Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I guess I saved someone else being ranked 666 today?

I've been working on some other things the last few days so haven't had much time for blogging.

I will note that this morning when I checked my rating at the Christian Top 1000 site, I had the good fortune of being rated 666. Which raised the question, why does the Christian Top 1000 site have a number 666? I mean, it's common in buildings that have more than 13 floors that they omit the 13th floor and just skip to 14. It just seems to me that a site like Christian Top 1000 would have skipped the number 666. Not that I'm superstitious about it, anyway.

I once had a checking account that ended in 666 and my Sunday School teacher at the time advised me that he would change the account if it were his. I didn't. Like I said, I'm not superstitious about it. On the other hand, how can you not at least note it?

Anyway, just a weird thing in my day, excuse me, just one MORE weird thing in an otherwise weird life. I spared someone else, I suppose...silver lining. :)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Real ID Act

STLtoday offers a story regarding the reaction of some evangelical Christian groups to the federal Real ID Act:

"...Several evangelical Christian groups say the federal Real ID Act, which will standardize state drivers licenses and link them to corresponding national ID numbers by 2009, represents the "mark of the beast," the devilish number 666 that is attached to the godless....

The federal program was enacted after government officials learned that most of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists had obtained fake drivers licenses. The law sets state licensing rules, essentially making it harder to obtain a card fraudulently.The Department of Homeland Security says the cards would help boost national security by requiring their use to board airplanes and enter federal buildings."This is a known vulnerability. It was recommended by a bipartisan 9/11 commission and mandated by Congress. Shame on us if we don't heed the lessons of Sept. 11," said department spokesman Russ Knocke...."

I find it chilling that Dept. of Homeland Security spokesman is suggesting that if people don't agree with the Real ID Act that they aren't heeding the lessons of Sept. 11. There are other recommendations which were made by the 9/11 commission that haven't been mandated by Congress. Is Congress and the Dept. of Homeland Security failing to heed the lessons of Sept. 11 when they fail to 'mandate' and enforce other recommendations, or does that just apply to what the federal government decides is best?

Another problem I have is that anytime the citizenry of the United States of America oppose certain legislation there is an effort to paint the opposition as religious extremists, zealots, or in the words of another local blogger 'superstitious fools,' another case in point is those who oppose certain immigration reform legislation have been painted as bigots, racists and xenophobes.

At question is whether the citizens of the United States of America would like to be FORCED to carry a national ID card which contains personal information. Back in May of 2005, Ron Paul wrote National ID Cards Won't Stop Terrorism or Illegal Immigration:

"...This REAL ID Act establishes a massive, centrally-coordinated database of highly personal information about American citizens: at a minimum their name, date of birth, place of residence, Social Security number, and physical characteristics. The legislation also grants open-ended authority to the Secretary of Homeland Security to require biometric information on IDs in the future. This means your harmless looking driver’s license could contain a retina scan, fingerprints, DNA information, or radio frequency technology.

Think this sounds farfetched? Read the REAL ID Act, HR 418, for yourself. Its text is available on the Library of Congress website. A careful reading also reveals that states will be required to participate in the “Drivers License Agreement,” which was crafted by DMV lobbyists years ago. This agreement creates a massive database of sensitive information on American citizens that can be shared with Canada and Mexico!

Terrorism is the excuse given for virtually every new power grab by the federal government, and the national ID is no exception. But federal agencies have tried to create a national ID for years, long before the 9-11 attacks. In fact, a 1996 bill sought to do exactly what the REAL ID Act does: transform state drivers’ licenses into de facto national ID cards. At the time, Congress was flooded with calls by angry constituents and the bill ultimately died...." (emphasis mine)

That was then, this is now:

the 'REAL ID Repeal and Identification Security Enhancement Act of 2007', and part of the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2007 (Introduced in Senate), note the implications of Subtitle C:

Subtitle C--Other Border Security Initiatives, Sec. 121, in fact all of the Sections under Subtitle C are worth studying.

We all want border security. We all want to be secure against terror attacks in America, none of us are ignoring the lessons of 9/11. An effort to paint those who oppose The Real ID Act of 2005 and it's amendments as religious extremists and superstitious fools disregards the many citizens of these United States of America who value their privacy and freedom.

The real 'shame on us' should come with the understanding that our government is making an effort to track law abiding citizens of the United States of America when there are other viable ways to secure our borders. In my opinion, this isn't really about securing our borders against terrorists as much as it is about tracking and keeping tabs on those who do enter our country, thereby making our country more accessible rather than less accessible to illegal aliens entering at the borders. It is about our government's wish to embrace freer movement between Canada, Mexico and the U.S. If the government has the means to track all illegal aliens they will allow even more aliens to travel across the U.S., border to border between Canada and Mexico. These bills do nothing to stop the flow of traffic across our borders, they simply allow governments to track those aliens and communicate with the governments of other countries about people, including transfer of American citizens' personal information to Canadian and Mexican government authorities.

We are not cattle. We are human beings.

Secure our borders.

These smear tactics used by our government and perpetrated on us by our media anytime citizens of the United States of America wish to debate legislation which will effect all of us and future generations needs to stop.

Shame on Dept. of Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke for his effort at stifling debate by suggesting that those who disagree that the Real ID Act is the best way to secure our borders have forgotten the lesson of 9/11.

STLtoday spent much time reminding its readers that evangelical Christian zealots oppose the Real ID Act, briefly mentioning in passing that:

"Guest, a Republican from King City in northeastern Missouri, said his main reservation with the program was its potential for "Big Brother-like" abuses.

"We could be tracked by machines everywhere we go," said Guest, referring to provisions that require "machine-readable" technology in the ID cards. "This could signal the death of individual freedoms and rights."

before following up with:

"BUT Guest, who has recruited legislators from 35 other states to introduce legislation opting out of the Real ID Act, said he has received hundreds of phone calls, e-mails and letters from constituents who are more fearful about Biblical prophecies coming true if the program goes unchecked."

I suppose we are to ignore the real reasons for his concern and honor the implied suggestion that it's them ignernt, superstitious eeeeevangelical Christians who oppose the Act at their own security's peril? Sure.


Monday, March 19, 2007

An inconvenient truth: Britain promotes sleepless nights for children

Tee hee, here I am looking for reasons to call other people hypocrites. I've long stated that everyone is hypocritical about something and to varying degrees, yet we really like this game, don't we? I'll point the finger and you, you point it at me and it's a nice deviance from real issues and real problems....

Okay, enough prelude.

I've noted one of the favorite kicking dogs of the left is the Homeland Security Terrorism Advisory System. I've seen many on the left claim the Bush Administration has raised the terror alert level just before an election in an effort to scare people into voting for Republicans. They call it fear-mongering. The left has had great fun with it, there's the Sesame Street Version, The Simpsons Terrorism Advisory, this spoof with President Bush.... Very funny, huh? All intended to play down the fact that there is any threat of terrorism on American soil and make the advisory appear ridiculous for political reasons.

In politics fear-mongering has a long history. I could make a case for this but I don't really think it's necessary, don't we all agree that fear-mongering in politics has a long history?

Now we have the global warming hype...or is it more *PC* to call it "climate change" these days? Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it doesn't exist. I'm just saying there's no consensus that man is the cause of it or, at least no consensus about the extent of man's responsibility for it.

In this recent article from sp!ked, Turning children green with fear, Lee Jones, a doctoral candidate in politics at Oxford, writes:

"If the aim of the politics of environmentalism is to scare people, then it has succeeded. Green writer George Monbiot declared in his book Heat that he wanted to ‘make people so depressed about the state of the planet that they stay in bed all day, thereby reducing their consumption of fossil fuels’. He may not succeed in keeping people in bed all day, but the panic that he and other environmentalists are helping to foster does seem to be keeping kids awake in their beds at night.

A recent survey of 1,150 seven- to 11-year-olds in Britain found that half of them often lose sleep from lying in bed worrying about climate change. One in four blamed politicians for the problem while one in seven declared their own parents weren’t doing enough to save the planet..."

"...the poll also suggests that the way they are learning about the issue promotes fear and paralysis over reasoned activism. While most of the kids associate climate change with apocalyptic scenarios like ‘the submerging of entire continents’ (which no one, not even the IPCC, is predicting), concerns like poor health and animal welfare also get bundled into the issue. As for solutions, one in 10 children thought recycling had something to do with riding a bicycle...."

"...because they are children, they are more receptive to these messages and less able to think critically about them – which might explain why the government is targeting them by sending copies of Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth to all secondary schools (4)...."

I provided a link for an article dealing with the 'alarmist' nature of Al Gore in my last blog entry, Recommended Reading 2:

"...a growing number of scientists are uneasy with the catastrophic scenarios in his film on global warming, according to a report in The New York Times March 13.

At issue for scientists is not Gore’s assertion that climate change is taking place or that humans are primarily responsible for rising temperatures. “They are alarmed, some say, at what they call his alarmism,” writes William Broad, the Times’ senior science correspondent...."

Why is the British government allowing 50% of its children to spend sleepless, fearful nights imagining catastrophe by prompting secondary children to view a film which a growing number of scientists are claiming is overly alarmist? Especially considering that according to the survey some of the children are becoming suspicious of their own parents and it is not even inspiring them to become activists for the cause.

Should people be aspiring to depress people into staying in bed so they won't contribute to climate change when there isn't really consensus among scientists that us humans really contribute to climate change that much?

The verdict is still out. Even as there has been some effort to silence meteorologists who question the level of responsibility that human beings have for climate change, see: Science Buzz and ABC 33/40 Weather Blog.

Anyway, next time you hear some hypocrite pointing out that the Bush administration is using fear tactics to promote their agenda by raising the terror alert level (when in reality they might have just cause), remember...:

"A recent survey of 1,150 seven- to 11-year-olds in Britain found that half of them often lose sleep from lying in bed worrying about climate change."

...yer a hypocrite too. Explain that concept to your children, they'll have about as much ability to comprehend what you are saying about hypocrisy as those British children have to critically consider global warming hype in a highly politicized world.


Note: I started writing this several days ago, waffled about whether to finish it and post it or not because who doesn't know that there is much debate about the cause of global warming? Since that's sort of old news I was afraid it would be boring. I decided to go with it because I wonder how many people are aware that, according to a British survey 50% of British children are having trouble sleeping at night, in part, because they are either required or prompted to watch Al Gore's 'An Inconvenient *Truth.*'

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Recommended Reading 2

Baptist Press - Gore’s claims called 'alarmism' - News with a Christian Perspective

PJ sent me this one:

WBIR.COM - Americans get an "F" in religion

This one comes from p.o.s. 51:

Civics and Chrisitianity

Aaron Russo's 'America: Freedom to Fascism'

I would like to invite readers of JackeHammer to view the Aaron Russo film: America: Freedom to Fascism. Access here. Please leave your comments.

What do you think of the film? How does it effect you? What will be your reaction? Will you take any action? Will you join any groups which fight for constitutional rights of the American people?

All your thoughts and opinions are valued. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Teachers' Union "thugs" receive props from Tony Messenger

Tony Messenger, dang what an ideologue! He's at it again at his blog under the title of "Dixon goes after "union thugs." Read Dixon's article here.

Following is my reply to Tony's complete disregard of any of the substance of Dixon's article. Instead, Tony Messenger (he has to be a liberal because he has a typical liberal response), sensationalizes the fact that Dixon suggested union members who hurled obscenities were displaying "thug-" like behavior rather than actually replying to the valid points Dixon made.

One more thing. Tony keeps appealing to Republicans to work with Democrats on issues vital to our children's education, and now to work with Democrats on bills they've introduced which he feels will reduce our prison population. His only criteria seems to be that Republicans should stop name calling and unquestioningly support Democrat proposals. He has refused to intelligently discuss the other side of the issue regarding HB 808, has misinterpreted and misrepresented HB 808 and yet he expects Republicans to give him and his, apparently, Democrat 'cohorts' complete consideration and respect. It isn't a one way street, Tony. The sooner you learn that the better for everyone. When will you stop sensationalizing and consider Republican bills and proposals? How is your refusal to work with Republicans different than Republicans presumed refusal to work with Democrats?

Now, here's my response at his blog:

Posted: Tue Mar 13, 2007 3:41 pm Post subject: Dixon goes after "union thugs"

Dixon brought out some key points which Tony failed to address. (I quote Dixon straight from his article, except that I numbered the points):

1). HB 808 would have given students hope, improved opportunity, and used no public money.

2). Families who wanted to apply first had to do so at an accredited public school in their area. Only if rejected could they apply to a private school using the scholarship.

3). In 1983, the Supreme Court ruled in Mueller vs. Allen that tax credits are private money, not public.

Apparently, Tony still believes that the 80% of the revenues collected from private taxpayers to give scholarships to poor students in urban areas would go strictly to private schools. That is not what HB 808 specified but thus far, he refuses to acknowledge the fact that the 80% figure was designated to be used in QUALIFIED schools, qualified schools are/were identified as both public and private schools in HB 808, this fact has been called to his attention in a letter to the editor I wrote last week, though thus far, he refuses to correct his column which stated that 80% of the funds were required to go to private schools.

Now he is apparently appalled that someone would suggest that a gathering of teacher's union members yelling obscenities would constitute "thug-"like behavior? Certainly, I can see that someone who would imply that those who claim the bill was not a "voucher" bill were liars would be upset over name calling. ;)

If you can afford to send your children to a private Catholic school like Tony's own family could afford, in the case of his own high school education where he admits he received "a wonderful education," that's very special, just don't ask that those students who aren't as financially blessed to expect that same "wonderful education," why, they'd have to stay in school to receive it.

Let me ask, if these urban students in St. Louis and Kansas City are dropping out of school at percentage rates of 43% and 57% of prison inmates are drop outs, who is reaping the benefit of receipt of public revenue for their education today?

Money received from general tax revenue in Missouri by public schools will only be reduced if their student enrollment is reduced, right? Well, if 43% of students are dropping out, then NO school is receiving revenue on that 43% of students. Wouldn't it be better for SOME educational system to educate them and receive revenues than for NO educational system to educate them or receive revenue?

Are teacher's unions really saying, "If I can't have the money then NOBODY can have it!"

Further, Tony fails to address the loss of $200 million in state revenues due to drop outs in St. Louis and Kansas City, another point Dixon brought out. So, we're losing $200 million annually due to a 43% drop out rate but Tony's worried about poor, urban children's families' choosing private schools, after FIRST seeking an accredited public school in their region unsuccessfully?

Methinks Tony and the teacher's unions are so concerned about losing money that they are willing to sacrifice our state's children in the process.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Dear John.... ;)

According to Dr. Johnson C. Philip,

"a Physicist [PhD, Quantum-Nuclear Physics], Theologian [ThD, Apologetics], and a Physician [DSc, Alt Med] and DNYS."

in a free online course offered by Indus School Of Apologetics And Theology, found in lesson 2, "Science and God":

"...The aim of science is to investigate matter and energy. To discover their properties and behaviour pattern. If a particular thing is neither matter nor energy, then it cannot be investigated in a laboratory...."

"...The aim of science is not to investigate all reality, but rather to investigate those realities that are seen in the form of matter and energy. The investigation takes place with the help of repeated experiments. All negations and affirmations depend upon experimental observations, and nothing can be established without relevant experiments.

Physics investigates the physical properties of matter and energy. Chemistry, biology, astronomy, and the various scientific disciplines known to us investigate the physical behaviour of things pertaining to their respective fields...."

"...Science is a tool, a methodology, developed to study matter and energy. It, therefore, is able to investigate truths only in this region. If there is any truth in the world besides matter, science is not able to investigate it...."

"...the purpose of science is to study matter and energy, and nothing beyond that. Even if someone tries to broaden its boundaries, that is not possible. All affirmations and negations have to be established only on the basis of repetitive experimental observations.

God is neither matter nor energy. Therefore the methods of experimental sciences cannot be applied to disprove His existence. Nobody in the world has devised an experiment that can disprove God.

If anyone claims that sciences have disproved the existence of God, he must be asked to defend his position. He has to explain the experiment, the place where this was performed and the place where the results were published. Anyone can make any claims saying that science has demonstrated this or that fact, but then he should be able to support his claims by pointing to relevant experiments.

No one claiming that science has disproved God has ever come up with experimental evidence to support this claim. This is because they are using the name of science to intimidate the ignorant. There is no truth in their claims, but they will continue repeating this false claim as long as they can successfully disturb people.

If anyone claims that science has disproved God, he has to describe the experiment that finally disproved God. Discussing anything else is irrelevant to the argument...."

Pony up, John. :)

Big old kudos to Momma Twoop for her tip.

Dang, I forgot the link to the online course! Had to do an edit: Does God Exist, Bible And Science Free Course

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Spiritual theory versus scientific theory

I decided to post this answer to John Stone of Curbstone Critic from the comment section of a previous entry, Science, Superior to God? on the main page:

John quotes me:

"I don't know how God was created, God IS and always has been"

and then answers:

"It a good thing you ducked this question"

I've never ducked that question. I have always told you I don't know how God originated, John, both at your blog and at mine. Telling you I don't know that answer is my answer. How is that 'ducking' anything?

On the other hand, you have replied to my post, Science, Superior to God?, twice now and have yet to actually offer any commentary on anything pertaining to the actual post....(quack, quack) ;)

John writes:

"First causes m'dear. If you can't explain first causes for God like I can explain first causes for the universe ... then you are hopelessly mired in myth, superstition, and wishing it were that'a ways."

Are you claiming it's the 'explaining' that makes science superior to God, then?

If I come up with a theory about how God began (first cause) and 'explained' my theory about how God began, you'd no longer believe that I am "hopelessly mired in myth, superstition and wishing it were that'a ways?" (pinch me! Haw!)

Care to explain how your theory that unless everything which exists is 'explained,' not necessarily proven, mind you, but 'explained,' that it is myth, and those who believe in it's existence are superstitious fools?

Bottom line, you (scientists) 'explain' something and bingo (!) you have a theory to defend, you can then claim this is how it happened because (the great) WE (AM), scientists, have 'explained' it, and then proceed to place FAITH in your scientific theory as fact because you believe it to be so, because you have found indications which can be scientifically debated among your peers.

I'm not a scientist, I have never professed to be a scientist, but I have seen indications in my life which can be spiritually debated among my peers as indicators of God's existence. You see my theory is that He is relevant in my life and that He would like to be relevant in your life, he is explainable in spiritual terms, just as your scientific theories are explainable in scientific terms. I can accept and tolerate your scientific theories, I can consider and debate them with you because I accept that science exists, you cannot accept and tolerate spiritual theories, consider or debate them with me because you do not accept God's existence. It's actually elementary, my dear.

You choose to believe there is nothing smarter than you, nothing in the universe greater than man, that if you can't explain it then it isn't real and since you cannot explain my personal faith you proceed to call me and 'people of faith' (see Barack Obama), 'superstitious fools.' Apparently, Christians are more humble than you scientists. Christians believe in God, believe that one can have an intimate and personal relationship with Him and that our minds are finite and incapable of understanding and explaining everything. We have faith in our spiritual *theory* that God exists and we have spiritual reasons for that faith. Our theories are based on spiritual criteria, yours are based on scientific criteria. You presume your criteria to be superior to mine. It's really that simple.

The Roman Road:

The Roman Road provides a detailed map for our salvation and eternal fellowship with God. Just follow these steps:

1. We must acknowledge God as the Creator of everything, accepting our humble position in God's created order and purpose. Romans 1:20-21:

"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened."

2. We must realize that we are sinners and that we need forgiveness. None of us are worthy under God’s standards. Romans 3:23:

“For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.”

3. God gave us the way to be forgiven of our sins. He showed us His love by giving us the potential for life through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. Romans 5:8:

“But God demonstrates His love toward us, in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

4. If we remain sinners, we will die. However, if we repent of our sins, and accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we will have eternal life. Romans 6:23:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

5. Confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead and you are saved. Romans 10:9-10:

“That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

6. There are no other religious formulas or rituals. Just call upon the name of the Lord and you will be saved! Romans 10:13:

“For whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”

7. Determine in your heart to make Jesus Christ the Lord of your life today. Romans 11:36:

"For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen."

Friday, March 09, 2007

Editor in chief of "Venus Magazine," homosexual activist, Cothran: "we were NOT born this way...”

SBC Baptist Press News columnist Kelly Boggs, editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message, writes:

"A prominent homosexual activist not only embraces Christianity, but also seeks to evangelize the homosexual community, and not a single mainstream news organization reports it. Many homosexual outlets also have ignored it."

Read more about it here.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Messenger still getting HB 808 WRONG

At Tony Messenger's blog and in his editorial column today at, titled "Tax credit bill is vouchers in a bad disguise," is it just me or is there some desperate mixed messaging going on?

Yesterday, at his blog he wrote that no matter what supporters call HB 808 it translates to vouchers, in 'Walks AND talks like a duck,' and yesterday he wrote that it's all about money and we should question why those, including the Catholic Conference, support it. He questioned their motivations, as though the only reason they would support it might be that they see themselves as beneficiaries on a money train.

Today, in his editorial he announced that whether you call it tax credits or vouchers "We don't care," (and one must assume he is speaking on behalf of the Springfield News-Leader itself, who else would "we" be?).

Yesterday he implied that state lawmakers who support the bill are lying when they claim it isn't a 'voucher' bill only to today, and I'm sure it was unintentional, misinterpret and misrepresent the bill, himself. Today he doesn't care what people call it? A tax credit bill or a voucher bill? Well, he certainly cared yesterday when he was busy implying supporters were lying about it by denying it was a voucher bill.

Then he notes in a blog entry posted today, titled "The slippery slope of vouchers," that he's now concerned for Catholic schools because HB 808 would require some state requirements on private schools and he doesn't want the state interfering with their curriculum. He opposes the bill today, in part, because he feels it abandons the urban public schools he supports which are regulated by the state on the grounds that private schools would be regulated by (gasp!) the state. He then writes he was educated in Catholic schools, received a quality education and is therefore not at all biased against them so, I assume he is genuinely concerned for their well being and freedom from state requirements? Uh huh. Implying one day that they have deep, dark ulterior motives for supporting the bill and then the next day being concerned for their independence because the big bad state will put requirements on them just doesn't jive. Sorry, I don't buy it.

Honesty is either important or not and the fact of the matter is, Springfield citizens expect when they read an editorial written by no less than the Editorial Page Editor of the paper that he will be more careful in his analysis. People take his word for matters such as this, and folks, he knows that.

I didn't plan to continue ad nauseam about Tony Messenger's coverage of Missouri's House Bill 808, it's just sort of turned out that way. Call this pick on Tony Messenger week, or call it pick on tax credit or voucher week, or misrepresentation week. WE (here at JackeHammer) DON'T CARE. We simply find it troubling that the leading newspaper in the City of Springfield is playing fast and loose with the facts. If the people who are to report the news and help educate the community about issues of vital importance pertaining to the education of our state's children doesn't care about the minute details of HB 808 and is so obviously opposed to it and biased against it how, then, can we expect fair coverage of the issue?

Where does Messenger get the figure that approximately $40 million dollars will come out of our state's general tax revenue? If he has given any indication, I missed it.

Can Messenger be more specific about who it is going to hurt? He appears now to be backpeddling on the alleged $40 million dollars hurting public schools, per se, in favor of it simply hurting someone, anyone. Who will it hurt? How will it hurt? Who will be effected, Tony?

Editorial, shmeditorial. Messenger failed to consider those who it will help, he discussed all the negatives without a single comment about who might be helped other than to say some children might be helped but not without adding that in the process those urban public schools will be abandoned. How? Is the state going to stop funding those public schools, Tony? No.

There may be legitimate reasons not to support the bill but instead of exploring those legitimate reasons Messenger has omitted, misinterpreted and misrepresented the bill, and yes, I will explain how, keep reading. He and his paper have an agenda, they are on record as opposing the bill regardless of what people call it and rather than give the public the facts about the bill they, through Messenger's editorial columns, have tried to influence others to oppose it for absurd and unrealistic reasons. It angers me. If Messenger was a simple blogger like myself that would be one thing. He isn't. There is no excuse for his misinterpretation and misrepresentation of HB 808. Period.

I've read the bill fairly closely. Tony claims in his editorial column today that the "tax credit" bill (ahem) requires that 80% of the revenues donated by tax payers must go to PRIVATE schools. The only mention of an 80% amount is in RSMo 135.713.4 (1), and it states:

"At least eighty percent of eligible revenues are allocated for educational assistance organizations for grants to eligible students to cover all or part of the tuition and fees at a QUALIFIED school, and that at least fifteen percent of the recipients are students receiving special education services with individualized education plans that reflect substantially the same distribution of the varieties of disabilities in statewide statistics for students receiving special education services. Of this amount, no more than twenty percent of eligible revenues shall be allocated for other approved educational expenses, including supplemental services such as private tutors, books and technology, or transportation to a public or nonpublic school outside of the eligible student's resident school district;" (emphasis mine)

Item 2, same chapter does state:

"No more than twenty percent of eligible revenues are allocated for public school foundation to be used for the benefit of public schools." (emphasis mine)

According to HB 808 a "public school foundation" is:

"a charitable organization registered in this state that is exempt from federal income tax under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, that was created to secure donations to be used for the benefit of a public school district."

Messenger misinterpreted "public school foundations" as public schools and claimed that 80% of the eligible revenue was required to go to private schools. That's not true. Certainly the revenue can be used at a 'qualified school,' whether public or private, but only 20% of the eligible revenue can be allocated to public school foundations to be used for the benefit of public schools. It is a bit confusing but there is a difference.

I emphasized 'qualified schools' in the section of HB 808 I quoted above for a reason. What is a 'qualified school' under HB 808?

"qualified school", either a PUBLIC elementary or secondary school in this state that is outside of the district in which a student resides or a nonpublic elementary or secondary school in the state that complies with all requirements of the program;"

Public schools are every bit as 'qualified' as private schools to receive their fair share of that 80% in revenues that is to go to 'qualified schools,' they are as much 'qualified' under the definition given in HB 808 as private schools to take part in the receipt of that 80% of revenues.

I don't believe that Tony Messenger intentionally misled his readers when he claimed that 80% of the revenue was required to go to private schools. As I wrote, it is confusing, but shouldn't we expect the foremost newspaper in our city to spend the time necessary to get it right before they 'educate' their readers?

I would suggest, Springfield News-Leader subscribers, that you begin to question the motivations behind some of the columns you read in your paper. Is it possible there just might be a deep, dark, ulterior motive for what some columnists write? Messenger, to his credit, offered a link to the bill on his blog, just as I did in a previous blog entry. The problem is, how many people clicked on that link? Sometimes I wonder if writers don't put links like that on their blogs to establish credibility, I mean, surely he wouldn't put a link to the bill on his blog if he wasn't giving us a correct analysis of the bill, would he? It adds credibility just by being there. Sigh.

Don't take other people's words for things. Don't take my word for things. Study. Find out what the bill really says for yourself. Make your own individual decision about whether you support of oppose HB 808. I'm sure I wasn't blessed with all the higher learning with which Tony Messenger was blessed, and yet I figured it out. You owe it to yourself to find out the truth about important issues which effect your city and your state. Be a responsible citizen. Please.

I have not decided whether I either support or oppose HB 808. The purpose of all this ruckus on my part is because people can't make a proper decision if they are not properly informed in the first place. Get informed.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

HB 808 establishes the Betty L. Thompson Scholarship Program

I've been doing some more studying on HB 808. Here it is in a nut shell:

HB 808 would allow tax credits for taxpayers to donate money for education scholarships to benefit "students from low-income families in urban areas...."

The donations would be collected and tax receipts provided to the taxpayer by "education assistance organizations."

Much of the bill explains qualifications which must be met by the beneficiaries of the scholarships and guidelines and requirements to be met by the "education assistance organizations." What the bill does is add sections 135.712 - 135.719 to chapter 135, RSMo. Those sections establish the Betty L. Thompson Scholarship Program.

The scholarships could be used in both public and private schools.

Get this:

"2. The amount of the tax credit claimed shall not exceed the amount of the taxpayer's state tax liability for the tax year for which the credit is claimed. The department shall certify the tax credit amount to the taxpayer and to the department of revenue. Any amount of credit that a taxpayer whose filing status is single, head of household, or qualifying widow(er), or whose filing status is married filing combined, is prohibited by the program from claiming in a tax year may be carried forward to any of such taxpayer's three subsequent taxable years. All tax credits authorized under the program may be transferred, sold, or assigned."

At least 80% of the revenues must be used for grants to eligible students and at least 15% of the recipients would be required to be children with special education needs.

There are no vouchers. The scholarships paid by the "education assistance organizations" would be written to the parent but sent to the school to receive the parent's endorsement before deposit by the school. I would think that this would alleviate the possibility of people scamming the system. Of course, in the case of home schooling the guidelines would be different, but there are strict guidelines and testing regardless of the facility the student attends.

If passed, this bill would "sunset" in six years unless "reauthorized by the general assembly," and in the case of reauthorization would "sunset" again 12 years after the reauthorization.

Personally, I'm conflicted about this issue but there are people passionate on both sides of it. I think the thing that bothers me the most about Tony Messenger's piece, "Walks AND talks like a duck," is in his tying it to the Arizona law which had "limited vouchers." Missouri's HB 808 offers no vouchers. In Arizona the teachers' unions and the ACLU are challenging the voucher part of the law based on Arizona's state constitution. Missouri's HB 808 may be based, in part on Arizona's law but they are simply not the same. Nonetheless, Messenger is right, it will be a tax credit which would come out of general tax revenue, I couldn't help but feel that he leaves one with the impression that the credits will come directly out of tax revenues earmarked for public education but that isn't the case at all, general tax revenue is just that, general tax revenue. There is no indication in HB 808 that any tax revenue will be depleted from revenue earmarked for public education.

If public schools in urban areas of our state are failing to adequately educate poor children or children with special education needs why should they be made to pay the price so that those public schools can keep the money the state would provide for their education? Shouldn't this be about what is best for the children of our state rather than money?

I realize that Tony Messenger is the Editorial Page Editor of the New-Leader and therefore gets to throw his personal opinion around but he should be mindful of the fact he is the editorial page editor of the city's established newspaper. I'd like to think I could expect more in the way of factual analysis from a paper which one would think would value its reputation. I felt his comments were misrepresentative of the bill. The bill is about tax credits for those taxpayers who choose to make charitable contributions to "education assistance organizations," which, in turn, would provide scholarships for students who are failing to receive adequate educations in their current situations, the guidelines and qualifications those organizations must meet and identifying which students would qualify, not vouchers. Unfortunately, many readers, I fear, won't research the bill for themselves like I did and will take Messenger's word for it that it's a "voucher bill." Shame.

Tony Messenger Mugs Honest Debate on HB0808

In "Walks AND talks like a duck ...," found here, Tony Messenger writes:

" matter how you slice it, about $40 million will come from general tax revenues and be spent on primarily private schools. Not a voucher bill? Please."

Okay, Mr. Messenger seems to have a beef with proponents claiming it isn't a voucher bill but isn't that just a semantic game and is this the first time politicians have played such semantic games? I mean, we have the code word "redeployment" for troop withdrawl, we have "universal health care" to describe socialized medical care, we have "Progressives" instead of liberals. When is Mr. Messenger going to write a column about these semanic code words? When will he declare: "Not troop withdrawl? Please" or "Not socialized health care? Please."

Instead of making an argument about why taxpayers should not be allowed a deduction for charitable donations to benefit poor students who do not have access to a quality public school, Mr. Messenger attacks the semantics of those who support these tax credits. The terminology "tax credits" is used to describe all kinds of deductions, why shouldn't it be used in this case? It would be a tax credit as applied to those who make charitable contributions to support public or private schools for scholarships, wouldn't it? I think the term "voucher" in this case is inappropriate. A "voucher" implies something in the hand of the student or parent doesn't it? Like a coupon? Why yes! According to Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary a voucher is:

"a coupon issued by government to a parent or guardian to be used to fund a child's education in either a public or private school"

Where does HB0808 state that it will put a coupon in the hand of a parent or guardian to be used to fund a child's education, public or private?

Further, the Arizona law does give "limited vouchers," but from what I read in HB0808, I understand that the donated funds for which taxpayers would be given credit would be "allocated for educational assistance organizations for GRANTS to eligible students," there is a difference.

Come on, Mr. Messenger, if you oppose poor students having an opportunity to attend private schools which might offer a better quality education then why don't you just say so and make your argument against it? Why sensationalize the issue and play semantic games with your readers and pretend tax credits are the same thing as vouchers?

Further, so what if the bill was based on an Arizona law that has been challenged in court by teachers unions and the ACLU? Big whoop, the ACLU challenges laws every day. It is a court ruling which will decide the issue, not the fact that the law has been challenged, right?

Messenger linked this article in his column, Business tax credit for private school donations faces court challenge, from the Business Journal of Phoenix, well, okay. From the article:

"The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Maricopa County Superior Court by the ACLU,Arizona Education Association, Arizona Federation of Teachers and Arizona School Boards Association challenges the business tax credit and voucher program saying they violate the state Constitution, which prohibits the use of public money for religious schools."

So, they're being challenged, here's the other side of the issue is this, from the same article:

"Supporters of the tax credit and vouchers say they will withstand the scrutiny because the benefits go directly and equally to families and parents who then can decide how to spend that voucher money. They also point out that businesses can donate to any type of private school. "Education-assistance programs that treat the private choice of religious and non-religious people equally cannot violate the constitution," said Gary McCaleb, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative legal group."

Oh NO! The Alliance Defense Fund is challenging teachers unions and the ACLU! Call the fire department, Tony! Yikes!

Further, we've already established that the difference between the Arizona law and the Missouri bill is that the Arizona law offers limited vouchers whereas the Missouri bill offers grant monies.

Again, from the article, and these are the valid arguments. Instead of talking semantics why shouldn't we actually discuss the issue? The opposing viewpoints:

"Other conservative supporters and Catholic schools say the tax credits help build scholarship funds for needy students and offer families more choices. Teachers groups say the vouchers and private-school tax credits take money away from public schools and undermine the education system."

When did playing semantic games become the news? Geesh, give me a break.
Messenger asks...:

"...what is the true motivation of those trying to get it passed?"

...and in doing so implies that the Missouri Catholic Conference has some deep, dark, evil ulterior motive for supporting the Missouri bill.

I ask, what is the true motivation of those who would challenge it?" Isn't that an equally viable question?

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Recommended Reading 1

Written by William Rees-Mogg, the biography at the site:

"William Rees-Mogg has had a distinguished career with The Times and The Sunday Times. He was Deputy Editor of The Sunday Times before becoming Editor of The Times in 1967, a position he held until 1981. He was made a life peer in 1988. Since 1992 he has been a columnist for The Times, writing on a variety of issues. He has also been chairman of the Broadcast Standards Council and British Arts Council"

Religion isn’t the sickness. It’s the cure-Comment-Columnists-William Rees-Mogg-TimesOnline

This was fascinating reading, be sure and read the comments as well as the blog. Very eye opening:

The Berkley Blog: Straining to remember the Bible

...And last but certainly not least, a friend of mine wrote this and naturally, because she's a friend I'm a wee bit biased about her cuz I think she's the bee's knees but I thought it was an exceptionally well written journalistic piece (much better than anything I write). Very informative and the topic was discussed from every possible perspective. Good job, Suzi!

When you click on the link, her column is to the right of her editor's column (and his column is worth the read too) and set a little lower on the page, look for Suzi Brozman:

COVER: The Carter Lexicon

Comments are welcome. J.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Science, Superior to God?

In the course of written conversation with another local blogger regarding what seems to be a quest of his to belittle, and in fact demonize, all religion, I began to question why it is that some scientists seem obsessed with the idea of proving that God does not exist and that all people who believe in God, Gawd or little gods are superstitious fools. I mean, really, why is it so important to some scientists to look down their long, sneering noses and pronounce idiocy on others? If those of us who are religious are idiots and superstitious fools why would they bother with us at all? Why is it so important to them? Why don't they spend their time more profitably in the field of science finding cures for cancer, aids and the common cold? Anytime someone, anyone, announces that a certain sector of society are fools but then continues to spend an exorbitant amount of time on trying to disprove what those "fools" believe, then in actuality they are giving undue credence to the "fools," are they not?

I recently left an online political debate group, in part, because I realized that among those of opposing thought there were none who were really even interested in discussing and debating any issue or understanding an opposing viewpoint. My opponents constantly created straw-men arguments in order to avoid real issues. When I finally, fully understood that they were uninterested in discussion, arriving at consensus on any given topic or even offering a modicum of respect for a viewpoint which deviated from their own I wrote them off as a myopic waste of my time. It wasn't that I was unwilling to respect or consider their viewpoint, it was that they could hear or consider nothing which did not support their own and if they could not explain a position or answer a question honestly then the name calling commenced and the discussion, which was never a discussion in the first place...well, you get the drift. See, I left the group because I recognized it was a waste of time. I haven't spent a great deal of time looking back and trying to figure out why they are wrong and why I am right. Why, if religious fanatics are such superstitious fools, beneath respect and consideration, are scientists so obsessed with proving them wrong?

The best I can figure, one of the reasons scientists have given for wishing to abolish all religion is that religion is the cause of all war. I recently wrote a post in reply to the science blog Pharyngula (on) The unspeakable vileness of religious law, in which Professor P. Z. Myers stated:

"Religion is not a source of moral behavior. It's a source of tribalism and obedience to authority, which sometimes coincides with respectable morality, but isn't necessarily associated with it. We have to find our virtue in one true thing, our common humanity, and these ancient superstitions actually interfere with instruction in how to be good by encrusting it with nonsense."

I might agree with Professor Myers that religion isn't the only source of moral behavior or that all religions are not sources of moral behavior but for him to state, as though fact, an opinion so generically broad that "religion" period "is not A source of moral behavior," is not only blatantly false but as foolish as Professor Myers would like to convince us are those who believe in God.

But, let's go back to the argument that some make that wars are all started because of religiosity. Is there really a human being alive who believes that if we purged all religion from society, if all mankind became atheists, if no one believed in God, Gawd or little gods or either a heaven or a hell that there would no longer be any war!? Uh uh. Religion is not the basis for war, if men were not fighting over what they believed was God's edict and instruction they would be fighting over what some man claimed as edict and instruction for them. Human beings seek leaders among their world, among their nations, among their states, among their counties, among their cities, among their communities and even in their own households. Are we to believe that if we swept God out of the way that men would be open-minded, tolerant, totally agreeable, freedom loving, war-immune peaceniks?

John Lennon wrote in Imagine:

Imagine there's no Heaven

It's easy if you try

No hell below us

Above us only sky

Imagine all the people

Living for today

Imagine there's no countries

It isn't hard to do

Nothing to kill or die for

And no religion too

Imagine all the people

Living life in peace

You may say that I'm a dreamer

But I'm not the only one

I hope someday you'll join us

And the world will be as one...

...Yes, John, I say you are a dreamer. Do you suppose Lennon really thought if we could do away with the concepts of heaven and hell that everyone would live just for today? It's utterly ridiculous, people would still be thinking about whether they could earn enough money to survive retirement or go on vacation in two weeks. People would still wish they had the new car their neighbor had. Lennon might just as well have "imagined" there's no money, or sex, or new hair styles.

Do you suppose that if Lennon "imagined" hard enough that there were no countries and no religion that it would do away with the innate longing of human beings to have someone at the helm of their little life-ships? That people would no longer think anything was worth dying for? That everyone would live in peace? Lennon might just as well have "imagined" there's no world at all, there are no houses better than yours, no property with more fertile soil than your property, no new suit or formal dress hanging in the department store window that catches your eye.

The world will not be as one, not even if you "imagine" it without heaven, without hell, without war, without countries or without religion because man's *condition* is a selfish one. Man wants what man wants for himself.

This week another local blogger and myself have been having a written conversation and it was brought about by his posting of Professor P. Z. Myer's little exercise in stupidity. This morning he posted a little brag about the book, God: The Failed Hypothesis, written by Victor J. Stenger, he was very pleased because the author named him and he used one of his pretty little flower pictures to "demonstrate the fibonacci series."

This week The Discovery Channel will be airing "The Lost Tomb of Christ," which, according to (BP), experts say ignores biblical & scientific evidence and logic, why? Because for some reason scientists are very interested in disproving the existence of God, Gawd or little gods.

Why do they protest so much? Is it because even without religion the heart of man longs for something, something bigger than himself or herself?

Is it because of that empty space that men try to fill with a mate or a job or a hobby, with science or with GOD? I believe that is exactly what it is all about.

We are all searchers, we are all searching for answers.

Some men look to God for their answers and many of them find peace there, many of them may not understand all the details but they keep looking, they keep searching the scriptures, they keep trying to understand things which they cannot fathom, and those things which they cannot understand and which there seem to be no answers for, they entrust to God. They have faith that perhaps one day God will "clue them in" on the things they could not understand today.

Some men look to sex to fill an uneasiness they sense in their soul, some look to wealth, some to knowledge, some look, yes, to science as they seek and when they do they find answers to questions about all sorts of things, just as do those who look to God and God's Word---the Bible. Sometimes scientists can't find an answer but they have faith that they will one day, when they do enough experiments, when they ask the right question, just as those who believe in God have faith that they will one day understand things which they can't understand today.

Perhaps scientists think a faith in man or man's understanding of the world, of life, of the human condition, of his surroundings is superior to the faith that other men have in God. Perhaps by belittling religion they can make themselves believe that that uneasiness, that hole in their heart that only God is capable of filling can be filled by science if they are condescending enough, who knows? God? Science? Is there an end to the universe? Is there an end to God? Is the universe the never-ending mind of God? Can scientists prove that it isn't?

"If what we regard as real depends on our theory, how can we make reality the basis of our philosophy? ...But we cannot distinguish what is real about the universe without a makes no sense to ask if it corresponds to reality, because we do not know what reality is independent of a theory." - Stephen Hawking