Oracle of Reason

Faith's empire is the world; its monarch, God; its ministers the priests; its slaves the people

The Costs of the Postal Service

It has recently come to light that the Post Office currently has 714 people who received a pension in excess of $100,000 per year, for the rest of their lives. On top of all of that, those same pension recipients also get health benefits. The New York Times understates the problem by saying the US Postal Service has a history of labor contracts offering generous health and pension benefits and no layoff provisions.

The grey lady also stated, in July that the USPS pre-funds all health costs for future retired employees. That cost the post office more than $20 billion since 2007 — a period during which its total loses amounted to $25.3 billion. and It’s pension obligations are also over funded by around $11 billion. Not since the debt criss has there been such an avoidable fiscal mess.

In order to pay for all of this the Post Office is raising delivery rates. Obviously the idea of them scaling back operations is a concept foreign to an entity that has a monopoly on the delivery of first class mail. Never mind raising postal rates drives people to seek alternatives to regular mail options which, in turn, drives down revenue. Apparently the post office thinks it can pay out all the high pensions that are bankrupting it on the back of international mail too. A flat rate envelope for international mail, for example, was $11.95 but was raised to $13.95. In the latest price increase raised it to $23.95.

The Congressional Research Service says almost all of the problems are do to rising spending, not lower income. The CRS states: the USPS has significantly increased operating expenses. A great deal of the rise in costs is attributable in part to the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA).8 The PAEA established the RHBF and requires the USPS to prefund its future retirees’ health benefits at a cost of approximately $5.6 billion per year…. They go on to point out that the effects of the PAEA’s mandatory payments to the Postal Service Health Benefits Fund on the USPS’s profitability were considerable.

In fairness the Post Office is not a private business and legally can’t act like one. It is managed by all sorts of Congressional restrictions. For example, the Post Office can’t sell packaging materials and supplies in their lobby. So they are restricted from seeking additional methods to generate income, but they are hampered by postal unions from reducing their most significant cost: personnel.

The employees of the USPS are federal employees and Congress mandates how much the Post Office has to pay into their pensions. Post Office officials say they have been forced to overpay $6.9 billion that they want back. But the federal government won’t allow it, and instead the money sits in government accounts making the USPS look bad but the federal government looks good.

For employees with service both before and after 1971, the federal government and the Postal Service share responsibility for CSRS pensions. The federal government pays for service through 1971, and the USPS pays for service after 1971. Congress set it up so that most the burden is put on the current USPS even though the employees were most employed by them. The percentage of CSRS pension costs allocated to the USPS for an employee who worked for both the Post Office Department and the USPS is greater than the proportion of the worker’s career that he or she spent as an employee of the USPS.

Postal employees today get pay less for their health benefits: USPS employees pay approximately 21% of their health care premium costs and 0% of their life insurance premiums, while other federal employees pay 28% and 67%, respectively. The Post Office can get people close to retirement to do so at huge amounts, but that’s probably the best they can do. However, even the decreasing revenue didn’t reduce income because increased in rates made up for it. So there was less work for the post office each year but not less income.

Congressional Research Service notes: the USPS is required to be self-supporting but that federal law provides it with very few authorities to control its employment costs—which make up approximately 80% of its total operating costs. With no ability to layoff unneeded workers they can only entice them into early retirement with generous benefits. The fact is that USPS has been run for the benefit of the postal employees, not the consumers. It’s revenue is forced into federal coffers through the backdoor by making they overpay the prepaid health costs. And the private Post Office is forced to carry the cost of employees who had been working for the pre-USPS post office that was entirely federal. Not surprisingly, Congress and the unions rigged the USPS to fail using it as a cash cow rather than as a means of serving the public.

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The Selfishness of Love

The holiday of Valentine’s Day is believed to commemorate the death of Christian martyr Valentinus whose obscure, unverified identity and role in history has lead to new conclusions that the holiday was the result of a decree by Pope Gelasius I to replace, rather than ban, the Roman pagan festival of Lupercalia with a day to honor Mary, the mother of Jesus. Lupercalia festivities, usually held between February 13th to the 15th, involved cleansing ceremonies of the city of Rome to avert evil spirits while at the same time release spirits to encourage fertility and health. Joyous festivities were also held to commemorate the holiday.

Thanks to the publishing of Geoffrey Chaucer’s 1382 book Parlement of Foules, the idea of romantic love associated with Valentine’s Day came about along with the assumption that the Lupercalia pagan rituals were used to commemorate the holiday at that time as well. During the Medieval period, (most notably in France) Valentine’s Day would be associated with social gatherings of love and courtship rituals usually involving the reading of poetry. Interest in Valentine’s Day took hold again in the 19th Century but his time as a holy day. It later became secularized with enhanced commercialism in the form of the exchange of greeting cards that had hearts or with messages of love and affection.

Gifts of chocolates, roses and (in later years) even jewelry became available as Valentine’s Day gifts enhanced the holiday’s commercial appeal then like these facets do so today.Fortunately, the main reason why we celebrate Valentine’s Day today is no longer pietistic. We use the occasion to commemorate mankind’s most selfish emotion: love.

Yet we are repeatedly reminded by many people (such as those in academia, media, clergy and celebrities) of how selfless or altruistic love is. Nothing could be further from the truth. Love itself is our most selfish emotion. When you love someone it is purely to satisfy your ego and not out of superfluous sacrifice. You value a particular person since they make your life better and, by your standards, the special someone in your life gives you such joy. The person you love is such a pleasure to be around that you invest time and money on them in order to enhance your relationship.

The time and effort I put into my relationships because my friend’s happiness is important to my own. This past weekend I had the opportunity to have lunch with a female friend whom I gave gifts of chocolates and flowers in which I got enormous pleasure doing so. I value her friendship selfishly and giving her gifts as an expression of my affection for her elates my ego and self-esteem. If my actions were sacrificial they would be for someone whom I did not value or know. Even someone I resented, hated or was in a relationship with that was demanded or expected of me by family, friends or some sort of collective expectation. Every expression towards those you love is also a mutual trade between two people for reciprocal advantage and to regard love as sacrificial or altruistic makes it (and the relationships that result) pointless if not outright contemptible.

Love does place certain expectations on those who engage in it and for someone to expect love because one demands it or out of a sense of duty is parasitic and nonsensical. Like respect, love is earned and not given. With the commercialism, sweets and sex-appeal that is associated with Valentine’s Day this a time for you to to celebrate the selfish pleasure of being in a relationship and exchanging gifts of love and affection with that special someone who has fallen in love with you.

Relish in the selfish pleasures of love and freedom Valentine’s Day brings and symbolizes since it represents the selfishness of love.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Phoenix Prostitution Bust

City of Phoenix Police recently raided an in-call escort and strip club establishment resulting from a five year investigation in which Police allege prostitution was occurring at a club known as The Champagne Room. Prior to prostitution being outlawed in Arizona it used to be legal up until the late 1970’s when a state law was passed criminalizing the practice. Individual cities and counties used to prohibit prostitution but it was not against the law in many counties in the state. When the practice was not against the law, there were many places in the unincorporated sections of Maricopa County where brothels operated legally.

The act of prostitution itself is a victimless crime. By making prostitution illegal it replaces the law of exchange with the law of the gun. The results of practices like what might have gone on in The Champagne Room and in other places where prostitution is illegal creates a risk-taking environment where people will flout the law usually in order to fulfill their want for sexual enjoyment or out of desire to make money.

Government exists to protect every individual’s right to their life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and not to enforce notions of morality. It has no business regulating sexual acts between consenting adults including when the exchange of money for sexual services is involved. The outlawing of a consenting adult’s freedom to choose a sex partner and to act on that choice (regardless if the exchange of money is involved) is a violation of both adult’s rights. Consenting adults have a moral right to engage in any sexual acts, which (by definition) are voluntary and do not violate anyone’s rights. If prostitution is to be condemned, let it be done morally but not legally.

The Founders’ Intent With the Second Amendment

The are misconceptions among people who make up the Left and Right of the political spectrum when it comes to the right to keep and bear arms. The ACLU’s stance on the Second Amendment best exemplifies the Left’s position on guns which (in part) states that the Second Amendment protects a collective right rather than an individual right. Some go further stating that the Second Amendment applied to the Militias in terms of the National Guard due to the reference to a well regulated Militia and the security of a free State.

There are those on the Right who mostly get it right affirming that the right to bear arms is an individual right. However, some conservatives (as articulated by John Ashcroft) go on to assert that gun ownership is subject to reasonable (whatever that means) regulations. Now let us consider the Founding Father’s intent. The key to doing so is encompassed in two texts. In Federalist Paper 29, Alexander Hamilton states:

To oblige the great body of the yeomanry and of the other classes of the citizens to be under arms for the purpose of going through military exercises and evolutions, as often as might be necessary to acquire the degree of perfection which would entitle them to the character of a well-regulated militia, would be a real grievance to the people and a serious public inconvenience and loss. It would form an annual deduction from the productive labor of the country to an amount which, calculating upon the present members of the people, would not fall far short of a million pounds. To attempt a thing which would abridge the mass of labor and industry to so considerable an extent would be unwise: and the experiment, if made, could not succeed, because it would not long be endured. Little more can reasonably be aimed at with respect to the people at large than to have them properly armed and equipped; and in order to see that this be not neglected, it will be necessary to assemble them once or twice in the course of a year.

But though the scheme of disciplining the whole nation must be abandoned as mischievous or impracticable; yet it is a matter of the utmost importance that a well-digested plan should, as soon as possible, be adopted for the proper establishment of the militia. The attention of the government ought particularly to be directed to the formation of a select corps of moderate size, upon such principles as will really fit it for service in case of need. By thus circumscribing the plan, it will be possible to have an excellent body of well-trained militia ready to take the field whenever the defense of the State shall require it. This will not only lessen the call for military establishments, but if circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little if at all inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and those of their fellow-citizens. This appears to me the only substitute that can be devised for a standing army, and the best possible security against it, if it should exist.

In Federalist Paper 46, James Madison states:

Let a regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be formed; and let it be entirely at the devotion of the federal government: still it would not be going too far to say the State governments with the people on their side would be able to repel the danger. The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for the common liberties and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops. Those who are best acquainted with the late successful resistance of this country against the British arms will be most inclined to deny the possibility of it. Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments of the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. And it is not certain that with this aid alone they would not be able to shake off their yokes. But were the people to possess the additional advantages of local governments chosen by themselves, who could collect the national will and direct the national force, and of officers appointed out of the militia by these governments and attached both to them and to the militia, it may be affirmed with the greatest assurance that the throne of every tyranny of Europe would be speedily overturned in spite of the legions which surround it.

Both Madison and Hamilton make the case not only for a national army, but also state militias. However, they take their logic on the ability of the populace to bear arms a step further. As the above two quotes indicate, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton clearly state not only should the United States be defended by a military and militias organized by the individual states but also that the populace of the US is to be equipped with arms equal to the United States armed forces. This done so as to be a check on the potential of the US deteriorating into either a dictatorship or some semblance of a dystopia. The ability for the people to bear arms includes (you guessed it) fully automatic machine guns, rocket launchers, tanks, along with ICBM’s.

Of course this does mean that people like myself am hindered by the ability to purchase them and is not to say that I think that the US is a despotism or being ruled by dictators. I do not think a dictatorship would ever happen in the United States and believe or nation’s institutions (especially the military) would never allow it. However, if one wants to actually understand what the Founders of the United States meant with regards to the people being able to bear arms you need look no further than what James Madison and Alexander Hamilton said. So when conservatives and liberals try to make exceptions or distinctions regarding the populace’s access to weapons (such as fully automatic firearms) for their self defense, know that they are in direct conflict with what Founders such as James Madison (Father of the Bill of Rights) and Alexander Hamilton articulated and intended.

Terrorism, Torture and Individual Rights

I went to see the movie Zero Dark Thirty today. It is a great film that depicts the CIA’s efforts to hunt down and kill Osama bin Laden. Interestingly enough, because of how torture is used in the film it has ignited some controversy. According to the Los Angeles Times, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and other lawmakers criticized the film as grossly inaccurate and misleading in its suggestion that torture resulted in information that led to the location of Bin Laden. Torture, however, was a practice used to extract information from terrorists after 9/11 occurred and the movie’s director Kathryn Bigelow (rightly) defended the portrayal of it.

I think, overall, Americans have become too complacent or lackadaisical in the years since September 11, 2001 and the horror of the terrorist attacks that occurred that day has lapsed in many American’s minds. Despite what people such as Rep. Ron Paul say, the reality is that Americans are safer thanks, in large part, to the new powers federal agents have at their disposal. With the new tools given to them by the USA PATRIOT Act, it is easier for law enforcement to profile, track, and intercept terrorists before they conduct acts of violence and destruction.

The powers granted to federal agencies (like the F.B.I.) will not only be used to prevent Islamic terrorism, but can also be used to halt activities on the part of other radical groups too. Extremist groups such as Earth First!, the Animal Liberation Front, Army of God and The Lambs of Christ could be subjected to monitoring as well. Doing so can force anti-abortion and eco-terrorists to think twice about bombing or committing acts of vandalism or violence on medical facilities used for surgeries or research and the people who work for them.

There are still numerous legal safeguards in place as well as internal departmental checks on the part of federal law enforcement agencies to ensure they have the right information on a suspect before agents take action. F.B.I. agents can objectively tell the difference between someone peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights and a person that knowingly supports Islamic terrorists in their cause.

Such was the case when the F.B.I. raided the homes of antiwar activists in Minnesota and Chicago during September 2010. The individuals subjected to the raids were the result of investigations in which there was evidence of potential material support of terrorist groups involved on the part of specific antiwar group members resulting from their traveling to Columbia, Lebanon, and then the Gaza Strip.

Prominent libertarians (like former Judge Andrew Napolitano and Future of Freedom Foundation President Jacob Hornberger) and groups (like the ACLU) criticize the usage of military tribunals to prosecute terrorists, enhanced surveillance powers and torture too, respectfully. They essentially state that not only is the USA PATRIOT Act unconstitutional but that one of the best ways to fight terrorism is to not lower our legal and ethical standards. A civilized country, they argue, that casts off acting civilized in times of conflict becomes no better than the enemy.

I distinctly remember while learning about World War II in high school that an unincorporated hamlet named Amagansett, Long Island, New York was one of two landing areas for a group of Nazi German spies. They had false documents, lots of money and were placed in the United States to conduct acts of sabotage (i.e. terrorism).

Not only did a quick-thinking member of the U.S. Coast Guard report their presence upon seeing the Nazi spies arrive at an Amagansett beach on a foggy night during June of 1942 but, fortunately, one of the spies ended up getting cold feet down the line and turned himself and his companions in. Members of both German spy cells were quickly arrested, tried in military courts and most were executed soon after being found guilty. Unfortunately, the warnings passed on to the Bush administration prior to the World Trade Center and Pentagon bombings were not heeded and the result was death and destruction on a massive scale.

The U.S.’s last experience with trying terrorists in civilian courts was in 1993 after the first World Trade Center bombing. In addition to needlessly tying up our legal system, if civilian courts are used much of the activities used to monitor and halt terrorists would be public record. This, in turn, would give other wrong-doers the ability to learn from their predecessor’s mistakes and information could be available if criminals wanted to retaliate against witnesses or people who testified for the prosecution. Military tribunals are not necessarily subject to public scrutiny, involve less legal procedure, permit more inclusive rules of evidence and, hence, make prosecutions easier.

International standards of warfare (like the ones outlined by the Geneva Convention) apply to combatants who play by the rules of war. The U.S. government is in a precarious situation where it is faced with an enemy that has no regard for human life and does not accept the international rules of battlefield conduct. Terrorists will use any means necessary to conduct acts of violence and destruction up to and including sacrificing their own lives in order to accomplish their aims.

This being the case, not only is the USA PATRIOT Act and military tribunals appropriate methods to prevent acts of terror and prosecute those who carry such acts out, but torture is also a legitimate means of extracting information. While the methods used on enemy combatants may seem heinous, I do not know of anyone who would not resort to some kind of torture on someone who had knowledge of a major terrorist attack and refused to voluntarily disclose when and where it would occur. Especially if it meant the usage of a nuclear device and the lives of family members or friends were at stake.

Don’t get me wrong, individual rights are inalienable and they may not be given or taken away. However, it is a mistake to treat rights as intrinsic. The choice to torture or resort to making it easier for police to do their jobs in order to stop terrorists is not utilitarian. A terrorist has voluntarily chosen to put themselves in a state of war upon countries (like the U.S.) and peaceful citizens. As a result government agents who conduct acts of torture or scrutinize terrorists via warrant-less wiretaps, monitoring bank records or other means of surveillance are doing their job of keeping the peace since terrorists pose a threat to the rights of the innocent.

Terrorists are not combatants in the sense of battlefield conflict and to treat them the same as American citizens not only will make their job easier but is also a perversion of what individual rights are all about. Rights apply only to citizens in terms of trade and peaceful conduct among each other in a social context. Those who do not respect the individual rights of others (such as terrorists) do not deserve to have theirs respected by anyone.

It is unrealistic if not outright madness for the United States government to be bound by rules of warfare conduct or sets of laws that hinder law enforcement from protecting our individual rights while, simultaneously, being expected to combat an enemy that clearly has no regard for human life. This is the blunt reality Americans (especially libertarians) must face up to, Israel has had to deal with almost since its creation, Barack Obama had to learn upon occupying the Oval Office and that President George W. Bush and members of Congress learned in the shadow of the World Trade Center and Pentagon Bombings on September 11th, 2001

Determinism and Liberty

With conspiracy theories having gotten more exposure I think it necessary to explain why they have become more prevelant in recent years. To do so I will use the example of a somewhat forgotten scandal that (along with 9/11 conspiracies) helped perpetuate the rebirth of the American left: the Enron scandal. Liberal groups latched on to the Enron scandal like bees on honey using the company as a scapegoat to point out the evils of capitalism.

However, the events surrounding the scandal itself were not only misrepresented by the media but conspiracists on the left were able to conjure up a mythological tale worthy of a B-grade film for a grindhouse movie theater. In addition to the typical right-wing conspiracy theories (such as the New World Order), you’ve probably heard conspiracy theories associated with the left before: The Military Industrial Complex, the John F. Kennedy assassination, the American Empire, multinational corporations and conglomerates, and the vast right wing conspiracy as articulated by Hilary Clinton.

At the time liberal spin-doctors labored night and day to make Enron out to be a typical cabal of free marketers. On the one hand leftists claimed the company was in bed with President George W. Bush to profit from its political connections with the White House. When it was revealed that the President turned down requests for help from Enron executives liberals then scolded Bush for not having done enough to protect the company’s shareholders and employees.

There were also other Enron-related conspiracies based on outright lies too. For example, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman stated politicians with ties to the company helped exempt Enron from regulations despite not pointing out a singe rule to which Enron was immune. One Newsweek columnist reeled against Enron brass alleging they pocketed stock options to benefit from an artificially inflated stock price while running the company into the ground. He also pointed out Wall Street brokers were the victims of being seduced by Enron’s inflated stock price due to false bookkeeping kept silent by the company’s accounting firm Arthur Andersen. Some even claimed Enron profited from California’s electricity market deregulation despite the fact that the state’s deregulation (so-called) was done with hundreds of pages of new rules.

If you think about it, none of this makes any sense. If any of the aforementioned groups stood to profit from Enron’s demise why would Wall Street investment and prestigious accounting firms risk or want to destroy their long-established reputations? At best the facts reveal that the only conspiracy was an unsuccessful attempt by Enron managers attempting to hide their incompetence while the company went bankrupt.

What explains conspiracy theories are not facts but a flawed philosophical outlook if not some semblance of paranoia. In the case of the Enron and other financial scandals, conspiracies explaining them are based on the Marxist theory of exploitation. According to Marx (using the Enron scandal to illustrate this point), the bourgeoisie (i.e. Enron executives) plotted to exploit the proletariat (i.e. Enron shareholders and employees). Marx also went on to point out that ideas other than his (such as those that further capitalism) are part of the conspiracy to exploit the masses.

The overall underpinnings of conspiracy theories are a strand of faith influenced by Kantian skepticism with Plato’s Theory of the Forms mixed in. Plato theorized that a realm of hidden, unknown entities or groups existed beyond man’s ability to comprehend or understand. While determinism was not concretized until centuries later, Plato’s Theory of the Forms gave the basis for it. Neoplatonists took Plato’s ideas further to culminate the concept of the divine including the existence of God. German philosopher Immanuel Kant, on the other hand, stated in his writings that man’s knowledge is always in doubt therefore reality or the truth can never be known.

Fortunately, Plato’s student Aristotle put his teacher’s theory to bed. As opposed to Plato, Aristotle approaches the idea of an person’s place in society from a much more individualistic point of view. Expressing reason in one’s action, he surmised, does not have anything to do with a relationship with other people or a community, but relates only to the individual. Unfortunately, Kant and Plato’s influence are still seen to this day in various forms of cultural and political movements. The most stark examples are religion, political correctness, multiculturalism, philosophical skepticism, environmentalism, subjectivism, pragmatism, and intelligent design.

If central planning occurs as a result of plans from unseen powers behind the thrones then, consequently, people do not have free will since a person’s freedom or identity is negated by deterministic plans made without their knowledge by powers they cannot see, know or comprehend. This being the case one cannot claim to be a freedom lover yet purport determinism as the explanation for events like the Enron scandal, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and other subsequent conspiracy theories.

High profile events surrounding alleged conspiracies are better explained by reality and not determinism or even mysticism. In the case of Enron and other economic disasters they are the result of bad policies and outright incompetence either on the part of politicians or corporate executives and not out of some vast scheme of cloistered rule.

The Sandy Hook Conspiracy Hoax

In nine days a thirty minute YouTube video entitled The Sandy Hook Shooting – Fully Exposed garnered almost nine million views. It attempts to raise questions about inconsistencies about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings that took place in Newtown, Connecticut. The video begins stating that the maker(s) heart goes out to the victims of the event followed up with a disclaimer stating (in part): This is a simple, logical video. No aliens, holigrams [sic], rituals or anything like that, just facts. It is notable that the entire video is geared toward asking questions. However, it is also a vehicle to purport conspiracy theories about the event itself.

At first I found the idea that a conspiracy theory could be spun about something like this was absolutely disgusting. But it also reveals the caliber of people (scum) who spin conspiracy theories in which they are used in an attempt to get publicity off of the fears and misfortunes of others. Conspiracy theories themselves are a continuous theology geared at subjectively explaining an event grounded in distrust of the official story but with little to no evidence to back them up. The Sandy Hook conspiracy is no different. The entire video links together inadequate details while attempting to question the official story surrounding the shooting. I will cover some major points brought up in the video while refuting each accusation.

The video makers make a huge deal out of a man that was chased in the woods at the time who was carrying a weapon and was later arrested. This, they claim, is an indication that there must have been another shooter. However, according to a local newspaper (The Newtown Bee), the man seen in the woods was an off duty tactical police officer from a nearby town. The father of one of the students (who was briefly handcuffed) went around the school in an effort to find his daughter. Snopes’ article on the incident (and whom is the source of most of my information) also mentions that one unidentified man was held briefly but later released. Newtown Police Lt. Paul Vance stated in an interview that due to the emotional state of people at the scene others were briefly detained as well.

The weapons Adam Lanza used are also highlighted. The video narrator cites media reports of three guns found at the scene (two pistols and an AR-15) while others stated the total was four. An inconsistency is also cited in statements by Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Wayne Carver II in which he said an assault rifle was responsible for the victim’s deaths. However, the video states that the AR-15 was found in the trunk of Lanza’s car. If this is the case, they claim, then it is not possible the students and faculty that fell at the hands of Adam Lanza using an AR-15. Actually, it was a shotgun (not the battle rifle) that was found in Lanza’s trunk and CNN has confirmed the three weapons Lanza used in his shooting spree.

The video makers raise questions about the authenticity of one of the victims named Emilie Parker. They state in addition to being at a press conference where she is seen giggling before being interviewed, Parker was seen with President Obama that same day. But the news footage and images of her seen with the President are of Emilie’s sister, not Emilie herself. There were also accusations made about the multiple websites and media efforts made on behalf of Sandy Hook victims. They state the dates on many of them are dated before the event. However, even blogs (like this) can manipulate dates so doing so is not difficult and many videos and websites I have seen have had inaccurate dates on them.

Snopes.com rightly points out that the video is a mixture of misinformation, innuendo, and subjective interpretation. What is most disappointing is that the media has not attempted to disseminate information or debunk unfounded accusations like ones contained in the YouTube video or as told by con artists like Alex Jones. But for some who accept the conspiratorial view of reality, people involved in well known events (like the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks) are able to keep unrelenting control of secret, diabolical plots which are very complex, require multitudes of people, and sometimes involve the killing of perfectly innocent Americans.

It should be emphasized that conspiracy theories like this is nothing more than that: a theory. Usually based on speculation and a culmination of many historical or actual events tied together that share common characteristics in hopes of proving a particular point against the official story but with little or no evidence, overall, to back up the proponent’s claims. To accept a conspiracy theory without overwhelming evidence requires the acceptance of other unprovable assertions. Based on this logic, one would have to conclude that almost everyone in government or involved in some sort of plot are able, at will, to secretly plan large or small scale attacks or plots and maintain operational secrecy without leaks or any kind of transparency.

I law blame at the media alone for helping to mainstream conspiracy theories. It is small wonder that they become accepted and are conjured up for events like this so rapidly since it can mean instant press coverage. However, as one British psychological study points out, a core group of people will always believe it necessary to contradict the official story. But the one thing any conspiracist will never admit is that their spin will sell as long as it contradicts the mainstream narrative.

Global Warming Less Severe than Feared

A panel of Norwegian scientists have concluded that global warming was less severe than originally thought. It states that the warming trend seen since the 1990’s resulted in scientists overestimating temperature change in which there is no danger come 2050.

After the planet’s average surface temperature rose through the 1990s, the increase has almost leveled off at the level of 2000, while ocean water temperature has also stabilized, the Research Council of Norway said in a statement on its website. After applying data from the past decade, the results showed temperatures may rise 1.9 degrees Celsius if Co2 levels double by 2050, below the 3 degrees predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“The Earth’s mean temperature rose sharply during the 1990s,” said Terje Berntsen, a professor at the University of Oslo who worked on the study. “This may have caused us to overestimate climate sensitivity.”

The findings also show the effect of reduced airborne particulates from burning coal, which may decrease the cloud cover that cools the earth, probably has less of an impact on climate through indirect cooling than originally projected.

Ultimately, global warming is a benefit to many people and, as I have pointed out, including the habitat of the environment. With the President’s call for more action on global warming news like this is not going to be welcomed by him since this news means he cannot argue for making new environmental policies. Earth’s climate is always changing and it’s time to stop thinking it is entirely the result of human activity as well as no longer worry about weather conditions elsewhere.

Barack Obama: Born in the U.S.A.

Drudge Report has just reported that Sheriff Joe Arpaio will soon release evidence proving that President Barack Obama’s birth certificate is 100% forged. This is so ridiculous it is laughable. The claims by Arpaio have already been debunked in a detailed study refuting his office’s assertions point-by-point. In his study, researcher Frank Arduini points out the PDF image of Obama’s certificate (not the certificate itself) was altered.

The Obama birth certificate conspiracy originated from World Net Daily media mogul Joseph Farah. However, like the U.S.S. Liberty conspiracy, this is another lie that deserves to die. The fact is that Barack Obama is a U.S. citizen in which he was born in Hawaii. He was not born in Kenya, nor has he ever been a Muslim.

I do not like Barack Obama but my reasons for disliking him are based on differences in philosophy. If Obama is to be stopped it will be with the right ideas and not with stupid conspiracies speculating about whether or not he is a U.S. Citizen (which he is).

UPDATE 01/29/2013 – Arpaio’s birther-in-chief Mike Zullo states the evidence proving Obama’s birth certificate is a forgery is coming soon (whenever that is).

Charles Darwin and the Subversion of Reason

Tuesday wasn’t just the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, but was also the anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. He was a British naturalist and is best known for discovering that, over time, all species of life have evolved from common ancestors through the process he termed natural selection. Darwin published a book entitled On the Origin of Species that outlined the results of his research from the evidence he acquired during his five year voyage on the H.M.S. Beagle.

Darwin’s conclusion that evolution occurs as a result of natural selection became accepted by the scientific community and much of the general public in his lifetime. Despite initial controversy, Darwin’s theory of natural selection is seen today as the primary explanation of the process of evolution and now forms the basis of modern evolutionary theory. His culmination of the facts that lead to his conclusions and the flawless manner in which natural selection is outlined is a testament to his brilliance. It is fitting that he should be remembered not only for his detailing natural selection and evolution but also for his courage to speak the truth in an time when super naturalism was the means in which to explain life and events on earth.

Yet, despite Darwin’s findings, unfortunately the assault, not only on evolution, but also on the ability of mankind to think and reason continues. When Charles Darwin first came out with his discoveries, it was the subject of much controversy since it invalidated many supernatural explanations made by religions at the time about the origins of life and how they evolved. Church of England Bishop Samuel Wilberforce criticized Darwin’s theory on scientific grounds. He argued that it was not supported by facts and noted that the greatest names in science were opposed to Darwin’s natural selection theory.

Fortunately, Darwin’s theories ultimately prevailed and were accepted by the scientific community. His scientific discoveries remain the foundation of biology, since they provide a complete, and logical explanation for the diversity of life. Unfortunately, the present assault on science has reared its ugly head again. This time it is in the form of a pseudo-scientific theory called Intelligent Design (ID). The great threat ID poses is not just the fact that its proponents try to convince people that it is science but because, ID supporters will not dare submit any of their scientific observations to peer-review journals such as Science and Nature.

If they did, the ID scientists are clearly aware their findings would be debunked almost on sight since their research is not based on any hard or credible evidence to back up their claims. Instead, ID proponents appeal to the public’s view of fairness in hopes of winning over legislators and school administrators in hopes that their science will be taught or discussed in the classroom.

Despite their losing the Kitzmiller vs. Dover School District case in a court of law, it has not stopped ID proponents from trying other deceptive tactics. In 2008, for example, Texas’s State Board of Education ended up with a majority of board members that have ties to religious conservative groups. The board voted to introduce a strengths and weaknesses curriculum into classrooms that will require state schools to have open forums on the alleged strengths and weaknesses in Darwinian theory. Efforts were also undertaken by groups like the Discovery Institute to claim that college and university faculty were discriminated against because they wanted neo-creationism taught in classrooms of their employers. A 2008 filmed was released narrated by television personality Ben Stein in an attempt to demonstrate that evolution was linked to fascism, the Holocaust, communism, atheism, and eugenics.

As opposed to William Wilberforce who criticized Charles Darwin on scientific grounds, supporters of Intelligent Deception…er….Design are relentless in attempting to introduce creationism into classrooms masquerading it as a way of allowing open debate and dissent on the issue of evolution. One need only look to a remark made in a December 2007 interview by a leading proponent of Intelligent Design, William Dembski, to understand what it is all about. Dembski told Focus on the Family that The Designer of intelligent design is, ultimately, the Christian God.

No matter how fervently its proponents wish their neo-creationism to be seen as legitimate science, there is no disguising its true character and its proponent’s true intent. ID proponent’s callous and deceptive tactics and public relations campaigns are a clear indication that true scientific inquiry and fact finding is not their goal. Rather it is to undermine, if not outright destroy, legitimate science and hinder an individual’s ability to reason and think for themselves.

We must not forget that Charles Darwin labored for many years to bring his scientific findings to the forefront of inquiry and for the tremendous contributions he brought to science which has helped spurn a renaissance in the field. Scientists seek natural explanations for natural phenomena. They do so by relying on logical conclusions from observable facts and experimentation. As opposed to Intelligent Deception…er…Design whose scientists rely on supernatural explanations for natural phenomena.

The best way to honor Charles Darwin’s legacy is to speak out against the enemies of science and reason, their tactics, and their motives in support of true scientific research and inquiry.