Opening The Files: 10/13/07

Things are heating up for both sides in the Get Gore campaign.


Commentary By: The Xsociate

An Assault on Nobel Reason

Depending on ones political slant, yesterday you were either suffering from Goremania or Gore-aphobia with the news that Al Gore had won the Nobel Peace Prize. Righties immediately sought to downplay the significance of the award. They were joined by the always obliging Fox News who, though a little slow on the uptake, were soon smearing in style.

With this cap to a year of awards, naturally the topic soon turned to the heated speculation (pun intended) of whether Al would seek out the most coveted prize of all: the Presidency. It’s not all that surprising that in the wake of this award, the thirst for a Gore candidacy would only become more parched. After all, it is but another example of how were it not for the decision of nine Supreme Court justices seven years ago to award Bush the presidency, we may not find ourselves in such dire straits regarding a multitude of problems facing humanity.

In light of that, it’s not surprising there are those pondering what might have been.

Noam Scheiber wonders what effect all the gaga over Gore is having on Bush. Al probably shouldn’t wait up for that congratulatory call.

Gotta love Fox News’ suggestion about who should have been awarded a “peace” prize. Then again, “peace” has been a pretty relative term with them for a while. Hunter, meanwhile, has some other suggestions.

Bob Franken ponders what a head to head with fellow Tennessean Fred Thompson would look like should Al run. For Fred’s stake, lets hope it doesn’t come down to giving short, concise answers.

And some wonder what Gore’s advocacy of confronting climate change has to go with a world peace. My bloghost at ASZ Richard Blair connects the dots for us.

(X-posted at The Xsociate Files)

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011 by The Xsociate |

Earth Hour, 2009: You Can Make a Difference Tonight

Tonight, between 8:30 and 9:30PM, regardless of your time zone, you have the opportunity to create a synergy with millions of other people by turning off your lights for an hour, in observance of Earth Hour.

Commentary By: Richard Blair

sydney earth hourWhen I reflect on my trip to AIG’s headquarters in NYC two weeks ago, the most important takeaway that I get from my effort is that one person can indeed make a difference. My peaceful, lone man protest forced a disruption on one of the world’s largest firms.

When I reflect on the issue of climate change and global warming, it almost seems overwhelming, and that one person’s efforts would be so small in the larger scheme of things so as to be useless. But then I think back to my hours in the canyons of New York City’s financial district, and the impact that it created. Yes, I can make a difference. And if thousands (or millions) join me, in whatever the issue or endeavor, then the statement becomes powerful and hard to ignore.

Tonight, between 8:30 and 9:30PM, regardless of your time zone, you have the opportunity to create a synergy with millions of other people by turning off your lights for an hour, in observance of Earth Hour. The picture to the left is downtown Sydney, Australia earlier today. Quite an impact, huh?

Yes, Earth Hour is a largely symbolic gesture. The message that it sends, though, is visually unique and emotionally compelling: there is power in numbers, irrespective of the cause or issue. The idea started as the brainchild of one single person, and has grown to a global movement, much the same as my lone protest in NYC was one person’s effort to express his own dissatisfaction with the status quo.

What’s the difference? With Earth Hour, the personal inconvenience to participate is near zero; the only requirement to participate is flipping a light switch to the “off” position. It doesn’t get any easier than that.

If you believe in the cause of climate change and global warming, will you please join me this evening and and make a statement? Step into your power, and kill the power for one hour.

Update, 3/30/09:You simply have to read this post on Earth Hour (and the comments) at Bob Cesca’s Awesome Goddamn Blog. Hilarious!

Saturday, March 28th, 2009 by Richard Blair |

Push Poll About Energy

I just got a phone call, a push poll probably sponsored by the energy sector in this country. The distortions int he questions pushed greater exploration and claimed it would create jobs. That is counter to the energy plan that’s on the table. They sure didn’t mention global warming or energy dependence. Renewables? Not so much.


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

I just answered it moments ago. There were two questions, besides the ones that asked about my gender and age. The first straw man they brought up was about how the energy companies were blocked from exploring for oil, and the second question claimed there would be 160,000 jobs if only the energy companies could explore for oil with no impediment.

Now I’m thinking the energy companies have made a huge amount of profits in the last couple years. I’ve heard also that several energy companies have backed out of research into renewable energy and the like. They must know that in this political environment they aren’t going to get a great reception on Capital Hill. So where do they spend those billions of dollars of profits? Push polls!

I’m sure the energy companies have a lot of real smart people working for them, but push polls are not going to change American attitudes or policy. Sure, if the real smart people at the energy companies are Republicans they just might think push polls are a good idea. But, really, all the thinly disquised advocacy poll is going to do is piss people off when they see through the poll. Sure, there might be many people who can’t see through a push poll, but I’m betting America as a whole is wising up to that tactic. And think about it a moment. The part of the electorate they need to convince, the educated part of the electorate, is voting Obama. And they’re the ones, my gut tells me, who are going to be offended by the energy companies spending their profits by trying to trick people concerning energy policy.

Stupid, stupid.

Thursday, March 26th, 2009 by Steven Reynolds |

Bad Day To Be A Climate Change Denying Christian Creationist?

Two new findings will make it more difficult to reject the theory of evolution and dismiss man-made climate change. For those who are adept at discerning their denials from the Bible, the Rapture is apt to be their last rationale for discarding science.


Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

Try as they might to undermine science, those who reject evolution and downplay the impact of man-made climate change will have to work overtime to deny newly revealed evidence of both.

Time and again, creationist’s contend that the fossil record lacks the transitional forms of life to support the theory of evolution. Unfortunately, time isn’t on their side since each passing day seems to reveal another piece of the evolutionary puzzle. With the discovery of a creature that seems to be a combination of a frog and a salamander (frogmander), creationists will have another formidable hurdle to overcome.

From Yahoo News:

CHICAGO (Reuters) – The discovery of a “frogamander,” a 290 million-year-old fossil that links modern frogs and salamanders, may resolve a longstanding debate about amphibian ancestry, Canadian scientists said on Wednesday.

Modern amphibians – frogs, salamanders and earthworm-like caecilians – have been a bit slippery about divulging their evolutionary ancestry. Gaps in the fossil record showing the transformation of one form into another have led to a lot of scientific debate.

The fossil Gerobatrachus hottoni or elderly frog, described in the journal Nature, may help set the record straight.

“It’s a missing link that falls right between where the fossil record of the extinct form and the fossil record for the modern form begins,” said Jason Anderson of the University of Calgary, who led the study.

The fossil suggests that modern amphibians may have come from two groups, with frogs and salamanders related to an ancient amphibian known as a temnospondyl, and worm-like caecilians more closely related to the lepospondyls, another group of ancient amphibians.

Many of these same individuals have also taken to denying the existence of man-made climate change…arguing that God is in charge and has a plan for his creation and that means we needn’t spend time and money fretting about carbon emissions or minor shifts in temperature that scientists consider significant. With the finding that western oceans have a rapidly expanding acidity as a result of greenhouse gas pollution, these deniers may want to consider the possibility that God, in granting us free will, expects us to use our brains to preserve the planet on which we live.

From Wired:

Greenhouse gas pollution has acidified the coastal waters of western North America more rapidly than scientists expected, says a study published today in Science.

In a survey of waters stretching from central Canada to northern Mexico, researchers led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Richard Feely found cold, unexpectedly low-pH water “upwelling onto large portions of the continental shelf.” In some locations, the degree of acidification observed had not been expected to occur until 2050.

Ocean acidification is a side effect of excessive atmospheric carbon dioxide, lesser-known but no less troubling than climate change.

In September of 2005, Feely was among the authors of a Nature article predicting that acidication would claim Antarctic Ocean waters by 2050, spreading into the subarctic Pacific by 2100. “Our findings indicate that conditions detrimental to high-latitude ecosystems could develop within decades, not centuries as suggested previously,” they wrote.

“Water already in transit to upwelling centers is carrying increasing anthropogenic CO2 and more corrosive conditions to the coastal oceans of the future,” write the authors. Ocean acidification “could affect some of the most fundamental biological and geochemical processes of the sea in the coming decades.” If anything, the clinical language of science only makes their words more disturbing.

No doubt these two findings are part and parcel of the march towards science fully eclipsing the validity of Bible based beliefs that often form the basis of religious doctrine. Regardless, each discovery appears to generate a new rationalization intended to preserve the literal interpretations that have proven so effective in granting and maintaining the authority of religious leaders and the institutions they promote.

I suspect these two items will simply give fuel to those religious leaders who suggest that we are entering the period that will culminate in the Rapture…the final piece of an end of days prophecy that is also derived from the Bible. Nothing like bending each and every fact to fit a faith based fallacy.

Unfortunately, I’m not yet convinced that the manipulated masses will be willing to follow these zealots into their vision of the fatalistic abyss…even if they promise to deliver the lot of them into the perpetual happiness they guarantee is just beyond the horizon. In the end, I expect most mortals will choose the surety of science over the abstract assertion of an after life.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008 |

Family Research Council: Black & White Is As Clear As Mud

The Family Research Council cherry picks the issues they employ to fleece their flock. With global warming, they argue God has a plan and the faithful shouldn’t have to sacrifice financially. On the other hand, when it comes to defeating gay marriage, they must have money and activism.


Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

The Family Research Council has followed in the footsteps of Focus on the Family with the introduction a new video segment on their web site. FRC calls their program The Truth in Black & White, and it features Tony Perkins, the president of FRC, and Bishop Harry Jackson.

I’ve included two of their videos below. In the first, Perkins and Jackson tackle stewardship of the earth and global warming. In the second, they take on the recent ruling of the California Supreme Court to overturn the ban on same-sex marriage.

The contrast found in the logic of these two videos is notable and indicative of the hypocrisy that is so often demonstrated by the religious right. Note that in the first video, Perkins and Jackson suggest that global warming hysteria is fear mongering and a fabrication of men like Al Gore. Apparently the God that speaks to Al Gore is a fraud…and men like Perkins and Jackson are here to tell us which God is real…and which problems the real God wants us to address.

They suggest that while we need to be good stewards of the earth, God knows what he is doing with his creation (the earth and its people) and he will sustain them according to his own plan. In fact, Perkins states that we shouldn’t “surrender national autonomy nor do we need to sacrifice the family budget and the income that families are making” when addressing that stewardship. Little did I know that God finds it acceptable for us to put the interests of the United States above those of the rest of the world and that he doesn’t expect us to give up any of our wealth in order to preserve his creation. Apparently God intends to subsidize this particular issue.

So let me see if I’ve got this straight. Men like Perkins and Jackson don’t think Americans should sacrifice any of their income to protect the planet…at least not in accordance with Kyoto or any of the plans put forward by the likes of Al Gore. On the other hand, these are the same people who routinely expect their followers to open their wallets and contribute generously to the FRC and the causes they deem to be necessary and in need of immediate attention.

That brings us to the second video which is on the subject of same-sex marriage. In this instance, apparently Perkins and Jackson don’t think God has a sufficient plan for addressing the issue of homosexuality…even though God would had to have known it would exist (and had a plan to address it) just like they contend he would have known that fears about the climate of the planet would eventually trouble some of its inhabitants.

Here’s where we begin to see the inconsistency and the hypocrisy. Perkins and Jackson conclude that the FRC and the religious right need to step in and take an activist role in preventing gays from obtaining the rights afforded to their heterosexual counterparts. Is this because God’s plan is lacking when it comes to gays? Funny how, in this instance, families are routinely asked to dig deep into their budgets to fund the FRC and their efforts to pass amendments in California and other states to ban same-sex marriage. Far be it for me to know what God deems a justified financial sacrifice…though Perkins and Jackson seem convinced they know.

In other words, with regards to global warming, God wants us to be good stewards but we need not and should not do anything drastic because he knows what he’s doing and he doesn’t expect us to crimp our budgets. On the other hand, he needs us to do everything we can to stop the gays. Is that because he doesn’t have a plan or because gays have somehow figured out how to outsmart God? Apparently Perkins and Jackson have concluded that God needs his hetero human subjects to become his proxy warriors in addressing homosexuality because he just can’t go it alone.

Perkins and Jackson seem to think all of this is completely black and white…but I contend it is merely more of the same cut and paste pontificating that has come to define their inane ideology. Talking in circles may suffice for those who are willing to suspend rational thought and ignore reasoned analysis…but I find it to be the equivalent of washing the windows with a bucket of dirty water.

Yes, the effort might make one feel better but it sure as hell does nothing to enhance one’s view and one’s understanding of what lies on the other side. Rather, it serves to preclude those on one side from ever having to consider arguments that might undermine the absolute ideology they embrace and the fears that endear them to it.

In the end, it’s obvious that Perkins and Jackson believe that personal faith should intervene in public policy…but only when doing so furthers the issues of faith they have conveniently chosen to cherry pick. Perhaps they think that’s black and white. I think it’s about as clear as mud.

Perkins & Jackson On Stewardship & Global Warming Hysteria (VIDEO)

Perkins & Jackson On CA Supreme Court Gay Marriage Ruling (VIDEO)

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Sunday, May 18th, 2008 by Daniel DiRito |

Tony Perkins Links Global Warming, Abortion, & Gay Marriage

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council wants to enlightens us on climate change. Little did we know that those who seek to address global warming are secretly promoting abortions and same-sex marriage. There is good news. Perkins believes ignoring global warming will hasten our chances to meet our maker.


Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

I’ve long believed that religious fanatics have the willingness and the capacity to justify any behavior or action they feel will further their agenda and solidify their authority over their minions. The evidence supporting my belief just grew exponentially.

In the following video, ABC News explores how global warming is viewed by a number of religious leaders and their denominations. The report stems from the declaration signed by current and former leaders of the Southern Baptist Church in which they assert that they have been too timid on addressing global warming. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council disagrees with this position. Instead, Perkins argues that those who favor a reduction in global warming are actually seeking to promote abortion and same-sex marriage. Perkins contends that limiting population is an element of climate control and is therefore contrary to the promotion of life and procreation. Rather than focus on Perkins’ absurd conflation, I think it makes more sense to explore the motivations that in all likelihood underly it.

After assailing abortion and the gays, Perkins pivots to make the argument that people would be better served to put their energy into preparing themselves spiritually for the end of the world (the rapture or the end of days) instead of championing climate control. I guess Perkins sees humanity like an ant colony in a jar – if our willful actions lead us to outgrow and destroy our planet, the masses should simply soldier on like tireless worker ants.

I find his logic problematic (OK, what logic?) because it suggests that God gave us a brain and the ability to build all that exists in this world…but not the good sense to be prudent stewards in order to preserve and protect it. So I’m left to wonder how we’re supposed to know when it’s time to stop using our brains and drive the humanity bus willy-nilly off the cliff?

However, if God decides when to end the world, why would we suddenly determine that we knew it was coming and therefore elect to throw caution to the wind? Isn’t that rather presumptive and arrogant on our part? What if we’re wrong? Isn’t it possible that God would see our carelessness as a sin? Further, what right do we have to destroy his creation…on our own timeline?

People like Perkins like to hear themselves pontificate but they rarely take the time to think through the significance of their proclamations. Is God going to reward those leaders and industries that ignored global warming in the pursuit of profit since their efforts will have helped facilitate the end of days? Will Al Gore and those who sought to save the planet be banished to hell because they opposed unbridled profits at the expense of extinguishing the planet?

If so, wouldn’t that mean that those who chose to give, like the woman in the parable of the widow’s mite, were being punished…while those who chose to take, like the tax collectors seeking to amass more wealth, were being rewarded? How could that be God’s plan?

The answer may be found in what has come to be known as the prosperity doctrine, prosperity theology or the prosperity gospel. Essentially, those who promote this version of faith (and there are many well known ministers) argue that God wants his believers to be successful in all they do…including the accumulation of wealth.

I don’t know if Tony Perkins is a disciple of this thinking or not; but the contradictions found in his position on global warming better align him with prosperity theology than with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Taking it a step further, I doubt Perkins plans to suffer in the days that precede the end of the world; otherwise he would have already diminished his focus on the material world in order to allow time to prepare his own soul for the impending rapture.

You see, I contend that men like Perkins have no intention of suffering…though they make their living asking others to do just that…especially if it means pledging to donate a greater share of their income. Men like Perkins worship money and the spoils of capitalism above all else. They view climate control as an impediment to the pursuit of wealth…though they couch their opposition to it as the promotion of life.

Yes, all too often, the lives of Perkins and his ilk are steeped with worldly treasures. My cynicism tells me they are the equivalent of modern day snake oil salesmen. They travel from this conference to that speaking engagement…preaching their version of values…while separating as much coin from the congregation as is humanly possible.

I question the sincerity of leaders who lecture their flocks ad nauseam on the importance of sacrificing for the afterlife in order to receive its many rewards…particularly when they insist upon rewarding themselves handsomely in the here and now…as if there were no tomorrow.

Perhaps I just don’t know my commandments…especially the one that states – Thou shalt use the name of the Lord thy God when one taketh without guilt.

The following video clip includes the original ABC report along with several insertions of commentary in the form of text added by the individual that uploaded it to YouTube. It is somewhat distracting but it doesn’t prevent the viewer from following the original ABC News report. Perhaps as payment for enduring the editorializing, they include a snippet from the TV show Family Guy at the end of the clip. I thought it was funny so hopefully it will make you chuckle.

ABC News Video – Global Warming & Evangelicals

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Friday, March 21st, 2008 by Daniel DiRito |

Faith vs. Fact: Saying No To Science Because The Bible Tells Me So?

The United Nations is set to release data suggesting that the number of individuals infected with HIV is lower than previously believed. The announcement has led some to argue that the UN is misleading the world with regards to global warming. There is a dangerous trend by those on the right to discount fact when it doesn’t comport with faith. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen when it comes to the changing justifications for the war in Iraq.


Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

I’ve noticed a disquieting trend on a number of important issues with regards to those on the right. In summary form, the trend is to discount scientific evidence while promoting faith based biblical theories in order to advance a narrow ideological agenda.

The most recent example is the response to a report to be issued by the United Nations in which the organization will lower its’ estimates on the size and scope of the AIDS epidemic. Pouncing quickly, many on the right wasted little time in using the revelation to conclude that the UN’s data on global warming must therefore also be inaccurate…or fabricated.

Let me be clear. I’m not suggesting that the United Nations is beyond reproach or that they should be excused if, in fact, they chose to inflate their estimates in order to draw more attention and more funding to the AIDS crisis. Such actions are not justifiable and they only serve to undermine the organization’s credibility and the severity of the problem.

At the same time, the UN’s actions aren’t any more egregious than the efforts of the Bush administration to convince Americans that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Frankly, with the latter, the outcome wasn’t to revise the number of WMD’s found downward…the outcome revealed that the WMD’s didn’t actually exist and new justifications were hastily pulled from thin air.

As such, why would those who doubt the UN’s data, and seek to use one reevaluation of a decades long problem as the means to discredit all of the organization’s other opinions, still hold firm and fast to supporting a President and his many policies which have been proven to be blatantly wrong on numerous occasions? My own answer to this question is premised upon the notion that many people of faith would rather defend those amongst us who have been discredited or found to have been deceitful than to admit that their reliance upon faith, and their belief in those who espouse it as fact, may be a suspect construct.

It seems to me that, all too often, people of faith adopt an all or nothing perspective on issues, which simply precludes the possibility of rational debate and reasoned dialogue. While the AIDS crisis and global warming may eventually be determined to be less dire than once thought; why should this action, on the part of the United Nations, to correct a misconception lead us to conclude that we can’t or shouldn’t continue to acknowledge the seriousness and severity that does exist? Should a revision from 40 million infected to 33 million infected lead us to conclude that AIDS isn’t an epidemic in need of immediate and significant attention and funding?

Let’s look at a comparison. We’re currently spending over 10 billion dollars a month on the war in Iraq…a war that was initiated with reliance upon questionable data. On the other hand, the United States just recently committed to spend 15 billion dollars over five years to combat AIDS in Africa. Here’s the issue. AIDS has been a known killer of millions for over twenty years. Now that the UN has concluded its data may be inaccurate, are we also supposed to halt our funding? If so, then why do we continue to support funding for the war in Iraq?

And why the need to use the revised AIDS statistics as the impetus to assail the United Nations warnings about global warming? Is global warming a secular issue? Will rising sea levels only impact the non-believers? Are we to believe that faith will be sufficient to combat our disregard for the planet? Did god give us this domain to do with as we wished without regard for preserving and protecting it? Where in the bible can I find these seemingly inconsistent values?

Sadly, the battle isn’t limited to these two high profile situations. We’ve witnessed the same dynamic with regards to evolution and intelligent design; with regards to abstinence programs and sex education which includes information about contraception and the distribution of condoms; with regards to abortion and the administration of Plan B contraceptives to victims of rape; with regards to teen promiscuity and the new vaccination for the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) to prevent cervical cancer; with regards to Terri Schiavo and end of life issues; with regards to stem cell research and the need to treat life threatening diseases and illnesses.

In the end, faith is not fact and while everyone is entitled to the faith of his or her choice; the choices of the citizenry should not be precluded by the faith of the few. Science needn’t be challenged simply because it fails to support one’s faith. In truth, as I understand it, acts of faith, by their nature, are not predicated upon fact…they are acts of belief premised upon religious values which can and should withstand the challenges of our imperfect human condition.

At the same time, because faith cannot be factually infallible, this nation established a separation between church and state, which afforded each individual the right to adopt the faith they preferred while preventing and protecting the individual from the narrow imposition of the precepts of any particular religious ideology. As such, our forefathers chose to establish governance based upon an adherence to that which could be determined factually while being careful to allow the individual to adopt and abide by their elected, and often disparate, religious beliefs.

Until this nation recommits to this formative construct, we will continue to indiscriminately attach ourselves to each news report that affords us the opportunity to advance narrow and nescient belief systems. At some point, faith must again become a bond of belief between the individual and his or her god…one that actually offers the comfort that is promised to come from a true act of faith. If this cannot be achieved, then perhaps its time we admit that we have abandoned true faith for that which can be falsely forced upon others in order to convince us that it must be fact. In the end, if one’s god exists, then putting forth the former while succumbing to the latter will do little more than sever us from the salvation we’re purportedly seeking.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007 by Daniel DiRito |