2012 - %3, July

How Wildfires Are Just Like Premarital Sex

| Mon Jul. 2, 2012 6:00 AM EDT

Where there's smoke, there's fire...and a lot of hot air.  Sgt. Jesica Geffre/US Army Where there's smoke, there's fire...and a lot of hot air. The National Guard/FlickrIn the wake of the behemothic Colorado Waldo Canyon wildfire that has razed hundreds of homes, blighted thousands of acres, and forced more than 35,000 people to flee for their lives, the Colorado-Springs-based evangelical group Focus on the Family thoughtfully reminds us a savage inferno isn't the only thing ragin' in these woods. (via Right Wing Watch)

In a blog post titled "Dig Deeper: Same Wisdom Applied to Sexual Risk Avoidance as Wildfire," published Wednesday on CitizenLink, the news and political arm of Focus on the Family, abstinence education analyst Chad Hills breaks it down. (My comments are in bold.)

Today, in the state of Colorado, we are breathing smoke from a number of wildfires burning out of control. As of this morning, near Focus on the Family, it's being reported that 15,000 acres have been consumed by fire and some 34,000 people evacuated by the Waldo Canyon fire. More to come, I'm sure.

Ah, yes. A body count.

Huge plumes of smoke and fire are billowing upward from our pine-covered mountains, as whimsical winds drive the fires on dangerously unpredictable paths. All the while, exhausted firefighters and police work feverishly to close roads and evacuate homes that could be overtaken. Check out a couple of photos showing the devastation, below:

Or here.

Questions begin to fester in our heads: So many fires have started in such close, uncanny sequence in Colorado, with Waldo Canyon being more recent…Would any sane person intentionally start a series of fires (arson) that would destroy other people's lives? Could someone be so reckless or careless as to start a campfire, disregarding the extremely dry conditions, risks and a state-wide fire ban that is in effect? Or could it be nature, such as lightning, absent of rain?

Wouldn't we all agree that it's better to prevent a forest fire, if and when possible, than treat the immense damage in its aftermath?

These questions are similar to what the National Abstinence Education Association (NAEA) is asking Congress and state legislatures about our nation’s approach toward pre-marital sex…Certain questions arise: Why aren't our schools, our states and our nation placing a clear and unquestionable priority on sexual risk avoidance (SRA)?

See A, B, and C.

Why are we intentionally spending billions of dollars handing kids matches (condoms), which result in careless (sexual) "fires" and treating victims who have been unnecessarily burned by sex (STDs, pregnancy)? Wouldn't prevention be cheaper and healthier?

"Safe" sex education—or promoting casual sex, while handing out condoms and birth control to kids—is analogous to passing out matches to kids in school, and telling them, “Be sure you play safely with these in the forest and, above all, have fun!”

It's irresponsible messaging that encourages high-risk behavior at a great cost to families and our entire nation. 

Yet our federal government currently pours nearly 16 times as much money into "safe" sex education than it does into helping kids learn how to avoid starting fires in the area of sexuality or SRA. Perhaps this is why we have so many uncontained "fires" caused by sex outside of marriage.

What can we learn?

  • Neither adults nor children should ever play carelessly with matches or fire, especially in forests. Safe places exist to enjoy the warmth of a contained fire in the right context at the right time—started and monitored by responsible adults.
  • Neither adults nor children should carelessly play with sex, especially outside of marriage. A safe place exists to enjoy sexual bonding within the right context at the right time—when a responsible, adult man and adult woman are able sustain a lifelong, commitment to each other within the context of marriage.
  • Don't get burned by fire or sex; both can get out of control quickly, and both have the potential to harm you—and to hurt many other people, as well. Keep fires in the fireplace, and keep sex inside of marriage.

BOOM, baby.

Sadly, impressionable minds will continue to fester with…questions because CitizenLink has scrubbed Mr. Hills' lucid wisdom from the annals of the interwebs. Here's a screen shot of his original post.

"Dig deeper," people! SOULS ARE AT STAKE! CitizenLink.com"Dig deeper," people! SOULS ARE AT STAKE! CitizenLink.com

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Congress' Big Gift to Monsanto

| Mon Jul. 2, 2012 6:00 AM EDT

If you want your crops to bear fruit, you have to feed the soil. Few industries understand that old farming truism better than ag-biotech—the few companies that dominate the market for genetically modified seeds and other novel farming technologies. And they realize that the same wisdom applies to getting what you want in Washington, DC.

According to this 2010 analysis from Food & Water Watch, the ag-biotech industry spent $547.5 million between 1999 and 2009. It employed more than 100 lobbying firms in 2010 alone, FWW reports, in addition to their own in-house lobbying teams.

The gusher continues. The most famous ag-biotech firm of all, Monsanto, spent $1.4 million on lobbying in the first three months of 2012, after shelling out $6.3 million total last year, "more than any other agribusiness firm except the tobacco company Altria," reports the money-in-politics tracker OpenSecrets.org. Industry trade groups like the Biotechnology Industry Organization and Croplife America have weighed in with $1.8 million and $524,000, respectively.

What fruits have been borne by such generous fertilizing of the legislative terrain? It's impossible to tie the fate of any bit of legislation directly to an industry's lobbying power, but here are two unambiguous legislative victories won on the Hill this month by Monsanto and its peers.

Review: Magic Trick's 'Ruler of the Night'

| Mon Jul. 2, 2012 5:59 AM EDT
Magic Trick.

The city that spawned the original psych-rock scene is at it again with a burgeoning group of bands and artists playing psych-pop, weird rock, and all manner of arty, eccentric takes on classic song structures and themes. Tim Cohen is one of the mainstays of this new scene: In addition to playing with the Fresh & Onlys, he started Magic Trick, initially a solo project in his apartment studio that gradually expanded to include San Francisco musicians James Kim, Alicia Vanden Heuvel, and Noelle Cahill. The band's new album, Ruler of the Night, is its second full-fledged effort after a couple of Cohen-only records.

As magic tricks go, this is a sleight of hand rather than a grand illusion—that is, one that enchants and delights in small, subtle ways, but only occasionally gives cause for outright marvel. The album is anchored by Cohen’s deep, resonant voice, often distant and washed in reverb, while tambourines, washboards, and multi-part harmonies take songs in unexpected directions. Sometimes the experimentation doesn't quite work—the quiet, twanging song "Next to Nothing," for example, is sprinkled with a distractingly obtrusive sound effect—but usually it adds a welcome note of the uncanny to catchy but otherwise straightforward pop-folk tunes.

No, Obamacare Isn't the Biggest Tax Increase in History

| Sun Jul. 1, 2012 5:33 PM EDT

Republicans have eagerly taken to the airwaves to say that the Supreme Court has proven that Democrats are liars. After all, Democrats have long insisted that Obamacare's penalty for not buying health insurance isn't a tax, but on Thursday the Supreme Court upheld it on the grounds that it was a tax. J'accuse! Or, as America's Bard of the Frozen North tweeted, "Obama lies, freedom dies."

This is so stupid it hurts. But Josh Marshall says that what comes next is even more brain dead:

Republicans are now saying it's the 'biggest tax increase in history' — either of America or the universe of whatever. But this is demonstrably false.

The Congressional Budget Office says the mandate penalty will raise $27 billion between 2012 and 2021. $27 billion over a decade. Anybody who cares to can do the math. But if you want to call it a 'tax increase' — which is debatable — it's clearly one of tiniest ones in history.

Let's be fair: When Republicans talk about ACA's tax increases, most of them are talking about all the taxes in the bill, not just the penalty. But they're still off base. There have been 15 tax increases of significant size since 1950, and Jerry Tempalski, a tax analyst in the Treasury Department, has estimated the size of all of them as a percentage of GDP.  Tempalski hasn't estimated the eventual size of ACA, but PolitiFact took a crack at it using the same methodology, and they figure that ACA amounts to a tax increase of 0.49% of GDP seven years from now. That places it tenth on the list.

It's fair for Republicans to complain that ACA includes a bunch of new taxes. It does. Most of them fall on high earners and corporations, not the middle class, but they're still taxes. However, the "biggest tax increase in history" nonsense is crazy, and no news outlet interested in accuracy should let it pass without challenge.

Coming Soon: A Worldwide Drone Shopping Spree

| Sun Jul. 1, 2012 1:09 PM EDT

This is obviously no surprise or anything, but just so you know:

Despite concerns about U.S.-made drones ending up in enemy hands, American military contractors are lobbying the government to loosen export restrictions and open up foreign markets to the unmanned aircraft that have reshaped modern warfare.

...."Export restrictions are hurting this industry in America without making us any safer," Wesley G. Bush, Northrop's chief executive, said at a defense conference this year....As the U.S. war effort draws down and the Pentagon budget shrinks, defense companies say they need Congress to ease restrictions so they can tap lucrative foreign markets for their wares.

More important, they say, the current export restrictions may cause the U.S. to lose potential customers to nations eager to elbow their way into the market. Already, Israel is making drones and selling them to several countries, including Azerbaijan, India and Ecuador. China has more than a dozen drones in development.

It's all about the economy, of course. Howard Berman's liberal 28th congressional district might not be the aerospace hub it used to be, but there's still plenty of defense business in the Los Angeles area that benefits his constituents. So naturally he's in favor of increasing the sale of drones overseas. "A very significant part of this economic recovery depends on exports," he told the LA Times. "We need to take advantage of where our strengths lie."

Neither China nor Israel is a party to the Missile Technology Control Regime, which prevents sales of all but the smallest unmanned craft, and they're selling drones all over the world. Pretty soon, we will be too. We may be pretty happy about our drone superiority at the moment, but it won't last long. Welcome to the 21st century.