26 February 2007

Flights of Fancy

CNN.com has a story on at the moment which suggests there may be an announcement by soon-to-be Academy Award winner Al Gore that he will run for president (again). Of course if this were to happen, there would be no better place to make the announcement, as the “documentary” An Inconvenient Truth will probably win at least one Oscar and has already made Gore the pope of the church of global warming.

Additionally, the New York Post has a piece which waxes romantically about what could have been if Mr. Gore had actually won (or been awarded, depending on point of view) the 2000 presidential race. In the ever-continuing saga of the recount bout, there is conviction among the devout that, as Mr. Core says himself, he “used to be the next president of the United States.” That supposition has not run out of gas. Articles such as the one from the Post easily attribute amazing clarity to people like Gore in “what if” scenarios where all of the mistakes of the Bush administration are avoided (or never come to be). We are asked to believe that if only someone like Gore were elected, then things would be much different…beatific even.

Real problems and real solutions, however, probably surface outside of Hollywood constructs romantic fantasies and strict political dogmas. Regardless of whether or not global warming is really happening and who is causing it, things can be done to reduce energy use. One does not have to become a global warming convert to believe in energy conservation. One does not have to participate in the self-flagellation of “humans are to blame” to feel that there are things individuals can do to use less energy. Enshrining and empowering Al Gore and the church of global warming will not create a world without worry, a world without the presumed problems of climate change or the real problems of Islamic terrorism, the war in Iraq, nuclear proliferation, etc. To think they will is to buy into political quackery.

25 February 2007

Dis-Integrating

In an earlier post, I mentioned the idea of dis-integration of cultures as a method to foster the peaceful coexistence of those cultures. If groups of people cannot live in the same space without feeling violent animosity towards each other, then perhaps separation is the best answer.

Now in all honesty, I do not think that dis-integration will ever happen. People of all races and religions have roots interwoven by family, forefathers and friends which would make mass uprooting and moving impractical, not to mention inhumane. But if people are to remain integrated, in a cultural heterogeneous mix, there must be some common ground uniting them, encompassing all people (or as many as possible) within the geographic confines of a nation.

America seems at times to have developed into a cultural-political bi-polar manic-depressive. Fueled by mass media, sound-bite attention spans (or the assumption thereof), and ever polarizing party politics, it seems that many issues have become black or white. Or perhaps issues have become this way for simplicity’s sake; not for the benefit of discussion, but for the dividing and conquering of thought.

At some point, America must overcome the seemingly abysmal division which has come about from sides (more than two) clinging relentlessly to politically dogmatic visions of the world, and indeed of ourselves. Just as America will lose any war it believes it cannot win, America can become the greatest danger to the world if it convinces itself that it, in fact, is.

Perhaps the most troubling dis-integration in America at the moment is the one taking place in the forum of ideas. It may also be the most dangerous.

19 February 2007

"Rights" Part V: The Pursuit of Happiness

The right to the “pursuit of happiness” is probably the most difficult of the three inalienable rights listed in The Declaration of Independence. It is because it introduces personal preference, desire, into the equation. What makes one person happy, or what constitutes the pursuit of happiness, varies from person to person.

Happiness itself is a widely misunderstood term. Many people may feel that it relates to the day-to-day question, “are you happy?” and can be answered in various ways from time to time, depending on conditions. However, the idea of happiness which the Declaration speaks of is not this shifting, temporal question. It relates more to each individual’s pursuit of a good life, a life worth living. My understanding of happiness comes from Aristotle, through M.J. Adler (specifically The Time of Our Lives). When I think about my own happiness, I try to reframe my thoughts to pose myself the question, “are you headed towards having lived a good life?” It’s the future perfect tense that is important. At some point, when I die, the question will be answered. Until then, happiness, living a good life, is mine to pursue.

While I understand this now, and may have understood it better than I thought while I was younger, I don’t think it is intellectually beyond teenagers to actively learn about, think about and discuss the idea of happiness. And while I do not have teenagers of my own, I can say that, from my teaching experience, schools do not do a good job of discussing happiness.

Without getting into the why this is (which is, to me, all political – funny how discussion about the pursuit of happiness might be deemed “dangerous”), that happiness and other ideas should be part of the core curriculum in high schools is without doubt.

We are all barraged by advertising specifically designed to sell us things which will make us “happy”. This has been true for as long as advertising has existed. It falls into the capitalistic workings of America. And capitalism has done great things for people, for equality, and for the planet. But just like any other “-ism”, capitalism unbridled can have very negative effects, particularly on individuals.

To counteract these, we can teach kids about the idea of living a good life, of the pursuit of happiness in which money is a tool, a means to an end…that end not being the accumulation of more “stuff” to crowd life with. It is, rather, a means to more opportunity, to a wider road to travel towards a life lived well. It is that pursuit of happiness, that chance at happiness, which the Declaration refers to, not some strange, utopian guarantee of temporal “happiness” for all.

18 February 2007

Self-Congratulatory Concert

On 25 Feb 07, Al Gore announced a group of concerts slated for 7/7/2007 to increase awareness on the issues of global warming. In keeping with the seven motif, there will be a concert held on each of the seven continents, including Antarctica. It’s a sure-fire stunt, and I imagine many of the moneyed megastars making the trek to the (reportedly rapidly vanishing) frozen continent for the show.

But it leaves me wondering if Gore and his fellow promoters have conducted or will conduct an environmental impact study on the suggested concert venues. What are the immediate and long-term environmental impacts of holding such an event in a place like Antarctica?

Just off the top of my head, here’s a list of things to consider for such a study:
- The impact of aircraft and ships bringing in people and equipment to the continent.
- The number of people and vehicles who will intrude on the area, what indigenous life forms they may disturb and mitigation strategies for this intrusion.
- How can promoters ensure that foreign life forms will not be introduced into the ecosystem?
- What strategies will be in place to counteract the accumulation of garbage and human waste which will be generated by those involved with set-up, concert-goers, and the clean-up crew?
- What is the environmental impact for the location where this refuse will inevitably end up?
In the end, which side of the equation is greater? Is the environmental impact of having an event in this location unpalatable or is the potential of “raised awareness” so great that environmental concerns are muted?

Any promoter seriously concerned with the environment and global warming must undertake environmental impact studies not only for the proposed location in Antarctica but also for all of the locations. To do less would be hypocritical, to say the least.

But one is left to wonder why there is a need for more awareness when it comes to the topic of global warming. After the publication of the UN sponsored report on the cause and effect of global warming, a chorus of politicos and other supposedly informed people have stated flatly that the debate over global warming has ended; that global warming is a fact as well as its cause: mankind. If that is the accepted truth, and we are reminded daily that, all facts to the contrary notwithstanding, it is, then this “event” looks more and more like a celebratory concert, a final consummation party, for those who decided the facts for us all.

Post Script: As I get ready to post this, I’ve noticed (via a Google search) that this same point is being made elsewhere on the web. Good thing…perhaps someone in the media will ask these questions. But, somehow, I doubt it.

Random Thoughts while in Flight

A few thoughts hammered out while flying between Sydney and Honolulu.

President Bush gets hammered for months, years in fact, for repeating the “stay the course” line over and over again while the situation in Iraq deteriorated. When he (finally, belatedly) changed course and introduced the “surge” of troops (which is a misnomer, but it sells), he is hammered by his detractors for putting more troops in harm’s way. It seems that the only change which was acceptable to Bush’s detractors is one of withdrawal and defeat. The “Iraq Study Group” was the gospel, the AEI report blasphemous.

Tolerance is a hallmark of popular multiculturalism. Everyone is equal, all lifestyles are to be “celebrated,” and we’ll all get along once we all learn to mutually “respect” each others’ “life choices.” But suppose someone feels that a lifestyle is immoral. Let’s suppose also that this person, or this family, holds this opinion within themselves; they adhere to this belief, they pass on this belief to their children, but they do not grandstand about it, they simply do not accept a certain lifestyle as equal, for moral or religious reasons. Why should their belief be trampled on? Why is their point of view of a lesser kind than someone else’s? Yet let this kind of “intolerance” gain media attention, and all sorts of invective and venom will fly their way for practicing such “intolerance” even if it is kept largely private and at home.

If government has a problem reacting to threats and emergencies (like hurricane Katrina, the changing threat in Iraq, “global warming”, the “war on drugs”, etc.), why does it make sense to expand government’s role in long-term projects like universal health care and increased social security?

Why is it that the church of global warming cherry-picks localized phenomenon to “prove” itself and then works to force others to act globally?

How is it that globalization and an increasingly interconnected world seems to be creating more “tribal” or “nationalistic” feelings, attitudes and focus? Is the knee-jerk reaction to a perceived loss of identity to refocus on the most immediate, the most tangible identity available?

What would the world look like is we “dis-integrated,” if the people’s of the world retreated within their own local, tribal, national borders? Would we be friendlier towards each other, having less opportunity to intrude on each other?

16 February 2007

McCain and Lieberman on "Global Warming"

Below is an email I sent to Senators McCain and Lieberman in response to a piece they co-authored, appearing here and elsewhere. While I have respect for both of these men, their new stance on "global warming" is, to say the least, disappointing.

Sir,

Your recent article, authored with Sen. (McCain/Lieberman), was a disappointment. Without venom, I can say that I felt like I was reading a pitch from Al Gore. This is especially the case at the beginning of the piece, where you said, "There is now a broad consensus in this country, and indeed in the world, that global warming is happening, that it is a serious problem, and that humans are causing it." This is also the case at the end of the piece, where you said, "The debate has ended over whether global warming is a problem caused by human activity."

Respectfully, the debate is not over; rather, the debate is being hijacked by politicos for political gain. I'm disappointed that you and Sen. (McCain/Lieberman) have apparently joined their ranks. Appropriately, my support for you and for Sen. (McCain/Lieberman) has decreased.

Words Matter

If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound?

If a blogger writes something and no one is around to read it, do the thoughts matter?

Though this and many other blogs go unread, what authors write is important on various levels. It's an expression of free speech; it's a dissemination of a point of view; it's an unfolding of thought purposefully put out for public viewing.

With those things in mind, the author of any blog must be personally responsible for whatever they write. Free speech does not include freedom from critique (or worse).

So, even if no one reads this little blog I hammer the keys for every week or so, I am still responsible for what I put on it...I must stand by what I write. If I don't, then I shouldn't be writing in public in the first place.

12 February 2007

Speaking Plainly - Repercussions

I think I was wrong. Perhaps straight talk in Australian politics is not the standard.

Just one day after saying that al Qaeda would root for a win by Obama (or other Democrat, anti-war candidate), his honesty has come home to roost. The headline in The Australian reads, “Rudd launches offensive on Howard over Obama attack”. Kevin Rudd, the opposition leader, put forward a motion of censure. As reported in the above-mentioned article:

Labor's censure motion refers to Mr Howard's “false statement” that his comments were directed only at Senator Obama and criticises Mr Howard for damaging the Australia-US alliance.

It also accuses Mr Howard of “gross insensitivity” for lecturing the United States on Iraq when the war has claimed the lives of more than 3,000 US servicemen and women.
I find it odd that a Prime Minister who supports the war in Iraq damages relations with the US by voicing his feelings concerning a politician who is clearly against the war (and who, as far as I know, does not have a plan for what comes next in Iraq…in fact, now that I think about it, isn’t that what a lot of people are really upset with the Bush administration for: taking action without thinking through all of the consequences? More on that later).

Anyway, back to the previous point. John Howard calls Obama on his anti-war stance and is faced with censure by the opposition (which failed) because he supposedly has damaged the US-Australia alliance. Leaders from other countries allied with the US bad-mouth US politicians as a matter of course and are praised, as they are seen as somehow standing up to the big bully, the US. So, take one side, you’re censured. Take the other side, you’re praised.

And then there’s the “gross insensitivity” comment. A lot less “sensitivity” and more responsibility, from the top to the bottom, would be a welcome change. But that, too, is a subject for another time.

11 February 2007

More Speaking Plainly

Speaking plainly seems to me to be a hallmark of Australians. Or, at least, they seem to have the ability to speak straight about political matters. Case in point is Aussie Prime Minister John Howard’s response to Barack Obama’s declaration, upon announcing that he’s running for president (didn’t that already happen a few weeks ago? Oh well…) that if elected he would withdraw US troops from Iraq by March 2008. Here’s Howard’s response, as reported here:

"I think that would just encourage those who wanted completely to destabilise and destroy Iraq, and create chaos and victory for the terrorists to hang on and hope for (an) Obama victory," Mr. Howard told the Nine Network.

"If I was running al-Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008, and pray, as many times as possible, for a victory not only for Obama, but also for the Democrats."
Of course, he was accused of trying to influence US politics by the opposition, but I think there’s something to be learned here. Al Qaeda and other enemies of the West have stated repeatedly that they believe they can win any conflict against America if they can only inflict enough casualties and draw fighting out long enough. They believe that eventually the decadent West will tire of the inconvenience of fighting, and convince itself to give up. Somalia is often cited as the prime example.

Former Governor Tom Vilsack wrote on 10 Feb 2007 in the online Washingtonpost.com:

In each of the past three years, more than 820 American soldiers have been killed in the war. Given the increased violence this year, America is on pace to lose more than 1,000 soldiers in Iraq. Over 23,000 American soldiers have been wounded since the war began, nearly 6,000 each year. It is time for us to clearly say that our troops must be brought home now.
Perhaps our enemies are correct in their assumption. Kill enough Americans, and the Americans will run.

I hope that is not the case. I hope that America stays in Iraq, continually changes tactics, techniques and procedures as the enemy does the same (it’s the nature of any fight), and has the fortitude to prevail. Clear-speaking folks like Mr. Howard remind us that, in fact, we can. Perhaps it helps that he’s not an American.

10 February 2007

Tune Out, Turn Off, Speak Up

The “true believer” abounds in the world as it is presented by the media; the loudest voice gaining the most attention, unfiltered, unquestioned, and, at least tacitly, justified.

The pseudo-science, neo-religion of global warming equates skeptics with Holocaust deniers as it defies being held to the scientific method it claims to represent. Al Gore and the UN have succeeded in creating a mantra for the masses to follow, but no one knows where it will lead – no more than anyone can accurately state how warm or cool the earth will be in a century. Yet global warming is an accomplished fact…a political fact.

The “peaceful” religion of Islam daily contradicts itself with physical demonstrations of its inability to find its play nice with others. While there are certainly peaceful believers of Islam, they are rarely represented – the “true believer” being the better media sell.

Multiculturalists would have us believe that all cultures are equally worthy of reverence, that all things cultural must be not only tolerated, but given reverence. That is, unless speaking of Western, Christian culture. The contempt thereof is largely unspoken, but clearly evident in attempts to elevate non-Western cultures above Western cultures within Western countries, and all in the name of tolerance. Radical multiculturalists do not greet opposing points of view with tolerance.

And then there’s something called “Loose Change,” a “documentary” which I will not watch. It purports to tell the “truth” about 9-11. From what I understand, it’s a conspiracy theory, or a collection thereof, attempting to create a grandiose “explanation” to what is really a simple event. Though I had never heard of the “documentary” before this week, it’s in its third remake…distributed widely over the internet. The power of media.

Besieged by the above, it appears that even level-headed people eventually buy into them. Global warming has become fact, in the socio-political tent if not the scientific. Multiculturalism has engulfed much of the West, particularly academia and public schooling. The media reminds constantly that most Muslims are peaceful (which is probably true) and couple that message with events demonstrating otherwise. At some point, violence will demonstrate peace. 2+2=5.

These are bad ideas – very bad ideas – which are given daily publicity, fed to us in the hope that we will buy in, that we will either become believers ourselves or will tire of fighting the message. And these feeding is just a ratings gatherers. We are fed the exciting, the violent, the loud voice because television and the internet know what sells. Perhaps something can be taken from the 60’s mantra, “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” Perhaps moderates everywhere should “Tune out, turn off, speak up.”

08 February 2007

Defending Marriage

Originally posted in The American Thinker. Written by your humble, not so anonymous blogger (with some editing by AT on the front end of the post).

Defending Marriage
Bob Myer

The story of the Washington state ballot initiative to cancel heterosexual marriages if they don't produce children within three years has achieved wide visibility this morning. The idea of course is to respond to arguments that homosexual marriages are different because they are barren.


The point which escapes the folks at the Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance, which doesn't appear to defend anything approaching the classic definition of marriage, is a very simple idea: potentiality.

Any marriage between a man and a woman has, fundamentally, biologically,
the potential to produce a child. Sometimes there are extenuating circumstances which preclude this, or other times choice dismisses the potential. However, given a man and a woman and normal, unassisted biology, the potential to create human life is there. Period.

Any union between two human beings of the same sex has absolutely zero potential to create human life without outside assistance. Period.

Any attempt to reframe the debate on the definition of marriage is merely an attempt to circumvent these basic facts. Some things really are just that simple.

05 February 2007

"Rights" Part IV - Liberty

Liberty as an inherent right of all men is one of the concepts the United States was founded upon. Along with Life and the Pursuit of Happiness, Liberty is something which must be afforded to all people being governed.

But, what does liberty mean? According to dictionary.com, the primary definition is, “freedom from arbitrary or despotic government or control.”

One thing to note about that definition is that it doesn’t indicate something being given to the one liberated. On the contrary, the person is being freed from “arbitrary or despotic” systems. This does not mean that, for the liberated person, government and law aren’t needed. It does imply that the liberated person has a stake, and interest, and a responsibility in the governance of his society. By taking away something (the crush of despotism), liberty demands something (self and societal responsibility).

These “unalienable rights,” to quote the Declaration of Independence, have a tendency to demand something for their gifts…they come with a price. Indeed, all “rights” do. Given the demands of liberty, the choice is quite straight-forward: self-responsibility or submission to another to control the self.

04 February 2007

Post Super Bowl Thoughts

I'm thankful that I actually got to watch the Super Bowl live, uninterrupted, etc. The only down side was the lack of American commercials, but I'm sure I can catch them somewhere on the web, if I really care to spend the time to find them.

As a near-Chicago native, I really wanted the Bears to win. But, as a Hoosier by birth, having Indy win is just fine as well. At least most of the game was entertaining...most of it, anyway.

The one thing that really impressed me was the half time show. I didn't care at all for the Cirque Du Soleil portion (which, from what I've read, may have actually been part of the pre-game...which we didn't see down here in Australia, and it was very refreshing to miss all of the pre-game talk, and rehashing, and talking about rehashing; if only the Cirque had been left out, too). It all seemed more than a little out of place to me.

Prince, on the other hand, was exactly what was needed for a good half time show. Unlike some other past performers, he obviously did not lip-synch. He actually played his guitar, and well. He looked like he had a great time, and, let's face it, lots of people in their 30's and 40's remember Prince well, liked Purple Rain when it was out, and still like Prince. His performance says a lot about him...class act, and no wardrobe malfunctions.

Environmental Tag

Just a few thoughts and links on the latest report to come out of the UN on climate change. It says that global warming is "virtually certain" that our world will get hotter in coming years, and that the cause is "very likely" human activity. Those two levels of certainty relate to 99% and 90%, respectively.

Neal Boortz gives a good inventory of reasons to be a skeptic about global warming.

J.R. Dunn provides a very interesting discussion of the (necessary) apocalyptic bottom line of environmentalism.

And Mark Steyn lends his voice to the skeptic chorus with his usual wit and cynicism.

A few things stand out in all of this talk. One is the reportedly irreversible nature of climate change...it's all our fault, and now that we "know," there may be nothing we can do about it. It's all so alarming, and it's meant to be.

Without all of the alarm, levels of spending on global warming will remain constant or fall. And really, at the bottom of this, global warming is a business. Al Gore is just one of the more visible chairmen of the warming board. And there’s lots of money to be made from this…more, I’d wager, than Lefties claim that Haliburton will ever make from Iraq. Lots more.

And, that's not to say that being more "environmentally friendly" is a bad thing. I'm all for taking care of the land that we have, of making it possible to sustain growth without trashing our environment. It makes sense all on its own; taking care of the environment doesn’t need to be lead by a howling mob of Chicken Littles. Alarmism abounds, and there’s nothing like unbound emotion to create poor solutions to problems.

What really worries me that some (the loudest, the easiest to be heard) seem to believe that the only way to "accomplish" environmental awareness is to scare the Hades out of people. If fear is the only way to motivate people, then we’re all set up to be duped by politicos of all creeds who are ultimately working for their share of the spoils.