Friday, September 16, 2005

Inherit the (Broken) Wind

I saw a slap at the ACLU hand painted (misspelled words and all) on the side of an old pickup truck this week. I forgive the spelling, as I, myself, have difficulties in that department. it is the very idea that the ACLU is something bad. What the sign said was actually not true. The sign had words to the effect that the ACLU "hates God."

I've never met anyone who actually "hates God" although I know several who aren't real fond of religion. Me, for one. I personally think Jesus had a really good thing going, until Paul came along and screwed things up. I didn't come up with that myself...I got it from reading Thomas Jefferson. Remember him? He was one of the guys who wrote the Constitution.

The ACLU does one thing and one thing only...It brings to light variences between government actions and the Constitution of the United States of America. The ACLU sues the government in the government's own courts to force the government to obey the very laws the government is supposed to enforce.

Making our government follow the rules seems like a good thing to me. Any time the ACLU wins, it is because the government decided the ACLU was right as far as the Constitution is concerned.

A famous ACLU case was the Scopes Trial in Dayton, TN, 80 years ago. The fine folks in Dayton have a "Re-enactment" of the trial every year to celebrate this stunt cooked up by two members of the local Chamber of Commerce, a druggist and an engineer. We engineers are always causing trouble, and in ways we can't possibly imagine at the time. The re-enactment is advertised as being historically accurate but it isn't. The giant sign they hang on the courthouse is claimed to be a replica of one that was actually hung there during the original trial.

It isn't.

The original sign was maybe twelve inches wide. Scopes attorney, Clarence Darrow, asked the judge to have it removed. When the Judge balked, Darrow asked if he could put one up there, too! Alarmed at the possibilities, the Judge ordered the bible sign removed from public property. This seemed to be entirely reasonable to all concerned, and should be the precedent used today, where matters of religious tracts on public property are concerned. Post the ten commandments if you want to as long as equal billing is given to the Flying Spaghetti Monster and his Great Noodly Appendage!

AS I am wont to do early in the morning before dawn, I looked up the transcript of the Scopes trial, mainly because the "Historical re-enactment" leaves out a few things that were actually said by William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow, as Darrow had called Bryan as a witness for the defense and Bryan answered Darrow's questions. Bryan continually called Darrow an Agnostic, Atheist, and unbeliever...Darrow simply called Bryan a Fool.

Bryan seems, in this quote, to be stating that facts shouldn't be considered in determining whether evolution is true. This is essentially the same position today's creationists take:

The Witness(Bryan)--It seems to me it would be too exacting to confine the defense to the facts; if they are not allowed to get away from the facts, what have they to deal with?

Another exchange:

Darrow--What do you think?
Bryan--I do not think about things I don't think about.
Darrow--Do you think about things you do think about?
Bryan--Well, sometimes.

And the part of the re-enactment that is left out is the where Darrow gets Bryan to admit that the bible cannot be taken literally on point after point and yet Bryan contradicts himself, saying he does not think the Creation involved six twenty four hour days but if someone wants to believe that, he thinks it's ok...

Q(Darrow)--You think those were not literal days?
A(Bryan)--I do not think they were twenty-four-hour days. Q--What do you think about it?
A--That is my opinion--I do not know that my opinion is better on that subject than those who think it does.
Q--You do not think that ?
A--No. But I think it would be just as easy for the kind of God we believe in to make the earth in six days as in six years or in 6,000,000 years or in 600,000,000 years. I do not think it important whether we believe one or the other.

Darrow--I object to your statement. I am exempting you on your fool ideas that no intelligent Christian on earth believes.

The most eloquent statement is actually from another Defense attorney, not Clarence Darrow:

Malone--Your honor on this very subject, I would like to say that I would have asked Mr. Bryan--and I consider myself as good a Christian as he is--every question that Mr. Darrow has asked him for the purpose of bring out whether or not there is to be taken in this court a literal interpretation of the Bible, or whether, obviously, as these questions indicate, if a general and literal construction cannot be put upon the parts of the Bible which have been covered by Mr. Darrow's questions. I hope for the last time no further attempt will be made by counsel on the other side of the case, or Mr. Bryan, to say the defense is concerned at all with Mr. Darrow's particular religious views or lack of religious views. We are here as lawyers with the same right to our views. I have the same right to mine as a Christian as Mr. Bryan has to his...

Today, we face the very same question...Are we to be free of forced religious practice and instruction, or are we to be subjected to forced preaching by those in power?...Told, for instance, that we will believe in 24 hour days of creation and no other possibility...

Fascinating reading. Day 7, in particular...Go:




I found this jewel from Gordon in my email. If you can't read it in the humorous and satirical intent firmly in your mind, then skip it. Taken in the spirit it's intended, you might laugh as much as I did:

I just got online. I'm in the Brown Hills of California, Ukhaa Tolgod in Mongolian.

Actually, I'm in Oakland, working with the "Save the Bay" folks. They take kids out in canoes to see the wetlands, and replace invasive plants with native species. They also occasionally take adults out in kayaks. They want some safety and rescue training, so Paul and I are here on a sort of exchange program.

I sat down tonight to check email, and found a few from you. All good stuff.

I particularly enjoyed the story about the Gobi.

The cartoons were great too, but the biblical stuff about building on sand was just weird. Paying for these folks to build in beautiful but fragile and dangerous locations doesn't make any sense to me. And surely Trent Lott can't access any federal money to rebuild.

But what I've been thinking about lately is the gunk that we are pumping out into the Gulf after washing out the pit of New Orleans. It is disgusting, and not for the first time I am ashamed to be a human, and particularly a human from the US. I hate to agree with Dennis Hastert on anything, but he is right. We should not spend a federal dime on rebuilding NO. I'm told that after the dot-com crash lots of brand new fancy office buildings, miles of 'em, are now abandoned just south of here. Move all those evacuees here. The climate is much better, and they can all work in the fields. The influx of culture would be a lot of fun to watch. And they can all wait here for the next big quake.

Mobile can take over as the port. I guess everyone could just move over to Mobile anyway. It floods too, but drains by itself. And it also has a Mardi Gras. So nothing need be lost.

Except New Orleans.

And it just isn't worth the trouble.


I read Al Jazeera for a different view of things, and surprisingly, I often find reasonable ideas well said. This one for instance, even though I do not agree with it, we should consider the possibility:

... the administration must also confront the possibility that a US drawdown of troops - tentatively planned to begin next spring - could further embolden the insurgents and throw Iraq into civil war.

"Drawdown" is a patronising term for withdrawal and surrender.

With enormous sadness I conclude, withdrawal under a false pretext may be more disastrous than going to war under a false pretext.

The Bush option has been a policy of failure. Columnist Sterling Newberry writes: "What is clear is that the American presence is no longer contributing to a secure Iraq, and that the various attempts by the American occupation to train or put in place a security force - there have been five separate failed programs to do so - are completely ineffective. American forces are not even able to control the road system in fighting the rebellion.”

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