Friday, July 6, 2012

Gas Price Conspirators

Pete Kotz writes in Seattle Weekly about the forces in Wall Street and Washington who work to keep up the price of oil and gasoline at the pump.

16 museums dedicated to teaching creationism pockmark the American landscape.

By Marc Jampole

Secular humanist that I am, I couldn’t contain a squeaky chortle of glee when reading that the Creation Museum in a Kentucky suburb of Cincinnati is in financial distress. Attendance is down more than 30% from its opening year of 2007. It’s having trouble raising the $20 million it needs to build a giant Noah’s Ark theme park.

The Creation Museum uses interactive exhibits to brainwash children and uneducated adults to believe that the Earth was formed by a conscious deity about 6,000 years ago and that humans and dinosaurs once inhabited the same ecosystem at the same time.  The museum, whose theme line is “Prepare to believe,” was built by a ministry called Answers in Genesis, founded, like the Murdoch right-wing media empire, in Australia.

The museum blames the bad economy for the slowdown in business. Of course the museum operates with one hand tied behind its back, since no public school classes are allowed to send field trips there because it would run counter to the Supreme Court decision that keeps religion outside the classroom. Imagine how well the Creation Museum would be doing if could get on the public school field trip gravy train.

I’m wondering if the problem isn’t that it has to face brutal competition. I’m not talking about from Disney and Universal Studios, which are dedicated to the religion of consumerism. I mean competition from the other museums that want us to believe in an unscientific and false view of the physical world. After all, there are now 16 museums in the United States dedicated to the false notion ofcreationism, including:

·         Creation Museum – KY
·         7 Wonders Museum – WA
·         Akron Fossils and Science Center – OH
·         Creation Adventure Museum – FL
·         Creation Discovery Museum – FL
·         Creation Evidence Museum – TX
·         The Discovery Center – TX
·         Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum – MT
·         Grand River Museum – SD
·         Lost World Museum – NY
·         Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum – TX
·         Wyatt Archaeological Museum – TN
·         Camp Sunrise Museum – GA
·         Creation and Earth History Museum – CA
·         Museum of Earth History – TX

You’d think there would be plenty of paying customers for everyone, what with a recent Gallup poll showing that 46% of all Americans believe that a god created humans in their current form, while another 32% think that whatever the process of evolution, it got a good nudge from a deity. That’s an enormous target market.

The creationist museum is a very much a phenomenon of the South. Of the 16 museums dedicated to creationism, 11 are in the South, with 3 in attraction-rich Florida and 4 deep in the heart of all things conservative, Texas.

Yet, despite the fact that Gallup found only 15% of the population endorsing the scientific view that humans evolved with the intervention of a deity, museums that advocate Darwinism, such as the American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side of Manhattan (4 million visitors a year) and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh (1.3 million visitors a year), draw more people. No creationist museum comes close to these numbers. It’s probably because those damn yankees stole all the best dinosaur specimens. 

To believe that a god created us is harmless enough until it is used to defend pollution-causing activities or war. I also have no problem with building institutions full of pretty pictures and exhibits dedicated to religious contemplation and then charging people an entrance fee to see. Maybe it works a little better when the entry fees are voluntary donations, which has been the game for the Catholic Church for about 2,000 years.

What I find pernicious to the intellectual health of the collective body of the American people is to pass off this nature-centric religion as science, which is what all these museums attempt to do. In one way or another, they all use facts and what they call analysis to provide what they call scientific proof of the intervention of a god in the creation or development of human beings. To ask the “god” question is inherently unscientific (which is why calling the Higgs boson a “god particle” is so unfortunate). Science exists outside the world of gods, because it is based solely on observation and not a priori theories of existence. Science looks for consistent rules that exist through time and does not care who or what created the rules, just how they work.

Thus, it’s their pretentions to science that make these creation museums unethical. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

By rejecting state health insurance exchange, GOP governors increase the scope of federal government

By Marc Jampole

These past few days, I’ve been thinking a lot about my brother’s death at the age of 49.  When he fell from a ladder and smashed his brains on the concrete below, he was worth about $100.  Yet he got the finest, most high-tech treatment available by first class specialists who respected and maintained his life until it was hopeless, then cut out his useable parts for the living.

And it was all free.

The best medical treatment in the world for free—and he got it at the Charity Hospital in New Orleans, which was founded in 1736 and at one time was the second largest hospital in the country. It never reopened after Hurricane Katrina, most assuredly for political reasons.

My thoughts have turned to the wonderful care my brother received because of the announcement by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal that he wasacting for the entire state and rejecting key portions of the Affordable CareAct. How far has Louisiana fallen when it comes to taking care of its citizens!

Jindal has now been joined by his fellow right-wingideologue Florida Governor Richard Scott, who is also rejecting those portions of the new health care law over which the states have control.   

In the case of both of the provisions that Jindal and Scott have rejected, the governors are cutting off the noses of their constituencies to spite their own faces in a near paroxysm of ideological purity.

First, their refusal to construct state health insurance exchanges (HIX), which are state markets on which different insurance companies offer policies built on state-mandated standards to uninsured citizens of the state.  The Affordable Care Act gives every state the option to create an HIX, but the citizens of those states who decide not to create one will be able to buy insurance on the federal version. In other words, by blocking Louisiana and Florida HIXs, Jindal and Scott are directly leading to an increase in federal government intervention on a state level because people who would have bought insurance through a state HIX will now go to the federal HIX.  I guess their opposition to social service programs to help the needy supersedes their dedication to states’ rights.

Ideological purity will lead to a net transfer of money from the pockets of Louisianans and Floridians because their governors are also rejecting an increase in the Medicare program.

I get it that both would like to replace Medicare with either a voucher system or, alternatively, end all government support of health care for the elderly.  But let’s look at the facts on the ground: Medicare as it exists right now is being expanded to serve millions of new people.  All of this expansion will be completely financed on the short term by the federal government and mostly financed by the feds in the long run. For every dollar that a state puts into the expansion in the future, it will receive many, many dollars from the feds both now and later. All of this money will go to making their citizens healthier.  Moreover, the citizens of every state will have to pay taxes to support the Medicare expansion, whether or not they receive the benefits.  Thus, by refusing to participate, a state is making its citizens pay for the health care of the citizens of other states. 

In both refusals, the good governors are perversely working against their own cause. By not creating an HIX, they increase federal government control of the local health insurance market using federal not state standards. By turning down the Medicare expansion, they take money out of the pockets of their citizens and give it to the citizens of other states, a de facto tax increase with no benefit to those taxed—just the kind of thing about which Rick and Bobby like to pontificate.

Laughable on the level of ideas, but truly tragic when we think of the hundreds of thousands of people in these two states who will not get adequate health care because of these heartless ideologues.  It’s a sad day for both Louisiana and Florida.