Daily Archives: February 6, 2004

The Plame Wars

According to Richard Sale, a UPI reporter on intelligence matters writing on Jim Hightower’s Weblog, investigators claim they now have “hard evidence” that two members of VP Cheney’s staff were involved in the leak.

Federal law-enforcement officials said that they have developed hard evidence of possible criminal misconduct by two employees of Vice President Dick Cheney’s office related to the unlawful exposure of a CIA officer’s identity last year. The investigation, which is continuing, could lead to indictments, a Justice Department official said.According to these sources, John Hannah and Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, were the two Cheney employees. “We believe that Hannah was the major player in this,” one federal law-enforcement officer said. Calls to the vice president’s office were not returned, nor did Hannah and Libby return calls.

The strategy of the FBI is to make clear to Hannah “that he faces a real possibility of doing jail time” as a way to pressure him to name superiors, one federal law-enforcement official said.

Oops. I told you this wasn’t going away.

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CoxNews

1. The Word Is Back, Now What About The Science?

Cox’s decision yesterday to return the word “evolution” to the GA science curriculum and the curriculum itself back to the Science Advisory Panel whose recommendation that “evolution be taught thoroughly” Cox originally rejected has resulted in a state-wide sigh of relief. Even Repub Gov Sonny Perdue (through a spokesman) is now saying, “She did the right thing.” The press and the pressure had a small victory but concern is building on her silence regarding the actual curriculum, a concern that course deletions will stand.

Portions of the national standards that were deleted in Cox’s proposal include a detailed explanation of natural selection — how organisms with inherited advantages are more likely to survive and reproduce.Other deleted statements included: “Life on Earth is thought to have begun as simple, one-celled organisms about 4 billion years ago. During the first 2 billion years, only single-cell microorganisms existed, but once cells with nuclei developed about a billion years ago, increasingly complex multicellular organisms evolved.”

James Rutherford, the former director of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s benchmark program, worked for the state advisory board as a consultant. Rutherford said Cox needs to follow her decision to restore evolution with also returning to the national standards, which scientists recommend so that students will understand the concept of evolution. “It gets us on the track, but it’s not sufficient,” Rutherford said of Cox’s reversal on use of the word “evolution.”

But Cox has been silent on the deletions and Perdue made a statement that left the door wide open to teaching creationism side-by-side with evolution:

On Saturday, Perdue said he wanted balanced evolution instruction. “What concerns me is that many times you’ll have teachers in the classroom with impressionable students who go beyond that and teach it as a proven fact, and then go beyond that and ridicule students who would believe anything other than the theory of evolution,” Perdue said. “I think we need to have academic freedom, but we need academic balance as well.

That statement makes it obvious that radcon theocrats aren’t giving up–they’ve simply backed down off the word and moved to the next step: insisting that a religious belief in creationism is equivalent to a scientific theory and that therefore both deserve equal time in the classroom.

What we need to remember as this develops is that, although their disagreement with the evolutionary theory is genuine, the attempt by fundamentalist Christian theocrats to inject it into school curriculums is really a Trojan Horse. Their actual goal is to get religion back into public schools one way or another. Their first assault on the separation of church and state was the School Prayer Movement when heavily-funded, conservative fundamentalist groups sued dozens of schools around the country for the right to have prayer included as part of the classes and prayer groups allowed to hold their meetings on school grounds using school resources on the basis of the argument that prayer meetings were equivalent to meetings of, say, the Chess Club. There’s nothing new about this latest anti-separation scam except the excuse to push it–creationism instead of prayer.

If you doubt this, ponder the next item.

2. Even GA’s Christian Schools Teach Evolution

Cox’s decision to remove evolution from the state curriculum was a response to a controversy that began when a fundamentalist Christian parents’ group in Cobb County objected vehemently to the teaching of evolution in Cobb County Public Schools. When Cox said that she “made the decision to remove the word ‘evolution’ from the draft of the proposed biology curriculum in an effort to avoid controversy,” that was the controversy she was talking about.

And yet a report in today’s AJC says that many Christian schools in GA teach evolution without a peep of protest from parent groups, fundamentalist Christian groups, or anyone else.

While Georgia educators, parents and politicians debate how evolution should be taught in public schools, many Christian schools are teaching the theory without controversy, saying their students’ success in science depends on it.Michael Drake, head of the Georgia Independent School Association, said evolution is a nonissue among association members, because the theory’s importance in the study of biology is universally recognized. Although evolution may conflict with some families’ religious beliefs, the decision on how to reconcile that is best left to those families, he said.

Amen. Yet that same sentiment was roundly attacked in Cobb County when the schools said it in response to parents’ demands that they stop teaching evolution. The parents argued then, as Larry Taylor did (scroll down to “The Other Side”), that “[s]tudents should be exposed to all of the scientific evidence on evolution, both for and against, so that they can come to logical, informed, scientific conclusions.”

The Darwinists are always quick to label someone like me a religious extremist who just wants to interject my own personal faith into the science classroom. Yet it is they who seek, through the power of the state, to insulate their own beliefs about life’s origins from critical examination, to propagate those beliefs on an unwitting student population, and who defend their beliefs with the fervency of the most radical fundamentalist.Georgians should ask themselves why they are so adamantly opposed to an honest, open and critical examination of evolutionary theory in our classrooms. Could it be that their sacred cow is less than convincing when exposed to the light of truth?

Apparently they have no such problem with Christian schools that do not teach creationism in their science classrooms. Even though you would think that a Christian school would be a more logical (and friendly) place for Christian parents–including Larry Taylor–to raise the issue, on the contrary Christian schools have not been criticized at all by anyone for “propagat[ing] those beliefs on an unwitting student population.” Why not?

Very simple: the real motivation of the creationist movement is to get religion into the schools and Christian schools already teach religion. The true target isn’t evolution but the Constitutional separation of church and state that allows, even demands, that public schools teach real, non-Christian science.

Before we let this go any further, we need to call it what it is: an assault on the Constitution, not on a scientific theory.

An Introduction to YNMS Voting

OK, so you get the paradox of majority rule voting and you’re beginning to understand why many of the problems you see with our political system stem directly from MRV’s weaknesses. YNMS may be a better alternative, but, you ask, just exactly what the hell is it? How does it work?

Good questions. Congratulations, you have graduated to the next level. So, OK, since you asked, here’s

YES NO ‘MAYBE SO’ VOTING

___________(YNMS)_________ _______INTRODUCTION_____

by Peter K Harrell

DESCRIPTION OF HOW YNMS VOTERS CAN VOTE

When Yes No ‘Maybe So’ Voting is the voting technique used in an election, each and every voter can vote in one of four ways about each and every candidate on the ballot. The way in which any given voter votes about any one candidate on the ballot does not limit or effect how that voter can vote about any of the other candidates on the ballot.

Imagine a ballot consisting of three columns: a column listing the candidates, a column for voting Yes, a column for voting No. This is what a Yes No ‘Maybe So’ ballot looks like.

Here is a sample Yes No ‘Maybe So’ Ballot for a single Nader supporter who also supported Gore.

_________2000 Election Sample Ballot________

For a single voter who is a Nader > Gore supporter

Candidate______Party__________Yes____No

Bush___________ Republican ______________X

Gore___________ Democrat _________X______X

Nader _________ Green ____________X

Browne_________ Libertarian _______________X

Buchanan________ Reform _________________X

Hagelin _________ Natural Law

McReynolds______ Socialist

Depending on the mechanism for collecting the votes voters would make a mark, punch a whole, click a check box, or simply touch a spot on a computer screen in either the Yes column, both the Yes and No columns, neither the Yes nor the No column, or just the No column next to a candidate on the ballot. Each voter can vote in this same way about each and every candidate on the ballot.

No matter what pattern of Yes and No column selections are made for candidates on the ballot, the ballot would still be a valid ballot. There is no possible way a voter can turn in an invalid Yes No ‘Maybe So’ ballot due to some sort of “multiple or double punching”. If the ballot is a paper ballot that has to be machine read and the ballot is physically mutilated, then of course that might constitute an invalid ballot.

As mentioned already there are four different types of votes in Yes No ‘Maybe So’ Voting. Here are the four types of votes and their relative effect on the prospects of a candidate’s chances for election.

Four Types of Yes No ‘Maybe So’ Votes

Vote Type______ Yes____ No_____Effect on Candidate

Yes Vote_________ X_____________ Most favorable to candidate

Yes/No Vote______ X______ X_____ Next most favorable to candidate

Null Vote________________________ Next least favorable to candidate

No Vote_________________ X______ Least favorable to candidate

A Null Vote decreases the chances that a candidate will be elected and can effect the outcome of an election.

That really is all a voter needs to know in order to be able to vote successfully using the Yes No ‘Maybe So’ Voting technique. Voters only need to know how to cast each type of vote and what is the relative effect of each type of vote on the prospects of a candidate’s chances for election.

In other posts to this topic I will explain how the outcome of a Yes No ‘Maybe So’ election is determined and some of the advantages of Yes No ‘Maybe So’ Voting.

Since even the submission of a blank ballot with Null Votes cast for all of the candidates can effect the outcome of the election, a true abstention from voting would amount to not submitting a ballot for the particular office in question. Yes No ‘Maybe So’ Voting ballots should clearly indicate how a voter can truly abstain from voting.

Please note that both Yes/No Votes and Null Votes can be considered as ‘Maybe So’ votes. There is no explicit ‘Maybe So’ voting type in the Yes No ‘Maybe So’ Voting technique, hence the single quotes in the name of the technique.

__________2000 Election Sample Ballot__________

For a single voter who is a Bush > Buchanan supporter

Candidate______Party__________Yes____No

Bush___________ Republican ________X

Gore___________ Democrat ________________X

Nader __________ Green ___________________X

Browne________ Libertarian

Buchanan______ Reform _________X______X

Hagelin _________ Natural Law

McReynolds______ Socialist_________________ X

Most of us have been trained in the use of Plurality Voting since grade school. Given the thoroughness of that indoctrination some people may have a little difficulty adjusting to the increased freedom of expression and political power permitted to them by Yes No ‘Maybe So’ Voting, but the basic questions implied by Yes No ‘Maybe So’ Voting are simple.

Do you approve of this candidate? Is this candidate acceptable to you? Or do you disapprove of this candidate? Is this candidate unacceptable to you? Yes or No. Mixed opinions are expressed either by combining Yes and No, or by not expressing any opinion about a candidate at all.

If it seems complicated, it did to me too, at first. But the complexity is in the counting, not the voting, and even the counting isn’t as complicated as it appears at first blush.

Voting is easy: “A Null Vote decreases the chances that a candidate will be elected and can effect the outcome of an election….. That really is all a voter needs to know in order to be able to vote successfully using the Yes No ‘Maybe So’ Voting technique.” Essentially YNMS is a very simple rating system, far more simple than, say, the system that rates movies or the ranking system of Instant Runoff Voting: YES means “I want him/her.” NO means “I don’t want him/her.” MAYBE SO means “I’m not wild about it but I can live with him/her.” That’s all there is to it.

Most people get hung up on the counting. Almost the first thing people say is, “How can you tell who won?”

Next Installment: “HOW THE WINNER IS DETERMINED IN YNMS VOTING”