Friday, March 30, 2007

South Africa shafts poor Africans again.

Once again South African President Thabo Mbeki has shown his scorn for democratic rule and his support for tyranny. And he was joined in this hatred for freedom by the governments of Southern Africa, who have decided to again endorse the tyranny of Robert Mugabe.

The 14 countries of the Southern African Development Community expressed their support for Mugabe. And they appointed the biggest supporter of Mugabe, Mr. Mbeki, to “negotiate” a settlement of the “conflict” in Zimbabwe. The conflict is, in reality, Mugabe using Stalinist tactics to harass, intimidate, beat, and murder anyone who opposes his tyranny.

The New York Times recently expressed confusion and discomfort over South Africa’s consistent refusal to support freedom. If they had done their research they would discover there is a reason for this. First consider that contrary to popular assumption South Africa is ruled, not by the African National Congress, but by the Tri-Party alliance of which the ANC is just one member.

The three main participants that form the ruling class of South Africa are the ANC plus the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions. Now consider what this means? First not only does the Communist Party automatically get a third of the ruling alliance seats in Parliament (without running a single candidate) but they also dominate COSATU. So a large number of COSATU appointees are also members of the Communist Party.

On top of that many of the ANC officials are themselves either active members of the Communist Party or supporters of the ideology. Mr. Mbeki was himself a long time member of the Communist Party. But that was expected. His father, Govan Mbeki, was one of the top Communists in Africa.

Now consider that Mugabe is also an advocate of a “socialist one party state”. The very idea that Mbeki would ever oppose Mugabe is absurd. Only the most extreme pressure on South Africa will cause Mbeki to support a free election in Zimbabwe.

His government has intentionally manipulated election law in South Africa in order to disenfranchise opposition voters. That the ANC has yet to resort to the open intimidation tactics of Mugabe is not due to a commitment to democratic values but due to the lack of necessity. Their other tactics have basically created a de facto one party state with the liberal Democratic Alliance sitting at about 20% support in the polls.

Mugabe has only resorted to open violence when he thought it necessary to protect his control. In the past he mouthed the slogans he knew the world wanted to hear -- all the better to fleece Western countries of foreign aid which is the lifeblood of every African dictatorship. Mbeki’s regime is not much different. They know that open intimidation would cut off the aid and they love the aid. They use it to line their pockets and buy power. Foreign aid turns poor dictators into rich ones and needy tyrants into secure ones. What it doesn’t do is encourage economic development or uplift the poor. Foreign aid makes Western activists “feel good” and makes African dictators feel “really good.” It doesn’t help the poor.

South Africa will go the way of Zimbabwe if, and when, it is necessary to do so. If the ANC feels that its hold on the country is endangered it will become as ruthless as Mugabe. That is why it will not condemn Mugabe. He is their soul mate.

The vampire states of Africa have sucked the blood of their impoverished people. And they continue to do so on a daily basis. That the SADC has endorsed Mugabe’s regime is no surprise. Like Mugabe they are destroying prosperity in their own nations, confiscating foreign aid for their ruling elites, and lining their own pockets. The time has long passed to end foreign aid. It only solidifies the power of the vampire states that are harming their own people. Foreign aid is the most vicious, uncaring thing that is being done to Africa. it is far worse than the trade restrictions (which also need to go).

Photo: Two old communists waltzing on the graves of poor Africans. Mbeki on the Far left and Mugabe on the left.

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Could Bush be good for liberty? (Gag, gag)

Events can change minds about long held beliefs. This is especially true if those beliefs are out of sync with reality.

There were times in the past when I wanted to fry Congressman Bob Barr in hot oil. Other times I thought he was right. But what I find interesting is that Barr has become much better on the issues after he got out office.

Out of office Barr is starting to figure out something important. Something I wish he had realized in office. But it took those two horrific disasters, 9/11 and George Bush, to get him to reconsider his views. Barr started working with the American Civil Liberties Union because of his concerns about the abolition of Constitutional rights under the Bush regime. Then he went and joined the Libertarian Party. I wasn’t sure they should have welcomed as a member or not. I’m still wavering on that one.

Now he’s moved one step closer to sanity and decency. He’s admitted he was quite wrong on something he did. Some time ago the people of Washington, D.C. approved a medicinal marijuana law. Barr introduced a law in Congress to block the District from doing that. Not only does Barr say he was wrong. He’s helping the Marijuana Policy Project lobby against the very law he pushed through. Barr explains his his change of heart:

I, over the years, have taken a very strong stand on drug issues, but in light of the tremendous growth of government power since 9/11, it has forced me and other conservatives to go back and take a renewed look at how big and powerful we want the government to be in people’s lives.

This reminded me of another piece I read in The Hoya, the campus newspaper for Georgetown University. There Professor Carol Lancaster wrote an article entitled “Somebody Help Me, I Think I’m Becoming a Libertarian.” She says she started out life as a “content, optimistic liberal” -- she doesn’t mean classical liberal but modern left-liberal who “thought governments could and should help solve” the problems of the world. (I wonder if this is a coincidence? We have a regular reader at Georgetown University who is often on the site. I don't know the identity just the location. Hey, Carol is that you?)

She, however, learned that “governments are inefficient, bumbling, heavy-handed and sometimes corrupt.” Carol, you forgot dangerous and deadly as well. She says government usually goes wrong “as a result of incompetence or bad luck”. Now while I sympathize with her sentiments I think she is wrong on that bit. Government goes wrong because the feed-back loops in government are wrong. Put “good guys” in charge and the same thing happens. It is not the people in the department but the system itself that is problematic. Changing personnel doesn’t change counterproductive feed back loops that encourage the wrong actions.

Lancaster, like Barr, says: “Events of the past five years in Washington have frightened me still further to the right — even into seeing libertarians in a new and more favorable light. What libertarians value most is individual freedom from tyranny, oppression, confiscation of one’s property and government interference in what should be private choices.” She is right in her description but I suggest wrong to think that is moving to the Right.

She finds recent authoritarian actions taken by the Bush government to be very unsettling. Prof. Lancaster says she’s still “enough of a liberal to believe in the good that government can do. But we’ve got to keep an eye on them, too. Thanks to terrorism, I’m also becoming a libertarian.”

I sympathize greatly with what she wrote. There are many “good” things I wish were possible. I just don’t see government as being the best way of achieving them. Long-term it destroys a lot of the good things we want accomplished. In my personal sentiments I am very much with the Left on issues like poverty, hunger, disease, minority rights, etc. I would like to think that government could pass a law and problems would be solved. But that just doesn’t happen.

One of the wisest things I learned, when living in South Africa, is that the best kind of government is one you would be happy living under even if your worst enemy won the election. There is a lot of wisdom packed into that idea.

I am a staunch supporter of sex education. But look what happened to the sex education programs that liberals created in the 1960s and 1970s. They are now abstinence programs pushing fundamentalist morality and misinforming kids about condoms and birth control. Just because you set up a program doesn’t mean you will run it. Good intentions don’t mean the “bad guys” won’t take over. And when they do you are the one who gave the power to do all the bad things they will be doing.

That Bob Barr and Carol Lancaster are both moving toward a classical liberal/libertarian perspective from opposite sides of the political spectrum is encouraging. I can only pray this is part of a trend and not an anomaly

This does remind me of an interesting 1952 novel by the slightly deranged Taylor Caldwell entitled The Devil’s Advocate. It dealt with a totalitarian America under the heel of an evil regime. An underground movement has arisen to overthrow the government. Eventually you discover that the head of the underground movement is the president himself. He saw what the government was doing as evil and realized the only way to stop it was to create a counter-movement against the state. But the only thing that inspired people to oppose the accumulation of power was the government doing more bad things. In order to create a pro-freedom movement he intentionally continued pushing bad laws.

A strange book in several ways but interesting. But it did remind me that state oppression does create a movement against the state. Each new repression creates a backlash. The problem in the United States is that it created a backlash against only one party -- as is happening with the Republicans now -- but without necessarily attacking state power. Hopeful that will change. And if we see figures on the Right, like Barr, and on the Left, like Lancaster, continuing to move in a libertarian direction there may still be hope for America yet. But I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you. But it is nice to dream.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Can the Republican Party survive Bush?

In 18 months the Republican Party seems headed for one of the most disastrous meltdowns in their history. Once trotted out as the party of a “permanent majority” it now appears headed for long-term minority status. And the question is: Can the Republicans do anything to minimize this disaster?

The answer quite simply is yes. Will they do it? Probably not. Let us first consider the gravity of the situation.

In the last election the party lost control of the Senate and the House of Representatives and lost several state houses as well. The former will haunt them for decades due to the practice of gerrymandering Congressional districts by the ruling party. If you only consider the long-term consequences then losing local state races is far more destructive to a party than losing Congressional races. You can lose a Congressman in one election and gain him back in the next. But if the districts are redrawn in a way making that impossible then you’ve lost that seat for at least a decade.

Next follow the money. Big money is deserting the Republicans. One reason is that big money follows popular will a lot of the time. Contrary to the conspiracy theories of the Left-lunatics big business will fund the winners no matter who the winners may be. What they want is favors and the losing party can’t dole out favors. Long before the results of the last election were in the bag corporate donors were quietly abandoning the Republicans and giving money to the Democrats. They already knew the writing was on the wall.

What can you expect between now and the election is an increase in the amount of money being channeled to the Democrats. Every special interest group and their brother will be buying a place at the table. And the Democrats love to dole out favors at the expense of working people. Expect the Democrats to be awash of funding come the next election.

And since big money follows the voters this indicates that the voters are far away from the Republican Party. And that is what the polls show. Half of all Americans claim to be Democrats now or are leaning that way. Just over one-third say the same for the Theopublicans. The rest consider themselves independent and the majority of them are leaning Democrat as well.

And the long term trends are worse. At one time the Republican Party was the party of the youth of America. And it was the old man Reagan who helped make that happen. His vision appealed to lots of people. It still does. But now the young are firmly in the Democrat camp. That bodes badly for the long-term prospects of the Republicans.

There are several reasons the Republicans are headed for the precipice. They are Bush, Iraq, Bush, fundamentalism and Bush.

Let’s start with Iraq. Bush lied. Everyone but the most extreme Know-Nothings in the GOP realize that. George Bush is dishonest to the core. He lied about the reasons for the war, he lied about the prospects for the war. And for good measure he’s lied about his lies. The American people want out. Bush doesn’t give a damn. Not only is he dishonest, and clearly moronic, but stupidly stubborn. He is so stupid he thinks that sticking to the wrong decision is called “principles”.

So the Republicans needs to stand up on the Iraq issue and not stand up for Bush. More Republican Senators and Congressmen need to get some backbone and publicly state the war was a mistake. If they want they can claim they were deceived by Bush. But they need to dump this war. The overwhelming majority of Americans want out of Iraq. The Democrats are playing the weak sister in opposition to the war. If some major Republicans jump ship now they can steal away some of the support the Democrats are receiving.

Next we need to look at the long-term virus that has been destroying the Republican Party -- the so-called Christian Right. Fundamentalism is a cancer that eats away at the social fabric. It is dangerous in Islam, deadly in fact, and it is dangerous in Christianity. Fundamentalists are extremists. They are inspired by hatred, endowed with an authoritarian mentality, and intolerant of fundamental freedoms.

The Christian Right is arrogant and power hungry. The more power they get the more intrusive and demanding they become. They are the Frankenstein monster of the Republican Party and now the villagers, with their torches, want to teach the good doctor a lesson for unleashing his monster on them.

Let us be clear about something. There are a lot of these people. The dumbing down of America has made a lot of people ripe for this sort of authoritarian movement. But I believe they reached their apex a couple of years ago and are in decline. Their glory days are in the past.

I know these people well and I can assure that they were always far worse than they portrayed themselves publicly. What they are really like is far more extreme than the way they present themselves in public. They are intentionally deceptive about their goals. This is why every time they seemed to get something they wanted they got more shrill and nasty. They threw hissy fits and threatened the Republicans. But with what?

They said they would withhold their votes. In reality most of them would still vote. Second, did anyone seriously think they would support “liberals” at the polls? The Republican Party didn’t want to upset them but in the end the tail wagged the dog.

Now is the time to purge the Republican Party of these fanatics. I mean kick them out. Barry Goldwater certainly would applaud that move. In the hopes of keeping these extremists happy the Republican Party sacrificed the support of the vast majority of voters.

Fundamentalism is a radical fringe and they scare away sane voters. The more control they got the more unhappy the typical Republican voter became. But like a crack junky the GOP got more dependent. As mainstream voters started leaving scum like Karl Rove were arguing that they needed to placate the Theopublicans even more. So they took another shot of religious intolerance and got even more crazed. More mainstream voters left the party got more desperate for the “base” to support them.

That fundamentalistic sheet-wearing theocrats were even called the “base” indicates how badly the Republicans were doing. I truly believe fundamentalism is now a losing proposition. It will take another 10 to 20 years before is obviously apparent. But they are in decline. Just consider the fact that a few years of Bush, with the Theopublicans pulling the strings, saw the number of young people who say they are atheists double. When the Imperial President had his coronation only 10% of young people said they were atheists. He so discredited religion that now 20% say they are atheists.

I suggest we are heading a post-religious America. Before the rule of the Theopublicans it would be unheard of to have books extolling atheism and secularism as best sellers in America. Most Americans had some form of religion and most were willing to live and let live. But when they saw the ugly, inhumane face of fundamentalism they got nervous and uneasy. And one result is that a lot more people started reconsidering their take on religion.

And that is a very dangerous thing for religion. Here is why? When a political candidate has 80% approval from the voters he does NOT want to debate his opponent who is languishing at 20%. The reason is simple: he has nothing to gain by the debate. He can only lose ground to his opponent since opponent has nothing to lose. The opponent, however, will scream and cry demanding a debate.

In America religion was the candidate that enjoyed the massive lead at the polls. Fundamentalism, and their puppet in the White House, pushed religion into a debate where all it could do was lose ground. George Bush and the Christian Right have done more for atheism than all the rationalist tracts, tomes and lectures could ever have done. In essence the Fundamentalists have discredited God, Church and the Bible.

Numerous analysts have already seen the Republican dilemma. Placating the fundamentalists has alienated moderates in other Republican stronghold, like the West. And the fundamentalist are never satisfied always demanding more extreme measures. This vicious cycle is what is killing the Republican Party so they need to stand up to the fundamentalists and tell them no.

The real short term dilemma is George Bush. This man has betrayed what the Republican Party stood for. He has latched onto every authoritarian idea that has come down the road. He’s broken the budget, trampled the Bill of Rights, expanded the size and powers of government, and centralized power especially in the presidency. The “small government” idea was murdered in exchange for power. George Bush is the Anti-Reagan, the antithesis of that wing of the Republican Party.

Considering that he is uniquely responsible for destroying the Republican majority Republicans need to change their view of Bush. He should not be seen as the party leader but as the greatest opponent the Republican Party has ever faced. He has done damage to the GOP that Hillary could never imagine doing. The Republicans need to abandon Bush.

A revived Republican Party needs a revived agenda. It needs to reach out to the mainstream and it needs to reaffirm the Reagan wing of the Party.

What are some positions the new GOP ought to take.

1. Admit Iraq was a mistake. Get over it. You know it was a mistake and so does everyone else. Just confess it was a mistake and join the effort to pull out.

2. Call for the repeal of measures that centralized power. Bush bamboozled you over the Patriot Act. Repeal it. Repeal the No Child Left Behind Act. In fact let the Democrats vote to keep these measures if they want. It will tie them to Bush’s agenda not you.

3. America is not a theocracy. Stop with the symbolic rubbish like prayer in schools. Stick with school choice. If parents want to send their kids to Christian schools let them but don’t try to turn public schools into Christian schools. Tell Americans that the state is NOT our Mother, our Father or our Church. Morality is primarily for families and the church not for government. The job of government is to protect liberty not foster morality. End the culture war. You’ll be heroes.

4. Stop bashing gays. They aren’t the great Satan. You don’t have to join the marriage campaign but don’t make it a major issue in order to scare fundamentalists to the polls. It does scare them to the polls while chasing away other decent voters from the GOP. You don’t need to embrace these issues but you can stop making these molehills into mountains.

5. Call for tax simplification. Fairer, flatter taxes make sense. They have a good record of working better than the progressive system. End the Income Tax as it exists.

6. Give up the Pork. You betrayed your fiscal principles hoping to buy votes. You buy votes badly. Start repealing spending measures and balance the damn budget. Stop making excuses. Bush was bad on the budget, admit it. Embrace your inner-Reagan. Vote no on the pork.

7. Begin floating Old Right ideas about foreign policy. Disentanglement is not a bad idea. Cut back on foreign military spending. Tell nations they have to solve their own problems. Read up on Robert Taft not Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.

8. Emphasize the need for good government and explain that good government is that which stays within Constitutional boundaries. It is neither intrusive nor expensive.

9. Rediscover states rights. Make it known that the federal government should not override states when it comes to issues like medical marijuana or gay marriage.

These are measures which move the GOP back toward policies which they used to hold and away from the theocratic policies which have destroyed the party. If the Republicans do this they have a chance of regaining ground again. If they stay on the path they are on today they will be a permanent minority party with dwindling support.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Religion, evolution and sexuality.

Yesterday I argued that “Godless immorality” regarding sexuality has been the dominant paradigm in human history and that the brief reign of the Puritanical was an aberration. I think history supports that. The more controversial statement, I suspect, was when I said that the “Christian paradigm of sexuality is one that is at war with reality. It is contrary to the evolution of the human species and human sexuality itself.” That is important.

It is important because the hardwiring of sexuality is something that evolved. If you don’t accept the fact of evolution you can’t rationally deal with human sexuality. If you don’t believe in the facts of reality you can’t cope with them well. The net result is that fundamentalists, in particular, spend an inordinate amount of time hoping to change reality. They attribute everything to sin, weakness, Satan, demons and liberals (who in their mind are something akin to demons). What they can’t accept is that this is just how human beings are hardwired. It’s built into the species.

Knowing that makes it much easier to deal with. What the fundamentalist resorts to is attempting to terrify people about sex. God will punish you, you will get pregnant, you will contract an STD, you will die of AIDS, and oh, yes, God will punish you again. The US federal government now wastes massive amounts of cash in abstinence programs in state indoctrination centers (they call them schools) where they attempt to scare teens about sex.

Here is the bad news for them. Teens are terrified about sex. They always have been and always will be. Sex is something new, overpowering, frightening, compelling, shocking, painful, pleasurable. It’s damn scary. It’s scary for adults and even more so for teens. If fear were the only factor the world would be populated with billions of 40 year old virgins.

But sex is more complicated than that. Sexuality is hardwired into the species. Teens and adults may be terrified by sex but they have an incredible drive to engage in it. It certainly is hormonal but it is more than that. it is tied to every aspect of being human. It is not just physical it is also psychological. So it connects our physical body with our mental faculties. Yet sexuality evolved in humans long before the rational mind evolved. I would think that alone should clue us in. If sexuality evolved before the rational mind don’t expect sexual expression to always be rational.

There is a huge amount about sexuality we don’t understand. We certainly understand the physical nature of it. Millions of years of practice made that inevitable. What we don’t understand well are the more complex aspects. We don’t know what it is that causes individuals to see themselves as men or as women thus leading to some individuals who are transgendered. We don’t know why some individuals are attracted to only the opposite sex, some to only the same sex and some to both. In reality we are still only scratching the surface when it comes to understanding sex.

But we know sexuality is something that dominates large aspects of human existence. We see it in art so frequently because we see it in life so frequently. And in the church they keep learning that capping the volcano doesn’t stop the eruption. The regular and constant flow of sexual scandals within the church gives proof to that. But they can’t deal with the reality of sexuality if they can’t deal with the reality of human evolution. It is through the hows and whys of evolution that one begins to comprehend the complexity and inevitability of sexuality.

The Bush administration prefers to push abstinence. That is what their Evangelical base wants. Does it work? Well, if you look at the states with the highest percentage of fundamentalists in the population you find the highest teen pregnancy rates. Of the ten states with the highest teen pregnancy rate eight of them are in the Bible Belt: Mississippi, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, Arkansas, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee and Louisiana. Compare that to the “liberal” states. Where Texas has a teen pregnancy rate of 101 Massachusetts is almost half that: 60. North Carolina is 95 while Vermont is 44.

Fundamentalists have invented one program after another to mold human sexuality into what they believe to be the right kind of sexuality. None have worked but they do give them the false comfort that it “might” work. The latest venture they are trying has a very surreal quality to it.

They are called “Purity Balls”. Prepubescent girls dress up as if going to the prom. But instead of a prom they go to a dance with their fathers who are dressed up in tuxedos. It’s like a prom except the date is Daddy. Then the father and daughter exchange vows where the father promises to protect his daughter’s virginity and the girl promises not to have sex until she is married. Then Daddy slips a “purity ring” on the daughter’s finger as if they are going steady. One father told the press: “The ball is the culmination of the relationship we have with God and with each other.” Apparently no such “Purity Ball” is done with boys and their mothers. And the hope is to integrate these “Purity Balls” with other abstinence programs which receive over $200 million in federal funding.

The reality is that teens who pledge abstinence do delay sex slightly but not significantly. And they don’t tend to wait until marriage though they do wait a little longer. That’s the up side. The down side is that abstinence programs use fear as their motivation and so they don’t want to talk about condoms and birth control. Fundamentalists don’t like anything which removes the danger from sexuality. They want sex to be deadly or harmful in order to keep teens scared. So while this may delay sexual intercoursem when it does take place, and it usually does before marriage, it does so without the use of birth control or protection against STDs. The abstaining teens thus still end up having sex just riskier sex.

It strikes me that getting a 10-year-old to pledge abstinence is not particularly difficult. But how sincere can such a pledge be if the child is not flushed with hormones compelling them toward the very thing they are shunning? But is this for the child? Or is this for the parent to give them a false comfort that their child will remain virginal? And what will happen when the hormones do hit? Will these kids be honest and upfront with their parents? Or will they hide their sexuality as much as they can?

The fundamentalists I knew actually hid their sexuality. They still had affairs, cheated, had sex before marriage, masturbated, etc. They just lied about it until they were caught, begged for forgiveness and confessed they were evil and then hoped they could avoid “the traps of the devil” in the future. And certainly many conservative Christian parents have confessed that when it comes to the sex lives of their adolescents they don’t want to know what is happening. They prefer to live with an illusion than face the facts.

One Christian web site admits that fundamentalist teens “are engaging in other sexual activities, including oral sex, at high rates.” They say that the rates of actual intercourse are lower but that Christian teens admit to high levels of sexual activity. I suspect, given the pressure put on them, that with Christian teens there is a tendency to lie and cover up activity that may exist. There is no incentive to admit sexual activity that doesn’t exist, at least not to adults. So these numbers are probably the bare minimum. But they found 29% of Christian high school males had oral sex and 26% of females. Seventy percent have fondled the breasts and genitals of a partner and half have been nude with someone in a sexual situation. They were even shocked to discover that 89% of the males masturbated and 71% of the females did. And this was only high schoola ged students not older teens in university.

Studies of Christian teens who take abstinence pledges show that half of them abandon the pledge within a couple of years. And the couple of years wait is no surprise given the age of the kids who are pledging. One longitudinal study has asked teens about abstinence pledges and the data is not what the advocates of the pledges would like. Again remember these teens have an incentive to lie, especially if they are under pressure to cap their sexuality. This survey found that 52% of the teens taking the pledge “recanted them within a year”. And since they come back and survey the teens over a period of seven years they also find how teens change their stories. By the end of the survey almost three quarters of the teens, who had previously said they took a virginity pledge, were now denying they ever took the pledge. And one out of three teens who had been sexually active when younger later claimed they were virgins.

Follow up surveys showed that 88% of teens who take an abstinence pledge have premarital sex. That is not much different than the population in general. In fact abstinence programs have failed so badly that some Christian ministries have started new programs to encourage “born-again virginity”. This is a pledge for teens who violated the previous pledge but who now say that they are going to stick to for real. One abstinence program says starting over is one “reason many students attend our program.”

The fact is that Christians don’t know how to deal with sexuality and are doing a poor job of it. Consider that the Right-wing Promise Keepers surveyed men who attended their religious cheer rallies. They found that half the men “in attendance were involved with pornography within one week of attending the event.” One week! What would the percentage be a year later? It is also claimed that 37% of fundamentalist ministers say they “struggle” with pornography and over half admitted to viewing it in the past year. And one out six women having an abortion describes herself as a born again Christian.

One evangelical minister admitted in Christianity Today “the statistics on premarital sex among evangelicals hardly distinguish us from all the other people on the face of the earth” and he says he got in trouble with his congregation when he said if Christians want to “uphold the ‘sanctity of marriage’” they should stay out of the courts and concentrate on their own homes. “I cited statistics on divorce rates among evangelical Christians that put us pretty much in a dead heat with society at large. I talked about the high incidence of spousal abuse within conservative churches. I spoke about the widespread estrangement that prevails among many church-going couples.” He says he was told to “stop meddling” and start “condemning what’s happening out there.”

Those of us who have practical experience in fundamentalist circles know that deception is ripe. It is a necessary strategy for survival. Very, very few fundamentalists actually manage to follow their own sexual moral codes, especially when young. (Abstinence gets easier the older you get as the number of willing partners decreases.) And it goes back to what one conservative Christian I know of said: “I don’t want to know what my kids do.”

It is not the substance that is important to them but the illusion. They want gays to go back in the closet more than anything else. If they do they can pretend they don’t exist. They want to return to the fake world they invented where a pregnant teen wasn’t really pregnant she just went away for the summer to visit a sick aunt. Affairs went on but no one talked about it or, at most, only whispered about it behind the backs of those involved. Volcanoes were erupting all over the place but you could pretend that it wasn't happening.

How can a fundamentalist grapple with the issues of human sexuality when sexuality is intimately connected to biology, and when biology is intrinsically involved with evolution, but the fundamentalist is theologically committed to denying evolution? You need to understand the hows and whys of the evolution of human sexuality in order to even begin understanding these issues. But if you deny the reality of evolution then you can’t. That is why I argue that the theological position is one that is fundamentally at war with reality.

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Sex, reality and the state.

Below is an interesting press release from the University of Leeds. A new Ph.D. thesis by Jenny Skipp “examined, catalogued and categorised every known erotic text in eighteenth-century Britain.” Ms. Skipp was rather surprised to discover how vast a quantity of pornography was circulating in England at that time.

Not only was there a huge amount of it but it was far more widely available and consumed than previously known. As the University press release notes, “much of this work was cheap and widely available.” It was not restricted to just the upper classes as was widely assumed in the past (an assumption I myself have held erroneously before as well).

I find this interesting because the more fields I study the more I am convinced that the the bulk of Westerners (Americans in particular but not exclusively) have been rather wrong about many assumptions regarding sexuality. It is a myth of a gigantic proportions to assume that past Western generations were generally chaste and somewhat puritanical. That has never been the case. Even in Puritanical Massachusetts, under the Pilgrim, there was widespread debauchery. Enough to make the local bishop blush especially when he wasn’t directly involved.

Fundamentalist Christians, who in reality are very guilt ridden about sex and very anti-sexual (despite protestations to the contrary), have claimed that their view of sexuality was the dominant one and that in the 1960s evil “liberals” came along with the “sexual revolution” and introduced “Godless immorality” to the West. Having grown up with those people, and attending their schools, one thing I quickly realized is that if you were to assume the opposite of everything they say you have a very high chance of being right. They bamboozle themselves and others.

That their views of sexuality gained political power in the mid to late 1800s is not doubted. And at that point they used state power in an attempt to mould humanity as they believed to be moral. For them morality seemed to be almost exclusively centered on one’s genitals. And with the use of state power they tried, unsuccessfully, to constrain human sexuality into expressions they found acceptable --- which wasn’t a lot actually. As they are known to put it: one man for one woman for life. And within that relationship they limited, again by law, the expression of sex only to vaginal intercourse with the possibility of pregnancy.

The sexual revolution that began in the1960s was hardly a revolution. It was more like an evolution toward the sexual morality that dominated mankind as far back as recorded history. The methods and forms of sexual expression and freedom may have changed with technology but the general way people act is hardly much different today than it has been in the past. There have been some changes that are good. I think most people today are aware of the necessity of treating women like individuals with all the rights of a man. That would be a major change from the past.

But nothing that upsets the fundamentalist today is new. Sure you can get porn on the internet. But every new communication technology brought about new forms of porn. But it has always been there. I suspect if the camera were invented on Monday that by Tuesday the first pornographic photos had been created. Before photography they had etchings, paintings and drawings. Pompeii has some rather graphic murals on the walls from thousands of years ago. There are Greek vases that would cause a Baptist to fall to their knees in horror (or lust, depending on the Baptist.)

Sexuality is so much a part of our hard wiring that we really ought to be careful about legislating it. There are, no doubt, legitimate areas for state involvement. And there are areas where social groups ought to work to help people get control of their lives. But what ought to be legislated is far smaller than what is legislated. Sexuality which involves individuals who are unwilling, or unable to consent, is a proper issue for legislation. But the sexual/romantic lives of consenting adults is no business of the state.

That is not to say that I approve of every expression of sexuality that humans have been able to invent. I don’t. Such actions may be amenable to private social pressure, or charitable assistance for people needing it. It is one thing to say that the state should not be involved and quite another to imply that means you approve of it.

But the Christian paradigm of sexuality is one that is at war with reality. It is contrary to the evolution of the human species and human sexuality itself. It is not historically valid. It has never fit the facts. In many ways it is destructive. At the same time that does not mean it is wrong in every detail, only in its general theory. Nor is it necessarily wrong regarding the benefits to certain sexual values. There are many “Christian” moral values which I would hope that individuals would voluntarily adopt. But they must be voluntarily adopted and not imposed by the state.

Here is what the University of Leeds press release has to say about erotica in the England of the 1700s.

Sex and the 1700s
Prostitutes, perversions and public scandals – the stuff of the 21st century tabloids was familiar to readers three centuries earlier, according to new research from the University of Leeds.

And just as gaggles of modern day adolescents might pass round their copy of the latest lads’ mag, the reading of erotic literature was already a social activity 300 years ago.

Jenny Skipp’s three-year PhD study examined, catalogued and categorised every known erotic text published in eighteenth-century Britain: "I tried to get a grip on just how many were published, detail the various types of sexual behaviour portrayed and find out who was doing what – and to whom.” It proved a surprisingly rich field: "Most people have heard of Fanny Hill, but there was a huge amount of erotic literature published in the 18th century."

And despite earlier work suggesting that these texts were only for solitary consumption – at home, alone, and behind closed doors – Skipp’s work throws up a surprising image of how these works were used. "They would be read in public – everywhere from London's rough-and-ready alehouses to the city’s thriving coffee houses, which weren't quite the focus of polite society in the way we sometimes think,” she explained. “Some texts even came as questions and answers and were clearly intended for groups of men to read together, with one asking the questions and the others answering them.”

Much of the work is derogatory in its references to women. They are subordinates, courtesans, prostitutes, carriers of venereal disease and bearers of deformed children. "When men write this way, or read these texts, it gives them a context for asserting their authority over women," Skipp added. Yet some texts portray women altogether differently, discussing the nature of female sexuality or describing lascivious aristocratic females.

One group predominant in this literature is the Libertines – whose all-in hedonistic, smoking, drinking, swearing, pleasure-seeking lifestyle was typified by their subjugation of women. Literature aimed at this group, encouraging men to assert their dominance, translated the repressive attitudes of Libertinism further down the class structure.

And Skipp's analysis of the pricing of these works revises earlier studies to show that rather than being solely targeted at the gentry, much of this work was cheap and widely available. Though many from the poorer sections of society are considered illiterate because they were unable to sign their name, they may still have been able to read: "Many more people could read than write," she said. "In London, for example, we believe about 70 per cent of men could read."

The works range from books, down to single-sheet pamphlets. "The price and content of this material suggests it was available to merchants, traders, skilled and semi-skilled men and even labourers," Skipp went on. Its accessibility allowed sexual attitudes to percolate down the social strata.

Dr Simon Burrows of the University’s school of history, one of Skipp’s PhD supervisors, described the study as “pioneering work.” He said: “Jenny has shown that erotic texts are about much more than sexual fantasy. They can give us genuine new insights into cultural attitudes, sexual norms and social customs.”

And Skipp describes a literary quality to the writing which you might struggle to find in modern erotic fiction or top-shelf pornography. "It is very different to today's erotica," she said. "It is more humorous, more literary and more engaged with the wider issues of the life and politics of the times." Its metaphors mirror the passions of the age: "At a time when military power was equated with virility, armed conquest is often used as a metaphor for sex – in phrases such as 'unsheathing the weapon', 'storming the fort' and 'releasing the cannon'."
By the 1770s, the transcripts of adultery trials became a new source of titillation. To secure a divorce, a man would first have to successfully sue a rival for 'violating his property', before petitioning Parliament to dissolve the marriage. "There is something rather voyeuristic about these trials," said Skipp. "Often servants would give evidence while innkeepers would testify about lovers taking rooms together."

“The appetite for this kind of material shows readers were interested in gossip about their social betters and fascinated by the sordid details of marital breakdown – just like modern-day readers scanning the tabloids for a juicy scandal.

”The production of erotica was frequently stimulated by intrigues in the lives of well-known public figures – the aristocracy, politicians, writers, playwrights and actresses and occasionally the monarchy. The wives and mistresses were both celebrated and derided in erotic texts – they were the WAGS of their day.”

As Skipp said: “Eighteenth century readers were just as fascinated with public figures as we are today – especially when they had skeletons in their closet!”

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How rich is this?

So we have Monica Goodling, an aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales refusing to testify before Congress by invoking her Fifth Amendment rights. Interesting. A Fifth Amendment right is the right to not testify against oneself. But was Goodling accused of committing a criminal act? Or is she just covering up for her superior, Gonzales and the Torturer-in-Chief who besmirches the Oval Office by his presence?

What really caused me to gag was when Gonzales bullshitted with rhetoric like this: “At the end of the day, it’s not about Alberto Gonzales. It’s about this great Department of Justice that does so many wonderful things for the American people.” What an excretion that line is. Here is a department that has betrayed the deepest held American values and this man expects people to believe that they have done “so many wonderful things for the American people.”Alberto is the modern day Torquemada. He apparently forgot Padilla is one of the American people. With the justification of Gonzales, Padilla was arrested and held without charges being filed, without access to legal council, and tortured.

We have the disgusting display of an American citizen who has been mentally destroyed by the tyrants who occupy the White House and the Justice Department. Yea, Alberto, that is one of the wonderful things you have accomplished.

Now I have my doubt that Ms. Goodling is guilty of a crime. But what I find interesting is that this employee of Gonzales is invoking Constitutional rights (wrongly in this case I think) to protect her boss. This is a right which the torturers deny others. So maybe Congress ought to take Ms. Goodling and hood her (like her boss has done to the people he has tortured). They can deny her attorney access to her, they don’t have to file charges against her. And then they can take her somewhere outside the United States where they torture her until she tells them what they want to hear -- it doesn’t really matter if it’s true or not. Torture is about hearing what you want not what is true.

In other words why exactly doesn’t Congress act just like Gonzales and Bush? I’m thankful they don’t. But if they did then what would the mental midget in the White House and Torquemada have to say in reply? What could they say? They justified this sort of action. I suspect they would argue the Bushian invention of the Imperial Presidency, the idea that the Executive Branch has superiority over all other branches of government. Instead of being the coequal of the other branches as the Constitution establishes.

Rarely has a president so overstepped Constitutional boundaries as this one has done. That the Democrats won’t impeach is shameful but perhaps politically understandable --- after all they don’t really have principles they merely want power for themselves. But impeachment would be only a small step in the right direction. If anything Mr. Bush and Mr. Gonzales both deserve ought to be on trial for treason to the Constitution. That will never happen of course. If you start throwing around indictments for betraying Constitutional limitations you couldn’t find enough Congressman to form a jury.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Military recruiter sends out anti-gay racist tirade.

The US military has a real rational policy. They will cover up for criminals, they will hide drug abuse, they will harass and lie to kids in an effort to strong arm them into joining the military -- especially if they can do this outside the prying eyes of parents (It’s that Bush pro-family policy you hear so much about). Morons, criminals and druggies are welcome just not gay people. One indication of the “quality” of these people is a military recruiter Sgt. Marcia Ramode.

Ramode trolls the internet looking for young people to snare, they have empty body bags in Iraq that need filling for the Decider in Charge. And she found a web page of one young man, Corey Andrew, she tried to recruit by sending him a personal email. He asked if he is “able to serve in the US military as an openly gay man.” Well faster than King George could mispronounce terrorist old Marcia told him, in all capital letters for emphasis: “WELL IF YOU ARE GAY WE DON’T TAKE YOU YOU ARE CONSIDERED UNQUALIFIED.” Have a drug problem they’ll help you cover it up that only puts the other guys in your combat troop at risk. Far worse if you think one of them is cute. As Ramode said: "YES YOU MIGHT TO TRY TO KISS A SOLDIER IN THE FOXHOLE SO THAT IS A NO NO." I love the priorities of the military.

Andrews, wrote her back noting that “the US government doesn’t mind taking my ‘gay’ dollars every tax season or out of my paycheck every two weeks.” He also noted that US military recruiters were hanging out “on my school campus and in the local shopping Mall like pedofilic predators, everyday, begging teenagers to join.” Well, true about that. In fact very true since they intentionally try to recruit the kids away from parental authority. That is military recruiting strategy. Andrews reminds Marcia that using all caps, as she did, in emails “represents shouting and hostility”.

Of course this woman, I would never call her a lady, went Postal. She sent a long tirade, all in caps to prove her rage, which to me at least, indicates she is not mentally in control of herself and the military might want to take away her gun before she climbs a water tower and starts picking off imaginary space aliens trying to eat her brains. Here are some excerpts from her email (so I don’t have to type this crap). I particularly like the part where this moron thinks that the military would have the right to grab people off the streets and send them to Iraq if they wanted. Of course as she goes into her tirade she invokes freedom as the justification. Every authoritarian does. I also enjoy her snotty remark about enjoying freedom while it lasts. She and her kind are quite willing to take it away.


Now she has really riled up this student. Of course you would think this woman should be doing her work instead of sending out insulting emails. Actually I’m glad she wasn’t doing her work. But I’m not sure the Pentagon will appreciate it. But a little verbal gay bashing, hey General Pace might approve. Corey tells her he doesn’t have to dress up in green and wear dog tags and army boots to prove his patriotism. He tells her he thinks it sad that she belongs to an organization that discriminates and he tells her she is “clearly not stable” in her thinking. What took him so long?

He tells this slightly deranged Rambo that he loves the United States -- personally I wouldn’t pander to the love it or leave it crowd. Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. So just ignore it. Corey tells her there are plenty of countries where being gay is not an issue and then suggests she head off to the playground and find some new recruits. At this point Rambo Ramode completely loses what semblance to sanity she had. Read her reply below:

A few low points for this moron other than the obscenities of course. First, she tells this man she has more rights to be in America than he does. Rubbish. Next she tells him that if he doesn’t like the US military (and who could with hateful bigots like her doing the recruiting and with Bush running the outfit) that he should take his “GAY ASS” to some other country. And she claims, that rights are “given to you by the US military.” Odd the Founding Fathers said that they were inherent rights, part of human nature and the gift of no man or government. The idea that rights come from government, however, is a very Soviet concept. And this is the kind of “patriotic” American they send out to troll the internet to persuade kids to die in Bush’s war.

Corey responds and goes for the jugular. Obviously Ms. Ramode is not particularly literate. And he notes that right off the bat mentioning her “limited vocabulary and poor spelling” and says that maybe she had no other career option but the military. He acknowledges very intelligent people are in the military but informs Ramode that she is “not one of them.” He says that what he finds disgusting are “idiots with big mouths and little brains, spewing hatred under the guise of being ‘American’

Ramode, not happy with just insulting people for being gay then decides to throw some racism into the pot as well. She tells Corey “GO BACK TO AFRICA” because he is Black. Now, that’s real classy. Don’t they have any people with decent qualities to work as recruiters? Apparently not given scandal after scandal with this branch of the military. They obviously scrap the bottom of the barrel. But bamboozling teens so they go off and get killed isn’t exactly the sort of occupation that attracts quality is it?

What is incredible there is she started the communication. She also started any rudeness and name calling. She got aggressive and then tells him that she is blocking his emails as if this were his fault. She was the one out trolling the internet to convince teenagers that being a corpse is a really cool career option.

The military says Ramode is currently not working as a recruiter while they investigate her actions. By the way these are the people who are trying to recruit your kids behind your back.

So sit down with the kids. Warn them. Tell that there will be people who pretend to be their friends. They hang around outside the schools, at the malls, anywhere where kids hang out. They lurk around the internet. They will even call at home if they know the parents aren’t around. Not only will they pretend to be a friend but they will promise rewards, opportunity, even cash if the kids just do what they want. And they really, really don’t want the parents to know about this. Remember if you don’t tell you kids about these people they will get your children.

And if you think the comparison between recruiters and molesters is strained then watch the following CNN report. Over 80 recruiters, in 2005, were caught for sexual misconduct with the young people they are trying to recruit. Over 100 victims have come forward. These people are given, without the knowledge of parents, full access to kids anytime they want at any school in the US under Bush's "No Child Left Behind" legislation. They are given private information on all children including unlisted phone numbers and you are not able to block their calls, they can bypass blocks on any phone. Since 1996 almost 800 military recruiters have faced these charges.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Gospel according to St. Al.

I’ve been searching for Al Gore’s testimony before Congress on global warming. I wanted to see what he said and report on it. Along the way I went by the doom prophets of Grist, a rather Left the-end-of-the-world-is-coming environmental web site. The sort of people who worship the water Al Gore walks upon.

I found their report prior to his testimony where they were salivating in anticipation. Apparently this was something of a Greenies wet dream. They refer to his testimony, before he gave it, as “what may be the blockbuster hit of the political season”. Yawn! They say “there’s sure to be drama”. No doubt, fiction is often dramatic. Reality, however, often isn’t. Now remember this is the very publication that printed Gore’s statement that he exaggerates the facts in order to get people’s attention.

Of course they were upset that anyone disagreeing with St. Albert of Gore is allowed to counter the prophet at the same hearing. So they run down Prof. Lomborg and make a snide remark about how the subcommittee chairman “thinks Bjorn Lomborg is of commensurate intellectual and political status.”

Interesting. Why does “political status” matter at all? This is supposed to be a scientific debate. Or is it? By now you know that I contend that many of these warming hysterics (not all) are pushing these claims because of the perceived ability to impose socialism as part of the solution. They are control freaks. Regulations, taxes, controls, are their solutions to almost every problem they invent or exaggerate. In a previous era they would be in jackboots and brown shirts. Some are sincere. But many are not. By the way the same is true on the other side of the debate though the control freak label doesn’t apply as often.

As for being of “commensurate” intellectual status let’s explore that for a second. Commensurate means of equal status. The implication is that Gore has intellectual status and Prof. Lomborg does not. Odd since Lomborg is actually a university professor while Gore is a politician. Gore was born into a political family and has basically been a politician his entire life. He entered Congress in his late 20s.

His academic career, what there is of it, was that he went to university. Not taught just attended. He first studied English and then switched to his passion “government”. He took some theology courses, and it was actually there that he became an environmental catastrophist. He studied law but dropped out to run for office. That is his academic career. Unless I missed something he earned an undergraduate degree in government and nothing else.

Prof. Lomborg received an undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia (even if he is Danish). He got a Master’s degree from the University of Aarhus and then received a Ph.d from the University of Copenhagen. He was an assistant professor in statistics at the University of Aarhus then became an associate professor there. He then became an adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School. And in 2002 he was appointed to run the Danish Environmental Assessment Institute. It’s true Lomborg’s intellectual status is NOT commensurate with Mr. Gore, it is vastly superior. Of course the faithful won’t see it that way.

Since I reported what Lomborg said, and urged you to read the entire thing, I will do the same for Gore. (Note: PDF document.)

Now, Al, is no hysteric preaching doom. Not at all. He started out saying we face “a planetary emergency--a crisis that threatens the survival of our civilization and the habitability of the Earth.” “Global warming is real and human activity is the main cause. The consequences are mainly negative and headed toward catastrophic unless we act.”

Next he uses the old line about the Chinese word “crisis” meaning danger and opportunity. (Is that true or an urban legend? Anyone know? UPDATE: I checked. It is basically an urban legend. The literal meaning is “dangerous moment” which make sense. Poor Al didn’t even get that right.)

St. Al warns that “Hurricanes are getting stronger”. Actually they aren’t. (Also here.) “Sea levels are rising.” Well, yes and no. In some places they are rising and in others they are not (and here) and there is no change in the long term trends. “Mountain glaciers are receding around the world.” Technically yes, and they are also expanding around the world. Some expand, some contract and they are located all around the world. See here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

After telling Congress that disaster and catastrophe is around the corner Gore then says: “New evidence shows that it may be even worse than we thought.” Worse than catastrophe?

Next he talks about how various political bodies are taking “action”. And he says that since “the climate crisis is, by its nature, a global problem” then “ultimately the solution must be global as well.” He next compares this to the crisis of “global Fascism” which England “and then America and our allies rose to meet”.

He told Congress that “This is not ultimately about any scientific discussion” but like the fight against Fascism “is a moral moment” “about who we are as human beings and our capacity to transcend our limitations and rise to meet this challenge.”

He assured everyone that “if we solve” this crisis “in the right way, we will save money and boost productivity.” No details about “the right way” were given. Next, he presented an image of future grandchildren begging to know why we didn’t save the planet for them, and how if we do save it, i.e. give politicians more control, they will thank us.

Odd that he compares this to fighting Fascism while simultaneously requesting greater control of the economy. Fascism is an economic system where the means of productions are privately owned but regulated and controlled by the state in the name of the “collective good”. In one sentence he invokes the moral courage of standing up to “global Fascism” while in the next he is basically advocating another form of global Fascism.

There is hyperbole, rhetoric, emotional images, sentimentality, fear mongering, etc . What is missing is science. But as he said “this is not ultimately about any scientific discussion”. Gore didn’t present testimony, not in the sense of offering evidence, he preached a sermon. Fundamentalists love sermons so the Green fundies will be shouting “Amen, brother”. The only thing missing was an altar call and the choir singing “Just as I Am” as sinners come down the sawdust trail promising to never emit carbon again.

As I’ve said repeatedly, go ahead and read the testimony yourself. Compare what Gore had to say, how he said it, and the evidence he presented (or failed to present) to that of what Lomborg said and the evidence he presented. With Lomborg’s testimony I said I left out the copious footnotes that present his sources. With Gore I didn’t but then I didn’t need to. Gore didn’t have any.

Given the quality of testimony from St. Al and that of Prof. Lomborg one can understand why Gore has refused to talk to Lomborg and why he refused to do an interview if Lomborg was allowed to forumulate any of the questions. Religion just doesn’t hold up to rational scrutiny well. And what Gore presents is apocalyptic religion at it’s best.

Photo: I admit it’s a little mean. It’s also amusing and the entertainment devil on the one shoulder won the debate over the niceness angel on my other shoulder. Sorry Al. By the way I actually did love this speech you gave on the Constitution. It was great and we were on the same wavelenght 95% of the time.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Warming advocates: trading truth for power.

First warming alarmist Al Gore admits that he thinks it entirely valid to “over-represent” (exaggerate) the dangers of global warming. Now another top bishop in the Church of Anthropogenic Warming, Mike Hulme from the University of East Anglia, says that we need to use a new kind of science to understand the issue. He calls it “post-normal” science. And it allows them to “trade (normal) truth for influence.”

Hulme’s problem with regular science is that: “Self-evidently dangerous change will not emerge from a normal scientific process of truth seeking....” So, we won’t get the exact scare mongering out of the “normal scientific process” so we need a new process in order to get the correct inspiration for public policy.

Under this “post-normal” science “scientists -- and politicians -- must trade (normal) truth for influence.” That’s what Al Gore said when he admitted to exaggerating the dangers of warming. He said it “appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentation of how dangerous it is” in order to open up his film audience to his ideas. One of the granddad’s of warming hysteria, Stephen Schneider, suggested this tactic years ago, in 1989, when he said, “we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we have.” He calls this distortion of the facts a “right balance” between “being effective and being honest.” All three are saying it appropriate to distort facts in order to gain political influence, i.e. power.

All three of these prominent advocates of anthropogenic warming are saying that one must either distort science, exaggerate facts, or give up the normal scientific process in order to further the political agenda they have. Hulme says science is “provisional knowledge” that “can be modified through its interaction with society.” He says scientific knowledge is open “to change as it rubs up against society.”

What? Science is supposed to founded on facts of reality not on social perceptions, ideas or political opinions. We don’t take public opinion polls to determine facts. Opinions don’t change facts. Pasteur was right even if pulbic opinion was against him. Franklin’s lightening rod worked even if the clergy preached against it.

Hulme admits that the AGW theory is filled with uncertainties but says that circumstances require action before we know the facts - but then apparently “facts” are something of a social construct. He says his “post-normal” science has to be practiced “where the stakes are high, uncertainties large and decisions urgent.” Under this kind of “science” he says an important issue is “who has the ear of policy” that is, who sets the political agenda.

What sort of agenda? He describes this as “do we have confidence in technology; do we believe in collective action over private enterprise; do we believe we carry obligations to people invisible to us in geography and time?” And the problem with “normal” science, says Hulme, is that “it assumes science can first find truth, then speak truth to power, that broadly-based policy will then follow.” He finds that defective because it ignores “values, perspectives and political preferences.” This means “we have to take science off centre stage.” Get that! We have to move away from the science and concentrate on political preferences.

I have long argued that what was going on with these alarmists was an intentional substitution of political preferences for science. This confession, by a leading alarmist, confirms that. For Hulme “Climate change is too important to be left to scientists -- least of all the normal ones.” Instead it has go to politicians who share a specific set of values such as prefering “collective action” over private enterprise.

Photo: Mike Hulme, not a "normal" scientist.

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Speaking of insane.

The dictatorship of Fidel Castro is not happy with Sweden for condemning their trampling of human rights. In a bit of bizarre turn-about (bizarre because it is absurd) the Cuban dictatorship made snotty remarks about "Swedish imperialism" and said that Cuba, unlike Sweden does not "carry out ethnic cleansing". Who writes this nonsense for them? Huge Chavez?

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Lomborg's testimony deconstructs Gore.

I like Bjorn Lomborg. I agree with a lot of what he has to say, though not all of it, and I happen to think he’s a nice guy. I’m sure he’s more attractive than is good any one person and adding brains to that is just unfair (see I can sound like a socialist). He testified before the a subcommittee of the US House of Representatives and the Democrats have posted his comments on line as a PDF document. (Really, I’m not inventing that.)

Bjorn says there is global warming and it is anthropogenic. I am not convinced it is anthropogenic so on that detail we disagree. But he doesn’t concentrate on the causes of warming. He concentrates on what to do about it. And he says that what is being done is of little value and diverts resources away from areas that would be far more beneficial in regards to the good of humanity. Now you go to the link above for the entire paper but I am reprinting some excerpts below. Really in fairness to Bjorn you should read his entire paper but this will give you an idea of where he stands. I have removed the charts and the footnotes in particular.

Let us be frank. Al Gore and the many people he has inspired have good will and great intentions. However, he has got carried away and come to show only worst-case scenarios. This is unlikely to form the basis for a sound policy judgment. The problem is compounded in that if we follow Al
Gore’s recommendations, we will likely end up choosing very bad policies to solve the many problems, we agree need attention.

In short, following Gore’s logic, with its good will and fine intentions, will actually end up costing millions of lives.

Let me lay out the argument for you.


Global warming is being described in everyday media in ever more dire terms. The IPPR think tank (which is strongly in favor of CO2 cuts) in 2006 produced an analysis of the UK debate. It summarized the flavor thus: ”Climate change is most commonly constructed through the alarmist repertoire – as awesome, terrible, immense and beyond human control. This repertoire is seen everywhere and is used or drawn on from across the ideological spectrum, in broadsheets and tabloids, in popular magazines and in campaign literature from government initiatives and environmental groups. It is typified by an inflated or extreme lexicon, incorporating an urgent tone and cinematic codes. It employs a quasi-religious register of death and doom, and it uses language of acceleration and irreversibility.”

This kind of language makes any sensible policy dialogue about our global choices impossible. In public debates, the argument I hear most often is a variant of “if global warming is going to kill us all and lay waste to the world, this has to be our top priority – everything else you talk about, including HIV/AIDS, malnutrition, free trade, malaria, clean drinking water may be noble but utterly unimportant compared to global warming.” Of course, if the deadly description of global warming were correct, the inference of its primacy would also be correct, but as we will see, global warming is nothing of the sort. It is one – but only one – problem of many, we will have to tackle through the 21st century.

Very clearly this is seen in the Gore’s own description of his movie, An Inconvenient Truth. Here it is said that: “We have just ten years to avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tail-spin of epic destruction involving extreme weather, floods, droughts, epidemics and killer heat waves beyond anything we have ever experienced.”

Yet this is simply incorrect, both as it stands and in its policy conclusions. Let us look at heat deaths, sea level rise, hurricanes and malaria as outstanding examples of Gore’s claim.

Very often, we only hear about the heat deaths but not the cold deaths – and sometimes this is even repeated in the official literature, as in the US 2005 Climate Change and Human Health Impacts report, where heat is mentioned 54 times and cold just once. We need to know just how much more heat deaths we can expect compared to how many fewer cold deaths.

Much has been made of the heat wave in Europe in early August 2003, which killed 35,000 people, with 2,000 deaths in the UK. Yet, each year more than 25,000 people die in the UK from cold. It can be estimated that every year more than 200,000 people die from excess heat in Europe. It is reasonable to estimate that each year about 1.5 million people die from excess cold in Europe. This is more than seven times the total number of heat deaths. Just in this millennium Europe have lost more than 10 million people to the cold, 300 times the iconic 35,000 heat deaths from 2003. That we so easily forget these deaths and so easily embrace the exclusive worry about global warming tells us of a breakdown in our sense of proportion.

The important fact, of course, is what will happen with future temperature increases. Let us for the moment assume – very unrealistically – that we will not adapt to towards the future heat. Still, the largest European study conclude that for at least for 2oC, “Our data suggest that any increases in mortality due to increased temperatures would be outweighed by much larger short term declines in cold related mortalities.” For Britain it is estimated that a 2oC increase will mean 2,000 more heat deaths but 20,000 fewer cold deaths. A paper trying to incorporate all studies on this issue (a so-called meta-study) and apply it to a broad variety of settings both developed and developing around the world found that “global warming may cause a decrease in mortality rates, especially of cardiovascular diseases.” For the US, the net lower death count from global warming in 2050 is estimated at 174,000 per year.

In its 2007 report, the UN estimate that sea levels will rise about 34.5cm over the rest of the century. While this is not a trivial amount, it is also important to realize that it is certainly not outside the historical experience. Since 1850 we have experienced a sea level rise of about 29cm, yet this has clearly not caused major disruptions. Sea level rise is a problem, but not a catastrophe. Ask a very old person about the most important issues that took place in the 20th century. She will likely mention the two world wars, the cold war, the internal combustion engine and perhaps the IT revolution. But it is very unlikely that she will add: ‘oh, and sea levels rose.’

It is also important to realize that new prediction is lower than the previous IPCC estimates. The new span is 18-59cm (midpoint 38.5cm), down from 9-88cm in 2001 (midpoint 48.5cm).19 This continues a declining trend from the nineties (where the first IPCC expected 67 cm), and the 80s, where the US EPA projected several meters.

But this information is much less troublesome than what we often hear from global warming advocates. Al Gore has perhaps made their point most forcefully in his book and film. In a very moving film clip he shows us how large parts of Florida, including all of Miami, will be inundated by 20 feet of water. He goes on to show us equally strong clips of San Francisco Bay being flooded, the Netherlands being wiped off the map, Beijing and then Shanghai being submerged, Bangladesh be made uninhabitable for 60 million people, and even how New York and its World Trade Center Memorial will be deluged.

How is it possible that one of today’s strongest voices on climate change can say something so dramatically different from the best science.... The IPCC estimates a foot, Gore tops them 20 times. Well, technically, Al Gore is not contradicting the UN, because he simply says: “If Greenland melted or broke up and slipped into the sea – or if half of Greenland and half of Antarctica melted or broke up and slipped into the sea, sea levels worldwide would increase by between 18 and 20 feet.” He is simply positing a hypothetical and then in full graphic and gory detail showing us what – hypothetically – would happen to Miami, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Beijing, Shanghai, Dhaka and then New York.

But of course, the impact of the film clearly suggest immediate inundation, reinforced by such comments as rising sea levels around Beijing would mean that “more than 20 million people would have to be evacuated.”

Yet, take an overview of the simulations of Greenland sea level contributions. None are higher than 3mm/year by the end of the century, whereas Gore’s claim – if valid even in a century span – would have to be around 120mm or 40 times higher than the very highest model estimate. The IPCC estimate that Greenland is expected to contribute 3.5 cm over the century by itself, and with models indicating a lower estimate of 1cm and high estimate of 15cm. This means that Gore’s claim is 174 times higher than the IPCC... It is unlikely that such an approach will lead to good policy initiatives.

Stronger and more frequent hurricanes have become one of the standard exhibits of the global warming worries. The solution offered is invariably CO2 cuts and Kyoto.

With the strong 2005 hurricane season and the devastation of New Orleans by Katrina, this message has reverberated even more powerfully. Al Gore spends 26 pages on showing pictures of the suffering from New Orleans and names every single hurricane in 2005.

So has global warming caused stronger and more frequent hurricanes, and what will happen in the future? Let us here use the latest consensus statement from the UN World Meteorological Organization (parent organization for the IPCC), which is more recent and more specific but generally in agreement with the 2007 IPCC report. It makes three strong and specific points. “1. Though there is evidence both for and against the existence of a detectable anthropogenic [human-caused] signal in the tropical cyclone climate record to date, no firm conclusion can be made on this point.”

They basically tell us that the strong statements of humans causing more and stronger hurricanes (or tropical cyclones as researches call them) are simply not well supported. We just don’t know as of yet. When Al Gore tells us that there is a “scientific consensus that global warming is making hurricanes more powerful and more destructive” it is incorrect. “2. No individual tropical cyclone can be directly attributed to climate change.”

The strong statements on hurricane Katrina are simply not supportable.

This brings us to the third and perhaps most important WMO consensus point. In reality, we don’t really care about hurricanes as such – what we care about is their damage. Do they end up killing people and cause widespread disruption? And with global warming, will they kill and disrupt even more? The answer is – perhaps surprisingly – that the whole hurricane debate is somewhat tangential to this important question. “3. The recent increase in societal impact from tropical cyclones has largely been caused by rising concentrations of population and infrastructure in coastal regions.”

...[T]the US cost of hurricane damage has increased relentlessly over the past century, and it seems to provide ample underpinning for Gore’s
“unmistakable economic impact of global warming.” Yet, just comparing costs over long periods of time does not make sense without taking into account the change in population patterns and demography as well as economic prosperity. There are many more people, residing in much more vulnerable areas, with many more assets to lose. In the US today, the two coastal South Florida counties, Dade and Broward, are home to more people than the number of people who lived in 1930 in all 109 coastal counties stretching from Texas through Virginia, along the Gulf and Atlantic


We have to ask what it is we want. Presumably our goal is not to cut CO2 emissions per se, but to do good for humans and the environment. We want to help the people who are potential victims of future Katrinas, Charleys and Andrews. But how can we best do that?

If society stays the same – no more people living close to the coast, no more costly and densely built neighborhoods – and climate warms causing somewhat stronger hurricanes, the total effect will be less than a 10% increase in hurricane damages. To put it differently, if we could stop the
climatic factors right now, we would avoid 10% more damage in 50 years time.

On the other hand, if climate stays the same – no more warming – but more people build more and more expensive buildings closer to the sea, as they have done in the past, we will see an almost 500% increase in hurricane damages. To put it differently, if we could curb societal factors right now, we could prevent 500% more damage in 50 years time.

So if we want to make a difference, which knob should we choose first – the one reducing damage by less than 10% or the one reducing damage by almost 500%? The difference in efficiency between the climate knob and the societal knob is more than 50 times.

This seems to suggest that policies addressing societal factors rather than climate policies will do the much more good first.

Al Gore writes: “Mosquitoes are profoundly affected by global warming. There are cities that were originally located just above the mosquito line, which used to mark the altitude above which mosquitoes would not venture. Nairobi, Kenya, and Harare, Zimbabwe, are two such cities. Now, with global warming, the mosquitoes are climbing to higher altitudes.”

Yet WHO and researches have documented that malaria epidemics happened in Nairobi many times between WWI and the 1950s. The town’s first medical officer, Dr. D.E. Boedeker, wrote that even for the early ivory and slave caravans, Nairobi “had always been regarded as an unhealthy locality swarming with mosquitoes.”

Like most stories there is at core some truth to the claim that malaria will increase with temperature, but it is a small part compared to richness and health infrastructure.


The current raft of policies that are either enacted or suggested are costly but have virtually no effect.

Take the Kyoto Protocol, which even if it had been successfully adopted by all signatories (including the US and Australia) and even if it had been adhered to throughout the century, would have postponed warming by just 5 years in 2100 at a cost of $180 billion annually...

In the first real commitment since Kyoto in 1997, the EU announced in March 2007 that they would unilaterally cut emissions to 20% below 1990-levels by 2020. This would mean a 25% cut of emissions from what they would otherwise have been in 2020. Yet the effect on temperature would be smaller than Kyoto... postponing warming by the end of the century by about two years. The cost would be about $90 billion per year in 2020. Thus, we see the same pattern from both the well-established Kyoto protocol and the new EU minus-20% decision – that they have fairly small impact at fairly high cost.

This is also the case for Al Gore’s public commitment to tackle global warming. In his recent speech to New York University, he explicitly said that he would eliminate payroll taxes and substitute them with pollution taxes, principally a CO2 tax. Yet he never actually say how much this would cost or how much good it would do.

If one calculates the impact of such a promise, it shows that payroll taxes (social security) in the US amounted to $841 billion in 2006. With the US emitting about 6Gt of CO2 this means a tax of $140/tCO2, and a tax on gas at about $1.25 per gallon. In one respected model, the annual economic cost amounts to about $160 billion for the US economy in 2015. This would cut emissions to about half in 2015 and about 25% in 2105. Yet, since the US will make up an ever smaller amount of the total CO2 emitted throughout the century, the total effect in 2100 will be a reduction of global temperature by 0.1oC. Essentially, what Al Gore is suggesting is that the US carries through a Kyoto-type restriction all by itself.


This does not mean we should do nothing at all about climate change. It means we need to be much smarter. We need to abandon expensive and inefficient strategies like Kyoto and search for new opportunities.

Of course, part of us still want to say “let’s do it all”. And I agree. In an ideal world we would deal with all the world’s woes. We should win the war against hunger, end conflicts, stop communicable diseases, provide clean drinking, step up education and halt climate change. But we don’t. And so we have to start face reality.

When we realize that there are many areas in the world – like HIV, malnutrition, free trade, malaria, clean drinking water etc. – where we can do immense amounts of good, it seem obvious to me we must focus our attention and our big expenditure there first.

Note: Unfortunately space does not allow me to include the entire paper. As I said read it for yourself and draw your own conclusions. I think some solutions he proposes can be better handled in different ways but I think he is generally correct about the direction of change. For a decent idea of Lomborg's basic views on such matters watch this video of a presentation he gave. It's about 17 minutes long.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

NASA says solar activity even greater than previously thought. AGW alarmist smears opponents as drunk.

The anthropogenic global warming side of the debate, as I see it, keeps getting bad news. Basically the science comes down to what is the cause for climate trends, particularly over the last 100 years. But in reality the discussion also involves how climate has changed throughout history.

The CO2 theorists argue that the prime cause of climate change is CO2 in the atmosphere, especially that which man releases through day to day activity. The vast majority, though not all, of these individuals then call for various forms of government control, some for global governance, to restrict, regulate and criminalize lots of human activities. Some have semi-market solutions to offer most advocate raw coercion.

The alternative theory is that climate change is primarily driven by natural factors outside of any significant influence by humans. Climate has always changed and will always change and we are only scratching the surface in our understanding of how it happens.

One good thing that has come out of the crusade of the alarmists is that more attention has been paid to the science of climate. Of course that may have diverted attention and resources away from more pressing concerns. We only know about what has happened not what didn’t happen because of this campaign. That some good has happened doesn’t mean greater good wasn’t prevented.

One of the good things, I think, is that we are starting to understand the role of solar activity in climate change. There has always been a theory that such activity impacted climate but many details were missing. There is the obvious issue of warming from the rays of the sun. But there are less obvious forms of influence as well. And not only does our star (the sun) influence climate change but so does the cosmic rays emitted by other stars millions of miles away. But obviously the close proximity of our sun is going to be a major factor.

Consider something NASA said just two days ago. Previously it was theorized that the sun had an extremely turbulent magnetic field. New technologies allowed NASA to “see them clearly for the first time.” Reuters reports: “They saw twisting plumes of gas rising from the Sun’s corona and reaction with the star’s magnetic field, a process that releases energy and may power solar storms and coronal mass ejections, which in turn affect the Earth.” They say “the sun’s magnetic field is much more turbulent and dynamic than previously known.” It should be noted that a more turbulent sun is also one that emits far more energy than was previously thought.

Scientists are excited about this saying this will “open a new era of study of some of the sun’s processes that affect Earth” and “It’s going to put us in a whole new realm of understanding.”

If there is more solar energy being emitted than previously thought to be the case then this new fact means that the impact of solar activity on warming trends is larger than was previously thought. How much so is open to debate. Climate change computer models could only use older knowledge about how the sun was behaving and need to be adjusted, again, to reflect the new knowledge. If solar activity is greater than previously known then solar influence is greater than was previously known. And if solar influence is increased then the role man plays in global warming is decreased.

Personally I suspect that the solar theory of global warming will ultimately win the scientific debate. But only time will tell. Of course that has nothing to do with the political debate. Politics and reality are very, very often disconnected.

Meanwhile a word from Al Gore: “Nobody is interested in solutions if they don’t think there’s a problem. Given that starting point, I believe it appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentation on how dangerous it is, as a predicate for opening up the audience to listen to what the solutions are, and how hopeful it that we are going to solve this crisis.” Now if a “skeptic” of AGW had said that we need to intentionally “under-represent” the facts the alarmists would be all over him like white on rice.

One thing I didn’t report on, and was hoping to hold off until I had a full report, was the debate between skeptics and alarmists in New York City. The audience was generally well-off New York intellectuals willing to pay a high fee to attend. About 60% said global warming was a crisis before the debate and about a third said it wasn’t. By the end of the debate a poll of the audience showed a massive switch with a plurality saying it was not a crisis, in the sense of a man-made crisis.

One participant was Gavin Schmidt, a major alarmist activist who runs RealClimate, an internet shrine for the faithful. He was not happy that the audience shifted so significantly and has decided that debates are not worthwhile at all. I had hoped to report on the actual debate. I have read a transcript of it and was surprised to see that when the alarmists were pointed to scientific theory on solar activity the rebuttal was to call a scientist a drunk! Apparently that didn’t win over the audience.

Schmidt was perturbed that Michael Crichton was on the other side and attributed much of the shift due, not to arguments, but to the celebrity status of Crichton. Hmm, is that why they use so many Hollywood celebrities to push their theory in public? Is this projection? Schmidt knows the debate will be aired on radio at some point soon and dismisses the “live audience” as “a rather select bunch, and so maybe this will go over differently on the radio. There it might not matter that Crichton is so tall...” (That is the actual end of his comment, I didn't delete from that point on as it would appear.)

I’m not sure the radio presentation will help him. I suspect attacking a scientist as being “drunk” for saying solar activity is important is not exactly a winning argument. Of course Schmidt leaves this attack out of his account of the debate. I can see why since it was Schmidt who made the smear. Schmidt had said that cosmic rays couldn’t possibly have an impact on climate. Philip Stott responded: “The most famous astrophysicist working on it says that it has.” Schmidt’s rebuttal was to say: “Uh, he is drunk.” Stott rightly noted that was a “serious accusation” against a prominent scientist and Schmidt replied: “I’d like to meet the person...”

At this point Stott mentioned some scientists working on this issue since none had been mentioned by name to this point. Schmidt didn’t even know who it was that he was accusing of being a drunk. When Stott mentions them Schmidt doesn’t reply but again attacks: “Now it looks like we’re having a scientific argument, but, this is completely bogus. You [the audience] don’t know that it’s bogus, but I know that it’s bogus, he [Stott] knows it’s bogus. [Thus implying Stott is intentionally dishonest.] You’re [the audience] being led astray.”

Even the moderator picked up that Schmidt was making an attack, not on the science of his opponents, but on their honesty. He asked if Schmidt believed his opponents were sincere. He replied: “I think --I--no, I, I do think they’re sincere.” So he says first they aren’t. they says they aren’t again, then says they are. The moderator replied: “You as much as said it.” Schmidt again gave a incoherent answer: “I don’t think that they are completely... doing this on a level playing field that the people here will understand. And there are....”

At this point some in the audience moaned rather loudly. After insulting his opponents Schmidt insulted the intelligence of the audience. The moderator asked him to again explain. Schmidt did not explain and just said he has “no idea what their political or cultural agendas are, and to be frank I’m not interested.” Still no answer as to whether they are sincere, he only shifted the debate to imply a political agenda. Stott responded that he’s a Leftist. At this point the conversation turned to another topic and Schmidt never clarified if his accusation of dishonesty was what he really thought or not. Good to see he stuck to the science.

If Schmidt lost the audience it may be due more to his accusations, smears and sneers than to Crichton’s height.
To read the full debate go here. PDF file.

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