Thursday, July 31, 2008

Selwyn Duke Gets it Wrong on David Davis - Part II

The first thing about Duke's preposterous screed on the Gillman decision that tripped my trigger is his claim that students do not have the right to voice dissent.
I can’t think of anything more laughable than describing students as “dissenters.” Governments have dissenters; politicians have dissenters; political parties and organizations have dissenters; but schools’ charges are children, individuals over whom they have dominion while class is in session.
Bzzt. Wrong. Try again, Mr. Duke. Had you read the full decision on Gillman, and were you honest about familiar with the applicable precedent, you would be aware that in Holloman v. Harland SCOTUS found that First Amendment rights to free speech "unquestionably exist in public schools".

Next we have his argument that they shouldn't be granted First Amendment rights:
The problem with arguing for any kind of student expression based upon the First Amendment is that we don’t ascribe to children an adult set of rights. Minors may not vote, join the military, drive, buy alcohol or cigarettes, or enter into contracts, for instance. Likewise, students don’t really have free-speech rights in school (see Bethel School District v. Fraser, for instance). If I want to pepper a schoolteacher with profanity and tell him off, that is my right. But if I were 30 years younger and in his class, a trip to the principal’s office would be in the offing.
I see several problems with this statement. Firstly, the idea that because we don't extend full adult privileges, that children have no First Amendment rights. This is preposterous on its face. There is ample legal precedent extending First Amendment rights to minors: for instance, decisions upholding students' rights to freely exercise their religious views in school (albeit outside the classroom). Would Mr Duke agree that students shouldn't have a right to form prayer and bible study groups in their schools, or "meet at the flag" groups, should the local school board or the school administration deem them innapropriate? Somehow, I think not.

Secondly, his citation of the Bethel decision. Once again, Mr Duke is lying through his teeth being disingenuous. The judge in the Gillman case, Richard Smoak, specifically mentions Bethel in his decision. Bethel's controls are on speech that is "vulgar, lewd, obscene, or plainly offensive". His finding was that the speech in question is pure student expression, and so Bethel doesn't apply. The proper precedent is Tinker, which asserts students' rights. Incidentally, the Holmes County School Board actually agreed that the students actions, clothing, and speech were not offensive, vulgar, etc.

Lastly, exactly where does "pepper a schoolteacher with profanity and tell him off" come into play here? Selwyn seems to be referencing a case entirely divorced from Gillman. At no point was any schoolteacher verbally abused by a student. In fact not even the principal, who really rather asked for some verbal abuse, received any. Whose ass did he pull that out of Where did that statement come from?

These students are about to enter society at large. Stifling the few liberties they enjoy will not teach them to be responsible citizens, to protect their freedoms and participate in the political process. To quote the Tinker court (via the Gillman decision):
The vigilant protection of constitutional freedoms is nowhere more vital than in the community of American schools. The classroom is peculiarly the ‘marketplace of
ideas.’ The Nation’s future depends upon leaders trained through wide exposure to that robust exchange of ideas which discovers truth ‘out of a multitude of tongues, (rather) than through any kind of authoritative selection'.
'Course, Duke's blather wouldn't be a true right-fringe rant without the following:
Of course, some may not like the values inherent in Principal Davis’ actions. My response to them is that they don’t have to live in places such as Ponce de Leon, Fla.
"If you don't like George Bush, whyoncha move to Eyeraq, damned libruls".

I can only say that I hope that some of the students involved in this fiasco remain in Holmes County, FL and try to insure that future generations of students aren't treated the way their generation has been.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Selwyn Duke Gets it Wrong on David Davis

Ooh, dear: Selwyn Duke is unhappy that a man was punished for abusing his students. Further, he is outraged that any high school student might be allowed to publicly voice opinions which are contrary to the opinion of the mob. In an article in the Birchers' newspaper fallaciously titled " Principal Fired for Pushing Anti-homosexual Agenda" he writes:

A judge ruled that a Florida principal violated his students’ free-speech rights by squelching pro-homosexual messages. He blasted the educator for misunderstanding the First Amendment, but who is truly ignorant of it?

If there ever was an example of inmates running an asylum, it’s the modern government-school system. Thanks to numerous court rulings, students can now buck authority with the freedom to wear clothing and espouse political and social messages that their school – perhaps reflecting the wider community’s standards – deems objectionable.

Oh, dear Bog! They might wear clothing espousing objectionable views! They might... gasp! THINK!

Well: we can't have that.

I should mention that the article's title is inaccurate because he was not removed from the school system: he was removed from the office of principal and demoted to a teaching position. Duke was unquestionably correct in that Davis was pushing an anti-homosexual agenda. Actually, an abusive and hateful agenda, homosexuality related or no.

But, while I feel a great deal of trepidation about an idiot like this teaching American Government class, at least he's no longer abusing his administrative authority to grope his female students. Something that people like Selwyn Duke don't seem to find objectionable.

More on this tomorrow: I'm for bed.

Gillman Vs Holmes County School Board

Via Dispatches from the Culture Wars, a decision has been handed down ( read it here) in the Florida case of a school principal who went on a one-man witch hunt against student political expression at his school. David Davis, in responding to a complaint by a 12th grade student that others at the school had harassed her for being a lesbian, ridiculed and condemned her rather than taking action against her aggressors. He then called her parents and outed her to them (which nearly resulted in her being kicked out of her home), and drove her out of his office in tears. Real nice guy.

But that was only the start. Other students got wind of what happened and tried to simply show their support for her by wearing messages on their t-shirts and indulging in other mild forms of self expression (there was talk of walking out of an emergency "Morality Assembly" that Davis called, but nothing ever came of it). Davis called this activity membership in an "illegal/secret organization", and suspended several students for a week. A student named Heather Gillman, a friend of the original victim and cousin of another of Davis's targets, complained to the School Board, which basically told her to take a hike. So she sued, and won. Handily. The decision went entirely against the school board.

But all this has been covered elsewhere. The little tidbit that made me go "WTF?" can be found on page 4 of the complaint:
Following the assembly, Davis began investigating what had come to be known as the “Gay Pride” movement at the school. He interviewed approximately thirty students, interrogated them about their sexual orientations, and questioned them about their involvement in the planned walk-out of the assembly and their activities in relation to the movement. During those meetings, Davis instructed students who were homosexual not to discuss their sexual orientations. He also prohibited students from wearing rainbow belts or writing “Gay Pride” or “GP” on their arms and notebooks. He required students to wash “GP” or “Gay Pride” from their arms and hands and lifted the shirts of female students to verify that no such writings were present on their bodies.
So we have an adult male in an authority position, during a disciplinary process, singling out female students and partially disrobing them. And the Board didn't feel that this warranted any attention: not even a phone call to Davis to clarify what happened. I don't think either the investigation or the law suit went far enough here: this guy is not someone I would want around my daughter.

Update: Oh the irony. I never saw this part (HT: Pam's House Blend). According to Davis, it's OK to wear a Confederate flag. A symbol of a group of people who tried to destroy this nation isn't divisive or offensive. Supporting a friend, however, is.

I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again in the future: if homosexuals spent one tenth as much time thinking about gay sex as evangelical Christians do, homosexuals would never get anything done.

More Catholic Whining About PZ's Crackers

The Rev. Fr. John Trigilio of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy (membership: a whopping 600) has taking deep and furious umbrage with PZ over crackergate. He is calling for prayer and fasting:
We ask all Catholics of Minnesota and of the entire nation to join in a day of prayer and fasting that such offenses never happen again.
Or you could just burn everyone to death.
We find the actions of University of Minnesota (Morris) Professor Paul Myers reprehensible, inexcusable, and unconstitutional. His flagrant display of irreverence by profaning a consecrated Host from a Catholic church goes beyond the limit of academic freedom and free speech.
Umm, no. It is most certainly not unconstitutional. The CCC needs to brush up a bit on what the Bill of rights is for.
The same Bill of Rights which protect freedom of speech also protect freedom of religion.
And PZ's actions in no way, shape or form infringed upon any Catholic priest's right to free exercise. You can still pray, go to Mass, run Catholic schools, get shit-faced at parish festivals, molest altar boys... oh, wait: not that last one.
Attacking the most sacred elements of a religion is not free speech anymore than would be perjury in a court or libel in a newspaper.
Perjury and libel are based on the fact that the statements made/printed are false. Nothing PZ accused wing-nut Catholics of was false. They did fly completely off the handle when a student tried to show a host to a non-Catholic friend. They did then proceed to harass and threaten both the student and his friend. They did harass and threaten (quite graphically) PZ when PZ called them idiots. And he is quite within his first amendment rights in opining that "It's Just a Frackin' Cracker".
Individual freedoms are limited by the boundaries created by the inalienable rights of others. The freedom of religion means that no one has the right to attack, malign or grossly offend a faith tradition they personally do not have membership or ascribe allegiance.
Absolute, utter, mind-boggling, no-holds-barred bullshit. You have no right not to be offended. The Catholic Church, like all mystical organizations, subscribes to a lot of crazy-assed ideas. Calling a dumb idea a dumb idea is protected speech, regardless of who or what is promoting that dumb idea.
The Chancellor of the University refused to reprimand or censure the teacher, who ironically is a Biology Professor. One fails to see the relevance of the desecration of a Catholic sacrament to the science of Biology. Were Myers a Professor of Theology, there would have been at least a presumption of competency to express religious opinions in a classroom.
-As to the Chancellor: bully for him. Good job.
-As to the "irony" of PZ being a Biology professor: ...?
-As the the relevance of desecration to the science of biology: So What? Have you ever discussed that weather with other clergy? You have?! How dare you transgress upon the holy territory of meteorologists!
-As to PZ's competency: Pharyngula isn't a classroom, you stupid git. It's a blog.
Yet, for a scientist to ridicule and show utter contempt for the most sacred and precious article of a major world religion, is inappropriate, unprofessional, unconstitutional and disingenuous.
While his comments and actions were not exactly diplomatic, they were appropriate, given the subject matter: the irrational importance Catholics place on a piece of bread. That they value it more than a human life is breathtaking in its inanity. Unprofessional? He wasn't acting within his profession. Doesn't apply. Unconstitutional? Well, we've covered that. Disingenuous? How? At what point was Myers not frank or sincere about his opinions?
A biologist has no business 'dissing' any religion, rather, they should be busy teaching the scientific discipline they were hired to teach.
And you, father, are hereby prohibited from discussing anything other than Catholic theology, in any setting, ever again, since you seem to be of the opinion that one can only talk on subjects involving one's vocation.
We also pray that Professor Myers contritely repent and apologize.
Yeah, good luck on that one.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Phillip Johnson is Getting All "Sciency" Again.

Good old Phil, founder of the Intellectually Bankrupt Intelligent Design movement, is at it again. Back in 1989, he came up with the bright idea of dressing "creation science" up with scientific-sounding jargon and relabeling it as ID to try to disguise it's religious roots. This worked quite well for him among creationists (or some of them, anyway), and resulted in the confused brouhaha we have going on today.

ID has consistently, however, run into one specific roadblock: the concept of methodological naturalism. Since ID requires a supernatural component at some level/point, it is difficult to say that it is truly a scientific pursuit and retain any credibility (not that Johnson has a surfeit in that department).

So folks like William Dembsky, Sal Cordova, and the other Disco Institute buffoons tried their hand at arguing that methodological naturalism is flawed or unnecessary. Still, no deal.

So, Johnson has gone back to his roots and is inventing new terminology to dress his tattered old ideas up in: this time, he takes on naturalism using "Theistic Realism", which is really just "goddidit" gussied up a bit. Allen McNeill over at The Evolution List has an excellent analysis of this argument, and why it fails. It's worth reading.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Casey Luskin Excellence in Bullshit Award

Looks like the Discovery Institutes's ferocious attack poodle, Casey Luskin, has had an award named after him (HT: Pharyngula). We evil science advocates aren't allowed to know who received it though. Samuel Chen over at Doubting Darwin writes:
The recipient of the 2008 Casey Luskin Graduate Award will remain anonymous for the protection of the recipient. The many students, professors, and scientists who have been denied degrees or tenure and removed from positions and jobs for no other reason than acceptance of—or even sympathy to—intelligent design theory is very telling of the importance of keeping these bright young minds out of the crosshairs of those opposed to open-minded investigation and critical thought.
Rriiiiight. Holding people to ethical standards and demanding that they actually do some sort of scientific work is opposing "open minded investigation and critical thought".
The Casey Luskin Graduate Award was established in 2005 and in 2007 its name was changed from the “IDURC Graduate Award” to the “Casey Luskin Graduate Award.” The award is named for Mr. Casey Luskin, a graduate of the University of California at San Diego, who was the first student truly to step out of his comfort zone as an undergrad and take a stand for intelligent design—a stand that would be seen across the nation.
Seen, and laughed at heartily. Not only is just about everything Luskin writes wrong, it is often howlingly wrong: the guy is enormously talented at missing the point of an argument, at misinterpreting scientific data, and at sticking his fingers in his ears and screaming "LaLaLa, I can't here you" when anyone points out his, erm... "mistakes".

I don't think I'd want them announcing that I'd received this award, either. How embarrassing to be associated with the DI's most rediculous hack.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Catholics Can Be Morons, Too

Protestants don't have a monopoly, that's for sure.

Melanie Kroll has lost her job with 1-800-FLOWERS. Why? Because her idiot husband, Charles Kroll, sent a death threat to Dr PZ Myers of UM-Morris from her corporate email account.

Now why would a nice Catholic boy do such a thing?

Well, it all started when a University of Central Florida student took a non-Catholic friend to Mass. The friend was curious about the host. The student, to satisfy the visitor's curiosity, tried to bring the host back to the pew to show it before eating it. He was then accosted by the church-police, who harassed him and chased him out of the church (still with the uneaten host).

Not satisfied with this, Bill-The-Perpetually-Offended Donohue and his drooling band of Catholic League sycophants began raising a stink, and, along with a lot of help from the "faithful" in the area, harassed and threatened the student, and tried to get him suspended from school. OK, that's the beginning...

PZ caught wind of it, and as is his wont, eviscerated the perpetrators on Pharyngula. Donahue's minions were alerted, and began sending PZ email threats. PZ posted them along with the header information, and the source of one of the more disturbing ones was traced back to Mrs. Kroll's account at 1-800-FLOWERS. HR at the company was notified, and Mrs Kroll's employment was terminated.

While I was growing up, it was taught to me that Catholics were more scholarly and introspective about their faith than many other Christians. What a load of crap. This is the threat at the center of this shit-storm:


what I would like to know is how did you even
get a job at a collage.

when you are obviously a moron.
How would you feel if nice folks starting ranting against
Fags, and atheist like yourself.

well sir, you don’t get to blaspheme and walk away from this.
You have two choices my fucked up friend, first you can quit your job for the good of the children. Or you can get your brains beat in.

I give you till the first of the month, get that resignation in cunt

Such a nice Catholic boy.

Never mind that the doctrine of transubstantiation is silly on it's surface: this is a person who is ready to commit murder simply because someone has rightfully taken his church to task for doing something outrageously stupid and cruel. Then, when he's busted, he blames the people who busted him:

However, this whole incident has caused someone who had nothing to do with the email to mr.myers,.a wonderful, sweet person who would never threaten anyone terrible troubles. Great harm has been done to this wonderful lady, without proof or a question asked, you just accuse, and assume. Wow and I thought you liberal folks were supposed to be the open minded ones.

It is my hope that since the mystery is now removed, and now that the Identity of the horrible person who dared write such crude things to the mr. myers is known, that the same people who put so much effort into harming Melanie Kroll, will use as much effort to right the wrong that has been done to her.

If there is any wrong-righting to be done, Chuckie, it's to be done by you. You, and you alone, caused your wife's problems. 'Course, she shares some of the blame for marrying an idiot.