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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Evolution Discussion

Because I am taking biology (I've already taken physics and chemistry) and the section I am doing now is all about Darwin's theory of evolution, I have decided to have a discussion of evolution on my blog, in light of the recent Intelligent Design controversies. From 2nd grade to 8th grade, I went to a Baptist-run but non-denominational school, so our science books were unsupportive of evolution. But, now I am being officially taught about it for the first time.

Anyway, here is how I understand evolution-

  • There is genetic diversity.
  • Animals with certain genes do better in a certain environment than others do.
  • Those animals that have the better suited genes survive (survival of the fittest.)
  • When one species has multiple environments, it begins change in multiple, separate directions.
  • Eventually, the different sections of the original species change so much that they can no longer interbreed, and are no longer a single species with each other.
While I believe that evolution is at least a possibility, I recognize that atheistic evolution is unreasonable. Something cannot come out of nothing unless someone puts it there.

Also, a fellow member of the Western Alliance (Bill Lama of palosverdesblog) has been posting on certain claims of evolution.

So, is there anyone willing to take it from here?

Hugh Hewitt adds Western Alliance to blogroll

As reported by Conservative Schooler, the Western Alliance, of which I am a member, has been added to the list of blogger organizations on Hugh Hewitt's blogroll under "Center Right State Alliances".

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas

I just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Also, I wanted to thank those who regularly read my blog, whether they agree with me or not. ;) Tomorrow, I might have some Christmas music (performed by me) up. But anyways, may we never forget the Reason for the Season, and may all of us have many more animated discussions!

Student Confesses Fabricating US Surveillance Story

From the Boston Globe-

Student's tall tale revealed
Confesses fabricating US surveillance story
By Jonathan Saltzman, Globe Staff | December 24, 2005

It rocketed across the Internet a week ago, a startling newspaper report that agents from the US Department of Homeland Security had visited a student at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth at his New Bedford home simply because he had tried to borrow Mao Tse-Tung's ''Little Red Book" for a history seminar on totalitarian goverments.

The story, first reported in last Saturday's New Bedford Standard-Times, was picked up by other news organizations, prompted diatribes on left-wing and right-wing blogs, and even turned up in an op-ed piece written by Senator Edward M. Kennedy in the Globe.

But yesterday, the student confessed that he had made it up after being confronted by the professor who had repeated the story to a Standard-Times reporter.

The professor, Brian Glyn Williams, said he went to his former student's house and asked about inconsistencies in his story. The 22-year-old student admitted it was a hoax, Williams said.

''I made it up," the professor recalled him saying. ''I'm sorry. . . . I'm so relieved that it's over."

The student was not identified in any reports. The Globe interviewed him Thursday but decided not to write a story about his assertion, because of doubts about its veracity. The student could not be reached yesterday.

Williams said the student gave no explanation. But Williams, who praised the student as hard-working and likeable, said he was shaken by the deception.

''I feel as if I was lied to, and I have no idea why," said Williams, an associate professor of Islamic history. He said the possibility the government was scrutinizing books borrowed by his students ''disturbed me tremendously."

The story stems from an incident in the fall in a history seminar on totalitarianism and fascism taught by a colleague of Williams, Robert Pontbriand. The student, who was in the seminar, told Pontbriand he had requested an unabridged copy of ''Quotations From Chairman Mao Tse-Tung" through the UMass interlibrary loan system for a research paper.

Days later, he told Pontbriand, he was stunned to get a visit by Homeland Security agents who told him the book was on a ''watch list" and asked why he wanted it. Pontbriand was appalled. ''A university is a place for the open inquiry for the truth," he said.

The story quickly made its way around the history department, and it might have stayed on campus if The New York Times had not broken a story about President Bush's approval of a controversial domestic spying program.

After that story, a Standard-Times reporter called Williams, who has traveled to Afghanistan for research, to ask whether he was concerned about government surveillance, Williams said.

As an afterthought, Williams said, he told the reporter about the alleged visit by the Homeland Security agents, and that became the lead of the Dec. 17 Standard-Times story.

John Hoey, spokesman for UMass-Dartmouth, said the university did not expect to take any action against the student. ''This was a conversation that took place between a student and his faculty members," Hoey said.

Dan Rosenfeld, managing editor of the newspaper, declined to comment yesterday, saying that the paper considered it a ''competitive newspaper story."

The university issued a statement Monday defending academic freedom, but said it had had no visits from Homeland Security agents and no record of any student seeking the Mao book through an interlibrary loan.

The student later told the professors he had requested the book at UMass-Amherst. But officials there said UMass-Dartmouth students cannot use their ID cards at the Amherst library and that all interlibrary requests are made by the libraries, not students.

A Homeland Security spokeswoman in Washington said she had no record of any interview of a UMass-Dartmouth student and pointed out that the department does not have its own agents. An FBI spokeswoman in Boston also expressed doubt.

That didn't stop it from buzzing around the Internet and even being picked up by Kennedy, who cited it as the latest example of the Bush administration's intrusion on civil liberties.

''Incredibly, we are now in an era where reading a controversial book may be evidence of a link to terrorist," he wrote in an op-ed piece in Thursday's Globe.

Laura Capps, a Kennedy spokeswoman, said last night that the senator cited ''public reports" in his opinion piece. Even if the assertion was a hoax, she said, it did not detract from Kennedy's broader point that the Bush administration has gone too far in engaging in surveillance."

Friday, December 23, 2005

More on Bush's "Violation" of the "Right to Privacy"

First, there is no right to privacy specifically stated in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. If the right to privacy was to be protected by the government, or in this case, seemingly protected from the government, you would think that they would have stated it, as it would be important. Now, some of you have mentioned the 4th and 5th amendments. For my reference, I will paste them below.

Amendment IV - Search and seizure. Ratified 12/15/1791.

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. "

Amendment V - Trial and Punishment, Compensation for Takings. Ratified 12/15/1791.

"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."


So, I am wondering which exact part some people think contains a right to privacy, and exactly how the unspoken right to privacy has been violated.

Secondly, there is the issue of the FISA of 1978. Now, I must admit that it seems to me as though by this, the President should have gotten warrants. However, in an executive order of 1979, by Jimmy Carter, it states-

"By the authority vested in me as President by Sections 102 and 104 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1802 and 1804), in order to provide as set forth in that Act (this chapter) for the authorization of electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes, it is hereby ordered as follows:

1-101. Pursuant to Section 102(a)(1) of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1802(a)), the Attorney General is authorized to approve electronic surveillance to acquire foreign intelligence information without a court order, but only if the Attorney General makes the certifications required by that Section.

1-102. Pursuant to Section 102(b) of the Foreign Intelligence Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1802(b)), the Attorney General is authorized to approve applications to the court having jurisdiction under Section 103 of that Act (50 U.S.C. 1803) to obtain orders for electronic surveillance for the purpose of obtaining foreign intelligence information.

1-103. Pursuant to Section 104(a)(7) of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1804(a)(7)), the following officials, each of whom is employed in the area of national security or defense, is designated to make the certifications required by Section 104(a)(7) of the Act in support of applications to conduct electronic surveillance:

(a) Secretary of State.

(b) Secretary of Defense.

(c) Director of Central Intelligence.

(d) Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

(e) Deputy Secretary of State.

(f) Deputy Secretary of Defense.

(g) Deputy Director of Central Intelligence.

None of the above officials, nor anyone officially acting in that capacity, may exercise the authority to make the above certifications, unless that official has been appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate.

1-104. Section 2-202 of Executive Order No. 12036 (set out under section 401 of this title) is amended by inserting the following at the end of that section: ''Any electronic surveillance, as defined in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, shall be conducted in accordance with that Act as well as this Order.''.

1-105. Section 2-203 of Executive Order No. 12036 (set out under section 401 of this title) is amended by inserting the following at the end of that section: ''Any monitoring which constitutes electronic surveillance as defined in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 shall be conducted in accordance with that Act as well as this Order.''.

Jimmy Carter."


I must also admit that I am puzzled by how both can be conducted at once, as they seem contradicting to my inexperienced eye. But, it would seem that Bush was most definitely acting in accordance with the law, if he has attained the certifications listed above. Now, has he?

It would seem so- "The review includes approval by our nation's top legal officials, including the Attorney General and the Counsel to the President."

Now, some of you are probably saying that it doesn't matter whether it was legal or not, and that you are concerned the government is making such a "sea change."

Well, not really. The National Review says that in "1994, the Clinton administration argued that the president has "inherent authority" to order physical searches "— including break-ins at the homes of U.S. citizens"— for foreign intelligence purposes without any warrant or permission from any outside body."

Now, Clinton is probably not the best person to be an example of what to do, but I think we can agree that it is suspicious that when Clinton goes even further to have physical searches, it only makes page A-19, but Bush's electronic eavesdropping is on the front page.

So, in summary, it would seem that Bush has acted in accordance with the law, not in violation with the Constitution, in a manner less intrusive than Clinton had in 1994, yet the front page story is "Bush Secretly Lifted Some Limits on Spying in U.S. After 9/11, Officials Say."

No, the MSM isn't biased at all...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Listen to this!

A blogger friend of mine let me know that one of her music students had written a song. I was interested, so I listened the song, and was amazed at the talent displayed! It most definitely is professional quality.

The song is called "Erin's Song (Daughter Awake)".

Singer/Songwriter – Mirenda Goff
Piano – Mirenda Goff
Violin – Allison Hamm
Composer of Violin music – Kierstin Bible
Recorded at Omega Sound in Ft. Smith, Arkansas

To sample a part of this song for yourself, click here.

Click here to download the entire song.

For lyrics and more information, you can go to Lyric Mezzo.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

"Spying?!!"

President Bush gave a radio address yesterday confronting the accusations of "illegal spying". I thought I should share it in its entirety, since these allegations still continue.

THE PRESIDENT: "Good morning.

As President, I took an oath to defend the Constitution, and I have no greater responsibility than to protect our people, our freedom, and our way of life. On September the 11th, 2001, our freedom and way of life came under attack by brutal enemies who killed nearly 3,000 innocent Americans. We're fighting these enemies across the world. Yet in this first war of the 21st century, one of the most critical battlefronts is the home front. And since September the 11th, we've been on the offensive against the terrorists plotting within our borders.

President George W. Bush delivers live radio address from the Roosevelt Room in the White House, Saturday, December 17, 2005.  White House photo by Kimberlee Hewitt One of the first actions we took to protect America after our nation was attacked was to ask Congress to pass the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act tore down the legal and bureaucratic wall that kept law enforcement and intelligence authorities from sharing vital information about terrorist threats. And the Patriot Act allowed federal investigators to pursue terrorists with tools they already used against other criminals. Congress passed this law with a large, bipartisan majority, including a vote of 98-1 in the United States Senate.

Since then, America's law enforcement personnel have used this critical law to prosecute terrorist operatives and supporters, and to break up terrorist cells in New York, Oregon, Virginia, California, Texas and Ohio. The Patriot Act has accomplished exactly what it was designed to do: it has protected American liberty and saved American lives.

Yet key provisions of this law are set to expire in two weeks. The terrorist threat to our country will not expire in two weeks. The terrorists want to attack America again, and inflict even greater damage than they did on September the 11th. Congress has a responsibility to ensure that law enforcement and intelligence officials have the tools they need to protect the American people.

The House of Representatives passed reauthorization of the Patriot Act. Yet a minority of senators filibustered to block the renewal of the Patriot Act when it came up for a vote yesterday. That decision is irresponsible, and it endangers the lives of our citizens. The senators who are filibustering must stop their delaying tactics, and the Senate must vote to reauthorize the Patriot Act. In the war on terror, we cannot afford to be without this law for a single moment.

To fight the war on terror, I am using authority vested in me by Congress, including the Joint Authorization for Use of Military Force, which passed overwhelmingly in the first week after September the 11th. I'm also using constitutional authority vested in me as Commander-in-Chief.

In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on our nation, I authorized the National Security Agency, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. Before we intercept these communications, the government must have information that establishes a clear link to these terrorist networks.

This is a highly classified program that is crucial to our national security. Its purpose is to detect and prevent terrorist attacks against the United States, our friends and allies. Yesterday the existence of this secret program was revealed in media reports, after being improperly provided to news organizations. As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk. Revealing classified information is illegal, alerts our enemies, and endangers our country.

As the 9/11 Commission pointed out, it was clear that terrorists inside the United States were communicating with terrorists abroad before the September the 11th attacks, and the commission criticized our nation's inability to uncover links between terrorists here at home and terrorists abroad. Two of the terrorist hijackers who flew a jet into the Pentagon, Nawaf al Hamzi and Khalid al Mihdhar, communicated while they were in the United States to other members of al Qaeda who were overseas. But we didn't know they were here, until it was too late.

The authorization I gave the National Security Agency after September the 11th helped address that problem in a way that is fully consistent with my constitutional responsibilities and authorities. The activities I have authorized make it more likely that killers like these 9/11 hijackers will be identified and located in time. And the activities conducted under this authorization have helped detect and prevent possible terrorist attacks in the United States and abroad.

The activities I authorized are reviewed approximately every 45 days. Each review is based on a fresh intelligence assessment of terrorist threats to the continuity of our government and the threat of catastrophic damage to our homeland. During each assessment, previous activities under the authorization are reviewed. The review includes approval by our nation's top legal officials, including the Attorney General and the Counsel to the President. I have reauthorized this program more than 30 times since the September the 11th attacks, and I intend to do so for as long as our nation faces a continuing threat from al Qaeda and related groups.

The NSA's activities under this authorization are thoroughly reviewed by the Justice Department and NSA's top legal officials, including NSA's general counsel and inspector general. Leaders in Congress have been briefed more than a dozen times on this authorization and the activities conducted under it. Intelligence officials involved in this activity also receive extensive training to ensure they perform their duties consistent with the letter and intent of the authorization.

This authorization is a vital tool in our war against the terrorists. It is critical to saving American lives. The American people expect me to do everything in my power under our laws and Constitution to protect them and their civil liberties. And that is exactly what I will continue to do, so long as I'm the President of the United States.

Thank you."

Also, Hugh Hewitt explains the legality of the surveillance-

"Overlooked in most of the commentary on the New York Times article is the simple, undeniable fact that the president has the power to conduct warantless surveillance of foreign powers conspiring to kill Americans or attack the government. The Fourth Amendment, which prohibits "unreasonable" searches and seizures has not been interpreted by the Supreme Court to restrict this inherent presidential power. The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (an introduction from a critic of the Act is here) cannot be read as a limit on a constitutional authority even if the Act purported to so limit that authority." Read more here.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Iraq Elections

So I might be a few days late, but I still want to comment on Iraq's election.

Before the United States invaded, Iraq was still under the dictatorship of Saddamn Hussein. Now, however, Iraqis are able to proudly vote and elect their own government. They have gone from oppression to democracy in only close to three years. In the history of developing nations, that is amazing.

To better experience this, you can visit CNN and click on the photo galleries, and also visit Iraq the Model.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Governor Denies Clemency

Arnold Schwarzenegger has released this statement.

In it, Schwarzenegger concluded:

"Clemency decisions are always difficult, and this one is no exception. After reviewing and weighing the showing Williams has made in support of his clemency request, there is nothing that compels me to nullify the jury's decision of guilt and sentence and the many court decisions during the last 24 years upholding the jury's decision with a grant of clemency.

Therefore, based on the totality of circumstances in this case, Williams' request for clemency is denied."
Clemency throughout history has been granted for many reasons. The reasons have included disproportionate punishment, possible innocence of the defendant, rehabilitation, personal opposition to the death penalty, and a request from the Pope, interestingly enough.

If the grant for clemency is based simply on the "redemption" of the individual, I don't believe that Stanley Williams should be granted clemency. I don't believe that anyone could "earn" clemency. However, I do believe that Williams should have been granted clemency, not because of his good works, but because the death penalty is an unnecessary punishment. Williams' death will help nothing. However, from his life, much good can come.

Because Schwarzenegger has not granted clemency, even though he could do so because of personal opposition, it is apparent that he is for the death penalty. This is unfortunate, but not surprising, considering his views on abortion.

Also, I noticed a very interesting post on PrawfsBlawg on this same subject.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Chinese Police Fatally Shoot Protestors

"BEIJING - Armed with guns and shields, hundreds of riot police sealed off a southern Chinese village after fatally shooting as many as 10 demonstrators and were searching for the protest organizers, villagers said Friday.

It was the deadliest known use of force by security forces against Chinese civilians since the killings around Tiananmen Square in 1989, and marked an escalation in the social protests that have convulsed the Chinese countryside.

During the demonstration Tuesday in Dongzhou, a village in southern Guangdong province, thousands of people gathered to protest the amount of money offered by the government as compensation for land to be used to construct a wind power plant.

Police fired into the crowd and killed a handful of people, mostly men, villagers reached by telephone said Friday. Accounts of the death toll ranged from two and 10, with many missing.

--

A 14-year-old girl said a local official visited the village on Friday and called the shootings "a misunderstanding."

"He said (he) hoped it wouldn't become a big issue," the girl said over the telephone. "This is not a misunderstanding. I am afraid. I haven't been to school in days."

She added, "Come save us.""

Read more.

Also, there have been reports of the villagers attacking the police "with gasoline bombs and explosive charges" from the San Francisco Chronicle.

In my opinion, there are many things that haven't been explained, which isn't surprising in a Communist country. However, no matter what happened, there should be no reason for so many riots (the Chinese government estimates at the number at 70,000 just for last year). If a government and country are truly working for the people, disagreements should never escalate to this level. The fact that it did get this far shows how well Communism works.

Truth Laid Bear News

For Bloggers:


The Truth Laid Bear ecosystem has been updated. That would explain the recent changes in ranking on mine and other blogs...

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

No Shirt, No shoes, No crucifixes...

Here's an item of interest from DrudgeReport:

"Sam Morris, 16, was told to remove her cross and chain on Thursday by deputy head teacher Howard Jones at Sinfin Community School in Derby.

When the year-11 student refused she was told not to return until today and without the item of jewellery.

The 1,070-student comprehensive has a strict policy which bans most jewellery being worn.

Items can be worn out of view or if they are part of religious beliefs, such as the Kara, a bracelet worn by Sikh males."

HT: Hermit's Skeet

California Catholic Conference on Death Penalty

"SACRAMENTO—Most Reverend Stephen Blaire, Bishop of Stockton and President of the California Catholic Conference, released the following statement today expressing strong support for an end to the death penalty in California and affirming the recent statement of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death.

'The California Catholic Conference of Bishops strongly supports an end to the death penalty and affirms the statement from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death, which was issued earlier this month.
In light of the fact that California has scheduled three executions—one in December, one in January and one in February—we implore all Californians to ask themselves what good comes of state-sanctioned killing. We recognize the profound pain of those who have lost loved ones to violence and offer them our prayers and our consolation. However, nothing can undo what was done—even taking the life of the convicted killer. The infliction of the death penalty does not make for a more just society.

As Catholic bishops, we teach and preach the Gospel vision of a "culture of life." We believe that we are created in God's image, which compels us to teach a consistent ethic of life and obligates us to preach that the use of the death penalty does not protect human life nor promote human dignity.

We recognize that human beings can and do commit grievous crimes, but we reject the use of the death penalty—especially when we can protect society with an alternate penalty of life imprisonment. In addition, of particular concern to us is the fact that the application of the death penalty is deeply flawed—with those who are poor or from racial minorities most often its subjects. The three pending executions in California are illustrative of these facts.

At this moment in time, we entreat Californians to ponder carefully whether the use of the death penalty makes our society safer. A moratorium is needed to evaluate whether the death penalty serves the common good and safeguards the dignity of human life. We are convinced that it does not.'"