Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Squandering Our National Treasures

Liberals concerned about conserving our scenic and wild lands as well as threats to the health of our wildlife populations and parks should take note. It's their fiscal policies which are today the dominant menace to all of these. Take the plight of California as an illustration of how government profligacy endangers the very resources it wishes to preserve:

Conservation projects in California's state parks face a bleak future, if cuts proposed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger go through.

To tackle a swelling state deficit that has reached $24.3 billion, the "Governator" wants to slash spending across the board - including funding for 80 per cent of the 270 sites run by the California Department of Parks and Recreation. Those parks earmarked for closure (pdf) include world-famous attractions such as the giant sequoias at Calaveras Big Trees State Park in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Gated access roads to some parks would be closed, but many parks can be easily entered from public highways. With no rangers on hand to keep a watchful eye on visitors, that could be bad news for threatened species such as the desert tortoise.

In a recent survey, researchers led by Kristin Berry of the US Geological Survey in Moreno Valley found a worryingly high death rate among young animals in the Red Rock Canyon State Park, north of Los Angeles - some of which had gunshot wounds.

The proposed funding cuts would also eliminate conservation management activities such as the removal of invasive plants and efforts to prevent catastrophic fires. In Calaveras, this involves the removal of fir trees allowed to grow by earlier fire suppression efforts - and which now threaten a conflagration that could engulf the sequoias.

Out of control spending and deficits have forced the California state government to cut back on its expenditures on "non-essentials," and what is in line to be cut are not the wasteful projects, not the spending on the millions of aliens who are in the state illegally, but our natural heritage.

If we extrapolate this onto a national scale, we might wonder how long it will be before the White House announces that our national parks, forests and seashores are no longer affordable and that in order to pay the interest on the astronomical national debt President Obama has bequeathed us we should sell these off.

If this state of affairs ever does come to pass what an irony it'll be that the "environmental party," the party so distraught over global warming and other ecological cataclysms, will be the party responsible for the loss of our nation's most beautiful jewels. In squandering our nation's treasure the Democrats may well have squandered our national treasures.



According to Gallup there are almost twice as many self-identified conservatives in the U.S. as there are liberals. This is very hard to believe given the election results the last two cycles. Nevertheless, according to the famous polling agency:

Thus far in 2009, 40% of Americans interviewed in national Gallup Poll surveys describe their political views as conservative, 35% as moderate, and 21% as liberal. This represents a slight increase for conservatism in the U.S. since 2008, returning it to a level last seen in 2004. The 21% calling themselves liberal is in line with findings throughout this decade, but is up from the 1990s.

So, if this is true why do we have the most liberal House, Senate and White House in the history of this country?

Could it be that regardless what people themselves believe, they have no idea what the people they vote for believe? Put that down as my guess.


The Speech We Wish He'd Given

Dennis Prager gives us the speech we wish President Obama would have given in Cairo. Here's an excerpt:

To my great disappointment, many Muslims have come to believe that my country has declared war on Muslims and Islam. Because of this widespread belief, I said in an interview with al-Arabiya a few months ago, that we need to restore "the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago."

Let's look a little deeper at that relationship. For the truth is, as noted by the Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist for the American newspaper the Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer, in the last 20-30 years America did not just respect Muslims, it bled for Muslims. We Americans engaged in five military campaigns on behalf of Muslims, each one resulting in the liberation of a Muslim people: Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Bosnia and Kosovo, as well as the failed 1992-93 Somalia intervention to feed starving African Muslims -- in which] 43 Americans were killed -- were all humanitarian exercises. In none of them was there a significant U.S. strategic interest at stake. So, in fact, in these 20 years, my country, the United States of America has done more for suffering and oppressed Muslims than any other nation, Muslim or non-Muslim.

While I recognize that gratitude is the rarest positive human quality, I need to say -- because candor is the highest form respect -- that America has not only not received little gratitude from the Muslim world, it has been the object of hatred, mass murder, and economic attack from Muslim individuals, groups, and countries.

There's much more at the link. Would that our president was less inclined toward ingratiation and self-abasement and more inclined toward presenting the Muslim world with the hard facts about the history of American/Islamic interactions.


Color Specific Justice

As everyone knows by now, President Obama's candidate for the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, is under fire for her comment that she thinks a wise Latina woman would come to better conclusions on many court cases than would some old white guy, or something. Be that as it may, the details of her ruling in the Ricci case - which is now before the Supreme Court - leave a lot of doubt whether wisdom is a trait of which this particular Latina can boast.

Stuart Taylor at National Journal reviews the details of the case and shows beyond a reasonable doubt that "the decision to kill the promotions (in the Ricci case) was driven less by purported legal concerns than by raw racial politics."

Taylor adds that:

But the unmistakable logic of Sotomayor's position would encourage employers to discriminate against high-scoring groups based on race -- no matter how valid and lawful the qualifying test -- in any case in which disproportionate numbers of protected minorities have low scores, as is the norm.

Such logic would convert disparate-impact law into an engine of overt discrimination against high-scoring groups across the country and allow racial politics and racial quotas to masquerade as voluntary compliance with the law.

In other words, this "highly intelligent," "highly accomplished," "empathetic" Latina judge likes to lift the blindfold that represents a judge's indifference to who stands before her in her court in order to take a peek at the skin color of the people involved in the case. She then rules accordingly. Her much vaunted empathy appears to be very color specific.

Read the rest of Taylor's essay at the link to gain a good idea of the sort of person President Obama thinks should be dispensing justice in America.


Iranian Democracy

According to a piece by Amil Imani and Dr. Arash Irandoost at American Thinker, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may have actually finished third in the recent Iranian election:

[T]he turnout was massive, a near record high 85 percent of Iran's 49.2 million eligible voters. Based on the information from Mousavi's website, a group of Interior Ministry employees have leaked out the following results which seem to be closer to reality than the one released by the establishment:

  • Total eligible voters: 49.2 million
  • Participated in the election: 75% to 85%
  • Mir Hussein Mousavi: 45%
  • Mehdi Karoobi: 33%
  • Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: 13%
  • Mohsen Rezai: 9%
  • Cancelled votes: 3%

It is clear that Mr. Mir Hussein Mousavi won the election by a large margin. Ahmadinejad came out third. But on Friday June 12, 2009, in the Islamic election something happened. Something beyond what anyone could have ever imagined. Something huge. A daylight coup d'�tat by the elements of the establishment, particularly, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which the U.S. Senate had designated as a terrorist organization (with Senator Obama not voting).

One might be forgiven for wondering whether President Obama's reluctance to vigorously condemn the fraudulent Iranian elections stems from the fact that, having once worked for ACORN, he has a soft spot in his heart for voter fraud.


Living Within Our Means

My friend Jason weighs in with a "guest post" this morning:

George Will diagnoses here three causes which stifle American economic growth and, consequently, deepen global financial woes further:

  • Ecological protectionist legislation enacted by the United States which heavily taxes foreign "carbon-intensive" goods
  • Refusal by the Obama Administration to allow for the "creative destruction" of failed corporations such as General Motors and Chrysler (Will argues that such executive intervention doesn't allow the corporations to die naturally which would free up greater amounts of capital over time.)
  • Rising long-term interest rates resulting from national governments, most notably Great Britain and the United States, borrowing heavily to pay off their respective national debts.

The financial picture that Will paints in his editorial isn't pretty. The Standard and Poor indices he cited regarding British and U.S. national deficits relative to their total national gross domestic products for this year prove especially disheartening.

But Will shines some much needed light on a solution already in the works courtesy not of the latest Obama Administration czar or Congress, but by an increasing number of individual American consumers. The major credit company, Visa, reported that in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2008, and for the first time ever in U.S. financial history, purchases made by debit cards exceeded credit cards.

In other words, individual consumers decided to buy goods and services with only the money immediately available in their checking accounts as opposed to increasing their monthly credit debt.

Spending only what you have. Imagine that.


Where's the Boundary?

In almost any controversy one can find words being employed whose meaning everyone understands until someone asks for a definition. Then it turns out, sometimes, that the meaning isn't so clear after all.

In the controversy over Intelligent Design (ID) disputants often speak piously about science as a discipline which deals only with the realm of nature and which does not concern itself with supernature, which is the province of religion. Since ID allegedly relies on supernatural causes of biological complexity it's ipso facto religious rather than scientific. Perhaps, though, we should ask exactly what is the distinction between what's natural and what's supernatural. Where's the boundary between them?

Cornelius Hunter puts his finger on the problem in a post on anti-ID philosopher Barbara Forrest. Hunter says:

In her recent paper, The Non-epistemology of Intelligent Design: Its Implications for Public Policy, evolutionary philosopher Barbara Forrest states that science must be restricted to natural phenomena. In its investigations, science must restrict itself to a naturalistic methodology, where explanations must be strictly naturalistic, dealing with phenomena that are strictly natural. Aside from rare exceptions this is the consensus position of evolutionists. And in typical fashion, Forrest uses this criteria to exclude origins explanations that allow for the supernatural.

The question for Forrest and the evolutionists then is: What is the boundary between natural phenomena and supernatural phenomena?

Forrest tells us science must never violate this boundary, so it is important that we discern it. We need to distinguish between natural and supernatural phenomena? How can science know when it is investigating a supernatural phenomena rather than a natural one?

We've actually discussed this problem at Viewpoint several times over the years. Here's some thoughts from three years ago on this very question:

One of the fundamental problems in the debate over design is the vagueness of the terms "natural" and "supernatural." What exactly are natural or supernatural entities? Is a natural entity simply something which is part of the space-time universe and a supernatural entity something which transcends this universe?

If so, then those cosmologists wrestling with theories about "other worlds" are really doing theology, not science. If, however, we wish to consider the theorizing of cosmologists to be legitimate science then we have to say that excluding theorizing about an extra-cosmic designer from science is an arbitrary and unwarranted step.

For all we know, the designer of our universe could be a denizen of one of those other universes or it could be the "generator" which manufactures those universes.

In other words, the concept of other worlds effectively erases the natural/supernatural distinction and greatly expands the purview of science.

The question then becomes not whether talk of a designer is scientific or not, but whether there is reason to think that our universe and the living things in it show evidence of intention and intelligent engineering.

The next time someone tells you that Intelligent Design is not science because it invokes the supernatural and science only deals with what is natural ask them what they mean by those terms. Chances are they won't be able to give a coherent, non-arbitrary reply.

Indeed, the only way to meaningfully distinguish between natural and supernatural is to say that the word natural encompasses everything that exists or may exist, including angels and demons, except the creator God of theism. That is, nature is comprised of all ontological contingent entities and supernature is comprised of the ultimately necessary being. This distinction is fine with me, but then there's surely no warrant for saying that ID is religious, or non-science, since the designer of our little corner of reality could theoretically be any intelligent entity which transcends our world but which is not God.

I think that those, like Forrest, who insist on excluding ID from science, should be clear that what they're really doing is not striving for some methodological purity but rather trying, perhaps for their own religious purposes, to incorporate an explicitly anti-theistic epistemological bias into the very definition of science.