Thursday, April 30, 2009

Give Immigrants Quick Citizenship for Buying Houses: Will It Really Fix the Housing Mess?

On April 17th investment advisor Scott Burns applauded the creativity of an idea previously floated in the Wall Street Journal in March: fix the U.S. housing market by guaranteeing quick citizenship to immigrants who buy a house here.

The original article, Immigrants Can Help Fix the Housing Bubble, was an op-ed column by real estate developer Richard S. Lefrak and economist A. Gary Schilling. They suggested that the U.S. housing market is currently over-built by about 2.4 million homes, and that if a million immigrants bought homes two years in a row, most of the oversupply would be gone.

As an inducement immigrant buyers would be given temporary resident status upon purchasing a home, then permanent resident status after five or so years, "if they still owned the houses and maintained clean records."

It was remarkable that such an idea would appear in the WSJ, a publication not usually associated with increasing immigration into the United States.

Burns titled his analysis "Buy a Home, Save America, Become a Citizen." For the most part he summarized the original column accurately. But he omitted a few key details like temporary resident status and permanent resident status. His summary implied that Lefrak and Schilling were proposing instant full citizenship for immigrant home-buyers:

"Reducing interest rates or resetting mortgage payments won’t reduce that surplus. The only way it will disappear is if new customers appear and buy those homes. The fastest way to do this is to offer citizenship to immigrants as a reward for buying a home in America. Here’s the formula: Buy a home. Save America. Become a citizen."

Evidently a few people told Burns he was not being entirely accurate. On April 28th he published a nearly identical analysis on MSN.Money. But this time he called it "Let immigrants fix the housing mess" and the summary had the following changes (in italics):

"The fastest way to do this is to offer green cards to immigrants as a reward for buying a home in America. Here's the formula: Buy a home. Save America. Become a legal immigrant."

The revision not withstanding, most of the comments on Burns' MSN article range from negative to hostile. Yet the comments are a useful catalogue of pros and cons that anyone concerned about improving the economy should take the time to read.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Half of Galveston Strand Buildings Put on 2009 List of Endangered Historic Places

Galveston Arts Center building dates from 1878

Today's Houston Chronicle print edition reported that the National Trust for Historic Preservation has added the 19th century cast-iron buildings that make up nearly half of the Galveston Strand historic district to its 2009 list of the 11 most endangered historic places in the United States.

Summarizing the thoughts of Dwayne Jones, executive director of the Galveston Historical Foundation, the Chronicle said, "The designation is important because it can be used to raise money needed to save the buildings that have become a key tourism destination."

The earliest of the Greek revival and Italianate structures was built in 1859. The cast iron was used for "structural and ornamental architecture," but it has tended to rust over time in Galveston's sea-salty air--a process accelerated when many of the buildings were swamped by 10 to 13 feet of water for two days during Hurricane Ike.

The article noted that while the endangered designation does not guarantee that the historic architecture will be saved, it increases the odds dramatically: only six of the 200 historic places designated since 1988 have been lost.

More pictures of the Strand-Mechanic National Historic Landmark District are at

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Lawsuit Says 1996 "Defense of Marriage Act" Denies Spouses Equal Protection of the Law

With the economy, Obama's first 100 days, Susan Boyle and now H1N1 flu (fka swine), other news tends to fade. But on March 3, 2009, attorneys in Massachusetts filed what could be a landmark lawsuit to recognize equal rights for gay people in U.S. federal law.

The suit by New England's Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), which is celebrating 30 years in practice, charges that provisions of the 1996 "Defense of Marriage Act" that deny federal legal protections to married same-sex spouses are unconstitutional and should be overturned.

GLAD said it filed the suit "on behalf of eight married couples and three surviving spouses from Massachusetts who have been denied federal legal protections available to spouses. Two of these couples will be filing suit after receiving rejections of their amended tax returns from the IRS. Each plaintiff is currently eligible for a particular program or benefit, applied for it, and was denied that legal protection because of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)."

GLAD says Section 3 has denied the plaintiffs equal protection for federal employee health benefits and survivor benefits; joint federal tax returns; spousal IRAs; Social Security survivor benefits, lump-sum survivor death benefits, and higher-earning spouse payments; and passports issued in their legally married names.

One person working for more public awareness of the DOMA suit is Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman. In an April 17th column, she noted that with same-sex couples now able to marry legally in four states, DOMA has created "A strange dual citizenship for gay couples." Continuing in Goodman's words.

"...we have just doubled the number of states in which same-sex couples can be legally married. First, Iowa joined Massachusetts and Connecticut. Then Vermont followed with the first legislative approval. And a bill was just introduced in New York, where people cringe to find themselves lagging behind Iowa.

"This is all part of a careful state-by-state strategy. But as a side effect, it's producing more Americans with a strange dual citizenship: married in the eyes of Iowa, single in the eyes of Washington. Eligible for a pension, healthcare, family leave in the eyes of the state; ineligible in the eyes of the feds.

"DOMA is doing it. The so-called Defense of Marriage Act passed in the panic of 1996 when it looked as if Hawaii would become the first state with gay marriage. The purpose was as obvious and discriminatory as Representative Henry Hyde's declaration that DOMA was to express 'disapprobation' for homosexuality.

"The day that it passed, Dean Hara remembers deliberately going to have dinner in the members' lounge with his longtime partner, Representative Gerry Studds of Massachusetts, to face down his colleagues. Now, 13 years later, after their marriage and Studds's death, Hara is denied congressional survivor's annuities of $60,000 a year.

"Much has changed since 1996. Even former representative Bob Barr, who wrote DOMA, now disavows it.

"GLAD, the gay rights group that brought the marriage case to the Massachusetts court, is arguing on pretty narrow grounds. 'In our system,' says Mary Bonauto of GLAD, 'the states decide who gets married. It's a violation of equal protection to deny recognition of marriages of same-sex couples validly licensed by their state.

"'Our case does not seek to marry any more people,' she adds carefully. 'It's about how the federal government is dealing with people already married by their states.'

"But this is also a next step, the first direct confrontation with a federal law against gay marriage.

"There is still enormous controversy around this issue, as well as setbacks - such as Proposition 8 in California. But in the glacial scheme of social change, attitudes are evolving at whitewater speed. Civil unions were once radical, now they are the conservative default position. The scare tactics of 1996 are the satires of 2009.

"So what do you say about an out-of-date law that enforces an identity crisis? What do you say about a law that 'defends' marriage by denying it? The winds are blowing, but in a very different direction."

Friday, April 24, 2009

Obama Had "IHS" Covered at Georgetown: Jesus Monogram or a Christian Battle Slogan?

Georgetown's Gaston Hall before Obama's speech.

Until a print article this morning in the Houston Chronicle’s weekly Belief section, I had no idea that a mini-controversy of sorts has lingered over the Obama administration asking Jesuit-run Georgetown University to cover up the “IHS” emblem atop a memorial marker at the back of the Gaston Hall stage when the president spoke there on April 14th.

The administration did not want it or other religious symbols visible on camera when the president gave his speech on “five pillars that will grow our economy.” Acceding to the White House request, the university placed an inconspicuous brown cover over the letters within the existing brown-stained wood triangle.

I say mini-controversy because while the condemnations of Obama and Georgetown are quite loud, the attention they are getting is restricted almost entirely to a few religious-right groups and their bloggers. Google searches under key words like Georgetown, IHS, cross and crucifix find few other articles or commentaries taking the matter seriously.

For myself, debate about the president of the United States giving a televised policy speech with an emblem over his shoulder that appears mostly on Catholic crucifixes is a non-starter: I can imagine no circumstance in which it would be appropriate.

As the chief office-holder elected by all of us and sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States, including the well settled separation of church and state, the president should never give the appearance of favoring any specific religion. Once it was determined that the Georgetown venue had a built-in Catholic symbol behind the speaker’s podium, it was right for the Obama administration to request the covering and right for the Georgetown administration to agree.

What surprised me more than the controversy, however, was the claim—which the Chronicle attributed to its Pentecostal Perspective blog—that “the Obama team asked Georgetown to cover up the IHS symbol, a monogram of Jesus’s name."

As a person who graduated from a Catholic grammar school, a Catholic high school and a Jesuit college, with a masters from a Jesuit school of theology and a doctorate from Berkeley’s Graduate Theological Union (which included the Jesuit, Franciscan and Dominican theology schools, along with Episcopal, Lutheran, Baptist and Unitarian), I do not recall hearing at any point in the last sixty years that IHS was any kind of monogram of the name of Jesus.

What I do recall hearing, repeatedly, was that IHS was in fact an acronym for “in hoc signo vinces” (Latin for “in this sign you shall conquer”) which Constantine, the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, had emblazoned on the cross that led him into battle. Constantine became Caesar in 306 and defeated other tetrarchs to become sole emperor in 324.

So my reaction to right-wing Christians charging that Obama had made Georgetown cover up a monogram of Jesus was that they were wrong, and ignorant, and surely someone must have told them so. Furthermore, if Obama specifically requested the covering a specific slogan from Constantine’s battle cross—emblematic of Christians trying to impose their religion on others in several centuries and in 1541 adopted as the Jesuit’s own shield to emphasize their calling to conquer the Reformers and other nonbelievers—was that not all the more reason to keep it off-camera for his speech?

Yet after several hours of Google searches, I found no one who seriously disputed the monogram charge. Indeed, the Pentecostal Perpsective blog also links to a YouTube posting of a Fox News analysis saying that “Georgetown officials covered a monogram symbolizing the name of Jesus” and that Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, accused Georgetown of cowardice for its refusal to stand on principle.

After more research, I’ve had to conclude that my experience with the acronym IHS is not as comprehensive as I thought it was—but that it still has better historical grounding than the monogram interpretation.

The view that the president had a Jesus monogram covered up can be argued from two conspicuous links: a Catholic Encyclopedia entry on The Holy Name of Jesus and a Wikipedia answer to “What does IHS on Christian cross mean?” Their take traces IHS to spellings of Jesus or titles about Jesus in Greek and Latin. They make a good case for saying that sometimes IHS has been such a monogram. But the key word is "sometimes."

The Catholic Encyclopedia article on Constantine’s military standard makes it clear that it included two sets of letters prominently displayed in Greek: one set was the first two letters of the Greek title christos (XP or chi and rho) a direct reference to Jesus; the other set bore the Greek words touto nika, “conquer by this (sign),” which was rendered in Latin “in hoc signo vinces” and abbreviated with the acronym IHS.

The Wikipedia article on the Latin phrase says that Constantine had a vision of the XP in the sky just before the Battle of Milivian Bridge in the year 312. According to a contemporary historian, Constantine also had a separate vision of the cross with the caption “conquer by this (sign).” Evidently it was Constantine’s understanding that the cross, the XP and the conquest slogan all belonged together.

It may well be that Constantine's physical positioning of the chi-rho monogram with the IHS slogan eventually turned the slogan into a monogram on occasion. But I would argue that by stamping the cross with IHS as the source of his military success, Constantine made IHS irretrievably a symbol of Christian conquest, whatever else Christians may have done with it in centuries since.

So fundamentalist Christians can, if they must, take umbrage at a Catholic university agreeing to hide a monogram of Jesus. But they are not speaking the complete truth about IHS. If they are being candid about the historic origin and use of IHS, they must also be grateful that the president of all U.S. citizens—adherents of a panoply of religions and of no religion at all—behaved very appropriately in keeping what in fact was a symbol of Christian supremacy and belligerence out of his economic policy address.

Monday, April 20, 2009

See How He Runs: Texas Secessionist Governor Rick Perry Does Not Suffice, Thrice

Texas Governor Rick Perry is taking a lot of well-deserved heat for telling Tax Day Tea Party protesters that Texas has a right to secede from the Union--and that if the federal government persists in unchecked deficit spending, Texas might just have to do so. The state's House of Representatives was so tickled at the governor's antics that they cut all funding for his office from the state budget they just passed.

Chief among the governor's critics has been another Rick: Houston Chronicle political columnist Rick Casey. In a column on April 18th, Casey charged that the politician Perry was really trying to surpass was not Barack Obama but Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. She's challenging Perry for the Texas governorship in 2010, and he needs every conservative vote to beat her in the primary. What better way to distance himself from Kay "Bailout" Hutchison, as the governor's pollster dubbed her, than to fan the flames of bailout-resentment so popular among the Tea Party conservatives?

But Casey's best shots across Perry's bow were in a column two days earlier, in which the columnist documented how the governor, in the great conservative tradition of rousing the public with lies, told three major fibs in his Tea Party rhetoric.

Another Chronicle reporter captured Perry's secessionist rant on tape. It's available at

Casey provided this transcription of the world according to Perry: “Texas is a unique place. When we came into the union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that. My hope is that America and Washington in particular pays attention. We’ve got a great union. There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, who knows what may come of that.”

Fib #1: The federal act admitting Texas to the Union gave the state permission to secede. Casey counters that it did not, and "We all know what happened when Texas did just that." What the law did was give Texas the right to split itself into as many as five states. But that was just if more slave states were needed, in the event that more non-slave northern territories also became states--so that Texas could restore 'balance' by multiplying from one slave state to as many as five slave states. John Nance Garner toyed with the idea in the 1920s and 1930s (as a congressman, then Speaker of the House, and eventually FDR's first vice president); but his aim was to give Texans more votes than New England.

Fib #2: Perry claimed that our "seventh governor, Sam Houston" favored secession. Casey says Perry "neglected to note that as governor Houston bitterly opposed Texas's secession from the Union, and was booted from office when he refused to sign a loyalty oath to the Confederacy."

Fib #3: Perry said his stand was about "states' rights," but was not forthright enough to admit that the main point of states' rights through most of Texas history was to keep black people "in their place." On this point Casey was rightfully scathing:

"The crowd loved it, but there is a large segment of Texas citizens who know bitterly that the term 'states’ rights' was long militantly employed to fight the melting away of such 'rights' as state sanctioning of slavery, enforcement of school segregation and, in Texas, the definition of political parties as private associations permitted to exclude non-whites [in] primaries.

"There are certain rights of states that deserve to be protected, but a politician who wants to be leader of all the people doesn’t use terms so tightly bound to such an ugly history."

The irony might be that Perry--by putting his grasp of Texas history and demagoguery squarely before the public--has done much more for Hutchison's candidacy than she could have on her own.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Tax Day Tea Party Protesters Are at Odds with the 58% Who Support Obama's Way

Kudos to the Houston Chronicle for its editorial today, Tea and cacophony, pointing out that the Tax Day Tea Party protesters are an extreme conservative minority, at odds with the solid 58% of CNN poll respondents who support President Obama's approach to fixing the economy with deficit spending targeted toward specific problem areas.

The Chronicle notes the bulk of the deficit was amassed during the eight years of the Bush administration, when these same conservatives shorted the government of revenue by cheering generous tax cuts and unbridled government spending--all the while failing to regulate the economy, which created larger problems for Obama to repair, including an even bigger drop in tax revenues. Part of the editorial follows:

Wednesday’s protests told Americans that a vocal minority in this country is fed up with big government spending, bailouts, wasteful budget earmarks and the probably enormous tax consequences these will bring somewhere over the horizon.

But an undisputed majority of “We the People” also elected the president now in office. And though we may bicker about the details of the economic stimulus package, polls show that a majority thinks government should take energetic measures to resuscitate our flat-lining national economy.

A recent national poll by CNN put that majority at 58 percent who support President Barack Obama’s approach on the economy, which relies on deficit spending targeted to problem areas.

Inherent in the broad support the president enjoys is a strengthening belief that government must have a role in pulling us out of the financial ditch. And herein lies the question the protesters have yet to satisfactorily answer: If not government, who?

The deficits with which Obama must contend were birthed during the Bush presidency, when generous tax cuts were not matched with equal rigor in controlling Washington’s spending.

That marked a clear failing of the ambitious Gingrich revolution, begun in 1994 with high hopes for limiting government. Alas, many of the erstwhile GOP revolutionaries in Congress were seduced by the very system of permanent incumbency they were sent to reform.

So we find ourselves engaged in this momentous debate. The protesters’ voices and ideas are welcome. But a resolute majority sees things differently.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Losing Our Religion: Unbelievable Believers Drive People Away from God

The 54,000 adults polled by Hartford's Trinity College in the most recent American Religious Identification Survey revealed a sharp erosion in the percentage of Americans claiming religious affiliation. Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. thinks he knows why, and I agree with him. Much of his March 14th column follows.

Religion has become an ugly thing.

People of faith usually respond to that ugliness--by which I mean a seemingly endless cycle of scandal, controversy, hypocrisy, violence and TV preachers saying idiot things--in one of two ways. Either they defend it (making them part of the problem), or they regard it as a series of isolated, albeit unfortunate, episodes. But irreligious people do neither.

And people of faith should ask themselves: What is the cumulative effect upon outside observers of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker living like lords on the largess of the poor, multiplied by Jimmy Swaggart's pornography addiction, plus Eric Rudolph bombing Olympians and gays in the name of God, plus Muslims hijacking airplanes in the name of God, multiplied by the church that kicked out some members because they voted Democrat, divided by people caterwauling on courthouse steps as a rock bearing the Ten Commandments was removed, multiplied by the square root of Catholic priests preying on little boys while the church looked on and did nothing, multiplied by Muslims rioting over cartoons, plus the ongoing demonization of gay men and lesbians, divided by all those ''traditional values'' coalitions and ''family values'' councils that try to bully public schools into becoming worship houses, with morning prayers and science lessons from the book of Genesis? Then subtract selflessness, service, sacrifice, holiness and hope.

Do the math, and I bet you'll draw the same conclusion the researchers did.

Who can be surprised if the sheer absurdity, fundamentalist cruelty and ungodly hypocrisy that have characterized so much ''religion'' in the last 30 years have driven people away? If all I knew of God was what I had seen in the headlines, I would not be eager to make His acquaintance. I am thankful I know more.

Including that God and religion are not synonymous. God is, for the faithful at least, the sovereign creator of all creation. Religion is what men and women put in place, ostensibly to worship and serve Him. Too often, though, religion worships and serves that which has nothing to do with Him, worships money and serves politics, worships charisma and serves ego, worships intolerance and serves self.

The ARIS survey should serve as a wake-up call to organized religion. It continues in this manner at the risk of irrelevance. I am reminded of a line from the movie Oh, God!, with George Burns as the deity and John Denver as the grocery store manager reluctantly recruited to spread The Word.

''I don't even go to church,'' says the manager.

And God says, "Neither do I.''

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Is a Puzzlement: Does Diplomacy Have a Chance Against 2009's Quadruple Threat?

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wonders if U.S. diplomacy has a fighting chance against 2009's quartet of major international problems: Afghanistan, Pakistan, North Korea and Iran.

Noting that "A secretary of state can broker deals only when other states or parties are ready or able to make them," Friedman thinks the leaders of two of the first two states are too weak to deliver and the leaders of the second two are too invested in domestic hostility against the West to want to.

As Friedman sees it, "The only thing that could change this is a greater exercise of U.S. and allied power"--for Afghanistan and Pakistan, enough money and power to rebuild "from the inside into modern nations;" for North Korea and Iran, enough "effective leverage from the outside to get them to change their behavior along the lines we seek."

Unfortunately, he says, "I fear that we are adopting a middle-ground strategy--doing just enough to avoid collapse but not enough to solve the problems.

"Given all that is on his plate, you cannot blame Obama for looking for a middle ground. But history teaches that the middle ground can be a perilous place."

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Has Obama Gotten into GM So Deeply That He Will Never Be Able to Get Out?

New York Times columnist David Brooks raises serious concerns about Barack Obama's approach to GM: that by enabling yet another delay in GM's road to bankruptcy and basically taking charge of its board of directors and its host of intractable problems, the president has not only bitten off more than he can chew; there's a real danger he has taken on a political albatross from which he may never escape. Excerpts from Brooks' column follow:

Could the Harvard Business Review’s longest-running soap opera possibly be coming to an end? Could President Obama really scare the restructural recidivists in Detroit into coming up with changes big enough to do the job?

Well, the president certainly acted tough on Monday. In a show of force, he released plans from his Office of People Who Are Much Smarter Than You Are. These plans insert the government into the car business in all sorts of ways. They pick winners (new C.E.O. Fritz Henderson) and losers (Rick Wagoner). They basically send Chrysler off into the sunset. Joe Biden will be doing car commercials within weeks.

The Obama team also raised the bankruptcy specter more explicitly than ever before. Even more tellingly, the administration moved to “stand behind” the companies’ service warranties. That lays the groundwork for a bankruptcy procedure and should be a sharp shock to Detroit.

And yet by enmeshing the White House so deeply into G.M., Obama has increased the odds that March’s menacing threat will lead to June’s wobbly wiggle-out. The Obama administration and the Democratic Party are now completely implicated in the coming G.M. wreck. Over the next few months, the White House will be subject to a gigantic lobbying barrage. The Midwestern delegations, swing states all, will pull out all the stops to prevent plant foreclosures. Unions will be furious if the Obama-run company rips up the union contract. Is the White House ready for the headline “Obama to Middle America: Drop Dead”? It would take a party with a political death wish to see this through.

Furthermore, there’s no reason to think the umpteenth restructuring will produce compelling results. Cost control without a quality revolution will make little difference. There’s no reason to think Americans are going to flock to G.M. cars. (The president lauded their fantabulousness, but G.M. sales fell 51 percent during the first two months of this year while the overall market declined by 39 percent.) Politically expedient environmental demands will make the odds of profitability even more remote.

The most likely outcome, sad to say, is some semiserious restructuring plan, with or without court involvement, to be followed by long-term government intervention and backdoor subsidies forever. That will amount to the world’s most expensive jobs program. It will preserve the overcapacity in the market, create zombie companies and thus hurt Ford. It will raise the protectionist threat as politicians seek to protect the car companies they now run.

It would have been better to keep a distance from G.M. and prepare the region for a structured bankruptcy process. Instead, Obama leapt in. His intentions were good, but getting out with honor will require a ruthless tenacity that is beyond any living politician.

GM CEO Got Exactly What He Deserved, After GM Screwed Its Workers for Decades

Screw You, GM. So writes filmmaker Michael Moore in yesterday's The Daily Beast. Moore, whose father was a GM autoworker, rejoices that the president of the United States fired the chairman of the richest and most powerful corporation of the 20th century.

Of course, people commenting on Moore's rant note that by never agreeing to limit their bloated product lines and salaries and benefits until it was too late, the autoworkers themselves share major responsibility for GM's great fall. And however much GM may have exploited its workers in the past, their plight will get a whole lot worse if several thousand of them become instantly unemployed. Maybe Moore should ask how the federal government plans to mitigate that. Excerpts from Moore's diatribe:

Nothing like it has ever happened. The president of the United States, the elected representative of the people, has just told the head of General Motors—a company that's spent more years at No. 1 on the Fortune 500 list than anyone else—"You're fired!"

I simply can't believe it. This stunning, unprecedented action has left me speechless for the past two days. I keep saying, "Did Obama really fire the chairman of General Motors? The wealthiest and most powerful corporation of the 20th century? Can he do that? Really? Well, damn! What else can he do?!"

This bold move has sent the heads of corporate America spinning and spewing pea soup. Obama has issued this edict: The government of, by, and for the people is in charge here, not big business. John McCain got it. On the floor of the Senate he asked, "What does this signal send to other corporations and financial institutions about whether the federal government will fire them as well?" Senator Bob Corker said it "should send a chill through all Americans who believe in free enterprise." The stock market plunged as the masters of the universe asked themselves, "Am I next?" And they whispered to each other, "What are we going to do about this Obama?"

Not much, fellows. He has the massive will of the American people behind him—and he has been granted permission by us to do what he sees fit. If you liked this week's all-net three-pointer, stay tuned.

I write this letter to you in memory of the hundreds of thousands of workers over the past 25-plus years who have been tossed into the trash heap by General Motors. Many saw their lives ruined for good. They turned to alcohol or drugs, their marriages fell apart, some took their own lives. Most moved on, moved out, moved over, moved away. They ended up working two jobs for half the pay they were getting at GM. And they cursed the CEO of GM for bringing ruin to their lives.

Not one of them ever thought that one day they would witness the CEO receive the same treatment. Of course, Chairman Wagoner will not have to sign up for food stamps or be evicted from his home or tell his kids they'll be going to the community college, not the university. Instead, he will get a $23 million golden parachute. But the slip in his hands is still pink, just like the hundreds of thousands that others received—except his was issued by us, via the Obama-man. Here's the door, buster. See ya. Don't wanna be ya.

Though it wasn't easy for me, I still never had to suffer what so many of my friends and neighbors went through, thanks to General Motors and an economic system rigged against them. I wonder what they must have all thought when they woke up this Monday morning to read in the Detroit News or the Detroit Free Press the headlines that Obama had fired the CEO of GM. Oh, wait a minute. They couldn't read that. There was no Free Press or News. Monday was the day that both papers ended home delivery. It was canceled (as it will be for four days every week) because the daily newspapers, like General Motors, like Detroit, are broke.

I await the president's next superhero move.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Evolution Will Rule in Texas Science Classes, State Board of Education Says

Several previous postings have highlighted the value of Darwin's theory of evolution, as well as attempts by conservatives to water down the science curriculum in Texas schools to require consideration of challenges raised by adherents of creationism and intelligent design.

The posts below include: 2/12/09, 1/22/09, 6/4/08, 12/6/07, 10/2/07.

So it came as very good news last week when the Houston Chronicle reported: "The State Board of Education signed off Friday on new science curriculum standards for Texas schools that protect the teaching of evolution championed by many scientists."

The report said that scientists had won and religious opponents had lost every substantive vote on how evolution will be taught--albeit often by the slimmest of margins. These included a proposal to keep teaching the "weaknesses" of evolution and include among them the absence of an intelligent designer; references to insufficiency of evidence for common ancestry and natural selection; and arguments "against universal common descent in light of fossil evidence."

According to the article, the board did approve amendments "creating expectations that students analyze and evaluate such issues as fossil data and the complexity of the cell," but without any specific reference to common ancestry or natural selection.

After over-ruling the creationists on the specific issues, however, the board went on to approve the new standards 13-2, with three abstentions.

The vote was significant not only for the quality of science education in Texas but also in other states, because the sheer volume of textbooks ordered by Texas influences the content of science texts for students elsewhere.