John Wayne is the Duke. Elvis is the King.

John Wayne's Holster: March 2007
John Wayne's Holster
Visit my main blog at Monkey Wrench Revival. Visit my birdwatching blog at The Birding Nerd.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Ahmadinejad's Act of Desperation

Photo Source: Wordpress

Early this morning, 15 British Royal Navy personnel from the HMS Cornwall were seized, at gun point, by troops of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

According to Britain's Defense Ministry, the British troops has just completed a "routine boarding operations of merchant shipping in Iraqi territorial waters". Upon completion of the inspection, which was part of a routine smuggling investigation, the US Navy's Fifth Fleet maintains that the British troops were "surrounded and escorted...into Iranian territorial waters", whereupon they were detained.

To me, the timing of this incident is no coincidence. The United Nations Security Council is due to vote of possible sanctions against Iran for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment. The sanctions would ban "Iranian arms exports and freeze the assets of 28 additional individuals and organizations involved in Iran's nuclear and missile programs".

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed the possible sanctions as "a torn piece of paper" that would not stop Iran's nuclear ambitions. He continued, stating, "If all of you [Westerners] get together and call your ancestors from hell as well, you will not be able to stop the Iranian nation."

The reality is that Ahmadinejad is worried about the possible effects that sanctions would have on his politcal power. Ahmadinejad's control of Iran is tenuous at best. Currently, he is ruling the country through the radical mullahs, who in turn, maintain local control of the people by fear and violence. But Ahmadinejad and the mullahs have to walk a thin line. If they push the people to hard, they could be forced to deal with an insurrection, whcih could lead to furhter destablization - if not an outright overthrow - of their radical regime. Ahmadinejad is very well aware this. He knows that any possible sanctions against Iran could turn the heat up and cause the political situation in Iraq to boil over.

Thus, the latest political stunt. Ahmadinejad is hoping to provoke the Brits, and perhaps even her allies like the United States, into a conflict. That would create a difficult situation for the U.N. Security Council when they go to vote on the possible sanctions. The Iranian President is scheduled to address the Security Council prior to its vote. If he can successfully draw one of the Council members into a clash, that would create a conflict of interests for the Security Council, which may cause them to withdraw or delay any resolution calling for sanctions.

The Brits and her allies need to remain calm and resolute in this situation. Iran should be given a deadline to release the British sailors. If they fail to meet the deadline, Ahmadinejad should have his visa to visit the United Nations retracted. In addition, the proposed sanctions should be imposed and enforce. Moreover, the Brits and the United States should actively begin to support opposition forces within Iran.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Fetal Sonograms and the Real Pro-Choice Agenda

Just a lump of tissue? Sonogram of a baby at 9-weeks

A South Carolina state House committee has approved legislation that would require women seeking an abortion to view a sonogram of their child before going forward with the procedure.

A companion bill in the South Carolina Senate would require abortion providers to use an ultrasound to determine the gestational age of the unborn child and to review the sonograms with the mother.

The goal of these bills, according to Rep. Greg Delleney (R-Chester and York Counties), is “…to save lives and protect people from regret and inform women with the most accurate non-judgemental information that can be provided."

Lenna Neill, CEO of Piedmont Women’s Center believes the ultrasound requirement would be helpful because many women who seek abortions do so because they are scared and find themelves in a crisis situation. The decision to have the abortion is usually made in haste without a full understanding of what is actually being done.

Pro-choice groups were angered by the proposed legislation because they feel it would interfere with a woman’s constitutional right to have an abortion. They believe that the proposed legislation is actually a tool by which pro-lifers can intimidate women who already have decided to have an abortion. “This is not a place for interference by politicians," said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America

Sounds to me like Rush Limbaugh had someone like Nancy Keenan in mind when he coined the term feminazi. A feminazi, you will recall, is “a woman who gets mad when another woman is talked out of an abortion.”

In reality, the radicals on the left are distorting this issue. In no way will the law restrict and woman’s right to choose. The law would only require that women be given sufficient information to make a wise choice. If after viewing the sonograms, they still wish to proceed with the abortion, they are free to do so.

The left’s opposition to the South Carolina legislation puts their hypocrisy on display and exposes them as agents of double-talk. In public comments on abortion, the pro-choice crowd claims that they long for the day when abortions will be less frequent (1, 2, 3, 4). Yet any time a state attempts to pass a law requiring parental consent, waiting periods, counseling about alternatives and potential side effects, or sonograms, the left organizes opposition to the proposed bill.

Seems to me like all the “desire for less frequent abortion” talk is just that – talk. It is nothing but a sugar coating to make their selfish agenda more palatable for the general public.

The truth of the matter is that the radicals who determine the so-called “pro-choice” agenda do not actually want fewer abortions. They believe abortion is necessary to liberate women from a life of servitude. Abortion, they believe, gives a woman the right of self-determination (1, 2, 3).

Although the left will not admit it, the self-determination argument has turned out to be a lie. In reality, most women who seek abortions are doing so out of desperation, rather than as daring act of self-expression. Moreover, as Frederica Mathewes-Green points out, Roe v. Wade did not give women more options, rather “it made one option nearly inevitable”. And let us not forget, someone dies each time an abortion is successfully performed.

I personally applaud South Carolina for putting this bill forward. The governor of South Carolina has indicated that he will sign the bill. Hopefully, other states will follow their lead.

Both Barrels Blazing

Bush Comes Out Shootin’

The Democrats clearly have an agenda, and its to weaken and undermine the President at every opportunity. This agenda has been clear since the Dems took control of the House and Senate after the mid-term election. Unfortunately, the President has done little to thwart them. Until now!

Recently, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has been under intense fire from the left for his role in the firings of eight US Attorneys.

Those calling on Bush to oust Gonzales believe the firings were part of a White House approved purge of prosecutors deemed unenthusiastic about the President's goals. Some of the fired attorneys echoed these opinions. David Iglesias, the former U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico, believe partisan politics was the motivating factor for his termination. He claims he was fired because he “[would] not play ball with two members of the Republican delegation…in New Mexico. I did not give them privileged information that could have been used in the October and November time frame."

The Justice Department maintains that the attorneys were fired for “performance issues”.

A recent poll shows that 62% of those responding believe that the President should replace Gonzales. The lack of public support for Gonzales has led some in the President’s own party to join in the frenzy.

And the left smells the blood in the water!

They want a full-scale investigation into the matter, and have set their sights on other members of the President’s counsel – particularly Karl Rove. Dems in the House want to authorize subpoenas for administration officials to force them to testify on the matter under oath.

The President has rejected the idea, saying it would compromise his ability to receive candid and objective advice from his counsel. Bush proposed to have his top aides speak about the firings of federal prosecutors privately - not under oath. The Dems have rejected that offer.

After putting up with this nonsense for the last few weeks, the President has finally had enough. Yesterday, he released a statement on the matter in which he defiantly rejected the calls to turn the matter into a “show trial” and a “partisan fishing expedition”. He challenged the Dems to put the interests of the country ahead of their own political agendas.

Although I think Bush should have done this long ago, his actions are better late than never. Its about time the President has shown some resolve and leadership. He needs to put a stop to the Dems efforts to undermine his party. Otherwise, the GOP will pay dearly in the upcoming elections.

A House panel on Wednesday approved subpoenas for President Bush's political adviser, Karl Rove and other top White House aides...

Saturday, March 17, 2007

A House Built on Sand Has No Foundation

Is McCain Presidential Material?

Although the election is still more than a year away, many politician have already thrown their hats into the ring for a chance to succeed GW Bush. On the left, the race appears to be between Hillary and Obama. On the right, its Guiliani and McCain.

In the coming months, the voters are going to have to chose which candidate is going to represent their party. The voters want a candidate that most closely shares their political ideology. Beyond that, they will be looking for a candidate with strong leadership skills. They will also be looking for someone who stands up for what they believe in.

So exactly who is John McCain and what does he believe in? In general, he would best be described as someone who is a luke-warm conservative who shoots from the left. That being said, he is not as far left as Guiliani. That is something that may be in his favor if it comes to a head-to-head match-up between he and Rudy.

That being said, McCain also has a weak side. He lacks the charisma and leadership that Rudy seems to emanate. Moreover, McCain has a knack for testing the wind before deciding what he believes in. That is not going to far well with a lot of voters who will perceive him as being unprincipled and weak.

On Friday, McCain was on the campaign trail in the mid-west. He was fielding questions from reporter during a bus ride through Iowa. One of the reporters questioned McCain about his position on the "…the distribution of taxpayer-subsidized condoms in Africa to fight the transmission of HIV." McCain responded with an awkward pause before summoning his press secretary to his side to find out just where it was he stood on the issue.

What? Are you kidding?

Actually, I am not. McCain did not seem to know how to answer the question. Following a rambling serious of non-commital statements, McCain stated, " I haven’t thought about it. Before I give you an answer, let me think about. Let me think about it a little bit because I never got a question about it before."

The reporter then began pushing McCain on related issues, asking him about his general position on contraceptives and abstinence. McCain again hedged on his answer stating, “ Ahhh. I think I support the president’s policy.

What? You think…?

Or maybe he does no where he stands but was reluctant to answer truthfully after licking his finger and sticking it in the air.

Either way, McCain’s gotta do better than that. After all, the guy is running for President. How can he expect people to put their faith in him if he doesn’t have the cajones to tell us what he beleives in? Or even worse, maybe he is not sure where he stands?

McCain has some time to get his act together, because this incident will probably pass by unnoticed by most voters, who seems to have the attention span of a kid who watched too much TV as a toddler.

But I noticed!

As I am a registered Independent, I guess I have no say in the matter because I can not vote in the Republican primaries. I do however vote Conservative, so I may eventually have the opportunity to put my two cents in. At this point, I have not decided which candidate I would support. But I do know a few things. For starters, my candidate won't be a liberal. And they won't be named Guiliani or McCain.

Some Poetry for St. Paddy's Day

An exerpt from Easter, 1916 by W.B. Yeats.

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven's part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse -
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Does Couey Have A Date With Old Sparky?

Old Sparky

I am not a big fan of the death penalty. There have been too many cases where DNA evidence has exonerated people on death row. One has to wonder how many people have been executed in the past for crimes that they may not have committed.

That being said, there a clearly some cases where the death penalty does seem to be the appropriate punishment. For example, I don’t think you will find too many people this side of the ACLU who would argue that mass murders like Ted Bundy or Timothy McVeigh should have been spared the death penalty. Those guys got what they deserved.

Now we have the case of John Couey in Florida. Couey, you may recall, was charged with abducting 9-year old Jessica Lunsford from her home, sexually assaulting her, and murdering her by binding her hands with wire, placing her in a plastic bag and burying her alive.

Truly, a heinous and unspeakable act!

Last week, the jury found Couey guilty of the above stated charges. The evidence was overwhelmingly against him. It only took them four hours to reach a verdict.

Today, the jury recommended the death penalty for Couey. I certainly hope that the judge follows the jury’s recommendation. There is no doubt that Couey deserves to die. It should be noted that the jury’s decision was not based on circumstantial evidence. Couey was found guilty beyond any doubt. Jessica Lusford’s body was found buried behind the trailer where Couey was living. Both Couey and the victim were linked to the crime scene by fingerprints, as well as DNA evidence from her blood and his semen. Although it was not a factor in the jury's decision, it should be mentioned to the skeptics out there that Couey confessed to the crime, but that evidence was thrown out by a judge because he was questioned without the presence of a lawyer.

Pending the judge’s decision, it is likely that Couey will face death by lethal injection, which is now the preferred method of execution in Florida. However, Couey could choose the electric chair if he wishes. If he does, he may have a date with Old Sparky - Florida’s infamous electric chair that is notorious for malfunctioning. Reportedly flames shot out of the heads of two convicts during their respective executions in the last 1990’s, similar to the scene in Steven King’s novel The Green Mile. That may seem like cruel and unusual punishment, and in almost all cases I would whole-heartedly agree. But in Couey's case, I would be willing to make an exception.

I hope he chooses Old Sparky. That way, he will get what he deserves.

Monday, March 12, 2007

China’s “Missing” Girls

Last night, I watched a National Geographic documentary called China’s Lost Girls. I must admit, the documentary was pretty moving. Basically, the documentary focuses on the consequences of China’s “one-child policy”.

During the cultural revolution, Chairman Mao encouraged Chinese to have as many children as possible to fuel the social and economic development of Chinese society. As a result, the Chinese population exploded, increasing from about 400 million in 1949 to almost 700 million by the late 70’s. Today, China’s population is 1.3 billion.

In an effort to curb population growth, Deng Xiaoping (Mao’s successor) established the so-called “one-child policy” in 1979. Basically, the policy set a limit on one child per couple in urban areas, and two children in rural or farming areas. Tibet has no limit. Although the policy is Draconian, it has been somewhat effective in curbing population growth. However, it has resulted in a number of unintended, but tragic consequences.

Culturally, male offspring are held in higher esteem in China, as reflected in this ancient Chinese poem from the Shih Ching (Book of Songs):

"When a son is born,
Let him sleep on the bed,
Clothe him with fine clothes,
And give him jade to play...
When a daughter is born,
Let her sleep on the ground,
Wrap her in common wrappings,
And give broken tiles to play..."

The reasons for the male preference are multifaceted. For starters, males are desired in order to carry on the family name. Males also tend to stay at home after marriage, whereas females leave home and move in with their husband’s family. Because males remain at home, they are better able to take care of their parents when they become old or sick. This is particularly important due to the fact that China does not have a well-developed social security system.

The combination of the one-child policy, coupled with the cultural preference for males, has resulted in a great deal of violence and neglect among China’s young girls. Sex-selective abortion of females has become common in China, despite the governments attempts to discourage it. Due to the availablity of cheap and mobile ultrasound scanners, women can (illegally) determine the sex of their child in utero for as little as $50.00, and then have an abortion. Those women unable to get ultrasounds simply wait for their child to be born. If it is an undesired girl, she may be neglected, abandoned or killed.

As a result, the demographics of the Chinese population are now skewed heavily in favor of boys. The normal ratio of boys to girls is about 105 to 100. In China, it is now about 115 to 100. In some rural areas, it is even greater, approaching 150 to 100. Demographers estimate that there are approximately 20 million girls “missing” from the Chinese population.

This imbalance is creating serious social issues that will only become worse as the bulk of China’s children reach adulthood. Many men simply won’t be able to find a mate and start a family. Frustration and violence will follow. In fact, violence against women in China is already increasing. Prostitution is on the rise. Even worse, many men have resorted to kidnapping and human trafficking in order to “obtain” a wife.

China maintains that they are working to solve this demographic problem, but their actions indicate otherwise. Last week, China, as well as India and several other countries, lobbied against a US-sponsored UN resolution that sought to eliminate prenatal sex selection and female infanticide. As a result, the resolution has been withdrawn.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Sean Hannity: Fair and Balanced?

Sean Hannity

Let me start by saying that I like Sean Hannity. I used to watch him almost every night on Hannity and Colmes before I downgraded my cable TV subscription. Now I listen to him on the radio most afternoons. I would say that he and I share similar opinions on a great number of issues.

Like him or not, Hannity can be brash and arrogant. I also think it is fair to say that he is self-righteous. He supports the GOP position, right or wrong. In doing so, he exposes himself to the charges of being a hypocrite. There is no doubt in my mind that Hannity is drinking the GOP Kool-aide!

For example, Hannity loves to bring up the fact that Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) was a former Klansmen and had referred to African-Americans as “niggers” in the past. Likewise, in an attempt to discredit Bill Clinton, Hannity has repeatedly played audio tapes of Clinton’s brother Roger using the N-word as well. In reference to Roger Clinton, Hannity has gone as far as stating, “Could you imagine a Republican hanging out with somebody that ever spoke like that, as such a bigot like that...

Seems to me that Mr. Hannity doesn't have any problems hanging out with conservatives of like character. Just last week, Hannity gave Ann Coulter a platform on his show to rationalize her characterization of former Senator John Edwards (D-NC) as a "faggot". Hannity tried to make the point that the backlash against Coulter was “selective moral outrage”. Well, he may have a valid point there, but it doesn't change the fact that he is displaying a do as I say, not as I do mentality (i.e., a double standard).

Hannity also likes to make a big deal out of the fact that he is an Orthodox Catholic. He always seems to find some place in his dialogue to to mention this every time a moral issue is the topic of conversation. He does so give the impression that the points of view he holds are dogmatic - and that is fine with me. But if Hannity is going to do this, he must be consistent or all his arguments founded on such grounds will crumble.

There is some evidence that this is already starting to happen. Just last Friday, the Rev. Thomas Euteneuer appeared on Hannity & Colmes to make his case that Hannity was a cafeteria Catholic and a heretic. The issue in question was Hannity’s public support for artifical birth control – a position that the Catholic church is opposed to. While not quite calling for Sean to be burned at the stake, Fr. Euteneuer did go as far as to say the he would deny Hannity the Eucharist lest he repent.

You may be thing that lots of people hold a similar opinion, but they would not necessarily be considered hypocrites. So, why is Hannity’s position a problem?

In a nutshell, its because Hannity is not being true to his principles. He selectively applies them when they support his political position, and side-steps them when they do not.

Andrew Sullivan recently posted a column highlighting Hannity’s double standard. Hannity falls back on his belief in Catholic teachings to support his opposition to homosexuality, among other issues. The Catholic church’s opposition on gay sex is rooted in the fact that such relations are not open to procreation. As Pope Paul VI points out in Humanae Vitae, this is the very same basis for the church’s opposition to artificial birth control.

Basically, Hannity is using this particular teaching of the church to support his opposition to gay sex, but rejecting or ignoring this same teaching because it does not coincide with his beleifs regarding birth control. Seems to me that Hannity has a problem here.

Frankly, I don’t care what religion Hannity (or anyone else) chooses to follow. That is personal decision that only he can make. The issue here is one of consistency. Hannity has to decide just what it is he beleives in, and apply those principles to all facets of his life. If he wants to use the bible and his religion to support his political views, then he must do so in all cases. Not just in those cases where the two are in agreement.

Afterall, he is trying to be fair and balanced, right?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Is Rudy the GOPs Best Hope?

Uniter or Divider?

Although the 2008 Presidential election is still over a year away, the campaign trail is heating up. It seems that just about everyone in Washington with a pulse and a bank account has formed a Presidential Exploratory Committee. Despite the large slate of candidates from the two major parties, some feel that the nominations may be wrapped up already.

New York Senator Hillary Clinton seems to be the shoe-in for the Democratic nomination. Only one real question remains. Who will be her running mate?

On the other side of the aisle, many traditional conservative candidates have thrown their hats into the ring, such as Senator Sam Brownback (Kansas), Governor Mike Huckabee, (Arkansas), and Rep. Tom Tancredo (Colorado). However, none of these guys seem to be making any headway. Former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich is still lurking in the shadows, but as on now, he has not declared his intention to run.

The two guys everyone seems to be talking about are Arizona Senator, John McCain and former New York mayor and 9/11 hero, Rudy Guiliani. But neither of these guys could fairly be described as strong conservatives. Nevertheless, it appears that one of these guys is going to get the nomination.

If the primaries were held today, Guiliani would probably get the nod. In fact, a recent editorial on by Ben Shapiro makes the point that it is Guiliani’s nomination to lose. The preference for Guiliani is also borne out in a recent Rasmussen poll, that shows Guiliani leading all Republican candidates with a 70% approval rating.

When matched head to head with Hillary Clinton, Rudy again comes out on top (52% to 43%).

Sounds like great news for the GOP, right?

I wouldn’t get my hopes up just yet. It is still early. A lot can happen between now and the primaries. In addition, Rudy is not a clean candidate. Yes, Rudy is strong on defense, and the way he conducted himself on 9/11 will be a strong feather in his hat - for both liberals and conservative voters alike. But Rudy also has a dark side which may hurt him as we get closer to election time. Many conservatives, particularly evangelical Christian conservatives, are going to have some major problems with Rudy’s character and his position on some of the issues.

For starters, Guiliani has been divorced, not once, but twice. That may not seem like a big deal to some, but for evangelicals it is. And its not just the fact that he was divorced that is at issue here. Guiliani began having a public affair with his present wife, Judith Nathan, while he was still married to his previous wife, Donna Hanover. Moreover, his divorce with Hanover was public and ugly.

And let’s not forget his former business partnership with former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik, who pleaded guilty to ethics violations. Although Rudy was not implicated in any of Kerik's legal problems, his ties to Kerik do not fare well for him.

Guiliani also holds some liberal views on key issues that are vitally important to conservative voters. Rudy supports gun control, conservatives support the NRA. Rudy supports a woman right to choose, conservatives want to overturn Roe v. Wade. Rudy is soft on immigration, conservatives want to build a fence and send the national guard to the border. Rudy supports same sex civil unions, conservatives want to protect the sanctity of marriage. Did I mention that Rudy wears drag? The list goes on…

This raises a serious issue about Guiliani’s ability to win. The GOP, if Guiliani is their candidate, better hope that conservatives think it is more important to keep a liberal democrat (Hillary) out of the White House, than to have a strong conservative in it. That may very well happen, as Ms. Clinton is a very polarizing personality. But then again, it may not! The GOP must be wary.

If conservatives, particularly the evangelical wing of the party, vote according to their conscience, that may very well split the Republican vote between Rudy and some other third party candidate. Can you say President Hillary?

Distancing Ann Coulter

Homophobe or Insensitive Bore?

In case you haven’t heard, Ann Coulter is pretty controversial. Coulter has elevated herself as a spokeperson for the conservative movement. As such, she has a fairly large following – as well as a fairly large group of detractors.

Ann Coulter has been described by some – on both sides of the aisle – as a bomb-thrower. Coulter relies on making provocative and controversial statements to draw attention to her agenda. Her books and articles typically employ sarcasm, humor, and insults to drive home her point. There is no topic to sensitive for her.

Sometimes Coulter goes a bit too far. Last week, she was addressing the American Conservative Union's Political Action Conference. At the end of her speech, she made the following derogatory comment about former Senator John Edwards:

"I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word "faggot," so I'm kind of at an impasse - I can't really talk about Edwards."

She made a similar remark about former Almost President, Al Gore, during an appearance on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews last summer, calling Gore a "total fag".

In regard to the John Edwards insult, Coulter appeared on Fox’s Hannity & Colmes on Monday to defend herself. When asked about the incident, Coulter insisted that it was just a "school-yard taunt" meaning "wuss". She continued, stating,
"C'mon, it was a joke. I would never insult gays by suggesting that they are like John Edwards. That would be mean."


I am not going to argue the point of whether Coulter was joking or not. Andrew Sullivan has already done that. In the end, it really doesn’t matter. The fact remains that she has done a great deal of damage to the conservative cause.

Republican candidates must now carefully distance themselves from Coulter, becuase she apparently remains popular among potential voters on the right, as shown by this World Net Daily poll. Even worse, the candidates who shared the CPAC stage with her that night are being forced to apologize for her comments. The fact that they even have to address them casts them in a negative light merely by association. In addition, Coulter's comments give many so-called “fence-sitting voters” an uneasy feeling about the conservative agenda.

Many on the left have painted conservatives as a group of racist homophobes. Coulter’s comments lend creedence to this view point. This could have the effect of causing some undecided voters to swing toward the left – something the right simply can not afford, particularly after the last election where they lost control in both houses of Congress.

Monday, March 05, 2007

CO2, Myopia & Global Warming

Who Is Repsponsible for His Predicament?

Believe it or not, I actually watched the Academy Awards last week. I was obviously bored out of my skull. To my surprise, Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth actaully won an Oscar. And to think, I didn’t even know the Academy had a category for science fiction.

All jokes aside, An Inconvenient Truth is being misrepresented to the American public. Global warming has become more of a partisan political issue that a scientific issue. An Inconvenient Truth leads one to believe that there is a consensus among climatologists that increases in carbon dioxide due to human consumption is the cause of global temperature increases. That is not the case! While no credible scientist will deny that global warming is real, there is still debate among climatologists regarding the cause. In other words, the science is not settled!

Although increases in carbon dioxide levels are correlated with the increase in global temperature over the last few decades, the cause-effect relationship between the two is not irrefutable. On the contrary, the earth has had previous warming and cooling cycles, and in some cases, the warming of the earth actually preceeded increases in carbon dioxide. In addition, global carbon dioxide from industrial sources increased dramatically in the years following World War II, yet global temperatures fell for four decades.

Other lines of evidence suggest that increases in solar radiation may have a greater imapact on global temperatures. Increases in solar flaring are correlated with decreased cloud formation. As a result, much of the solar radiation that would normally bounce off the clouds back into space is instead allowed to pass into the earth’s atmosphere, leading to increased temperatures. Moreover, a forthcoming documentary entitled The Great Global Warming Swindle argues that increased carbon dioxide levels may actually be the result of temperature increases, rather than their cause.

Does this mean that carbon dioxide levels have no effect on global temperature increases? No, I don’t think anyone is saying that. Nor are they saying that solar radiation is the cause. The main point is that we should not have a undeviating focus on just one potential cause when there could be multiple causes for global warming. To narrow-mindedly focus on carbon emmisions could result in even more devastating problems, such as prolonging endemic poverty by slowing third world develpoment.

The Lost Tomb of Jesus?

The Lost Tomb of Jesus?

Last night, the Discovery channel aired a docudrama called The Lost Tomb of Jesus, wherein it is claimed that the burial tomb of Jesus and his family have been found.

Within the tomb, ten ossuaries (bone coffins) were found, six of which bore inscriptions stating whose remains they held. Based on analysis of the inscriptions by epigraphers, docudrama director and journalist Simcha Jacobavici believes that the ossuaries contain the remains of Jesus of Nazarath, as well as those of the Maria (Jesus’ mother), Mariamne (Mary Magdelene, Jesus’ wife), Judah (the son of Jesus and Mary Magdalene), Yose (Jesus’ brother), and Matthew (a relative of the Virgin Mary).

Jacobavici enlists the help of archeologists, statisticians, epigraphers, and forensic scientists to help his make his case. The two main lines of evidence Jacobavici puts forward are stastical evidence and DNA evidence.

For the statistical evidence, Jacobavici enlists Dr. Andrey Feuerverger, Professor of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Toronto. Essentially, Dr. Feuerverger analyzes the possibility that people with the names inscribed on the ossuaries would occur within one family. Although the names (Mary, Jesus, etc) were more or less common during the first centuty, the liklihood that the occurred in one family are roughly 600:1. Coupled with the appearance of these names in the New Testament and other gnostic writings, Jacobavici claims that the remains in the ossuaries are most likley those of Jesus of Nazareth and his family.

For the DNA evidence, Jacobavici enlists a New York forensic crime lab. Bone fragments were removed from the ossuaries said to contain the remains of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Mitochrondrial DNA (mtDNA) was extracted from the samples to determine whether of not they were maternally related individuals. The tests results show that the two samples came from individuals who had different mothers. Archeological studies have shown that is it highly uncommon for unrelated individuals to be buried together in the same tomb - unless they were married. From this Jacobavici claims that this means that Jesus and Mary Magdalene must have been married.

While the docudrama provides compelling evidence that should be further looked into, Jacobavici falls fall short of proving his case beyond a reasonable doubt. For starters, the statistics on name frequency are being misinterpreted. They rest on the assumption that all the individuals in the tomb were life-time contemporaries. There is no evidence to support that assumption. In additon, it assumes that Jesus’ family had a tomb, and it is among the 1,000 or so tombs discovered to date. Again, there is not evidence to suggest that they did. Even Dr. Feuerverger admits that the 600:1 figure is only valid is the assumptions the statistics are based on are also valid. Without these assumptions, the probablility that this is the family tomb of Jesus of Nazareth is much lower, perhaps as low as 10%.

The interpretation of the mtDNA is even more troubling. Nuclear DNA which makes up our chromosomes, is inherited from both of our parents. mtDNA on the other hand is inherited through the egg cell, and therefore is contributed only by the mother. Comparison of the mtDNA extracted from the “Jesus” and “Mariamne” samples shows that these two individuals were not maternally related. This is all it says. Nevertheless, Jacobavici states that this is evidence that Jesus and Mariamne were marrried. To be fair, that is one possibility. However, there are other possibilities that are being discounted. Mariamne could have been married to one of the other males found in the tomb. Alternativley, the they could be a paternal cousins. They could also be totally unrelated.

When you boil the whole thing down, it seems that Jacobavici has an interesting story with some potentially compelling evidence. However, the evidence that he has is circumstantial. Furthermore, the evidence relies on statistical assumptions that are in no way proven to be valid assumptions.

There were also many lines of evidence that Jacobavici did not persue. For example, why not test the DNA of the other individuals found within the tomb. Were “Jesus” and “Yose” related to “Maria”, as would be expected if she were their mother? Was Judah related to Miramne? Jacobavici could have also gone back to the original bones that were removed from the ossuaries and buried by the Israeli Department of Antiquites. From these he could have obtained DNA samples – perhaps even nuclear DNA samples. This would go a long way in lending support to his case. But as it stands now, Jacobavici is left with a weakly supported case. It doesn’t mean that he is wrong, but that he has just not proven his case with sufficient evidence.

In other words, all this "Jesus family" stuff is just wild speculation at this point.