continue to shake their heads. (Why did we ever vote for this guy?) From there his year will only get worse.

2. 2006 will be a breakout year for Democrats at the polls. Republicans will stay home in droves despite old tactics to dredge up God, Guns, Gays, Taxes, and Terror. Independent swing voters will tip the scales toward a democratic landslide. The senate will lean democrat, even if they don't take it back outright, due to moderate Republicans joining our ranks on most legislation.

3. More of the same in Iraq. Slow attrition. Dems and Repubs will spin modest withdrawal plans as a victory.

4. Ken Lay and CO. will finally go to trial and get prison terms for their ENRON misdeeds. Cheney and Bush will have more bad news to deal with.

5. Delay, Libby, and Rovegate will continue to drag on the Republican agenda as their scandals simmer in the background.

6. Oil will see its old highs, based on some chaotic events like hurricanes, war, Iran, Chavez, global growth. This will be a good thing, as it will move the country toward energy independence. FINALLY. (Dems will make energy independence a major 2006 theme)

7. At least one of the 2008 presidential contenders from either the dems or Repubs will have a major scandal or health crisis to contend with in 06. Their stock will fall. Front runners Hillary and McCain in particular should get ready for a drop in supposed support.

8. The American economy will hum along at 3.5% growth, despite Bush's best efforts to undermine it (by dismantling middle class gov. programs), a slowing housing market, rising interest rates, and high energy costs. (You can thank the marketers, for creating unending 'need' where none exists). Now if we were focusing on priorities like education, energy independence and infrastructure improvements that would be another story. That would be forward looking. But we won't do that.

9. Osama still won't be captured. Remember him, President Bush?!

10. Nov 7th 2006 can't come fast enough!!! (Then expect all hell to break loose as contenders line up to position themselves for '08)

Wishful thinking bonus. Dems will filibuster Alito's nomination. Remember 2006 is your year. Say NO to Scalito!!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Landmark Ruling Against Intelligent Design in Public Schools

No wiggle room for interpretation here! I.D. is creationism masquerading as science. It's illegal to teach it in Public Schools. - IFK Editor

Judge Rules Against Pa. Biology Curriculum
By MARTHA RAFFAELE, Associated Press Writer

In one of the biggest courtroom clashes between faith and evolution since the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, a federal judge barred a Pennsylvania public school district Tuesday from teaching "intelligent design" in biology class, saying the concept is creationism in disguise.

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones delivered a stinging attack on the Dover Area School Board, saying its first-in-the-nation decision in October 2004 to insert intelligent design into the science curriculum violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

The ruling was a major setback to the intelligent design movement, which is also waging battles in Georgia and Kansas. Intelligent design holds that living organisms are so complex that they must have been created by some kind of higher force.

Jones decried the "breathtaking inanity" of the Dover policy and accused several board members of lying to conceal their true motive, which he said was to promote religion.

A six-week trial over the issue yielded "overwhelming evidence" establishing that intelligent design "is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory," said Jones, a Republican and a churchgoer appointed to the federal bench three years ago.

The school system said it will probably not appeal the ruling, because the members who backed intelligent design were ousted in November's elections and replaced with a new slate opposed to the policy.

During the trial, the board argued that it was trying improve science education by exposing students to alternatives to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and natural selection.

The policy required students to hear a statement about intelligent design before ninth-grade lessons on evolution. The statement said Darwin's theory is "not a fact" and has inexplicable "gaps." It referred students to an intelligent-design textbook, "Of Pandas and People."

But the judge said: "We find that the secular purposes claimed by the board amount to a pretext for the board's real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public school classroom."

In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states cannot require public schools to balance evolution lessons by teaching creationism.

Eric Rothschild, an attorney for the families who challenged the policy, called the ruling "a real vindication for the parents who had the courage to stand up and say there was something wrong in their school district."

Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., which represented the school district and describes its mission as defending the religious freedom of Christians, said: "What this really looks like is an ad hominem attack on scientists who happen to believe in God."

It was the latest chapter in a debate over the teaching of evolution dating back to the Scopes trial, in which Tennessee biology teacher John T. Scopes was fined $100 for violating a state law against teaching evolution.

Earlier this month, a federal appeals court in Georgia heard arguments over whether a suburban Atlanta school district had the right to put stickers on biology textbooks describing evolution as a theory, not fact. A federal judge last January ordered the stickers removed.

In November, state education officials in Kansas adopted new classroom science standards that call the theory of evolution into question.

President Bush also weighed in on the issue of intelligent design recently, saying schools should present the concept when teaching about the origins of life.

In his ruling, Jones said that while intelligent design, or ID, arguments "may be true, a proposition on which the court takes no position, ID is not science." Among other things, he said intelligent design "violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation"; it relies on "flawed and illogical" arguments; and its attacks on evolution "have been refuted by the scientific community."

"The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources," he wrote.

The judge also said: "It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy."

Former school board member William Buckingham, who advanced the policy, said from his new home in Mt. Airy, N.C., that he still feels the board did the right thing.

"I'm still waiting for a judge or anyone to show me anywhere in the Constitution where there's a separation of church and state," he said. "We didn't lose; we were robbed."

The controversy divided Dover and surrounding Dover Township, a rural area of nearly 20,000 residents about 20 miles south of Harrisburg. It galvanized voters to oust eight school board members who supported the policy in the Nov. 8 school board election. The ninth board member was not up for re-election.

The new school board president, Bernadette Reinking, said the board intends to remove intelligent design from the science curriculum and place it in an elective social studies class. "As far as I can tell you, there is no intent to appeal," she said.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Under Reported Stories of 2005

Thanks to American Foreign Policy Magazine (no liberal rag by any means) for bringing this to our attention...

The Top 10 Stories You Missed in 2005

Still, a Wounded Military
In last year’s list, we pointed out that the health of the U.S. military was in serious decline. At 7 to 1, the ratio of wounded to dead in Iraq was the highest of any conflict in recent memory, including Vietnam, where the ratio was 3 to 1. A year later, the story is worse—and still largely ignored. In 2005, the most common number cited regarding the war in Iraq was the more than 2,100 U.S. soldiers that have died. When the number of wounded was mentioned, the Pentagon figure of more than 15,500 U.S. troops, or the Army Medical Department’s total of 20,748 medical evacuations, was usually rolled out. Today, the wounded-to-dead ratio remains near 7 to 1 by this official count. But a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) report released in October tells a bigger story. Its data shows that 119,247 veterans of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have sought VA healthcare. Of those, 46,450 were diagnosed primarily with musculoskeletal problems, such as joint ailments and back disorders. More than 36,800 veterans, or 31 percent of those the VA cared for, were treated primarily for mental disorders. Not even the VA had anticipated the number of soldiers they would be asked to help. In June, the agency told lawmakers that it had underestimated the the number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, and required $1 billion in emergency funding.

Back From Hiatus

I'm back from a much needed vacation outside the US. In fact for two weeks I stayed blissfully ignorant of American politics and news in general. I highly recommend it.

The moral: There's more to life than partisan politics. Take a breather. The world will still be there when you get back. You don't have to leave the country to get the same bliss. Turn off the TV. You'll live without checking email too.

Try it as an experiment. You'll thank me later.

-IFK Editor