Friday, October 26, 2007

Jena Sixed

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The following USA Today article, published on September 6, 2007, is typical of the coverage on the now-infamous Jena 6 case:

For a year, Jena (pronounced JEEN-uh), a poor mining community of 3,000 people, has been embroiled in racial tensions pitting the black community against white school officials and a white prosecutor. It began last August when a black student asked at an assembly if black students could sit under a tree where white students usually sat. The next day, two nooses hung from the tree.

Black parents were outraged by the symbolism, recalling the mob lynchings of black men. They complained to school officials. District superintendent Roy Breithaupt and the school board gave three-day suspensions to the white students who hung the nooses, overruling the recommendation of then-principal Scott Windham that the students be expelled. . . .

In November, an unknown arsonist burned down part of the high school.

Over the next three days, fights erupted between black and white students on and off school grounds. Police arrested a white man for punching a black teen. He pleaded guilty to simple battery.

The skirmishes culminated with a fight in which the six black teens, star players on Jena's champion football team, were charged as adults with attempted murder. The white student they're accused of beating, Justin Barker, 17, was knocked unconscious and suffered cuts and bruises. He was treated at an emergency room but not hospitalized.

Mychal Bell, 17, was convicted in May of a reduced charge, aggravated second-degree battery, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

Since then, charges against two youths have been reduced.

This seems like straightforward reporting of the facts. However, an October 24, 2007, Christian Science Monitor article by Craig Franklin, a longtime resident of Jena and assistant editor of The Jena Times, is throwing cold water on the media-induced racial firestorm spreading nationwide from the small Louisiana town. Franklin, who has covered the story since it broke in August, and his wife, who teaches at Jena High School, claim the mainstream media have distorted at least twelve vital facts surrounding the incident, fabricating and even inciting racial division where little or none existed. Franklin's twelve media myths range from the "whites only" tree (students of all races were free to sit under it) to the attack on the white students being linked to the nooses (none of the eyewitness testimony mentioned them).

How could professional journalists—if they can be called such—get so much wrong? Part of the answer follows Solomon's warning in Proverbs 18:17, "The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him." According to Franklin, "because local officials did not speak publicly early on about the true events of the past year, the media simply formed their stories based on one-side's statements—the Jena 6." Evidently, reporters took advocates for the assailants at their word and made little effort to fact-check their assertions. Franklin concludes, "[T]he media were downright lazy in their efforts to find the truth. Often, they simply reported what they'd read on blogs, which expressed only one side of the issue."

One might just relegate the media's mishandling of the facts to sloppy journalism except for a section of the USA Today article left out of the above quotation:

The events in Jena have caught the attention of national civil rights activists. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King III have marched on Jena in protest.

"The case plays to the fears of many blacks," Sharpton says. "You hear the stories from your parents and grandparents, but you never thought it would happen in 2007. I think what resonates in the black community is that this is so mindful of pre-1960 America."

When civil-rights activists like Sharpton and Jackson become involved in a matter, such as the equally infamous Duke Lacrosse case, the word "agenda" should come immediately to mind. These two men in particular exist to stir up racial animosity because the maintenance of their personal wealth and reputation demands that they exploit every incident of interracial friction, whether or not racism played any part in it. They have been aided and abetted by a willing media, which shares many of their views. Like the Duke Lacrosse case, the Jena 6 incident fit the liberal "template" of racist America—a pattern that has been used successfully many times in the past to score political victories for the Left.

Information has surpassed oil as the commodity of control in this nation and indeed around the world. Spin is in; truth is out. Whoever controls the bias on the news controls the populace. One can see this in any number of areas: the Iraq War, the climate change hysteria, the homosexual-rights movement, the immigration issue, etc. Polls consistently show that the American people implicitly believe what the media tells them, even when the facts prove otherwise. For instance, a recent poll showed that most Americans thought that the troop surge in Iraq was increasing casualties there, but since the infusion of additional soldiers, casualties have decreased significantly. The public's impression of increased violence is an effect of media incessantly reporting on so-called atrocities (many of which are later shown to have been greatly exaggerated). So, despite an improved situation on the ground, the public outcry is still, "Bring the troops home!"

Isaiah prophesies of just this kind of departure from the truth: "Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off; for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. So truth fails, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey" (Isaiah 59:14-15). The prophet speaks of a whole society so removed from what is true and right that they are groping, stumbling blindly forward, realizing instinctively that their doom is not far off. This is just what is happening in America as the truth is becoming more difficult to find amidst the flood of available information. How vital it is for us to seek the truth (Proverbs 23:23) and hold on to it in these evil days (Revelation 3:11)!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Climate Change and World Peace

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All hail Al Gore, the winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize!

This is the near-unanimous cry of the mainstream media news hawkers this morning. Gore—former U.S. Vice President and darling of liberals, Hollywood, and tree-huggers everywhere—received the Peace Prize for preaching the gospel of manmade climate change around the world and urging radical measures to counteract the "imminent" threat. Supporters here in the U.S. are hoping that this honor will convince Gore to reconsider running for President in 2008.

Al Gore and IPCC chief, Rajendra PachauriGore shares the prestigious award with the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the infamous IPCC. Gore lauds the IPCC as the "world's pre-eminent scientific body devoted to improving our understanding of the climate crisis." The vast majority of news reports on this story will ignore the fact that the IPCC's reports on climate change have been repeatedly shown to be U.N. policy statements hiding behind a tissue of dubious scientific research. A quick comparison of the last several reports by the panel reveals the IPCC backtracking on its estimates on the severity of global warming—to the point that its projections now fit comfortably into historical warming and cooling trends. After removing the hysteria caused by activists like Al Gore, the global warming "threat" turns out to be little more than a normal temperature fluctuation.

Gore himself, along with his so-called documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth, has recently come under fire for false and misleading statements. London's Daily Mail reports that a British High Court judge ruled this week that the movie is "alarmist," "exaggerated," and "one-sided." Further, showing the film in schools disregards British education policies unless accompanied by guidance notes to balance its partisan stance. While opining that An Inconvenient Truth was "broadly accurate" on climate change, High Court Justice Burton listed nine scientific errors asserted as facts in the film. These included the estimated rise of sea levels (Gore claimed a catastrophic rise of twenty feet in the "near future"), the correlation between the increase in the CO2 level and temperature, and his declarations that global warming has caused or will cause the shut down of the Gulf Stream, the drying of Lake Chad, the disappearance of snow on Mount Kilimanjaro, the evacuation of Pacific Ocean atolls, the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, the bleaching of coral reefs, and the drowning of polar bears. Although the film's supporters will never admit it, the judge's findings, which the Daily Mail dubs "inconvenient untruths," effectively gut the documentary of its most essential, emotional points.

In the months leading up to the bestowal of the prize on Gore and the IPCC, there was little doubt about who would win it. Several other candidates had been under consideration by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, but Gore was the frontrunner from the beginning of the process. According to its press release, the Committee's reason for awarding the Peace Prize to Gore and the IPCC is "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change." In justifying its choice, the Committee attempts to link the prospect of "extensive climate changes [that] may alter and threaten the living conditions of much of mankind" with the possibility that such change "may induce large-scale migration and lead to greater competition for the earth's resources. . . . There may be increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, with and between states" (emphasis ours).

So, the most prestigious award in all the world is given because the Nobel Committee, determining from backpedaling IPCC reports that manmade climate change is real, foresees that it might cause groups to migrate, compete, and engage in conflict over resources. As the Committee also wrote, "Indications of changes in the earth's future climate must be treated with the utmost seriousness, and with the precautionary principle uppermost in our minds." Such is the tenuous link between climate change and world peace. Rather than awarding the prize to someone or some group that is actually doing something now to foster peace between peoples, the Committee chose to laud Gore and the IPCC for perhaps reducing future conflicts by increasing awareness that climate change may disturb the present harmony among nations and ethnic groups over resources.

It appears that the members of the Nobel Committee live in a sealed environment cut off from the real world. There are many real conflicts raging right now over earth's precious resources. In fact, one can argue that the world's spotlighted conflict, the Iraq War and its aftermath, is a struggle over Middle East oil, the fuel of the world's economy. In addition, the migrations of workers from poor to rich countries—for example, Hispanics into America and Muslims into Europe—are related to a lack of resources in their homelands and an abundance of them in the developed nations, and they are creating conflict. Yet, none of these present-day confrontations have been set off by manmade climate change, today's cause célèbre, so the supposed prevention of hypothetical future conflicts becomes the reason for Gore's selection. What a peacemaker he might be!

What a mockery of peacemaking! The Nobel Peace Prize has degenerated into a political farce to legitimatize select globalist ideas and movements. The climate change mantra is not being used to bring peace but to assert control over human activity, to urge the ratification and enforcement of treaties, laws, and regulations that limit rights and progress, especially in industrialized, developed nations in the West. Peace is liberating, but the politics of green are ultimately to gain power over large segments of humanity in the name of environmental sustainability. Such control and power in human hands will not bring peace but more war.

God says, "The way of peace they have not known, and there is no justice in their ways; they have made themselves crooked paths; whoever takes that way shall not know peace" (Isaiah 59:8). Human nature makes it impossible for mankind to make a lasting peace; men and women are always too willing to fight for their self-interests (see James 4:1-3). Peace will come to mankind only when Christ returns in power and, ironically, forces humanity to live His way of peace. As Zechariah 9:9-10 says of Him, "Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation. . . . [T]he battle bow shall be cut off. He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be 'from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.'" This is the real, glorious peace prize we seek.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Are Biofuels the Answer?

As the price of oil rises toward the $100 per barrel mark—and American motorists see more of their income burned at the pump—finding alternative sources of energy has become a major issue. An increasing number of consumers, many of them of the "green" variety, have opted for hybrid cars like the popular Toyota Prius and the Honda Civic and Accord hybrids. American manufacturers have jumped into the market as well, producing such hybrid vehicles as the Saturn Aura and the Ford Escape.

Hybrids are just that, a synthesis of two separate technologies: the internal combustion engine and the electric motor. The modern hybrid uses an efficient gasoline engine as its primary power plant, with the electric motor providing extra power when needed, as well as being able to run the car exclusively—say, in slower city traffic—for even greater efficiency. The 2007 Prius, mid-range in price among hybrids, costs about $23,000.

However, because the modern, industrial economy runs on oil, many movers and shakers want to solve the problem at the source—not by making vehicles more efficient, but by making fuel that is more affordable and renewable. At the same time, they hope that this fuel will also be more environmentally friendly and decrease our dependence on foreign supply. To many, the answer is biofuel.

Biofuel, known as "agrofuel" to some, is any kind of fuel made from biomass—organic substances. The most common biomass crops are corn (maize), soybeans, and sugar cane, although such things as sorghum, hemp, cotton, various grasses, sunflowers, cassava, potatoes, rice husks, wheat, as well as animal fats, food waste, manure, and waste wood have or are being used to produce biofuels. To make ethanol, also called ethyl or grain alcohol, enzymes are used to release sugars from stored starches in the biomass. The extracted sugars are fermented and distilled to produce an alcohol, which is then "dried" or de-moistured, leaving a highly combustible liquid that can be used alone or mixed with gasoline in any ratio.

Most gasoline engines on the market today can use up to about 10 percent ethanol when blended with gasoline (called E10). Because ethanol corrodes components containing iron, any higher ethanol mixture requires modifications to the engine, which are found in the "flex-fuel" vehicles now being sold by several manufacturers. The Renewable Fuels Association reports that the United States produced 4.855 billion gallons of ethanol in 2006, while U.S. demand topped 5.37 billion gallons. (Current ethanol statistics can be found at

While ethanol would seem to be a sure bet, it is inherently less efficient than gasoline. Since pure ethanol (E100) contains about 34% less energy per unit than gasoline, its use will result in a 34% fewer miles per gallon (MPG). Even in E10, MPG is reduced by 3%. Lower fuel mileage means more frequent refueling and thus higher cost. According to National Geographic (July 2007), a motorist who drives a gasoline-powered car may pay $3.03/gallon, but the owner of a flex-fuel vehicle that uses E85 (85% ethanol), priced at $2.62/gallon at the pump, will actually end up paying $3.71/gallon for an equivalent MPG.

Ethanol is also touted as a more energy-efficient fuel on the production side than petroleum. For instance, proponents say that for every unit of energy used to produce ethanol, there is a gain of 1.34 units of usable energy. By contrast, they claim, petroleum's "energy balance" is a dismal 0.805 units, a net loss of energy. However, if that were so, it would be unprofitable for oil companies to bring petroleum fuels to market.

It turns out that these two figures are apples and oranges, as they are calculated on different bases. Using input versus output BTUs (a unit of heat energy), the energy return on energy invested for gasoline is about four times better than for ethanol (5:1 vs. 1.27:1). Crude oil as a whole (which includes many other fuels besides gasoline) has a total energy return of roughly 10:1.

While ethanol promoters use "reduced dependence on foreign oil" as a major selling point, the underlying motivation is environmental. Ethanol is indeed produced and burns cleaner than gasoline, and it is made from renewable substances. Despite these commendable factors, ethanol comes with two major downsides: 1) It is terribly expensive to convert a fossil-fuel-based economy to ethanol; and 2) it requires that vast swathes of fertile land be switched from growing food to producing biomass.

Put differently, its advocates are more concerned about being environmentally friendly and sustainable than about either the nation's economy or, more importantly, feeding its citizens inexpensively. Too high fuel and pollution standards could stall America's economic engine, and diverting food supplies to make biofuels will certainly inflate food costs. One-fifth of the U.S. corn crop is already being diverted to fuel production, leading to a doubling of the price of corn. As a staple crop, corn prices affect a wide variety of food industries, such as beef, pork, and poultry producers; cereal and snack food makers; and vegetable oil manufacturers, among others. At the end of the line, the consumer takes the biggest hit.

Are biofuels the answer? Not yet—and they may never be. Like solar and wind power, they are certainly not silver bullets for our energy woes. Oil is still the king of fuels, and world events will continue to churn around those nations that have it and those that do not. Today's—and tomorrow's—superpowers will run on Black Gold, and oil fields and oil production centers will remain major prizes in the run-up to the return of Jesus Christ.