Christian Implants and Other Wonders

Carrie Prejean, as a conservative Christian Miss California, got her first nationwide publicity when, in answer to a Miss USA pageant question, she said that she was opposed to gay marriage. She was criticized for her answer, but what did the interviewer expect? Should she have lied? It was a stupid question by an idiot who had his own agenda. She was entitled to express her belief and she should be admired for daring to say it. Her later preparedness to switch off Larry King, during an unacceptable line of questioning, shows that she still has spunk.

The publicity from the gay marriage answer, however, led to other revelations, and she lost her the Miss California title. The subsequent happenings made her look like an airhead, especially when she proclaimed that Sarah Palin, the primo political airhead, was her idol. Some commentators suggested a joke Palin/Prejean presidential ticket for 2012!

First, it turns out that she had breast implants. Prejean defended these by saying that there was nothing un-Christian in getting them. “I don’t see anywhere in the Bible where it says you shouldn’t get breast implants.” Then she had posed for half nude photographs, which she blamed on the wind blowing her top open. She did not say it, but there’s nothing in the Bible that says you shouldn’t pose for nude photographs. Then a solo sex video surfaced. Then many more. There’s nothing in the Bible that says you shouldn’t make masturbation videos. Now she has had a firm offer for a porn movie. Carrie, there’s nothing in the Bible that says …

I shouldn’t make fun of her conservative Christian rationalizations, since the fabric of her world may be crashing around her, or perhaps those fifteen minutes of fame are being effectively extended. Maybe her Christianity will allow her to venture into the seedier world into which she seems to be heading. If so, I feel kind of sorry for her.

Conservative Christians are very good at rationalizing. In Prejean’s case, what may be embarrassing to her, is no more than harmless amusement to the rest of us. Where it is not harmless, is when it appears in the people to whom we may someday entrust society and government. The ultra-right wing of the Republican Party is trying to purge the moderates of the party, and, together with the “screamers” on radio and Fox News, it defines itself solidly as Christian.

But what kind of Christianity is this?

It is certainly not the caring, charitable kind of Christianity we associate with Jesus, when its main characteristic is denial, when it takes rather than gives, when it says no to need and care. It is a selfish Christianity without moral depth and without charity. Christianity with implants!

It is okay to lie and deceive, both openly and through manipulation. We can divorce our wives, even as they are confined to bed with cancer. Adultery is fine, because our colleagues will forgive us (which is just about as good as God’s forgiveness.) We can send prurient emails to boy pages we lust for. Being “unclean” (Matthew 16:10) is now perfectly fine and Christian.

Additionally, we can now place money above morality. We can bow to special interest groups that line our back pockets with green and then we go and do their bidding, even if it flies against national and humane interests. We operate as back pocket gophers and persuade ourselves that this is in everyone’s best interests. Yes, our Christian implants say; yes, yes, we can worship both God and money (Matthew 6:24).

The two references I gave are to actual words of Jesus. The rest of the Bible, both old and new, has many prohibitions that are either ignored or simply flouted by these professed Christians. In fairness, I should point out, though, that when it comes to health care, the biggest back pocket gopher seems to be Joe Lieberman, the senator from Connecticut, who is neither Republican nor Christian, but the political conservative Christians are not far behind.

Prejean defended her implants by saying that there was nothing in the Bible against them. But the actions of the super-conservative Christian Republicans fly directly in the face of what is proscribed in the Bible. Clearly, they must have implants that allow them to put on this front.

The wind is blowing.

Your implants are showing

And you don’t care.

God is all knowing

And you will be going

To you know where.

Tea Parties

Republicans around the country have organized “Tea Party Rallies” to protest health care reform, among other things. They draw their inspiration from the Boston Tea Party, which helped spark the American Revolution. Protestors turn up in support wearing teabags; that is to say, they go “tea bagging.” Little do they realize that tea bagging is also a fraternity ritual, drawn from the similarity of a tea bag to a scrotum.  So the sweet conservative ladies turn up at the rallies with their tea testicles hanging from their hats.

At these rallies the tea baggers listen to rants against the government. At a recent rally, they witnessed the Minority Leader of the House, John Boehner (Republican, Ohio), commit a big boner to go with the teabags. Waving his pocket copy of the Constitution in his right hand, he declared he would quote from it, and went on to orate, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!” Oopsie! Your ignorance is showing, sir! These words are not from the Constitution, but from the preamble to the Declaration of Independence.

Boehner’s ignorance is a gaffe that a congressman should not make, let alone a potential leader of the house, but it was not much more than a gaffe. There are, however, errors around the Boston Tea Party, which are not gaffes, but which are consciously perpetuated. In a fifth grade classroom last week, I had to listen to ignorance among the patriotic hogwash that was being inculcated into their young minds. Not all of it was hogwash, of course, but not one item was free of it.

There is no doubt that the Boston Tea Party was a very important spark leading to the American Revolution, and that generally it was about taxation without representation. One reading told the fifth graders that King George removed all the taxes, except the one on tea as a lesson to the colonists who then had to pay high taxes on tea. This is bullshit. The Tea Act of 1773, passed by the British Parliament, removed the tax on tea, requiring only American duty to be paid on tea coming into the colonies. The effect was that the price of tea, legally entering the colonies, now cost half the original price. In fact, tea in the colonies was cheaper than tea in Britain, since the British still had to pay the tax.

The main importer of tea was the East India Company, and the Tea Act was seen as favoring the company, enabling them to undercut American importers and (above all) tea smugglers. And there is truth in that, and there was understandable resentment by leaders in the colonies. But it was NOT about high taxes. Significantly, among the leaders of the Sons of Liberty, the group who engineered the Tea Party, was the wealthy John Hancock, who made his pile from … smuggling tea.

Halloween Costumes and Illegal Aliens

This year’s Halloween costumes for sale include one adult jumpsuit with a space alien mask and the words “ILLEGAL ALIEN” printed across the chest. This has upset a Los Angeles immigrant rights group, who feels it is “racist”, that it hurts the sensitivities of people from south of the border who are illegally in the USA. Target took it off its website (it was not available in stores), but other sites were selling out of the costume, no doubt helped by the publicity of the group who objected.

The costume, of course, was a play on words intended as a bit of fun. The same kind of pun is made at the beginning of the movie Men in Black, here at the border between the USA and Mexico. Unlike the movie, there was nothing on the Halloween costume that specifically targeted Hispanic illegal aliens, though the sales spiel did make that reference in a humorous way. (“He didn’t just cross a border, he crossed a galaxy! He’s got his green card, but it’s from another planet!”)

This is not the only illegal alien costume. There is another costume that those groups have not objected to. This is the  “sexy illegal alien” costume, and this one clearly refers to Mexican illegal aliens through its pointed use of a sombrero and handcuffs.

My objection is not to the costume or to the outcry by some groups against it. These kinds of objections are symptomatic of our hypersensitive P.C. society, something we have to put up with as part of wanting to respect all people. However, do we have to sacrifice our sense of humor?

The irony is that “sexy illegal alien” costume, which was not objected to, is actually more objectionable than the “adult illegal alien” one, because it is sexist, it pointedly refers to Mexicans, it suggests they should be handcuffed, and it is almost totally without humor. (You do get shades with it, shaped like “alien” eyes.)

I do object to groups fudging the distinction between legal and illegal immigrants. They say they are concerned about the rights of “all” immigrants, but they do more damage to the acceptance of legal immigration than good, as they continue to advocate and encourage acceptance of illegal activity.

The Nobel Peace Prize

So Obama got the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. The Peace Prize is supposed to be given to whomever has done the most “during the preceding year” to promote fraternity between nations, to abolish or reduce standing armies and for holding or promoting “peace congresses.”

Although the peace prize committee tried to justify it, I don’t think Obama has done enough to warrant the award, especially if by “preceding year” is meant the year 2008.

One joke (by Jay Leno) is that he got the prize for inviting a black Harvard professor and a white policeman to the White House to make peace over a few beers.

I have respect for the other Nobel awards, but the Peace Prize awards are often laughable, and I tend to view these with a degree of cynicism. With other Nobel awards, there is the passage of years that allows the honored achievement to be evaluated with the hindsight of time. This perspective is not given to the peace committee or it is not taken. So there is a danger of getting sucked into what appears now, rather than what is effective over a period of time.

In this way the 1973 peace prize was awarded to Henry Kissinger and Le Doc Tho for the “Paris Peace Accords”. The latter refused it, pointing out that there was no peace in his country, something that the Peace prize committee should have taken into account. But the war-mongering hawk Kissinger was only too happy to accept his for what turned out to be little more than a cynical exercise, for the United States continued bombing North Vietnam. In this category we could include the peace prizes that were awarded to leaders in the Middle East conflicts.

In the past, nominees for the peace prize have included Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini and (for a short time) Adolf Hitler.

Some awards make you wonder what the honoree has done with regard to fraternity between nations, army reduction or peace congresses. Most notable here is the 1979 award to Mother Teresa. She was deserving of some award, but what she did had nothing within the parameters of the Nobel Peace Prize, and, as her acceptance speech showed, she had no concept of what was needed for world peace.

The Nobel Peace Prize is deserving of the least respect among the Nobel Prize awards.

Scientific Orthodoxy and Venus

Progress in science is achieved through open-minded investigation of phenomena, the acquisition of new knowledge, and the correction and integration of previous knowledge. The main obstacle to scientific progress is not general ignorance or the lack of application of the scientific method, but scientific orthodoxy. This phenomenon takes place when a certain theory, such as the current greenhouse/global warming theory, becomes so pervasive that it is unquestioningly adopted as established fact, and this “fact” is used to hinder or even stifle further progress, and prevent critical investigation of the theory or the examination of alternative theories.

History can provide many examples. I give just one. In 1912 Alfred Wegener first put forward the idea of continental drift and he later expanded it. He proposed that the continents were once joined together in a single landmass, and that they drifted apart to their present positions. This is all too familiar to us now, but Wegener met nothing but opposition, much of it extremely hostile. His proposal had come up against scientific orthodoxy. Wegener spent the rest of his life trying to find convincing proof of his theory and in the end died on one of his expeditions. Even the theory of plate junctions, proposed by Arthur Holmes in 1920, and his later suggestion that convection currents in the mantle could cause movement in the plates, did not bring about acceptance of continental drift. It was only in the late 1950s that Wegener’s theory became generally accepted. Now, of course, it has achieved the status of orthodoxy. Woe be to anyone who might come up with an alternate hypothesis!

We may have a similar situation with the planet Venus. Until the beginning of exploration in the 1960s, little was known about the planet. The common view was that it was a cold, cloudy and wet planet. C.S. Lewis’ 1943 novel Perelandia represents this understanding of the planet’s surface.

The first researcher to postulate that the surface of Venus was actually very hot was Immanuel Velikovsky in the 1940s. He was ridiculed for this, not just because it flew in the face of scientific orthodoxy, but because of his myth-based methodology, which was not acceptable to scientists. In addition, he proposed that Venus was ejected by Jupiter (which he said was also hot and a radio source). After causing some planetary havoc, Venus was finally captured in its present orbit by the sun. The suggestion of such a huge catastrophic occurrence ran in the face of Uniformitarianism, the prevailing scientific view of development and evolution. We know now that both Venus and Jupiter are very hot planets, and the Jupiter is a radio source. These facts, however, have not redeemed any of Velikovsky’s ideas.

Mariner 2 in a flyby in 1962 found that the surface was indeed extremely hot, and Venera 4, which landed on the planet in 1967, made the first accurate temperature measurement at almost 500 degrees C – a far cry from the supposed cold and wet planet. The planetary explorations of Venus have produced facts, but they have also produced theories that are not yet proven. Nevertheless, these theories are promulgated as though they are beyond all doubt. They turn up in school textbooks as facts. The planet is described as once being like the earth, but now it is covered with clouds of sulphuric acid, and its heat is the result of a runaway greenhouse effect. Almost in the same metaphoric breath, the text goes on to warn mankind that the same thing could happen here on earth if we don’t change our profligate habits.

Linking what is supposed to have happened on Venus with what might happen on Earth is a common feature in explanations of the atmosphere of Venus. It does not just happen in textbooks; it is part of the orthodoxy of Venus. This is no coincidence: the idea of a planetary greenhouse was first proposed for Venus in an attempt to explain its great heat. The term “runaway” conveniently captured the planet’s supposed descent into hellish conditions. Only later was the greenhouse idea applied to Earth.

There are some problems with the orthodox view of Venus. First of all, the impression is given, especially in the elementary school textbooks, that the atmosphere is mostly sulphuric acid, which it is not. It is actually somewhere in the order of 98 percent carbon dioxide; only the clouds are supposed to be sulphuric acid.

Questions can also be raised about the “runaway greenhouse effect”; these would probably be howled down by scientific orthodoxy. It is assumed that the planet was once like Earth. Due to factors such as its proximity to the sun and the absence of a moon, an Earth-like environment could not have happened in the first place. Venus was never like Earth. Another problem with the greenhouse idea is that Venus is entirely covered with an opaque layer of highly reflective clouds, the most reflective natural surface in the entire solar system. These clouds very efficiently turn back heat radiation, far more efficiently than clouds do on Earth. The extreme heat of Venus is actually internally generated.

Planetary exploration of Venus is of course incomplete. Missions to return to Venus are currently in the works, and future explorations will no doubt produce evidence that will challenge and correct the shortcomings in the current orthodox view.

Venus, therefore, is not a blueprint for what might happen on Earth. There are too many assumptions in the Venus scenario to be solid evidence. Orthodoxy aside, any global warming that is taking place here on Earth, is not and cannot be a copy of whatever happened or is happening now on Venus.

Also see “A Note on Global Warming” below.

A Note of Global Warming

Today we are constantly deluged with material on climate change, some more alarming than others. Of course, there is no question that global warming has happened, but on this matter we with our usual human arrogance blame ourselves. True, we have aggravated the situation and true, we can lessen the problem, but the ultimate cause has little to do with mankind (and little to do with carbon dioxide, for that matter), just as the Little Ice Age that went from the 13th to the 18/19th century had little to do with human causes.

In the time before the Little Ice Age, the world was considerably warmer than it is now, even though the so-called greenhouse gases were very low. Here are two bits of evidence – in brief.

In England, grapes were grown throughout the country. In fact, so much wine was being made that the French complained about the influx of English wines. When the ice age began to take hold, the grape crops started to fail. People had to stop drinking wine, and turn to beer because barley (especially) and other grains did OK. As we got to the coldest time of the Little Ice Age, the years leading up to the French Revolution, even the grain crops started to fail. The French were particularly affected, because the peasants had refused to make the switch to potatoes, which were less affected. These famines contributed significantly to the revolution.

Another piece of evidence is Greenland. I have seen it suggested that Eric the Red called it “green land” to attract settlers, but this is not true. Greenland was in fact green, with luscious pastures for grazing, etc. The Greenland colony traded with Norway via ships that arrived at least once a month. After some 200 years of the colony’s existence, the climate began to change. The Little Ice Age had arrived. Snow and ice advanced, while the green fields retreated. Summers became very short. Ships could only rarely arrive through the ice bound seas. Finally, they couldn’t get through any more. The colony hung on as well as it could, but by the fifteenth century it had disappeared.

The real causes of global warming (and cooling) are of cosmic origin, as detailed in The Chilling Stars by Henrik Svensmark and increasingly verified by his subsequent work. The book is highly recommended reading.

I think the reason why Svensmark’s work is not at the forefront of discussion is threefold: (1) Svensmark is Danish, not American; (2) in the early years of awareness of climate change, any voices that appeared to be against mankind’s contribution to global warming were downplayed or attacked (Svensmark, however, supports the human contribution); and (3) the idea that humans are the cause of global warming is now so orthodox, so established, and everyone is jumping on the band wagon, that more rational investigatory voices are not being heard.

If the cause of global warming is not human, should we just go ahead on our own merry way? I think not. Apart from making sure that we adapt to climate change, the steps we are taking (or are being encouraged to take) will still be beneficial to the environment. Cutting down carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles or coal-driven power plants also cuts down other pollutants. Driving cars with better mileage, conservation and recycling—all these environmentally beneficial habits help to conserve our natural resources.

US Adopts the “Australian Ballot”

US voting has always been flawed. Initially, voting was done by a show of hands. You had to turn up at a certain time to vote. Except for the inconvenience, that worked OK. Then they introduced the paper ballot. You had to supply the paper, write the name of your candidate on it, make it past the crowds, often hostile (unless you are voting for their candidate), and hand your ballot in through a window to the election official. You also had to be able to spell your candidate’s name correctly or your vote was null.

Then parties began to print the ballots. They’d give you a ballot (and a buck), but you still had to make it through the intimidating crowds who were often fighting amongst themselves. Woe to you if, on your way there with your ballot in hand, you meet the thugs of the party you are voting against. Sometimes people were shot. In the middle years of the 19th century, 89 people were killed, not counting those who died later.

What changed this situation was imported from Australia, of all places, and that was two-fold: the government supplied the ballots and voting was secret (Victoria’s Electoral Act of 1856). It was adopted in Britain, long before the US, where its merits were debated for a couple of decades. Even then, there were shenanigans. One state printed its ballots in gothic letters, so the poor and the blacks could not read them. Others required you to pass a literacy test. The Southern Democrats, who were a racist bunch in those days, particularly welcomed the “Australian ballot”. Quite apart from the literacy hurdle, a voter had to come into City Hall to vote, and this act itself was very intimidating to blacks.