Re: Ralph R. Reiland’s Overblown and Overpaid:
They should be ashamed. They just went along with Fast Eddie in the last two years crying for more of our tax dollars to give away and now Pennsylvania Governor Fast Eddie Rendell has snookered the state with his one-armed bandit property tax scam. They should all be run out of the state for rewarding themselves in this fashion after screwing the taxpayer. They will hopefully suffer consequences in the next election. They are all crooks and thieves.
It’s 4 a.m. I just woke up and I’m browsing around the net and I just came across an article about the Pennsylvania lawmakers’ new pay plan. You have to be kidding me. I hope this is a bad dream and I’ll snap out of this any minute. Hey they said when I started using the patch it might cause nightmares. But all kidding aside this is really way overboard and somebody better stand up and do something quick before these guy’s lease themselves Lear jets. Look like most people in this state I hump it 11, sometimes 12, hours a day and we are just making it and they pull crap like this. It was also real smooth the way you guys pushed it passed in the middle of the night, that alone is devious and sneaky. I hope the governor will stop this, but who am I kidding? I’m sure there was some back room deal to push something he wants done and he will let this slip past. It is high time we vote these crumbs out of office and quick.
Being born, raised and currently living in Pennsylvania, I agree with your article’s contention that the Commonwealth’s legislature is grossly oversized. The entire body should be cut, drastically.
But I disagree with your view that the legislators are overpaid. If anything, I believe that Pennsylvania lawmakers, and their fellows in state legislatures around the country such as you cited in your article, are woefully underpaid.
I know that opinion will not be very popular among readers of TAS, but let me make my case before everyone breaks out the pitch forks and torches.
The question, as I see it, is how do you get the best people to participate in government? And by “best,” I mean the brightest, most creative, and most hard-working individuals. From what I can see, many current legislators fail to meet any of those criteria.
A simple answer is to pay them well. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has a multi-billion dollar budget, and in many respects can be compared to a very large corporation. The Commonwealth has income, disbursements, and administration costs, just like in any business. Shouldn’t we want the best and brightest to run the place? But the total income of the average Penn. legislator, including the perks and benefits, is roughly comparable to what a junior member of middle management makes in a large corporation. To put the problem into semi-economic terms, the Commonwealth is competing with private business for employees, and the market price of a top manager is well beyond what the Commonwealth is willing to pay. I’m sure that someone will argue that it’s a privilege and an honor to engage in public service, and that’s true. But privilege and honor don’t pay the bills.
Think of it this way, the highest paid employee of the Commonwealth is the head football coach at Penn State, who pulls in a salary five to six times the amount paid to the legislators (and considering the Nittany Lions’ record the past few years, that a crime in itself). That is crazy.
I work for a large corporation and personally know many of our upper level executives. They are bright, creative and hard working. And they are paid accordingly. Why would any of those talented people want to give up 90% of their salary to take on an aggravating job like working for the Commonwealth?
As it is, our current system for compensating legislators seems designed to attract one of two types of people: 1) dilettantes who have already made their fortune and can afford to ignore the low pay, or 2) the pure political animal who needs the ego reinforcement of public life more than he/she needs money. In either case, the quality the individual seems to take a back seat.
So let’s cut the size of the legislature but drastically increase the pay.
I would be interested in reading a detailed article listing not only the salary our esteemed senators and congressmen have awarded themselves, but the additional frills such as per diem, housing allowance, travel allowance, retirement, medical benefits, and the amount they pay into Social Security and Medicare. Sounds like the perfect article for a “top notch” American Spectator writer!
— Harry Clemence
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Notably absent from this article is mention of the fact that the Penn. State Legislature is controlled by a Republican majority.
Republican from Pennsylvania
Re: Jay D. Homnick’s Liberty and Justice:
It seems that the family of Rothenburg may take some justifiable pride in their illustrious, 13th-century ancestor. One wonders, however, how much pride Rabbi Meir (wherever he is) may take in his modern descendants, creators of an enormous firm of ambulance chasers; opportunists who thrive by milking a corrupt tort system while clogging the courts to appease their greed and driving up insurance rates for the rest of us.
A “modern success story”? Sorry, not in my book.
— Rufus Thompson
EXPECT THE WORST
Re: The Prowler’s There He Goes Again:
This paragraph struck me as indicative of the naivete of Republicans even after all that has happened since 2000.
“Republicans staffers on the Judiciary Committee, however, insist that while Democrats may want to play games with Roberts’ nomination, it won’t be because of Kemerer, who they say has nothing to do with the Roberts nomination, and who has had no access to any documents or inside information about the nomination or the nomination process.”
Short of locking Kemerer in solitary at Gitmo how, in an age of computers and Internet communications not to mention ancient tech like xerox, can anyone make such a statement. The only way they could is that they “trust” Kemerer and the Dems to “play fair.” This is either rank stupidity or a deep game of handing the Dems enough rope to hang themselves. I hope for the latter but the Senate Republicans have not given me any reason for that hope in the past.
— Geoff Bowden
It is just amazing to me how naive Republican staffers are. Anything the Dems are seeing can be given to the world and the Bush White House has only themselves to blame for Specter, they backed him.
— Elaine Kyle
Cut & Shoot, Texas
Time to get this [scoundrel] out of this position.
— Michael L. Marx
NATION BUILDING COLLAPSE
Re: Doug Bandow’s Closing the Books on Kosovo:
Although I am a Democrat, I have to compliment Mr. Bandow for writing the most incisive piece I have seen about Kosovo by any U.S. commentator. I traveled to the Balkans twice during the 1990’s and, during the fall semester of 2004, taught as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Belgrade School of Law.
The 1999 intervention in Yugoslavia was the worst of Clinton’s foreign policy adventures. During the 2000 presidential debates, I thought that George Bush’s best single argument was that we should follow a “more humble” foreign policy. This “sound bite” resonated with many voters and probably contributed significantly to his narrow victory.
Of course, we know now that Bush proceeded to ignore his own campaign advice! Now this nation has to contend with, and perhaps undo, Clinton’s ill-advised intervention in Yugoslavia and Bush’s ill-advised intervention in Iraq!
— James M. Klebba,
Victor H. Schiro Distinguished Professor
Loyola University School of Law
New Orleans, Louisiana
Senator Frist must think we pro life folks just “fell off the turnip truck” when he expects us to accept his intellectually dishonest proposition that he believes life begins at conception but it’s okay to kill embryos.
— Ken Wyman
I noticed some responses to your article on Frist involved a few of the idiotic responses like “Frist has come to his senses, how about you” type. No, Frist has lost his senses and big time. Not only has he betrayed Bush on this but the entire country. Here is a man in a position of power and trust who has turned about face on one of the core values of his supporters. Not only is there ethics involved here but the whole concept of sanctity of life. He has sided with those who think of humans as mere animals to be harvested, killed, or left alone according to a class scale. In effect, he is on the road to becoming exactly what the Nazis were. Far fetched you think? Not hardly. Just take a look at the medical profession in Nazi Germany and you see an eerie similarity in their concept of what a human is. For all of those who have taken the position of Frist, I would advise you to educate yourself real fast on what this really means. Then you wouldn’t be saying the idiotic response of that letter writer but would look with alarm at Frist’s decision for what it really means.
— Pete Chagnon
Gosh, George, you opened up a can of worms this time. Yum… think I’ll get in on the feast. So, let me get this straight. Evolutionists claim that “life” kept evolving from something very small and inferior into something bigger and better, correct? And if this is true, it started out as just a speck of lifeless matter when…POOF…it came alive. Wow! What faith it takes to believe in Evolution!
And that’s gist of the argument …it’s all about FAITH. It’s okay for Evolutionists to “believe” in something they can’t see or prove, but for someone to believe in a Creator, oh no….they may as well believe in the Tooth Fairy.
So, Evolutionists, hear this: You BELIEVE in Evolution because of your FAITH in it. You think the word “faith” only applies to “religion”, but you’re wrong. I could be an atheist/pagan and still have absolute FAITH in the fact that I can walk across a railroad track and not get hit by a train. Why? Because I have FAITH in something I cannot see….which is the absence of a train.
For me, I choose to believe in The Creator God. HE IS LIFE, and life can only COME FROM LIFE (sorry, but creating “artificial life” in the “genome war” by using actual human DNA is exactly what it is…artificial life created by actual “life”). The main reason people choose to believe in Evolution is due to their rejection of the existence of God. Of course there are those “God believers” who adopt a “partial” Evolution Theory, but that’s simply because they don’t understand that God is GOD….that His ability to create is NOT limited. And that’s when the “theory” of evolution evolved. For instance, as man gained “wisdom” he could not understand the discrepancy between how old the Earth “appeared” to be and how old God’s six (actual) days of creation claimed it was (which comes to about 6,000 years, by the way). They cannot fathom a God who can create a universe that has “age.” But a limitless Creator can do ANYTHING. For example, why would anyone have a problem (if God is indeed GOD) with God creating a tree that is full grown at one day old? If God is truly GOD the Creator, then why not? And why not create a mature Earth? Man is confined to the boundaries of “time”…but God is not. The Bible puts it eloquently regarding mankind and our puffed-up intellect, “Thinking themselves wise, they became fools.”… and also, “Man’s wisdom is foolishness to God.” By the way, I bet God just loves that new label for Creation… Intelligent Design. I bet He’s thinking, “Those little creatures are so creative!”
One last thing for you “theorists”… your big Bang Theory stinks too. Chaos does not produce ORDER… ever. You may as well believe that you can blow up the Space Shuttle as it orbits the Earth and in ten million years you’ll have a shiny new Cadillac. How fun! Now THAT takes faith! Keep up the good work, George!
— M. Gary
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves…”
Why is it that Rush Limbaugh can wax eloquently about the failings, contradictions and clear irrationality of the left and socialism, then turn around in the next breath and state, categorically, his belief that the entire universe was created 10,000 years ago by God?
In the same vein, Mr. Neumayr informs so clearly, with passion and devastating logic, the absurdity of the “Bush is Hitler” crowd of demagogues. But unfortunately, he turns right around and prints an absurd defense of the anti-science known as “Intelligent Design.”
The fault is in ourselves and the culprit is our internal method of making sense of the world. We create internal templates, maps, schema of “the way the world is”. The map is essential to our mental well-being. With the constant flood of information through our senses, we must have a system to organize and categorize this flow, or we become overwhelmed.
The fly in the ointment is that we are subject to irrational schemas, and to suffer the collapse of a schema — and what more important schema is there than the very nature of the physical world around us — can leave us in a dire state. So, for those with the Intelligent Design schema, if they want to continue thinking of themselves as rational human beings, they must equate ID (thanks to an earlier Letter) with science, and from that equality flows the outrage that their version of “science” is being victimized by a conspiratorial band of ideologues.
I know the ID’rs take umbrage at the characterization of their cosmological view as anti-science, but it is what it is. Mr. Neumayr’s view would be better served by making a point-by-point defense of his beliefs, publishing them and challenging the scientific community to take him on on scientific grounds of point-of-fact and logic.
— Jim Dicks
Bernardsville, New Jersey
One of the responses to George Neumayr’s piece “No More Monkeying Around” stated the following:
“Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection says that if two groups of animals of the same species are separated from one another over a period of generations, the groups will evolve in different ways and ultimately become separate species. That is science that considers the facts, makes a prediction and is subject to testing. Work with short-lived species, such as fruit flies, has proven this very kind of theorizing.”
Is he arguing that small modifications occur in every species over time? No one disputes that, but that is not the same thing as crediting this process with the ability to create a new species. Using the example he cited, no one has ever produced a new and improved fruit fly by experimentation. Scientists have used radiation and other methods to produce mutant forms of flies with altered genetic patterns but none produced a new species that is an improvement over the existing one. By and large, these experiments yield grossly deformed or sterile offspring which that are doomed to quick elimination once they are re-introduced into the general population — and the bottom-line is they are still fruit flies, not some heretofore unknown creature!
To take a concept that no one denies (observable change over time) and then make an unsupported leap of faith to extrapolate that it proves evolution is not science. Magic fairy dust is more credible. This is the type of tripe ardent supporters of evolution have been attempting to foist upon us for years. Let’s have some real evidence for your bankrupt theory.
— Rick Arand
Lee’s Summit, Missouri
In response to Reader Mail on Mr. Neumayr’s report, I was amazed to read how little the Pro-Evolutionists knew about their own subject matter, and even less about the scientific findings that now saliently refute most of Darwin’s theory. But perhaps I shouldn’t be so harsh, as I have found few scientists who have actually read Darwin’s original works and are therefore not even aware of Darwin’s own criticisms against his own theory, rather, seemingly relying on hearsay as to what he actually wrote, or worse the Cliffs Notes’ version instead. As an example, Darwin openly admitted that he could not adequately explain the profusion of life that occurred between the Cambrian and Pre-Cambrian periods of history, noting that his theory of gradual evolution could not in any way account for same, and was a major hurdle which, if not overcome, would invalidate most of his ideas.
Unfortunately, too, the Pro-Creationist movement seems to be similarly in the dark as to what the Bible actually says about how life came to be on this planet. Specifically, the Hebrew word for “created” is used only twice, once in the beginning of Genesis 1:1, and later when specifically referring to the “creation” of Adam, clearly endowing and organizing the earth “itself” to bring forth the lower life-forms… Strange that most Christians fail to understand this Biblical point or wish to see the possibilities of further understanding within the sacred text. We would all seem to be better informed about our own areas of interest than we are, as well as venturing beyond our own bounded rational to see what the other side is indeed seeing. Such would provide a more realistic and balanced perspective of the subject matter at hand….
In essence, I agree with Mr. Neumayr’s article. And with an aim towards expanding his cogent argument I would like to add the following scientific arguments that many of your readers failed to understand:
Until recently, the argument that the manifest order of life presupposes some intelligent purpose behind it was without merit for many in the scientific community, who argued that the order of the universe randomly evolved from spontaneous chance events without design, intention, or purpose. As long as the possibility of self-generated, evolutionary design from random events was possible, the question of a guiding intelligent purpose remained pointless. However, we’re beginning to see some surprising turn-arounds from the scientific community regarding our understanding of the existing order and non-randomness of the cosmos. Yet to be fully appreciated by the lay public (and regrettably most high school and college textbooks), our understanding of the physics and the biology of our universe has recently changed significantly, not by willful thought or imagining, but by hard scientific facts now proven irrefutable.
Whereas until very recently science held staunchly to the belief that the universe was eternal, had no beginning, and randomly evolved, most reputable scientists now understand that the “Big Bang” (a creative event in my mind) did in fact occur from a quantum singularity — and such an event, by definition, unlikely occurred by chance. Further, the scientific understanding that there was an actual “beginning” to everything prompted a great deal of inquiry concerning mass and energy characteristics of the early universe, leading to the discovery that the critical precision and fine-tuning required for the creation to be successful was of the order and magnitude that made random generation of these events literally impossible. Quite interestingly, the imposed physical constraints on the universe’s expansion appear to directly parallel the fascinating sequential account of the creation given in Genesis (e.g. separation of photons/light from mass/darkness, etc.). Moreover, it has also been recently demonstrated that the cosmological and fossil records which we have been documenting for the past century and, indeed, recently rediscovered are found to be in complete accord with the exact sequence of the directed, non-random, creative events of Genesis in the Old Testament so described after appropriately and accurately factoring in space-time frames of reference. (1, 2)
But probably the most surprising reversal in scientific thinking regarding the belief that everything in life has occurred by chance or generated by random events has occurred in the arena of biological evolution. The hard empirical findings of the fossil record recently reported in the international press including Time, Scientific American, Nature, and Science, now seriously refute the basis and merit of Darwin’s theory of gradual evolution, which maintained that higher order organisms evolved smoothly and gradually from lower order life forms by multiple series of random mutations through the influence of Natural Selection. Far from being gradual or smooth, the staccato fossil records of the last 120 years now demonstrate that single-cell life actually appeared immediately and abruptly after the earth became environmentally habitable (about 3.8 billion years ago), and then after a considerable hiatus of 3.2 billion years with little change or development, all thirty-four current animal phyla appeared to suddenly explode upon the earth beginning in the Cambrian Age 570 million years ago dissolving the myth of random evolution — all contributing to the finding that Darwin’s own criticisms were accurate, i.e., his theories were wrong.
Indeed, as now understood, separate phyla of animal life are not documented to have randomly evolved from each other as Darwinian theory and its supporters have long purported. Rather, new life forms suddenly appeared and then disappeared within the fossil record, directly refuting Darwinian ideas of gradual evolution. All of this recent rigorous analysis profoundly shows that previous descriptions of the origins of life derived from a series of random events and reactions, gradually and randomly evolving from inanimate materials to increasingly more complex life forms through means of Natural Selection and survival of the fittest, is untenable, misleading, if not patently false.
Furthermore, in the last two decades renown mathematicians, biologists, and physicists alike have demonstrated that it is simply mathematically and statistically impossible for life to have randomly evolved in a Darwinian manner, that there simply hasn’t been enough time available since the creation for a series of random or chance events to have even come close to yield the complexities of life which we witness around us, and moreover, there isn’t even enough physical matter in the universe to adequately accommodate such possibilities.
Again, these recent conclusions stem from hard, verifiable, empirical facts, from the undeniable mathematics of probability theory and statistics on which all of science and acceptable scientific method are founded, as well as our recent understanding of cosmology, physics and quantum mechanics, biology, biochemistry, genetics, and the fossil records themselves — these are not vain imaginings or egocentric interpretations of the data.(2) Although the debate rages on, the astute scientific evidence now amassed and rigorously analyzed has become increasingly difficult to refute. The results vividly illustrate that life and the directed order manifested therein cannot simply stem from a series of random or chance occurrences, or gradually evolve as has hitherto been imagined. But, if not by random means, then how?
At first blush, the axiom seems true that greater or more complex things are built upon the foundation of the simpler or lesser developed. As far as degrees of physical complexities in the natural world are concerned, this notion seems to hold true. In other words, simple things are generally the foundation of the more complex. Indeed, all of Nature seems to testify to this fact. But, this does not appear wholly true when it comes to examining the origins of directions from which those complexities and particular morphologies (body form and structure) are derived. Recent comparative genetic research on some of the first single-cell organisms with nuclei known on our planet indicate that they held within them far more genetic information than was necessary for their life alone, having information needed to encode for vision, appendages, digestive systems, etc., things obviously needed by all the higher life forms but having no conceivable worth for these organisms themselves.
Now, why would prehistoric single-cell life forms hold within their relatively simple shapes specific genetic blueprints for things which not only were superfluous to their own forms (i.e., they were of no immediate or evolutionary use in the traditional sense) but were much more sophisticated than any morphological and biological life-function of which they were immediately capable? But more importantly, how did these organisms come by such an astoundingly complex library of genetic instructions above and beyond their own respective genealogical means and cellular ancestral familial trees? These genetic encodings were comparatively encyclopedic, highly organized, specific directions for growth of body systems and functions (such as for vision, etc.) that could not have possibly been randomly generated from their physical non-nuclei predecessors. In other words, how could such sophistication have been originally derived if these were the first known recorded forms of eukaryotic life with nuclei containing genetic material? Indeed, there was neither the time nor the ancestral predecessor available for such genetic sophistication to have randomly evolved on its own. From where or from what lineage did this level of sophistication and design come? And why, if it was not used by these single-cell organisms originally, did these more complicated encoding patterns and genetic blueprints nonetheless remain protected and conserved within them without degradation or decay of genetic integrity when it obviously had no reasonable immediate use for its survival and propagation? These facts, in themselves, invalidate the underpinnings and basis of known Darwinian theory, random development, and Natural Selection between phyla.
Moreover and quite amazingly, these genetic instructions, which are still found within similar single-cell organisms of today, are even more extensive and complicated than that which we hold within our own DNA! Why do these lower life forms inexplicably hold relatively more composite DNA — at least 100 times more — than higher life forms? Indeed, we are slowly learning how inextricably connected our physical bodies are with the directed order of all nature; that our physical bodies are dependent upon the ubiquitous order and metered sophistication that exists within all life around us. (Please note, that we are not talking here about the spirit of man, the neshama (in Hebrew) or spiritual soul, just the “dust” or vessel in which man’s spirit is placed).
Yet, notwithstanding that the physical and biochemical order existing for single-cell amoebae and simple plants can be found within more complex forms of life, and that within man’s physical body there can be seen similar biochemical systems, the sophistication of such a reoccurring patterns or genetic blueprints (i.e., the predisposed sophisticated DNA codes) appear literally preexisting, and again, could not have possibly developed serendipitously from lower forms of life. Thus, the directions and template for our resultant physical complexities were seemingly and arguably already pre-seeded, as it were — the complete set of encoding instructions for life may very well have been a created part of all physical life from the beginning, such not having been randomly perpetuated or possibly come to by chance. And if this is so, such an unfolding of the developmental order of life having its roots in the possibility of preexisting patterns suggests the likelihood of a premeditated design and purpose (i.e., a Creator) for the subsequent generations of physical and biological order. And this idea is no longer considered outlandish in the scientific community. I, for one, see no disparity between the Bible’s commentary on the Creation and what science is now, at long last, discovering. Indeed, even Nobel laureates are suggesting theories of directed panspermia, or that life on earth was deliberately seeded from somewhere else in the cosmos. In other words, we are finding that there existed a track already present for the developing train of life to run upon, a predisposing direction specifically intended toward life from the very onset of creation, the power of which appeared inculcated within the first instance of space-time and the Creation itself.
Now, here’s the crux of it: (1) Since all life around us cannot possibly be derived by chance or from a series of random reactions with inanimate matter, there not being enough time or matter in the universe for a series of random events to have aspired to the degree and level of complexity of life we witness, and (2), since the simplest forms of earliest life have been found to contain levels of sophistication in design and genetic direction that could not have possibly been derived from anything before them, for nothing before them existed of the same nature, then life must have taken its cue and direction from some point behind all of this; some intentional design and purpose had to have been pre-initiated, without which life simply could not have come to be. Accordingly (la piece de resistance), where there is substantial evidence of preexisting order, there must exist a significant, intelligent, and intentional purpose behind it, especially when in the absence of spontaneous, randomly evolved possibilities.
These are plausible arguments based on “science,” or more accurately the accumulated scientific evidence derived from the scientific method over a host of disciplines. They are not ad hoc, drawn from some cherry-picking, egocentric need to be right. I hope this is not too much science for your readers.
1. Parenthetically, it has been suggested that the best estimated age our universe being some 15.75 billion years is literally identical to the Bible’s six days of creation; these very “times” being one and the same periods when factoring in Einstein’s General Law of Relativity of space-time, and the expansion rate of the universe estimated to be of the factor of 10^12 or a one-trillion-to-one space-time difference since the inception of creation until today as derived from the changes in red-shift of Cosmic Background Radiation (CBR). For those interested, the factors of relative space-time frames of reference are shown to be really quite easy to calculate: Simply divide ~15.75 billion years by the universe’s estimated rate of space-time expansion of 1012 which equates to ~.01643, and then multiply by 365.25 days (please note, the “.25” is to correct for leap year variance; ¼ day for each year, or 1 day every 4 years) which is approximately equal to six 24-hour days (i.e., ~15.75 billion/1012 x 365.25 days/yr @ 6.0010 real 24-hour days). Therefore, in real scientifically adjusted relative space-times, the relative age of the universe is 6 days (as sequentially outlined in Genesis) plus the approximate 6,000 years since the creation of Adam.
2. For a particularly candid, thorough, and enlightening review of these findings please see the work of M.I.T. Doctoral Graduate & Israeli Physicist, Gerald L, Schroeder, Ph.D., The Science of God, Broadway Books, New York, 1998.
— Dr. Gregory C.D. Young, Ph.D./D.Phil. (Oxon.), Neuroscientist
Asheville, North Carolina
Re: Jed Babbin’s Houston, You Have a Problem:
Whilst it is always entertaining to see Secretary Jed Babbin seek out new life and new civilizations, like all commentators who have weighed in on the Space Shuttle he forgets its most profound problem — it’s nearly 25 years old.
Few automobiles work as well after 25 years as they do upon release — why should Space Shuttles work upon different principles?
Even if his understanding of Einstein might be a little ropey, however, his sentiments are not. To abandon the quest for knowledge of the physical universe for its own sake would put the West (i.e. America) on the same intellectual level as Islamic medievalists. Eventually, we would need to end up re-discovering old principles, such as — would you buy a used Space Shuttle from this conservative pundit?
Live long and prosper.
— Martin Kelly