Archive for April 2013

Defining Natural Rights   Leave a comment

This is one of the clearest definitions of natural rights I’ve read.

THE ROAD TO CONCORD

[NOTE: This is the second in a series of posts intended to work out the principles of Natural Law. It builds off of the posts that have come before it.  If you have not already read Free Will: the First Principle of Natural Law, I strongly suggest that you do so before reading this post, as this post is a continuation of the former.  I also ask that you understand, while this is not technically a formal argument, neither is it a casual argument.  Thus, it is not necessarily the easiest thing to read, but then, this is because I am trying to explain some difficult concepts in a manner as easily understood as I know how.  I trust that you will bear with me.  In return, I will break the whole into smaller, more easily digested posts.]

 Now that we have established that the first principle of Natural…

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Posted April 30, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Making Sequestration Painful?   Leave a comment

This is either another example of bad reporting or the federal government manipulating reporters to make something unrelated to sequestration appear related so people will complain.

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/04/28/alaska-naturalists-cant-find-space-on-marine-highway-ships/

The wildlife interpreters on Alaska’s Marine Highways are federal employees. There’s never been any federal funds actually given to the State to hire naturalists. The State of Alaska provides free room and board in exchange for the services of federal employees. Occasionally, interpreters would be “bumped” because of high demand for cabins, but the AMHS would hold the interpreter cabins for them until all other cabins were taken. As AMHS ships are not cruise ships, there are few cabins. Many passengers sleep in the lounge chairs on the viewing deck or pitch tents on the bow deck. The last couple of years, the Obama administration has taken its sweet time deciding whether to send interpreters, so the AMHS started releasing the cabins to paying passengers. This year, all the cabins were released except on one ferry before the federal Department of Natural Resources asked for them. Now the feds are acting like it was the State’s decision, when in reality, they were the ones who set it up to fail. It’s likely another way they’re trying to make the sequestration furloughs painful, but this isn’t a sequestration furlough, it’s a lack of planning on the part of the feds.

And, it really doesn’t matter. You’d get a much better “tour” from the passengers who ride the ferry frequently. How do I know? I’ve taken the ferry and had many lovely conversations with the regulars who know the route so well and can tell stories about hiking a mountain or fishing a bay or an ancient Native story about a river that the federal employee doesn’t have in their guide book.

Private Industry Can Do It … if we let them   2 comments

Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska’s two largest cities, are connected by two highways, a train and airplanes, but it’s been a long time since there was regular bus service between the two cities. A couple of years ago a bus began running the long route down the Richardson and Glenn Highways, but now a new company is seeking to provide a similar service along the much shorter Parks Highway.

http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/20130428/low-cost-bus-service-aims-better-connect-communities-between-alaska-population

This is a good thing and, the article notes, it fits into the State’s Long Range Transportation Plan, but it’s not being done by the State of Alaska. Bus transportation is going to be a whole lot cheaper than the train or plane and best of all, the government is not subsidizing it.

Private industry is doing it because the State did not step in to do it and the need is there.

Funny how that works!

Intelligent Causation   Leave a comment

I believe in intelligent causation. The universe and all that is in it has been created and is being sustained by God (Colossians 1:16-17). I can’t call myself a follower of BioLogos because I do have some discomfort with modern mainstream science. I have a cousin who is a paleontologist and an atheist and even he says paleontologists ignore the evidence in their own field that evolution has not played out the way they present it in public discourse. However, I agree with quite a lot of the BioLogos belief statements.

BioLogos differs from the Intelligent Design movement in three respects:

  1. They are skeptical about the ability of biological science to prove the existence of an Intelligent Designer (whom they take to be the God of the Bible), while ID advocates are confident.
  2. They find unconvincing those attempts by ID theorists to scientifically confirm God’s activity in natural history, while ID theorists believe they have sufficiently demonstrated it.
  3. They see no biblical reason to view natural processes (including natural selection) as having removed God from the process of creation. It is all God’s and it is all intelligently designed. Those in the ID movement for the most part reject some or all of the major conclusions of evolutionary theory.

#1 – No problem there. Why would a metaphysical Being submit to human science? Again, it’s my dog trying to understand the creation of a human.

#2 – I agree we’re not going to scientifically confirm God’s activity in natural history. Again, we have limited understanding of an unlimited Being.

#3 – I think we’re all going to be surprised when God explains how the universe really works to us. We’re not as smart as we think we are. Even the scientists who accept BioLogos are not as smart as they think they are.

Despite these differences, all Christians agree that the God of the Bible is the Creator of the heavens and the earth. We agree on the authority of the Bible, even though we disagree on the best interpretation of particular passages. We agree that God is continually active in His sovereign governance of the universe, even though we disagree on how much God acts through natural law versus miracles. We are unified in our rejection of evolutionism, even though we use different strategies to counteract it. While Creationism and Intelligent Design reject the science of evolution and Biologos instead rejects the atheistic spin put on the science, the two movements agree on the fundamentals of Christian faith: that all people have sinned and that salvation comes only through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. All true Christians agree that the God of our salvation is the same God we see in the wonders of His creation and that creation extends from the vastness of the Milky Way down to the minutest detail of DNA.

Confusing Opinion with History   4 comments

The following example is an opinion based on fact where the observer draws an erroneous position based on his presuppositions. It is amazing to me how liberals think. They take history out context, mix eras, interpret a federal takeover of an existing private entity as having built the railroads, highways, canals, telephone lines, etc. The letter is in regular type. I put my reply in bold.

http://www.jdnews.com/opinion/letters/rugged-individuals-had-government-help-1.132356

To the editor:

The great American myth of “rugged individualism” was invoked in the Feb. 17 letter, “Time to start acting like our forefathers.”

David R. Houck wrote, “Pioneers traveled west for months, across a continent, to improve their prospects. The government did not provide anything for them.” He is wrong. (Actually, he was overly broad, but essentially correct. The federal government had a small role in westward expansion, but mostly responded to citizens’ migrations).

Historian Stephanie Coontz, in her 1992 book “The Way We Never Were,” described how the government helped and contributed to early American survival.

The West was not conquered by rifle-toting pioneers, but by the U.S. Army. The army defeated and cleared the land of Native Americans. (Actually, “western” settlers in Kentucky and Tennessee went ahead of the US military and mountain men like Jim Bridger were decades ahead of the settlers in the Plains and Rockies. Most of the settlers who traveled the Oregon Trail did so BEFORE the United States bought the area the Trail ran through. The Army actions against Native Americans were at the behest of the railroads, not the individual settlers. The railroads followed the settlers, not the other way around).

The government made massive land purchases, easing the conquest of those territories. It spent $15 million for the Louisiana Purchase, $25 million for the Texas-California purchase and $7 million for Alaska. (The Louisiana Purchase was bought before settlement for less than 3 cents an acre, then sold for $1-2 an acre; Texas-California purchase came after so much settlement that Americans outnumbered Mexicans by 8:1 and Americans bought most of the land from Mexico prior to the purchase; Alaskans would love to have our land released to private ownership – let’s get started.)

The government then sold this land below cost, at considerable loss to itself. (Dealt with above). The Preemption Act of 1841, the Graduation Act of 1854 and the Homestead Act of 1862 all gave away land to pioneers for a song. (Uh, at best you could say the federal government released land to American taxpayers who bought the land in the first place. The Louisiana Purchase land sales made money for the US government which sparked not a little protest from the purchasers who felt they were made to pay twice – which they were. Texas-California and Alaska have more than paid for themselves from revenues from the federal control of lands that should have passed to the taxpayers who paid for the land in the first place).

The government also played a crucial role in developing these lands. Regarding canals connecting the Great Lakes to the Eastern Seaboard, the government funded or financially guaranteed three-fourths of the $200 million project. (Don’t confuse state governments with the federal government. State governments and private joint-stock corporations built the canals). It also gave each state 30,000 acres of land to build agricultural colleges, which helped farmers develop a working agricultural economy. (The federal government is constitutionally prohibited from owning land; therefore, it could be said that it returned to the states 30,000 acres that rightfully belonged to the states in the first place). The government provided mail services like the Pony Express to interconnect this economy. (The postal service ran at a profit in those days, based upon the collection of postage).

The government also built highways to the West (actually, states built highways before 1956 when the federal government started the then-highly-controversial Interstate Highway Project) and wired the country for telephone service (the railroads ran the telegraph lines and Bell Systems ran the telephone lines. The federal government wasn’t involved until 1934, more than 20 years after the transcontinental wires were laid). It also saved countless small farmers from foreclosure by giving them loans, and it began paying huge farm subsidies that continue to this day. (Very few farm subsidies go to small farmers because they cannot afford the paperwork burden. Corporate farmers have always been the greatest beneficiary of federal farm subsidies.)

The major corporations settled the West, not the lone pioneers, often with vast government help. The government distributed (leased) a billion acres of land, of which only 147 million became homesteads. Sociologists Scott and Sally McNall estimate that “probably only one acre in nine went to the small pioneer.” (Now, I would agree with the 1 to 9 ratio because in most cases the federal government retained control of vast areas of the west and leased its use to corporations rather than releasing it to the individual citizens this country is supposed to work for. Alaska and Arizona are prime examples of where the federal government prevents individuals from entering the marketplace by restricting access to the land needed for development).

Railroad companies received 183 million acres. Four out of five transcontinental railroads were built in this way, and Congress approved loans up to $48,000 per mile to build them. (I would agree with that estimation. Following the Civil War, the federal government became way too involved in land speculation and crony capitalism. The land grants would not have been necessary if the federal government had released the land to private ownership as the Constitution required. The railroads would have had to deal with the individual landowners, as they did in some areas of the eastern Louisiana Territory and portions of Texas-California that were settled before it became part of the United States.)

The West prides itself on being strongly anti-government. This denies reality. The West, in fact, has always been dependent on government. (Not dependent – more like strangled. Development in the west has largely been despite federal government interference, not because of it). Stephanie Coontz concludes, “It would be hard to find a Western family today or at any time in the past whose land rights, transportation options, economic existence, and even access to water were not dependent on federal funds.” (The Oregon Trail was ground out by the wheels of settler wagons, not by the federal government. With the exception of the prairie states, most of the west was settled by “migrants” who left the United States to settle in a foreign country. The United States government bought the settled territories after the controlling nations recognized there were more Americans living in their territory than Spanish or French or ….”

Neil Nissenbaum

Jacksonville

(of course, note that this guy is in Florida)

Posted April 29, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Common sense, History

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Faith & Science Are Different, Not Incompatible   2 comments

I do so believe in dinosaurs and I do NOT believe the earth is 6000 years old. That, by the way, was one man’s interpretation of the Bible, which doesn’t claim the earth is 6000 years old. It follows the Hebrew people and their lineage, which goes back about 6000 years.

I believe that Bible was inspired by God and written by the hands of humans. Humans 4000 years ago had limited understanding of the natural world. As they wrote a book of history, I suspect some concepts just didn’t communicate very well between an eternal, all powerful, and spiritual Being to His limited creation.

Example?

Nobody knows how many “days” it actually took God to create the earth or how long He spent creating the universe. No, I am not saying I disbelieve the Bible. I believe it took six periods of time for God to create the universe. I suspect that Moses did not understood “day” in the same way that God experienced those periods of time.

What is a “day” to an eternal Being? Time must be a relative concept for Him, since He’s always existed. In fact, a thorough reading of the Bible would show the reader that God experiences time in a way that we do not. He knew what we would do before we existed, implying time applies to humans in a linear fashion, but God is outside of time. To Him, the moment of Creation may be like a second ago to us. So “day” means …? Well, there are those who insist it means a 24-hour period of planetary revolution, and God still loves them, but the Biblical account says God didn’t create the sun until the third “day”, so …? Yeah, not a scientific document. It’s a historical document, scribed by a time-limited human trying to understand a communication from an infinite and eternal Being. It might be a little like my dog trying to understand one of my blog posts. As dogs go my husky-mix is incredibly bright, but this blog post would be over her head. So, Christians who apply reason to the discussion of the earth’s age recognize that we really don’t know from the Bible how old the earth is and we’re okay with that.

It’s not denying science to have faith. It’s denying science has a right to define faith.They really are two completely separate subjects. Faith should not limit science because science deals with how the universe works, but neither should science seek to limit faith because faith deals with why the universe exists. That’s a middle ground that I think any Bible believing Christian can grow comfortable with if we allow ourselves to. Defending faith does not require that we discount science … only that we point out when scientism oversteps into areas that it is not qualified to comment upon.

I do consider myself a “creationist” in that I believe God created the world in the way described in the first chapters of Genesis, but I also think the first chapters of Genesis do not tell a complete picture. We have no idea how many generations separated Adam from Abraham. What is written about the time before Abraham is synopsis of millennia, most likely.

In my honest non-partisan way, I do not myself wholly agree with any one version of “creationism”. I find parts of the Creationist argument compelling (hence the acceptance of the first chapters of Genesis), but I also agree with Intelligent Design on some things. Science is a wonderful subject, but I think scientists sometimes draw wrong conclusions from their data because they want their worldview validated. I am also drawn to the BioLogos movement, what might be termed “theistic evolution”. My mind is not made up and I think that is a sign of intelligence, reason and faith.

All true Christians believe that God created the universe and all life. You can’t claim you’re a Biblical Christian and also say you think God wasn’t intimately involved. On the other hand, you can disagree with Young Earth Creationists who believe God created everything 6,000 to 10,000 years ago and dismiss much of modern mainstream science. I hold that Scripture and modern science both reveal God’s truth and that these truths are not in competition with one another. There is some disagreement in how to reconcile the truths of science and Scripture on particular issues. I’m not completely sold on evolution mainly because it is so often presented as evolutionism, which is a subset of scientism – the atheistic worldview that denies the existence of the supernatural even when it is so evident you’d have to be blind not to see it.

Oil is NOT running out!   4 comments

Oil may not be as finite as once supposed.

http://www.nationaljournal.com/energy/what-if-oil-lasts-forever-20130425

New technologies and the discovery of methane hydrate has created a scenario where petroleum products – oil and natural gas – are becoming increasingly available.

What a nightmare! The environmentalists have spent 50 years conditioning us to believe that if we didn’t cut back on fuel usage, we’d run out of oil and the world would turn into a Mad Max movie. And, it turns out it isn’t true.

So, how do they keep control of citizen power use if we learn that oil may be virtually limitless? How do you convince people to move to more expensive, limited, and unreliable energy sources when less expensive, reliable energy sources are virtually unlimited?

Here’s the thing – petroleum engineers say they have known that peak oil was nonsense for more than 20 years, which may explain the insistence on saying that carbon dioxide is a poison, because environmentalists are all about controlling the behavior of others. This also explains why they see no problem wearing clothing made of petroleum products, flying on jets to go to climate conferences, and using big ships to blockade off-shore oil drilling. They know we’re not running out of oil. They just don’t want we the people to know because frightened sheep are so much easier to herd.

Narcissist-in-Chief Toots Someone Else’s Horn   Leave a comment

President Obama : President Obama and Senator Patty Murray Get Out the Vote Rally, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington,10/21/2010

President Barack Obama claims that domestic oil production is the highest it has been in eight years. He’s not lying. He just didn’t have much to do with it. What, you are surprised that a narcissist would take credit for something someone else did? Really?

Production has not increased as a result of the President’s policies, but in spite of them. Much of the increased activity is on private lands over which the Administration has no control. North Dakota, for instance, has been the poster child for what can happen when the government unleashes free enterprise by reducing harmful overregulation and unnecessary delays, and allows states to develop and commercialize their resources. North Dakota also shows how quickly domestic oil can reach the market. In December 2009, North Dakota had 75 drilling rigs and 4,600 wells producing 7.5 million barrels of crude oil. In January 2012, North Dakota had an average rig count of 200 with 6,600 wells pumping out 16.9 million barrels of oil.

President Obama’s intimations to the contrary, the opposite is occurring on federal lands where production fell in fiscal year 2011 (the most current fiscal year for which data are available).

In the near, intermediate, and long term, oil producers can bring more domestic oil to the world market, increasing supply to offset rising demand and increasing America’s percentage of the world’s total production to help minimize supply shocks. Increasing American energy production will create jobs, increase economic growth and raise government revenue—without raising taxes.

Congress could help the process along and lower gas prices in both the short and long term.

Congress should lift the ban on exploration in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and conduct more lease sales off Alaska’s coasts. The United States is the only country in the world that has placed a majority of its territorial waters off-limits to oil exploration. Obviously, I think we should be exploring for oil in ANWR, where an estimated 10.4 BILLION barrels of oil lie beneath a few thousand acres that can be access with minimal environmental impact. Congress should REQUIRE the Secretary of the Interior to conduct lease sales if a commercial interest exists to explore and drill.

Had President Obama approved the permit for construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, up to 830,000 barrels of oil per day would have come from Canada to the Gulf Coast refineries as early as 2013. President Obama rejected the permit, claiming that the Department of State did not have the necessary information to recommend an approval. The reality is that the State Department has already conducted a thorough, three-year environmental review with multiple comment periods. The State Department studied and addressed risks to soil, wetlands, water resources, vegetation, fish, wildlife, and endangered species. It concluded that construction of the pipeline would pose minimal environmental risk. Congress should recognize its authority to regulate commerce with foreign nations to accept the State Department’s conclusion and approve construction of the pipeline.

The environmental review requirements for oil and gas projects to commence on federal lands under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) take entirely too long. The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) estimates that an environmental impact statement (EIS) to approve a larger drilling project should take one year to complete, while smaller environmental assessments (EAs) should take no more than three months. Since 2005, it has taken the government an average of five years to complete an EIS, and EAs regularly take over four years. Congress should place a 270-day time limit on NEPA reviews, ensuring a quick, efficient review process for energy projects on federal lands.

Processing a permit to drill also takes far too long. The processing time frames for Application for Permit to Drill (APD) extend well beyond the 30-day time limit stipulated by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. This delay is creating the perverse incentive for companies to submit more permit applications than they need with the hope that a few will make it through the process. Congress should require the Department of the Interior to honor the law’s deadline unless the Interior finds fault with the application. If Interior concludes that the permit application is not complete, it should outline specific steps on how to complete it. If Interior does not do so, the permit application should be considered accepted. Congress should ultimately transition the permitting process to state regulators, who are best able to balance economic growth and environmental well-being.

Rather than implementing an efficient leasing process, the Department of the Interior added three additional administrative regulations to the leasing process in January 2010. These are duplicative and unnecessary levels of bureaucracy in addition to what is already an extensive and thorough leasing process. Moreover, after a company wins the bid for a lease and purchases, Interior routinely fails to issue the lease, despite being statutorily required to do so within 60 days. Oil and gas companies have successfully sued the federal government, but have nevertheless been prevented from moving forward with exploration and drilling in a timely fashion. Congress should remove these additional levels of red tape and stipulate that if Interior fails to issue the lease to the winning bidder within 60 days, the lease should be considered issued by default.

Oil shale production in the United States could be a global game changer for oil production. The U.S holds the largest known reserves of oil shale in the world. According to the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. has more than five times the proven reserves of oil in Saudi Arabia. Seventy percent of American oil shale reserves lie beneath federal lands. The Obama Administration has back-peddled on oil shale development by applying new regulations, unworkable time frames, and significantly reducing the land available for research and development leases. The new rules also unnecessarily crowd out the opportunity for smaller companies to invest in research leases. While the technology is still developing and environmental considerations need to be taken into account, Congress should make permanent the 2008 Department of Interior guidelines for oil shale development in order to provide regulatory certainty for companies to pursue an extremely valuable resource.

The Department of the Interior’s land grab (Secretarial Order No. 3310) to unilaterally and arbitrarily classify federal land areas as “Wilderness” or “Wild Lands” will not only restrict access to new drilling areas but also prevent production on existing leases. Once again, the Administration is ignoring the needs of regional and local economies and their ability to balance economic growth and environmental priorities. Congress should permanently block Secretarial Order No. 3310 and any Interior-proposed designation should require congressional approval.

States receive 50% of the revenues generated by onshore oil and natural gas production on federal lands. Congress should apply this allocation offshore as well. Drilling off states’ coasts and allowing them a larger share of the royalty revenue would encourage more state involvement in drilling decisions. Offshore drilling would promote state and local government participation in allocating funds.

In 2010, the Department of the Interior suspended 61 oil and natural gas leases in Montana alone because environmental groups charged that the energy production would contribute to climate change. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and simply reporting on emission outputs, is extremely costly, especially for small, family-owned wells. The EPA has admitted that reducing greenhouse gas emissions in America will have an insignificant impact on overall global emissions and no noticeable effect on global temperatures. The most effective and comprehensive approach to stopping the federal government’s power grab would be to permanently prohibit any federal agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, the proposed Tier 3 gas regulations (designed to replace the Tier 2 regulations issued in 2000) to lower the amount of sulfur in gasoline could add 6 cents to 9 cents per gallon to the cost of manufacturing gasoline. The Environmental Protection Agency has declared no measurable air quality benefits. Congress should prohibit the implementation of these regulations because such changes have broad consequences on the economy and society and are not to be undertaken by unelected government officials.

Another egregious problem is the statutorily mandated Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), more commonly known as the ethanol mandate. In the very near future refiners will be fined when the amount of ethanol mandated exceeds the amount that can be refined for use, but the mandate requires production of cellulosic ethanol (made primarily from non-food sources, such as wood chips, switch grass, or corn stover). No companies have been able to produce commercially viable cellulosic ethanol. As a result, in 2011 refiners had to pay more than $6 million in waiver credits or surcharges to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s minimum volume requirements. The ethanol mandate has been both an economic disaster, but by driving up food prices it also has been an environmental disaster. Congress should repeal the RFS.

Of course, the most effective response to oil price spikes is simply to allow markets to work. Government restrictions and regulations impede the market’s effectiveness in responding to changes in oil prices. Producers and consumers respond to changes in prices because these changes communicate information. As the price of oil goes up, producers explore and drill for more. The federal government should create the framework for companies to extract and develop America’s untapped resources if a commercial interest exists. Increasing supply will help lower prices and generate much-needed economic activity in the United States. A robust economy and an aware public are the best protections for the environment and they cost far less than government programs.

Native American Reservations: “Socialist Archipelago”   Leave a comment

Sort of a long article, but it addresses not just what wrong on the “rez”, but why the administrative state is a BAD idea.

Flyover-Press.com

I once heard someone say, if you want to see what an open border policy will get you, take a look at the American Indian. — jtl, 419

by Andrei Znamenski via The Mises Daily

Imagine a country that has a corrupt authoritarian government. In that country no one knows about checks and balances or an independent court system. Private property is not recognized in that country either. Neither can one buy or sell land. And businesses are reluctant to bring investments into this country. Those who have jobs usually work for the public sector. Those who don’t have jobs subsist on entitlements that provide basic food. At the same time, this country sports a free health care system and free access to education. Can you guess what country it is? It could be the former Soviet Union, Cuba, or any other socialist country of the past.

Yet, I want to assure…

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Posted April 26, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Pause for Thought   Leave a comment

I highly recommend this book.

Jane Bwye

Ooooops nearly missed it! (The article about me in the on-line edition of our local newspaper, the Eastbourne Herald.

Here’s a taster:

“I have heard it said that we all have a book inside us, just waiting to get out. And a colleague at Eastbourne’s own charity ‘People Matter’ has proved that to be the case.

 

A few weeks ago, Jane Bwye published her first novel ‘Breath of Africa’….

I found myself envying Jane, as I have often thought that I should put pen to paper in this way, but so far have always given into procrastination!

Just in case I ever get around to it, I wanted some ideas from her.

What prompted you to write the book?:

“Robert Ruark’s Uhuru and Nicholas Monsarrat’s Tribe books made a deep impression on me as a young woman, although I could only read them once.

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Posted April 26, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

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