Wednesday, October 12, 2005

October 11, 2005

News Blues

Compassionate Conservative Watch
What's a compassionate conservative do when faced with this problem. Energy costs are at record highs. Winter is approaching. In normal times the working poor have trouble paying their winter heating bills. This year they will face bills between 50% and 71% higher than normal.

So, whatya do? Do you repeal some of the overly generous tax cuts you gave to the already wealthy during better times? Nope. You squeeze an extra $4.3 billion out of the budget by terminating 100 federal programs, many designed to help the poor manage their energy bills and respond to emergencies.

"Among the programs set for elimination are high-energy cost amelioration grants totaling $28 million and natural disaster emergency loan subsidies totaling $3 million, both administered by the Agriculture Department. Other targets are $70 million in flood control and coastal emergency programs of the Army Corps of Engineers, a $298 million emergency low-income heating assistance fund, and the $10 million empowerment zone and enterprise community program....The cost-cutting moves highlight the trade-offs involved as Congress tries to address a huge budget deficit without raising taxes." (Full Story)

So, the next time Bush describes himself as a "compassionate conservative," understand that his compassion is for the wealthy, whose tax cuts he is willing protect even if it means heaping yet more misery on America's working poor.

And if that makes me sound like a bleeding heart liberal, fine. I can live with that -- especially if the alternative is being a phony "compassionate" conservative. My heart does bleed, just not for the Trump's Cheney's and Murdoch's out there, whom I suspect will not even notice this winter's utility bills.

Sky Pilots Get Wings' Clipped
"Airman! Drop down and give me 50 push ups – or accept Jesus as your personal savior. Your choice, maggot!"

Okay, I admit, that's a bit much. But bible thumping Christian chaplains at the U.S. Air Force Academy have been accused of Jehovah Witness evangelizing on campus. Rather than just ministering to the already superstitious, they were trying to poach Jews, Muslims, Hindus and atheists – especially atheists. (For an evangelical preacher, converting an atheist is like a guy bagging a lesbian.)

Of course it wouldn't take a genius I.Q. to figure out that sooner or later someone was going to take offense. And so it came to pass.

"The Air Force, facing a lawsuit over alleged proselytizing, has withdrawn a document that permitted chaplains to evangelize military personnel who were not affiliated with any faith, Pentagon officials said yesterday. The document was circulated at the Air Force Chaplain School until eight weeks ago. It was a "code of ethics" for chaplains that included the statement "I will not proselytize from other religious bodies, but I retain the right to evangelize those who are not affiliated." (Full Story)

Understand what happened there. These American religious fundamentalists actually thought they had made a generous concession by promising not to poach believers from "other faiths." But they wanted to leave open the option of bagging the occasional free-range atheist.

Michael L. "Mikey" Weinstein, a 1977 Air Force Academy graduate is one of those who has accused the academy's current leaders of pressuring cadets to convert to evangelical Christianity. He sees a fundamental(ist) contradiction in that.

"They say the bad guys we're fighting, the jihadists, represent a theocratic, fascistic movement," Weinstein said. "If the United States Air Force, probably the most technologically lethal organization ever assembled by man, has a policy of evangelizing 'the unchurched,' you tell me how that makes us look."


Darwin v. Stupid
Oh, oh. Bad news for the stubbornly ignorant. Scientists have announced they have taken a giant step towards removing forever the term adjective "theory," from Evolution.

"When scientists announced last month they had determined the exact order of all 3 billion bits of genetic code that go into making a chimpanzee, it was no surprise that the sequence was more than 96 percent identical to the human genome. Charles Darwin had deduced more than a century ago that chimps were among humans' closest cousins...But decoding chimpanzees' DNA allowed scientists to do more than just refine their estimates of how similar humans and chimps are. It let them put the very theory of evolution to some tough new tests...That a smidgeon of cells 3.5 billion years ago could -- through mechanisms no more extraordinary than random mutation and natural selection -- give rise to the astonishing tapestry of biological diversity that today thrives on Earth." (Full Story)

The results of this research come at an inconvenient moment for the forces of ignorance, as it will almost surely play center court in cases dealing with the teaching of so-called "Creationism" and/or "Intelligent Design" as science in schools.

"Evolution is a way of understanding the world that continues to hold up day after day to scientific tests," Alan Leshner, chief executive of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. "By contrast, said , Intelligent Design offers nothing in the way of testable predictions....Just because they call it a theory doesn't make it a scientific theory. The concept of an intelligent designer is not a scientifically testable assertion."

So here's the bottom line: Intelligent Design v. Evolution -- one is science and one really is just a theory.

(Personally I believe we are all just figments of one another's imaginations. But it's just a theory.)