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01 October 2011

Repudiation: Republican Denial of Climate Change

Republican candidates are mostly in denial of climate change (see below).  It is unfortunately quite real, see this morning's New York Times article, Forests Across the World Dying Off as Climate Warms (link to MSNBC reprint).  There is new evidence included in the article that excessive carbon emissions from human activity are a direct cause of forest loss.  We need more, not fewer, trees for carbon sequestration.

The problem for many in denial is one of faith.  The definition of faith is belief in that which one cannot see.  Science, on the other hand, is the study and drawing of conclusions based on evidence that can be seen and measured.  These should not be in conflict.  For those who are religious and not blinded by their religion, science is the observation and study of God's creations.

So, let's look at where the Republicans stand (in Gallup Poll order):

Rick Perry.  Full denial.  An article in yesterday's Los Angeles Times says that he’s doubling down on his skepticism of climate-change science.

Mitt Romney.  Accepts science.  An article from June in Reuters indicates that Mr. Romney is an exception to the complete denial pack.  "I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that," he told a crowd of about 200 at a town hall meeting in Manchester, New Hampshire.

 Ron Paul.  Full denial.  It is unusual for any politician to be as consistent as Dr. Paul is on everything.  Here is a 2009 Youtube clip where he denies climate change on Fox News.  "It's important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may be significant contributors."

Michele Bachmann.  Full denial.  A Youtube clip from a town hall meeting in August has Ms. Bachmann calling for "real science, not manufactured science."

Herman Cain.  Full denial.  Skeptical Science has a page of quotes from June.  These were from a New Hampshire radio show that can be heard in full on YouTube.

Newt Gingrich.  Denial after flip flop.  One might think that Mr. Gingrich accepts the science after a PSA with Nancy Pelosi from 2008 on YouTube.  But, he now claims, in an article on Michelle Malkin's blog, that this was a call for debate on the environment and climate change, not agreeing on anything else with Ms. Pelosi.

Rich Santorum.  Full denial.  A YouTube clip of an interview by Rush Limbaugh in June has Mr. Santorum calling human contribution to climate change "patently absurd" and "junk science".  This is the same Mr. Santorum who has a little Google problem (NSFW link).

Jon Huntsman.  Accepts science.  An article from June in the Salt Lake Tribune indicates that Mr. Huntsman is wishy-washy on what to do about climate change, but he is not in denial of it.

In contrast, on Sunday 25 September President Obama spoke against rejection of climate change science.  The difference is stunning.

4 October 2011 - - - Update

South Carolina Republican Bob Inglis writes in today's Bloomberg Businessweek an article that critques his fellow Republicans for failing to embrace science.  Well written.

10 October 2011, FollowUp 1.
11 October 2011, FollowUp 2.
17 October 2011, FollowUp 3.
21 October 2011, FollowUp 4.
27 October 2011, FollowUp 5.
30 November 2011, FollowUp 6.
29 January 2012, FollowUp 7.
15 February 2012, FollowUp 8.
18 February 2012, FollowUp 9.
2 March 2012, FollowUp 10.
11 March 2012, FollowUp 11.
4 June 2012, FollowUp 12.

Repudiation: Liberty Counsel v. German Teacher

The Liberty Counsel is associated with the late Jerry Falwell's Liberty University and is headed by the Dean of the LU law school, Matt Staver.  This week they went after a teacher in the Fort Worth area to test the school district's anti-bullying policy.  The following is my response to the news release from Liberty Counsel:

Last week, high school freshman Dakota Ary was given in-school suspension for telling another student that he believes homosexuality is wrong because of his Christian faith. Western Hills High School teacher, Kristopher Franks, is responsible for his suspension and has now been placed on administrative leave with pay. Liberty Counsel is representing Dakota in this case, demanding full vindication and a full retraction of the suspension.

This makes no sense from the start.  If the only thing that happened in the classroom was a single statement, it would have been handled in-class.  There is more to this story than Liberty Counsel is telling.

Dakota was in Franks’ German language class on Tuesday when the topic of homosexuality arose. Dakota said to one of his classmates, “I'm a Christian and, to me, being homosexual is wrong.” Franks overheard the comment, wrote Dakota an infraction, and sent him to the principal’s office. The class topic was religious beliefs in Germany. During the discussion, one student asked what Germans thought about homosexuality in relation to religion. Another student then asked to hear some translated terms such as “lesbian.” These questions provoked the conversation about Christianity and Dakota’s expression of his opinion to one classmate.

Again, this does not make sense.  If the comment caused a disruption of the class, then the student should be sent out.  A suspension is not warranted if this is a brief outburst requiring the intercession of the Principal.  Most likely, this is not the first time that Mr. Ary has brought up homosexuality and his faith.  An article posted on the Dallas Voice indicates that this was just one of many times and many anti-gay comments.

The discipline referral form says the comment was out of context, even though the lesson for the day was on religious beliefs. Franks charged Dakota with “possible bullying” and indicated, “It is wrong to make such a statement in public school.” Two weeks prior to this event, Franks displayed a picture of two men kissing on a “World Wall” and told his students that homosexuality is becoming more prevalent in the world and that they should just accept it. Many of the students were offended by the Franks’ actions and his continually bringing up the topic of homosexuality in a German language class.

Apparently the Liberty Counsel either did not inquire as to Mr. Franks' opinions, just believing Mr. Ary, or they are deliberately telling only one side of the story.  Mr. Franks says that the comment was not a single incident.  The same Dallas Voice article gives context to the picture, one of many pictures on a board depicting different aspects of German culture.

After Liberty Counsel sent a demand letter to the school and then met with school officials, the school district reversed the in-school suspension and placed Franks on administrative leave with pay.

Two days prior to the Liberty Counsel news release, Mr. Franks was cleared and removed from administrative leave and returned to the classroom at the end of the week.  Apparently Liberty Counsel did not get the memo.

Mathew D. Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, commented: “We are pleased with the school’s response thus far. The teacher clearly crossed the line and should apologize publically to Dakota. It is intolerable for the teacher to ridicule the religious beliefs of students in front of class. This teacher should not force his views about homosexuality upon students. Teachers cannot use their position to bully students and humiliate them in front of their peers.”

No, the student crossed the line, not the teacher.  The public apology is due from Mr. Staver who has endeavored to make this a big deal in public.  This sort of thing should have been between the Principal, the parents, the teacher, and the student.  The only person forcing his views appears to have been the student.  Mr. Staver is simply wrong.

30 September 2011

Repudiation: Elaine Donnelly's response to Pentagon Memo allows Chaplains to Perform Same-Sex Marriages

As some members of Congress have stated, Donnelly sees the move is a blatant disregard of the Defense of Marriage Act.On Friday 30 September, the Pentagon released a memo (posted online by the Advocate) indicating that limited marriage equality is okay.  The specific language of the memo is:

A military chaplain may participate in or officiate any private ceremony, whether on or off a military installation, provided that the ceremony is not prohibited by applicable state and local law.  Further, a chaplain is not required to participate in or officiate a private ceremony if doing so would be in variance with the tenets of his or her religion or personal beliefs.  Finally, a military chaplain's participation in a private ceremony does not constitute an endorsement of the ceremony by DoD.

To my eye, this is entirely in keeping with the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) and the repeal of DADT (Don't Ask, Don't Tell).  But, it is not good enough for Ms. Elaine Donnelly who heads the so-called Center for Military Readiness.  The following is my repudiation of what Ms. Donnelly said in an article on OneNewsNow.

“The exception clause that a chaplain would not have to participate in such a union -- if they choose not to -- is really only a fig leaf,” says Donnelly, “because chaplains who assign certain duties [to someone else] that normally would be theirs … will suffer career penalties. We know this has already happened in some other countries that have done this -- so it’s no reassurance at all.”

The memo refers to private ceremonies, not official duties.  Chaplains cannot be assigned to private ceremonies.  The imagined career penalties is silly.

As some members of Congress have stated, Donnelly sees the move is a blatant disregard of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Nope.  It is very clear in the memo:  provided that the ceremony is not prohibited by applicable state and local law.

“Chaplains are going to be very disturbed by it,” she continues. “I think everyone who cares about our chaplains and people of faith in the military have good reason to be dismayed.”

Those chaplains who have resigned from the service over the repeal of DADT (I have heard that there is just one who quit) are certain to be disturbed.  Ms. Donnelly does not give enough credit to the fortitude of the Chaplain Corps.

Ms. Donnelly goes on to say that a bill that passed the House of Representatives and has not been considered in the Senate will undo this memo.  Further, the next President and Congress will need to undo regulations.

While Ms. Donnelly is welcome to her wishful thinking, none of that is preordained.

The repeal of DADT and subsequent adjustments of military policy will end up strengthening the United States military.  When soldiers do not need to hide who they are, they will be more confident fighters.  When soldiers are not making assumptions about their fellow soldiers, they will be more confident fighters.  The necessary social bonding of our soldiers and sailors will enhance performance in the long run.  The fears of Ms. Donnelly will be seen to be groundless with time.

12 October 2011, FollowUp 1