Go West

From Media Matters

From Media Matters

It’s been over two years since (now ex) Congressman Allen West popped up on my radar. I think I may have been disrespectful of him at the time, likening him to a Heinz 57 candidate, an allusion to the sparkling portrayal by actor James Gregory in the movie The Manchurian Candidate:

Angela Lansbury practically stole the spotlight from Frank Sinatra. The movie was a Cold War thriller about a “brainwashed” American soldier turned assassin. Lansbury’s on-screen husband is played wonderfully by James Gregory as lame brained Senator John Iselin, who is instructed by his domineering wife to proclaim there are (pick a number) communists working in the Defense Department. Ultimately Senator Iselin confronts his wife over breakfast and demands to know just how many communists. This he does while pouring Heinz ketchup on his breakfast eggs. Lansbury eyes the ketchup bottle and comes up with the number. Later Iselin is addressing reporters to announce there are 57 communists working in the defense department.

This was shortly after then-Congressman West was telling us how many (number varied) communists were serving in Congress as Democrats.

Anyhow, those were the fun days.

No wait. The fun days are back:

Fox News contributor Allen West, who has previously called President Obama an “Islamist” with unclear “loyalties,” is now calling on the military to ignore orders from its commander in chief.

The Military Times reported that the Department of Defense will expand an existing program, Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI), to allow recruiters “to target foreign nationals with high-demand skills, mostly rare foreign language expertise or specialized health care training.” The program “is capped at 1,500 recruits per year. Officials say it’s unclear how many of those might be unlawful DACA status immigrants as opposed to others who are also eligible for military service under MAVNI, including those with legal, nonpermanent visas such as students or tourists.”

No, that’s not what the fun is all about. What the fun is all about is what retired Army Lt. Col. Allen West had to say about it. Again from Media Matters:

West, a retired Army Lt. Colonel whose service ended in controversy, reacted to the news on his Facebook page by writing that “Barack Hussein Obama took out his pen and ordered our Military to enlist illegal aliens. In other words, this charlatan has allowed those who have disrespected our Constitution and are not citizens to take an oath to support and defend the very document, our rule of law, of which they are in violation.”

He added: “This is an illegal order and should not be followed by our Military.”

Here is Allen Wests’ Facebook posting on the matter:

Morning folks. While you were sleeping, Barack Hussein Obama took out his pen and ordered our Military to enlist illegal aliens. In other words, this charlatan has allowed those who have disrespected our Constitution and are not citizens to take an oath to support and defend the very document, our rule of law, of which they are in violation. Obama has no constitutional authority to make any laws or rules concerning naturalization as stated in Art I Sect 8 Clause 4. This is an illegal order and should not be followed by our Military. As well, we are pink-slipping men and women in uniform, Americans, and Obama wants to enlist illegals. We are already outsourcing our national security to Syrian Islamists. This is intolerable and just another reason why we must flip the Senate and begin to reverse Obama’s tyranny. Any Democrat supporting this illegal order needs to be voted out!

The Military Times relates the details that so dismay Allen West:

On average, the military recruits about 5,000 noncitizens each year, nearly all of them permanent U.S. residents, or so-called “green card” holders. Starting in 2006, DoD began accepting some foreigners with nonpermanent visas, such as students or tourists, if they had special skills that are highly valued.

After entering military service, foreigners are eligible for expedited U.S. citizenship. Since 2001, more than 92,000 foreign-born service members have become citizens while serving in uniform.

The MAVNI program began in 2008 and remains a pilot program. DoD notified Congress on Thursday that the program, which was due to expire at the end of this fiscal year, will be extended for another two years and will for the first time include DACA-status immigrants.

In the foregoing DACA stands for Deferred Action for Child Arrivals. These are typically children of illegal immigrants. They are people who, due to their age and the manner they were brought into the country, are not classified as criminals.

Over 50 years ago I served a standard tour in the Navy Reserves and observed back then we recruited a number of foreign nationals into the Navy. As a college student following my active service I had a room mate who was a Mexican citizen. After graduation he entered the United States Army.

According to the Times, “The military services are not required to accept recruits under MAVNI.” That leaves me wondering what Allen West is all about with “This is an illegal order and should not be followed by our Military.” It could be this is something known only to Mr. West.

In the mean time I am wishing we could have James Gregory back. We have a wonderful new role for him. The script has already been written.

Bad Joke of the Week

Not yet

Not yet

A man and a woman were having a quiet, romantic dinner in a fine restaurant.
They were gazing lovingly at each other and holding hands.
The waitress, taking another order at a table a few steps away, suddenly noticed the woman slowly sliding down her chair and under the table — but the man stared straight ahead.
The waitress watched as the woman slid all the way down her chair and out of sight under the table. Still, the man stared straight ahead.
The waitress, thinking this behavior a bit risque and worried that it might offend other diners, went over to the table and, tactfully, began by saying to the man, “Pardon me, sir, but I think your wife just slid under the table.”
The man said, “No she didn’t. She just walked in.”

This is so comforting.

Posted on Facebook

From a Facebook posting

When I’m down and depressed (that might be redundant) I can always count on somebody from the religious segment to lift my spirits. Where would we all be without the likes of Southern Baptist Convention President Albert Mohler:

What Gobry hints at and Dr. Mohler affirms is that the basis of our sexual ethic is not simply church tradition; it is scripture itself. We aren’t just defending marriage – whether we call it natural marriage or traditional marriage or Biblical marriage – because it’s the way we’ve always done things. We have a much more firm foundation than tradition.  We affirm marriage in the way that God himself intended it.

The church is not a Christian congress or Supreme Court. The laws of God cannot be overruled or deemed unconstitutional.

Of course, we ALL break those laws and being a homosexual doesn’t make a man a sinner any more or less than being a gossip. Both crimes deserve the death penalty, and only the one who relies on the righteousness of Christ can escape it.

You cannot imagine how much better this makes me feel. About myself, not Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry and Dr. Mohler. I’m telling you, I must be in really bad shape if it takes the likes of these two make me feel good about myself.

Perry on Stilts

Hard Time

Hard Time

Call me liberal if you want, but I’m beginning to think that Governor Rick Perry of Texas will turn out to be the salvation of this country. Before you haul me off the the loony bin, let me explain my logic.

Recall I mentioned before that former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin saved the nation by becoming John McCain’s running mate in 2008.

It was summer of 2008, and I swear I was minding my own business. The news item on my computer screen said that John McCain had just picked Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. That’s the instant I knew.

It was game over. The next president of the United States was going to be Barack Obama. Thank you, Sarah.

It is possible that our own governor, for whom I have previously expressed such admiration, may be about to step into Governor Palin’s mighty shoes and save us all from ourselves again. Here’s how it’s unfolding:

[21 August 2014] PORTSMOUTH, N.H. –On Thursday, Gov. Rick Perry issued a pretty alarming warning. Terrorists from the Islamic State — one of the nastiest, most brutal terror groups ever — could be sneaking into Texas across the Southwest border at any time, thanks to the Obama administration’s failures in Iraq and in securing the border.

This is so uncanny. It’s as though he can see Mexico from the Governor’s Mansion in Austin.

Do you wish the same thing I do? Is it your hope of hopes that Governor Perry will somehow grasp the brass ring and secure the nomination for his party in 2016? Vice President would work just as well. It did with Palin.

Of course, there are the spoilers:

This morning, the Pentagon press secretary, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, said there’s just no evidence of that — though it’s something to keep an eye on.

“I’ve seen no indication that they are coming across the border with Mexico. We have no information that leads us to believe that. That said, we do know they have aspirations to hit western targets and it’s something, as [Defense] Secretary Hagel said yesterday, that we’ve got to take seriously and with have to try to be ready for it,” Kirby said today on CNN.

Mexican officials are unhappy about Perry’s comments. They were eager to flag Kirby’s response, and this afternoon they issued their own stern rejection of the governor’s warnings.

“Mexican authorities have no record of the presence of Islamist extremist groups or individuals in Mexico,” said Ariel Moutsatsos, minister for public affairs at the embassy in Washington. “We take all possible measures to impede any terrorist activity in our territory.”

Noting that U.S. and Mexican officials share information constantly, he added, “There is no indication that would even suggest what Governor Perry has claimed. The U.S. State Department, in its most recent report on terrorism in the world, dismissed the idea that any international terrorist groups were operating in Mexico, and in recent hours the Pentagon also publicly denied having any indication leading them to believe that terrorists are crossing into the United States from Mexico.

In Portsmouth — the first of six public stops Perry will make on a two-day visit to the presidential testing ground of New Hampshire — the governor stood by his warning.

“ISIS has said they’re coming to America and they are going to attack us. I take them at their word,” he said, noting repeatedly that the U.S.-Mexico border is “porous” and therefore a potential entry point for bad guys. “I agree that there is no hard evidence. My point is do we need to wait until there’s an attack on America before we secure the border?”

Pay no attention to these liberal nut jobs, Governor. Keep on keeping on. That is, do what you do best, which is what you have always been doing. We want you to know you have enormous support in your quest from an enthusiastic and steadily growing mass. These would be Democrats.

Stupidity On Stilts

Some background: I attended public schools in this country for all of my academic career, such as it was. Coming from a small town, I had not much of a clue of the real world, and it was some time before the facts of private and religious schools came to me.

Run the tape forward, and public education has gotten real, leading to objections from many who take religion seriously, more so than sometimes seems healthy. Public schools now teach the Earth is 4.5 or so billion years old and that all living things on this planet share a common ancestry. Those who hold truth in lesser regard than tradition and who could afford it have started to pull their children out of public schools and to place them in private schools that accommodate, even emphasized, religious instruction. Regrettably, academic instruction tends to suffer in these schools. I’m going to say this lapse is unavoidable due to the very reasons these schools were established.

Twelve years ago I dropped in to observe a presentation at a Bible church in Dallas. The presentation was by Richard Stepanek from the Alpha Omega Institute in Grand Junction, Colorado. He had some interesting things to say:

The woes of modern life were laid at the feet of evolution. Evolution is the foundation of New Age we were told. Richard should know. He once taught New Age at a Coptic church before coming over to Christian fundamentalism. Turned out not to be a long journey.

Demons are bad we now know. Cult symbols tattooed onto the hands and bodies of young people or carried on ornaments are used to summon up demons. You have seen them all. There’s 666 for sure plus the pentagram and the “peace sign.” The latter is a broken cross Richard told us, a slight against Christianity. Apparently it doesn’t stand for the semaphore ND (for nuclear disarmament) as we were led to believe in the ’60s. Also there is, shudder, the “hook’em horns” hand sign made famous by University of Texas football fans. I feel compelled to feed my diploma to the shredder.

Worse, yet, these symbols have real power to invoke demons to deal death to others. Richard vouched this had actually happened in Tanzania where he visited and took testimony. They are in the air, demons are. Ghosts are part of the demonic realm, as well, and UFOs are manifestations of spiritual life in outer space.

Associated with the church was a religious school, and prior to the presentation children trooped over to the church from the school to obtain the benefit of Stepanek’s talk. I made the comparison of this religious school to the madrasas of the Muslim Middle East.

Bible church file photo

Bible church file photo

Going even further back, seventeen years ago I attended a presentation by David Bassett at a young Earth creationist meeting. At the time Bassett was in charge of science education at one of the private religious schools in the Dallas area. That given, here is an excerpt from the February 1997 issue of The Skeptic.

Additionally, there is the remarkable evidence of living dinosaurs in the Congo region. Although Polaroid photos of these specimens were ruined by the awful climate there, Bassett did have a copy of a copy of an audio tape that was made by a recent expedition. On this tape we could clearly hear the popping sound made by the dinosaurs as they bellowed just a short distance away in the forest. The high atmospheric pressure in this region accounts for the viability of these ancient species. The pressure there is 1.3 to 1.5 times normal atmospheric pressure. This is because of the dense vegetation, which keeps the air quite humid. Of course, water vapor is denser than dry air, David Bassett told the audience.

When he is not contributing to the science education of students at Ovilla Christian School, Bassett works the front desk at Carl Baugh’s Creation Evidences Museum near Glen Rose. Check it out.

I took from such as this that science education in religious schools can suffer gravely, and I lay this mess at the feet of the general disregard for fact embedded in religious thinking.

I continually receive encouragement for my conclusion. Raw Story carries a piece by Johnny Scaramanga relating his personal experience in a religious school in the UK:

I went to an Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) school from the age of 11 to 14, and I can think of many reasons why this kind of education is a poor preparation for university. I spent half of every school day alone in a cubicle, working silently though PACEs (Packets of Accelerated Christian Education) – workbooks that incorporate religious instruction into every academic subject, for example teaching that evolution is a hoax.

The author has more to say and much of it is down right scary:

In all of this, however, little attention has been paid to the pseudoscience that ACE passes off as education. PACEs sometimes get basic science wrong, but more importantly they demonstrate that ACE can’t tell the difference between science and nonsense obscured with long words. For example, ACE’s Science 1087 (aimed at students in year 9) suggests it might be possible to generate electricity from snow:

The explanation was essentially this:

  • From science we know that snowflakes are six-sided.
  • “Some scientists have theorised” this six-side arrangement is due to the three orbital paths of electrons in water molecules.
  • The air pockets between the spokes of snowflakes contain increased concentrations of oxygen.
  • There is a relationship “a snowflake’s attraction to oxygen and magnetism’s attraction to oxygen.”

Now, here is where it gets interesting:

Job 38:22-23New International Version (NIV)

22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow
    or seen the storehouses of the hail,
23 which I reserve for times of trouble,
    for days of war and battle?

The conclusion is obvious:

How can this scripture, along with these observations about snowflakes, show us a physical truth? Scientists at Virginia Tech have produced electricity more efficiently from permanent magnets, which have their lines of force related to each other at sixty-degree angles, than from previous methods of extracting electricity from magnetism. Other research along this line may reveal a way to tap electric current directly from snow, eliminating the need for costly, heavy, and complex equipment now needed to generate electricity.

The writings of an early Iron Age tribesman from the Eastern Mediterranean region now trump modern science. That’s simply fantastic.

For a reality check, Scaramanga relayed this priceless knowledge to Professor Paul Braterman of Glasgow University. “Bullshit on stilts” was the response. Braterman contradicted the deepest sense of this bit of hogwash. For starters, “snow has no magnetic properties.” The bullshit flows downhill from there.

You may wonder, as I do, what value are students getting from education at these religious schools? There are extremes. Some of the top universities in this country are church supported or church founded. I can name:

  • Baylor
  • Notre Dame
  • Princeton
  • Brigham Young
  • Southern Methodist University

Even some of the lesser lights are not soft on science. A television news-documentary item a few years back highlighted the experience of Christian students who attended Wheaton College in Illinois and had their religious fundamentals challenged. They came home and informed their staunch Christian parents that evolution was true. Other of the lesser lights are less than lesser lights. Liberty University was founded by Christian televangelist Jerry Falwell and takes no stock in scientific modernism:

 Liberty University teaches young Earth creationism as an explanation for the appearance of life on earth. The university works with young Earth creationist organizations including Answers in Genesis. In biology classes students are taught both creationism and evolution and that creationism offers a better explanation of biological diversity than evolution. In October, 2006 the university published an advertisement in The Chronicle of Higher Education in an attempt to recruit staff to its biology department. The advertisement stated that the university was “seeking faculty who can demonstrate a personal faith commitment to its evangelical Christian purpose” and specified that “compatibility with a young-earth creationist philosophy [is] required.”

In the same month, prominent biologist Richard Dawkins was quoted saying the following about Liberty University: “If it’s really true that the museum at Liberty University has dinosaur fossils which are labeled as being 3,000 years old, then that is an educational disgrace. It is debauching the whole idea of a university, and I would strongly encourage any members of Liberty University who may be here, to leave and go to a proper university.” In December, 1991 Creation reported, Arlton C. Murray “excavated a dinosaur for Liberty University’s museum”, which proclaimed “this dinosaur was the first of its kind in any creationist museum.”

[Some links deleted]

The sorry academic standards at religious schools came to a head in this country eight years ago when the University of California system rejected some of the college preparatory courses at Christian schools:

The suit filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California alleged that the university system’s rejection of several courses, including a history course, a government course, and science courses, was “viewpoint discrimination” that violated the constitutional rights of applicants from Christian schools whose high school coursework is deemed inadequate preparation for college. The books in particular were published by A Beka Books and Bob Jones University Press. They contained problems such as statements that where science and the Bible contradict, the student must choose the Bible, and judgment of the value of American historical figures on their religion. The UC board concluded that those books did not offer proper preparatory instruction for the university. The lawsuit was brought by the parents of six children who had not been rejected from the university, but were required to take additional, remedial courses. In August 2006, the case was allowed to proceed against the university while lawsuits against individual school officials were thrown out.

The Association retained leading intelligent design proponent Michael Behe to testify in the case as an expert witness. Behe’s expert witness report claimed that the Christian textbooks were excellent works for high school students and he defended that view in a deposition.

[Some links deleted]

The choice of Michael Behe was probably not a wise one. Behe is a legitimate college professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University, but he has some bizarre views of science. I have previously reviewed his book Darwin’s Black Box and also his The Edge of Evolution. When parents sued the Dover Area School District over the introduction of Intelligent Design into the science curriculum in 2005 Behe was one of the defense witnesses. The PBS documentary Judgment Day re-enacted Behe’s testimony wherein he had to defend his statements regarding some basic biochemistry. Despite claiming there was no published science contradicting his position, he had to admit he had not read anything from a pile of published material presented to him on cross examination.

There are many who do serious science while holding deep religious convictions. One such would be Kenneth Miller of Brown University, who is the co-author of a series of biology texts and who also continually works in the public defense of modern biological science, especially against attacks by creationists. Miller also testified at the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case, wherein the plaintiffs won their case while key defenders of creationism were exposed as perjurers.

I followed the Kitzmiller case in the news as events unfolded and was not surprised at the finding of perjury on the part of the creationists. My observation has long been that you cannot do very much religion without a load of perjury.

Losing Sight of Reality

Who is Pharrell Williams, and why is he acting like a fool in public?

From Wikimedia

From Wikimedia

Oh, wait. That’s being what Pharrell Williams calls “incredibly arrogant.” I get it now. What was I thinking?

If I look at the world head on without flinching, that’s being “incredibly arrogant.” If somebody offers me a $3 bill in change, and I back off, that’s being “incredibly arrogant.” Why, paint me lumpy and call me a potato. I must be “incredibly arrogant.” Of course I could instead be “incredibly ignorant.” But that job is already taken.

We do have a choice, you know. And Christian Today has some specifics:

US singer, rapper and producer Pharrell Williams has revealed that he believes in God, insisting that it’s “incredibly arrogant” to think otherwise.

“I believe in God but I also believe in the universe…and I believe in that innate ability to make decisions and to exercise our feelings as human beings,” the Happy singer told Stylist magazine.

“How do you see all the stars and think there’s nothing else out there?” he continued.

“It’s so incredible arrogant and pompous. It’s amazing that there are people who really believe that. It’s unbelievable.”

Yes, it is unbelievable. It’s unbelievable that a modern, intelligent human being could harbor such outrageous lapses in reasoning. Then of course I could be wrong. About the intelligent part. Williams had a bit more to say:

“I’ll say this: at the end of the day, you can soundbite things in the Bible and be offended. But I’m sure that’s not the writers of the Bible’s intentions,” Williams, who has defended his involvement, said of the controversy.

“I’m clearly not comparing my song to one of the most respectful writings I’ve ever read…My point to you is, anything can be taken out of context.”

This last part had to do with a controversy over a song Blurred Lines written by Williams. This dainty piece of fluff apparently (I have not listened to it) takes a dim view of women. Here is an excerpt:

One thing I ask you
Let me be the one you back that ass into
Yo, from Malibu, to Paris bo
Yeah, had a bitch, but she ain’t bad as you
So hit me up when you passing through
I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two

All right! That’s my kind of Christian.

Just kidding.

So what’s out of context. Let’s see.

19 The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. “My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.”

“No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.”

But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”

Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”

OK, so this is out of context. No wait. This is the context. The Bible was written by misogynistic tribesmen living over 2000 years ago on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea. These people are hardly distinguishable from the Taliban. Only, the Taliban have Kalashnikov rifles, and they make home movies.

Take a deep breath and enjoy some more context:

19 In those days Israel had no king.

Now a Levite who lived in a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim took a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah. But she was unfaithful to him. She left him and went back to her parents’ home in Bethlehem, Judah. After she had been there four months, her husband went to her to persuade her to return. He had with him his servant and two donkeys. She took him into her parents’ home, and when her father saw him, he gladly welcomed him. His father-in-law, the woman’s father, prevailed on him to stay; so he remained with him three days, eating and drinking, and sleeping there.

On the fourth day they got up early and he prepared to leave, but the woman’s father said to his son-in-law, “Refresh yourself with something to eat; then you can go.” So the two of them sat down to eat and drink together. Afterward the woman’s father said, “Please stay tonight and enjoy yourself.” And when the man got up to go, his father-in-law persuaded him, so he stayed there that night. On the morning of the fifth day, when he rose to go, the woman’s father said, “Refresh yourself. Wait till afternoon!” So the two of them ate together.

Then when the man, with his concubine and his servant, got up to leave, his father-in-law, the woman’s father, said, “Now look, it’s almost evening. Spend the night here; the day is nearly over. Stay and enjoy yourself. Early tomorrow morning you can get up and be on your way home.” 10 But, unwilling to stay another night, the man left and went toward Jebus (that is, Jerusalem), with his two saddled donkeys and his concubine.

11 When they were near Jebus and the day was almost gone, the servant said to his master, “Come, let’s stop at this city of the Jebusites and spend the night.”

12 His master replied, “No. We won’t go into any city whose people are not Israelites. We will go on to Gibeah.” 13 He added, “Come, let’s try to reach Gibeah or Ramah and spend the night in one of those places.” 14 So they went on, and the sun set as they neared Gibeah in Benjamin. 15 There they stopped to spend the night. They went and sat in the city square, but no one took them in for the night.

16 That evening an old man from the hill country of Ephraim, who was living in Gibeah (the inhabitants of the place were Benjamites), came in from his work in the fields.17 When he looked and saw the traveler in the city square, the old man asked, “Where are you going? Where did you come from?”

18 He answered, “We are on our way from Bethlehem in Judah to a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim where I live. I have been to Bethlehem in Judah and now I am going to the house of the Lord.[a] No one has taken me in for the night. 19 We have both straw and fodder for our donkeys and bread and wine for ourselves your servants—me, the woman and the young man with us. We don’t need anything.”

20 “You are welcome at my house,” the old man said. “Let me supply whatever you need. Only don’t spend the night in the square.” 21 So he took him into his house and fed his donkeys. After they had washed their feet, they had something to eat and drink.

22 While they were enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, “Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him.”

23 The owner of the house went outside and said to them, “No, my friends, don’t be so vile. Since this man is my guest, don’t do this outrageous thing. 24 Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. I will bring them out to you now, and you can use them and do to them whatever you wish. But as for this man, don’t do such an outrageous thing.”

25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. 26 At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight.

27 When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said to her, “Get up; let’s go.” But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.

29 When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel. 30 Everyone who saw it was saying to one another, “Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt. Just imagine! We must do something! So speak up!”

Please do not ask me for more context. I have enough to puke an elephant.

A note to Pharrell Williams and all the idiots out there who believe this stuff, and especially those who believe this stuff and also believe we should base our lives on the teachings of a bunch of incredibly arrogant tribal leaders: What really is incredibly arrogant is thinking the human race, the human race which has existed for less than 0.01% of the life of the universe and occupies far less than 0.00000001% of its habitable planets, this race is somehow special in the mind of a mythical person who supposedly created everything 6000 years ago, long after people starting writing stuff down. This is incredible arrogance.

And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

Dealing With Facts

U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the Climate Summit at United Nations headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the Climate Summit at United Nations headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

People who know me will generally say I’m a liberal sort of person. It’s mainly because I have an abiding interest in truth, and I find that political, and especially the social, conservatives tend to have a loose grip on what constitutes reality.

For example, conservatives tend to be more religious, and importantly, overtly more religious. Religious crazy stuff tends more oftenn to land within the socially conservative camp.

Some examples: Social conservatives are more quick to embrace religious convictions that transcend known reality. You think the Earth is only about 6000 years old? You are most likely socially conservative. You think a person unknown and unseen by any human being has created the universe and redundantly everything in it? Then you are most likely socially conservative. The complete list is longer. We know from science these are wrong-headed concepts. Social conservatives, as a consequence, tend to view science as a tool that can be shaped, often through the political process, to justify their personal beliefs.

All this brings us around to the climate denial thing. For a very long time scientists have observed a rise in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Some carefully thought through analysis has presented the evidence that this increase is due to human activity. Principally, people have been taking carbon, sequestered within fossil fuels (coal, petroleum, natural gas) and burning it with atmospheric oxygen. The carbon comes out of the ground. It enters the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. And it stays there. For like 200 years before eventually being removed from the atmosphere, principally through sequestration within the oceans.

The problem with extra carbon dioxide in the air is that its presence causes extra infra-red radiation to be absorbed by the atmosphere. We get loads of radiated energy from the sun, on the order of 1000 watts per square meter. If none of this energy were reflected back into space or else radiated back into space by warm surfaces, then the Earth would continue to soak up solar energy and get hotter and hotter. The atmosphere and the oceans would be the first to observe the effect. The solid surface would quickly become unlivable, as well.

Fortunately we have the physics of reflection and radiation by warm bodies, and a balance of sorts has been reached. The temperature of the Earth’s solid surface, atmosphere and oceans averaged over the entire globe over long periods of time tends to be stable and within the livable zone for current living organisms.

However, carbon dioxide, and other complex gases in the atmosphere, work to trap solar radiation entering the atmosphere and also energy radiated from the Earth’s surface. The added carbon dioxide is causing the average temperature to increase. This has some near term and especially some long term consequences.

All that said, conservative of both types have a problem with most of this science:

  • Carbon dioxide levels are not rising.
  • People are not causing this increase in carbon-dioxide.
  • Average atmospheric (and ocean) temperatures are not increasing.
  • The effects of this temperature increase are being overstated.
  • The idea of global warming is a liberal hoax abetted by scientists conspiring to bring about a shift in political power.
  • We don’t want to change our lifestyle in order to forestall the consequences of global warming.

Some or all of these can be found in an American conservative’s quiver.

Now we have a liberal Democratic president, and he is pushing for action to forestall the consequences of global warming. It’s just one of the reasons I voted for Barack Obama, twice, as opposed to those other guys, neither of whom seemed to take the issue as seriously. I also voted for Al Gore, who has made a name for himself as an advocate to mitigate the effects of global warming. I also voted for John Kerry, who also seems to be an advocate of taking action.

So now we have a president who is taking action, but we may be needing to say, “Not so fast there.”

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — President Barack Obama glossed over some inconvenient truths Tuesday in his climate-change speech to the United Nations. For one, as the U.S. cleans up emissions at home, it’s sending dirty fuel abroad to pollute the same sky.

As well, the U.S. is not cleaning up quite as aggressively as Obama implied in his remarks.

Associated Press reporters Dina Cappiello and Seth Borenstein have done some fact checking on the president’s remarks and have noted a few points:

OBAMA: “Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution by more than any other nation on Earth.”

THE FACTS: Europe as a whole has cut a bigger proportion of its emissions.

The fact check does not directly say that another nation has cut pollution more than we have, but a little mathematical analysis reveals it would not be possible for a collection of nations to undercut the United States unless at least one out of the collection did. So, who is the over-achiever across the pond?

The bottom fact is the United States was the top producer, and it reduced its tonnage more than Europe, but Europe had the larger drop in share.

Here’s another:

OBAMA: “So, all told, these advances have helped create jobs, grow our economy, and drive our carbon pollution to its lowest levels in nearly two decades — proving that there does not have to be a conflict between a sound environment and strong economic growth.”

THE FACTS: About half of the 10 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions the U.S. has achieved in recent years can be attributed to the economic recession, not any specific actions from the Obama administration. Obama’s comments also left out that U.S. carbon emissions rose 2.9 percent from 2012 to 2013, the first increase since 2007, because higher natural gas prices spurred more coal use.

A side note here: I can vouch for the effects of the economic recession. I was out in California for a few months as business began to tank and at the same time the price of gasoline was heading for Mars. Early in the year getting anywhere on Los Angeles freeways was a bear. By the time prices peaked in July 2008 I sometimes found myself with a lane to myself.

More on that note, as the economy sank below the horizon, and the unemployed started leaving their cars in their garages the price of fuel at the Kroger’s near my house dipped to $1.259 per gallon. The economy does have an impact on the environment.

Cappiello and Borenstein have additional points to pick with the president, but they all turn out to be political puffery rather than voodoo science. Hopefully we have mostly dispensed with voodoo science in this administration. Can we ever expect to see the end of political puffery?

Precipitous Folly

Walter Russell Mead writes a daily blog for American Interest.

Walter Russell Mead (born 12 June 1952, Columbia, South Carolina) is James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College and Editor-at-Large of The American Interest magazine. Until 2010, Mead was the Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is a co-founder of the New America Foundation, a think tank that has been described as radical centrist in orientation.

[Some links deleted]

Following the president’s address of 10 September, here is what Mead had to say in his assessment:

A President SurrendersThe most disconcerting element in the speech was that even now, six years into the job, President Obama still doesn’t know how to avoid telegraphing weakness even as he seeks to project strength.

President Obama is now exactly where we at The American Interest were afraid he would be when the whole Syria mess started: from the beginning it was crystal clear that all his choices were bad and we sympathized with his desire to do nothing—but we also warned that doing nothing was in fact the worst option of all. The longer he waited, the worse all of his options would get. In the end, procrastination would require him to take more action, and riskier action, than early intervention would have entailed, while both he and the country (not to mention the people of the region) would pay a high price for delay.

He goes on to opine that President Obama’s course has been one of “delay,” and what he terms “procrastination” has resulted in “an unmitigated disaster for him.” Like a number of the other of the president’s critics Mead maintains we should have recognized the ISIS threat early on and nipped “ISIS in the bud.”

And more.

Something about all this sound so familiar, and I have to wonder, what planet are these people coming from?

I have heard similar talk from John McCain, among others. That should have been sage advice. But there is a fly in the ointment, so to speak. I’m also hearing stories like this one:

These days John McCain has been a vocal opponent of ISIS. But it wasn’t long ago that he went to Syria to meet with factions of rebels fighting the Syrian government who now have turned out to be ISIS members.

While there are many factions fighting against the Assad Regime, those in the pictures taken with Senator McCain have been positively identified as members of the self-styled “Islamic State.”

From Counter Current News

From Counter Current News

It’s stories like this that remind me daily of the comfort of hind sight and the folly of “gonad logic.”

Remarkable, also, is Mead’s logic for supporting the 2003 Gulf War:

In 2003, Mead argued that an Iraq war was preferable to continuing UN sanctions against Iraq, because “Each year of containment is a new Gulf War”, and that “The existence of al Qaeda, and the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, are part of the price the United States has paid to contain Saddam Hussein.”

[Some links deleted]

I am not prepared to fault Mead’s logic—it was difficult for any of us to anticipate the disastrous manner in which the affair was managed. My point is that disastrous management tags along with any war and any foreign adventure of significant magnitude. Such caution should be a guide to any president contemplating precipitous action, such as the two gulf wars and any scheme to aid one side in a civil war. This caution, this reserved response, this is what Mead and others may be calling “delay,” “procrastination” and even “surrender.”

Should we have nipped ISIS in the bud three years ago? Even two or one? Ask John McCain.

Holdren On Top

John Holdren from the Daily Kos

John Holdren from the Daily Kos

Somebody, actually my brother, posted this on Facebook. I had to follow up:

On Wednesday this past week (Sept. 17), White House Science Advisor John Holdren made his way to speak with the Committee on Science, Space and Technology–a Republican lead brain trust. He was there to answer questions about President Barack Obama’s climate change initiative. Dr. Holdren brought his chalk, his number 2 pencil and probably a vat of Tums.

What you are going to see here from the Daily Kos is a collection of videos from Dr. Holdren’s interchange with some of our dimmer congressional lights. First up was Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, representing California’s District 48. A quick look at Rohrabacher’s entry in Wikipedia reveals some fuzzy real-world thinking:

During a trip to Iraq in June 2011, he said that Iraq should pay back the U.S. for all the money it had spent since the invasion, when it becomes a wealthy country. Rohrabacher also commented he would be holding a hearing with the Sub-Committee on Oversight and Investigations into if Iraq committed “crimes against humanity” at Camp Ashraf when a massacre occurred last April. The incident left 34 residents killed and over 300 wounded. The delegation was denied access to the camp by Iraqi government, citing their sovereignty. Rohrabacher’s delegation was subsequently asked to leave the country.

Rohrabacher’s foreign affairs missteps were not an issue at the hearings, however. What was at issue were his remarkably naive views on some basic science:

Rohrabacher doubts that global warming is caused by humans. During a congressional hearing on climate change on February 8, 2007, Rohrabacher mused that previous warming cycles may have been caused by carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by “dinosaur flatulence.” He stated, “In fact, it is assumed at best to be unproven and at worst a liberal claptrap, trendy, but soon to go out of style in our new Congress.” On May 25, 2011, Rohrabacher expressed further skepticism regarding the existence of man-made global warming. However, he suggested that if it is an issue, a possible solution could be clear-cutting rain forests, and possibly replanting. This was strongly criticized by scientists, including Oliver Phillips, a geography professor at the University of Leeds. They noted the consensus that intact forests act as net absorbers of carbon, reducing global warming.

[Some links deleted]

Rohrabacher’s response to this criticism was previously posted on-line, but that link is now defunct. The quote captured on Wikipedia reads:

Once again those with a global agenda have created a straw man by misrepresenting the position of their critics. I do not believe that CO2 is a cause of global warming, nor have I ever advocated the reduction of CO2 through the clearing of rain forests or cutting down older trees to prevent global warming. But that is how my question to a witness during my subcommittee hearing on May 25th is being reported. I simply asked the witness, Dr. Todd Stern, who is a supporter of a global climate treaty that would dramatically hurt the standard of living for millions of human beings, if he was considering a policy that would address naturally emitted carbon dioxide, which makes up over 90% of emissions. To suggest that I’m advocating such a radical approach instead of simply questioning the policy is a total misrepresentation of my position.

It’s difficult to review the life and works of Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of California without the word “nutter” coming to mind. For example:

Since the start of 2013, North America has seen a string of disasters involving oil-laden trains. But at least one federal lawmaker thinks government efforts to address the issue are “a facade” to cut Americans’ fossil fuel use.

The Transportation Department has begun implementing new rules to slow down trains and improve safety methodology in response to the incidents. So on Tuesday, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) suggested at a House Science Committee hearing that the new rules are “perhaps a facade to obtain what we clearly have as a goal of this administration, which is to reduce America’s use of fossil fuel, even though it is now being presented to us as something about safety.”

Taking into context such as this and his high-profile foreign policy gaffs, the bulk of thinking people need to review his thoughts and comments on global warming with a host of caution.

Rohrabacher has dismissed global warming as a “total fraud” in previous statements, and claimed federal efforts to tackle the problem are aimed at creating “global government to control all of our lives.”

In the foregoing it is beneficial to follow the two links. Here’s the pertinent part of the first:

“Just so you’ll know, global warming is a total fraud and it’s being designed because what you’ve got is you’ve got liberals who get elected at the local level want state government to do the work and let them make the decisions. Then, at the state level, they want the federal government to do it. And at the federal government, they want to create global government to control all of our lives.” [Huffington Post, 8/12/13]

The second only says the same as the first.

The item from the Daily Kos features two additional video clips, starring our own Steve Stockman of the Texas 36th District, and Congressman Larry Bucshon, representing Indiana’s District 8. I’m on the verge of getting overly wordy, so I will leave it to readers to watch the videos and do some healthy homework on these other two congress people.

And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

Review: Hotel San Michele

Barbara Jean booked this reservation for us. She told me it was about the best we could do, given our budget and schedule constraints. It turned out to be an ideal choice.

Barbara booked on-line and paid in advance for four nights at the Hotel San Michele in Cortona. Then at the train station in Rome we phoned ahead to advise the hotel we would be arriving late. The receptionist was most helpful and told us not to worry. They would be available to greet us when we arrived.

Arrival was painless. The taxi driver at the Camucia train station knew the hotel very well, as it turned out to be one of the tops in Cortona.

Considering the building to supposedly be the oldest in Cortona, Cortona supposedly being one of the oldest cities in Italy, we found the essentials to be comfortably modern. The non-essentials were more fitting with the town’s historic past. An armoire and a dresser appeared to be true antiques, though in top condition. Additionally there was a work desk of similar antiquity. We brought along several devices requiring electrical power and immediately noticed all outlets in our room require the fat-prong European style plugs, for which we had adapters. Unfortunately the only outlet in our room not working was the one at the computer desk, meaning we could charge the computer battery, or we could work on the computer at the desk, but not at the same time.

I should not complain about the bed. I am accustomed to a firm mattress, for long periods having slept with nothing but a short-pile carpet on the floor beneath me. Barbara found the mattress too firm, enough to be disagreeable. It definitely did not sag.

My only complaint about the hotel would be the Internet service. It’s free at the hotel, but the signal in our room was practically non-existent. To get decent reception it was necessary to retire to the ground floor lounge area, and even this was out for a time, as the manager seemed to be having trouble with the network equipment.

Breakfast is included in a stay at Hotel San Michele, and it is first rate. Better still, it’s on the first floor (one floor above street level) and in our case was right around the corner from our room.

What’s outstanding? The location of this place and the most friendly and helpful staff. The address at 15 Via Guelfa is just a block from the town center, albeit a very steep block.

IMG_4922

The night receptionist at the front desk scheduled a cab for our Sunday morning ride to the train station. Additionally the receptionist operating the morning shift on Sunday had the sad task of informing us the trains were not running that day due to a temporary workers strike. All turned out for the best, given the situation. The same cab that was scheduled to take us to the train station was agreeable, for a nice fare, to taking us to our next destination in Siena.

Final analysis: Yes, we would stay at the Hotel San Michele again if we ever get back to Cortona. Give it a thumbs up.