Archive for January, 2012

Energetically Speaking

So, if no is the short answer, what is the long one? All of the above; and my “all of the above” does not include oil, coal, or nuclear energy. It could possibly include natural gas if they can find a way to extract it without the currently used method of fracking (toxic environmental emissions and water catching on fire is not my idea of clean energy).  But I can hear the objections to my conclusions already. They will go through each of the clean energy possibilities, one by one, and explain why they wouldn’t work as a solution. And, surprise, I agree with them!

The difference between what they say, and my proposal, is that I don’t deal in sound bytes. I read news magazines and watch political shows. I read the research available. I get as much information as I can before making a decision on how I vote. The result is that I can see a combination of solutions to any problem. And that is what it will take: a combination of the clean energy technologies.

Anyone who really knows me, recognizes that one of my main interests is cars. When I was young I was totally envious of a friend’s Corvette which ge got at a discount because he worked at the Fischer body plant. My sister had a 67 Cougar with a 351 Cleveland which she took to the amateur drags at Quaker City Drag Strip. As an aside, it was quite the surprise to my Mother when she found out about it 30 years after the fact.

I had two fondly remembered cars back then: a beat-up 65 Dodge with a brand new 383 under the hood, which caused severe shock symptoms to several people in Mustangs and Camaros, and a 69 Fiat Spider which is what I learned to drive a stick in…in the middle of winter…in Ohio. My next car will probably be a replacement for that one; albeit 10 years newer.

But if I had the money my dream car would be a Tesla Roadster. It is the first car to prove that electric vehicles could appeal to car nuts like me. And here comes the first argument: What about the electricity it uses? You’re not saving any natural resources because it has to draw from coal-fired, or nuclear energy plants. Wow, that’s it! I’m giving up on electric cars!

Yeah, right. Here in Colorado we get over three hundred days of sunshine a year. Take a drive around Denver and you’ll see solar panels popping up everywhere. Here, at least, solar panels are a clean energy source which makes sense. Buy a home on the eastern outskirts of town , and put up a couple of wind turbines in tandem with a solar array, and you can produce enough energy to not only provide for the car, but to take your home off the grid as well.

Take that same home, bury it halfway into the ground to take advantage of the insulating properties of the Earth and add an envelope around it for a heat exchange system, and you could end up selling electricity back to the power company. Problem solved with American ingenuity!

You may not be able to take advantage of all of these technologies in your area; for example solar panels in Portland would not be a very efficient alternative energy source. But look around and I’m sure you could find a combination of technologies that would work for you. Even if you can’t go as extreme as I mentioned, you can make your household more energy efficient in a number of ways.

And the more people who invest in these true alternative energies, the lower the cost will be for everyone; which, handily, answers  another complaint about clean energy: it can be too cost-prohibitive. As an added benefit it will drive the Koch Brothers, the API,  and all of the other corporate cronies who have bought the politicians, crazy. By the way, Solyndra is not only green energy company who benefited from the clean energy initiatives, but you wouldn’t believe it if you only listen to the right-wing press and politicians.

I believe that it is not too late for the majority of Americans to wake up to the crisis the Earth faces. Solar, geo-thermal, wind, water turbines, and even hydrogen power concecpts being currently developed could save this planet, and provide jobs for many of the people who are unemployed. Money provided for scientific research into energy could even provide more green energy sources that we may not be able to conceive of right now. This could make our country a true leader of the world again.

These solution call for a major shift in our ways of thinking about energy. Do not believe the bought and paid for politicians who will proclaim that one negative thing damns the whole concept. Think outside of the box and tell the energy industry to take their money and shove it.

Energy Wise

In the State of the Union President Obama said that he wants an “all of the above approach” to energy. Speaker Boehner’s response? He said that the president was impeding oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy. If only he were. His lack of action on them is astonishing.

Shell has been approved for deep-water wells, and the Interior Department has even approved BP to do exploration for more wells in the Gulf! The excuse: The problem with Horizon was human error! At the same time, they have no new requirements for safety, including the problem with the valve that screwed up to begin with.

On natural gas, anyone who is paying even the smallest amount of attention would know that fracking is putting people’s health and lives in danger. And there is speculation that the number of gas wells in the Youngstown, Ohio area caused the earthquakes they experienced recently. Having grown up there I can guarantee you that area is not an earthquake zone. It has plenty of other problems, a combination of which is why I live in Denver now, but earthquakes were never among those.

If the coal companies are indeed using “clean coal” tech to reclaim Co2 emissions, more power to them. But remember where I said I grew up? Do a Google Earth search and you will see where Y-town sits. I know what coal mining does to the environment and the people who work in those mines. And the current tactics of the coal companies is to blow the tops off mountains to get to the coal reserves under them.

I am a believer in science, so I do see where new nuclear power plants are safer now than ever before. I emphasized “new” because the NRC is extending the permits of 40 year old plants. Those plants, when they were built, were designed to have a 40 year life span. Why is it acceptable to extend the permits to twice their life-spans?

But the two main problems with this can be summed up with the following: Fukashima Daichi  and storage. There are nuclear plants in California (you may recall that quite a bit of that state is earthquake country) which have the exact same design and safety plans of the Japanese plant that failed with such disastrous consequences.

And there is no real plan to deal with nuclear waste except to bury it. But state legislatures, in their best NIMBY mode, are fighting against that storage in their states, as well as transportation of the material through them. So the used rods in many plants sit in pools: exactly the way they were situated in F.D. And that worked out so well…

So, what is the alternative: wind, solar, electric? The short answer is no. I’ll explain tomorrow.

Not About Newt

In the CNN debate John King opened up the debate by asking Newt Gingrich about his ex-wife’s claim that he had requested an open marriage. By not allowing it to come up naturally (because you know that in any Republican debate one of the candidates is sure to bring up “character) he gave Newt a platform to rail against the media. This was a mistake in my estimation, but I am not a journalist.

I am also not the person who will launch into a tirade of my own about Gingrich’s personal life (glass house, stones…) While he has made mention of “family values”, as any republican since the days of Reagan has, he has never been one to push that point. He let others lead the charge on Clinton’s Monica moment; he simply took political advantage of it.

This is not to say that Gingrich does not engage in his own brand of hypocrisy. For evidence of that take a look back at his call for prosecution of Barney Frank for his role in legislating the housing market while, at the same time, Newt’s own company was taking money from Freddie Mac.

The amusing news about this is that some right-wing talking heads are saying that the affairs, and request for an open marriage, are evidence of his eligibility for the office of the President of the USA. Really?!? Yes, Rush Limbaugh and others are saying exactly that. And as much as I am truly disdainful of Fox News they are not, so far, leading with that particular tack.

What Rush, and a few others, are saying boils down to one thing: Newt is a “man’s man” whose honesty with his wife is refreshing. This is the same person who said, in the past, that Bill Clinton is a sex addict. I guess if anyone knows about addiction it would be Rush.

This is the type of hypocrisy which I have talked about in the past, and will continue to point out whenever I see it. “Family Values” seems to be a matter of convenience. It only applies to those whom the right wing dislike. When a politician who is on their side falls into a situation where their so-called values should be applied, they either ignore the situation or defend that politician in contradiction of those same “values.”

You are morally bankrupt if you are against them, but if you are on their side, any transgressions are shrugged off. What is your belief based on if it can be bent that easily? If you are a fan of Rush Limbaugh, apparently not much.

Cont’d The Church as State

So, how did we get to this point where the church is so involved with politics? Seriously, was there ever really a time when the two were not intertwined?

In an article in the upcoming issue of Green Egg magazine (greeneggzine.com), I discuss how Christmas traditions arose from the Holy Roman Empire assimilating the various religious traditions of people who soldiered for them and those of the lands which they conquered. There are hardly any modern holiday traditions which do not have their roots in the “Pagan” traditions of Europe.

In 1534 Henry the 8th, upset that the Catholic church would not approve the dissolution of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, conspired with bishops who were loyal to the crown to form the Anglican Church. It’s initial roots go back much farther than that and, of course, that was not the sole cause of the separation. But that was when it blossomed into the official church of England. And about 100 years later the afore-mentioned pilgrims fled to the new world to escape it.

At about the same time Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses. His main objection to what the Catholic church was doing? At the time they had “indulgence” salesman traveling around and forgiving people’s sins in exchange for money. Luther strongly disagreed with the Church’s idea that God’s forgiveness could be purchased.

Hmmm, does that maybe remind you somewhat of the way the mega-churches in the United States operate? If you’ve got the money, we’ll absolve the crime. You may notice that people like Ted Haggard have not gone away despite their self-described sins. And certain Governors and other politicians have their trespasses forgiven as long as they support the church. Say there Governor, care to go hiking on the Appalachian Trail?

And the pushing of the belief, by people like Michelle Bachman’s husband, that “Gayness can be cured through prayer” is simple another way for them to make money. And I can look to an organization headquartered just south of where I sit typing this (Focus on the Family) to find an instant example of that same type of thinking. You can bet that the Dobson family is not suffering in these hard economic times.

Organized religion’s involvement with politics, as I’ve shown, has been occurring for quite some time, and did not spontaneously arrive during President Reagan’s tenure. It has just become more open in the American system than it had been previously.

Although the Catholic church poses as a much more left-leaning organization in the U.S., it stills plays politics. Take Mother Teresa for example. Yes she dedicated her life to helping the poor and sick in Calcutta, and she was even given the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts; and rightly so. But what would you say is the main problem in that region?

I’ll go out on a not-so-fragile limb here and say that it is over-population. And yet, Mother Teresa fully supported Rome’s position on the use of contraception and abortion. She counseled turning to God for help in prayer instead of directly confronting the problem with science based solutions. Yes she did good work, and the mission founded by her continues that good work to this day.

If you think that sounds like the Evangelical’s position on the subject of over population, then you’ve hit on my point. Santorum’s statement. dovetails with the Catholic Church’s official position as well as the Evangelicals. Don’t tell an Evangelical that; according to them the “papacy” is an evil institution. They will never admit how much they actually have in common with that self-same institution.

So, why do both groups encourage turning to God over science based solutions to problems such as over-population and climate change? And why do you think the majority of “hawks” are supported by right wing churches and ministers? War seems to me to be antithetical to the teaching of Jesus.

Here is my radical, and probably unprovable, theory on the subject: Organized Religion thrives on chaos. Think about it; besides alcohol sales, what else rises sharply in time of great distress? Church attendance. While, I admit, the attendance of various new-age methods of relief such as yoga and meditation (which I teach) also rises, the churches have a virtual lock on the wallets of Americans.

The more chaos there is, the more they profit. Surely I’m not saying that there is a monetary component to what they preach? You may say “These people are basically good and holy. You are just being a demagogue.” I may indeed be a demagogue in this regard. I may be cynical as well. But I actually read various news magazines, and have for years. I pay attentions to what the politicians say, and I also pay attention to what the media says about them.

The word “patriot” is now used as a weapon against people who disagree with them. They characterize OWS as being unwashed and ignorant. They regard corporations as people, thus ensuring the flow of money to support their politics. The Evangelicals, and churches who think like them, are making money hand-over-fist. And the politicians who pay lip-service to their themes, and the themes of the monied interest who support them, are also living high on the hog. Congress now has a higher wealth per capita average than it has at any time in the past.

I must state again, as I have in the past, that I am not pointing a finger at the average Christian in America, or the practice of Christianity as it should be done. But there are good people who attend these services who need to wake up and become aware of what is happening. Follow your Messiah, not the ministers who profit outrageously from His church. Or the politicians who support them.

And don’t allow the United States to become a theocracy, or a theocratic plutocracy. Follow your brain as well as your heart.

“Now everybody’s equal, Just don’t measure it”
Don’t Pray on Me, by Bad Religion

 

Con’td The politics of Church and Science

In yesterday’s post I stated that I would like to see religion removed from political considerations; in other words, the true separation of church and state. The 1st Amendment states:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The piece I’m referring to is in the very first phrase: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. No matter how the various religions spin it, the fact that the framers of the Constitution felt that this was important enough to be the very first phrase in the Bill of Rights.

The Pilgrims came to the shores of this new world precisely to escape the restrictions of a religion which, essentially, ruled England. This was in the minds of the authors when they were crafting the Bill of Rights.

The religious right will point out that despite those words all of our Presidents are sworn in with their hand on the Bible and that the motto on our money is “In God We Trust.” And they are absolutely right in that. But no politician in modern times will point out the hypocrisy of “Strict Constitutionalism” on that point. I suspect that the money piece of that has more to do with it than anything else. In fact one of the few bills which the House of Representatives tried to put through since the Republicans gained the majority is to re-affirm “In God…” as our national motto.

Could you imagine a time when someone of a non-Christian religious persuasion could be elected in this country? Right now the evangelical leaders are meeting in Texas to figure out what their response could be to the almost certain nomination of a Mormon as the Republican presidential candidate. But Mormonism by the actual name, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is a Christian religion; albeit a much more modern variation than almost any other.

Even Jack Kennedy got grief when he was in the process of running for president because he was a <oh the horror of it> Catholic; which, in the broadest sense, is the origin of the religion of Christianity. Yes I know the history, so don’t email me pointing out the inaccuracy of that; I’m talking about an established and long reaching religion. In point of fact the Catholic Church didn’t face a strong Christian religous contender until many centuries later.

Could you imagine a Pagan of any strain, Wiccan, CAW, Assatru, etc. being elected even to local office, let alone Congress or President? Or a Buddhist or a follower of Shintoism? Frankly I am surprised that there is one Muslim in Congress. In that regard people of other religions are under-represented in our government. Yes, there are Jewish members, but the policy of both religions, outside of radical extremists, is to regard each other as a valid religion.

And people who are Atheists or Agnostic. Well they don’t really count at all, do they? You will see them here and there in local position but, as far as I know, there are none in Congress.

And there is a major part of the problem. Most people who are Atheistic or Agnostics are probably also firm believers in Science. It is a general statement, and probably unprovable unless someone decides to do a national poll on it, but I still feel confident in that statement.

The policy pushed by the Evangelists (and the N.A.R) in the U.S.A. is that if you don’t believe in the Bible as a statement of facts, you are not Christian. And people are flocking to that idea in droves. Never mind the inconsistencies inherent in that belief (the Bible is definitely a self-contradicting work), people in this country buy the idea wholesale.

I find myself agreeing with the teachings of Jesus Christ in many points, but two of them are particularly relevant to this discussion. In Matthew 21:12 Jesus tosses the money changers out of the temple. Also in Luke 20:25 He says “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

These two, in conjunction seem to support my point; money should not be the main object of the church, and that the church should let the government be what the government is; not an extension, or arm. of the Church. As an aside to the discussion, as far as I can tell He supported aiding the poor, promoting peace, and many other things which I also support. Jesus seems to have been a pretty cool dude to me.

But if you examine the holy text as a whole from a scientific point of view, it doesn’t hold together. And this really ticks Evangelists off. They want their words to be interpreted as the direct words of God, as they consider the Bible to be a factual account. And they have aligned themselves with the monied interests in this country totally against the spirit of the two verses I mentioned earlier.

Hence, the positions mentioned in the previous post which are totally unsupported by science. So why go to this all this trouble? Well, one really obvious answer to that question is money. But I think that, more than money, they are seeking power in the physical realm. My hypothesis on this, which will sound truly radical, will be explained in my next post…

Yep, to be continued… 😉

The Politics of Science

“There is significant debate among scientists as to whether or not the actions of mankind are causing global climate change.” Of course this is not an exact quote but variants of the same thing are bandied about daily by politicians. I guess that if you think 10% or less disagreement is significant, then that is a true statement. The numbers vary according to whose study you are examining, but the more proper figure for scientists who believe that the human race is a contributing factor is 90 to 97 percent.

But this sentiment falls in line with the interests of the big energy people, like the brothers Koch, who fund these politicians. And you may well say “There is a reason to vote Democratic” but when is the last time you heard the President say anything about climate change? In fact, at the last Global Summit on Climate Change, the U.S. had the opportunity to push for the Kyoto agreement to be implemented as soon as possible. Instead, they agreed to put off even the discussion of implementation until 2015.

I watched the video of the next statement, so I can quote it directly: “It’s a fact that life begins at conception.” That is a statement by presidential candidate Sen. Rick Santorum regarding the person-hood amendments, which would outlaw even contraception, being pushed in state elections across the nation.

I must say that if you go by the exact wording of the statement, it can be classified as truth…If you consider the word “life” to include plants and amoebas that is; which, of course, it does. If you consider the concept of consciousness in that statement it is patently false.

Any scientist, or person on the street, will tell you that consciousness requires at the least a nervous system and a brain. This is true regardless of whether or not you believe in the concept of a “soul.” In fact, on the National Right to Life’s own website, the timeline of fetal advancement says that brainwave can be registered by an EEG at 6 weeks.

Although that is not strictly true, it is close. The formation of the brain into the 5 sections which enable the brain to function begins at about the 6 week mark and takes up to the 8 or 9 week mark to be completed.

Of course the NRL would never use what they say on their own web site to oppose the person-hood amendments. It is in their interests to remain quiet on that front.

What is my point on this? I will say that, as a pagan, climate change is important to me. Being in an Earth-based religion will do that. And my concern for the future of the human race backs that up. But on the second point, it has nothing to do with my religion; abortion is as hotly debated in the Pagan/Wiccan/New Age communities as it is anywhere else in the U.S.

My point is that they are ignoring science. They reduce it to a debatable point when, in actuality, the truth is less in question than their statements. In fact I believe that religion should be removed from government. Religion is a matter of faith, including mine I must admit, and should have nothing to do with rational government as Jefferson described.

A final interesting point: The television show Terra Nova, on the Fox Network, is based on the concept that humans destroyed the Earth’s environment to a point that, in the near future, it is virtually uninhabitable; forcing people to exploit a rip in the time-space continuum to escape to a version of the Earth’s ancient past.

So who is the biggest publicist for politicians and talking heads who are climate change deniers? That would be Fox News. Is it irony, or just money, that drives this dualistic position. I’ll leave that to you to decide, but I’m sure that you know my answer to that.

The Grimoire Chronicles by Sally Dubats

I just finished Veil Between the Worlds, the first entry in The Grimoire Chronicles by Sally Dubats (author of Natural Magick: The Essential Witch’s Grimoire.) This is her first venture into non-fiction, and a fine first effort it is.

I need to say something right up front: I am usually not a fan of of “young-adult” fiction; perhaps that is because I was reading Heinlein, Asimov, Bradbury, and Lin Carter in grade school. While comic books could hold my attention when I was young (and admittedly still do today), novels specifically aimed at younger readers could not.

This book is a definite exception to that. When I first got it I was in the middle of a Kim Harrison novel which I put down until I finished Veil…. Anyone who knows my reading habits will tell you that is a major accomplishment for a novel.

The story is centered around a seventeen year old Wiccan named Cassie who, in her own unique fashion, is dealing with the pressures of social life in a small town high-school in Oregon. Her religion adds a degree of difficulty beyond the usual high-school strata jockeying.

When she meets handsome boy her own age, it becomes even more difficult. His nature is the mystery she sets out to resolve. You would think that, at this point, it would devolve into a Twilight-esque teen story. Believe me when I say that if it had done that I would have immediately gone back to what I was previously reading. I was bored to tears by the first book, as well as the subsequent movie, in that series. I will admit that some of those elements are contained in this book, but it is so much more than that.

The mystery I see resolved in this book is how to truly live your religion instead of paying lip service to it. The discoveries she make are concerned with her own inner strength and the strength of her belief. Cassie goes from creating spells and charms as a matter of course, in a rote sort of way, to putting her all into it and recognizing the real consequences of what she is doing. In the beginning of the book she is living her religion as child would, but by the end she is a true practitioner.

Along the way she also discovers the danger of labeling people; the boxes which you can put them into are much more fluid than solid, and the reality of them is usually much broader than you would imagine.

At the same time, she ventures into the intersection of classical mythology with metaphysical reality. And the reference to religion and mythology are detailed within the novel, rather than footnoted.

There are minor logical errors, but the beauty of the whole easily outweighs them. The descriptions of the religion could only have been created by someone who knows it well. I was struck by the accuracy of it, as well as the depths of knowledge displayed in it.

I have been teaching metaphysics for quite some time and concepts which sometimes drive my students crazy, or dying from boredom, while I try to explain them outside of path-working are portrayed effortlessly in this book. At one point in the book a description of the gateway to the Summer-lands was so beautifully rendered that I found myself crying; which was actually a little embarrassing as I was riding a crowded bus at the time.

Any teacher who has younger students would do well to recommend this book to them. I do intend to pass it on to mine. But definitely prepare a guide beforehand as you will get questions on the concepts contained within. As I say quite often, teaching is always a learning experience.