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clipped from www.reuters.com
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Students cannot be assigned to public schools because of their race, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Thursday in a significant civil rights decision that casts doubt on integration efforts adopted across the country.
By a 5-4 vote on the last day of its term, the court’s conservative majority struck down voluntary programs adopted in Seattle and Louisville, Kentucky, to attain racial diversity in public school classrooms.
The ruling added to a string of decisions this term in which President George W. Bush’s two appointees — Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito — have shifted the court sharply to the right on divisive social issues like abortion.
It also fueled vows by Democratic presidential candidates to change the court’s direction and reduce racial inequality in schools.

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I used to live in a country in which a handful of men and women, the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, had the courage to stand up in order to protect the interests of those for whom the promise of America was being undermined by public policy. In Brown v Board of Education the court held that public policy that separated young people on the basis of the color of their skin could no longer stand in the United States. Legal segregation based on Plessy v Ferguson, the decision that created the “separate but equal” standard, was no longer acceptable in the land of the free and the home of the brave.Effectively, the court is returning to Plessy. Reuters reports, “Roberts said in writing for the court majority that racial balancing was not permitted. “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,” he said.” Roberts’ logic is flawed. By eliminating policy designed to attain racial diversity from the mix, the court is opening to door to an implied standard of “separate but equal” found in Plessy.

This court is not about courage, justice, or equity. This court is about forcing a radical return to a period in our history that many Americans are pleased to have behind us. As the court undercuts the decisions of the past 50 years I am fearful that the America I have known will rapidly disappear and we will return to a society in which racial. religious, gender, and sexual orientation will not only be “legally” acceptable, it will become an ugly reality. We will return to segregated schools, religious persecution, back alley abortions, and homophobic discrimination. What kind of an example for the world will America be then?

clipped from news.yahoo.com

NEW YORK – The scarlet letter in education these days is an “R.” It stands for restructuring — the purgatory that schools are pushed into if they fail to meet testing goals for six straight years under the No Child Left Behind law.

Nationwide, about 2,300 schools are either in restructuring or are a year away and planning for such drastic action as firing the principal and moving many of the teachers, according to a database provided to The Associated Press by the Education Department. Those schools are being warily eyed by educators elsewhere as the law’s consequences begin to hit home.

Schools fall into this category after smaller changes, such as offering tutoring, fall short. The effort is supposed to amount to a major makeover, and it has created a sense of urgency that in some schools verges on desperation.

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Once again No Child Left Behind rears its ugly head. In the land of the free and the home of the brave 2300 schools are deemed failing. No doubt the vast majority of these schools serve urban or rural poor, people of color, or otherwise undeserved communities.
The crisis in American schools is not real, it is, as David Berliner pointed out, one that is politically manufactured, politically motivated. The same people that underfund urban schools rant about how urban schools are failing. The same people that rant about school failures are also behind the movement to privatize education in the United States urging vouchers to pay for religious education and the like.
John Dewey argued that the wealthy in a democracy have the absolute responsibility to provide for the poor the same level of education they provide for their own children. Dewey was speaking about school funding and the gap between funding in wealthy and poor communities. Jonathan Kozol revisited this claim in his fantastic book Savage Inequalities. Nothing has changed in 100 years.

Video from Indianapolis

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The brief clip below is from the start of the parade lap at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway of the United States Grand Prix, the Formula 1 race held at the IMS for the past 8 years. There is simply nothing like the sound of an F1 engine revving at 18,000 rpm as the cars leave the starting line from a standing start.

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clipped from www.kentucky.com
There is trouble in paradise, with a fight of biblical proportions raging between a Kentucky-based creationist group and the Australian group from which it sprang.
Three days after the Memorial Day opening of Answers in Genesis’ $27 million Creation Museum in Northern Kentucky, a group called Creation Ministries International filed suit in the Supreme Court of Queensland.
Among other things, the suit claims the Kentucky group stole subscribers for its Answers magazine by claiming that the Australians’ Creation magazine was “no longer available.”
The suit is the most public move in what has been a growing rift between groups that are spreading the same Garden of Eden creation message on opposite sides of the globe.
Both groups believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible, that the earth and everything else was created in six days around 6,000 years ago.
But in the last several years, they have increasingly feuded about finances and power.

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Hoo Haa! So there must be more than one creation mythology because even the creationists can’t agree. Fighting over whose myth outranks the other’s even when the myths are based on the same text is, no doubt, fodder for Jay Leno. I just have to laugh. If only they would try a bit of rationality rather than delusional self-interest maybe, just maybe, the world would be a better, more tolerant place.

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ANYONE who follows an election campaign too closely will sometimes get the feeling that politicians think voters are idiots. But voters may not be idiots just irrational thinkers. This article presents a nice breakdown of voter biases with economic lessons integrated. The American voter biases are anti-market, anti-foreign, make-work, and pessimism…

THIS IS A FANTASTIC PIECE. Click on the link below to read the whole article.

Read the Whole Article –Click Here | digg story

clipped from www.formula1.com
At one stage the first six cars – the McLarens, the BMW Saubers and the Ferraris – were only six-tenths of a second apart, but then the Spaniard hit his stride to go clear with a lap of 1m 11.925s. That compares with Michael Schumacher’s 2006 pole position lap of 1m 10.832s.This time it was not Hamilton who got closest; that honour fell to Nick Heidfeld who looked very strong in the BMW Sauber on his way to 1m 12.391s. His only drama was a momentary deviation from the grey stuff on one lap. Backing him strongly, new-for-this-race team mate Sebastian Vettel pushed his way up to fourth place on 1m 12.869s, without putting a wheel wrong.

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I’ll be out of touch for the next few days. US Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. For all of you that thought my remarks on the infantile nature of target shooting, you can get out your big guns on this one. Watching cars run around a pretend road course makes absolutely no sense. Watching automobiles rev at 19,000 RPM is thrilling but absurd. Finally, being out in the hot sun all day long for two days when air conditioning is close at hand is not for the weak at heart. All that being said, I just love open wheel racing at the highest level in the world. Go figure.In addition, going to the US Grand Prix allows me to spend time with my son and grandson over an extended period of time. WOW. What could be wrong with that.

So I’ll be back on Monday. See you all then.

The Mclaren Team

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clipped from www.reuters.com
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The FBI possibly violated the law or its rules more than 1,000 times since 2002 in collecting data about phone calls, e-mails and financial records while investigating terrorism or espionage suspects, FBI officials said on Thursday.
The potential violations found by an FBI audit were far greater than the approximately two dozen previously documented violations in a U.S. Justice Department report released in March that was based on a much smaller sampling, they said.
The vast majority of newly discovered violations were instances in which companies, such as telephone and Internet providers, gave more information than the FBI sought, the officials said.
They said the FBI has drafted new guidelines in an effort to prevent future abuses, but civil liberties groups and Democrats in Congress expressed doubt that they would be sufficient to protect the privacy of Americans.

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When I was growing up in the 1950’s we were forced to watch propaganda films telling us all about the evils of the Soviet Union, especially the danger from the Secret Police. We were briefed on the potential abuse in such a system, one which went so far as to encourage children to spy on their parents, workers on their bosses and colleagues, and friend on friend. Awards, we were told, were given to those who reported to the secret police crimes real or imagined.I wonder just what the difference might be if the FBI takes upon itself the role of secret police. Of course, there is a great difference here. The FBI investigated itself and slapped its own hand. What would an external investigation, one that is independent of the Justice Department under the questionable leadership of Alberto Gonzales, might find?

Sad fact is that I am not surprised by any of this. Just another potential scandal for George II’s administration.

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Yesterday Education Week reported the results of a study by the National Center for Education Statistics that calls into question the efficacy of state educational assessments required by the No Child Left Behind legislation. In part, Education Week wrote:

Many of the states that claim to have large shares of their students
reaching proficiency in reading and mathematics under the No Child Left
Behind Act have set less stringent standards for meeting that threshold than lower-performing states, a new federal study finds.

study drew an immediate and strong reaction from many public officials
and education advocates, who said it laid bare states’ vastly divergent
standards for testing students.

The report judges states’ reading and math tests against a common yardstick: the proficiency standards used by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often referred to as “the nation’s report card.”

Released last week by the National Center for Education Statistics,
the analysis appears to back up the suspicions of those who have cast a
skeptical eye on state data showing high percentages of students
reaching the “proficient” level in reading and math.

But researchers who were asked by the Council of Chief State School Officers
to review the study’s methodology cited what they see as flaws in
comparing two dissimilar sets of exams: NAEP and those administered by

Even so, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret
Spellings called it “sobering news” as the nation seeks to raise
academic demands on students.

States “must do their part by
setting high standards and expectations,” she said in a statement. “I
hope this report will be a catalyst for positive change.”

study was issued June 7, two days after a separate report by an
education policy group showing that student scores on state tests have
risen since the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act, which
President Bush signed into law in January 2002. (“State Tests Show Gains Since NCLB,” June 6, 2007.)

There are many reasons that state testing shows greater gains than that of the NAEP scores, not the least is mentioned above, that the tests are dissimilar and therefore do not measure similar things. That, however, is a straw man when it comes to practical significance. Policy makers and both liberal and conservative think tanks have used comparisons of state testing and NAEP over and over to make their case that NCLB is flawed or is working just fine (it all depends on one’s political lens). What is clear, however, is that there is a discrepancy between NAEP scores, which remain flat and state tests, which show an increase in student performance since 2002, the year NCLB went into effect.

The emphasis in NCLB policy on annual performance growth has altered the face of educational practice in the United States. School children and their teachers now spend more time in preparation for testing where they learn formulas for appropriate performance on testing instruments designed by state boards of education. In some estimations, in a 180 day school year, students and teachers spend between 80 and 100 full days preparing for testing. This amounts to fully half of the school year spent in preparing for the state tests. Even of this estimate is on the high side (let’s reduce it by 1/2) the fact still remains that children are spending 25% of their academic year learning formulas for passing the test so the school’s AYP passes the muster of NCLB.

Because schools spend so much of their time engaged in test preparation, little time is left for rigorous academic inquiry. Students no longer study the arts, engage in social studies education and science instruction is somewhere on or near the back burner. What counts is reading and mathematics. But, reading about what? Math in relationship to what? Teaching reading and math (by the way it is not really mathematics that is being taught rather it is arithmetic) in isolation does nothing to provide a context for either reading or math. These subjects become tasks to do, something like doing the laundry. They get done because one must do them but one does not necessarily have to like doing them.

High-stakes testing provides a climate in which students and teachers must focus on the testing and not on instruction or learning. In a recent conversation with a focus group of high school juniors that I recorded as part of a study I am currently working on, I asked the students about their recent performance on a written take-home exam. The results of the papers that the students turned in was disappointing. The writing was formulaic, showing no creative thinking but sticking closely to conventions and structural components that are appropriate on state mandated tests. One of the students said, “I really don’t know how to write any other way. That’s all I’ve ever been taught. All my life I learned the 5 paragraph essay and now, sadly, i have to learn a whole new way to write.” Another member of the focus group wondered, “Why do you teach us this style for so long and then tell us we have to go beyond. I’m confused.” My point is simply that these students clearly can and, when given a chance, do articulate significant problems with high-stakes testing and NCLB.

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Reuters reports this afternoon that:

The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday responded to the deadliest shooting rampage in modern American history by passing legislation to help keep guns out of hands of the mentally ill.On a voice vote, the House sent the measure — which would be the first major gun control bill enacted since 1994 and bolster background checks for gun buyers — to the Democratic-led Senate for needed concurrence.

The bill was drafted in consultation with the 4 million-member National Rifle Association, the nation’s biggest gun-rights group, after a deranged gunman killed himself and 32 others in April at Virginia Tech university.

“I think the chances are very strong that we can get this passed in the Senate,” said Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, provided the legislation is not laden with amendments that gun rights backers find objectionable.

It is a start. Interestingly the NRA apparently participated in the drafting of this bill–has the leadership of the NRA finally come to their senses. Gun control does not mean depriving Americans of the right to own weapons. It does not mean that Americans cannot hunt or participate in the infantile sport of shooting at paper targets. Gun control doesn’t even mean that one is deprived of the right to join the militia. As I have blogged many times before, making it more difficult to place weapons in the hands of those that are likely to to harm to themselves and others reduces the probability that another Virginia Tech is imminent. Hooray for the courage of the House. Now will the Senate follow suit? Will the lame duck sign legislation that limits placing guns in the hands of the mentally incompetent? All I know is that it is a beginning. I for one will be watching for the outcome.

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Education Week reported on June 8th:

House Democrats want to put their own stamp on federal education spending by increasing Title I and other programs they favor and slashing Reading First and other priorities set by President Bush.

In the $56 billion fiscal 2008 spending bill for the Department of Education unveiled by the Democrats, No Child Left Behind Act programs would receive a $2 billion increase, with the Title I program for disadvantaged students receiving $1.5 billion of that.

But the $1.03 billion Reading First program—which the Bush administration points to as one of its biggest accomplishments under the NCLB law—would take a cut of $630 million, or 61 percent. What’s more, the administration’s latest proposals for private school vouchers and new mathematics programs would not be funded at all.

“This [Reading First] cut will not be restored until we have a full appreciation of the shenanigans that have been going on,” said Rep. David R. Obey, D-Wis., the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Reports by the Department of Education’s inspector general and congressional investigators have outlined management and ethical questions involving the program.

Republicans voiced no objections to the Reading First cuts or other spending levels during the June 7 session of the appropriations panel’s Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee. The subcommittee approved the Democratic plan in a unanimous voice vote.

“If I were chairman,” said Rep. James T. Walsh, R-N.Y., the subcommittee’s senior Republican, “I don’t know that I would have made the bill a whole lot different.”

This should come as no surprise given the recent questions about how the DoED administered the Reading First program. Surrounded by questions of improper ethics and outright fraud when it came to forcing DIBLES on school districts large and small, draining much needed funds away from the classroom, the bipartisan support of this spending cut makes a great deal of sense.

The DoED, like other embattled Bush administration departments, is keeping a stiff upper lip claiming no ethical violations and that the Democrats are undermining the ability of the urban poor to learn. What they forget is that this legislation will most likely leave the committee with full bipartisan support. Republicans as well as Democrats have simply had enough of this scandal ridden White House. Of course, it is easy to take a stand when those directly effected by that stand are not voters.

Where is this kind of bipartisanship when it comes to the blatantly political Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales? But that is for another post…

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FactCheck.org summarized the latest Republican hopefuls debate writing

Pollsters will inform
us whether the third time was the charm for any of these candidates in
the eyes of potential voters. All we can do is remind you not to
believe everything you hear.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney committed the biggest factual fouls of the night, misleadingly asserting:

  • That we went to war in Iraq because Saddam Hussein refused to allow weapons inspectors to come in
  • That
    there’s an ocean of difference between his Massachusetts health plan
    and those “government takeover” plans of “every Democrat” running for
    president and
  • That Russia’s income from oil exports is vastly larger than it actually is.

Other candidates committed factual trespass, too. Sen.
John McCain of Arizona ignored the waste disposal issue when he praised
nuclear power for being green, for instance, and Kansas Sen. Sam
Brownback exaggerated the number of illegal immigrants living in the
United States.

So things are getting better. Mitt Romney needs to do more research before he opens his mouth as he works to spin his future as President of the United States–I mean, we deserve better from presidential candidates than misleading statements and exaggeration of facts that are easily checked. While the others misspoke a bit there was nothing there that cannot be attributed to bombast and zeal.

I keep making the point that the American people deserve more from those that would seek positions of extreme leadership. Both the Democratic and Republican candidates seem to think that telling any old kind of story is appropriate because the folks that will be voting for them will not care enough to dig beyond the spin. We are all at fault because we have let politicians get away with campaigning on spin rather than on ideas and truth. The press fails to call political candidates on their gross errors. The politicians feel the need to out-perform one another as if running for president was nothing more than a long running series like American Idol.

One way to eliminate the problem might be to shorten the campaign season. Two years of running for president is far too long and far too costly to produce anything more than mediocrity in the long term.

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Richard Rorty, 1931-2007

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clipped from www.telospress.com
Richard Rorty, the leading American philosopher and heir to the pragmatist tradition, passed away on Friday, June 8.
He was Professor of Comparative Literature emeritus at Stanford University. In April the American Philosophical Society awarded him the Thomas Jefferson Medal. The prize citation reads: “In recognition of his influential and distinctively American contribution to philosophy and, more widely, to humanistic studies. His work redefined knowledge ‘as a matter of conversation and of social practice, rather than as an attempt to mirror nature’ and thus redefined philosophy itself as an unending, democratically disciplined, social and cultural activity of inquiry, reflection, and exchange, rather than an activity governed and validated by the concept of objective, extramental truth.”

Richard Rorty, 1931-2007

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Richard Rorty’s contribution to American Pragmatism was important and profound. I am deeply saddened by the news of his death, Rorty had a significant influence on my own thinking, especially his distinction between normal and abnormal discourse. It will be a long time coming before another philosopher of Rorty’s stature and influence appears on the American landscape.

Democrats Debate Redux

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clipped from www.factcheck.org
Amid barbs on Iraq, there were exaggerations on energy, insurance and other issues in the second debate of candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination. Among those we found:
Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware wrongly cast Iran as a nation running out of oil.
Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina talked about gas price manipulation by Big Oil where investigators have found none.
Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd used old figures that are almost 2 million too high when stating the number of uninsured.
New York Sen. Hillary Clinton lumped all the Republican Presidential candidates together when it came to their support for the war. That’s not quite right.

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FactCheck.org found no whoppers but the Democrats were not without their own version of spin. The entire article can be read by clicking on the clipped from www,factcheck.org above.While I support one of the Democrats, it is important that they be called on their own spin.

Sometimes spin arises from confusion.

FairCheck, pointing to confusion by Senator Obama, said:Did Sen. Barack Obama confuse people and cars when discussing auto insurance in California?

Obama: And, in fact, if you look at auto insurance, in California, there’s mandatory auto insurance – 25 percent of the folks don’t have it. The reason is because they can’t afford it.

The Insurance Research Council, a research firm funded by insurance companies, does indeed place the number of uninsured drivers at 25 percent. However, according to a study commissioned by the California Department of Insurance, between 25.5 and 30.9 percent of vehicles in that state don’t have insurance. The department estimates that approximately 10 percent of vehicle owners own at least one uninsured vehicle, and of those, only about 42 percent have no insured vehicles. That translates into approximately 4 percent of drivers who do not have auto insurance. Obama is correct to say that of the pure uninsured, most cite cost as their reason for not carrying auto insurance.

The simple truth is that spin and slogans ru(i)n American politics. The political process is reduced to sloganism, to a Madison Avenue mentality. It is the sincere hope of the politician that his or her message of hope through blame will convince enough voters to assure their ascension to the seat of power.

Are we that stupid? Can we not be trusted with the truth absent of all spin? Can we not make decisions based on the merit of one;s argument rather than the cleverness of one’s rhetoric? Do our leaders and potential leaders, in their lust for political power and their sanctimonious desire to define what is right for everyone, not owe us more respect? I think they do. Stop the hype and tell the truth for a change. You may like the way it fits.

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clipped from www.boston.com
WASHINGTON — The Bush administration is writing a new plan to maintain governmental control in the wake of an apocalyptic terrorist attack or overwhelming natural disaster, moving such doomsday planning for the first time from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to officials inside the White House.
The policy replaces a Clinton-era “continuity in government” post-disaster plan. The old plan is classified;
the new policy centralizes control of such planning in the White House and puts a greater emphasis on terrorism spurring the catastrophe.
The policy requires all government agencies to have clear lines of succession if top officials are killed and be prepared to operate from a new headquarters within 12 hours of a catastrophe. They must be prepared “to lead and sustain the nation during a crisis” — a charge ranging from “providing leadership visible to the nation and the world” to “bringing to justice perpetrators of crimes or attacks.”

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Kind of makes one wonder. In the face of a massive, apocalyptic disaster, why it is so important to put a face on national unity? If the disaster is so great that new a HQ must be formed within 12 hours–apparently somewhere away from the White House–then I wonder who might be left to really care about the face of America in the world or “bringing to justice” any perpetrators of attacks.

Boston.com further said:The new policy focuses on a worst-case scenario in which a terrorist nuclear bomb explodes without warning and wipes out much of the nation’s top leadership. Older plans were instead premised on a Cold War-era long-range missile attack, presuming it would be detected in enough time to evacuate the president and other top government officials.

I suppose those in power need to feel like they are doing something but this sounds like something scripted out of a Hollywood disaster film. What is it they say–Life imitates art?

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clipped from www.y-origins.com
A. But, today’s intelligent design arguments are based upon a growing body
of scientific evidence concerning everything from DNA to the laws of physics;
and upon our uniform and repeated experience.Design theorists offer extensive evidence that blind, material causes are
incapable of building irreducibly complex and information-rich systems.
They then point out that whenever we know how such systems arose such as
with an integrated circuit, a car engine, or a software program invariably
a designing engineer played a role. Design theorists then extend this uniform
experience to things like molecular machines and the sophisticated code
needed to build even the first and simplest of cells. An increasing number
of leading scholars attest that increased scientific knowledge about such
things has greatly strengthened the argument for design.

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The argument from irreducible complexity suggests that the removal of a single part from a system destroys the system’s function, ergo evolution is ruled out, ergo the system must have been designed by some external force. This is the basic argument advanced by Michael Behe and his followers. Below I counter some of the claims made by the proponents of irreducible complexity.

  • Sometimes the functions are changed so that they do something other than what they did prior to mutation. Such evolutionary development of irreducibly complex systems have been described in the scientific literature in great detail.
  • Even if irreducible complexity does preclude Darwinian evolution, the conclusion of design does not follow. Many other possible conclusions can be argued. It is an example of a failed argument from incredulity.
  • Systems have been considered irreducibly complex that might not be so. For example:
  • Michael Behe’s mousetrap example of irreducible complexity can be simplified by making some minor alterations to the mousetrap. Furthermore, the mousetrap may lose functionality as a mousetrap if a part is removed but then one might craft a fishhook from the spring, turn the nonfunctional mousetrap into a paper weight and so on.
  • The bacterial flagellum is not, in fact, irreducibly complex because it can lose many parts and still function, either as a simpler flagellum or as a secretion system.
  • The immune system example that Behe is so fond of is not irreducibly complex because the antibodies that mark invading cells for destruction might themselves hinder the function o fthose cells, allowing the system to function (although not as well) without destroyer molecules of the complement system.

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FactCheck.org does it again. In their analysis of the Fair Tax proposal they pay close attention to the numbers and the spin placed on those numbers by Huckabee, Tancredo and Hunter. Some of what they have to say is reprinted below:

Americans for Fair Taxation offers the following plain-language interpretation of H.R. 25:

Americans for Fair Taxation: A 23-percent (of the tax-inclusive sales price) sales tax is imposed on all retail sales for personal consumption of new goods and services.

It is the parenthetical that is important, for it hides the real truth of the tax rate.

First consider the way in which sales tax is normally figured. A consumer good that carries a $100 price tag might be subject to a 5 percent sales tax. That means that the final bill for the item is $105. The 5 percent figure is the amount of tax that is charged on the original purchase price. But now suppose that instead of pricing the item at $100, the shop owner simply priced the item at $105, then sent $5 directly to the state. The $105 price would be a tax-inclusive sales price. But $5 is just 4.8 percent of $105. That 4.8 percent number, however, is relatively meaningless. You are still paying exactly the same 5 percent tax on the item.

The 23 percent number in H.R. 25 is the equivalent of the 4.8 percent in the previous example. To calculate the real rate of the sales tax, we have to determine the original purchase price of an item. We can begin with the same $100 item, keeping in mind that a price tag that reads $100 has sales tax already built in. If our tax rate is 23 percent of the tax-inclusive sales price, then of the $100 final price, $23 of those dollars will be for taxes, meaning that the original pre-tax price of the item is $77. To get $23 in taxes on a $77 item, one must impose a 30 percent tax. In other words, a 23 percent sales tax on the tax-inclusive sales price is equivalent to a 30 percent tax on the actual price of the item.

FairTax proponents object to the 30 percent number, claiming that critics use the larger number to frighten people. Americans for Fair Taxation claims that it uses the tax-inclusive number to make it easier to compare the FairTax to the income tax that it will replace (since most of us think of income tax rates on an inclusive basis). But we are not accustomed to thinking of sales taxes inclusively. The result is that many FairTax supporters (about 15 percent of those who wrote to us, for example) do not understand that the 23 percent figure is tax inclusive.

Our analysis of the FairTax used a figure of 34 percent as the basic exclusive tax rate. One e-mailer complained that our number was at least 10 percentage points “higher than [the FairTax] is” because we calculated it as an addition to retail prices. But our 34 percent number is not 10 percentage points higher than the legislation. A 34 percent exclusive number is equivalent to a 25 percent tax inclusive rate – only 2 percentage points higher than the FairTax bill. We think that, intentional or not, the use of the tax-inclusive 23 percent rate has misled a lot of FairTax proponents.

clipped from www.factcheck.org
In our recent article on the second GOP debate, we called out Gov. Mike Huckabee as well as Reps. Tom Tancredo and Duncan Hunter for their support of the FairTax. We wrote that the bipartisan Advisory Panel on Tax Reform had “calculated that a sales tax would have to be set at 34 percent of retail sales prices to bring in the same revenue as the taxes it would replace, meaning that an automobile with a retail price of $10,000 would cost $13,400 including the new sales tax.” A number of readers pointed out that H.R. 25, the specific bill mentioned by Gov. Huckabee, calls for a 23 percent retail sales tax and not the 34 percent used by the Advisory Panel on Tax Reform. That 23 percent number, however, is misleading and based on some extremely optimistic assumptions. We found that while there are several good economic arguments for the FairTax, unless you earn more than $200,000 per year, fairness is not one of them.

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Stand up if you would buy an ointment that would cure cancer, arthritis, warts, athletes foot, headaches, bad breath, and hair loss for the mere sum of $22.95 for a ten day supply! I’ll bet not many folks are standing as they read this.When advertising claims are unbelievable, are designed to scare, or cite facts without citing the appropriate authority one ought to be wary of the claim made. When the advertiser deliberately misleads its intended audience relying on the likelihood that the “facts” of the message will not be checked, rather they will be believed uncritically, that advertiser is no better than a snake oil salesman and ought to be run out of town, tarred and feathered, and otherwise subjected to ridicule and derision.

FactCheck.org exposes this kind of monkey business. I applaud those efforts.

clipped from www.factcheck.org

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is running a TV ad alleging that “lawsuit abuse” is costing “your family” $3,500 a year. That’s false. The figure is from a study that estimates the cost of all lawsuits, not just abusive ones.

Even the author of the study cited by the chamber says its ad is “misleading.” The fact is his study makes no attempt to specify which lawsuits are legitimate and which can be considered abusive. Furthermore, the study specifically warns against drawing any conclusions about the costs and benefits of the judicial system and even acknowledges that the benefits could outweigh the costs. The chamber ignores this warning. It also fails to note that the same study estimates the cost of all lawsuits at the lowest level in 10 years.

Sutter pointed out that his study “looked at all torts; we don’t segregate between legitimate and illegitimate.”
The chamber ignores the distinction between legitimate suits and abusive ones.

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GOP Debates Redux

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Not that the Democrats are any better, but FactCheck.org happened to address claims made by the Republican hopefuls during their last debate. I think Lincoln got it right when he remarked that “You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”

Perhaps we should start holding those that seek political office to a higher standard. Tell the truth. Don’t lie. Don’t cherry pick your facts. Don’t spin. All you do when you do these things is create cynicism, distrust and eventually anger.

clipped from www.factcheck.org
Claims, facts and figures flew at the second GOP presidential debate of 2008. Not all were true. For example:
Mitt Romney claimed he didn’t raise taxes when he was governor of Massachusetts, failing to note that he increased government fees by hundreds of millions of dollars and shifted some of the state tax burden to the local level.
Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado claimed scientific reports on whether humans are responsible for global warming are split 50-50, which isn’t close to being true.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee praised a “fair tax” but failed to note that it would ease the burden on the richest Americans while imposing a stiff retail sales tax of perhaps 34 percent.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani used more statistical dexterity to manipulate statistics, claiming adoptions increased 133 percent when he was mayor. Actually, they peaked and started a continuing decline.

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