Sunday, October 29, 2006

"Bush Bedroom" Video

Bush Bedroom

This is the "Bush Bedroom" scene from Tales of the New Depression/Brooklyn vs. Bush.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Lynn's Swann Dive into "A New Direction"

Although I have no factual basis to state this (this is only my belief), while I suspect this book was written more by Robert Heiler than by Lynn Swann, I do credit Robert Heiler for thoroughly researching and arguing the basic conservation Republican positions in this book. Partisans will note the comment in the book from Charena Swann when she writes of her husband, “I do not share his party affiliation.” The book goes downhill from there.

The book calls for more programs that will make voters happy while calling for lower business taxes. The tired arguments that businesses will locate elsewhere without tax breaks is made, despite the numerous economic studies and admissions from business executives that state tax breaks make little or no difference in their business location decisions. (Indeed, it would be a foolish business executive who decides a permanent location on the basis of such a minute factor in the costs of operations.) The book further calls for greater protections for doctors (who someone fit the Republican bill as an underprivileged class) from those nasty patients who wish to sue them when doctors make mistakes that only hurt the health of patients.

The book correctly notes that taxes and spending increase over time, as does inflation. Again, the solution that is offered is to reduce business taxes, perhaps because businesses should be made immune to inflation. I guess individuals will be willing to make up the difference, something they should consider when they go to vote. Amazingly, the book makes the argument that cutting taxes will increase revenues, the logic of which has seldom if ever existed on the state level.

Lynn Swann proposes capping property taxes at 3% even though the costs of education have been increasing at higher rates. He even makes proposals that would increase education costs even further, such as increased monitoring and tracking of students’ progress and bonus pay to teachers whose students outperform students in schools of similar demographics.

Swann also proposes limiting spending on a formula according to inflation, again ignoring the realities that major components of the state budget such as health care and education are increasing faster than inflation.

While business taxes are to be lowered, the book calls for new spending in restoring 1,000 miles of streams, increased agricultural and farmland preservation, increased efforts on improving green spaces, brownfields, hazardous sites, and mine reclamation, as well as creating new programs in agricultural resources, vocational agricultural programs, and agricultural research. These ideas have merit, although the book ignores how to pay for these with the fewer revenues (oh, I’m sorry, I forgot, the authors believe that reducing taxes increases revenues. If that is the basis, I would warn agriculture and environment advocates not to hold their breaths waiting for these additional revenues.)

Some roads should be leased, the authors argue. Readers should be forewarned that this would mean higher tolls so the lessees can make profits off of drivers. The authors are also hoping voters ignore where they wrote “Rendell believes adding police officers will address the crisis…This alone will not lower the murder rates”, as this is what Swann’s Republican friends in the legislature have since proposed.

Students of legislatures will find it interesting that the authors propose that the Governor can not sign or veto any legislation until at least 72 hours after it passes the General Assembly, with exceptions allowed for stated emergencies. Also, they “applaud” (it is your guess whether “applaud” means “supports”) a proposal to reduce the legislature to 30 Senators and 121 Representatives (thus giving legislators more constituents and making it more difficult to serve each and all).

This book will make an interesting archival study someday when future researchers seek to learn of failed ideas during the 21st century.

Shh: Rick Santorum's Nod to the Religious Right: Don't Tell Anyone Else

Let me first state my personal beliefs and bias in approaching this book, "Darwin's Nemesis", edited by William A. Dembski, that Senator Santorum is involved with (but doesn’t widely publicize). I respect anyone’s religion, but at the same time I wish people would also respect other’s views. Religion is based on faith, indeed, that is a key component behind many beliefs that followers accept that which can’t be proved. Yet, when a religion insists that, not only are their beliefs are the one true belief (which is their right) but that everyone else must accept their beliefs are correct, then I must object to this imposition of one’s beliefs onto others. Not everyone’s beliefs can be the “one true belief” when they conflict, nor should one insist that their belief should be taught as truth when it conflicts with the observable data. Even when this data has faults, and it is good to question faults, one can not and should not substitute beliefs for the best known data. Nor should beliefs be taught as a science. I have no problem with religious beliefs being taught as what they are: beliefs, but school children, our impressionable young, should not be taught that beliefs are science. When they are older and can understand the difference, they should be free to find their own beliefs. Students need to better facts, be able to challenge facts and ultimately learn about facts and how science derives these facts to seek to find better facts. It is not the role of our school systems to substitute facts with beliefs. The courts have agreed with this view.

Still, there are people who disagree with what the courts have ruled and who insist that evolution is factually wrong and that Intelligent Design is the one and only correct explanation for how humans came to be. It needs to be said that evolution does not have to contradict religion. God could have created the universe and evolution is His plan. Yet, Intelligent Design not only conflicts with evolution but insists evolution is wrong. Granted, several proponents of Intelligent Design point to errors that have been made in evolutionary studies and mistakes that Darwin made in what he wrote in the 19th century. Still, there is a grand body of research in evolution that has been conducted since Darwin’s original (and flawed) theories.

This book is a collection of essays by proponents of Intelligent Design. Obviously, as a reviewer, I have to admit I disagree with the writers of these essays. I could point out that I find it cynical that Rick Santorum caters to the religious community by letting it be known to the religious community that he supports this book, but fails to shout this support to the general public who might be a little more enraged to learn that a Senator voices support for the Intelligent Design movement. I will respect that this may be the Senator’s beliefs, and he has a right to these beliefs. Ironically, I find it more than interesting that an oft libertarian leaning politician believes it should be the role of government to impose religious beliefs onto public school systems.

Now, to give Senator Santorum a chance to respond, he writes that “only a shallow, partisan understanding of science supports the false philosophy, of materialist reductionism, with its thoroughly unscientific denial of formal and final causes in nature and its repudiation of the first cause of all being.” No, Senator, I don’t deny the existence nor role of God, I just do not deny the same thing you accuse of others: I don’t deny science. I admit science has its flaws, yet until better facts are found, students to be taught the facts as they are known, in hopes that future researchers will improve upon these known facts.

The book itself is a good resource for readers who wish to learn more about the works of Phillip Johnson, a leader of the Intelligent Design theories/(facts according to his supporters). It is a one sided defense of Johnson and tears down Darwin. Granted, Darwin made lots of mistakes, but Darwin was the first word, not the most recent, researcher into evolution. One writer insists the world is 10,000 years old. Some writers refute the existence of genetic mutations, or that any mutated species could survive. I know of the research into genetic mutations of species that following nuclear blasts and I believe that genes can indeed mutate and find it sad we have to debate even this level of science. But, indeed, this is the core of this debate.

I note one writer who argues how terrible it is that there are those who believe that since religion is not testable truth that it can not be taught as truth in schools. Yes, that is why your truth has to be faith, not taught in public schools as truth. Students are of different faiths, and it is up to their faiths to teach them faith. It is the role of schools to teach testable truth. That’s the way it is supposed to be. Sorry.