Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Head of US Episcopal Church: Climate Change Denial is Immoral

The head of the Episcopal Church has finally declared something immoral, and even if the headline didn't give it away, it wouldn't take a knowledgeable person 5 seconds to guess what it is.

From here:

The highest ranking woman in the Anglican Communion has said that climate change denial is immoral and threatens the rights of the world’s poorest people.  Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told The Guardian that she believes those who deny climate change are not using God’s gift of knowledge.  Her comments come at the start of a month-long campaign to encourage the church’s 2.5 million members to reduce their carbon footprint.

A former Oceanographer before her ordination at the age of 40, Bishop Jefferts Schori, one of the most senior women in Christianity, said that the campaign was needed to persuade her fellow Episcopalians of the need to do something about climate change personally, whether it was lobbying governments and corporations to fight climate change, or reducing their own carbon emissions.

So the Gospel-spreading organization, the Church, is instead going to lobby "governments and corporations to fight climate change."  Oh, I forgot, for the Episcopal Church, environmentalism is the Gospel, because "the world is God's body."

“I really hope to motivate average Episcopalians to see the severity of this issue, the morality of this issue,” she said. “Turning the ship in another direction requires the consolidated efforts of many people who are moving in the same direction.

Like lemmings.

“It’s hard work when you have a climate denier who will not see the reality of scientific truth,” she added.

You mean like a co-founder of Greenpeace who points out what a lot of codswallop this whole greenhouse gas/CO2 thing is.

But for Jefferts Schori, the question isn’t only scientific, it’s moral too.  Referring to those who do not believe in man made climate change theory as holding “a very blind position,” she compared the need to tackle climate change as a moral imperative, akin to the American civil rights movement.

Because we missed Selma, but we can still look important if we convince everybody this thing is real.

“[Climate change] is in that sense much like the civil rights movement in this country where we are attending to the rights of all people and the rights of the earth to continue to be a flourishing place. It is certainly a moral issue in terms of the impacts on the poorest and most vulnerable around the world already.

It is only a sin if it negatively impacts the poor.

“Episcopalians understand the life of the mind is a gift of God and to deny the best of current knowledge is not using the gifts God has given you,” she added. “In that sense, yes, it could be understood as a moral issue.”

Ummm, not buying that "best of current knowledge" canard.

She believes that evangelical strains of Christianity, more commonly associated with a conservative interpretation of the religion, are becoming increasingly concerned with climate change as a social justice issue.

“One of the significant changes in particular has been the growing awareness and activism among the evangelical community who at least somewhat in the more distant past refused to encounter this issue, refused to deal with it,” Jefferts Schori said. “The major evangelical groups in this country have been much more forward in addressing this issue because they understand that it impacts the poor.”

Most "evangelicals" who are jumping on this bandwagon are getting all their news from MSNBC and think having an iPhone is much more important than being a Christian.

But unlike many Christian denominations which are divesting from fossil fuels – the United Methodist Church has just sold its holdings in coal companies from its pension fund – Jefferts Schori does not believe that divestment is the best way forward.

Modern day United Methodists = Episcopalians with less money and bad liturgy.

“If you divest you lose any direct ability to influence the course of a corporation’s behavior,” she said. “I think most pragmatists realise that we can’t close the spigot on the oil wells and close the coal mines immediately without some other energy source to shift to.”

And of course, the Episcopal Church wouldn't dare make any investment changes that might cause it to lose money.

Her words come as the Vatican is preparing an encyclical on climate change, due to be released in June, which the Pope is said to hope will inspire world leaders to adopt tougher measures on climate change in Paris at the end of the year.

Apologies to my Roman Catholic friends, but I keep saying this Pope is only about five years behind the Episcopal Church. 

367 House Lawmakers Warn Obama on Iran

Why isn't this getting more media attention?
 From CNN, where there is more:
A veto-proof, bipartisan majority of House lawmakers have signed an open letter to President Barack Obama warning him that any nuclear deal with Iran will effectively require congressional approval for implementation.
A group of bipartisan senators have penned a bill mandating that any deal be reviewed and approved by Congress, but the House letter notes that lawmakers have another way to halt an agreement — by refusing to roll back sanctions.
"Should an agreement with Iran be reached, permanent sanctions relief from congressionally-mandated sanctions would require new legislation. In reviewing such an agreement, Congress must be convinced that its terms foreclose any pathway to a bomb, and only then will Congress be able to consider permanent sanctions relief," they write.
The letter, which was signed by 367 members of the House and released Monday by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, follows a similar one, issued to Iran's leaders and signed by 47 Republican senators, warning that any deal with Iran could be rolled back by a future president.
Read the rest.

Monday, March 23, 2015

15 Beliefs of the Modern Republican Party

As Republicans work strategically to take the White House in 2016, it will be important for the party to articulate their vision for leading America into the future.  But indeed, the GOP already has a well-defined ideological platform, with clear stances on both domestic and foreign affairs.  In fact, many political strategists believe that the Republican’s platform is currently much more defined than that of the Democrats, and this could give the GOP an advantage in 2016.  With this in mind, let’s take a look at the Republican Party’s core beliefs.

1. Economy: Supporting Small Businesses
Currently, small businesses are an integral part of the U.S. economy, as these businesses are responsible for employing millions of hardworking American laborers. But domestic entrepreneurial start-ups are occurring at levels lower than they have been in 30 years, and no doubt this is a result of the Obama administration’s heavy regulation and taxation of small businesses. In contrast, the GOP is firmly committed to decreasing regulation and taxation of small businesses in order that they may prosper more fully.

2. Economy: The Budget Must Be Balanced
Going forward, the Republican party believes that the American government needs a reformative overhaul with regard to how it handles budget affairs. The GOP sees Medicare as extremely financially unfeasible over the long run, and so they desire to enact structural reforms in order to make the program more sustainable. Furthermore, to the GOP, spending cuts across the board must be combined with further research into technologies that make the day-to-day operations of the government more efficient and more affordable.

3. Economy: Supporting American Businesses in the Global Marketplace
As American corporations presently experience the highest corporate tax rate in the entire globe, this reality greatly hinders the prosperity of American companies competing throughout the world’s economy. Republicans are committed to lessening the excessively high tax rate that is currently being levied upon American companies in order to ensure they have more flexibility in their endeavors. Through the GOP’s plan to lower the corporate tax rate, companies will be able to create thousands of jobs, increase wages, and fund further investments.

4. Energy: Comprehensive Energy Policy
As America presses forward into the 21st century, the Republican party firmly believes in a comprehensive “all-of-the-above” energy policy. With such a wide variety of excellent energy resources to choose from, the GOP believes it would  be irresponsible for the country to not invest in both traditional and alternative energy resources. The GOP recognizes that in order to further actualize the dominance of America’s energy sector and to create thousands of new jobs, the country must invest in any and all energy resources available.

5. Energy: Pursue Coal Research
The GOP readily recognizes that coal is extremely abundant on earth and is extremely affordable to convert into energy. For this reason, the Republican party considers that it is of the utmost importance that America further invests in coal production, as well as in technologies that make coal energy cleaner and more efficient. To turn away from such a vital resource now, as the Democrats would have it, would be a true mistake for the country’s energy sector. Thus, Republicans plan to rally around coal for years to come.

6. Environment: Remove Excessive EPA Regulations
Over the past several decades, the Environmental Protection Agency has exponentially increased the amount of regulations that it imposes upon American businesses, which has cost American companies billions of dollars. The GOP is dead-set determined to remove excessive EPA regulations in order to help American businesses, and the party is also strongly dedicated to ensuring that the EPA acts with more transparency and has adequate levels of congressional oversight.

7. Reform: Restructure Medicare and Medicaid
As millions of Americans currently depend on Medicare and Medicaid for their health needs, the Republicans recognize that is of the utmost of importance to ensure that these critical programs are restructured with sustainability in mind so that they may continue to serve Americans for generations to come. Currently, these programs are structured in a way that is absolutely unsustainable, as Medicare has nearly $40 trillion in unfunded responsibilities. The GOP is committed to getting Medicare and Medicaid back on the right track.

8. Reform: Modernize the Federal Civil Service
As the American Civil Service system has not been significantly restructured in its 130 history, it is ill-equipped and ill-prepared to meet the demands of modernity in the 21st century. Since Obama became president in 2008, the number of federal employees making more than $150,000 a year has doubled. Going forward, the GOP is highly motivated to reform the Federal Civil Service in order to make it more efficient and more sustainable. For example, the GOP is committed to paying public employees according to what they would receive in the private sector.

9. Reform: Ensuring Legal Immigration
As Republicans are firmly dedicated to the rule of law, they are adamant that the immigration laws of this country must be respected. Legal immigration is best for everyone, in that it allows a prescribed method for foreigners to come to America to start a new life. Legal immigration boosts the economy, protects American laborers, and enriches the cultural diversity of the country. Furthermore, legal immigration will mean that every applicant is treated equally, and thus the GOP feels that this is the fairest and most realistic option.

10. Defense: Countering Russian Aggression
The GOP views Russia’s militaristic actions in Ukraine as provocative, destabilizing, and extrajudicial. Since the Republican party views the violation of Ukrainian sovereignty by Russia as a grave act of aggression, the party is fundamentally determined to use all available methods to counter Russia’s nefarious geopolitical ambitions. With this in mind, the GOP strongly desires further rounds of crippling sanctions against the Russian economy as a reminder to Moscow that breaking international laws leads only to being ostracized.

11. Defense: Invest Further in Space
With Russia’s nuclear forces now more robust than America’s, and with China’s heavy investments in militarized space technologies, the GOP realizes that the United States needs to invest in space now more than ever in order to maintain strategic superiority. Investing in space will not only yield mineral resources, such as through mining asteroids, but it will also allow us to competently counter the military operations of enemies, whether it be by knocking out their communication satellites or by using laser-equipped satellites to shoot down ICBMs.

12. Defense: Staying Tough in Cybersecurity
The entertainment company Sony was recently hacked by IP addresses originating in North Korea, and such a hack resulted in $62 billion dollars of losses for the company. This type of malicious attack underscores the reason the GOP wants to stay tough in cybersecurity: the American government and American corporations are the biggest targets for cyber attacks in the entire world. With this notion in mind, the Republican party knows that it will be absolutely essential to bolster our nations cybersecurity defenses in the years to come.

13. American Values: Repeal Obamacare
With Republicans now controlling the House of Representatives and Senate, and perhaps the presidency in 2016, the party is sure to revisit its campaign to repeal Obamacare. With a large portion of the American population now having negative opinions of Obamacare, the GOP is dedicating to giving the majority of American people what they want: the repeal of Obamacare. Whether the GOP will defund the program in parts or whether the party will systematically repeal the entire law remains to be seen, but what can be sure is that they party will certainly do their best to take Obamacare down once and for all.

14. American Values: Protect Traditional Marriages
As the Republican party is founded upon conservative values, it is determined to do its best to protect the integrity of such values. Thus, ensuring the vitality of traditional marriage is a fundamental tenet of the GOP’s platform. Tradition holds that the sacred act of marriage can only be between one man and one woman, and any actions taken to undermine this traditional covenant will be firmly rebuked by members of the Republican party.

15. American Values: Improve the FDA
The Food and Drug Administration serves a critical role in determining the safety of food and medical products that Americans must consume everyday. For this reason, it is absolutely critical that the FDA is ran efficiently. But in recent years, the organization has been plagued by contradictions, unpredictability, and a lack of transparency. To this end, the GOP is strongly committed to reforming the FDA in order that the organization can perform its important duties with the utmost efficiency and openness.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Early Greenpeace Leader Offers Alternative Take on Climate Change

In eye-opening testimony, an early leader of the Greenpeace movement questioned assertions that carbon dioxide emissions from human activity are solely responsible for global warming.

Patrick Moore, Ph.D., testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee: "There is no scientific proof that human emissions of carbon dioxide are the dominant cause of the minor warming of the earth's atmosphere over the past 100 years."  Moore who, in his Senate testimony, recounted his early involvement with Greenpeace, beginning in 1971, says he left the organization in 1986 because Greenpeace  "took a sharp turn to the political left, and began to adopt policies that I could not accept from my scientific perspective."

Moore says, 
Perhaps the simplest way to expose the fallacy of “extreme certainty” [regarding climate change] is to look at the historical record....  When modern life evolved over 500 million years ago, CO2 was more than 10 times higher than today, yet life flourished at this time.  Then an Ice Age occurred 450 million years ago when CO2 was 10 times higher than today....  The fact that we had both higher temperatures and an ice age at a time when CO2 emissions were 10 times higher than they are today fundamentally contradicts the certainty that human-caused CO2 emissions are the main cause of global warming.
Climate change activists, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have asserted that: “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”  

However, Moore counters with the observation that, 
The increase in temperature between 1910-1940 was virtually identical to the increase between 1970-2000.  Yet the IPCC does not attribute the increase from 1910-1940 to "human influence."  They are clear in their belief that human emissions impact only the increase "since the mid-20th century."  Why does the IPCC believe that a virtually identical increase in temperature after 1950 is caused mainly by "human influence," when it has no explanation for the nearly identical increase from 1910-1940?
Citing what many scientists accept regarding the swing in temperatures throughout the earth's history, Moore observes, "Today we remain locked in what is essentially still the Pleistocene Ice Age, with an average global temperature of 14.5oC.  This compares with a low of about 12oC during the periods of maximum glaciation in this Ice Age to an average of 22oC during the Greenhouse Ages, which occurred over longer time periods prior to the most recent Ice Age."

Based on these temperature swings, Moore questions the dire predictions of some environmentalists regarding global warming:  
During the Greenhouse Ages, there was no ice on either pole and all the land was tropical and sub-tropical, from pole to pole.  As recently as 5 million years ago the Canadian Arctic islands were completely forested.  Today, we live in an unusually cold period in the history of life on earth and there is no reason to believe that a warmer climate would be anything but beneficial for humans and the majority of other species.  There is ample reason to believe that a sharp cooling of the climate would bring disastrous results for human civilization.
Moore concludes, 
It is important to recognize, in the face of dire predictions about a 2oC rise in global average temperature, that humans are a tropical species.  We evolved at the equator in a climate where freezing weather did not exist.  The only reasons we can survive these cold climates are fire, clothing, and housing.  It could be said that frost and ice are the enemies of life, except for those relatively few species that have evolved to adapt to freezing temperatures during this Pleistocene Ice Age.  It is “extremely likely” that a warmer temperature than today’s would be far better than a cooler one.
I would add the observation that, despite the many disagreements between creationists and evolutionists, biblical creationists believe that, in the period prior to the Noahic Flood, the earth was surrounded by a water vapor canopy in the upper atmosphere, so that the earth was very much like a tropical greenhouse from pole to pole--a view that is consistent with the fossil evidence and with what evolutionists believe about the earth's early history.

The claim of some scientists and politicians today that global warming is "settled science" has resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs in industries such as coal mining and continues to hamper the efforts of developing countries to become energy independent.  While Al Gore last week stated in a speech that "climate change deniers need to be punished" and that we should "tax carbon emissions," a more responsible view is that we need to insist that our politicians not adopt "solutions" to a problem, the existence of which is still anything but "settled science."  In fact, it is politicians like Al Gore (whose "carbon footprint" is ten times as large as anyone reading this column) who need to be punished until they accept the need to come to reasonable rather than coercive and politically-motivated positions regarding the world's climate. 

(Patrick Moore is the author of a number of books, including, Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout: The Making of a Sensible Environmentalist. (2011) Beatty Street Publishing Inc. ISBN 978-0-9864808-2-9)

Monday, March 02, 2015

Annual Litigation Survey for the Episcopal Church (USA) 2015

Attorney A.S. Haley has just published his annual survey of litigation for the Episcopal Church (USA) 2015.

In it he lists 83 lawsuits where the Episcopal Church has sued departing parishes or dioceses and 8 lawsuits where the Episcopal Church has been sued by departing congregations or parishes.  In the latter case, suits were filed by the departing congregations or dioceses usually to regain possession of assets that had been seized or frozen by the Episcopal Church (such as when the Episcopal Church threatens a bank with legal action if it disburses funds to which the Episcopal Church has laid claim).

Since some of the 83 lawsuits filed by the Episcopal Church involve whole dioceses or other groups of parishes, the actual number of parishioners affected by the litigation is considerably higher than one would normally think might be involved in 83 such suits, numbering in the tens of thousands. 

It cannot be repeated too often how shameful a legacy this is for a Church body--an entity that frequently talks about sharing of resources and preaches generosity--to spend millions of dollars suing to claim church buildings it does not need and cannot use, merely to deprive Christians with whom they disagree of their places of worship.

Haley does not give a tally of the costs of this litigation in this current article.  However, in a survey of litigation in January 2014, he estimated the cost of this litigation to be $21,650,000.00.  To be sure, that cost has increased since then, as the Episcopal Church has continued to press lawsuits and filed appeals in the cases where it has lost, sometimes refusing to take "no" for an answer, even in cases where it has exhausted the appeal process. 

Surely some accountability should be demanded for this enormous expense, especially as it is being incurred by a shrinking and financially strapped denomination where Georgia Bishop Scott Benhase recently opined: "The one elephant in the room we do not seem to be addressing clearly is our financial resources," leading commentator David Virtue to observe "that the Episcopal Church is mired in ecclesiastical muck and the money won't be there in the future to dig the Church out... or even to continue 'God's mission' in any meaningful sense."

As Katharine Jefferts Schori ends her tumultuous tenure as Presiding Bishop, it is time for the Episcopal Church to reassess its priorities and consider carefully whether it wants to maintain Jefferts Schori's "scorched earth" litigation strategy or pursue the course of reconciliation and return to using its funds for the Church's true mission.