Monday, April 26, 2004

Emails to Mom.

Often my Mom forwards emails to me from various people. Often they're rumors, often they're right wing propoganda. And sometimes I take the time to respond.

The one below is in response to an email (also below) which seems to be designed to stampede conservative christians into voting for Toomey in tomorrows PA republican primary (versus Arlen Specter, a moderate republican).

My response is more about evaluating 'scorecards' from special interest groups, than the issues at hand, hence I humbly post it here for all of my readers to see (oh, that should be singular, shouldn't it? "reader", not "readers")


Kind of lopsided, eh?

There is an implication here that since Spector does not support mucking with the constitution via the Federal Marriage Act, that he must support homosexual marriage. Another implication is that because doesn't voter for every piece of "pro-life" legislation that comes down the pike, he supports "abortion on demand for any reason at anytime throughout the 9 months of pregnancy."

Geneally I distrust anyone who scores higher than 75% on any special interest groups score card. Most score cards look only at 'hot button' votes & questionaires. Often the votes are 'damned if you do, and damned if you don't' choices, where good legistlation is bundled with bad legislation, or the bill will cause more problems then it solves (and history is full of examples of bills passed with good intentions and disasterous results). And it is all too easy to create leading questionaires that force a choice between one extreme or the other, with no recognition of valid positions in between.

For instance, the late Senator Paul Wellstone was attacked vicously for voting several thousand $ to help control invasive algae in Hawaii. What was unmentioned was that 92 other Senators voted for it as well, since it was part of a large, general spending bill. (Besides which, anyone who has dealt with invasive, non-native weeds like kudzu should support such spending as a very wise investment).

For instance, in the old "Christian Coalition" voting guides, one candidate went from an extremely high score to an extremely low score virtually overnight, all because the score keepers decided to support a different candidate in the next election. I.e., the same man, the same record, vastly different scores. The right way to make score cards is to pick votes on bills which are not encumbered by irrelevant issues, or complicated by bigger problems such as 'consitutionality', or being poorly written.

So, I'd say that Spector is preferable to Toomey based on his 42% & 52% ratings on "Conservative" score cards (vs. Toomey's 100%). It probably indicates that he gives carefull thought to his votes, rather than voting according to ideological correctness.

And if Specter's isn't around to become the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who will? Certainly not Toomey.

Regardless of which candidate one favors, I'd say thumbs down on the email. It's goal seems to be to stampede christians into voting without thinking.

I'd recommend the League of Conservation Voters ( as an example of a well designed scorecard: they take particular care in picking clean votes, they're bipartisan (both democrats & republicans are members, although perhaps to the chagrin of the current republican leadership), and they're technically competent (no wacky "loony left wing" stuff, just common sense & sound science). Also, they're transparent: for each vote considered in the score card, you can pull up a summary of the bill & why it was considered pro- or anti- environmental). (Example:
) I know the right wingers have branded the LCV as a "liberal" group, but that's based on ideology, not reality. One needs only browse through the site to see for oneself .

Grace & peace,

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Sunday, April 25, 2004 11:32 PM
Subject: FW: Toomey/Specter Fact or Fiction

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Sunday, April 25, 2004 9:52 PM
Subject: Fw: Toomey/Specter Fact or Fiction

----- Original Message -----

Sent: 4/25/2004 2:59:09 PM
Subject: Fw: Toomey/Specter Fact or Fiction

I continue to run into people who should be supporting Pat saying they are going to vote for Specter. Here are a couple things you need to remember when you go to vote:

Specter is endorsed by the Philadelphia Gay News

Specter is opposed to the Federal Marriage Act, Toomey supports. This is an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to protect the definition of marriage between a man and a woman not 2 men, 2 women, a man and 2 women or anything else.

Specter endorsed by the National Abortion Rights Action League. Toomey endorsed by the National Right to Life Committee and Pa. Pro-life Federation.

Yes, Pat Toomey did vote for RU-486 his first year in Congress. He admits that was a mistake and has had a 100% pro-life voting record every year since. The two groups mentioned above would not have endorsed Pat if this was not the case. Arlen Specter voted pro-abortion his first year in congress and every year since. He recently worked with Ted Kennedy to try to pass an amendment that would have rendered the ban against partial birth abortion ineffective. Fortunately that amendment failed.

Arlen Specter has saved missionary's in foreign countries and I thank him for that. I just wish he would stop sending 1.5 million babies to their premature death with his support of abortion.

Toomey supported by Dr. James Dobson who has been working to help and protect the family for over 25 years.

Toomey supported by Michael Geer, president of Pa. Family Institute and PAGE - Pennsylvanians Against Gambling Expansion.

Toomey rated by the National Taxpayers Union as the 7th most conservative spender out of all 435 Representatives in the House of Representatives.

Specter rated by the National Taxpayers Union as the 4th most liberal spender of all the Republicans in the U.S. Senate.

Citizens Against Government Waste - Specter 52%, Toomey 94%

American Conservative Union - Specter 42%, Toomey 97%


Arlen Specter will become the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee if re-elected. It is a fairly common understanding that President Bush will get to nominate 2 Supreme Court Justices in the nest 4 years. We can not afford to have a chairman of this committee, where all the nominations have to go through, that supports homosexual marriages and abortion on demand for any reason at anytime throughout the 9 months of pregnancy.


Friday, April 23, 2004

I wrote this as a letter to the editor back in 2001, but not much has changed in the basic facts. Unfortunately, there is generally not much discussion of the most basic facts, which led to the writing of this letter.

--===o ><> ><;;> <;;> -;=;> -;=;o

Climate Change 101: What the Cynics Don't Say

In light of all of the hot air swirling around the topic of climate change, some basic facts about CO2 must be remembered.

First, the greenhouse effect has been on earth since it's creation, and is responsible for keeping the earth about 59F warmer than otherwise. Second, CO2 only contributes about 5% of the 59F of warming (i.e., about 3F). About 90% comes from water vapor, and 5% or so comes from other gases.

While natural sources generate 700 billion tons of CO2 yearly, all of that is reabsorbed by plants (and some by geochemical processes) to create new vegetation, much of which fed animals who then released it once again as CO2. Of the extra 24 billion tons emitted by humans (mostly generated by fossil fuels formerly locked away deep underground), only about half gets soaked up by the biosphere. The rest has been steadily accumulating in the atmosphere, raising concentrations from 0.0275% 275ppm (pre-industrial) to 0.0375% (currently), and likely well beyond 0.055%.

Climate cynics argue that this annual increase in CO2 levels is harmless on the grounds that 1.7% is a small number. Of course, I would not be harmed by a 1.7% increase in body weight, but to gain that much every year for 40 years could cause severe health effects. Likewise with CO2.

A doubling in CO2 concentrations can be expected to lead to a doubling of the greenhouse warming from CO2, i.e., about a 3F increase in global mean temperature. Furthermore, human activities are also increasing other more potent greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxides, methane, CFC, etc., implying an even larger temperature increase. While there are many natural processes that can dampen these temperature increases (such as fluffy low altitude clouds), there are others that can exaggerate them (such as wispy high altitude clouds). The best guess currently, after accounting for known factors is that we can expect a 2.7F to 7.2F [Science News, Mar 10, 2001] increase in temperature.

Climate cynics also like to point out 1000's of experiments showing that higher CO2 levels stimulate plant growth. While it's nice to know that, say, ryegrass and petunias bulk up with more CO2 (that's 2 experiments), they neglect the key experiments which better show the impact on human life and economy.

First, growth rate are not sustained, e.g., long term experiments with pine trees show that the fertilization effects stops after 3 years.

Second, plants produce other things than bulk mass when growing, for instance, pollen. Rag weed produces half the pollen at past levels of CO2 and twice the pollen at future levels of CO2. So, if it seems like your allergies have been getting worse, well, get used to it. It's going to get worse. This also implies that much of the recent increase in asthma can be attributed to the matching rise in CO2, as rag weed can trigger asthma.

Third, the extra bulk of CO2 fertilized plants is less nutrituous (being nitrogen poor, and hence, protein poor). In experiment, Sheep longer to digest it, and take longer to mature when fed CO2 fertilized fodder. Some insect species suffer; other's, like aphids, thrive.

Climate cynics also claim that the recent rise in average global temperature and the rise in CO2 levels are completely coincidental--that while we have been dumping huge amounts of proven greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, (1) their known heat trapping properties are counterbalanced by unknown mechanisms, and (2) natural cycles are causing the Earth to warm in proportion to the amount of increased CO2 (plus other man made greenhouse gases).

After many years of study, alternative warming mechanisms are still highly speculative. While changes in radiation from the sun are a leading contender, incorporating known fluctuations in solar radiation into climate models only strengthens the case for man made climate change. While climate over the past millenia can mostly be explained by variation in solar radiation & volcanic emissions (which leave traces in the geologic record), no solar & volcanic variations have been observed in the last century that can explain the sudden rise in average global temperature which so closely matches the rising CO2 levels. These factors do neatly explain most of the climate fluctuations that do not match the increase in CO2 levels (such as the warming in the 1940's), but only about 1/3 of the current warming trend can be attributed to increased solar input (based on observed data).