2005
11.30

 

MSNBC/AP: Clemency forestalls nation’s 1,000th execution — Virginia governor intervenes; North Carolina inmate next in line

Lovitt’s lawyers, who include former independent counsel Kenneth Starr, and anti-death penalty advocates had argued that his life should be spared because a court clerk illegally destroyed the bloody scissors and other evidence, preventing DNA testing that they said could exonerate him.

2005
11.29

 

This week’s Oklahoma Gazette has two dualing op-ed pieces on the issue of teaching of evolution and intelligent design in public schools, an anti-intelligent design essay by Kurt Hochenauer (author of Okiefunk.com — click here to read his recent post that touches on this topic) and a pro-intelligent design essay by State Rep. Thad Balkman

As usual, I find myself torn between both perspectives. . .

* Where I agree with Kurt — I agree that “Intelligent Design” is not a scientific theory, because it is difficult (if not impossible) to test the theory, a key component to the development of any scientific theory. I also agree that it is a mistake to not teach evolution in school science classes, if for no other reason than that students who intend to study advanced science in college will need to understand it.

* Where I agree with Thad — Thad is dead on the money in highlighting the social impact of the theory of evolution, in that it gave fuel to racists to back their stupid and wacky views (as well another social impact that he didn’t mention , that social evolution was used by early capitalists to justify to represssion of the working class since the common man was seen as “less evolved” that those in power) It is not right to allow the tyranny of science to be used to justify evil. Certainly I understand that almost all evolutionists today do not buy into the racist ideas of the past, but I think it is fair to say that the logical implication of evolution could very easily lead folks in that direction. (for a more modern day rendition of this, look at the Bell Jar theory that was quite popular a few years back)

* Where I disagree with Kurt — Kurt says that…

Many scientists believe ideas like intelligent design belong in philosophy, not science, classrooms. Our public educational systems in Oklahoma and throughout the country have plenty of room for discussions over differing views about the origins of life. Intelligent design, for example, could easily be discussed in a high school contemporary events course.

I agree with Kurt that this discussion does belong in a philosophy class… the problem is that Oklahoma public schools (as far as I know) do not have philosophy classes, and in fact tend to not teach critical thinking skills to students, or even give them the chance to voice those perspectives. I speak from experience here, as I was told in junior high and high school that I was asking too many questions, and was graded down for doing so.

And I disagree that this discussion belongs in a contemporary events course. That sounds like minimization to me. Pushing this discussion aside to being “an interesting thing that is in the news” is not the answer. This question is much bigger than that. What one believes about the nature of existence is at stake.

Certainly intelligent design isn’t science, but if students are not allowed to rebut it elsewhere, then they should have the right to argue against it in science class. Science itself is no more sacred than anything else.

* Where I disagree with Thad — Thad says that “neo-darwinianism” is the “theory that you and I are merely the lucky result of random mutations and blind natural selection.” I don’t completely agree with that. As a theistic evolutionist (one who believes that evolution is the process of creation, but that God is behind the process and is involved in the process), I think he is mischarcterizing evolution. Maybe it would be better to put God back into evolution than to throw him out.

* Thoughts in summary — I think many folks on both sides of the aisle are afraid of the ideas on the other side of the aisle. In an ideal situation evolution could be taught in science class, but could be critically discussed, rebutted, attacked, and anything else you want to do with it in philosophy class, and for that matter science itself should be open to attack. Because this type of critical thinking isn’t happening, I personally think science is too dangerous to even teach in schools. It is not fair and it is not right to unleash the dangers of science and technology without having this criticism, because it implies that there is only one kind of truth.

Now please hear me… I’m not opposed to science. I am opposed to the worship of science, at the exclusion of ethics, spirituality and proper rememberance that human beings cannot understand the incredible complexity of a beautiful and mysterious universe. This kind of reverence is what is missing from education today and that is the real shame.

2005
11.29

Woohoo! I just hit 500

 

JMBzine.wordpress.com: Bicycle Report for Monday, November 29, 2005 — Total miles riden since starting blog in September: 500.8

2005
11.28

 

Here’s some incredible news about the initiative by the Industrial Workers of the World to see a workers-led democratic union that fights for the rights of workers at Starbucks.

I am hoping to see a local effort here in OKC to support this campaign and maybe even to work on unionizing some of the stores here. (please contact me if you would like to help on this)

StarbucksUnion.org – a website by the Starbucks Union (part of IU 660 of the IWW)

IWW: Workers at third U.S. Starbucks go union

New York Newsday: IWW seeks to organize Starbucks workers (archived at IWW.org

New York Times: Union Steps Up Drive to Organize Starbucks (archived at IWW.org

IWW.org: Starbucks Charged with Terminating Two Employees for Union Activity

IWW.org: New Zealand Starbucks Workers on Strike! (the first Starbucks strike in the world)

2005
11.27

 

This is an update to an earlier post: 19,000 protest at the School of Americas with 40 crossing the line to face almost certain federal prison terms

SOAW.org: Prisoner Addresses, Legal Collective Report

Four of those who crossed the line to carry the protest against the SOA onto the military base remain incarcerated in the Muscogee County Jail in Columbus, Georgia. Father Jerry Zawada, 68 of Indiana and Father Louis Vitale, 73, of San Francisco and Priscilla Treska, 66, of Cleveland Ohio refused $1,000 bond and remain in jail. One person, Christine Gaunt, 49, of Grinnell Iowa, pled guilty and has already been sentenced to six months in prison and a $2,000 fine. Another, Don Nelson, of Summertown TN, received a sentence of 90 days in prison.

Others are scheduled to go to trial on January 30th, 2006, while the real criminals and those responsible for the SOA torture manuals have never even been charged.

“Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience… therefore [individuals] have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.” – Nürnberg International Military Tribunal

SOAW.org: 2005 Vigil Report from the Legal Collective

SOAW.org: 4 sets of slideshows from this year’s protests (the pictures of those crossing the line, or in this case crawling under the fence to be arrested by the MP’s on the other side, are particularly stirring — I’m so encouraged to see folks willing to take this stand for peace in light of the almost certain federal prison terms they will be getting. With folks like this alive today, there still is hope.)

2005
11.24

 

BuynothingChristmas.org – a wonderful website created by Canadian Mennonites

Buynothingday.co.uk – a website for the UK’s Buy Nothing Day

Adbusters.org: Buy Nothing Day

I really appreciate the sentiments of these websites. I think most folks (including myself) are not willing to go as far as the Buy Nothing Christmas campaign, but maybe a good start is to forgo the after-Thanksgiving mass sales day by participating in Buy Nothing Day, and along with that look for ways to include giving to the poor this Christmas, as this winter is increasingly looking like a brutal one for a lot of people. Here’s one blurb that gives a picture of this…

From: MSNBC: Food bank donations down sharply — Officials fear ‘donor fatigue’ in year plagued by disasters domestic, abroad

Those dire situations have a parallel in America’s growing food needs. An October report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that 2004 was the fifth consecutive year in which the number of Americans in households at risk of hunger increased. The number of people living in what the USDA calls “food-insecure” households rose to 38.2 million last year, including 13.8 million children.

Food-bank officials say the problem’s only gotten worse since then. The effect has been the worst of scenarios: a decrease in food donations and an increase in the number of people who need them.

“Our food donations are significantly down this year compared to last year — they’re down about 20 percent,” said Becky Guerra, community affairs director for Northwest Harvest, a Washington state-based charity with offices in Seattle and warehouses serving 300 food banks throughout western Washington. “But our client numbers are up.”

2005
11.24

Thanksgiving thoughts

 

Alternet.org: No Thanks to Thanksgiving – by Robert Jenson (Thanks to thereitis.org for this link)

Robert Jenson’s (a well-known and/or notorious, depending on how you see things, UT-Austin journalism professor) essay gives a good argument of why Thanksgiving’s dark side as a “white-supremacist” holidary shouldn’t be celebrated.

I definitely hear his point (but would note that the roots of Thanksgiving are shrouded in history and there is no consensus as to what the “real” story is), but I think I would have to differ with him on the final judgment.

I think Thanksgiving has two valuable social purposes in today’s America — the first being that it provides an oppotunity for families to come together over a meal (that often is prepared by the family itself, it in itself a good thing with homecooking being so rare these days). I know this sounds like a small thing, but in today’s world that is pretty cool thing.

The second valuable purpose (at least for folks of faith) is that Thanksgiving is a reminder to many that the blessings of life are from God. This is probably where I differ from Professor Jenson, as he sees the holiday as:

. . . the day when the dominant white culture (and, sadly, most of the rest of the non-white but non-indigenous population) celebrates the beginning of a genocide that was, in fact, blessed by the men we hold up as our heroic founding fathers.

. . . Any attempt to complicate this story guarantees hostility from mainstream culture. After raising the barbarism of America’s much-revered founding fathers in a lecture, I was once accused of trying to “humble our proud nation” and “undermine young people’s faith in our country.”

Yes, of course — that is exactly what I would hope to achieve. We should practice the virtue of humility and avoid the excessive pride that can, when combined with great power, lead to great abuses of power.

I see the holiday as being a day to be thankful, to remember that we owe a lot to God, but also to so many people who show us love and kindness each day. I think this kind of thoughtful, humble and reverent celebration of the holiday also should remind us that we don’t know everything and that we should look out for everyone.

I have no problem with casting off the “pilgrim story” mythology of thanksgiving (I’ve felt uneasy about it for a long time), but I think the ideas of families coming together and folks taking a moment to “count your blessings” is a really good thing.

2005
11.23

 

Austin.indymedia.org: Hometown Hero Katherine Goes Public in Refusal to Fight in the War

Indymedia Milwaukee: TODAY! Army National Guard Spc. Katherine Jashinski refuses to deploy

I hope to hear soon how folks can support Katherine (I’m assuming she’ll have legal bills and other expenses to come), but if anyone knows anything please post it as a comment or shoot me an email.

2005
11.22

 

HillNews.com: The student-loan rip-off is a test of GOP rhetoric, by Dick Morris

I don’t have time to research this, but I’m hoping some other blogs pick up on this story and start discussing it. Student loan debt is going to cripple a whole generation the way things are going (I am so thankful that I got my loans refinanced while the rates were around 3%).

2005
11.22

 

MSNBC: Europeans: ‘Many hints’ of CIA prison flights — Investigator is looking into 31 flights, seeking satellite images”

I may be reading too much into this, but I think that there may come a point when a European judge (maybe in Spain, since their courts assert jurisdiction to try folks for war crimes that have happened anywhere in the world… and because a Spanish prosecutor has brought forth evidence that the CIA used a Spanish airport to transport its secret prisoners) could indict American officials for war crimes.

I certainly hope this happens because I don’t think we can count on justice in this country for those guilty of torturing terror suspects.