Sunday, December 16, 2012

Prayer and Bible Study in Schools Do Not Prevent Murder

I've had enough of religious opportunists using the massacre in Newtown, CT as a rallying cry to inject prayer and Bible study into public schools.  If that sort of thing would prevent murder, explain the following:

7 Dead, 3 wounded at a Christian vocational school:

1 Dead, 7 wounded as they participated in a prayer circle at a Kentucky school:

Girl shoots fellow student at a Catholic school:

Man kills 5 girls, wounds 5 in an Amish school:

Man kills head of Episcopal school:

Man kills a rabbi and three children in a Jewish school:

Man kills seven, wounds three at a Christian college:

As I was finding more and more links, I found I couldn't stomach any more of these.  I think it makes the point: murder has nothing to do with prayer and Bible study in schools.  So please stop with that nonsense.   It's bad enough the Sandy Hook shooting is fresh in my mind.  To see all of these other incidents...and to have a visual from the details given regarding the shooting in the Amish school...I'm sick over it.  There are more examples.  I haven't gotten into any of the Muslim schools, for example, and I haven't checked the policy regarding school prayer in South American countries, where several shootings also occurred.

Now I'm going to go tuck my kid in and hope I don't ever have to deal with this kind of tragedy with my own child.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Capitalism is not the greatest engine for freedom

I hear people say that capitalism has been the greatest engine for freedom. I strongly disagree. The greatest engine of freedom throughout history has been the people standing up for themselves and gaining control over their lives. No economic system has been an engine for freedom; capitalism is no different. Capitalism started out on the foundation of the slave trade, indentured servitude, child labor, and hostile working conditions. When slaves and indentured servants were no longer an option, freed slaves, immigrants, and children still labored under whatever conditions employers desired. It wasn't until the rise of unions that child labor and safety regulations were put into place, not to mention controls on hours and overtime. It wasn't until the civil rights marches and the feminist movement that minorities and women started to turn the tide of discrimination and unfair pay practices that still exist to a smaller degree today. Hell, women had to stand up and fight to get their right to vote--and they endured plenty of hardship during that fight. Capitalism didn't cause these freedoms to exist; capitalists are slaves to profit, and capitalist organizations (aka businesses) have a tyrannical or oligarchical structure--unless they are well-regulated. How are they regulated? By having the people stand up and vote for it.

Under capitalism, the practice of seeking out and exploiting cheap labor sources continues. It went over borders into Mexico, then India, then Malaysia (outsource to India and they may actually outsource to Malaysia in turn), then China and the Philippines. Jewelry companies have been known to trade in conflict diamonds, mined by what are essentially slaves.

Capitalists seek to use their financial influence to affect the political process, and they often do. They employ lobbyists to grab the ears of our elected representatives, so they have the ears of the people for whom we voted far more often than we ever could. We can't sit down to dinner with a member of Congress or have coffee with one on a daily or weekly basis. We hold down full time jobs--sometimes more than one job--while they have as their work the promotion of the best interests of makers of profit, not earners of wage. In the process of promoting what's best for the bottom line, lobbyists have manipulated statistics and studies, demonized science, and engaged in spin to influence people who are not experts--and who don't bother to consult them every time, either.

I don't hate capitalism, but it must be tempered with the people standing up for themselves, or we face tyranny. What's best for the bottom line isn't what makes you happy, or keeps you fulfilled, or raises your kids properly, or keeps you close to your family and friends. We need to temper capitalism with what's fair for labor, what's right for citizens, what's best for the continued comfort and safety of our species and all species on the planet. Profit isn't a dirty word if it's tempered with generosity, compassion, and reason. We just have to remember to stand up for ourselves. That's our engine of freedom.
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Friday, November 2, 2012

Why I'm voting for Barack Obama again in 2012

In 2008, Barack Obama was the first candidate who inspired me to not only vote for him, but work on his campaign.  Even though in retrospect, Clinton did a pretty good job, and Al Gore and John Kerry would have both been far better than George W. Bush, they didn't distinguish themselves enough during their campaigns from the Republican candidate to inspire me to do anything but cast a vote.  Obama was inclusive, genuine, and in line with my views on most issues--and let's face it: McCain pandered way too much to the extremists in his party in 2008, especially with his abysmally bad pick for VP.  McCain in 2000 might have given Obama a run for his money; McCain in '08 just made Obama stand out more as a clear alternative choice.

    Now that he's been President for nearly a full term, I have to say that there have been disappointments along with the successes.  I am not proud of the continued practice of warrantless wiretapping, for example, which began under the Bush administration.  The fact that nobody on Wall Street went to jail over causing the tanking of the economy disappointed me.  Bailing out the big banks instead of the drowning homeowners (which would have actually bailed out the banks in the process, by the way) wasn't the best thing to do--but on that point, it may not have been possible, given that TARP was passed before Obama was in office, and much of what could be handled the way this administration handled it.  There are a few other criticisms, but the biggest one involved Obama bowing a little too much to the desires of the right wing for the first half of his term, in his effort to reach across the aisle--which is what I think lost the Democrats the House in 2010.  I think his continuation of the war on drugs is ill-advised and wrong for the country.

    Having given some of my criticisms, allow me to say why I am inspired to vote for Barack Obama again in 2012:

Obamacare:  There are people out there afraid of Obamacare.  They're afraid that it's going to raise health care premiums and cause the loss of jobs.  I disagree.  There are many good things about Obamacare, and some will inevitably lower costs.  The first is that people who can't afford to have a primary care physician--the people whom Romney would send to the emergency room for care that can't be refused, but isn't free--will now go to one for physicals and when they get sick.  They can get preventative care, rather than waiting--as relatives of mine have--until it's so bad that they have to go to the emergency room or they'll die.  Sometimes, as in the case of my aunt, they do die, because the cancer has spread throughout the body already.  The infection has spread into the bloodstream and caused sepsis.  The bronchitis developed into pneumonia, and even that was allowed to go too long.  The ER is not the best option for people who do not have insurance, and it certainly isn't the least expensive.  Emergency rooms are meant for patients who have had accidents or sudden onsets of serious conditions, not for people with the flu or bronchitis to get treated.  The Affordable Care Act will cut costs overall because emergency room visits for non-emergencies will decrease.

Other good things about Obamacare include: women not having to pay higher premiums than men, more of the premium you pay actually going into care rather than executive salaries and dividend checks for shareholders, the ability to start a business or change jobs and not worry about your new insurance denying you coverage for pre-existing conditions, and not being denied coverage in the first place because of pre-existing conditions.  I ran into this pre-existing condition nonsense for a condition that had never been diagnosed when I first started working for the company I work for presently, all because they had a policy in place that anything diagnosed within the first six months of employment was automatically considered a pre-existing condition.

 The automotive industry:  Thanks to President Obama, GM is now turning a profit.  Had they gone through the normal bankruptcy process, they would have been liquidated, and millions of jobs would have been lost.  I say millions, because it's not just auto workers whose jobs would have been gone.  It's the bars those workers may have frequented after work.  It's the restaurants they went to once a week or so.  It's the convenience stores and gas stations near their places of employment.  It's the huge number of vendors whose businesses rely on a thriving automotive industry: printing companies, auto glass manufacturers, aftermarket parts manufacturers and distributors...the list is long.  My own company employs whole help desks for parts of GM, including their supply chain.  GM itself is our biggest customer.  Thanks to President Obama, my fellow employees are not at risk of losing their jobs.

The end of the war in Iraq:  Obama kept his word on ending the war in Iraq, and I have hope that we will get out of Afghanistan if he remains in office.  I also have hope that we will not enter into a new war with Iran because of the way he his handling that situation.

Osama bin Laden:  I don't know about the rest of America, but I was infuriated with George W. Bush was asked about getting bin Laden, and he said, "I don't think about him much."  We needed to get Osama bin Laden, and Obama's leadership led to Seal Team Six finding and killing him.  People can say Obama had nothing to do with it all they want, but that's a stupid thing to say--the Seal team would not have gone over the Pakistani border without Obama's orders.  It was a bold move, and one Romney said he would not have made--before it was successful, that is.

Gay rights:  Because of Obama, gay people can serve openly in the military.  While gay marriage is not legal across the United States, Obama has paved the way for it, and instead of waffling on that issue, Democrats now have adopted it as part of their platform--all because of the President's leadership.  How does this affect me as a straight man?  Well, for one thing, I like to see my friends happy.  For another, I know what it's like to be in the closet.  I was a closeted atheist for the first nine years after I rejected religion.  Not being able to express to people who you are for fear of ostracism, bullying, or even physical harm is not a good feeling.  Living a lie doesn't feel good.  I don't want anyone to go through that, because I have empathy.  Besides, let's face it, gay weddings are good for the economy.  I'm oversimplifying it; there's so much more, such as partner benefits, the ability to make decisions for your loved ones (rather than having a family that may have shunned that loved one previously making them instead), being able to have visition in the hospital...the list goes on.  I support civil rights for everyone, and I think it's high time the LGBT community was treated like any other class of full American citizens.

Women:  Two major things Obama has done for women include the signing of the Lily Ledbetter Act, which allows women to sue for equal pay when they're doing the same work men do, and making contraception a part of Obamacare so women and their doctors are in charge of their reproductive health choices.  My daughter is special needs, but I have hope that she will enter the work force someday.  If she is doing the work men are doing, I care whether she will be making the same pay.  She has that right.

Obama is also pro-choice, as I am.  I see abortion as an equality issue.  I think women should have the right to have say over what happens with their bodies, and that decisions in that regard are up to them and their doctors.  While I think contraception and comprehensive sex education are the best options, I don't think women should be forced to give birth when men do not have to go through the same physical changes and hardships.  And all this talk about rape lately?  Republicans need to be as far away from decision-making regarding pregnancy as possible.  A Romney presidency would mean anti-choice justices on the Supreme Court, should he get the opportunity to appoint them.  We do not need Roe v. Wade overturned.

The economy:  When Obama took office, we were losing jobs to the tune of 800,000 a month.  That number had turned around to positive job growth for the second half of his first term.  His policies are working, and I think they'd be a lot more successful without Republican obstruction in Congress.

Inclusion:  Obama is the first President in my memory who has included atheists in his speeches, counting us as citizens who deserve consideration.  That's important to me, because most politicians won't touch atheists with a ten-foot pole, even though we are law-abiding, tax-paying citizens.

I think this President deserves another four years.  I think Romney will reverse the economic growth we've had, will do things to hurt the rights of women, will get us into war with Iran, and will never consider atheists as part of his idea of what it means to be American.  I think he will reverse gay rights and appoint justices who will not only overturn Roe v. Wade, but also rule in favor or corporate interests.  Romney will not make any of the criticisms I have of Obama better, either.  The choice is clear for me in this election.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I laughed, I cried, I didn't think about politics...much

I've been caught up a lot in politics lately, but today is different. Today was full of specific grief and random thoughts on the human condition.

     I have two reasons to grieve today.  The first is that my dad on September 11, 2010.  Thinking about my dad and how my mom must feel with the hole he left in her life after 53 years proved a sobering thought that made me reflect on his life and the person he was.  He was a father who worked two jobs for several years to make life better for his family.  He was an immigrant who had to work when he first came to the United States at fourteen to help support the family, who watched as friends who came over on the boat with him received special tutoring and were allowed to work on their academics.  He told me this bitter regret when he was in the hospital, several days before he died of pancreatic cancer.  It was why he never finished high school.  He felt that he would have been farther along in life if he had been allowed to focus on school.  He had promise as a soccer player and could have easily gotten a scholarship for it.  In spite of overwhelming odds, though, he rose into the middle class from abject poverty, and left my mom with enough to make her comfortable, at least financially.  Grief isn't comfortable, and she's not done with it.

   The second reason, of course, is the attack on 9/11/2001.

    One of my first thoughts of the day was about the firefighters.  One of my friends posted a picture of firefighters raising an American flag.  Think about their job.  They risk their lives--and sometimes lose them, as many did on 9/11--to save total strangers.  That's what they signed up and trained hard to do.  What firefighter decides to go into that line of work with thoughts of money, fame, or power?  What person decides to be a firefighter who isn't selfless?  I have the utmost respect for people who decide to do this job. Other first responders--police, paramedics, and everyone else who rushes to an emergency--deserve that respect as well.   They are what's best in people.

     Soon after the thoughts about firefighters, I saw a story about how this pizza shop in Florida, called Big Apple Pizza, was losing business and getting fake bad reviews because the owner gave President Obama a bear hug.  I didn't see it as a political story. I saw it as a story about hate and racism.  How hate-filled do you have to be that a hug bothers you?  The people who spewed vitriol at the workers may not be racist; they may just have to hate the President that much, but it's still the same irrational hatred.  Disagreeing with a person's policies doesn't warrant being bothered by someone hugging that person.  I have a difficult time believing that this hate isn't rooted in racism.  I don't think the same reaction would have taken place if Scott Van Duzer would have hugged President Clinton, as hated as he was by some right-wingers.

    I thought about how hate-filled people had to be about a hug, and that led to trying to wrap my mind around the hate displayed during the civil rights movement in the 1960s.  White people turned hoses and dogs on black people because they wanted to enjoy the same rights and privileges that white people enjoyed.  They wanted to go to the same schools, ride the same buses (without seating restrictions), eat in the same restaurants (with section restrictions), drink out of the same water fountains...get married to who they wanted to, no matter the melanin content of their skin.   And for that, fire hoses and dogs.  Hate.  It doesn't make sense, and it makes me grieve.

    After the thoughts on racism and other hate, I came back to 9/11, watching a video of Jon Stewart's first show after the tragic event.  It made me think of how everyone gave blood, gave money, wanted to help.  I remember the unity, I remember the anger, the grief.  I remember watching watching the news coverage in shock.  I remember thinking "We're under attack" as soon as the jet hit the second World Trade Center tower.  I remember how we had a moment where we could stand together and rise above the event, bringing out what's best in humanity.  Instead, we were told to go shopping.  Instead, we put troops into a country instead of running covert operations.  Instead, we were fooled into a war (well, I wasn't, but...) with a country that had nothing to do with the attacks.  Instead of remaining united, we became more divided.  We fostered more hatred.

    I think about these things and grieve.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Tweet at your own risk

A joke tweet out of context can be hazardous to your...ok, it's not really hazardous to anything, except maybe your Twitter feed.

During day one of the Democratic National Convention, Markos Moulitsas of The Daily Kos tweeted a few tweets about the volume of the speakers that all went something like "Why is [insert speaker name here] yelling at me?"

My response to Markos after the third one was "Why not focus on the message instead of the volume?"

Well...tonight, when Jennifer Granholm made her impassioned speech about how Barack Obama saved the automotive industry and all of the jobs that rescue entailed in several states, my first thought was of Markos' tweets from day one, so I thought he'd find it funny--I did--that someone who sort of chastised him (not sure he remembered it) had the same thought he did during day one (he was right, some of them were pretty loud--but the messages were great).  So I tweeted:

Damn you,  ! My first thought during Jennifer Granholm's speech was "Why is Jennifer Granholm yelling at me?" You're contagious.

Markos retweeted my tweet, then Keith Olbermann picked it up and also retweeted it.  Antics ensued, but one tweet concerned me:

 would you question a man about "yelling at you" in a powerful passionate speech? I don't think so.

This tweet came from Rep. Angela R. Bryant from North Carolina.  

I can understand where Representative Bryant would get this impression, having seen my tweet out of context.  I can't stress enough, however, that if I'd heard a man speaking at high volume during today's speeches, I would have had the same thought.  It wasn't malicious or misogynistic; I respect Jennifer Granholm.  I watch her show.  We have some disagreements about the role of religion in public life, I think, but we agree on policy, and I think her show on Current TV, The War Room, is well done, has great guests, and has a great host.  I have a lot of respect for my former governor.

And the speech--I thought the speech was great!   When she said the line I think more people tweeted than any other, "In Mitt Romney's world, the cars get the elevator, and the workers get the shaft!", I was among the first in my feed to tweet it.  I admired her passion in that speech--I had never seen her so fired up...but I had that little tingle, that one funny little though, about Markos' tweets on day one, and I had to share.

I don't blame Markos for my tweet.  How could I?  I don't blame him for retweeting it, either.  I just wanted to explain that I didn't mean it maliciously; I meant it humorously.  It wasn't a condemnation of Jennifer Granholm.  I'm not like Republicans--I want to hear women roar.  Bring your message loud, and with passion, and I will support you in every way possible.   You deserve a loud, passionate voice--the Republicans certainly have enough of them.  Anyone who reads through this blog's articles will know that I support women's rights and have no malice against women--except maybe Sarah Palin, but that's not because of her gender.  

I encourage Jennifer Granholm to speak with the same level of passion in future speeches.  

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

An Open Letter to Gina Rinehart, World's Wealthiest Woman

Dear Gina Rinehart,

    I am not exactly poor, but I'm definitely not wealthy.  I am in the dying middle class in the United States.  I don't know how the middle class is faring in your country, but here, we're an endangered group.

    I'm not jealous of your wealth.  I'm not jealous of anyone's wealth.  I'm angry that anyone who is lucky enough to have made a fortune doing what they do would seize power and work their hardest to ensure that people who don't have the ability or ambition to become mining moguls (although from what I understand, yours is inherited wealth, not something you built yourself) have no influence in things that affect their daily lives.

    You see, we have people who talk just like you do here in the United States.  They consider the wealthy "the hardest-working Americans", while the poor are just lazy, good-for-nothing loafers who just want to live off of welfare.  They want to take away the social safety nets that keep people from starving in the streets when they fall upon hard times, as people sometimes do.  But it's worse than that.

    Far worse.

    A handful of billionaires, most notably the brothers Koch, with their $42 billion fortune, have set out to lobby legislatures across the country to take away collective bargaining rights from teachers, firefighters, police, and any and all others who work for the government that they also seek to control.  They pay people to sit at the ears of politicians, giving voice to their goals and desires that no other citizen could hope to have. They pass laws that benefit their industries, while killing competition in the private sector with their immense buying power.  They seek to make us subjects, not citizens, and the American people gave up being subjects in 1776--as did Australians in 1901.

     You say people who are "jealous" of the wealthy (rather than angry, as I am) should just work harder, socialize less, drink less, and smoke less, but the truth is, society can't be comprised of only wealthy people. It's not possible.  We need laborers.  We need teachers, police, and firefighters.  We need people picking up trash and cleaning sewers.  We need people doing construction.  Do you suggest that none of these people work as hard as you do?  Do you suggest that they all give it up for a dream of being a billionaire mining mogul, or something equivalent?

    The fact is, I know many hard-working people who don't drink or smoke, and keep their socialization to a minimum, but people of your ilk took their jobs overseas to places where the government doesn't offer as strict regulation on working conditions and work hours.  Their ambition consisted of living comfortably and providing for their families, and now that their jobs that paid a living wage are gone, they have to work one job for half the pay and struggle, or two jobs that might not even add up to the same wages as the one--if they are lucky enough to find a second job.

    Then, there are the people I mentioned before, lobbying legislatures across the country.  They are doing something else aside from taking away collective bargaining rights.  They are lobbying to make public services private.   What they do is take a public service, give it over to a private company, hire back the workers who used to make a living wage and belong to a union at much lower wages with less benefits or none at all.  They make this privatization look attractive to communities, because it does appear to save them money, when compared to the cost of service when run by the government.  However, the workers may no longer to afford to live in the community, option for cheaper housing elsewhere.  They will no longer frequent bars, grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, hair salons, or any number of other local businesses that received the benefit of their patronage.  Even if these businesses do continue to receive some patronage, it must be reduced, because the workers have less disposable income.  In the meantime, the private companies that take over the services have executives and shareholders who live outside the communities--sometimes even overseas--who benefit from the difference in wages between the old workers and the new, and at a lower tax rate than the workers themselves paid.

     So I look at all of these things, and I say, yes, I'm definitely angry with you.  Not jealous.  Angry.  When I hear statements like yours, it stirs my passion to do something about your kind, so please, keep talking.  We don't live in a world where we believe you wealthy people rule by divine right.  We have the power to tax and regulate you out of business, if only we rise up to use it--and I think we should use that power on anyone who would try to buy government to try to rule over us.

One who would not be a serf, but a citizen.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

American Totaliarianism

I'm sure I'm not the first to make this observation, but the Republicans resemble a totalitarian regime attempting to take power, not a party trying to legitimately put its ideas up against those of it's largest rival, the Democrats, or the smaller parties nobody ever hears from on the national stage, such as the Greens or the Libertarians.

There are a handful of billionaires funding efforts to bust unions, suppress votes, and privatize public services.  The voter suppression is the most telling of their efforts.  Consider, for example, this statement from a legislator in Pennsylvania, where a voter ID law they passed could keep nearly a million voters from casting a ballot:

Now, people who listen to the right wing noise machine will tell you that these laws exist to prevent voter fraud, but as Cenk Uygar shows in the video, actual voter fraud is minuscule--but the suppression is huge, and affects mostly voters who would typically vote for Democrats.

Fortunately, many states have killed laws designed to suppress votes in their courts, but the fact that they even had to take a single case to court regarding something that would disenfranchise voters is telling: Republicans don't want Democrats to vote, because they know their ideas aren't popular.

Republicans have also engaged in redistricting in ways that will benefit them.  A simple search of YouTube will bring up video of Republicans in several states redistricting to benefit themselves and take seats away from Democrats.  Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Kentucky, North Carolina, Illinois...the effort goes on in state after state.  Republicans clearly want to rule, not offer the people a choice.

And it's not just the United States they want to rule, either.  They want to rule the world, and they want to do it through securing Middle East oil resources, not because we get the majority of our oil from there (we don't), but because the region is a major source of fossil fuel in Russia and China.  Europe also gets oil from the Middle East.  The Project for the New American Century had several people in its organization who worked in the Bush administration, and Romney has 17 advisors who also worked in the Bush administration.  Romney's saber-rattling at Iran during his acceptance speech at the RNC clearly shows that he wants to continue the work the Bush administration began, but of course, it's in the name of Iran's nuclear program, not because they want to take over the Middle East.  It echoes the Bush administration's claim that Iraq was an imminent threat with weapons of mass destruction, including a fabled nuclear program.

Another example of Republican aspiration to totalitarianism manifests itself in their record use of the filibuster.      Several Republicans, including Mitch McConnell, who was vocal about it, resolved to make President Obama a one-term President by making all of his attempts at changing policy fail in Congress.  Instead of doing everything they could to help the economy, they thwarted jobs bills, watered down the stimulus, blocked infrastructure improvement legislation, and simply did everything in their power to keep President Obama from doing what he wanted to move American forward.  The President was able to help the economy in spite of their efforts, but they could have been part of the solution, and had they compromised and cooperated, the whole country would have gained the benefit.  They did not have to bow down the President as an overlord and rubber-stamp everything he wanted to pass, but even as Obama reached out to them on issues of policy, they would not even attempt to compromise.  They just said no.

We don't even have to speculate regarding what would happen if the tables were turned, because we saw it during the Bush administration.  When the Republicans had control from 2002-2006 of all three branches of government, they deregulated industry and the financial sector to the point where the American people were no longer protected, and they did it behind closed doors, with the Democratic minority relegated to meeting in the basement of Congress.  They didn't even want to hear arguments from Democrats on the floor.  They will do the same again if they gain equivalent control.

There's much more.  I could talk about how voting machines aren't made as available to districts that typically vote Democratic, where Republicans are in charge of their distribution.  I could talk about how they actually influence the textbooks that go to our children's schools, changing history and science to fit their agenda (2/3 of all textbooks are published in Texas, and the state has enormous influence over the textbooks.  The GOP controls that state).  I could talk about how the right wing noise machine influences voters to believe fairy tales instead of facts, ignoring real criticisms of the President to appeal to emotion and patriotism, rather than to reason.  I think, however, that the things I've listed should give any reasonable person food for thought.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Republicans absurdly debate the rape exception for abortion

     Representative Todd Akin put his foot in his mouth by saying exactly what was on his mind: that "legitimate rape" causes trauma that makes pregnancy from rape rare--or, at least, that was the strong implication of his words.  Of course, there is no science to back up this claim regarding humans (one would think a Representative sitting on the Science and Technology committee would believe in this little thing we call "evidence"), and not all rapes have trauma involved at the time of the rape (there is, of course, trauma after).  I know women personally who were raped when they were drunk, and a few of them were pregnant from it.  One I knew to be a lesbian.  She was penetrated while unconscious.  I know women who have been drugged and raped.  Even if there were truth to the claim that the trauma of rape caused a woman's body to shut down pregnancy, Akin's claim would imply that only brutal, conscious rapes constitute rape.  A woman who was drugged during her rape is no less violated, just not beaten.

     There are many forms of rape, but that's not what I want to get into here.  I think rape is an important subject, and we need to do everything we can to prevent rape, prosecute rapists, and care for the victims of the crime, but the concern for the moment is the stance Akin and people like him have on abortion.   Akin is not alone in his views.  The implication that pregnancy from rape is rare gives people like him the courage to say it should not be an exception for abortion.  I don't know that Akin believes that himself, but there are several prominent names in the Republican Party who do, in fact, believe that there should be no exception for rape or incest.  There are even a few who believe there should be no exception for saving the mother's life.

     Far be it from me to make a moral judgment here, but does the vision Republicans have for the United States really include rape victims coming into emergency rooms because they tried to end their pregnancies with twisted coat hangers, umbrella spokes, bicycle spokes, poison, sharp instruments, and other unsafe means, just because, in their view, there aren't that many of them (at least not from "legitimate rape")?   That was the reality of abortion when it was illegal.  Women sought to end their pregnancies for all sorts of reasons, and only the wealthy and connected had the means to get abortions safely.  I think all women should have access to safe abortion procedures, but when it comes to rape victims, I have a special compassion.  It's hard enough making decisions regarding pregnancy; it has to be more difficult still when the offspring is a rapist's.  I can't imagine the emotional agony over the idea of carrying a rapist's child to term.  It seems to me that it takes a special kind of cruelty to force a rape victim to bear the child of a person who forced her into pregnancy in the first place.  It's another kind of rape, in my view.

      Abortion should be safe for all women, and made rare through comprehensive sex education, ready access to contraception, and empowerment of women in general.  I know there are many who would disagree, but please, if you believe abortion is murder, consider what I have said about the ways in which women tried to end their pregnancies before safe abortion procedures were legally available.  Many women died as a result of their failed--or even successful--abortion attempts.  Poison, infection, too much blood loss...all of these things brought women into the emergency room, and many of them died.  Before you say that you believe they got what they deserved for "murdering a child", consider that your beliefs, if Christian, also include the idea of forgiveness and redemption.  How does a dead woman receive the opportunity to redeem herself?

     Of course, as an atheist, I do not share the view that women who seek abortions require redemption.  I do not see abortion as murder at all; taking a life that has not even really begun is not murder.  Yes, a fetus is alive, but does it have a personality?  It may feel pain, but does it remember it (in cases where pain is felt that is not abortion-related)?  Does it have memories?  In cases where a "morning after" pill is used, it's just a mass of cells with no possibility of any of these things being true, but the same people who will make the case for a fetus feeling pain and such will be against this method, as well, all because of the faith-based concept of the soul coming in at conception.

     Considering that children resulting from unwanted pregnancy often end up abused, poor, and generally disadvantaged, I see abortion as a difficult, but merciful, choice.  All choices regarding pregnancy are difficult.  Pregnancy changes the body and comes with its own risks.  Miscarriages can kill.  Child birth can kill.  Complications from child birth can kill.  In most cases, death is not the result, but pregnancy absolutely changes a woman's body permanently.  Giving the resulting baby up for adoption can come with its own problems, including grieving for the loss of the child, even though the child is still alive. There are no easy choices here, but in all of these cases, women should expect every effort to be made to keep them safe.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Real criticism versus fairy tales

One of the problems I have with debating with right-wingers these days is that they don't want to talk about policy.  They don't have real criticisms of President Obama; they only advance the conspiracy theories or distorted talking points.  An informed person might bring up the following:

Warrantless wiretapping:
The current administration has continued the policy of warrantless wiretapping, with the approval of Congress most recently in June, that the Bush administration began.

Drone strikes that sometimes kill civilians:
Some of the drone strikes the Obama administration uses to target Al Qaeda have been killing civilians, and some people strongly feel that it's an effective recruiting tool for the very organization the strikes intend to stop.

President Obama has proposed changes to Social Security and Medicare:
This administration has proposed some cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, and a smaller cost of living adjustment for Social Security--thought his proposals do not even touch the degree to which the Republicans want to change these plans, which included complete privatization.  

This list could also include how Wall Street players ended up being part of Obama's administration, how the banks were bailed out but most homeowners were not, and other criticisms that actually have to do with policy.  One might notice that the links I included go to what would be considered left-wing sources, by the way.  I did that purposely, to show that our side will give criticism where it is due.

When arguing with Republicans, however, these criticisms do not come up in the conversation.  Instead I hear:

  • Obama is stealing $716 billion from Medicare.  This number actually comes from what it would cost if the Republicans repealed the Affordable Care Act.
  • Obama is not really a citizen of the United States.  This argument's latest manifestation involves his school records, which allegedly have him down as a foreign exchange student.  It's all part of the stupid and irrelevant birther conspiracy.  Get over it!  He's been President for almost a full term already; let's talk about policy and not about irrelevant conspiracy theories.
  • Obama is secretly a Muslim.  Who cares what his religion is?  Can you demonstrate how his religious leanings have affected his policy?  
There are many more pieces of myth and misinformation out there, and it makes most Republicans and other people who consider themselves conservatives not worthwhile when it comes to political discussions.  It would be great if people would have informed opinions, even if I disagree with them or support a candidate in spite of certain flaws.  Obama has done some great things, but he's not perfect.  I just wish the criticisms I'd hear about him were real and relevant.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

Reflections on health care tragedy

I hadn't thought about Bob Brooks for awhile.  Bob was intelligent, humorous, logical, and interesting.  He was a brilliant speaker and activist.  He was a world traveler, and a true citizen of the world--not an egotistical American bent on the idea of exceptionalism.  When he spoke, the room hushed to listen to what he had to say--not that they had to quiet down much; Bob's voice carried well.  They listened because what he had to say was relevant, often funny, reliable if it was fact, and respected if it was his opinion.  People liked him.  I liked him.

Some years ago, Bob was diagnosed with cancer of the colon.   His treatment would have been lengthy, costly, and rough.  Rather than spend the nest egg he had accumulated through a lifetime of hard work, Bob decided to take his own life.  He spent his final week saying his last goodbyes to his friends.  In an email to me, he wrote:

My death is neither based on courage, nor cowardice. It is the logical conclusion of a rational mind based upon my values and circumstances. This is right for me, but that is my intellect, not my emotions. No, I am not brave, as I have been an emotional wreck all week since everything I do, and see, is for the last time. Cutting my ties to this world is not easy. However, my life belongs to me, not the doctors, preachers, or government, all of whom forbid my action.

I thought of Bob during a conversation I was having in The Young Turks' live chat, where we were discussing health care issues and a man who lost his job at Wells Fargo, and therefore his insurance, right before his child's scheduled surgery.  It was a heartbreaking story.  I thought about my own experiences with the health care system, then reflected on my dad, who had insurance but had doctors blow off his pain as the result of a fall down the stairs.  I thought about my Aunt Pam, who could not afford to go to the doctor because her employer did not provide insurance, who waited until the pain was so great that she had to go to the emergency room, only to find that her cancer had spread to her whole body.  She died not long after.

Then I thought of Bob.  It's the first time I'd ever made the connection, but Bob's death could have been prevented if we had universal health care--health care that would not have eaten up his nest egg.  I can't speak for Bob; he may have still gone through with the suicide to avoid having his family watch him suffer--or he may have gone through with treatment and put his cancer into remission.  Or, if his cancer was terminal, he may have decided to use hospice care.  In whatever circumstance, I think he should have had the choice.


Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Well-Regulated Militia

     The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution reads: "A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

     The Founding Fathers did not want a standing army.  They believed it was too expensive.  They had fought the American Revolution with militias made up of men with their own weapons, defending their own lands (that they stole from the natives who were on the land before them, but that's another issue for another day). They wanted people to keep their own weapons in case they had to call men to arms quickly to repel invasions.  Communications weren't instant then.  There were no radios, no aircraft, no motorized vehicles--no way to move troops quickly from a base to an invasion point.  Having citizens (white male property owners over the age of twenty-one, at that time) own guns made sense, in terms of national security.

     The times we live vastly different.  We have a standing military.  If we did have a military invasion, the average citizen would not be able to repel it; we would need the United States military arsenal.  Perhaps there are people out there who think their personal arsenal of automatic weapons, if joined with other such arsenals, would be enough to repel an invasion, but this idea is pure folly.  The most one could hope for out of several citizen-owned arsenals would be guerrilla warfare.  The "well-regulated Militia" part is certainly outdated.

     So...since the citizens no longer constitute a well-regulated militia, should we prohibit guns?  Plenty of people do sport shooting on ranges, which does no harm to anyone.  Some people hunt and eat the game animals they kill, which doesn't harm humans, and, in the case of deer, helps control a population of animals that do not have natural predators anymore (due to humans killing timber wolves, for example--yes, we're solving a problem we caused).  Some people, such as real estate agents, who work on their own and don't  know who they're meeting a good amount of the time, keep them for personal protection.  Besides, the Constitution says the right of people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, right?

     What the Constitution doesn't say is what type of arms the citizens may have.  What's the limit?  Is it wealth?  The Koch brothers could certainly own their own private military, complete with aircraft--they have the money.  Should they be able to hire mercenaries from Academi (formerly Blackwater, who killed citizens seemingly for sport in Iraq and confiscated weapons from citizens after Hurricane Katrina) and have a few fighter jets for air support?  Should the average citizen be able to own a nuclear weapon?  Chemical weapons?  Biological?  Should a wealthy person be able to hire a private navy, with ships that can hit targets several miles away?  Should missiles be available to the average American?

     Most reasonable people would put some limit on what arms should be available to the average citizen.  Why then, should we not talk about regulations for gun ownership?  Why not restrict the size of the magazines available for guns?  Why not put mental health screenings in place as a requirement for gun ownership?  Prohibition of guns could have the same result as the drug trade--in fact, those who have made billions from the drug trade could certainly diversify into illegal arms sales.  However, nobody is talking about prohibition.  Indeed, not many elected representatives are talking about imposing any limits--but perhaps it's time to talk about mental health screenings, in light of recent shootings in Aurora, Colorado and the Sikh Temple outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

     My personal opinion is that people with certain mental health issues should not have firearms, especially automatic weapons and other military-grade equipment.  However, the Second Amendment, as many gun advocates will say, does not allow for an infringement on the right to keep and bear arms.  Here's a compromise: let's do mental health screenings, but let people with mental health issues get guns.  Then, put them on a watch list.  Watch how many guns they buy, what kind of military-grade equipment they secure, and how much ammo they purchase.  If they start accumulating the aforementioned items, put them under surveillance.  When they leave the house with it, have a SWAT team or other law enforcement officials follow the person with guns pointed directly at his (because so far, all of these mass murderers have been male) head at point-blank range.  If he continues to his destination, make sure the law enforcement officials take him down as soon as he pulls a weapon and points it at someone.  He still owned his guns right up until he did something illegal, and now law enforcement call pull them from his cold, dead hands before he was able to do damage to a large number of innocent civilians.

Abortion for eugenics and other reasons

     Recently, I was asked if I thought it was intolerant to believe abortion was wrong, even in the cases of rape, incest, or saving the mother's life.  My answer was that you're intolerant if you force that belief on others, by which I mean legislating your beliefs or intimidating or bullying people into your way of thinking.  You have a right to believe however you want.  However, there are a few things we touched on that bear consideration.

     To get my stance on abortion out of the way: I see abortion as an equality issue.  I've written about the subject before; I used to be emotional about it because I'm adopted, but as I matured, I realized it wasn't about me and my perceived right to exist--it was about women and the right not be an incubator for a life that might kill them, or for the children of men who might have raped them, or  the offspring of relatives who had sexual relations with them, or the babies of guys who may have pressured them into sex and won't stick around.  The pregnancy might be a mistake born of drunken revelry, or it may be that the urge to have sex was strong and the woman didn't think about the possible consequences.  It might be the result of the rare circumstance where birth control didn't work.  It's also about the fact that women who think about the life-long consequences of having an unwanted child get scared.  Scared women might poison themselves, grab a twisted coat hanger, or find some other means to terminate the pregnancies themselves, and allowing that reality to exist again is wrong.  It's about women making private decisions with their doctors about their own health.

   The most we men might be legally obligated to do in regard to an unwanted/unplanned pregnancy is support the child financially.  We don't have to go through the physical changes involved.  We don't have to go through the pain--I'm told the epidural medication helps, but afterwards, there is soreness, hemorrhoids caused by the pushing, possible mental issues, lack of sleep, an inability to work for a time and to find affordable child care when it is time to go back, difficulty finding a job that is flexible with the things that go along with having children...we men don't have to stick around for the non-physical issues women have to deal with when they decide to carry a pregnancy to term.  Be that as it may, so many of my gender want to make it a moral issue about killing babies.  That's what this article is really about.

     What bothers me so much about those who believe that abortion is about murder is not their belief; it's two moral contradictions that usually go along with it.  First, there's the legislation of "sin".  If you believe abortion is murder, that's your belief--it's not necessarily shared by everyone.  Is it your right to stand in judgment of everyone else and force them to refrain from "sinning"?  Is it your right to make it so that scared women endanger their own lives by terminating pregnancies by homemade methods?  I think legislating morality is, in itself, immoral; forcing people to live according to your beliefs speaks of arrogance and totalitarianism, not of moral conviction.  I had a friend say recently, "You can't legislate morality," and I agree with him.

    The second moral contradiction, quite frankly, is the one that infuriates me the most.  Most people who want to legislate away the right to safe and legal abortion also have no desire to pay for the results of unwanted pregnancy, even if that unwanted pregnancy is the result of rape, incest, or saving the mother's life. Most never talk about the difficulties of keeping a child when you're not financially stable and too young to have begun a career.  Most don't want to talk about helping with child care.  Most don't want to provide health care--and there can be dire financial consequences when a pregnancy has complications when the mother has no health insurance.

     There is a third moral question I want to bring up, and this part will explain the title of this article.  The person who asked me if I thought he was intolerant brought up his child with Down Syndrome, and said people were having abortions to avoid the potential of having a special needs child.  I have a special needs child myself, so I can relate to the emotion involved.  I wouldn't trade my daughter for anything, but there are some considerations we need to take here.  Children with special needs require special care.  Not all day cares will take children with special needs, and my child's autism comes with behavior issues that make it especially difficult to find adequate child care.  She can't mainstream in school for the same reason, even though she keeps up academically.  Now, if I had known my child was going to have autism, would I have tried to persuade my wife (now ex) to have an abortion?  No, probably not.  However, it would certainly have allowed me to prepare some more for all of the therapy my child needs, especially the financial resources.

    I am fortunate enough to have a job that provides benefits.  Even so, the co-pays add up quickly.  Child care is still extremely difficult to find, and since my child stays with me, I understand the difficulties of being a single parent.  People who are qualified to take care of children with autism have services that are cost-prohibitive.  Now, I understand that if I made less than half the salary I make now, I could get services through Medicaid.  Whether those services are totally adequate, I don't know.  What I do know is that those who are above that income level where they can receive services and below mine will have a really difficult time finding adequate help for their special needs children, and those without benefits will find it cost-prohibitive to do so (I find it cost-prohibitive, and I only have to pay co-pays!).

    So now...knowing the difficulties that go along with having special needs children, what does it say about people who think it's morally wrong for a woman who knows her child will have special needs to get an abortion and also is unwilling to fund the services necessary to help that mother and her child with therapy and child care costs?  If you're willing to legislate away the right of women to a safe and legal abortion, then be willing to fund the services for women who have children with needs they did not plan for--even if the pregnancy was wanted.  My wife and I planned our child.   We did not plan on her having special needs.  We didn't even know for the first couple years.  In any case, I don't have a desire to legislate away the choice of women to have an abortion, whatever the reason.  Do I think some instances may be immoral?  Sure.  I think if  you want to terminate a pregnancy because the resulting child will have brown eyes instead of blue, or black hair instead of red, or some other such reason, you're probably not the kind of person I'd want to be around.  Will I legislate access to abortion away because I feel this way?  No.  And special's hard to look at my daughter and say it's okay to abort a child if you know the child will have special needs...but any choice regarding pregnancy, especially one with unplanned consequences, is difficult.  I think it's better to carry the child to term and give him or her up for adoption if you find out the child you're expecting is going to have special needs, and you can't handle the costs and stress involved, but again, I am not going to make that choice for women--especially when the people who want to take that choice away would rather not provide assistance for the mothers who have those children.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Shooting in Aurora, Colorado

     As I'm sure just about everyone not living in a cave knows, a man named James Holmes entered a crowded theater showing The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, threw down smoke bombs or tear gas (I have heard conflicting reports on this), and began to shoot people in their seats.   He killed 12 and wounded 38 people.  Police arrested him outside of the theater, and his apartment was booby-trapped.

    Those are the facts out there.  From a great many sources, however, there is speculation.

     Some people speculate he was a member of Occupy Black Block, which is a violent anarchist movement that participants in the Occupy Wall Street movement condemn.  The sources for this speculation, of course, tie Occupy Black Block to the Occupy Wall Street movement--which is a good reason for movements to actually have a coalition with leadership, even if it's by committee, rather than just have anyone show up--but nobody has cited a source of information regarding an actual connection between James Holmes and this group, so this speculation is unfounded as far as anyone knows.

       Others think he will turn out to be a right-wing Christian evangelical, though nobody has presented a good argument why they think this way, other than pointing to people like Timothy McVey and abortion clinic bombers.  I can explain why McVey bombed a government building in Oklahoma City (his anti-government ideology--he wasn't an evangelical, as far as I remember) and abortion clinic bombers (they believe abortion clinic "murder babies" and think their acts will prevent it), but why go to a crowded theater and kill people watching a movie?  What point does that make?  And why make any point with violence?  It just turns people against your cause, if they weren't against it already.

.  Still others think he might be a Batman fan who didn't like the choice of villain.  There is even some speculation that he was re-enacting a Batman comic where a man goes and shoots people in an adult theater after listening to a song forty times.  Who knows?  It sounds more plausible than the other explanations so far, but we don't know for sure.

    A corollary to this incident is the idea that Holmes' mother knew his son was disturbed, and she should have done something about it.  Even if she did know something was wrong with her son, what mother wants to admit there's something wrong with her child? .  Imagine how difficult it would be for a parent to believe his or her child would be capable of mass murder.  Come on, folks!  Don't put this on Holmes' mother, because you don't know her situation.  If it comes out later that the parents were abusive or something, then that discussion can happen, but you're speculating at this point, and it's not fair.  You're not in her shoes, and I'm sure at this point that if she has any hint of empathy, Holmes' mother is heartbroken to an unimaginable degree.

     There's speculation that if more people carried concealed weapons, this shooter would not have gotten away with putting bullets into 50 people.  There are three things about this speculation that make it clear that the people who believe it aren't thinking it through.  The first is the fact that Holmes threw out smoke bombs or tear gas first.  It would cut down on visibility and increase confusion.  It would also increase the likelihood that anyone trying to shoot Holmes would instead shoot an innocent bystander.  If several people shoot, then they may shoot each other, thinking that another shooter was the original shooter.  The second aspect of this case that defeats the conceal-and-carry argument is that it's a theater--if you are standing with your back to the screen, it is very difficult for other people to see anything but your silhouette.  Throw in smoke and such and your silhouette is camouflaged.  However, you can see everyone in the theater quite clearly.  If there is such a thing as an usher in your theater, ask that person--you can see every face from front to back pretty clearly.  Or hell, next time you're in a theater, sit in the front and look back at the rest of the people when the previews start.  The third aspect of this incident that makes the idea that someone shooting the shooter highly unlikely is that people who were there reported confusion about the location of the gunfire--some even thought it was coming from the cinema next door.

    Finally, there is speculation that stricter controls on automatic weapons (one of four of the weapons Holmes used was thought to be automatic) would have prevented this tragedy.  What would have prevented someone like Holmes from making homemade pipe bombs or bringing Molotov cocktails?  If we want to have the gun control debate, we should stick to talking about what things stricter gun laws would actually prevent.  Take away guns--even if it's just from this guy through a mental health screening--would not necessarily prevent mass murder through other means.

     Speculation, speculation, and more speculation...I can forgive it to a degree, because people are trying to make sense of a tragic and senseless event.  For all we know, Holmes was the kind of person Alfred described in the Batman movie before this one; he could be a person who just wants to watch the world burn.  We just don't know.  What we do know is that there are families of 50 victims, 12 dead and 38 wounded, who are mourning over this horrific event.  Let's set aside our views on gun control, party affiliation, religion, and disturbed comic book fans and keep that in mind today.  Have some empathy for them and stop speculating about the shooter's motives.  Leave that to investigators and let the story come out when it will.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

More archived argumentation on climate change

Here's some more information from a five-year-old debate on climate change I had on a message board.  Enjoy!

I'm so tired of this "global warming is a religion" nonsense.  It's nothing but a smear.  With all of the polls concerning scientists and their religious leanings demonstrating that scientists are NOT religious, by and large, how can one say that they're applying magical thinking in the case of global warming?  If you read the actual science (some of which is contained in the articles you posted, actually), you'll see that scientists are more cautious about their predictions than, say, Al Gore, or non-scientists who are active in the environmental movement.  As with many Atheists who try to argue about evolution with scant knowledge of biology, many environmentalists know very little about the environment.  It's not surprising.  There's a lot to know.  The point is to leave the science to the scientists.  The media and activists for both the environmental and the free market ideological movements (if you want to talk about a religion, let's go there; people think that utopia will magically appear if everything is owned, it seems) want to cause alarm or suppress the facts to stop action from being taken, depending on what side they take.  The media typically reports that one side thinks one thing and the other thinks the opposite, not only presenting false dichotomies at times, but also creating controversy when a little research of the facts would give one side or both less clout, ending up somewhere in the middle.
That said, let's examine the articles Al presented to see if they back up his assertion:

The Sunday Times is the source for this article.  I'm going to try to forget for a moment that Rupert Murdoch owns the paper (  I'm also going to forget for the moment that Murdoch issues talking points to his news organizations that, shall we say, strongly encourage his employees to give a conservative slant to every story.  I'm just going to look at the story and see where it takes me.
From Times Online: Mars is being hit by rapid climate change and it is happening so fast that the red planet could lose its southern ice cap, writes Jonathan Leake.
Here's a tidbit on Jonathan Leake:
From the above site:

Post-science Journalist of the Year is Jonathan Leake of the Sunday Times. He has published so many stories revealing the triumph of imagination over scientific evidence that it seems invidious to pick out one. However, one of his many global warming stories is head and shoulders above others, see Leaf Mould in November. A subsequent analysis (aptly entitled Making the News) showed that all four graphs used in the story benefited more from creative imagination than they did from the original scientific data.

Jonathan Leake's credibility (or lack thereof) aside, the article from the Times Online says:

The mechanism at work on Mars appears, however, to be different from that on Earth. One of the researchers, Lori Fenton, believes variations in radiation and temperature across the surface of the Red Planet are generating strong winds.
In a paper published in the journal Nature, she suggests that such winds can stir up giant dust storms, trapping heat and raising the planet's temperature.

Here we have a scientist saying that the mechanism on Mars is different than the mechanism on Earth.  How is this article an argument against anthropogenic global warming again?
Here's the rest of the article:

Fenton's team unearthed heat maps of the Martian surface from Nasa's Viking mission in the 1970s and compared them with maps gathered more than two decades later by Mars Global Surveyor. They found there had been widespread changes, with some areas becoming darker.
When a surface darkens it absorbs more heat, eventually radiating that heat back to warm the thin Martian atmosphere: lighter surfaces have the opposite effect. The temperature differences between the two are thought to be stirring up more winds, and dust, creating a cycle that is warming the planet.

Once again, I'm not seeing anything here that would constitute a blow to anthropogenic global warming.  I would also argue that two studies of Martian surface temperature in thirty years do not provide enough data concerning the climate on Mars to draw any sort of parallels to the patterns on Earth.  The high and low temperatures on Mars are wildly different.  There are no heat exchangers like ocean currents to moderate the climate.   There is far less moisture, and most of it is frozen.  To draw the conclusion that Mars is warming for the same reasons as Earth (as Al seems to be doing) just because both have had temperatures rise by the same amount (never mind that Mars could have warmed and cooled a few times in thirty years--how would we know otherwise?) is similar to drawing the conclusion that bats and birds have a common ancestor because they both have wings.   Let's stick to comparing apples to apples, and not oranges.

Here is an excerpt from the article:
Jay Pasachoff, an astronomy professor at Williams College, said that Pluto's global warming was "likely not connected with that of the Earth. The major way they could be connected is if the warming was caused by a large increase in sunlight. But the solar constant--the amount of sunlight received each second--is carefully monitored by spacecraft, and we know the sun's output is much too steady to be changing the temperature of Pluto."

Do you read the whole article before you post it as evidence?

This whole exercise reminds me of the subject of the book I'm writing on a certain political operative (real, not fictional).  He read James Madison's letter to Jasper Adams, in which he says, "Christianity is the greatest religion in the world."  My subject uses this statement as a quote to demonstrate the religiosity of one of the most well known Founding Fathers, in a book about how separation of state and church is a myth.  Madison may very well have meant what he said, or he could have said it tongue-in-cheek, but whatever the case, he goes on to mention that Catholicism is a mixture of church and state, and it represents the worst form of government on Earth.  He says later on that Jews, Muslims (Musselmen), and Atheists should not be taxed for that which they find repugnant.
So far, I've gone through two articles, and in both cases, information contradicting the apparent conclusion we're supposed to draw has been found.  We're supposed to think that obviously, because a few of the planets are also warming, the sun must be responsible and anthropogenic global warming is simply myth.  Instead, we're finding that warming is occurring on a few planets for reasons other than why it's occurring on ours.

This excerpt is from the article on the Science Daily site (

In agreement with most other climate researchers, the Lund group is not concerned about a complete shut-down of the Gulf Stream as envisioned in the apocalyptic film "The day after tomorrow". However, future warming induced by anthropogenic greenhouse-gas emissions may influence the system.
We don't know with certainty what will happen. Some attempts at measuring ocean currents suggest a recent weakening of the Gulf Stream, and the transport of heat to the North Atlantic region may well decrease in the future as a result of increased precipitation. Such a scenario might lead to less warming in Europe than predicted by the IPCC, but we will probably not face an arctic climate, summarizes Svante Bjorck.

From what I know of global warming, all we're looking at here is another factor to take into account when predicting the effects of anthropogenic global warming, not an argument against its existence.  Because of this seesaw effect described in the article, some places on Earth may not experience as much warming as others. 

Finally, we have this article:
Reid A. Bryson's statements have already been addressed in the article and video I posted earlier.  As these items were also in "The Great Global Warming Swindle", I will address them one by one with evidence from other scientists, if I do get time to complete that full refutation (I'm working on it).   I do say "refutation" at this point because it's the same few people making the same few arguments against anthropogenic global warming, and they've all been refuted by people more qualified than I.  I am working through some of the scholarly work on the subject to put it into my own words.
Now we're on to the "spirituality" of global warming.  Al Gore did disappoint me when he made global warming into some sort of moral issue in the religious sense.  It's not a moral issue.  It's a survival issue.  He's being a politician here; he's trying to appeal to the emotions of people who would never understand the science involved.   It's the same tactic people use when they call the inheritance tax the "œdeath tax", going on to say that people will lose farms that have been in their families for generations.
Politicians and celebrities are not the best spokespeople for what to do about global warming, especially since the first thing politicians--acting in their own self-interest--want to do is regulate through legislation, and celebrities do not have the academic credentials to face the critics of their movement.   They care and they mean well.  Hell, they might even be extremely well-informed.  They are still not scientists.

To address anthropogenic global warming, we need innovation, not legislation, and an embracing of science, not appeals to emotion.

As for Al Gore: he's a religious guy.  A religious guy is going to reconcile his faith with what he knows about science.  It's unfortunate, but you have to remember that Al Gore is not the person who made up the idea that the planet is warming and we humans are to blame for some of it.   He's just a guy who really cares about the issue and is religious.  I see the same people in the separation of state and church movement; religious people who actually defend the United States Constitution do exist among those of use who want the total separation of state and church.  The head of Americans United For Separation of Church and State is a minister.  I'm going off on a tangent now, sort of, but I want to add that unless religion diminishes among the citizens of any country, it is impossible to separate state and church, because religion is nothing but appeal to emotion, and people will vote based on such appeals.  I want the religiosity out of the environmental movement (in which I haven't even been active) as much as I want it out of the separation of state and church movement.   

Archived message post about climate change

Five years ago, I got into a debate with someone on a message board over climate change.  He linked me Senator Inhofe's site on how global warming is a hoax.  Here a is a partial tearing down of Inhofe's links:

First of all, posting anything from Senator Inhofe should raise alarm bells.  He has an unmistakable bias.  He also doesn’t have enough of a grasp on science to draw any conclusions on anything.  He’s a Bible-beating fundamentalist who denies evolution, thinks the Earth is 6,000 years old (give or take a couple thousand years), and buys into the Christian Nation movement’s historical revisionism.  He’s one of the Senators I can put in the same room with David Barton of Wallbuilders several times over.  His credibility is shot with me from the beginning.

Next, I know this is an exercise in futility, but I figured I would go and see what the scientists mentioned in the article you posted ACTUALLY said.  Of course, if your posting history is any indication, you’ll just ignore it, deny it, or simply insult me as some sort of rabid believer.  I would take a look at whom you’re trusting for your “evidence” before criticizing anyone.

Let’s take a look at what Dr. Claude Allegre ACTUALLY said:

Some of it gets lost in translation (the last paragraph is kind of awkward), but what I’m getting from the article is that he’s telling scientists to be cautious of jumping to conclusions about climate change and how it manifests itself, and about man’s role in it.  That’s fine.  He’s a scientist, and if he weren’t skeptical to some degree, it wouldn’t be healthy.  He also says that it is likely that there IS climate change.  He’s not saying that man ISN’T causing it, but he IS saying that scientists should be cautious about pointing the finger.  I’m more than comfortable with that statement. 

The press elaborated somewhat on what he said, but they could have taken it from a different source.  He says ( that environmentalists should be more practical in coming up with solutions to what they perceive to be the problem, rather than doing it through changing government policy or through demonstrations.  I HEARTILY agree with him here.  Of course, the solutions come at a price to the energy industry, which means big oil and big coal will resist the change.  How do they do it?  They lobby politicians and buy patents that they will NEVER use to ensure their future, rather than letting the market decide. 

Bruno Wiskel is a conservationist, but not a climatologist.  He teaches courses on energy efficiency at the University of Alberta (he is not on the actual staff of the university).  They’re not university degree courses, but adult education courses; he teaches them because he’s an author and the builder/owner of an energy-efficient home.  He is critical of Kyoto, but I can’t find anything on him critiquing the IPCC.  I am also finding several articles that say that he presents no evidence at all for his conclusion that anthropogenic global warming is a myth, but I’m not finding anything detailed.  I’m not buying his book to find that it’s full of empty, misleading, or ill-conceived arguments. 

Some of us might remember Dr. Nar Shaviv from “The Great Global Warming Swindle”, which was a swindle itself.  That little blot on his record aside, I have read some articles from him, and, unlike the paid shills in the propaganda film, Shaviv is an actual scientist.  Like Allegre, he is cautious about anthropogenic global warming.  He does not deny that carbon dioxide COULD be a cause of anthropogenic global warming; what he IS saying is that his reading of the IPCC report tells him that nobody knows the signs of anthropogenic global warming, that indirect aerosol effects (like emissions from smoke stacks) are unknown, and that the sun COULD be an alternative explanation.  He does NOT say that carbon dioxide is not the culprit and that the sun is; he is merely saying that we don’t know enough about the role of carbon dioxide in global warming in the 20th century.  It is worthy of note that he begins by saying that carbon dioxide is more likely to play a role in the 21st century.  Here is the article:

Next, let’s examine the actual words of Dr. David Evans:  Again, we have a cautious scientist who is being used to say that global warming is a hoax, when all he is saying is that the causation of global warming is not entirely understood.  What IS understood—and it is in this article—is that carbon dioxide IS a greenhouse gas.  There are other factors that COULD cause global warming, and—he makes a great point here—politics have played a part in under-funding the research of other possible causes, such as industrial pollution and cosmic rays.  However, he does NOT say that carbon emissions are NOT responsible, only that they might play less of a role than other causes that are not entirely understood at present. 

Anyone else getting tired of the spin yet?  I sure am.  People like Inhofe grasp at straws to try and support their claims, but once his sources are investigated, we find that they’re not quite what they appear to be.  So many global warming deniers say that the sun is DEFINITELY the cause, but the scientists that they say support their claims are not as sure as they are.  That’s good to know, because science is all about caution, skepticism, and not jumping to conclusions.

I’m going to stop here.  It appears that many of the scientists are cautioning policymakers not to make policy on science that is not fully understood, but most think that there is good reason to diminish use of fossil fuels.  I can understand that position.  Adopting policy on global climate change before all factors are understood could lead us down the wrong path.  I have been arguing that policy isn’t the way to go, anyway; innovation is the best option—as long as it isn’t hindered by oil and coal interests.