Saturday, December 30, 2006
That was news to me, since I hardly knew a thing about James Brown, his music, his politics, or his good and bad deeds. The person who wrote that James Brown had more impact than Ford probably knows less about President Ford than I know about James Brown. I’m sure he is ignorant of the fact that many of our most influential leaders today started as advisors or appointees of President Ford.
But I’ll bet he knows that James Brown had a strong influence on the development of rap music, something I also know little about, but which the writer probably considers the most important music form and cultural influence of the past century.
With more impact on this country and the world than we could ever imagine.
You get celebrity centered silliness in America endlessly, and it’s not surprising that most Americans can’t point to Iraq on a map but can tell you James Brown sang “Say it Loud - I’m Black and I’m Proud.” To some Americans, this may be a defining moment in their lives, but I’m at a loss to understand why.
If one of the defining moments of your life is a popular song, your life may not be very well defined.
This past week the Chronicle had an article about how many people, especially children, are affected by the murder of a parent, uncle, brother, or friend in murderous Oakland. I was struck by how the murder victims were almost all young black males. What moments in their short, violent lives did James Brown define? Did they learn from his drug abuse not to do drugs? Did they learn from his domestic abuse not to abuse women? Did they learn from his prison time not to commit crimes? What did they learn from James Brown? Dance moves?
“They’re black and they’re proud.”
Say it loud.
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Thursday, December 28, 2006
In response to a diminishing number of requests, I am returning briefly to sports blogging. Not just sports, however, but as a conservative, to the character lessons we can learn from sports.
I watched the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Dallas Cowboys 23-7, and enjoyed, more than enjoyed, relished the victory on many levels. Of course it is always a pleasure for a 52-year 49er fan to see the Cowboys lose. It is even more pleasurable when they lose at home, and when they look pathetic in the process. The sick look on Jerry Jones’ face, the anger boiling in Bill Parcells; it’s like a Christmas present that keeps on giving.
But the greatest pleasure came from watching two opposing players who were never on the field of play at the same time. I was a fan of Jeff Garcia when he played for the 49ers. 49er General Manager Bill Walsh had seen something special in the thin, average speed, average arm, but athletic quarterback from Gilroy, who quarterbacked at San Jose State, then five years in Canada, and finally joined the 49ers as a backup to Steve Young.
The 49ers single season passing record is 4,278 yards. Which 49er quarterback holds the record? Y. A. Tittle, John Brodie, Joe Montana, Steve Young, or Jeff Garcia?
Jeff Garcia, in 2000, his second year in the NFL.
Which of the following quarterbacks are the only ones in NFL history to have achieved two consecutive (back-to-back) 30-touchdown passing seasons at least once in their careers? Steve Bartkowski, Brett Favre, Dan Fouts, Dan Marino, Y.A. Tittle, and Jeff Garcia.
All six have.
Following after the greatest period of sustained quarterback excellence the NFL had ever seen, the Joe Montana – Steve Young years (1979-1999), Jeff Garcia quickly established himself as a quarterback who wouldn’t be embarrassed to be mentioned in the same breath with them. The finest years of Garcia's career came in San Francisco from 1999-2003. He completed 63.3 percent of his passes (355-for-561) for 4,278 yards, 31 TDs and just 10 interceptions in 2000. He averaged 3,720 yards and 28 TDs per season between 2000-02.
He went to the Pro Bowl three years in a row as a 49er.
In Canada he led the Calgary Stampeders to a Grey Cup victory in 1998, and was the Grey Cup Most Valuable Player.
Garcia was an outstanding quarterback at San Jose State, and had a terrific East-West Shrine Game.
He had a great game at defensive back in a high school All Star game, although until a week before the game he had never played defense.
The other player on the field was, of course, Terrell Owens. What praise can be given T. O. equal to what he has already given himself? Terrell Owens almost single-handedly drove Jeff Garcia from the 49ers. In a Playboy interview in 2004, T. O. questioned Garcia’s manhood – in fact, he implied Garcia was a homosexual.
I wonder if T. O. ever saw a picture of Garcia’s fiancée? It would have been easy for him to find a picture, because her name is Carmella Danielle DeCesare, and she was Playboy Playmate of the Year for 2004.
OK Jeff, we believe you! Terrell, eat your heart out.
Owens had a record-breaking day on December 17, 2000 with 20 catches for 283 yards versus the Chicago Bears. His single-game reception total surpassed the 50-year-old mark held by Tom Fears. The quarterback getting the ball to him was Jeff Garcia.
In the 2002 season the 49ers won the NFC Western division and earned a home playoff game against the New York Giants. In that game the 49ers produced the second-greatest comeback in NFL playoff history by coming back from a 24 point deficit (14-38) and winning 39-38 behind notable performances from Owens, who had nine catches for 177 yards – and from Jeff Garcia, who completed 27 of 44 passes for 331 yards and three touchdowns, ran 14 yards for another touchdown, and had a total of 60 yards rushing for the day.
But still Owens questioned Garcia’s manhood. Forget the homosexual angle. Owens was very critical of Garcia, and badgered him about getting the ball even as Garcia held the ball until the last split second before the pass rush crushed him to try to complete a pass, and would throw his thin body at charging linebackers to gain an extra yard or two.
On the receiving end, Owens showed “alligator arms” when he thought a defender would hit him hard as he caught the ball. Instead of reaching for the ball, he kept his arms in to protect his body, and many catchable balls fell incomplete or bounced off the tips of his fingers. For the self-proclaimed greatest wide receiver of all time, the number of passes he drops is shameful.
His weak pass catching efforts resulting in dropped passes while protecting his body are disgraceful, especially when you see the beating his quarterback takes while trying to get the ball to him.
Terrell Owens has done a lot to make pass receivers into football’s prima donnas. For most of the past season with the Raiders, Randy Moss has looked completely bored and uninspired about running pass routes, or on concentrating long enough to catch a pass thrown to him.
Even worse is the effect on younger receivers. Now all they practice and concentrate on are their end-zone celebrations. In a game against the Seahawks, the 49ers rookie tight end, Vernon Davis, caught a touchdown pass to put the 49ers ahead 10-7, but did a touchdown celebration that looked like a drunken seagull, placing one foot on an end-zone pylon and drawing a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty on the ensuing kickoff. Fortunately for Davis and the 49ers, the Seahawks weren’t able to capitalize on the excellent field position Davis’ penalty gave them.
Terrell liked to practice with McMann, the Eagle's quarterback. I have heard T.O. now has a Tony Romo doll on order. T.O. apparently never had to use his Drew Bledsoe doll, because T.O. spent most of the T.O. - Drew Bledsoe era on the injured list.
Like T. O. before him, Davis called attention to his quarterback not getting the ball to him when he was open in the game against the Packers. Also like his idol, Davis says nothing when he drops catchable balls.
Terrell and the ball are easily separated. The love affair at Dallas hadn't started when this photo was taken.
None of the current crop who choreograph their touchdown celebrations seem to care that they are making it harder for their team and teammates to win. On many touchdowns, the person scoring the touchdown has the easiest part on the scoring play. On a pass play, blockers are engaged in a fierce struggle from the moment the ball is snapped, whereas the receivers are protected by the rules like they are fragile china. As the quarterback releases the ball and a split-second later is slammed to the ground under a 325-pound lineman, a penalty will be called on the pass defender if he rests his hand on the back of the receiver.
“The pass is thrown! The ball is in the air! The running back gave up his body to stop the blitzing linebacker! The quarterback was blasted just as he released it! The pass is thrown perfectly to the back pylon, where only the receiver can make a play on it! He catches it and drags both feet before going out of bounds! Touchdown!”
“Now the receiver shows signs of life for the first time today as he begins his solo celebration! He pulls a ring box from his sock and kneels to propose to the nearest cheerleader! Then he begins a dance along the back goal line that looks like a cross between Ubangi fertility rites and Swan Lake as interpreted by the Radio City Rockettes! As a finale, the receiver ignites rockets in each pants leg and soars to a landing amongst the fans in the second deck! As he prances back to the field doing the Chicken Walk to the Macarena, he waves an enormous banner that says in flashing lights, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”
“All I can say, his touchdown celebrations are almost as good as Marryin’ Sam’s five-dollar weddings in Li’l Abner!”
“Right you are! It’s a shame he dropped those other touchdown passes! If he could have hung on to just a few of them, we would have been in for a real treat! The way it is now, with his team behind three touchdowns with a minute left in the game, his restraint is understandable.”
“True, quiet and dignified is always correct when you’re losing by 21 points with a minute to go.”
T O, always in good taste with quiet dignity.
The football commentators have very low expectations of wide receivers. They rave when one gets between a ball carrier and tackler and call it a great wide-receiver block if the tackler has to slow down. To them it’s unbelievable if the receiver actually hangs on to the ball after he is hit. Understandable, I guess, since often they don’t.
It makes me appreciate former 49ers receivers even more: Jerry Rice, John Taylor, Dwight Clark, tight end Brent Jones, Roger Craig and Tom Rathman out of the backfield – all they did was catch the ball, and they left the celebrating (and griping) to the fans.
And it makes me appreciate football players like Jeff Garcia, who get the job done when it counts. Garcia is 6' 1" and weighs 200 pounds, but when courage is the measure of a man, he's always the biggest on the field.
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Saturday, December 23, 2006
In my search for an image for this post, I became interested in how the Left viewed the teachings of Jesus and contrasted it to their view of conservatives in general, and Republicans in particular. Although the Right are personally more generous, the Left finds the Right un-Christian because the Right is not as generous as the Left with other people's (taxpayers') money.
It’s time for weak-kneed agnostics to stand up and be counted!
Well one of them, anyway.
I’m a confessed weak-kneed agnostic.
How did it happen?
Mom and Pop were not church goers, and encouraging Ron and I to say bedtime prayers when we were little was the extent of our religious instruction. I think they thought it was cute, in particular the list of blessings we asked of God that grew steadily to include our parents, brother, grandparents, over a dozen aunts and uncles, many of our over forty first cousins, friends, pets, and our cow Dolores. I think I even included President Roosevelt, which probably didn’t set too well with Mom, but she never objected.
I can still feel the sincerity of emotion of those evenings when I beseeched God to watch over all who made my world so safe and loving. I didn’t know, and would have been terribly upset if I did, that in this world that seemed so wonderful to me, millions of innocent fathers, mothers, and children were imprisoned, tormented, afraid, hungry, cold, then killed like the ants we sprayed on the back porch.
The day I was born, July 18, 1942, Japanese-Americans were getting off a train at Lone Pine, California, on the last stage of their journey to the War Relocation Facility at Manzanar, to be interned there for the duration of the war.
All the New York baseball teams won: the Yankees 7-6 over the Chicago White Sox, the Giants 3-1 over the Cincinnati Reds, and the Brooklyn Dodgers 4-3 over the Saint Louis Cardinals.
The world was at war, some parts of it more than others.
We lived in Bakersfield, and Mom and Pop sent me to a Catholic School kindergarten, Our Lady of Guadalupe, because it had a good reputation for educating students, not because of its religious instruction. I was a natural day dreamer, but woke up when Sister Immaculata pulled my ear, or when the priest opened the tabernacle at Mass, which I thought was God’s house. I tried to see Him, but was too far away.
Later, Mom and Pop would send Ron and I to Catholic summer school in Point Arena, or across the street to hear Reverend Teel at St. Paul’s Methodist, or down the hill to the old Point Arena Record building where Reverend Westfall, and later Reverend Horn (a Native American, whose tribe I've forgotten) led the Church of Christ congregation.
I loved the Bible stories, at first the ones from the Old Testament, and later the stories of Jesus. The Old Testament stories were exciting and fanciful, and fed my imagination. At about the same time, movies covered biblical stories like TV covers crime procedures today. Notable among the many were The Ten Commandments, Sampson and Delilah, Ben Hur, Quo Vadis, The Robe, Demetrius and the Gladiators, David and Bathsheba, Solomon and Sheba, Spartacus, Salome, and The Greatest Story Ever Told. You could get a Bible-based education without ever opening a Bible, which could possibly have been said for the writers and directors of these movies too.
I liked church services too. The ceremony of Catholic Mass, the Methodist minister’s jokes and the sweet voiced choir, and the most fun was listening to the lively gospel music of the Church of Christ. It was pure pleasure to be walking down Main Street and just stop and listen to the music spilling out of an evening prayer meeting.
There’s a lot to like about religion, in particular the many forms that the Christian religion takes on in the United States. Before television destroyed most forms of social life in America, the churches provided a rich array of activities for all age groups. Just the potluck dinners alone were reason enough to be active in all three of the Point Arena churches. Every lady at every event brought out her best dish, the one that everyone praised and raved about.
Elderly women got together and sewed patchwork quilts, and played cards. When they needed a couple more card players for a second Canasta table, my brother Ron and I gladly played. Long before we reached our teens, we were already, if I do say so myself, among the best Canasta players in Point Arena, and it wasn’t because we were playing with elderly women who were poor Canasta players. They were good, Ron and I were just better.
Youngsters like Ron and I had a good time at Catholic Summer School, Sunday School, and Bible classes.
What I didn’t like about religions were all the rules and procedures. How could I be a sinner if I had a bad thought, but didn’t do the bad deed? How could someone sin, then be forgiven, then do it again, and be forgiven again? How could you be saved, and be saved for Eternity no matter what bad things you did the rest of your life? What’s wrong with eating pork? How could a dog be unclean in the eyes of God, when we loved Puddles so much? How could there be so many religions, each claiming to be the true one?
Slowly I became aware that religions were different because they were produced by men, not God.
Of all men, of all time, I have the greatest love and respect for Jesus of Nazareth, and I don’t know whether or not he was divine. I hope he was. Weak-kneed agnostics wish for an afterlife too, and since we don't believe in a Devil or Hell, if there is an afterlife it has to be a nice one.
Hitler, and Stalin, and Mao and the rest won't go to Hell, they just won't have an afterlife. Or better yet, they will have an afterlife, and will spend all eternity being damned.
Jesus was the greatest revolutionary of all time. Many revolutionaries preceded him, thousands followed him, but he was the only one who got it right. He taught of love. He taught a religion that could be practiced by the sick and poor among us, not one that was the province of the wealthy and administered by powerful priests.
The world was already full of such religions. The fate of men could be ruled by the priestly elite seeing omens and portents in the wind, the sea, the birds, in the entrails of rabbits.
Gods were here to reward and punish, and the rules of the Gods were intricate and detailed, yet arbitrary and capricious.
Jehovah could be an angry, jealous God, a God who must be feared and obeyed. Allah passed his teachings to a man of the sword, and of lust, and of intrigue, who then miraculously produced a “perfect” Quran that can’t even withstand the inquiry of a high school natural sciences class.
Jesus, on the other hand, appears to have been a true revolutionary, who took the body of Judaism and spun it into a more personal and loving religion.
Then his followers started adding rules and rituals and proceeded to mess it up. Soon there were priests, and high priests, and bishops, and popes, a vast army whose sole mission was to intercede between man and his god.
At the moment Jesus was no longer a living presence among his followers, they brought error into his teachings as they processed them through their own abilities to understand and communicate. And so it came down through the ages.
Occasionally his followers got together in great assemblages to reconcile the differences. From errors came distilled error, and then over time variations crept in, and another great assemblage was needed to reconcile the differences. Finally enough was enough, and a Martin Luther was needed to try to get back to the basics.
But by then it was too late.
Where do you find the basics, when all you have are the collected errors of over a thousand years of error? When all you have left are transcriptions of collected works produced by a variety of men long after Jesus, which were passed through translations from their original language?
There’s only one place left then to find truth.
Look within yourself, and if you find yourself full of feelings of warmth and affection for a teacher of love, your search is over.
And has just begun.
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Thursday, December 21, 2006
In his zeal to prove Global Warming is man made, an enthusiast dealt a crippling blow to some of the science that supposedly proves it’s man’s fault. He said science proves there was no global Medieval Warm Period. But there is ample proof of the Medieval Warm Period, so maybe what he proved is that "his" science isn't so good.
Why would he shoot down his own science?
He had to, he simply had no choice.
Why he attempted it is really simple. Global Warming caused by man’s creation of “greenhouse” gases must deal with both the Medieval Warm Period (800-1300) and the Little Ice Age (arguably 1500-1850). These were recent periods of rapid and large temperature fluctuations that don’t fit “it’s mankind’s fault” constructions. One way of dealing with the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age is to deny their existence, and find science that seems to support your denial.
Supposedly a 1,000 year Northern Hemisphere temperature reconstruction using data from multiple ice cores and tree ring records proves the Medieval Warm Period did not exist. Such proof of its nonexistence would justify its omission from Al Gore’s “hockey stick” graph of temperatures over the past 1,000 years. However, the scientists that reported that a global Medieval Warm Period did not exist conceded the existence of the Little Ice Age.
One question that seems to beg an answer is: "What caused the Little Ice Age?" If man is responsible for heating the planet now, what cooled it then?
This then leads to the next question. "What heated up the planet during previous warming periods?"
There were many. At least one following each of the four Ice Ages (actually glacial periods) of the past 400,000 years.
We're still in an Ice Age that began 40 million years ago, you know.
Major ice ages seem to be caused by many factors such as motion of tectonic plates, changes in Earth's orbit, solar variation, and changes in atmospheric gases concentrations, but probably not super-volcano eruptions and large meteorites, the effects of which dissipate quickly (in geological time, anyway).
Nature is responsible for vast changes in "greenhouse" gases because of the effects of solar energy. When sunlight strikes exposed rock, weathering occurs which absorbs atmospheric carbon dioxide and causes its decrease. This reduces the "greenhouse" effect, and the Earth becomes cooler. The cooler Earth becomes increasingly covered by ice and snow, reducing weathering of rocks and absorption of carbon dioxide. Then the "greenhouse" effect increases, temperatures rise, and snow and ice retreat.
Well, you know, the cycle repeats itself.
And repeats itself ...
A commonly accepted definition is that we're 10,000 years into an interglacial (warming) period, and some scientists think the next glacial period could start in 2,000 years. Some think it's not coming that soon, but most agree one is coming. It's just a matter of time before mankind will be freezing its tutus off again. And pining for good old Global Warming.
Less than thirty years ago the consensus of scientists (and Time Magazine) was we were on the verge of entering a disastrous period (for mankind) of Global Cooling.
"Quick, a show of hands! Global Warming, or Global Cooling? Who wants Global Cooling?"
"Only One? I'm shocked. We usually have at least two snow boarding nuts in the crowd."
If you think Global Warming would be bad, think about what Global Cooling will do.
We'll starve. Harvests will be terrible. Northern wheat fields will be frozen tundra. Only hardy crops will grow in Florida. Florida orange juice will be from Ecuador. Port cities will become former port cities as ice caps grow and oceans retreat. The Sacramento River will run under the Golden Gate Bridge, and enter the Pacific on its west side. Thousands of nuclear plants built on the sites of useless solar and wind farms will be the primary source of power for heating homes, powering industry, and growing crops in vast "greenhouses."
Millions of years ago major glacial periods occurred every 40,000 years, but more recently every 100,000 years. What happened between glacial periods? The Earth warmed, the ice caps retreated, and mankind still huddled around fires at night for warmth and protection against wild animal attacks.
One very plausible answer to what caused the Little Ice Age is solar variation, as measured by sunspot activity. The Little Ice Age corresponds with periods of low solar activity called the Spörer and Maunder Minimums. Warmer weather since seems to match the increased solar activity observed in the past hundred years. It would be odd indeed if reduced solar activity caused the Little Ice Age, and increased solar activity didn’t play a part in ending it. Or that solar variation did not play a significant part in prior cold and warm periods.
In fact, it doesn’t seem logical that the activity of our Sun, the agent of heating our planet and driving our weather, wasn’t responsible for the vast cycles of previous hot and cold periods.
This brings us to the "scientifically" proven non-existence of a global Medieval Warm Period. Do we have any proof of a Medieval Warm Period? And if that proof is convincing, doesn’t it weaken the science that underlies the proof presented by the doubters?
For proof of a Medieval Warm Period, let’s start with something mankind has been keenly interested in for a long time. Besides womankind, that is. What could it be? Spiritus fermenti, of course, and in particular, wine. During the time of the Norman Conquest (1088), vines were grown and wine was made at many monasteries in southern England, and viticulture continued through the time of King Henry VIII (1491-1547). Then the vineyards declined and disappeared.
Did the English lose interest in wine? When Henry VIII closed the monasteries, did the lack of monks lead to a loss of interest in wine? Were monks the Party Hearty Bunch of the Middle Ages?
Or is it more likely that the colder climate leading into and through the Little Ice Age made it difficult to grow vineyards in England? As evidence that bad weather was the probable cause, English imports of wine from France increased. English interest in wine hadn’t waned, but the grape-growing ability of the English climate had.
Now that English weather is warming again, vineyards have reappeared since approximately 1950 without benefit of monks or monasteries. However, even with modern science to develop grapes suited to English weather, soil conditions, and other advances in viticulture unknown to the ancients, wine production in England is an iffy proposition. Some say cruelly that the best way to get a small fortune is to have a large fortune and buy an English vineyard. Clearly, vineyards in England, even with modern advances and scientific progress, still haven’t gotten English wine production back to the levels achieved during the Medieval Warm Period.
One of the criticisms of the Medieval Warm Period is that it possibly wasn’t global. Is there evidence that it occurred in more places than England? The answer is yes, and instead of grapes, the test subjects used were humans, collectively known as Vikings, to demonstrate its existence. During the years 800-1200, Iceland and Greenland were settled by the Vikings.
Animal bones and other materials collected from archaeological sites reveal Icelandic Vikings had large farmsteads with dairy cattle (a source of meat), pigs, and sheep and goats (for wool, hair, milk, and meat.) Farmsteads also had ample pastures and fields of barley used for the making of beer and these farms were located near bird cliffs (providing meat, eggs, and eiderdown) and inshore fishing grounds. Fishing was primarily done with hand lines or from small boats that did not venture across the horizon.
The Greenland Vikings lived mostly on dairy produce and meat, primarily from cows. The vegetable diet of Greenlanders included berries, edible grasses, and seaweed, but these were inadequate even during the best harvests
However, Greenland was more hospitable then for habitation than now.
In the case of the Vikings, there was no equivalent of a Henry VIII to allow equivocation about the reason for failure of the Viking Iceland and Greenland colonies. Archeology confirms that the Iceland and Greenland colonists suffered increasingly from malnutrition as colder weather diminished crops, and drove schools of cod to better feeding grounds further south. The Vikings became shorter, and as conditions worsened, the Greenland Vikings became severely crippled, dwarflike, twisted, and diseased. By 1492, Greenland was “dead.”
The population of Iceland fell from a high of 77,500 in 1095, to only 38,000 in the 1780’s, and the average Icelander was two inches shorter than the earlier settlers.
Now we've entered another period of warming, only this time we have scientists playing Chicken Little. Thirty years ago they were all over Global Cooling. Now they're all over Global Warming. It's gotten so bad now that each hurricane, every record temperature, an El Niño or La Niña, is looked on as a portent of Global Warming.
As long as it supports the prophecy du jour, that is.
Our scientists are taking us back to the good old days of Greek mythology, when the Oracles of Delphi were consulted, and priests devined the future by sniffing vapors, and reading the entrails of animal and human sacrifices.
Now they consult tree rings and ice cores, and declare that scientific evidence proves accepted historical events never occurred.
From the perspective of the sacrificial victims, at least some progress has been made.
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Monday, December 18, 2006
It is a source of great pleasure for me to expose the junk science Al Gore pedals in An Inconvenient Truth. I didn’t do any of the research myself, I just combed the Internet to see what Al Gore’s other invention can tell us about man-made Global Warming. One of my posts (click on this link for Al Gore Finds Truth Inconvenient) covers two glaring omissions of Al Gore’s contribution to scientific mythology.
The first is the amount of increase in sea levels by 2100. While Al Gore claims 20 feet, reputable scientists that have nothing to do with Global Warming “denial” predict that the worst case is a rise of less than 18 inches. Since sea levels have been rising seven inches or more per century for hundreds of thousands of years, it looked to me like Al Gore was left with 19 feet in his mouth.
Then Al Gore regaled us with his “hockey stick” chart of temperature trends the past thousand, yea even two thousand, years. The most notable thing about Al’s hockey stick is not what is shows, but what it omits, in this case the two most significant climate events of the past thousand years, the Medieval Warm Period and The Little Ice Age.
These are just two of many flaws in Al Gore’s Global Warming “science,” and indicate to me that the issue is still debatable.
However, it looks like people in high places are trying to use their political clout to cut off debate. Two prominent Senators, Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Jay Rockefeller, D-WV, sent an October 30 letter to ExxonMobil CEO, Rex Tillerson, insisting he end Exxon’s funding of a "climate change denial campaign."
When I read of this, my first reaction was, “We don’t do that sort of thing in America.” I had heard that Leftist politicians in Europe called for Global Warming dissenters to be arrested and prosecuted. That doesn’t surprise me. It’s the sort of thing I expect from the Left in Europe, which has no tradition of freedom of speech and the press, or of academic freedom. However, we not only have those traditions in the United States, the elements of these freedoms are firmly embedded in our Constitution.
In fact, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, and other bastions of Liberalism have recently decried the arrest and prosecution of journalists for their role in hiding the identities of informers who give them unauthorized disclosures of classified information. It would seem that such protectors of freedom would be outraged by two Senators attempting to muzzle dissent.
That’s how it would seem to me, anyway, unless the self-anointed guardians of our personal liberties and academic freedom were not colossal hypocrites.
It came as a shock to me then, to find that it wasn’t our champions of a free press or academic freedom that made an issue of the Senators’ attack on our fundamental liberties, but British Lord Monckton, Viscount of Brenchley, who demanded they “uphold free speech or resign.”
The following is the PR Newswire release that reported the outrage Lord Monckton expressed a month and a half after the senators sent their letter. As far as I have been able to determine, Lord Monckton has not been joined by any prominent American politicians or journalists in protesting the senators’ attack on our freedom.
The hypocrisy of the Left is evidenced by their deafening silence on this attack on our fundamental freedoms by these two Liberal icons.
British Lord Stings Senators Rockefeller and Snowe: "Uphold Free Speech or Resign" Dec 18 4:58 AM US/Eastern
WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 /PRNewswire/ -- Lord Monckton, Viscount of Brenchley, has sent an open letter to Senators Rockefeller (D-WV) and Snowe (R-Maine) in response to their recent open letter telling the CEO of ExxonMobil to cease funding climate-skeptic scientists.
Lord Monckton, former policy adviser to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, writes: "You defy every tenet of democracy when you invite ExxonMobil to deny itself the right to provide information to ‘senior elected and appointed government officials’ who disagree with your opinion."
In what The Charleston (WV) Daily Mail has called "an intemperate attempt to squelch debate with a hint of political consequences," Senators Rockefeller and Snowe released an open letter dated October 30 to ExxonMobil CEO, Rex Tillerson, insisting he end Exxon’s funding of a "climate change denial campaign." The Senators labeled scientists with whom they disagree as "deniers," a term usually directed at "Holocaust deniers."
Some voices on the political left have called for the arrest and prosecution of skeptical scientists. The British Foreign Secretary has said skeptics should be treated like advocates of Islamic terror and must be denied access to the media.
Responds Lord Monckton, "Skeptics and those who have the courage to support them are actually helpful in getting the science right. They do not, as you improperly suggest, ‘obfuscate’ the issue: they assist in clarifying it by challenging weaknesses in the ‘consensus’ argument and they compel necessary corrections ... "
Lord Monckton’s Churchillian reproof continues, "You acknowledge the effectiveness of the climate skeptics. In so doing, you pay a compliment to the courage of those free-thinking scientists who continue to research climate change independently despite the likelihood of refusal of publication in journals that have taken preconceived positions; the hate mail and vilification from ignorant environmentalists; and the threat of loss of tenure in institutions of learning which no longer make any pretence to uphold or cherish academic freedom."
Of Britain’s Royal Society, a State-funded scientific body which, like the Senators, has publicly leaned on ExxonMobil, Lord Monckton said, "The Society’s long-standing funding by taxpayers does not ensure any greater purity of motive or rigor of thought than industrial funding of scientists who dare to question whether ‘climate change’ will do any harm."
To the Senators’ comparison of ExxonMobil‘s funding of climate skeptics with tobacco-industry funding of research denying the link between smoking and lung cancer, Lord Monckton counters, "Your comparison of Exxon’s funding of skeptical scientists and groups with the former antics of the tobacco industry is unjustifiable and unworthy of any credible elected representatives. Either withdraw that monstrous comparison forthwith, or resign so as not to pollute the office you hold."
Concludes Lord Monckton, "I challenge you to withdraw or resign because your letter is the latest in what appears to be an internationally-coordinated series of maladroit and malevolent attempts to silence the voices of scientists and others who have sound grounds, rooted firmly in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, to question what you would have us believe is the unanimous agreement of scientists worldwide that global warming will lead to what you excitedly but unjustifiably call ‘disastrous’ and ‘calamitous’ consequences."
SOURCE Center for Science and Public Policy
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Going shopping with Al Gore
When I heard Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth warning that Global Warming would increase the sea level twenty feet this century, I got excited. Alice and I live only a few hundred yards from the Pacific shoreline here in Northern California, and oceanfront property is very valuable. I decided to investigate whether we could subdivide our 2.8 acres into six oceanfront lots, worth half a million dollars each at today’s prices.
My dreams of riches were dashed however, when the same scientists Al Gore cites as forming a consensus concerning the effects of man-made Global Warming say nothing of the kind.
Al is not the only one showing London and New York streets covered with ten feet of water, and island nations totally submerged. A television special narrated by Tom Brokaw, Global Warming: What You Need to Know, repeatedly showed scenes of streets covered with water above the tops of their London and New York street signs. Reputable scientists droned on, giving not a hint of dismay that they were flanked by scenes of disaster that no reputable scientific body endorses.
In fact, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just downgraded its predictions as to how much sea levels will rise by 2100 due to Global Warming from 34 inches to an upper estimate of 17 inches. Repeat. Their upper estimate is 17 inches. Since sea levels have been rising four to seven inches each hundred-year period for thousands of years, another way of saying it is that, at worst, Global Warming may raise sea levels an extra foot by 2100.
That leaves Al Gore with 19 feet in his mouth.
How did Al get to the point where he should be a laughing stock, if only he and his followers didn’t take his outrageous predictions so seriously?
The first place to look is at his selective use of science. One of his most memorable inventions is his “hockey stick,” purporting to represent the global temperature trend of the last millennium, and is sometimes credited with representing it back to the birth of Christ. What Al Gore and his supporters don’t mention or admit is that if his hockey stick resembled reality, not even Wayne Gretsky could whack a puck with it. There would be a big bulge near the handle where the Medieval Warm Period should have been charted, then a bulge the opposite way in the middle where the Little Ice Age set the stage to make today’s warming look exceptional in contrast.
Another good place to look for selective science and distortion is the Greenland Ice Cap. Much has been made of the possibility it will all melt catastrophically and flood New York. Putting aside the thought, “OK, so what’s the bad news?” the fact is that Greenland used to be warmer, during the Medieval Warm Period for one example, and as recently as the first half of the 1900’s for another.
Al Gore presents a scenario where the melting Greenland ice cap channels water to its base, which then enables it to slip quickly and catastrophically into the Atlantic. Among many scientific flaws this overlooks is that “The Greenland ice sheet cannot slip into the sea since it is resting in a bowl-shaped depression produced by its own weight, surrounded by mountains which permit only limited glacier outflow to the sea.”
The credulous masses that viewed An Inconvenient Truth are forgiven their ignorance, but shame on the “scientists” that condone it.
More Al Gore-basm links (shamelessly stolen/adapted from Rush) may be found below:
(Please mouse click on the red, underlined link titles to be magically transported to the articles described. I'll be glad you did. How you will feel about the process may be something else entirely, but go ahead, take a chance!)
Ain't No Big Thing - My advice to Al concerning rising sea levels.
Chilling Out Global Warming Hype - A pre-review of Tom Brokaw's Global Warming, What You Need to Know
Review of Global Warming, What You Need to Know - Presenting the other side.
Bring On Global Warming! - Please! Before we freeze!
The Four Whorsemen Of Global Warming - There are more than four now. Maybe I can add a few by having them ride double.
Hypocrisy of New York Times and Liberals - The champions of personal liberty and freedom of the press look the other way when the Left is doing the violation.
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Thursday, December 14, 2006
Actually, I know what I’m putting in this one. The same things I always do. Travels, family, friends, medical reports, blog report, plans for next year. As usual, I will avoid politics and religion, high among the most interesting subjects of life. Why is it the things we care most about are the things we’re not supposed to talk/write about? Maybe that’s why blogs were created, so we can spend time writing about things no one else wants to know. Click on the following highlighted link to go to an INDEX of some of the 300 posts I wrote this past year.
Click HERE and HERE for posts about our Ecuador and The Galapagos Islands vacation in January. We had a very active ten-day Lindblad Explorer Galapagos cruise on a small ship (50 passengers). We hiked, kayaked, took Zodiac rides, snorkeled, had fabulous meals, were guided by unbelievably friendly and knowledgeable naturalists, and observed birds, seals and sea lions, iguanas, and tortoises at arm’s length (and sometimes closer). All were totally fearless in our company. Before the cruise we enjoyed a few days in Guayaquil, and after the cruise went to Quito, and then to Papallacta Hot Springs Resort high in the Andes at just over 11,000 feet.
Alice loves her book club, and I’m sure she is its most diligent member. As she reads each assigned book, she marks passages with colored stickers denoting key concepts, curious items, strange words, and the like. Then she reviews or researches them all. She reads proposed books to render an opinion on their suitability for members, and scouts for opinions on books to add to the list. Finally, she publicizes meeting dates and locations in our local newspaper, and schedules members to host meetings. I don’t think I have ever seen a happier club member than Alice in her (all female) book club.
I’m kept busy with membership in the Gualala chapters of Rotary and Lions, and the Native Sons. My objectives as a member of each is to have a fun social life. The objectives of Rotary and Lions center around getting lots of work out of me. I guess it’s the Protestant ethic that it’s wasteful to get together just to have fun, so you do good deeds to compensate. The Native Sons (and Daughters) just get together to talk. Great bunch. Some of them I’ve known since 1949.
Next year should be very busy for our travels. Alice and her beautiful teeth will escort me to Hungary where dentistry is king, possibly in April, where I will have several teeth implanted, a bridge or two, maybe a couple of caps, and the few faithful teeth remaining that have stuck with me through 10,000 cups of coffee will get whitened. This is a two-parter. I’ll have to go back in four to six months to complete the implants.
Then in September we will go to China with Alice’s father, George, and his friend Susan for three weeks. We will start our tour in Beijing, where we will dine on Peking Duck (or is it Beijing Duck now?). If I told you all we plan to do, then next year’s Christmas letter would be anti-climatic. Suffice to say we will see the Forbidden City, Great Wall, & Etc., travel a week seeing sights until we get to Shanghai, board a river cruise ship and travel the Yangtze River & Etc. for almost two weeks, and finish up in Hong Kong.
Michael’s medical report: I have teeth issues, as mentioned already. Also, I sometimes have anxiety attacks when I go to sleep after drinking four or five cups of coffee, then worry why it takes me three or four minutes to fall sound asleep.
Alice writes: My medical situation is as follows:
I must undergo one more test on 12/22/06 before I have my final consultation on January 9th & then get scheduled for surgery in late January or early February. It is still unknown whether or not in addition to my fundoplication (stomach wrapping of the esophagus) I will have a pyloroplasty (enlarging the pylorous which is the connection between the stomach & the small intestine) in order for my food to pass through more quickly. In addition to that consultation, I must have another surgery consultation with the anesthesiologist at an unknown date & then finally the operation at another unknown date. Now I think the 17th of Jan would be the earliest date possible for the operation & the 5th of February probably the latest date. After my consultation on 1/9/07 I should know the exact date of my anesthesiologist consultation as well as my surgery date. Also, I found out that when I check out of the hospital between 2 and 6 days after the operation I will not be authorized to drive a car.
I found out three days ago that most people who have fundoplications have a composite score of 50 or 60, and my composite score is 121.7 with normal being less than 14.7. I interpret that to mean I should have had this operation some years ago. The problem is now worse than last summer. I no longer can drink orange juice without problems, and fresh fruit and vegetables exact a price of discomfort from me. I no longer touch pineapple or melons except on wild impulse and then I pay an enormous price. Therefore, I am very much looking forward to my operation mostly so I can with ease eat juicy chunks of pineapple and melons and other delicious foods, and secondly so I don't have to gauge my swimming and bicycling to when I am almost famished (meaning as empty a stomach as possible).
I should be as good as I will get 6-8 weeks after the operation, so by April Fool's Day at latest I shouldn't be asking for any more special considerations.
Michael, Alice, and sweet little Buddy
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Some of my favorite classes at Humboldt State were in this building
I began my nine-year, seven college career at Humboldt State in Arcata, Northern California, as a journalism major. Journalism seemed to offer the potential for an interesting and romantic life. Wherever in the world something important and exciting was happening, journalists were right in the middle of it. I knew that from the movies, TV, and Superman comics.
Although my brother Ron and I were paperboys to deliver the Santa Rosa Press Democrat in Point Arena, that was as close as I came to any knowledge of professional journalists.
I had some experience in journalism writing for The Pirate, the Point Arena High School student newspaper. It was personally very satisfying to know that my fellow students were reading my articles and that I had opportunities to influence their opinions, although we did not cover anything controversial, and none of us seemed bothered by that. Me least of all.
It was also fun to participate in such a loosely structured, student directed activity. We chose the subjects (with Mrs. Hood’s approval), wrote the articles, typed the mimeograph sheets, and operated the manual mimeograph machine to print the pages.
The final step to produce the paper was the “Grand Collation March,” where we laid the pages in reverse order on desktops in a big “U” pattern, then marched around picking up a page from each desk until we had assembled and stapled the collated pages into a complete copy. We made about 150 copies of each edition, which provided one for each student and faculty member, plus a few for posterity.
Late in my Senior high school year, in the Spring of 1960, I still hadn’t done anything about applying to go to college, even though I had less than six months before I would be expected to show up for my first college class somewhere.
Luckily for me, an unusual event occurred at Point Arena High that snapped me out of my perpetual state of procrastination. Three students from Humboldt State College visited our high school and presented a short program of speeches and dramatic readings. One of the speakers was an imposing figure, Manny Simas, who I later found was the star defensive tackle for the Lumberjacks, the Humboldt State football team.
Later in 1960, many Americans would know of Manny Simas, because Life Magazine ran a picture of him, his wife, and seven children, and dubbed him the “Big Daddy” of American football.
However, when he visited us all I knew was that I was fascinated by his dramatic reading of excepts from Mark Twain’s “Innocents Abroad,” and I got his attention and asked him questions about Humboldt State when we had a chance to meet him and his colleagues for a half-hour question and answer session after their presentation.
After our short chat, I knew I wanted to go to Humboldt State, and that I wanted to be a sports reporter. I quickly did all the things to complete and send off my application to Humboldt State, the things I should have done months before. Before I had time to get nervous and worry about it, I received an acceptance letter from Humboldt State, and began my preparations for my first year of college.
The most critical step had to wait for Summer vacation, when I would get a Summer job and earn school money. A two-semester year at Humboldt State would cost about $1,200 for room and meals on campus, plus books and supplies. That was a lot of money for my family in those days, when we would say that a dollar bill to us looked “as big as a horse blanket.” That was a country way of saying that we didn’t have much money, and what little we did have had to stretch to cover a lot.
My buddy Chuck York tipped me off to an opportunity to work on a small crew renovating the bridge over the Garcia River on Eureka Hill Road. It was a really good job, earning me $3.50 an hour to rip off the old decking, and remove some of the rotten pilings from under the bridge. However, after a couple of weeks the supervisor found out I was only seventeen, labor laws required me to be at least eighteen, so he paid me off and I had to find another Summer job.
Once again I lucked out. Another friend had heard of a US government surveyor who was looking for a helper on a project called a field verification survey. I contacted the surveyor, a young Japanese American named Yukio Yamamoto (“Just call me Yuks” – I never did, and I wondered who could or would?), and he hired me at $1.65 an hour to drive the Jeep and hold the sight rod.
Halfway through the summer I turned 18, and could have tried for a higher paying job, but by then I was very comfortable working for Yukio. What I had earned, and what I projected earning came to a total for the summer of $900, which with a little bit from my savings and a little help from Mom and Pop, would cover all my costs for two semesters at Humboldt State.
I arrived at Humboldt State a week before registration for Freshmen Orientation, one of the most enjoyable weeks of my life. The students who organized and presented the orientation were without exception the friendliest and most helpful group I have ever experienced. There was not the slightest hint of hazing. They were there for us to have fun, not for them to have fun at our expense.
I wonder now why all initiations are not like that, happy for both the initiate and the initiator. What sad component of human nature gives pleasure at causing discomfort in another? And then this year’s victims relish the thought of how they will bedevil the new ones next year.
Still in the glow of Freshman Orientation, we entered the gym to pick up materials to begin the registration process. There we were met with the buzz that our large Freshman class was taking Humboldt State total enrollment over 2,000 for the first time ever! That was the good news. The bad news was we were taking total enrollment over 2,000 for the first time.
In the Time Before Computers, events like college registration were monuments to endurance and persistence in the face of monumental frustrations. Rapid increases in enrollment only amplified the frustration, because the number of offerings of each course and the size of classes based on experience never kept up with the speed and magnitude of the increase.
Registration was like a constantly changing puzzle. We students had taken the course catalog and picked the classes we wanted, and the ones we had to take, which usually were not the same, and then laid them out in a schedule by day and hour. It soon was obvious that none of us wanted early morning or late afternoon/evening classes. We also had strong preferences for Monday-Wednesday-Friday classes of one hour daily, instead of Tuesday-Thursday one and a half hour per meeting classes.
The day before registration, I encountered an unusual wrinkle in my planning. All Freshmen had taken a placement examination, and when I went to check the English placement roster, I found a note by my name to go to the English Department table. The cute coed manning the table said, “Mr. Combs, there’s a problem with your enrollment in English 1A. I have a note for you to go immediately to see the English Department Head in the Language Arts building.”
A feeling of dread overcame me, and I hurried across the campus to the Language Arts building, where I found myself waiting for the Department Head with a group of about thirty other Freshmen. We were soon escorted into a classroom, and told we all had high scores on the English part of the placement exam which made us eligible for enrollment in a two-semester Honors course which would satisfy graduation requirements for two semesters of Freshman English plus one-semester of Speech.
We were assigned to quickly write a short story, then give a speech based on it. We wrote our stories, prepared our speeches, handed in the papers, delivered the speeches, then waited.
The wait wasn’t long, probably only about twenty minutes, but it seemed much longer. We were called one at a time to an office where we met the two professors, one of English, the other of Speech, to whom we had given our papers, and who had then listened to our speeches.
“Congratulations, Mr. Combs, we’re pleased to invite you to participate in an exciting and challenging program that combines composition and speech in every task.”
I was surprised, confused, honored, approximately in that order. In the course of the day, I had learned that about five percent of the Freshman class were picked based on placement exam scores, and that less than half of that group received invitations to register in the Honors course after our compositions and speeches were evaluated.
I also learned a few things about myself in relation to the other students chosen for Honors English and Speech. I was from the smallest school by far, I was the one who least considered myself a language scholar, and I was the most ignorant about details of college life, such as registration. I also found I was a member of a minority, males in English honors courses.
Although Humboldt State in 1960 was a decidedly masculine preserve, with many courses like Humboldt’s hallmark, Forestry, almost entirely male, you would not have known it if you limited your Humboldt experiences to the Language Arts building, and in particular the Honors English and Speech class.
Or my journalism courses, also found in the Language Arts building. The reporters for the “Lumberjack,” Humboldt State’s weekly school newspaper, were almost all females except for its editor, Hugh “Baby Huey” Clark, two other guys, and me.
When I told Hugh that my ambition was to be a sports reporter, I found that he and the two other guys felt the same, and they had experience and seniority on me. I was assigned to reporting on club activities, and soon found I didn’t have the interest or discipline to take assignments to report on things I wasn’t personally interested or involved in.
I did have one assignment I really enjoyed. I went as the reporter when the Humboldt State Junior Varsity football team played the San Quentin convict team. We started from Arcata by bus, and overnighted in the Willits High School gym. The next morning we continued to San Quentin, and were admitted into their Skyline Gym. As part of the visitor processing, each of us was stamped on the back of a hand with a dye that glowed under ultraviolet light. Of course we were told that if the dye was washed off, we couldn’t leave. I didn’t worry, since as a reporter I wouldn’t have to shower after the game, but some of the guys seriously discussed showering without getting the back of their hand wet.
And without dropping their soap. “If you drop your soap, you better not pick it up,” warned one of the jovial guards.
While the squad was getting into their uniforms, I wandered over and looked out of a fourth-floor window. One of the convicts in the exercise yard below saw me and yelled, “Hey, mother, give us a thrill, jump!” followed by hearty laughs. I eased away from the window, not eager to be the day’s entertainment.
When the team went down to the field for warm-ups, I went to the announcer’s booth and introduced myself. The convict announcer assigned another convict to work with me as my “spotter.” I would call out the number of one of the convict players, and my spotter would give me his name, the position he played, his sentence, and his crime.
“Number 40 is John Rodgers, nickname ‘Blacky,’ he’s a fullback, doing 20 to life for second-degree murder.” (Although I used similar information my spotter provided in the article I wrote for the Lumberjack, “John Roberts” is fictitious.)
The Humboldt State JV’s won a close, well-played game, 21 to 19 or something close to that. When we returned, I hurried to the Lumberjack office and started the laborious task (I was a very slow typist) of typing my report of the trip and game. I was proud of my effort, which filled the entire back page of the Lumberjack.
Unfortunately, that was the high point of my career in journalism. I wouldn’t put in the time and effort to become knowledgeable about the club activities I was assigned to report, and my reports were short and superficial. I soon considered Editor Clark a tyrant, and avoided the Lumberjack office unless I had no choice. At the end of the first semester, I gave up journalism and became a biological sciences major, and decided I wanted to become a high school teacher
Over forty years have passed since the inauspicious launch of my college career, and I find myself once again a journalist of sorts, still unpaid, but free to choose what I want to write about.
I don't get paid, but this time at least I don't have an editor bossing me around.
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Thursday, December 07, 2006
You can either have a tax that is fair, or a tax that is simple. You cannot, however, have both. I prefer to err on the side of fairness and put up with the inevitable tinkering that comes with such a regime, because a simple tax regime (like a national sales tax) perpetuates unfairness in the form of wages being taxed more than dividend income.
Our current income tax system is neither fair nor simple, so why can't you have one that is the opposite?
Read my lips - with a national sales tax, wages are not taxed more than dividends, because NEITHER WAGES NOR DIVIDENDS ARE TAXED. Only consumption is
taxed - the more you consume, the more taxes you pay. The rich consume more, they pay more taxes. So far, doesn't that sound fair to you?
If you are one of those who think it unfair for the poor to pay any taxes (I personally think they should have to pay some taxes), you could demand that the poor up to a certain income level have the sales taxes they paid rebated into a personal savings account, like the one they will have for their Social Security contributions (another necessary reform). They'll be able to spend themselves into possession of an estate of value, and cease being poor!
The Democrats would hate that.
But what could be more simple, and fair? Only a national sales tax accomplishes both.
He responded to my response:
Major Mike, as sales taxes are highly regressive and thus affect wage earners more than those who draw dividend checks, they are more unfair to those who work for a living. Those who are richer generally spend proportionally less on things that would be subject to sales taxes, such as homes and other property. Taxing both wage and non-wage income is therefore necessary. My own philosophy on taxation is that it works best when the tax base is broad and rates kept low enough to not encourage cheating on them. I think having income, sales, property, gasoline, excise and other taxes is better than having one big tax as some suggest. Besides, many income tax filers do use simpler forms than the 1040, so that issue to me is just a red herring.
I responded to his:
Cheating is rampant on income taxes now. We have illegal income, such as from drug dealing, prostitution, gambling, bribery, and all the other lucrative vices, which is not taxed. We have tax shelters, off-shore banking, and the cash-only economy. Cheating is ubiquitous. Bartenders cheat on tips and the till. Waiters and waitresses cheat on tips. Embezzlers and white collar criminals don’t declare their ill-gotten gain on schedule SE of their 1040’s. How low are you going to take those rates before all this cheating stops?
Progressive taxation discourages savings. Since income not spent for consumption is saved, i.e. invested, increased savings/investment increases economic activity. Increased economic activity is of greatest benefit to the wage earners, therefore to the total economy, because each marginal dollar they earn gives them greater value/utility than it does the wealthier. The increased income of the wealthy predominantly goes into increased savings (capital accumulation) rather than consumption.
The progressive taxation crowd has put a brake on economic growth by limiting capital growth, thereby encouraging schemes such as off-shore banking and tax shelters that bleed funds from productive capital investment.
You who favor “progressive” income taxation also favor a potpourri of what you call “regressive” forms of taxation: besides the sales tax, such taxes as social security (FICA), property, gasoline, and excise are all a flat percentage of cost (and FICA taxes stop at $94,200 this year), as are many other levies such as building permits. You would call some of your “broad-based” taxes ultra regressive, such as licenses and other flat fees.
Each of these taxation systems has its own offices, employees, thick tax codes, voluminous files, and all the other trappings of a gold-plated waste of taxpayer time and money. They are the heart of the Tax Lawyer and Accountant Full Employment Act.
Did you read the part in Captain Ed’s post where the tax code was 55,000 pages and required 6.4 billion hours for tax compliance each year? Is that a red herring?
At this point I wonder, is there more? So far we have established he likes the present system of many forms of taxation, which he characterizes as "progressive," and doesn't feel it is complicated or time consuming. In another post, not directed to me, he noted that he charged his annual week of tax preparation work to his business, as if that meant it had no cost to him.
What have I established in return? A national sales tax would be simpler to establish and operate, and would eliminate almost all forms of individual and corporate tax preparation. It would eliminate tax cheating without requiring any policing and enforcement organizations. Even criminals would pay taxes that they now totally avoid by not declaring their ill-gotten gains.
The economy would benefit by the encouragement of savings and capital investment.
Is it too soon to declare victory for the national sales tax over the IRS based system on the basis of the comments exchanged today? I favor a victory declaration, but there's an army of politicians, lobbyists, tax lawyers, accountants, and estate planners who would feel their very existence in jeopardy if we went to a national sales tax.
For me, that's reason enough to do it.
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Monday, December 04, 2006
Howard Dean, although he acts like one, is not a complete idiot. At least he has enough sense to state the obvious: “Democrats face a challenge defending their gains in the 2006 midterm elections because ‘now it's what we do and not what we say,’ national chairman Howard Dean recently told party leaders.” (Dean: Dems Must Work to Defend '06 Gains, By Will Lester, Associated Press Writer, Saturday, December 2, 2006 08 01 PM).
I don’t think the Democrats will be able to accomplish anything of significance, so what will they do with their brief two-year reign? They’ll investigate Republicans, paying particular attention to any opportunities Congress passed over to second-guess President Bush’s decisions.
Every day in every way we will hear about the warrantless National Security intercepts, rendition of terrorists, and minute by minute expositions of Guantanamo civil rights violations, including whether the unlawful combatants are illegally detained there because none were read their Miranda rights. Democrats will push to make the battleground of the war against terror into an extension of the courtroom.
Democrat calls for rapid redeployment of forces from Iraq will evaporate once they have to answer the follow-up questions about what happens next. Nothing will be said about my favorite Democrat proposal, impeaching President Bush and Vice President Cheney, which is really popular up here in Northern California. In fact, I wish I had the “Impeach Bush/Cheney” bumper sticker business here. I designed a bumper sticker myself: “Please Try To Impeach Bush/Cheney.”
I can’t think of anything that would give the Republicans a stronger recovery than the Democrats bringing Congress to a halt for six months or more with impeachment proceedings. I know that Northern California Democrats have brain impairment because of substance abuse, and probably can’t comprehend that there is no way 67 senators will vote to impeach, but it’s hard for me to understand how unimpaired Democrats could want it. For once in my life I wish for the same thing as Dennis Kucinich and the Berkeley wing of the Democrat Party.
What will the Republicans do while the Democrats are using their committee chairmanships to investigate the Bush presidency in exquisite detail? They will be reminding voters what the Democrats said they would do, and what they aren’t getting done.
Dick Morris (Helpless, Pitiful Democrats, Dick Morris and Eileen McGann,Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2006 ) penned an excellent analysis of expected Democrat accomplishments and concluded they couldn’t do much . Mr. Morris’ first point was that President Bush wouldn’t even have to wield his veto pen to block Democrat-sponsored legislation. In the Senate, soon to be composed of 51 Democrats and 49 Republicans, it will take 60 votes to pass anything of substance or significance.
Even with a Republican president, a Republican House, and a Senate of 55 Republicans and only 44 Democrats, the Republican agenda for Social Security reform, tax reform, appointment of federal judges, and even the appointment of an ambassador to the United Nations was stymied by Senate rules.
Given the realities of Senate rules and procedures, the Democrat’s legislative agenda is “dead aborning.” If they ever could get sixty votes to pass anything out of the Senate, then President Bush would get to exercise his veto pen, and then the numbers needed to overturn his veto are astronomical: 67 votes in the Senate, and 291 in the House. If the Democrats all voted to overturn, they would still need 16 Republicans in the Senate and 59 Republicans in the House to vote with them. Those are votes they get only in drug-inspired dreams.
The Democrats will find cohesion impossible when they control Congress. Already their prospective committee chairmen are indicating they will be more independent than the outgoing Republican chairmen. Since the new chairmen are from the Democrat’s farthest left wing, they will stifle any opportunities for the new class of moderate and even conservative Democrats to have any significant influence on legislation. When 2008 rolls around, the voters will realize that if they want moderate or conservative representation, they had better vote a Republican back in.
What will Democrats pass? An increase of the minimum wage perhaps, if they sweeten the pot for Republicans by making tax cuts permanent, or repealing the death tax. Maybe they will make deals with Republicans to make deductibility of college tuition permanent. Will voters really get excited about increasing the minimum wage and extending deductibility of college tuition?
Of course, the Democrats could prove they never learned anything in 1994 and try to bring Hillary Care back from the grave. Please.
However, the one the Democrats want most, the repeal or indexing of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), is going to require them to give President Bush most of what he wants in the budget and spending cuts. In essence, eliminating or reducing the AMT will scuttle Democrat pledges to put the budget on a pay-as-you-go basis. If something isn’t done soon to bring Blue State taxpayers relief from AMT, Democrats will be creating a lot of new rabid tax cut supporters.
Republicans, for their part, won’t mind at all helping Democrats make a huge tax cut. After all, cutting taxes is part of Republican DNA, but is an unnatural act for Democrats. Cutting or eliminating the AMT will displease more Democrats than it pleases, but the ones it pleases make campaign contributions and are more likely to vote.
After two years of left-wing posing and posturing, as the Democrat’s five-ring circus of Congressional Black Caucus, Hispanic Caucus, Progressive Caucus, New Democrats Caucus, and Blue Dog Democrats Caucus displays Democrat special interest politics at their dysfunctional worst, the country will be ready to vote Republicans back in. By then it will be clear the Democrats had no idea or plan to solve Iraq or the Middle East, and can’t help their taxing and spending ways. Once again Democrats will demonstrate that the only time they can agree is when Republicans are in power, and the only thing they can agree on is that Republicans are wrong.
American politics is a lot like football. The fans at football games always feel the best quarterback on the team is the one not playing, and they cheer for the back-up quarterback to get in the game. Then when he does, it usually becomes obvious why he wasn’t the starter.
Democrats convinced voters they should get a chance to play by just saying they would do things differently.
Only a month until “Kick Off,” and I’ve got a seat on the 50-yard line.
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Friday, December 01, 2006
Hypocrisy of New York Times and Liberals - The left is selective about outrage over loss of freedoms.
California Global Warming Carmaker Lawsuit is Specious - No harm to Californians, no legal standing to sue, right?
US Freedom of the Press Rated Low in World Opinion - Especially by those who have little or no freedom.
Affirmative Action Defeat Met With Deafening Silence - The liberal main stream media thinks affirmative action is still alive if they don't run its obituary.
Niggardly Liberals vs. Compassionate Conservatives - Liberals are generous with other people's money.
Asian And Black Racial Disparity In America - Liberals don't like minorities that don't need help.
The Accountability Congress - Mission Impossible, Democrats hanging on to power in 2008.
Pelosi Sabotages Her Own Big Day - This should also be filed under Just Plain Dumb Democrats.
No Surprises In Democrat Agenda - It's as incoherent as we thought it would be.
Political Football - Democrats can win as long as Republicans are determined to beat themselves.
Our Income Taxes are not Progressive - and never will be, but a national sales tax can be.
Replace the IRS with a National Sales Tax - An idea whose time has come.
Keep It Simple, Simplifiers - Tax to raise revenue, not to do social engineering.
Republican Straw Poll For 2008 - Times a'wastin'!
Property Rights? We Don't Need No Stinking Property Rights -
Just Plain Dumb Liberals
Lawrence Ferlinghetti - Fool or Fraud? - Both?
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Thursday, November 30, 2006
California sues carmakers over global warming!
This picture conveys the dignity of this lawsuit.
Less than a week ago I called a featured Chronicle article “ludicrous” when its author called upon two unscientific studies to conclude American freedom of the press was significantly eroded after 9/11, then proceeded to not prove or support any of his points.
Now the San Francisco Chronicle has evolved from “ludicrous” to “specious,” which for the Chronicle is dramatic progress. Soon they may even reach the heights of “plausible,” but probably not any time soon with the current editorial staff.
The article is "Why we sue over soot," by Terry Tamminen, Wednesday, November 29, 2006, San Francisco Chronicle Open Forum. Mr. Tamminen served in the Schwarzenegger administration first as secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency, and then as the Cabinet secretary, and is the author of "Lives Per Gallon: The True Cost of Our Oil Addiction."
Mr. Tamminen began his article by building an analogy to California Attorney General Bill Lockyer suing automakers this September for contributing to global warming based on an example of “Bob’s BBQ” opening next to your house and creating a public nuisance that vexes you with greasy soot and cooking odors pouring through your windows.
At this point I determined to suspend all sense of disbelief concerning anything I know about the permitting and regulation of restaurants in residential areas and just try to concentrate on the situation Mr. Tamminen was analogizing. He has identified the nature and source of the public nuisance – it’s the greasy smoke from Bob’s BBQ – and he has identified the damaged party and the damage caused – you, and your grease stained house. If allowed to continue, your quality of life will be lessened, and you will sustain damage to your house requiring repair, and your property value will go down unless you find a buyer who loves living next to a BBQ restaurant.
There you have it – the creator and type of public nuisance is known, and the damaged party and extent of damages can be readily and objectively determined.
What his analogy has to do with the following is a total mystery to me.
“That's why the state of California is suing auto manufacturers on behalf of the public, seeking compensation for global warming pollution that is known to aggravate heat waves, wildfires and coastal flooding. Whether it is BBQ soot or tailpipe emissions, federal law guarantees the opportunity to seek redress against public nuisances -- acts or circumstances that interfere with our right to use or enjoy our surroundings or community.”
Mr. Tamminen names the public nuisance, global warming pollution, and the cause of the pollution, automobile tailpipe emissions. The damaged party is the public living in California, and the damage suffered is heat waves, wildfires, and coastal flooding aggravated by global warming pollution.
Since no damages, no law suit, the first areas to examine are the damages cited by Mr. Tamminen. First, deadly heat waves in California. We had one this year in July, which was thought to be responsible for almost 100 deaths. In 1995 Chicago had one that killed 780. In 2003 an August heat wave in Europe killed 19,000.
Looking back in history it seems that there have been a lot of deadly heat waves, and that the 2006 California one hardly registers on the deadly heat wave scale. For example, in 1936, “the deadliest heat wave in Canadian history hit Manitoba and Ontario. For almost two weeks in July, temperatures more than 44C left 1,180 Canadians dead.”
Can you believe it? That’s seventy years ago, in Canada!
In 1936, in Milwaukee, a heat wave caused 529 deaths. Milwaukee was struck by other notable heat waves in 1947, 1955, 1968, and 1970.
In 1934 in Ohio, during the week July 20-26, the estimated death toll was about 160.
Compared to now, there weren’t very many automobiles in Canada, Wisconsin, or Ohio in the early thirties, but there were deadly heat waves.
The next damages to examine are from wildfires. Here we find California Department of Forestry (CDF) records going back to 1933 of the number of fires, acres burned, and dollar damages. Since the dollar damages haven’t been adjusted for inflation, and homes and other improvements have poured into California fire hazard regions over the past 73 years, I’ll just consider number of fires and acres burned. The CDF records show the number of fires has diminished the last ten years compared to the two previous decades, and have been particularly low compared to historical records the past five years.
Except for 2003, the number of acres burned are about the same or lower than in previous years, and are dramatically lower than in the 1930’s and 1940’s. The worst fire year for acres burned in California was 1936, when 756,000 acres went up in flame. The next bad years were 1942 through 1945, when over a half-million acres burned each year.
Only two years, 1961 and 2003, in the last 50 had even half as many acres burned as in each of the years 1936, and 1942-1945.
So on your second point, Mr. Tamminen, we find a lot more tailpipe emissions and a lot less wildfire damage. Mr. Tamminen, so far the damages component of the California lawsuit against carmakers is non-existent, so we are left with only coastal flooding damages to save your analogy from scorn and derision.
In examining California coastal flooding, there seems to be a decided lack of comparative information. All I was able to find were articles about how California coasts would be flooded if certain global warming predictions came true. One concern was bluff erosion, which seems to be considered one of the greatest hazards of rising ocean levels. However, there was no information showing a dramatic increase in California ocean levels.
I must add from personal experience of living close to the Northern California coast in Point Arena and Gualala off and on since 1949 that crumbling coastal cliffs have always been a source of concern here. They are only more of a concern now because there have been so many homes, ever larger and more expensive, built above the coastal cliffs in recent years.
When I was a boy living here in 1949, I was warned, “cliffs crumble.” We still give that warning today, but it doesn’t stop the building.
During the 1950’s, while living in Point Arena, my friends and I spent a lot of time playing on the beaches and fishing off the rocks. The ocean level on those beaches and the rocks looks the same now as then, and the tides seem to expose and cover the same areas still.
My observations on ocean levels are admittedly unscientific, but please forgive me, because I’m commenting on an article that included even less scientific information to support any of its points as even my observations on the ocean level in Northern California not rising significantly in the past 57 years.
Someone else must be getting all of our increase.
In summary, I see nothing in Mr. Tamminen’s article that demonstrates any California damages, and with no damages to Californians, the California lawsuit against carmakers has no legal standing.
Mr. Tamminen goes on to fill his article with extraneous material, like the enormous penalties against tobacco companies awarded by the Mississippi tobacco lawsuit mill (without mentioning the dismissals on appeal), a lawsuit against pollution damage caused by North Carolina coal-burning plants, and Rhode Island lawsuits over lead-based paint.
In each of these examples, unlike in California, the lawsuits could name damaged parties and demonstrate their losses, and identify the probable causes.
Mr. Tamminen could not do the same for the California lawsuit, so it all comes down simply to this: “No harm, no foul.”
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Monday, November 27, 2006
Glorious Communist Freedom of the Press!
(as found in Russia, Cuba, North Korea, and many other nations that found the US to be 53rd in freedom of the press)
In a ludicrous article in the San Francisco Chronicle, William Bennett Turner, a San Francisco lawyer who teaches a course on the First Amendment and the press at UC Berkeley, says: “In a nation that preaches the virtues of democracy, the United States government has consistently eroded the media's ability to report and, by extension, undermines the ideals it professes to uphold.” Mr. Turner then goes on to masterfully not prove his point.
He begins his article on a strange note. citing the period of anarchic press freedom during Glasnost in the Soviet Union, when journalists were free to report anything. He fails to mention that the government and budding Russian mafia at that time were then free to murder the outspoken journalists, a Russian "freedom of the press" tradition that continues today.
Mr. Turner notes: “I used to tell my students on the first day of class that we had the freest speech and press in the world. I can't do that anymore. In recent years American press freedom has eroded.”
Interestingly, Mr. Turner begins his case by giving several contradictions to his main point. He writes: “By virtue of Supreme Court decisions (does this latest one change your mind, Mr. Turner?), the U.S. press remains freer than the press elsewhere in a few respects. He notes “our law provides significantly greater protection for the press against libel suits, especially by government officials.” In Mr. Turner’s free press havens of Europe, libel laws are used by both the governments and individuals to silence critics and commentators both. In France a journalist was tried and convicted of bringing the state into disrepute, even though he proved that France 2 (French public television) had falsely reported the death of Muhammad al-Durrah in September, 2000.
Next, “our law protects the press against almost any attempt by government to impose a ‘prior restraint’ on what can be published.” Certainly the citizens of “free press” Canada can’t say the same. In fact, Captain’s Quarters, perennially one of the most popular blogs in America, also became the most popular in Canada when Captain Ed reported news from a trial of Liberal government corruption in Canada that the Canadian news could not, even though the trial was open to the public.
Finally, Mr. Turner comments “perhaps unique in the world, our law protects the advocacy of dangerous, potentially divisive ideas.” I can only add that in much of the world, the practice of freedom of the press often leads to dead or imprisoned journalists.
So far Mr. Turner has done a great job of proving he was right when he used to tell his class we had the freest speech and press in the world, and is wrong now when he says we don’t.
If we don’t have the freedom of the press we once had, Mr. Turner, what has changed?
According to Mr. Turner, it all started Sept. 11, 2001. “Now that we are in a seemingly permanent "war" on terrorism, the government claims wartime powers that result in restricting press freedom.” For proof of his charge, he cites the increase since 9/11 of documents classified “secret” by the government. However, he offers no comparison to the classification of government documents during World War II, the Korean War, the Viet Nam War, or the one I am personally most familiar with, the Cold War.
I was a Cold War warrior in the Air Force from 1962 to retirement in 1984, and worked in the Security Service as a Russian linguist doing radio intercept from 1962 to 1965. During over twenty one years of service, under three Democrat and three Republican presidents, I wallowed in copious quantities of classified documents, many of which I was personally responsible for protection and safekeeping from disclosure. This, of course, was many years before 9/11, and curiously, was probably during the period Mr. Turner told his classes we had the freest speech and press in the world.
Mr. Turner then voices concern that the Bush administration is aggressively pursuing leakers of classified information. In particular, he thinks it worrisome that the pursuit of the leakers begins with the journalists and news media that received and disseminated the leaked classified information.
It seems very strange to me that someone in the legal profession would think it wrong that the Bush administration is attempting to carry out its Constitutional responsibilities to enforce the laws of the land. Nowhere in the Constitution, or in the laws that have been passed as provided by it, do I find the President has been granted the power to not enforce some of the laws, at the discretion of the profession of journalism.
Is it against the law to make an unauthorized disclosure of classified information? Yes, unless Mr. Turner can prove otherwise to the satisfaction of the Supreme Court, because Congress and American presidents all the way back to George Washington have considered it a violation of law.
Does it make any difference that the unauthorized disclosure is to a journalist rather than anyone else? So far, I have seen nothing in our laws, or in the laws of other nations, that give persons who make unauthorized disclosures of classified information to journalists an “Exempt from Prosecution” card.
Recapping my argument to this point, it is illegal to make an unauthorized disclosure of classified information to anyone. That seems simple enough, doesn’t it?
Then the next issue is, “How do you investigate and find who violated the classified information protection laws?” Logically, it would seem you would start your investigation at the point where you became aware a potential crime was committed. In the case of unauthorized disclosure of classified information, usually that means you go to the news agency that made the disclosure public, and then interview whichever of their employees were involved.
What happens if a journalist will not tell lawful investigators their knowledge of pertinent crime facts? Do you declare that, since the disclosure was to a journalist, no crime was committed, and drop the investigation?
Mr. Turner correctly notes that no such exemption for unauthorized disclosure of classified information to a journalist is or ever was in the Constitution of the United States, although he says that in Sweden the right of access to government documents is enshrined in their constitution. I know Swedes are a wild and crazy bunch, but I doubt even the Swedes just hand over their classified documents to any Muhammad “Swen” Swenson who asks to see them.
Lying by omission, are we Mr. Turner?
Mr. Turner correctly notes that American journalists have never had strong protections against subpoenas, but then curiously states that up until now they hardly ever needed it. I wonder, is he saying that journalists didn’t formerly engage in unlawful disclosures of classified information as much as they do now, or that previous administrations didn’t honor their responsibilities under the law? Since the laws haven’t changed, what’s different?
Curiouser and curiouser, Mr. Turner writes: “So far, the courts have refused to protect subpoenaed reporters no matter how important the information they unearthed or how insignificant the alleged crime.” Mr. Turner, I’m surprised that you, a lawyer, would think that courts could or should provide such protections to reporters. In effect, are you saying that the courts have the right to prejudge an investigation, before it even starts? Should you be reminded that the investigation is of an illegal disclosure of information, and the reporter by refusing to disclose pertinent information, information that only they may know, is impeding a lawful action and shielding a criminal?
I thought the indictment, trial, and sentencing phases were when the importance and significance of violations of law was decided, not in the pre-investigative stage.
Unlike Mr. Turner, I am not a lawyer, so I can only try to logically and with reason get to the heart of legal matters. Apparently Mr. Turner was seduced to rate the US low in freedom of the press based on our standing in world opinion.
As what essentially was the only proof of our loss of freedom of the press, Mr. Turner cited two surveys of world opinion, one by Freedom House, the other by Reporters without Borders, which he admitted were unscientific, but apparently he felt supported his point. Interestingly, the Freedom House survey lumps the United States into the top "Free" ranking, and above most of the nations that Reporters without Borders rank higher.
After admitting the subjectivity of the ratings, Mr. Turner wants to have it both ways, as he notes: "But it is sobering to see the consensus that the United States is no longer anywhere near the top."
Mr. Turner, isn't being ranked 17th of 168 countries considered being "anywhere near the top"?
For those with short memories, I remember the Cold War years, when world opinion as stated by the Iron Curtain “Peoples’ Republics,” African kleptocracies, Middle Eastern plutocracies, and Communist dictatorships routinely condemned the United States as the most despotic and least free nation of the world.
And I’ll bet that they didn’t think much of our freedom of the press then, either.
UPDATE: Pamela at Atlas Shrugs alerts that: "The Supreme Court ruled against The New York Times on Monday, refusing to block the government from reviewing the phone records of two Times reporters in a leak investigation of a terrorism-funding probe."
Apparently the Supreme Court wants a piece of the "erosion of freedom of press" action too. It looks like the Constitution still allows the prosecution of illegal disclosure of information.
I always thought it did, but this may come as a shock to Mr. Turner.
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