Politics Archive

Thursday, May 31, 2007

NASA Administrator, Michael Griffin, Doesn't Think Global Climate Change Is a Problem

On the ride in to work this morning, I was listening to NPR as normal, and they were interviewing a couple people about NASA funding, Greg Easterbrook and NASA Administrator, Michael Griffin. Michael Griffin made a few comments that were so stupid, I had a hard time believing I'd caught his name right. After all, it's always a little tough to catch who they're interviewing when you pick up in mid stream, and when you're driving and have to pay attention to the other cars on the road more than the radio, but I checked the NPR website, and sure enough, I got it right.

Now the interview was about a lot more than just global warming, but it was one of the topics they brought up. Here's part of the transcript from NPR's website, with the interviewr's questions in bold, and Griffin's responses following.

It has been mentioned that NASA is not spending as much money as it could to study climate change — global warming — from space. Are you concerned about global warming?

I'm aware that global warming exists. I understand that the bulk of scientific evidence accumulated supports the claim that we've had about a one degree centigrade rise in temperature over the last century to within an accuracy of 20 percent. I'm also aware of recent findings that appear to have nailed down — pretty well nailed down the conclusion that much of that is manmade. Whether that is a longterm concern or not, I can't say.

So, he acknowledges that this is a real phenomenon, that people are responsible for it, and that it's already had a measurable effect. But then in the next breath says he's not sure if it's a longterm concern. Whaaaa?

Do you have any doubt that this is a problem that mankind has to wrestle with?

I have no doubt that … a trend of global warming exists. I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with. To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of Earth's climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn't change. First of all, I don't think it's within the power of human beings to assure that the climate does not change, as millions of years of history have shown. And second of all, I guess I would ask which human beings — where and when — are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that's a rather arrogant position for people to take.

Whoah, I'm dizzy from that change in direction. In that first section I quoted, he admits that the current climate change is caused by people, and then here, one question later, he says we don't have the power to keep the climate from changing. And then he has the gall to say that people that want to stop human induced climate change are being arrogant! That's like someone going around and intentionally starting forest fires, and then when the firefighters show up, he calls them arrogant for assuming that potential future residents might not want trees in their back yard.

Look - it's not like the current situation is a natural phenomenon that we want to stop. Noone's suggesting something like stopping plate tectonics because we happen to like geography the way it is. The fact of the matter is that this is a human caused phenomenon, and the rates of change are going to be much higher than most times in that "millions of years of history" Griffin referred to. Sure, life on this planet will continue, and humanity will most likely make it through, too, but unless we start taking some drastic action now, it's going to be one hell of a ride before things settle out.

This was good timing. When I checked Pharyngula today, there was an entry about a new site devoted to answering climate skeptics. Go check it out to see some responses to common arguments. And don't forget to check out RealClimate, either, which has much more actual data.

Monday, May 21, 2007

FAA Funding Debate

I'm a private pilot. I haven't been very active over the past few years, but I still like to follow the goings on, because I plan to become active again in the future. The latest brouhaha is a proposed plan to change where Air Traffic Control (ATC) gets its funding from, basically reducing what the airlines pay and making general aviation (GA) pilots foot more of the bill. Obviously, as a GA pilot, I don't like it. Flying's expensive enough as it is (the reason I haven't been very active for the past several years), and when I do fly, I hardly ever use ATC. I fly mostly in uncontrolled airspace under Visual Flight Rules (VFR). I still talk to other pilots over the radio, but ATC doesn't have anything to do with it. (For you non-pilots, it's like driving your car. You use turn signals and what not to communicate with other drivers, but there's no central authority organizing where and when you can go.) The only time ATC really does anything for me is when I'm a passenger on an airliner, and airline tickets are already taxed to cover that. So why should I have to pay more taxes than the average citizen for a service that I don't use any more than they do? You can find a lot more information on AOPA's page

Anyway, on the Ercoupe Yahoo Group I'm a member of, one of the other members, Ed Burkhead, recently made a very good post about this issue. I've copied his message below.

Any of these thoughts that get refuted buy you gals and guys won't be included in the letter I'll send my senators shortly. My preliminary thoughts on user fees are these:

1. I pretty much never use the air traffic control system except:

a. I'm affected (penalized) by it because it keeps me out of areas in greatest use by airliners (even though their use may be just a few planes a day.

b. When I do use the medium-airliner-use airports, my use of the air traffic control system is mostly because it's imposed by the government on behalf of the airliners. It's not a "benefit" for me, it's an imposition.

2. If they want to impose a use tax on people who *use* the air traffic control system, let them charge the same per-occupied-seat tax on us as they do on the airliners.

a. It may, truly, cost as much for air traffic control to handle a Piper Cub at PIA as a 747 but the cost is there for the benefit of the 747, not the Piper Cub.

b. Thus, charging per person is more equitable than charging per plane.

3. We already pay our fees through existing taxes.

a. We pay our share through fuel taxes.

b. Moreover, we pay our fair share of the airliner-protection-system through general fund taxes - as we should. The benefits of airliner flights accrue to all of us through the economic benefits of moving people and goods.

c. To disproportionately charge the people who fly on private and business aircraft for the airliner-protection-system is unfair. We all benefit equally per person from the safety of the airliners.

d. It may be fair to charge a moderate per-person fee (ticket-tax) for aircraft using the IFR system, but I think it's better to keep the current funding system.

4. As we can see from the example of Europe, imposing user fees on non-mass-transport aviation is a powerful means of killing it.

5. A strong small and general aviation industry and environment is of value to all the population, witness the developments and science developed from Weick's W-1 as well as many other aircraft developed for the personal market.

Ed Burkhead

http://edburkhead.com

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Homosexuality & The Old Testament

On my main site, I've written twice before about people trying to use the Bible as a justification to ban gay marriage. I just came across a supposed open letter that covers it much more humorously than I ever could. The letter is addressed to Dr. Laura Schlessinger, in response to some statements she made on her radio program. To help make it easier to check the Biblical passages, I've made them links to the appropriate chapter in the New Internation Version.

(Apparently, I've been living in a cave. When I looked this up on Snopes to try to figure out who was the original author so I could either link to them or credit them, I found that this letter's been circulating since at least 2000. But whether or not this letter is real or was ever sent, the content is still good.)

Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination…End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s Laws and how to follow them.

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighbouring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbours. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbour who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there ‘degrees’ of abomination?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

Your adoring fan,
unknown

Monday, February 6, 2006

Scary Religious E-mail

This is an excerpt from another entry on this blog. The original entry was so long that I wasn't sure people would read the whole thing, so I've decided to pull out the best parts into their own entries.

The other day, I received a religious e-mail that was pretty disturbing. Basically, it links separation of church and state with the September 11th terrorist attacks, then goes on to say that the world's going to Hell in handbasket because of our Godless ways. I think it's scary the type of mindset it takes to write that type of e-mail, believe it, or forward it on to people.

Continue reading "Scary Religious E-mail" »

Monday, February 6, 2006

Retroactive Soapbox Entry- Fed Up with U.S. Public, Part II

Note: This is a post of an essay that first appeared on my website November 2nd, 2005. The original essay can be found here. This is part of an ongoing effort to put all of my soapbox entries onto this blog, to give a space for user feedback. A "new" retroactive post will be made every Monday.

To start off, let me say that when this soap box entry was written, it wasn't completely up to date with current events. I began writing this in August, before Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. But, like it says on my homepage, my website's just a hobby, so with my focus being on other things, it's taken me a little while to write this entry. I've even put this essay aside to complete two other pages on this site that were more important to get done quickly (Guatemala 2005 Photos and Homosexual Marriage Soapbox Entry). So, there are many things I've seen since I started writing this essay that would go right along with the topic, especially remarks I've seen related to Hurricane Katrina. However, in the interest of actually completing this essay and getting it posted on my website, I'm not going to write about them. In fact, I'm even going to drop one of the original topics I was going to discuss, Justice Sunday II, just because it's taking me so long to write this.

2 November 2005

Okay, I don't want to beat a dead horse. I know I've gone over the subject of evolution several times. So, I'm going to try to stear clear of that in this essay. (Maybe I'll start a new section on my site, Evolution Rants, so I can just write away about it to my heart's content, and not have it interfere with the rest of this site.) Anyway, I've been doing a lot of reading over the past couple months on evolution, creationism, science, religion, etc., probably devoting more time to it than I should. And so it's making me notice these things more in daily life. And now I think that the whole evolution vs. creationism debate is just the symptom of a larger problem in this country. I'll just throw out a few examples here in the opening paragraph, and then discuss them later on. First, just the other day, I got an e-mail, the same one from two different people (though one guy sent it to me just to get a rise out of me, but it still shows that it's making the rounds), that correllated the September 11th terrorist attacks with taking prayer out of school and the moral decline of our country. Second, and I don't remember exactly where I saw this, but at the time, some book called Natural Cures "They" Don't Want You to Know About by Kevin Trudeau was the second best selling book in America, followed behind Harry Potter. Actually, as I began writing this in August 2005, and again when I checked in October 2005, it's at the number one spot for Hardcover Advice on the New York Times bestseller list. And finally, I was watching the National Geographic Channel the other night, and on their new series, Is It True (which is a very good series, by the way), they did a special on excorcisms, and showed all the people that are buying into it.

All of these examples, as well as my previous rants on evolution, show a society that's increasingly abandoning science and embracing the mystical. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm a Christian myself (though my views would probably get me branded as a heretic in most circles), so I believe that there's more to the universe than just what science can tell us. And some home medical remedies do work. But I think that for the most part, scientists, doctors, and other technical people know what they're doing and what they're talking about, supernatural explanations are usually the wrong explanations, given the choice between homeopathy and modern medicine - I'd take modern medicine any day, and that some of the religious views in this country right now, to put it frankly, just plain scare me.

Continue reading "Retroactive Soapbox Entry- Fed Up with U.S. Public, Part II" »

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