A Tribute to Our New School Board Members

Those Wonderful Private Companies Government Should Emulate

So is the kind of private business we should run our schools and other government agencies like: 

BP Spent Millions to Evade Safety Rules

Posted on: May 7, 2010 9:09 AM, by Ed Brayton

I’m sure this will come as an enormous shock to those who are completely oblivious to reality. British Petroleum, while posting record profits, also spent record amounts of its own money on lobbying to weaken environmental and safety regulations and keep the taxpayer subsidy spigot open over the last couple years. Antonia Juhasz reports some of the astonishing figures in The Guardian:

BP is one of the most powerful corporations operating in the United States. Its 2009 revenues of $327bn are enough to rank BP as the third-largest corporation in the country. It spends aggressively to influence US policy and regulatory oversight.In 2009, the company spent nearly $16m on lobbying the federal government, ranking it among the 20 highest spenders that year, and shattering its own previous record of $10.4m set in 2008. In 2008, it also spent more than $530,000 on federal elections, placing it among the oil industry’s top 10 political spenders.

Sometimes its possible to have a little too much faith in the private sector.  Read the rest of the post here on Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

Climate Change and the Integrity of Science

From Skeptical Science:

Climate Change and the Integrity of Science: a letter to Science

A letter Climate Change and the Integrity of Science has been published in the journal Science. It’s written by 255 members of the US National Academy of Sciences, including 11 Nobel laureates (here’s the complete list plus their university affiliations). I recommend reading the entire letter but here is an excerpt:

There is always some uncertainty associated with scientific conclusions; science never absolutely proves anything. When someone says that society should wait until scientists are absolutely certain before taking any action, it is the same as saying society should never take action. For a problem as potentially catastrophic as climate change, taking no action poses a dangerous risk for our planet…

… The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other scientific assessments of climate change, which involve thousands of scientists producing massive and comprehensive reports, have, quite expectedly and normally, made some mistakes. When errors are pointed out, they are corrected. But there is nothing remotely identified in the recent events that changes the fundamental conclusions about climate change:

  1. The planet is warming due to increased concentrations of heat-trapping gases in our atmosphere. A snowy winter in Washington does not alter this fact.
  2. Most of the increase in the concentration of these gases over the last century is due to human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.
  3. Natural causes always play a role in changing Earth’s climate, but are now being overwhelmed by human-induced changes.
  4. Warming the planet will cause many other climatic patterns to change at speeds unprecedented in modern times, including increasing rates of sea-level rise and alterations in the hydrologic cycle. Rising concentrations of carbon dioxide are making the oceans more acidic.
  5. The combination of these complex climate changes threatens coastal communities and cities, our food and water supplies, marine and freshwater ecosystems, forests, high mountain environments, and far more.

Much more can be, and has been, said by the world’s scientific societies, national academies, and individuals, but these conclusions should be enough to indicate why scientists are concerned about what future generations will face from business-as-usual practices. We urge our policy-makers and the public to move forward immediately to address the causes of climate change, including the un restrained burning of fossil fuels.

The scientists are the members of the NAS most familiar with climate science, as explained by lead signer Peter Gleick:

It is hard to get 255 members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences to agree on pretty much anything, making the import of this letter even more substantial. Moreover, only a small fraction of National Academy members were asked to sign (the signatories are all members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences but were not speaking on its behalf). Because of a desire to produce a statement quickly, the coordinators of the letter focused on those sections of the NAS most familiar with climate science and the ongoing debate. But the NAS (and Academies of Sciences and other professional scientific societies from dozens of other nations) has previously published a long set of assessments and reviews of the science of climate change, which support the conclusions laid out in the Science essay.

Lastly, here is a link to the National Academy of Science’s Policy advice, based on science, to guide the nation’s response to climate change.

Misconception: Scientists Disagree on Everything

Another excellent article rom Recovering Fundamentalists in their misconceptions about science series:

This misconception is frequently alluded to in Christian circles in an attempt to discount the findings of the scientific community as merely “one man’s opinion.” While there is a constant hum of debate among scientists, Christians seem to think that no one agrees on anything, and that there are no theories that aren’t questionable.

This is not true. The body of accepted scientific knowledge is vast and elegantly interwoven. But this is only accomplished through dialog and criticism.

Franklin Graham and the National Day of Prayer

This year’s National Day of Prayer event certainly caused quite the stir.  It all began with the Wisconsin judge declaring the government’s proclamation of a National Day of Prayer unconstitutional and then continued when Franklin Graham and Tony Perkins were disinvited to participate in the Pentagon’s ceremonies over the controversial views of both ministers.  The Religious Right has  been highly critical of both decisions and have been declaring them just two more examples of how our religious freedom in this nation is being eroded, particularly the religious freedom of Christians. 

This whole event is a perfect example of why it is necessary to keep government out of religion and vice versa.  I’ve posted before about Madison’s and Jefferson’s views on issuing proclamations of days of thanksgiving and prayers and their other views of church and state relationships.  I firmly believe that both men would have firmly agreed with the decision of Judge Crabb and would have urged the Pentagon to cancel the whole event entirely were they alive today.  Both men argued that when government shows any type of favor to one religion those who are left out of that favor are demeaned and devalued and their adherent’s equal rights diminished.  Even though Graham and Perkins were disinvited, ministers from the Roman Catholic church, various protestant churches, Judaism and Islam still participated in the ceremony.  Christianity itself wasn’t discriminated against, however, a particular form of Christianity was and this is the very reason why no National Day of Prayer should take place at all which involves any type of government participation whatsoever.  No matter how hard the government tried to include all religions in the day’s ceremonies, some were still left out and their adherent’s made to feel less equal than the other religious viewpoints that were allowed to participate. 

Religion is a divisive influence in society.  It does not bring people together.  There were those in the religious right who fought to keep this day intact and there were those among the same religious right who felt the day was nothing more than an ecumenical orgy of heresy.  Religion is divisive even among its practitioners and therefore the government needs to say out of it and we need to keep religion out of government. 

I think it is also ironic that among all the outcries of religious persecution and discrimination we saw as a result of the judical ruling and the disinvitation of Graham and Perkins, that Franklin Graham was still able to hold his own prayer service/media event on the very sidewalks in front of the Pentagon (if that’s not the public square I don’t know what is )without being arrested, detained or otherwise obstructed by the government.  Regardless of the ranting of the religious right, we still live in a country of immense religious freedom.

Letter to the Editor Has a Selective View of History

I didn’t buy these arguments for a Christian nation even when I was a believer and had every reason to embrace them.  I don’t deny that the culture of America at the time of the Revolution was a Christian culture but to insist that the founders specifically used the bible to form the three branches of government, that America is God’s chosen nation, that capitalism is the only biblical economic system and that somehow we have special blessings from God is just plain ridiculous.  From the Opinion page of today’s West Bend Daily News:

Rulings on faith stray from Constitution

  I read some outrageous news in the Daily News last month that a judge had struck down the National Day of Prayer with the stroke of a mighty pen, which she since has set aside because of appeals. The ruling is another nail in the coffin of the United States of America, hastening the day of fulfillment for President Obama’s declaration to the Muslim states that America is not a Christian country.
   We are a nation founded on biblical principals. We have truly been blessed by God bountifully.
   All government meetings were opened with a prayer. This was the norm until anti-Christian lawyers misinterpreted the Constitution by adding separation of church and state as unconstitutional. There is no such things as separation of church and state in our Constitution.
   Lately, the 9th District in California ruled to remove the cross and “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance to please two atheists. Now we get this scenario in Wisconsin.
   What is wrong with people giving thanks to our God for His blessings on a National Prayer Day? Why are some judges ruling in favor of atheists, homosexuals and those for separation of church and state – a fiction which the judge must know? Why are they trying to destroy the unique liberties and freedom of a great Christian country? This is appalling, and I am justly irate, disappointed and grievously saddened by the destructive direction these judges are taking using their power with the pen – extreme judicial tyranny doing grave harm to our nation.
   No other religion is persecuted as Christians are because they dare not under pain of death. Our one true faith must be defended at all costs. We must uphold our National Day of Prayer as Rep. Pat Strachota has said. This is Christian America yet.
   
Ronald W. Hepponstall West Bend

First of all Ronald does not understand the concept of equal rights for all.  When the government favors or endorses one religion over another it is creating an environment where those who do not adhere to that religion are cast as outsiders and are not recognized as being equal with those believers.  That is the concept that drove the founders vision of religious freedom.  In an earlier  post, that you can find here, about this topic I printed a letter from James Madison.  From what he said in that letter I doubt Madison would have agreed with Ronald.   Nor would Jefferson.   Neither of these two founders could be considered hostile to religion.  Both were firm believers themselves, although Jefferson leaned more toward deism, and both firmly believed in the freedom to believe as a person saw fit.  Imagine if a politician were to speak those same words today as they did in their letters.  Actually, we don’t have to imagine to hard.  Judge Crabb said as much in her ruling and look what has happened to her.

The Paranoia of Beck and Limbaugh

From Watching the Deniers:

The paranoid  style of American politics:  Beck, Limbaugh claim oil spill deliberate sabotage

To quote Limbaugh:  

But this bill, the cap-and-trade bill, was strongly criticized by hardcore environmentalist wackos because it supposedly allowed more offshore drilling and nuclear plants, nuclear plant investment. So, since they’re sending SWAT teams down there, folks, since they’re sending SWAT teams to inspect the other rigs, what better way to head off more oil drilling, nuclear plants, than by blowing up a rig? I’m just noting the timing here.”  

In short, the Obama administration deliberately sabotaged the Deep Horizon oil rig to create a disaster that would allow them to… I’m not sure. Provide an excuse for the cap-and-trade legislation? Blunt efforts for more offshore drilling of the coasts of the US?  

I call this the “I’m just saying…” approach to conspiracy theory making. In short, you don’t need to present evidence.  You simply connect two (or more) unrelated events and hint at a connection.  

Such conspiracy making is almost impossible to refute, as the accuser retreats to the fall back “Yeah, but I’m just saying…”  

It’s really quite amazing why anybody would believe anything these two say.  It’s also quite frightening that there are a lot of people who do believe what these two have to say.  Just goes to show that some people will believe anything no matter how irrational or incredible the source.