Friday, March 27, 2009

GOP Fiddles While Economy Burns

While the economy is being consumed in the flames of out of control spending and borrowing, and the administration rushes to throw ever more gasoline onto the inferno, the GOP is addressing itself to the gravity of the problem by valiantly undertaking to change the way we pick the national champion of college football:

Everyone from President Barack Obama on down to fans has criticized how college football determines its top team. Now senators are getting off the sidelines to examine antitrust issues involving the Bowl Champion Series. The current system "leaves nearly half of all the teams in college football at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to qualifying for the millions of dollars paid out every year," the Senate Judiciary's subcommittee on antitrust, competition policy and consumer rights said in a statement Wednesday announcing the hearings.

Under the BCS, some conferences get automatic bids to participate in series, while others do not. Obama and some members of Congress favor a playoff-type system to determine the national champion. The BCS features a championship game between the two top teams in the BCS standings, based on two polls and six computer ratings.

Behind the push for the hearings is the subcommittee's top Republican, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. People there were furious that Utah was bypassed for the national championship despite going undefeated in the regular season.

The subcommittee's statement said Hatch would introduce legislation "to rectify this situation." No details were offered and Hatch's office declined to provide any.

Hatch said in a statement that the BCS system "has proven itself to be inadequate, not only for those of us who are fans of college football, but for anyone who believes that competition and fair play should have a role in collegiate sports."

In the House, Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, the top Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee, has sponsored legislation that would prevent the NCAA from calling a football game a "national championship" unless the game culminates from a playoff system.

Forgive my asking, but where in the Constitution is Congress granted the prerogative of determining how we select a football champion? What business is this of the government's? Will my grandson's 8-10 baseball team be the next to fall under Senator Hatch's scrutiny?

God save us from our elected leaders.


Toward a Secular Society

Peter Glover claims at First Things that "the government and media of Great Britain have put in place over the last few decades a determined program to abolish the influence of Christianity" in that nation. Lest you think Mr. Glover exaggerates you should read some of the examples he cites:

How else to read the story, in November 2008, of a foster mother struck off the register by her local council for "allowing a Muslim girl in her care to convert to Christianity"? The woman had looked after as many as eighty children over the previous decade. Although she was a practicing Anglican, everyone agrees that she put no pressure on the girl. The woman testified, "I did initially try to discourage her. I offered her alternatives," including "finding places for her to practice her own religion."

Eventually though, at her own insistence, the girl was allowed to attend church with her foster mother. Within months she asked to be baptized (under Shari'a Law, an act of apostasy for which the death sentence is prescribed). Local officials ruled that the foster mother had "failed in her duty to preserve the girl's religion and should have tried to stop the baptism." Council officers subsequently barred the woman from foster parenting, her sole source of income.

This case was matched by that of Caroline Petrie, who was suspended from her post as a community nurse when she offered to pray for an elderly patient. (The public furor eventually led to Petrie's reinstatement.) In another case late last year, a registrar of marriages asked to be relieved of the duty of officiating at "gay marriages." She was refused and threatened with dismissal.

Jeremy Vine is a highly visible BBC broadcaster and a practicing Anglican. In a recent interview, Vine explained how difficult it had become to speak of his faith on air. It is, he claimed, now "socially unacceptable" to mention one's Christian faith in public. Society in Britain has become intolerant of the freedom to express the religious views that were "common currency thirty or forty years ago," Vine added. "The parameters of what you might call 'right thinking" are closing. Sadly, it is almost socially unacceptable to say you believe in God." All of which is unsurprising, given that last year Mark Thompson, director-general of the BBC and a practicing Catholic, issued an edict stating that the BBC should treat Islam "more sensitively" than Christianity.

This is truly disturbing stuff. As we wrote the other day, history shows that nations which self-consciously jettison the Judeo-Christian heritage upon which they were built not infrequently collapse into moral anarchy and thence into oppression and tyranny.

Another unsettling aspect of this trend is that so many Americans think it would be just great if we followed Europe's example.


The Sky Is Falling. Really.

A reader once pointed out that we at Viewpoint, much like the MSM, seem to dwell disproportionately on bad news. I don't think that's true. After all, we regularly featured Good News from Iraq posts back when few could find any good news about Iraq. We've also reported on medical advances that promise to make our lives better, and we have even on occasion wished our readers merry Christmas. Nonetheless, we're sensitive to the charge that we're rivaling Glenn Beck for perpetual "gloom and doom."

Yet, having said all that, we still find this depressing report from the National Academy of Sciences irresistable.

It appears that, in fact, we're all doomed, and by the very thing that has made modern life so wonderful - electricity. More precisely, we're doomed by our failure to adequately protect our power grid against solar storms.

These excerpts will give you the gist of the report, but the whole thing makes fascinating reading - that is, if you're fascinated by reading about how civilization could come to an abrupt end and millions will die:

It is midnight on 22 September 2012 and the skies above Manhattan are filled with a flickering curtain of colourful light. Few New Yorkers have seen the aurora this far south but their fascination is short-lived. Within a few seconds, electric bulbs dim and flicker, then become unusually bright for a fleeting moment. Then all the lights in the state go out. Within 90 seconds, the entire eastern half of the US is without power.

A year later and millions of Americans are dead and the nation's infrastructure lies in tatters. The World Bank declares America a developing nation. Europe, Scandinavia, China and Japan are also struggling to recover from the same fateful event - a violent storm, 150 million kilometres away on the surface of the sun.

According to the NAS report, a severe space weather event in the US could induce ground currents that would knock out 300 key transformers within about 90 seconds, cutting off the power for more than 130 million people (see map). From that moment, the clock is ticking for America.

First to go - immediately for some people - is drinkable water. Anyone living in a high-rise apartment, where water has to be pumped to reach them, would be cut off straight away. For the rest, drinking water will still come through the taps for maybe half a day. With no electricity to pump water from reservoirs, there is no more after that.

There is simply no electrically powered transport: no trains, underground or overground. Our just-in-time culture for delivery networks may represent the pinnacle of efficiency, but it means that supermarket shelves would empty very quickly - delivery trucks could only keep running until their tanks ran out of fuel, and there is no electricity to pump any more from the underground tanks at filling stations.

Back-up generators would run at pivotal sites - but only until their fuel ran out. For hospitals, that would mean about 72 hours of running a bare-bones, essential care only, service. After that, no more modern healthcare.

The truly shocking finding is that this whole situation would not improve for months, maybe years: melted transformer hubs cannot be repaired, only replaced. "From the surveys I've done, you might have a few spare transformers around, but installing a new one takes a well-trained crew a week or more," says Kappenman. "A major electrical utility might have one suitably trained crew, maybe two."

With no power for heating, cooling or refrigeration systems, people could begin to die within days. There is immediate danger for those who rely on medication. Lose power to New Jersey, for instance, and you have lost a major centre of production of pharmaceuticals for the entire US. Perishable medications such as insulin will soon be in short supply. "In the US alone there are a million people with diabetes," Kappenman says. "Shut down production, distribution and storage and you put all those lives at risk in very short order."

Actually the results of a severe solar storm are similar to the results from a single nuclear warhead detonated high over the continent to generate an electro-magnetic pulse (For more on EMP use our Search function and type in EMP). Anyway, check out the whole article sometime when you're feeling a sense that all's well with the world.

Now I have to go read some more about the global economic meltdown.