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July 20, 2005

Count Every Vote Act

I just wrote my members of Congress to urge them to co-sponsor the Count Every Vote Act, a sweeping federal election reform bill sponsored by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (NY) and Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (OH). People For the American Way, the Election Protection coalition and other voting rights advocates are supporting this bill with me.

The Count Every Vote Act is a comprehensive, commonsense set of solutions to the voter problems witnessed in 2000, 2002 and 2004. Please ask your senators and representative to become co-sponsors of this bill so that we can implement these reforms in time for the 2006 federal election.

You can e-mail or fax a letter supporting the Count Every Vote Act at: http://www.pfaw.org/pfaw/general/default.aspx?oid=16842&action=1887

This legislation faces an uphill battle in Congress. The first step is getting a strong, bipartisan group of senators and representatives to co-sponsor it. This bill is what Americans have been demanding since November 2, and it needs your support now.

Thanks for your help,

July 18, 2005

Intelligent Designerists [Oregonian]

[Submitted to The Oregonian 07/07/2005, published 07/16/2005 with edits as An evolving state of mind over matter]

Additional humor:
  Open Letter to Kansas School Board
  Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New 'Intelligent Falling' Theory
  Okay, We Give Up
  No Free Hunch

  To paraphrase Douglas Adams' in A Hitchhiker's Guide: “

I refuse to prove that I exist,” says God, “for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.”

“But,” says Man, “Intelligent Design is a dead giveaway, isn’t it?  Life could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don’t. QED.”

“Oh dear,” says God, “I hadn’t thought of that,” and promptly disappears in a puff of logic.

Resources:
  What Do You Know?
  15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense
  Other Resources for Defending Evolution
  Intelligent Design? a special report reprinted from Natural History magazine
  National Center for Science Education
  'Intelligent design' camouflages religion
  New York Times series: Politicized Scholars Put Evolution on the Defensive and In Explaining Life's Complexity, Darwinists and Doubters Clash and Show Me the Science and full coverage
  The Hitchhiker's Guide to Intelligent Design
  The Republican War on Science
  Kansas State Department of Education State Science Standards
  TalkOrigins' Index of Creationist Claims (rebutts each of 100s of claims) including “Intelligent Design
  EvoWiki
  Talk Reason - Arguments against creationism, ID, and religious apologetics

[As submitted to The Oregonian:]

July 10th is the anniversary of the start of the Scopes trial about the teaching of evolution.  I have to admit that I continue to harbor a certain skepticism about people that claim that they have a better scientific explanation for the diversity and structure of life than evolution provides ... just as long as you first accept that fossils aren't really old, that isotopes don't really decay over time (and thus nuclear bombs and nuclear power don't exist, stars don't die out).  You know, that physics isn't true, and stuff like that.

I may be old fashioned, but to accept the latest notion, called “intelligent design”, as a science it needs not only to poke fanciful holes in obvious, tested reality by using semantic obscurantism, but also it needs that bedrock of the scientific method: a testable hypothesis about its own claim that there was an intelligent designer of life, tests that can be independently repeated and verified.

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But for some reason “intelligent design” supporters often skirt their own big question which is, obviously, “Who was the designer?”

Fortunately, I recently realized that we have an excellent way to directly search for our intelligent designer and put the question to the test ... and perhaps to rest for all time!  Each spring, the small town of McMinnville, Oregon is host to an annual UFO festival and parade.  The second largest in the country, I hear.  So here, right under our very noses, has been the laboratory intelligent designerists have needed!

No more searching for evidence of our designer by listening with our electronic ears to the heavens (oops, “skies” -- remember we are talking science here!) listening for the alien equivalent of endless Gilligan's Island reruns beaming toward us from our designer now that he's done with us.  No, we can simply wait at the end of the parade, and ask each Klingon and Wookiee and every other creature, “Are you my designer?  And if not, do you know who is?”  After all, surely the proud designer will turn up some year.  I mean, any good designer would want to come back now and then and just sort of admire how well his things are living, don't you think?

Oh, but wait!  This may be more difficult than I thought: based on the poor quality of the design of my eyes, leading to the need for very strong prescription glasses, and the vast array of debilitating and tragic diseases affecting that ultimate creation, Homo sapiens, it would appear that life was designed by some fractious committee who couldn't quite agree on how any of it really ought to work, or some evil designer inventing diabolical miseries for us to endure, or perhaps just someone who never quite got the hang of this designing life stuff.  And since no one ever takes credit for failures, let alone failures on such a colossal scale, the search will likely be a long one as each alien tediously denies having anything to do with us.

Sigh.  Well, back to the drawing board.

Oh, but wait!  I've got another idea: what if we were to just redefine science to mean not science?  Yes, the pieces are all starting to fit together ... now it is all starting to make sense!  (Well, not sense.)

July 07, 2005

Re: Connor and the Parameters of Possibility [The Nation]

[Submitted 7/7/2005 to The Nation]

The vast majority of Americans just want judges that the vast majority of Americans think are unbiased.

Bruce Shapiro wrote in "'Connor and the Parameters of Possibility" on 7/6/2005 that, "The meaning of the Constitution's advise-and-consent clause will get reinvented with this upcoming Supreme Court nomination."

How right he is.  A lesson from the fight about the "nuclear option", and his observation, should be the warning that American citizens have only the most tenuous hold, based on Senate parliamentary rules, on mainstream judges.

We should have this as a right.  We should have constitutional amendment requiring a 2/3 vote in favor of supreme court justices, so that these selections will stand for all Americans through the shifting politicals winds sure to blow during the decades they serve on the bench.

July 06, 2005

re: Senators Clash on Questioning a Court Nominee [NYT]

[Submitted to the NYT 07/06/2005 re: Senators Clash on Questioning a Court Nominee]

The vast majority of Americans simply want judges that the vast majority believe are unbiased.  Key to that is understanding the views and thinking process of the nominees.

Anyone who has spent significant time interviewing job candidates knows that it isn't just the answers to the questions that are considered, but how the question is answered.  A classic question used on sales people is, "sell me this stapler."  Clearly what is interesting in the reponse is how they approach the challenge.

Instead, Republicans appear to be trying to limit questioning to personal flaws and not views, and have developed coaching lessons for nominees on how to avoid giving clear answers.  This would make a mockery of the entire "advice and consent" of the Senate by constricting it to the non-material portions of a nominee's background!

For crucial decisions like this, that need to endure through the political winds of the next few decades the person may serve on the bench, American citizens expect the Senate to rise above today's power politics and find out how the nominees approach important issues.

July 05, 2005

re: Filibuster Deal Puts Democrats in a Bind [Washington Post]

[Sent to the Washington Post on 07/05/2005]

To the Editors:

The vast majority of Americans simply want Supreme Court justices that the vast majority of Americans think are unbiased.

Yet recently you reported in "Filibuster Deal Puts Democrats In a Bind" that Republican Senators believe that "a filibuster can be justified only on questions of personal ethics or character."

What a sad state of affairs America has descended to that Republicans believe that the actual qualifications and legal opinions of judges are not relevant to evaluating a nominees fitness as a judge.

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