Thursday, February 6, 2014

Bill Maher says the Founding Fathers thought the bible was bullshit

Airing on January 31, 2014, Real Time with Bill Maher episode 305 included an exchange with Stephan Merchant about the Founding Fathers and the current qualifications for public office in the United States today. After Merchant quipped about the enlightenment and brilliance of Americas Founding Fathers, Maher added a remark that ought to be said much more often in political discourse:

"[The Founding Fathers] believed in science....they thought the bible was bullshit"

Rather than using my own words to establish the validity of the statement, I turn instead to direct quotes from some of the Founding Fathers themselves (with bold font added to highlight 'the bible is bullshit' type of thinking)....

"Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.""It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God."
"As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupt changes, and I have, with most of the present Dissenters in England, some Doubts as to his divinity; tho' it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and I think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the Truth with less Trouble."
“We have abundant reason to rejoice that in this Land the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition… In this enlightened Age and in this Land of equal liberty it is our boast, that a man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the Laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest Offices that are known in the United States.”
James Madison: 
“Freedom arises from the multiplicity of sects, which pervades America and which is the best and only security for religious liberty in any society. For where there is such a variety of sects, there cannot be a majority of any one sect to oppress and persecute the rest.
John Adams:
“The Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.”

What I aim to convey is that many of the Founding Fathers appear to be quite heretical in their beliefs. For the religious right to quote them in defense their views (on the second amendment, religious freedoms, or separation of church and state, or American being a Christian nation....) Seems terribly dishonest. Any persons with ideas like those highlighted above would hardly be called Christians at all by leading voices from the right, like William Lane Craig and practically every single person employed by Fox News. 

Whether they believed in God is irrelevant. Admittedly, There are plenty of quotes to be found that praise God explicitly, but I would question whether the God they praised is the same God of the Christian right. I Think not. Let's not forget that Jefferson actually compiled his own bible in protest against the accepted bible, so perhaps they should enlighten themselves a little more about our enlightened, and rather heretical, Founding Fathers.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Bill Maher Thinks Edward Snowden always "says something completely nuts"

Bill Maher took on Edward Snowden during an interview with Glenn Greenwald on Episode 303 of Real Time with Bill Maher. Maher offered praise for both Greenwald and Snowden but also said the following:

"Every time [Snowden] opens his mouth, he also says something completely nuts"

Maher offers two quotes which he attributes Snowden to highlight his case:

"These programs were never about terrorism. They were about social control and diplomatic manipulation"
"They can use this system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you've ever made, every friend you've ever discussed something with" 

First, it would be wise to assure the validity and context of both statements to be sure that Snowden was not misquoted or taken out of context.  The first quote was taken from Snowden's open letter to the people of Brazil, published on December 17th, 2013, which he wrote in the hopes of gaining asylum in that country. The second quote was taken from an interview on June 6th, 2013 when Greenwald first broke the story about NSA spying. Both quotes are plainly stated laments about the U.S. government's indiscriminate use of data mining and suveillance capabilities (then again, pretty much every thing Snowden says follows a similar idealistic backdrop). Greenwald also appears to fully acknowledge the claims are accurate depictions.

Second, are these quotes really evidence that Snowden is nuts? Or better said, does he have any evidence that the NSA program is actively pursuing social control, manipulation and can go back in time to scrutinize the peanut butter sandwich you made for lunch two years ago? Well, Carl Sagan widely popularized the quote, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence", presumably an adaptation from philosopher David Hume's quotes, "a wise man...proportions his belief to the evidence". Snowden is certainly making an extraordinary claim. The accusation of social control is arguably the most graven and heinous accusations one can make against a democratic government. Therefore, it remains to be determined whether he proportions his beliefs to the evidence at hand.

The NSA program and The PRISM program it employs does indiscriminately collect and store massive amounts of data. Yet there is no evidence that the programs have been abused in such a way that could be described as the government exercising social control upon its citizens.  NSA director Michael Hayden dismissed NSA abuses in an op-ed piece for the New York Times and deemed plausible by Senator Dianne Feinstein back in 2009 although the NSA eventually admitted in 2013 to some abuses of power which usually included deciding whose information to collect on criteria that were far too broad in scope. This is an issue that needs attention; there is no doubt about it. Oversight and regulation of NSA practices need to continue to be scrutinized and re-scrutinized. But to label these abuses as social control is a claim that is a step too far. Yes, the government is collecting and storing too much information, but that does not mean they are actively employing Aldous Huxley 'Brave New World' style social control. There is no evidence that a peanut butter sandwich was made by a government that wanted its citizen to eat a peanut butter sandwich and not a hungry person who actually wanted to eat peanut butter.

I am with Snowden, generally speaking, when it comes to reigning in the power of the NSA, but whenever he spews out bigfoot-style conspiracy theories such as the quotes above I cringe. I wish he would chose his words better,temper his rhetoric with the facts or show hard evidence that U.S. citizens are mindless drones in a government created reality.

It also doesn't help when Greenwald responds by saying, "what's crazy is that you think it's crazy". No, Greenwald, it's crazy because the evidence doesn't support it. Maybe that'll change. Greenwald and Snowden do have millions of pages of NSA documents, after all, and have proven Sen. Feinstein wrong. So do the some with Bill Maher.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Bill Maher: "There is no such thing as clean coal"

On November 16th, 2012 during episode 267 of Real Time with Bill Maher, Bill Maher made the following assertion:

 "There is no such thing as clean coal"
Maher is right. He dropped this bombshell while expertly executing one of his trademark comedic rants, this time about America's energy future. He chided the clean coal euphemism and furthermore insisted that President Obama no longer kiss the asses of the coal industry.

Despite the purported war on coal the Romney campaign accused Obama of during the presidential election, he does have a history of puckering up to backers of coal.

Jeff Briggers of the Huffington Post railed the president, rather unapologetically, to stop backing clean coal permits in areas like the Powder River Basin and Appalachia because coal kills both people and the environment. These permits are part of a plan the president laid out in a 2011 state of the union address where he said that all energy sources needed to be considered in the nation's energy future.

But clean coal was not always part of the president's game plan. Obama has always supported green energy sources, such as wind, solar, and nuclear energy, but only added a section in his energy plan about clean coal after a firestorm of criticism from republicans, who consider him anti-coal.

Obama was only anti-coal when it was called dirty-coal, yet is pro-coal when it is called clean coal. The problem is this-all coal is dirty coal.

His apparent flip flop on coal shows that Obama knows clean coal is a myth. Bill Maher also knows it. They know it because facts show the words 'clean' and 'coal' to be inherently contradictory.

The best example of this contradiction is the regulation recently enacted by the EPA on carbon dioxide emissions for newly constructed power plants. The regulations cap the maximum allowed CO2 levels so that they not exceed 1000 pounds per megawatt-hour of electricity. This is crippling to the clean coal industry because most plants simply cannot get their levels below that mark. The EPA's regulations are not too stringent . The coal is just far too dirty. The following charts put the numbers in perspective.

Power source life-cycle emissions GHG Emissions per kWh

Truly clean sources of energy that Obama has always supported emit exponentially less co2 than even the cleanest of clean coal. The numbers show that coal emissions are about 70 times higher than that of wind, solar, hydro or nuclear. It is about 10 times higher than all of the real green energy sources combined. To call it clean would be like calling a hummer fuel efficient because it has fuel efficient tires.

Obama flip flops on coal because of the lie disseminated by the coal industry that coal could ever be called clean. Until the public is told the truth, he will have to continue his political dance between championing green energy sources and relenting to pressures from the coal industry.

Side note: also in this episode, Michael Moore bolstered a claim I address in an earlier post that a disproportionate amount of the money generated in America is in concentrated in the blue(democratic) states and supports red(republican) states.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Andrew Sullivan is right to point out republican hypocricy regarding federal spending

On this week's Real Time with Bill Maher episode, first airing November 9th, 2012, Andrew Sullivan of the Daily Beast dropped a bomb that I cannot believe turned out to be true.His charge- Republicans are hypocrites.

Sullivan said that the government's federal funding disproportionately subsidizes republican (red) states. And crazy as it seems, he is right. The party of personal responsibility also turns out to be the party of government welfare.

These would be the same red states that supported Mitt Romney, who famously complained about government dependency in a secret tape to a room of wealthy campaign donors, and who, as fate would have it, was overwhelming supported by that very same 47 percent he so condescendingly trounced. Here are the facts:

Below are two maps showing two key pieces of information. The first map shows the electoral college results for the 2012 presidential election with the 10 states that received the most federal funding in 2000 shaded in pink lines. The second map shows  the states that received the most federal funding in 2010 on the same electoral map and similarly shaded:

top 10 federally funded states in 2000
top 10 federally funded states in 2010

These maps reveal that the republican party is dominated by states that are dependent on the government. Republicans won 8 out of 10 states in the 2012 election that took the most federal money in 2000 and 6 out of 10 states that took the most federal money in 2010.

Yet this is the same party that vows to eliminate all entitlements, shrink the size of government, and make that freeloading, government dependent, lazy 47 percent of America take responsibility for their own well being. Well, I hate to break it to ya, republicans, but that 47 percent is also the voting base you rely on every election cycle.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Margaret Hoover dismisses measures to reduce climate change

This week on episode 265 of Real Time with Bill Maher, which first aired on November 2nd, 2012, CNN contributor Margaret Hoover made the following statement about climate change:
"[According to] the U.N. Climate Control Panel(IPCC)...if we do many many things and have India and China go along with us, then maybe in 100 years temperatures will change 1 degree, and then that could change weather patterns potentially"
She used this supposed fact, and her dismissive emphasis on the word 'potentially', to question the idea that policies to prevent climate change have meaningful impact and ought to be implemented by following administration.

Bill Maher immediately shot back, expressing his skepticism about the fact because he had never heard it before. Neither had I. So I investigated the claim and came up with nothing that explicitly supports Hoover's claim, although that is not to say it doesn't exist. What I did find was a potentially contradictory IPCC statement.

The website reports that the panel expects average global temperatures to rise by 2-15 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, before the supposed 100 year time frame of Hoover's claim. NASA's climate website suggests similar numbers. This fact is very damaging to her claim. It suggests that global temperatures will gradually manifest throughout the century, not begin its ascent at the end of the century.

It is worth noting that the website cites the panel admitting that effects of climate change will not be manifest for 100 years. Perhaps this projection is the evidence behind Hoover's claim. What she might have meant was that complete global compliance could help global temperatures rises come in under the IPCC projections.

All in all, I find no factual support for the claim, but I would be hesitant to call it a outright lie. Maybe the supporting information is out there. And if it is, I would love to be pointed in its direction