December 15, 2007

Congress Inept and Inefficient on Energy

by Donald G. Mashburn

As this is written I’m looking at fresh reports out of New York and Washington.Crude oil prices slipping to a bit more than $91 a barrel, after threatening to hit the $100 mark. A record increase in gasoline prices pushing wholesale inflation upward at the fastest clip in 34 years. And the U.S. Senate approving energy legislation that White House sources indicated President Bush will sign.

There is little to be optimistic about in these developments, least of all the bill approved by the Senate. There’s nothing in the reports consumers and taxpayers can find comfort in.

One would think that the high oil prices, combined with inflation, and the realization that we import nearly a third of this country’s total energy demand, would be enough to bring some common sense into the legislative effort. But common sense and Congress have seldom been seen keeping company with one another.

The energy bill has been labeled a bad bill by some members from both sides of the political aisle. And it is weak on every point having to do with the long-term supply picture. But it’s larded with sops to the ethanol promoters, and to those who erroneously think that imposing arbitrary gasoline mileage requirements on automakers will solve our fuel shortage.

In brief, the energy bill passed is more show than go when it comes to what makes engines and electricity generators run.

To reduce our crude petroleum requirement, the new bill mandates that biofuels be blended with conventional gasoline, by boosting biofuels production to 36 billion gallons per year by 2022, a nearly five-fold increase to about 2.35 million barrels a day. The net gain, of course, would be the biofuels obtained, less the large amounts of traditional forms of energy and costs to obtain it.We probably can’t expect more than perhaps three to five percent net gain in energy from this effort, subsidized by U.S. taxpayers with their dollars. Even more potentially serious are the risks to all citizens from air pollution and health problems from the burning of ethanol.But the Congress, in their matchless way of dickering and deal-doing, apparently gave little thought to such issues – and probably don’t have the technical know-how to deal with them.As these pages have pointed out previously, biofuels can’t reasonably be expected to ever produce more than five to 10 percent of our fuel needs, even after perhaps twenty years, and with the known processes working at maximum efficiency.

Moreover, the huge amount of productive farmland diverted to crops for biofuels could result in much higher costs of foodstuffs, and possibly shortages.

But as we know, politicians in Washington aren’t known for either clarity of vision or deep thinking on the future impact of their actions when they are sparring and maneuvering for political advantage.

If Congress thought they were giving us a Christmas present in the new energy bill, they blew it. A lump of genuine American coal would have been better.

Atheists DON’T MIND celebrating superstition

By Robert Meyer

The Thanksgiving holiday has passed and now we move into the celebration of the Christmas holiday season. With it will come the usual litany of criticisms against the Christian connections associated with this time of year. They will be repeated like the repertoire of a pull-string talking doll.

I am well aware of the pagan traditions behind numerous aspects of Christmas, such as, the Christmas tree, the significance of the date December 25th, and numerous other objections that contentious folks may want to throw out there, thinking they are providing arcane information. But my argument heads in a different direction.

Three renowned leaders of the neo-skeptical/atheist movement, have written tomes in the past year or so, reviving old canards about belief in The Almighty being tantamount to belief in Zeus, Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny or The Flying Spaghetti Monster. Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are the new triumvirate representing the Village Atheist nation, in their contemporary battle against the “superstitious” throes of Christianity.

Since Christmas is less than a month away, let’s look at the comparison with Santa Claus and the Almighty. Without getting into a lengthy analysis, we might quickly observe one obvious distinction: Most people quit believing in Santa Claus in their childhood, while some people profess a belief in God for the first time in adulthood.

I am sure they will say that there is no need to offer such a rebuttal because nobody actually believes in Santa. But we should keep in mind the following: Santa Claus appears in our festivities, in our national television specials, in our retail outlets, in our Christmas traditions, and most of us tell our children he exists. Society exhibits at least a superficial belief and mental assent toward the legend of Santa Claus.

Still, I can’t help wondering why no atheist writes a critique refuting the existence of Santa Claus, since they claim it’s all the same belief anyway? If both beliefs were that similar in principle, we should also expect to find a cadre of folks that believe in flying reindeer, along with an omniscient human being that visits every residence on the globe, who all need to be mercifully relieved of their superstitious ignorance.

So why aren’t some skeptical social critics, like the ones referenced above, ranting about the “destructive consequences” of inculcating this hoary fable into the consciences of our youth? If any are, they certainly aren’t writing current best sellers to promote the idea.

Yet, they certainly never miss the opportunity to condemn the detriment of teaching children the Ten Commandments of a “genocidal god.” Seldom do they turn down the opportunity to ridicule the ethic found in the scriptures. They are never afraid to display their theological ineptitude, revealed by the nature of the rhetorical questions they ignorantly spiel in order to stump believers.

Why aren’t the usual commentators, who glorify the virtue of naked reason, presenting editorial commentaries critical of parents telling children that Santa Claus won’t bring them anything but a lump of coal for Christmas, if they behave badly? Isn’t this just appealing to morality at the lowest common denominator, telling children to be good or they will be punished? Is this not a spin-off of the religious idea of eternal reward and punishment that atheists loathe?

These are not stupid or silly assertions, but are necessary considerations in reply to claims of the atheist. We would be justified in calling the atheist on his inconsistencies.

Contemporary skeptics aren’t actually railing against perceived superstitions of any stripe, they show that they instead merely despise the Judeo-Christian traditions.

And that’s the name of that tune.

Robert E. Meyer is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc.

State of The Union, Christmas, 2007

By Jack L, Key

Let’s think for a moment; what IS the state of our union?

Like most of us, I’ve been taken by the upcoming season of Christmas, and have been thinking of the reasons we celebrate the birth of Jesus the Christ, and the end of another year. And when you reach my ripening age, ending another year is reason for some serious thought.

But in reading the news and some newsletters this morning, I came on a discussion by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich of a race-based state in Hawaii. It seems Nancy Pelosi and other extremists in the House have cooked up a bill that will establish a native race-based government in Hawaii not subject to the Constitution. The House has approved a bill called the Native Government Reorganization Act and sent it to the Senate for approval.

Can this be true, I thought? But yes, after checking the House bills, there it was, staring me in the face. Will Alaska be next? Or Florida? Or Texas?

Sen. Lamar Alexander, who represents my state of Tennessee has introduced a bill that gives charities protection from lawsuits brought by our own government should they require their employees to speak English. But anti-English extremists in the House, led by Speaker Pelosi, are trying to block this bill,

USA vs., John Q, Citizen for speaking English? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

Last I heard, the United States of America was an English speaking, God fearing, Christian country, established by constitutional government that provided for others to seek citizenship. Only then can they share in freedoms of speech, religion, press, and protections from unauthorized search and seizure by the government, the right to an open trial and to be considered innocent until proven guilty.

Is this the Democratic Congress liberals, leftists, socialists and Bush haters elected? It sure is folks.

And that’s not all. Currently Congress, controlled by Democrats, is withholding funding for troops in Iraq and elsewhere in harm’s way purely as an act of desperation and anger for our troops succeeding in battle. Meanwhile, your sons and daughters may die for lack of support from their own elected Congress, Now Congress wants you to elect a Democrat as president next year. And then re-elect them again later. Baloney!

This is the current state of our union?

I’m disgusted with red and blue politics. I’m tired of hearing about “separation of church and state.” There’s no such wording in our Constitution.

I’m sick of hearing about who should speak English, and why. English is our national language! Period!

Most of all, I’m sick, tired, disgusted and angered by the ongoing discussions of race, and of using ethnicity as a basis for idiotic bills. We’re bombarded by “race-inspired” TV commercials, programming and news. Four, possibly five, states have as many Hispanics and blacks as whites. For 45 years now the government has been pouring taxpayer dollars into programs and pockets that provide “minority equality.” Has anyone bothered to read the data from the 2000 census?

Look, it’s simple. This is OUR country. Not theirs, his or mine. It belongs to all of us. If you are a citizen. In the Revolutionary war, and all the wars since, including the ongoing War on Terror, Americans have fought and died for this country and for all the others in the world who couldn’t fight for themselves – my family and me included.

History tells us the country was founded by white, English speaking men, and its wars were fought by a vast majority of white, English speaking men. But they did not do it alone, nor did they establish or save the country only for themselves.

All races are represented in our history and our wars for peace. The country was built for them. But when anyone tries to force us, steal from us, sneak unfounded laws on us, or attempts to dissolve this mighty union, woe be to him or her.
And that, unfortunately, is the state of the union this Christmas.

Jack L, Key is a freelance writer and the author of the new novel Gideon’s Trumpet.