Friday, November 18, 2011

Most Ethical Administration Ever

We can add yet another of President Obama's cabinet appointees to the list of those associated with possible scandal. First it was Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner (Tax Cheating), then came Attorney General Eric Holder (Fast and Furious, inter alia), followed by Energy Secretary Steven Chu (Solyndra), now it's Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius implicated in a scandal being dubbed "Shreddergate."

Kathleen Sebelius is the former governor of Kansas whom President Obama named as his Secretary of HHS. When you read this column by Jack Cashill you might wonder why she isn't in jail. If she were a Republican she doubtless would be.

You should read the whole of Cashill's report, but the quick summation is that as governor of Kansas Sebelius was implicated in an attempt to cover-up wrong-doing in her administration related to a criminal investigation of local Planned Parenthood personnel:
In 2002 Republican Phill Kline was elected attorney general of Kansas, and Democrat Kathleen Sebelius was elected governor. They had different agendas.

Kline wanted to know how Kansas, despite tough laws he had helped write as a legislator, had emerged as the world capital of late-term abortions. Sebelius did not want to know or want anyone else to know, either.

Kline quickly discovered that abortions performed on under-aged girls were not being reported to the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, or SRS, as mandated by law.

The purpose of the mandatory reporting laws is to remove a child from a situation in which the abuse is likely to happen again.

To track the reporting failure, Kline needed the abortion records kept by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, or KDHE, which, like the SRS, was now being run by Sebelius appointees. Although these records are kept for law-enforcement purposes, both agencies resisted in every which way they could.

It took Kline years of legal haggling to get the records. They showed that in the years 2002 and 2003, 166 girls under 15 had abortions at Kansas clinics, the great majority of them at George Tiller's clinic in Wichita or Planned Parenthood's in suburban Kansas City. Only two of them were reported to SRS, and both of those stories were already in the news.

Unable to stop Kline legally, Sebelius persuaded a popular Republican district attorney to switch parties to run against Kline in 2006. Through various cut-outs, Tiller invested nearly $2 million in the anti-Kline effort. And the Star won Planned Parenthood's top editorial honor for its virulent campaign against "Snoop Dog" Kline. Kline lost.

In a wonderful twist, Republican precinct captains elected Kline to take the DA spot vacated by Sebelius' new attorney general. Planned Parenthood just happened to be in that county. In October 2007, Kline charged Planned Parenthood with committing 107 criminal acts, including 23 felonies for manufacturing documents – the first criminal charges ever brought against Planned Parenthood anywhere.

Although the usual suspects saw to Kline's re-election defeat in 2008, new Johnson County DA Steve Howe continued the case Kline had launched. Last week, however, Howe had to ask that the felony charges be dropped. As he had just learned, the evidence had been destroyed.

As the Star reported on Thursday, "All copies of key documents needed to support those charges no longer exist." Sebelius's hand-picked attorney general, Steve Six, destroyed the certified copies in 2009, and the Sebelius-run KDHE destroyed the original records in 2005.
There's much more on Shreddergate at the link.

Mr. Obama promised us the most ethical, the most transparent administration in history. What he's delivered is certainly something less than that.

Thanks to Byron for passing the story along.

A Movie Running Backwards

There is a universally accepted principle of thought which says that given a choice between multiple explanations for a phenomenon the preferred explanation is the one which is simplest and fits all the facts.

Mathematician Granville Sewell at Evolution News and Views invites us to imagine a scenario which illustrates this principle:
A high school science teacher rents a video showing a tornado sweeping through a town, turning houses and cars into rubble. When she attempts to show it to her students, she accidentally runs the video backward .... [T]he students laugh and say, the video is going backwards! The teacher doesn’t want to admit her mistake, so she says: “No, the video is not really going backward. It only looks like it is .... and she proceeds to give some long, detailed, hastily improvised scientific theories on how tornadoes, under the right conditions, really can construct houses and cars.

At the end of the explanation, one student says, “I don’t want to argue with scientists, but wouldn’t it be a lot easier to explain if you ran the video the other way?”
That's the simplest explanation for the phenomena in the video, certainly simpler than the teacher's contrived explanation, and thus it should be preferred.

Sewell wants to relate this to the problem of Darwinian evolution.
Imagine, he writes, a professor describing the final project for students in his evolutionary biology class. “Here are two pictures,” he says. “One is a drawing of what the Earth must have looked like soon after it formed. The other is a picture of New York City today, with tall buildings full of intelligent humans, computers, TV sets and telephones, with libraries full of science texts and novels, and jet airplanes flying overhead.

Your assignment is to explain how we got from picture one to picture two .... You should explain that 3 or 4 billion years ago a collection of atoms formed by pure chance that was able to duplicate itself, and these complex collections of atoms were able to pass their complex structures on to their descendants generation after generation, even correcting errors.

Explain how, over a very long time, the accumulation of genetic accidents resulted in greater and greater information content in the DNA of these more and more complicated collections of atoms, and how eventually something called “intelligence” allowed some of these collections of atoms to design buildings and computers and TV sets, and write encyclopedias and science texts....

When one student turns in his essay some days later, he has written, “A few years after picture one was taken, the sun exploded into a supernova, all humans and other animals died, their bodies decayed, and their cells decomposed into simple organic and inorganic compounds. Most of the buildings collapsed immediately into rubble, those that didn’t, crumbled eventually. Most of the computers and TV sets inside were smashed into scrap metal, even those that weren’t, gradually turned into piles of rust, most of the books in the libraries burned up, the rest rotted over time, and you can see see the result in picture two.”

The professor says, “You have switched the pictures!” “I know,” says the student, “but it was so much easier to explain that way.”
That's the problem with Darwinian evolution. The idea that blind chance and the laws of chemistry alone could have conspired to create a living cell, or produce a process as extraordinary as butterfly metamorphosis, or create a structure as unimaginably complex as a human brain requires so many assumptions and ad hoc explanations, so much suspension of incredulity, that it's far simpler, and much more in keeping with our everyday experience, to posit that these things were the intentional product of an intelligent mind.

Otherwise, Sewell concludes, the process is like a movie running backward. The whole of biological history is as improbable as assuming that purposeless, undirected forces like tornadoes could actually cause scattered debris to assemble into complex, well-integrated structures.

Of course, if a mind was somehow directing the process that would change everything.