24 November 2007

While America Slept

Most Americans are clueless. There really is no arguing about it. If I asked someone on the street what the national debt is they would probably not be able to tell me. If I asked that same person what the Law of the Sea Treaty was they would have no idea. If I asked that person who Ben Bernanke was I would probably not get a correct answer. If I asked them what the SPP was they would probably give me blank look. Now, I ask that same person what Britney or Paris or some other celebrity was up to that person could probably provide me with an up-to-date description of the celebrity’s latest escapades.

We work hard all day long. We spend time with our family and friends. At the end of the day we do not have the energy to pick up a book about economic policy or foreign relations or read the newspaper or a news magazine like the Economist. We tend to get our news in little 30-second bites and we have no time to think critically on some of the most important issues of the day. Most Americans could care less. We have our circus maximus in ESPN and FOX Sports. Most Americans are content. They have a decent job; life is not too bad. America is working too hard and doing too many things to have time to wake up, shake off the haze, and really understand what is happening with their country.

“A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. Everything they've ever "known" has been proven to be wrong.” - Men in Black,
1997
Most Americans are so disenfranchised that they prefer to get their news from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. They would rather read People Magazine. They prefer to hear about the sexual exploits of so-and-so. They want to see the celebrities fall flat on their face. Meanwhile their country is being sold or given away one piece at a time.

I look at America and I see Rome before the fall. We are fat and happy and have no idea that the Visigoths are about to cut our throats. There are so many issues that need to be dealt with now, not later. China has us by the economic ball sack. Our debt is sending investors to Europe, China and India. Our education system is not keeping up with the demands of our knowledge-based, global economy. We have no border security and that leaves us open to crime, terrorism, and illegal immigration. All I see in Washington is a bunch of talking heads that either have no clue what is happening, are complacent and allowing it happen, or helping it along for reasons that are a mystery to me.

Debt

We have amassed a national debt of more than $9 trillion (that is trillion with a T, not billion). Our national debt has nearly doubled in 10 years. Hard to believe that under President Bush’s watch we have borrowed nearly $3.4 trillion. That alone is a staggering number. Sure he cut taxes and we have record revenue coming in, BUT the federal government is still running a deficit in the billions of dollars. Unconscionable. This is under the watch of a “conservative” president. This is from a guy who wants to abolish abortion but could care less about the mess he is living our children.

Do not believe the economists that are being trotted out saying that it is not a big deal. They say that the United States can handle this level of debt. The harsh reality is that the national debt does affect the economy. The world is seeing how unsustainable the United States lives. They are pulling out of the dollar because they see that we are not a good investment anymore. They see the current leadership and the lack of any mention of national debt and economic policy in the debates and have lost confidence in the United States. They see we have no intention of implementing a sound energy policy. The implosion of the sub-prime mortgage market is only the beginning.

Hugo Chavez is selling all his country's oil and gas infrastructure in the United States. Meanwhile we stand in line at Best Buy or Kohl’s at 4 AM in the morning on the Friday after Thanksgiving to get a “deal”. What a sorry statement on the United States people. How far we have fallen.
Here is an interesing post about what the future may hold for our economy.

Education

An Associated Press story in 2005 about education rankings in the world found that the United States was already slipping. Not good signs for a country whose economy base has shifted from manufacturing to knowledge. President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act may have increased test scores but those improvements have only resulted in an increase in the ability to take a test and not an increase in the ability to think critically. Education should be our number one priority. The smart kids are not motivated, the dumb kids are given all the resources, and the kids in the middle get by. That is not education.

We have a 19th century education system when we need a 21st century system. Why do we have such a long summer break? We have one of the shortest school years because it is based on an agricultural economy. The vast majority of kids no longer have to help their parents on the farm. Let's lengthen the school year by reducing the summer break to 4 to 6 weeks maximum.

Why are teachers paid so little? They are responsible for educating future Americans, yet we pay them very little in comparison to engineers and scientists. If you want to attract better teachers you need to pay better. You also need to address the teacher’s union which is holding our education system back from changing.

We need to change the way we teach. Teaching for the test will not provide children with an ability to effectively compete in the global economy. We need to change our programs. The Cloud Institute is at the forefront in changing our education system. We need to embrace these kinds of initiatives and put an end to worthless buearcratic intervention like the No Child Left Behind Act.

Borders and Immigration

We need border security. This is not just about illegal immigration; this is about drugs, arms trafficking, gang activity, and terrorism. For some reason border security has been equated with racism. What? Are you that na├»ve or stupid to think that having a secure border is a racist act? I am not against immigration. My parents came over from Germany in the late 1960’s. I am the son of immigrants. This country has been built by immigrants. What I am against is the notion that we need to tolerate people breaking the law and the circumventing the system to come here illegally. I asked a friend of ours from Peru what he thought was one of the biggest threats to America. He answered illegal immigration. He is here in the United States legally. He has had to jump through the legal hoops. His family is building a dream here.

And please do not buy the line by President Bush that these people are the doing the work Americans won’t. The truth is that Americans are not willing to do the work for the wages employers are paying the illegals. Americans are so used to having everything so cheap that they have fostered this system. Our tax system has fostered this problem (America has the highest corporate tax rate in the world). Our government’s lack of law enforcement has only encouraged it. What really gets me is that if I used a fake social security number or fake documents and was caught my ass would be in jail.

What should we do?

I am so cynical that I think we should march on Washington, D.C. and demand our government back from the special interest groups. I often joke that I am sharpening the pitchforks and preparing the torches (which I am anyway by the way).

The reality is that we need real leadership. Not false leadership like President Bush. Not the false promises of Hillary or the hope-will-do-everything speeches by Barrack. Not the isolationism of Ron Paul or the 9/11 mentality of Rudy. We need to demand that our leaders start thinking about America and put themselves way down on the list.

We need campaign finance reform that forces all candidates to only use public money. This does not limit free speech. No one is stopping you from standing on the street corner and stating your opinion or views. We need to get money out of politics period. The fact is that billions of dollars will be spent by the 2008 presidential candidates alone. We need to rethink our election process and stop this stupidity of starting the campaign two years before the election.

We need new ideas in Congress and the only way to do that is through term limits. We have term limits for the President, why not for Congress? I recommend two terms for Senators and six terms for Representatives.

We need to look at ourselves and decide if we really want the vision that the founding fathers had for this country. If we do, then we need to change our attitudes and demand leadership. Otherwise, just sit back and watch the downward spiral.
Photo by KCThinker. Gordes, France, October 2007.

12 September 2007

Open Letter to Osama Bin Laden

Dear Mr. Bin Laden:

You recently called for us to convert to Islam again. You are persistent; I will give you that. And you have been patient with us as you have time and time again asked us to convert to Islam. You have even given us warnings.

Yet, I have to admit I am confused. Which brand of Islam should I convert to? Should I convert to the moderate, mainstream version of Islam? You know the peaceful one. Or should I convert to your violent brand of Islam? Should I give myself to the brand that makes women second class citizens? Should I give myself to the brand of Islam that worships wonton death and holds life in contempt? Should I give myself to the brand of Islam that hides behind religion to justify acts of atrocities? Or should I give myself to the brand of Islam that merely teaches religion without all that pesky mathematics, science and philosophy? I suppose those that cannot think for themselves are easier to control.

Does the West have it right? No, the West is imperfect. The West has been consumed by want and they will be overrun by it soon enough, with or without your help. Does your brand of Islam provide a respite from that want? No. All your brand of Islam does is take that desire and channel it to conduct immoral acts. Your brand of Islam is used to justify those immoral acts. Your brand of Islam and the immoral acts you carry out in the name of it shed a bad light on the rest of your peaceful Islamic brothers and sisters.

Being a rather independent minded person I can tell you I have very little patience with religion. I do not believe some omnipotent being would waste time telling us what to believe. That being would let us be to find our own way. I believe that the human race is a wonderful creation. I believe that we have yet to find our true potential. And I believe religion, especially your brand of religion, is holding us back from finding that true potential. Your brand of religion, and others like it, is used to control people, and the only thing you want to do is to control us. We should be reaching for the stars. Yet, because of people like you, Mr. Bin Laden, we remain anchored to this planet. We cannot see beyond our differences of religion, race, gender, or socio-economic class. Your violent brand of Islam will not change that. After all, you kill your own brothers and sisters because you find their brand of Islam does not agree with your own.

You do not need to be a religious person to know right from wrong. You do not need to pray to an alter or a direction to be a moral person. You do not need a religious text to show you how to be a moral person. I consider myself to be a moral person, and I know that I am a more moral person than you are or will ever be. I do not need some nut job; waste of skin; holed up in a cave telling me what I should and should not believe in.

When will you understand that violence only begets violence? Peace begets peace.

Peace be unto you!

KCThinker

Photo by KCThinker, Clouds

01 August 2007

The War on Climate Change

I, like many others, are merely observers in the global warming (aka climate change) debate, and not neck deep in the peer-reviewed articles. But some of us observers can and do think for ourselves. I would like to believe that my engineering background provides me with some critical thinking tools. As has been pointed out by many of the naysayers, there are many variables to take into consideration, not just CO2. The hysteria over global warming is just another in a long line. It bothers me that people think so statically and are immediately prone to extremism when things change. We saw the same thing in the 1970s with global cooling.

Are we contributing to climate change? Some of the warming can be attributed to our actions, but certainly not all of it. You are foolish to think that we, as a species, do not have some impact on our environment. Do we have that much of an impact that such an extreme Algorean-type reaction is needed? No.

Are all the weather extremes we see today a result of global warming? No. We have a little more than 100 years of good data. That is an awfully small window when compared to the age of the Earth. We also tend to have a short time perspective. We also forget that we are our own worst enemies when we change our landscape to suite our needs. When we channel streams and rivers, pave land, do not manage our forests properly, and build our houses on steep slopes, in flood plains and below the mean sea level we pretty much guarantee that we will suffer at the hands of Mother Nature. We also tend to forget that when a severe storm hits a highly populated area there is a higher probability for misery. Why blame a nameless and faceless threat like climate change when we should blame ourselves for being so arrogant and stupid in the first place?

Is it a pending disaster as folks like Al Gore would have you believe? Probably not. I am definitely not willing to bet the house on long-term modeling forecasts. I have enough problems with simple groundwater models at work that I find it hard to believe that climate models can be accurate. In fact, climate change may actually benefit some people.

Can we actually do anything about climate change? Probably not. We cannot even provide clean and safe drinking water to 1.1 billion people. How exactly do you expect to change the climate? How do you change the mind set of billions of people. How do you reduce CO2 emissions without nuclear power? How do you reduce CO2 emissions without stabilizing or reducing population? Are Al Gore and his merry band of hypocrites going to stop flying private jets and go commercial or do away entirely with using air planes? Are you going to stop eating meat and drinking bottled water? It is folly to think that merely increasing the fuel efficiency of cars and trucks and getting rid of coal fired power plants will result in “positive” climate change or reversal of current “trends”. The same arrogance and stupidity that had us build in areas where we should not, will have us “burn” money for the sake of a tenth of a degree.

What should we do then Mister Smarty Pants? Let’s change the debate from the War on Climate Change to economic prosperity and security. Let’s cut the use of oil to get us out of the Middle East and stop us from providing cash to sociopaths like Chavez and Ahmadinejad. We should be the leaders of alternative energy research and innovation. Let’s be honest, there is not enough oil and coal to last us forever, so let’s make sure that when supplies tighten up we are ready with answers. Being leaders in alternative energy makes economic sense. Let's provide incentives for people to be their own energy suppliers. Stop touting this ridiculous notion that we need to save the polar bears. Sure they are cute and cuddly, but they would just as soon sink their teeth into an environmentalist as a baby seal. And no, they do not drink Coca Cola.

Sure, I drive a fuel efficient car and I will do what I can to reduce my emissions without going overboard and becoming a vegan and wearing hemp-only clothes. And I do think we need to use and find reliable alternatives to oil and coal for security and economic reasons, not merely environmental. But am I worried? Not in the least. There are other things going on right now that I am much more worried about; for example, a clueless democrat or republican getting elected President of the United States of America. Now that scares the living bat crap out of me.

11 July 2007

The Arrogance and Hypocrisy of the Global Warming Crowd

We can't eliminate HIV/AIDS, malaria, or tuberculosis, but we think we can control the climate.

We can't feed every person on this planet, but we think we can control the climate.

We can't provide everyone on this planet with safe drinking water, but we think we can control the climate.

We can’t make sure that every boy and girl in this country can read and write and do arithmetic, but we think we can control the climate.

We can’t make sure that every man, woman, or child in this country has health insurance, but we think we can control the climate.

We can’t win the war on drugs, but we think we can control the climate.

We can’t win the war on terror, but we think we can control the climate.

Do I really need to make any more points?

Interesting how all of a sudden the gloom and doom of climate change trumps all of our other societal woes. Yes, the climate is changing. Yes, it is getting warming. Yes, it will affect people, but when has change not affected people? No, we do not need to make this priority number one. The climate is not static just as forests are not static (they do tend to burn every now and then – it is healthy for forests to burn – preservation is a myth). Take a geology class and you might learn about the billions of years of change that has already come before us and our minute snap shot in time.

The climate change movement cares more for some lonely polar bear floating on a chunk of ice than for the woman with HIV that has been shunned by her village or the little boy dying from dysentery. And you would call me a flat-earther because I see the woman and little boy and not the polar bear? Don’t get me wrong. I try to do what I can for the environment. I am an environmental engineer after all so I know better than most about environmental damage.

It is the height of arrogance to think we can control Mother Nature. Mother Nature will punish us one way or another; with or without increasing the level of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere. Addressing cars, trucks, airplanes, and coal fired power plants is a miniscule part of the problem. Are you a vegan? No? Even if you ride your bike to work everyday you won't impact the climate if you continue to sit down and eat chicken, beef, and pork every night. Do you only buy locally grown food? No? Think about the carbon dioxide emitted to bring you those fresh fruits and vegetables that are out of season here not to mention the majority of your groceries. Are you willing to take the drastic role of stopping and even reversing population growth? No? More people consume more releasing more carbon dioxide. Are you willing to look at all energy alternatives including nuclear power? No? Then again, some of the rich elite do not want to have a wind farm seen from the posh living room of their palatial estate. There is more to this issue than the silly little idea of Kum Ba Yah at a stadium. Interesting how Al Gore’s Seven-Point Pledge does not specifically call for specific changes like becoming a vegan. Eat meat lately Al?.

Having a concert series where you fly people in to "entertain" people around the guise of indoctrination in the global warming religion is the another sign of hypocrisy in action. Just because all the “artists” drove a Prius from the airport to the concert does not make it an environmentally friendly affair. Just serving veggie burgers next to regular burgers does not make it an environmentally friendly affair. Buying carbon offsets does not make it an environmentally affair. If you really want my attention then have it all online without a single person having to fly or drive anywhere. We do have the technology for that nowadays. That would be groundbreaking. Instead you just told me you are a bunch of hypocrites. Do as I say and not as I do. Al Gore is the top ring-leader in this church of hypocrisy. The man makes millions off of his “religion”. More or less, another evangelical who does not practice what he preaches.

Now they want to levy a carbon tax on us. Nice. And how do you suppose the money collected will get spent? Are you going to put it into a “lock box” Al? Give me a break. Trust the federal government with more of our money? I do not think so. The federal government will just waste it on some frivolous pork barrel project to make a senator or representative look good in his or her district. A use tax such as the carbon tax will only hurt the poor. But when has that ever stopped the liberals? There is not a tax increase they wouldn’t vote for unless it is right before an election.

You would get more people on board for reducing carbon dioxide emissions if you took a broader approach. Not everyone believes that global warming is such a threat. What they do see is that we are stuck in the Middle East in part to maintain our access to oil. Sell carbon dioxide emissions reductions through increasing the fuel efficiency of vehicles and work to get us off oil and out the Middle East (by the way, that whole biofuel thing is not the answer – in fact, it is probably the dumbest boondoggle ever). Work on researching carbon sequestering from coal fired power plant emissions. You still need power to surf the net and cool your Red Bull. If you want something done you have to work with people instead of just ramming your ideology down everyone else’s throats. What are the commonalities of your cause to other causes? Take concrete small steps instead of immediately going for the whole enchilada. But of course that would make too much sense and I know that when it comes to ideologues the last thing they want anything to do with is common sense.
Photo by KCThinker, Doorway, San Juan, Puerto Rico

20 June 2007

What do Democrats, Fatah, Hamas, and Republicans Have in Common?

On the surface you would not think these groups have much in common. Violence rules one set and ignorance rules the other. But they do have much in common. Each group, in their own way, put their agendas and ideologies over the good of their people.

Hamas and Fatah recently went through an internal power struggle in the Palestinian territories. The result is many dead and wounded, looting, a fractious government, and leaving the Palestinian people with little hope of ever being able to have a true country of their own. It did not need to happen. But once again the pride and arrogance of men trying to ensure they seize or remain in power has resulted in misery. Hamas would not bend on their stance towards Israel. Hamas would not cease firing rockets at Israel. Israel would not stop responding. Pride, foolishness, and arrogance rule the Middle East. Pride, foolishness, and arrogance keep the Middle East from maturing.

The partisanship in Washington, D.C. has not resulted in the chaos like was seen in the Palestinian territories. However, partisanship has resulted in 74 percent of the American people feeling that the United States is not heading in the right direction. Naturally, such an open-ended question will result in significant distortion of reality. For example, is it the economy that is not heading in the right direction or is it education? Are we not heading in the right direction with respect to foreign policy or fiscal responsibility? Or is the stalemate on immigration reform causing this “feeling”? I think that the United States is heading in the wrong direction for a variety of reasons and I blame the partisanship of the democrats and republicans for that. Here again is yet another example of two parties more concerned with maintaining or seizing power while the real needs of the American people are forgotten. They seem to think that they alone have the best ideas and they alone know what is best for us. Guess again. The democrats and republicans are clueless as to what is best for the American people. Once again, pride, foolishness, and arrogance blind these groups to reality and what really needs to be done. The democrat’s hatred of George W. Bush blinds them to the point of doing whatever they can to undermine his presidency. The democrat’s ideology blinds them to the reality that this country was founded on Christian principles and causes them to needlessly burden our society with over-political correctness. The republican’s ideology of religious conservatism causes knee-jerk reactions like removing evolution from biology classes and vetoing stem cell research initiatives. Both parties cannot see the forest for the trees when it comes to fiscal responsibility and ensuring the long-term security and fiscal well being of the United States. Both parties push problems on future generations of Americans; the Americans without a voice.

In the end, unless these groups can work together, find common ground, and work to achieve goals based on that common ground everyone else will suffer in one way or another.

HAD ENOUGH?
DON’T JUST VOTE FOR A DEMOCRAT OR REPUBLICAN
VOTE FOR COMMON SENSE

Photo by KCThinker, Old Mine Structure, Cherokee County, Kansas

15 June 2007

Does Anyone Care what Hollywood Thinks?

Steven Spielberg is endorsing Hillary Clinton for President of the United States.

By BETH FOUHY, Associated Press Writer Wed Jun 13, 10:49 AM ET:

NEW YORK - Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton has won the endorsement of film producer and director Steven Spielberg, ending a tug-of-war between Clinton and Barack Obama (news, bio, voting record) for the Hollywood heavyweight's affections.

“I've taken the time to familiarize myself with the impressive field of Democratic candidates and am convinced that
Hillary Clinton is the most qualified candidate to lead us from her first day in the White House," Spielberg said Wednesday in a statement released by the Clinton campaign.

Spielberg has been a supporter and contributor to Clinton in the past, but his support for her presidential bid wasn't always certain. In February, he co-hosted a Beverly Hills fundraiser for Obama with his DreamWorks production partners David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg that brought in more than $1.3 million. Katzenberg is backing Obama, as is Geffen, a former Clinton ally turned critic.


Spielberg has directed some of Hollywood's most admired films, including "Jaws," "E.T. The Extraterrestrial," "Jurassic Park," "Schindler's List" and "Saving Private Ryan."
Let me tell you, I was on pins and needles waiting to hear who Spielberg was going to endorse. It’s settled, now I have to vote for Hillary because E.T. is endorsing her.

Hollywood obviously thinks that their opinion matters that much that we should blindly vote for someone because they endorse them. Why the flip should I care what Steven Spielberg thinks or who he intends to vote for? He makes movies. He entertains us. His opinion, along with all the other entertainers, on political matters means nothing to me. Just make the freaking movies with the neat little special effects and let us do the thinking for ourselves. What a bunch of self-involved, ego-maniacs.

Do the research and decide for yourself. If you are someone who makes a decision on who to vote for based on an endorsement from a person or an organization you are a moron, in my humble opinion. If you need a helping hand from an actor, please do us all a favor and shot yourself, because you are a waste of skin.

Photo by KCThinker, Farm Equipment

30 May 2007

Tax Hikes on You and Me Made Possible by the Ruling Elite

They know what is best for us. So they think. Why is it that the first thing politicians do when they propose a new program or policy is to assume that tax hikes are needed? Both Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Senator Barrack Obama (D-IL) have proposed programs and policies during their presidential campaign stops that will require additional spending. In order to pay for it they want to increase our taxes and take away tax cuts for businesses.

“Under a nine-point plan, Mrs. Clinton proposed to let President Bush's tax cuts for top earners expire, scrap subsidies for oil and gas companies, and require large oil companies to invest in alternative energy or pay into a national research fund. She also called for greater scrutiny of the salaries of chief executives. In a bid to keep jobs in America, she is pushing to eliminate an element of the tax code that allows companies to defer taxes on profits they earn overseas.

In ending what she called Mr. Bush's "irresponsible" tax cuts, the former first lady said she would revert to the tax rates for "upper-income Americans" during the 1990s. She did not specify an income cutoff, but a campaign spokesman said later that it would be $200,000.”

- The New York Sun, May 30, 2007

President Bush’s tax cuts were only irresponsible in that they did not come with spending restraints and cuts. Senator Clinton is just as guilty as President Bush in this regard. I have not heard the esteemed Senator proposing tax cuts or railing against the billions of dollars of pork in the spending bills she votes on. Don’t throw stones when you live in a glass house, Senator.

Once again the politicians show how clueless they really are by fostering a protectionist mentality. If they really understood the way the world works they would understand that we are in a global economy and in order to compete in a global economy companies need to make sure they keep their labor costs down. What they also fail to realize is that successful companies grow and hire people stateside. Protectionist attitudes to lock up the labor vote are shortsighted and harmful to the economic future of America.

“Presidential candidate Barack Obama’s plan for universal health care for all Americans require $50 billion to $65 billion in new revenue, according to estimates released this morning by his campaign.The campaign suggested tax increases for the wealthiest Americans may be the way Obama would pay for his plan. The campaign released estimates from the Urban/Brookings Tax Policy Center saying the money could be raised by restoring the top two personal income tax brackets and rates on dividends and capital gains to Clinton-era levels.”

-
Des Moines Register, May 29, 2007

Now, I do not necessarily disagree with Mr. Obama’s plan. I do think we need some form of universal healthcare. Let’s face it; in a country supposedly as prosperous as America, there really should not be millions without health insurance. Here are the highlights as reported by the Des Moines Register:

• Obama will tell the crowd his plan would reduce the typical family’s health-insurance premiums by $2,500 a year.
• Businesses that don’t make a meaningful contribution to health coverage of their employees would do so by supporting the new plan.
• The government would pick up the tab for some of the most expensive illnesses and conditions, which would reduce costs for businesses.
• Much of the extra costs would come from savings in such things as health screenings and better management of chronic conditions that Obama has said can save the system billions of dollars.
• Increasing insurance industry competition and reducing underwriting costs and profits, which Obama’s campaign staff say will reduce insurance overhead.

I like these suggestions. The insurance industry is woefully inefficient (I suppose they look to the federal government for their business model.) What I disagree with his assertion that we need to increase taxes in order to pay for it.

It bothers me that these politicians automatically assume everything needs a tax increase. I think that the answer really lies in making government more efficient. They require it of their contractors (I know because as a government contractor they nickel and dime us on every project nowadays) maybe they should start looking in the mirror and at the bloated and inefficient way THEY do business. I am tired of funding this thoughtless government and its plethora of wasteful, duplicitous, and mostly needless programs.

One last thing…

Senator Clinton also said the following during a campaign stop in Manchester, New Hampshire:

"It's time for a new beginning, for an end to government of the few, by the few, and for the few, time to reject the idea of an ‘on your own' society and to replace it with shared responsibility for shared prosperity," she said. "I prefer a ‘we're all in it together' society."

- The New York Sun, May 30, 2007

Really Mrs. Clinton? You are for an end to government of the few, by the few, and for the few? We normal folk out here in fly over country have been saying that for years. It is you politicians in Washington, D.C. that refuse to listen. In order to make government more transparent and accessible to the American people we need term limits for our senators and representatives and meaningful campaign finance reform (not the type we have now that requires hundreds of millions to run for president). Senator Clinton, will you vote for term limits? Will you vote for comprehensive campaign finance reform? I doubt it. You are part of the system, so spare your lectures for the doped up dregs of our society. Your attitude of the socialist “we” without personal responsibility will further disintegrate this society. It is the “on your own” aspect of this country that has in part made it great. It seems to me like you are part of the problem not the solution. And like all problems, we hope they will go away and not turn into something worse like cancer.

Photo by KCThinker, Barbed Wire on Fence Post, Iowa

28 May 2007

The Bush Presidency – A Legacy of Failure?

If you told me in November 2000 that the Bush presidency would be littered with policy missteps, scandals, and outright embarrassing failure at almost every turn I would not have believed you. I probably would have thought “How bad could it possibly get?”

Nearly seven years later I have to contend that George W. Bush ranks up there with the worst presidents. He has earned his place on the table with the likes of Jimmy Carter.

Because there are so many ways in which President George W. Bush has failed the United States I will at least first bring up the one and only area in which he has succeeded. President Bush has done one thing right. With the cooperation of the House and Senate, he cut taxes and provided a spark for the American economy in the aftermath of 9/11. You can say what you want, but the United States economy is doing alright.

Now that the kudos are over let’s examine where he has fallen far short of expectations. I am sure there are others. Feel free to let me know what I missed.

1. Education. Crafted with a worthless democratic senator, the No Child Left Behind Act misses the mark on education reform. This act has decimated education in America. It does not provide the necessary tools for our children to compete in the global economy. Another well intentioned, poorly thought-out piece of legislation – just one more in a long line coming from Washington, D.C. The only thing that the No Child Left Behind Act guarantees is that today’s children will not be smart enough to recognize the ways its government is failing them in the future therefore ensuring that selfish and clueless politicians remain in power.

2. Prescription Drug Plan. Another example of the federal government doing what it does best – waste taxpayer money – one of the most ill-conceived modifications to an ill-conceived government program. In one swipe of the pen, President George W. Bush bankrupted future generations of American citizens. Thanks W for not looking out for the unborn.

3. Energy Policy. Crafted with oil and natural gas in mind it falls far short of bringing this country into the 21st century and providing the means for the United States to kiss Middle Eastern and South American oil good bye. Bush’s short sighted policy comes at a time where far sightedness is needed. Instead of ensuring that the United States is a leader in renewable energy technology it ensures that the United States is kept in a 20th century frame of mind.

4. Budget. If you would have told me seven years ago that the Republicans would spend like the Hollywood elite in a cosmetic surgery and recreational drug store buying frenzy, I would have told you that you were off your rocker. Needless to say, under President George W. Bush, we have spent like money was going out of style. Recession or no recession, there is no justification to borrow nearly $2 trillion in the last seven years. Congress, with President George W. Bush’s guidance should have cut spending. Unlike the conservative talk that got him elected, President George W. Bush has been at the helm of one of the largest expansions in federal government. Thanks for increasing the mediocrity of our society, President George W. Bush and again not looking out for the unborn.

5. Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. The war in Afghanistan was justified; the one in Iraq was an unfortunate decision. We should have concentrated on Afghanistan and rounded up and killed each and every Taliban fighter. But, instead, President Bush did not heed any of the obvious warning signs and decided to take on Iraq as well. Now we are fighting a half-assed effort in both countries. Once again President Bush and his team had no plan for maintaining peace and transiting government after an easy win. Years later Bush is finally getting it by providing more troops (still not enough in my opinion) but the American public with its 60 second attention span has lost its taste for these wars. It does not help that UBL, or OBL or whatever the pricks real name is, has not been caught either.

Now I should not lay all the blame on President George W. Bush. He had his willing helpers (both democrat and republican) in the House and Senate. And if you think a democrat as president would do any better, guess again. None of these morons has a clue as to how their actions today will affect future generations of Americans. They only think one election at a time.

Photo by KCThinker. In-law's farm in Iowa.

08 April 2007

Global Warming: Real Crisis or Fashion Fad?

In case you have not heard, there is a global crisis. It is not HIV/AIDs. It is not malaria. It is not hunger. It is not lack of clean drinking water. It is not lack of basic sanitation facilities. It is not lack of access to basic health care. It is the earth’s climate changing.

The United Nations has provided a report that suggests that we need to immediately do something about this crisis. Not all the other ones I mention above, but climate change. I find it interesting that of all the global crises, global warming seems to be the only one we should get motivated about; maybe because this “crisis” has no face. When you think global warming, you do not think of a starving child in Africa. When you think global warming you do not think of a village in Haiti without clean drinking water. When you think global warming you do not think of the children orphaned because of HIV. When you think of global warming you do not think of the person dying from a mosquito bite. When you think of global warming you think of ice bergs melting and palm trees in the Artic. Sure some polar bears are having a tough time, but you rarely think of a child in need or the gaunt face of a struggling mother.

Everyone, it seems, is on the global warming bag wagon. From Al Gore to Hollywood (the biggest hypocrites of them all) to politicians to scientists everyone is jumping aboard and purporting that there is consensus in the global warming debate. The science is infallible they say. The computer generated models are very accurate they say. Just look at the trend and the delta they say. Say something contrary to what the global warming aficionados think and you are liable to receive death threats and become black listed by those with an “open” mind. The whole attitude of these elitists makes me think the whole fiasco is akin to Big Climate Change; another all powerful, but secretive entity, that is intent on controlling humanity.

I am not disputing the trend of overall global warming. I am disputing the cause and I am trying to be rationale – not something the elite snobs want when so much funding is on the line. I will give you a few things to think about:

1. Ice core data indicated that in past warming cycle’s temperature increases before carbon dioxide levels increase. What then caused the increase in temperature if it was not carbon dioxide? Could it possibly be other factors?

2. The ice core data shows temperature and carbon dioxide increases but then the temperature and carbon dioxide levels decrease again. I thought that once you had an increase in CO2 levels there was no return. The aficionados claim that we will burn up. What caused the decrease of temperature and carbon dioxide in the past? Remember these records come before man had invented the SUV. How did those intrepid cave men fight global warming in the past – maybe there is a missing link and a missing solution on a cave wall tragically demolished due to our ignorance. That mural was not depicting a hunt; it probably was the formula to stop global warming.

3. In the 1970’s, scientists were worried about global cooling. Yes, global cooling. The levels of CO2 did not decrease during this time period. On the contrary, CO2 levels have been steadily increasing for more than 50 years. Those scientists were quite certain of the crisis and crazy ideas were brought forth to stop global cooling. Now crazy ideas are being proposed to fight global warming.

4. If CO2 is really to blame, can you really do anything to curb CO2 emissions without controlling population? As I have said before, more people require more resources, and more resources results in more CO2 and other greenhouse gases such as methane being emitted.

5. The Earth’s climate has changed without human intervention many times over thousands upon thousands years. Glaciers have been receding for thousands of years. What makes us think we are that special to cause it this time? Our science? Our computer models? Our infallible knowledge that only man can control the Earth?

There are lots of good websites like RealClimate.org that think that the rise in greenhouse gases is a cause for alarm. You can sift through all their editorials and resultant comments by scientists. I have spent many an hour looking through their website, but for some reason I do not find myself convinced. They present many plausible ideas and studies to support their stance, but I feel like something is missing. My bullshit meter is in alarm mode when I read it. Just when I think they may have a point because it is in the 80’s in Kansas City in March, the following week it gets to below freezing in Kansas City. Mother Nature can be fickle; another reminder that the climate can change at the drop of hat.

Photo by KCThinker, water tap in batey, La Romana, Dominican Republic

03 April 2007

The Trouble with Political Pronouncements

Martin Frost, a former democratic congressman to the U.S. House of Representatives, wrote the following in a Foxnews.com editorial about energy independence: "Like so many other Bush pronouncements, it turned out to be a statement made for political expediency with no substance or commitment behind it."


Newsflash: ninety nine percent of all political pronouncements, from both democrats and republicans, are politically expedient with no substance or commitment behind them. I have the utmost contempt for the politicians in Washington, D.C. who find it easy to promise so much and deliver on so little of substance. They play their little game with the future of the United States hanging in the balance. If there is pork to be had then everything is easy, but to actually address a real problem like energy independence or the burgeoning national debt or the unfunded trillions in Medicare and social security liabilities the politicians are strangely noncommittal and provide us with nothing but political expediency. No one wants to present the very tough and unpopular decisions needed to address these problems because they fear for their chances of re-election. All the solutions require sacrifices**: cuts in spending, cuts in benefits, and an increase in taxes - that is the truth, you have to have all three - there is no hiding from that reality. Who is willing to go to the American people and present that? Who is willing to look their campaign bankrollers in the eye and say the trough is closed? And if you do present a proposal like that you are shot down. The only thing you hear from the talking heads is criticism, nothing constructive whatsoever. Each of the key issues above needs to be addressed soon otherwise we will saddle our children and grandchildren with an enormous burden. I just do not see anyone in Washington, D.C. that cares about America. I think they care more about ensuring their party benefits and stays in power. I have found that they are all talk. Pretty speeches and flowery rhetoric does not solve problems. And I do not think I am alone in America in thinking this way.

You can think what you may, but I am as cynical as I have ever been about our elected officials and their chances of finding a "consensus" on any issue. Let's just look at becoming energy independent. It will take nuclear power. It will take new coal power plants with carbon sequestering. It will take coal to oil. It will take more wind and solar power. It will take more drilling in areas like ANWR. It will take more fuel efficient vehicles. It will take higher gas taxes to encourage a reduction in consumption. It will take significant investment in renewable technology. It will take more than just biofuels (never mind that we are taking land away from food production for energy production). It will take a change in mindset. It would not take much to convince me to change, because I know what is at stake. You need someone that has a grasp of how to convince everyone else including the anti-nuclear crowd, the auto manufacturers, the oil companies, and the citizens of this country. You need someone that can convince the left that this is a responsible way to become energy independent and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. You need someone that can also convince the right that this is a reasonable way to get us out of the Middle East and other areas run by despots. In the present political climate I do not see anyone that has the ability to unify people to make the changes necessary and that is a sad commentary on our society as a whole.

**Sacrifice is not in the American dictionary anymore. It is a word that is fading fast with the greatest generation. Our society has become fat and lazy. And so have our politicians.

Photo by KCThinker, sugar cane loading appartus, March 2007

27 March 2007

Finally Iraq is Vietnam

I did not think Iraq would become another Vietnam. But with the micromanagement of the war by politicians in Washington D.C. and a media machine bent on spinning the war against the president they despise, they have finally achieved what they have wanted for the last four years.

I am utterly disgusted by the way the Washington D.C. is playing politics with the supplemental spending bill. First, the bill is loaded with so much excess spending that has nothing to do with the military. Peanut storage? NASA exploration capabilities? What are they thinking in Washington D.C.? Can they not pass a bill that only focuses on one thing? Second, a timetable for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq is an utter slap in the face to the troops, to the American people, and to the Iraqis. I did not agree with the war in Iraq, but I see now that we must do our utmost best to provide every opportunity for a stable Iraq. It is unbelievable that the people in Washington D.C. are so deluded to think that by pulling out the civil war will stop. We must provide security for the tensions to dissipate; otherwise there can be no hope in Iraq. My only hope is that the President vetoes this ridiculous and obviously politically partisan supplemental spending bill. Maybe then the idiots in Washington D.C. can actually put politics aside and just get it done without the wasteful pork and a timetable that is only suited to the politics of Capital Hill and not the streets of Iraq.

This bill is a potpourri of programs that have nothing to do with defense. Here is a “short” list of the completely unrelated items put into this bill:

  • Milk Income Loss Contract Program
  • Peanut Storage Costs
  • Losses due to Aphis Emergency Order
  • Architect of the Capital
  • Payment to Widows and Heirs of Deceased Members of Congress
  • U.S. Geological Survey
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • National Park Service
  • Department of Interior
  • Minimum Wage Increase and Small Business Tax Relief
  • Educational and Cultural Programs
  • International Broadcasting Operations
  • USAID Child Survival and Health Programs Fund
  • International Disaster and Famine Assistance
  • Operating Expenses for USAID
  • NASA Exploration Capabilities
  • Bilateral Economic Assistance Economic Support Fund
  • Assistance for Eastern Europe and the Baltic States
  • International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement
  • Migration and Refuge Assistance
  • Hurricane Disaster Relief and Recovery
  • NOAA Administration operations, research, and facilities

23 March 2007

Have you ever looked at a dragonfly?

Have you ever looked at a dragonfly? How unique its shape is. How colorful it can be. How small it is on your knee. How delicate its wings are.

Have you ever watched a hummingbird fly to one plant after another, its wings beating so fast it is just a blur to the human eye?

Have you ever wondered about the stars? How many there are. How beautiful an untainted night sky is. Have you ever stared at the night sky on a breezy, warm summer night holding someone you love and just thought that it could not possibly get any better than this.

Have you have ever felt cold sand around your toes? That gritty yet soothing and squishy feeling. The salt water lapping against your ankles. Breathing the warm salty air. The sun sinking into the ocean sending hues of blues, greens, pinks, and purples bouncing off clouds and water and sky.

Have you ever stopped at the thought of an old memory that brings a smile to your face? Have you ever reveled in that memory and found yourself brushing your lips with your fingers or stroking your cheek?

Have you ever listened to a song that lifted your soul with joy? You could feel the piano or cello or guitar or clarinet flowing through you and making you rise and fall with the tempo or crescendo or decrescendo.

Do you ever stop and wonder about life? How amazing it is that we exist and breathe and create and even destroy. The intricacies of life and the mysterious web that weaves through our lives connecting seemingly distant and uncommon people never ceases to amaze me.

I have met extraordinary people in my life. These wonderful people gather others around them like a shepard. To protect them, to nurture them, to help them grow. Some of these people become shepards themselves, others are content to remain in the flock and work within to make the flock stronger. Whenever I meet people like this I imagine I can see their aura. They just appear to be larger than life. I am thankful that they exist. They show me hope.

As long as there are those of us that have hope that is stronger than despair there is a chance for the human race. Hope for the best and nurture those around you to be their best.

Amen.

Photo by KCThinker, flower in the Black Forest, Germany

19 March 2007

Open Letter to Senator Barack Obama

Dear Senator Obama:

I am amazed at the masses mobilizing behind you for a run in 2008. I am trying to figure out what exactly you stand for. Your website is filled with nuance and vagueness. You speak of Homeland Security on your website and the need to protect chemical plants and drinking water supplies, yet I find no mention of border security. How can you protect the homeland without addressing our porous borders? I am looking for a candidate with real solutions to the problems that vex our nation. I have not found any on your website. You fail to address the nearly $9 trillion debt. It seems that you do not have a plan to address the trillions of dollars of unfunded liabilities in Medicare and Social Security. Your suggestions for improving our educational system do not even begin to address its basic shortfalls. You talk a good talk, but where are the real, implementable ideas? A story about how you grew up and a pretty speech about coming together does not provide me with your stances on critical policy issues that could either impoverish my children and grandchildren or set the course straight. Will you be able to make the tough decisions that many of your colleagues on Capital Hill refuse to make or even think about for fear of their political careers?

12 March 2007

We the People or We the Lobbyists or We the Professional Politician?


We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

We the people, my ass. This country is being run by self-serving bull shit artists who pimp themselves to every Tom, Dick, and Harry lobby group with some cash to stuff in their g-strings. Most of these politicians fall somewhere between a lawyer and a prostitute - pretty far down the evolutionary ladder.

Every election cycle billions of dollars are spent. For what? Opponents of campaign finance reform declare that their freedom of speech is violated by enforcing spending restrictions. Seems to me candidates get a good amount of free air time on various news and talk shows (how much do you think that bit Obama had on Oprah was worth?). They get to debate other candidates on free air time. They are oft-quoted in any number of newspapers, magazines and internet news sites. The only thing I see the money being spent on are slick PR spin people and attack ads that provide NO knowledge of a candidates ideas or their solutions to problems. And real, substantial, implementable ideas and solutions are what we crave (well, at least I do). Any moron can put together an attack ad or a feel-good ad presenting the candidate as a saint. It still will not tell me how he or she will accomplish anything of substance if we elect them.

How do you get an elected official to willingly cut off the gravy train? McCain-Feingold is an absolute joke. Any meaningful campaign finance reform is watered down to the point of being ineffective. We need serious campaign-finance reform coupled with term limits for our representatives and senators. We need to limit spending on campaigns to only those dollars from the federal government. No option of using matching donations or private donor money – that way no candidate is beholden to a special interest other than the American people as a whole. I would recommend six terms for representatives and two terms for senators. We need to get away from the professional politician mentality that has permeated Congress. The longer they are in Congress, the longer they lose touch with reality.

I would recommend an overhaul of the primary and caucus system. The whole election cycle from the first primary to the November election should be a maximum of 6 months. No campaigning for a November election before January 1 of the same year. The primaries and caucuses would have 4 to 5 months to finish and then 1 to 2 months for the parties' candidates to campaign before the November election. Enough of this ridiculous state maneuvering to become the first state to hold a primary. If a candidate cannot get their message across in 6 months then their message is not very good to begin with. How much does a candidate's message really change over the course of 6 months anyway, let alone two years? Don’t we have access to all their position papers through the internet or their campaign offices?

I suppose I am an idealist when I think how much more we can do to alleviate the suffering of people here and abroad with those billions of dollars being spent by a bunch of blowhards in the name of free speech. I think we are heading down a dangerous road when someone reports that the entry fee for the 2008 presidential race is $100 million. It is a message that should give us pause and it is also NOT a message we should be broadcasting to the world as an example of "democracy".
Photo by KCThinker, Batey 50, La Romana, Dominican Republic

10 March 2007

Where are our leaders?

Is it sad that I wish for some incredible event to make us see that our differences are imagined? Yes, we have differences of race, class, religion, and gender. But why can we not put those behind us and look forward, use our potential, and harness our energy to do good works instead of destructive ones. When I walk through an international airport I witness first hand the slow mixture of the societies of the world. We have thousands of years of history at our disposal. Yet, we seem to make the same mistakes over and over and over. We learn nothing from those who came before us.

Being a parent I often think what this world will be like for my children. Will they have the same opportunities that my wife and I have had? Will they know a world at war with itself or will they know a world at peace? Will they know a world barely surviving with rampant famine and disease or a world that has figured out how to supply the needs of an ever growing population?
I think part of the pessimism that people feel is that there are so few real leaders out there. There are not enough people that will stand up and shout “Enough!” The few people willing to go against the grain are either marginalized because they are not politically or media savvy or they quietly go about their work, making a difference, but only reaching and inspiring a few people at a time (I realize that even a small number of people can make a difference, but I fear that the situation is slowly spiraling out of control and real leadership on a large scale is needed immediately).

Many of our “leaders” are in my opinion not leading; rather they are leaches. They suck the goodness out of everything for their own gain whether that is monetary, political, or both. This world has become one that rewards greed and selfishness. The concept of sacrifice does not go beyond the cross that Jesus bore. It seems most people find excuses for not doing their share. The concept of selflessness is outdated. Real leaders are not nurtured in such an environment; only greedy CEOs and unscrupulous politicians are.

I am disappointed in our government’s inability to properly lead as the world’s only willing “superpower”. The United States seems willing to do what is in its own best interest. The United States has meddled in a number of countries only to fail miserably because it refuses to listen and learn. The United States fails to recognize its lack of true leadership. The United States is divided because of our “leaders” inability to find common ground and realize that is not about the “me”, it is about the “we”.

I am disappointed in the United Nations and its inability to lead. This august organization has the potential to help bring about the societal change needed to address the concerns of 21st century; however, they care more for crafting resolutions and being word smiths than a body that actually does what it says it will do. A resolution is only works if you intend to go through with it. The United Nations has been absent in the Balkans, Rwanda, and now in the Sudan. There is no will to put the hammer down on Iran and North Korea. Words and more words is the only thing the United Nations is good for. We learned nothing from the Nazi concentration camps and the end game of fascists. Not much leadership is present in that organization when it counts.

You can say what you will but I do not see a true leader in any of our elected officials at the national level. I cannot say I really see one person in particular willing to make the hard decisions and explain to the American people or even the world why those hard decisions need to be made. Every decision and every sound bite is crafted for political purposes.

People from all walks of life are clamoring for real leadership. Are we coming up on a new revolution? Is there a ground swell forming of people willing and ready to shout “Enough!”? I know I am ready. I am tired of the “me first” attitude. I am tired of our attitude towards poverty and crime (the two go hand in hand). I am tired of our society's cavalier attitude towards morality. I am tired of the Hollywood elite telling me what to think (they are actors - what makes their opinion more valid than mine?). I am tired of the posturing. I am tired of useless rhetoric. I am tired of the politicians. I am tired of the leaches running our countries. I know have had ENOUGH!

It is every generation’s responsibility to leave the world a little better for the next. The generation with the power today is definitely asleep at the wheel and heading towards a cliff. Please take a moment and thank them for their ignorance.
Photo by KCThinker, Dominican Republic, Batey 50

24 February 2007

Al Gore’s Dirty Little Secret

Assume global warming is a result of more carbon dioxide (CO2) being released into the atmosphere thereby trapping more heat. Global warming is caused by people then. The more people, the more CO2 is emitted. To reduce global warming you need to reduce the number of people, not just the cars and trucks and coal fired power plants. That is the dirty little secret, or inconvenient truth, Al Gore does not want you to know about. If you truly believe that people cause global warming then carbon caps alone will not address the problem.

Imagine for a minute that you replace all the cars and trucks on the road right now with hybrids. That would make a remarkable difference where air pollution is concerned. At some point, assuming we have not kicked the oil habit, the CO2 emissions from the increase in the number of hybrids over a certain period of time due to population increase will equal that of the current emissions. Then what? My hope is that technology will have improved by then that we will not be reliant on fossil fuels. But if you think beyond cars and look at the overall impact of people just consuming to live, the picture becomes much worse.

More people require more resources. Whether you live in Brazil, Germany, Japan, Senegal, or the United States of America, more people consume more. More food needs to be grown, more food is consumed, more energy is expended for cooking food, more energy is expended to cloth people, more energy is expended to house people. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is claiming that our hunger for meat requires more cows. More cows means more methane which contributes to more global warming.

In 1900 the estimated world population was 1,650,000,000. In 2005 the estimated world population is 6,453,628,000. In 105 years the population has increased by an estimated 4,803,628,000. That is a huge impact on the system. Even at the base level, more people emit more CO2 just breathing. According to a study by the USDA, an average person's respiration generates approximately 450 liters (roughly 900 grams) of CO2 per day. That is approximately 1.98 pounds per person per day. On a global scale we have increased the amount of CO2 emitted annually, just from us breathing, by 3,478,000,000,000 pounds of CO2 per year (that is 1.739 billion tons of CO2 annually). With the current population at 6.453 billion we emit roughly 4,673,000,000,000 pounds of CO2 annually (2.336 billion tons of CO2 of annually).

You can demand that the Kyoto Treaty be implemented. But the reality is that we will never be able to meet the Kyoto goals if we do not address population. And that is the reality that a leer jet environmentalist, who won an Oscar for a questionable documentary, can not comprehend or does not want to address. It does not fit nicely into his little box of understanding. It is easier to blame big business than to look in the mirror. You really want to achieve the Kyoto goals? Plant billions of trees, stop flying around in jets, and replace cars with the horse and buggy. That in my opinion is the only way to “stop” global warming if it is indeed the result of human activity.

I agree with some of Al Gore’s recommendations like using energy efficient products and living in energy efficient homes. I, for one, am tired of being beholden to Islamic fundamentalists and communists for our energy supply. You also cannot complain about saving money, can you? But instead of investing in dubious schemes like carbon trading, let’s invest in the research into technology that will increase energy efficiency in the home and at work. We need to further the science and engineering of energy if we are going to make a difference. Such an investment will be good for our economy as well. We also need to embrace technologies like wind and solar power; even it that means that your “precious” views are spoiled by wind and solar farms. Sacrifices need to be made folks – although sacrifice is sadly not in many people’s dictionary nowadays.

Now, let's assume that there are other factors responsible for global warming, I mean climate change. The other thing the leer jet environmentalist crowd cannot accept is that climate changes and has changed over millions of years with and without humans roaming the surface. Glaciers have formed and receded. That pesky science called geology gives us this knowledge. The leer jet environmentalists (let’s lump the dopey Hollywood crowd in there) think we can keep the earth static. These are same people that want to “preserve” the old growth forests – even when it is not healthy for the forest to do so. Nature changes. Climate patterns change. Our sun’s output changes. We change.

There are so many variables with regard to our climate that is folly to think we can model it accurately enough to foretell the future. I am by no means an expert in computer modeling, but I did take a computer modeling course in graduate school and I do use computer models in my work. I would argue that I have more of a perspective on modeling than an average person does. Modeling is as much art as science in my opinion. Even simple models, a groundwater model for example, can be difficult to get right. The interactions of complex models, like our climate, are very hard to figure out (we are still uncertain of how clouds form and interact with the climate). In order to use a model you need to calibrate it against real data – you need to figure out how it compares to a known data set and tweak it until the model correlates reasonably well with the known data set, only then can you make predictions of how it would react under other inputs. We only have about 150 years of decent data for calibration of a climate model (I do not consider ice core data as valid for model calibration mainly because it is interpreted data). That, in my opinion, is not enough for such a complex model. The models out there are much better than the ones that were used in the 1970’s when global cooling was a concern, but they still lack sophistication in my opinion. The current models predict global temperatures rising anywhere from 1 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit. That is a huge spread.

If CO2 is inexorably linked to temperature increase, why were we so concerned with global cooling in the 1970s? The amount of CO2 emitted did not go down in the 1970’s. It has steadily increased along with population. Why was there a warming period several hundred years ago that allowed grapes to be grown in England? We were not emitting nearly as much CO2 back then. I am not convinced that CO2 emissions by man are solely to blame for an increase in global temperatures. We think we are so smart that we can deduce without a doubt that man is solely responsible for this trend in global temperatures. I say that we are not very smart and cannot jump to that conclusion no matter how you massage the data in a slide show. Don’t forget that CO2 is only part of the “problem”. There are also other chemicals such as methane and the chemicals that replaced CFCs that contribute to more warming than just CO2 on a pound for pound basis.

Another “impact” of global warming is a supposed increase in “extreme” weather. There is growing fear of more massive mudslides and floods due to global warming. Is it really due to global warming or is it due to poor land use planning? More population means you end up building where you are not supposed to. New Orleans and southern California come to mind. In New Orleans communities were flooded when a major hurricane hit that city. The city is below sea level, what do you expect to happen? It was not global warming it was just that the likelihood of this event happening was foretold decades before it did. In California, poor land use planning results in mudslides during heavy rain. I see it here in Kansas City as well. Poor urban planning has resulted in flooding during heavy rain events. Even without global warming you are going to have heavy rainfall events that exceed design parameters. There is a certain amount of risk accepted during design and construction. Designing to the 1,000 year rainfall event would be cost prohibitive. Do I need to mention that there were no major hurricanes to hit the United States in 2006?

In the end global mean temperatures may or may not continue to rise whether we do something to curb CO2 emissions or not. Honestly, even if we wanted to I doubt we can do anything about it in the next 50 years. It requires a global political will. We can not see eye to eye on even the most basic issues. More people means more CO2 emitted from their overall actions. China and India are growing by leaps and bounds and everyone wants to live like an American. We need to take the next 50 years and invest heavily in energy research; a Manhattan Project type effort if you will. Blacklisting scientists who do not agree with your point of view in a McCarthyian effort will not solve this problem.

One also has to step back and wonder if man can truly reverse or control what he has supposedly set in motion. Maybe it would be better for the world if man leaves it. We have thousands of years of history that illustrate that we behave like little children and never grow up. Maybe global warming is Nature’s time out for mankind.

19 February 2007

The Unfortunate, All Too Binding, Iraq Situation…

The United States of America is in Iraq. That is the cold, hard fact. No matter how you feel about how we got into this mess, the fact remains that we are there now. And no amount of hindsight will alter that fact (even if you are running for president). It does not matter if you are a democrat or a republican. It does not matter how you voted. It does not matter if you are a liberal, conservative, green, libertarian, or independent. It does not matter if you were for or against the war in Iraq. It does not matter what the reason for going into Iraq was. WE, as AMERICANS, are solely responsible for success or defeat in Iraq. The world does not care if you are pacifist, an atheist, a born again Christian, a vegetarian, or a redneck. You are seen as an American, and Americans have the responsibility to see that we leave Iraq better than before we went into Iraq.

Many mistakes have been made by foolish men who had little understanding of that region. That said, we need to look at the big picture of the region as it stands now and not just the blood and treasure that America is losing everyday. We need to realize that there are many people out there counting on America to get Iraq done and get it done right. My problem with the democrats is the problem I have with the republicans. Every thing boils down to the least common denominator - how it impacts the re-election efforts of the politicians and how much damage they can inflict on the opposing party. They could care less what really matters to the future of this country (if they did we would not have these ill-conceived social programs that we cannot afford or an education system that leaves our children ill-equipped to compete in the global economy – other topics for another day). We are there and we need to figure out how we can best help to provide a stable Iraq - if that is even possible, I am not sure. We also need to get Iran and Syria to stop meddling in Iraq as well. Iran and Syria are adding gasoline to the fire because it suits their interests in making America look weak. The democrats (and some republicans) and the media are doing their part by fanning the flames of discontent here. Discontent spread here adds fuel to the insurgent engine by making them think they are succeeding. Cutting and running (call it redeployment if you want) allows Syria and Iran to win and makes us look very weak in the eyes of the Arabs. But politicians rarely care about the over reaching impacts of their decisions or sound bites. All they care is doing what is best for their re-election efforts, presidential bids, and lobbyists.

Has the war been grossly mismanaged? YES. Is the situation becoming worse? In some parts of Iraq it is. Does the dissent in the United States undermine our efforts? Definitely. Think about in terms of the hype before a big football game. If the other team says something about their opponent it may get posted in the opponent’s locker room as a motivator. When senators like Harry Reid spout off at the blow hole you can be damn sure it gets posted in an insurgent locker room in Iraq.

The editor-in-chief of U.S. News and World Report, Mortimer B Zucherman, stated in a 22 January 2007 editorial that “American forces … cannot stop this sectarian war. The Iraqis must do it.” But “nothing good can happen without security, which is the sine qua non for success.” “We cannot just turn our backs on Iraq and hope for the best.”

A story on NPR the morning of 8 February 2007 was about the sectarian violence. The NPR correspondent interviewed a Shiite. The Shiite spoke of militias and their efforts to wipe out Sunnis (I am sure that some of that is also going on against the Shiites). But this Shiite was protecting other Sunnis. The interview ended with the Shiite stating that he wanted Baghdad flooded with American troops to provide peace and stability.

Now we have two options. We pack up and leave and watch Iraq spiral out of control into chaos, or we provide security until that indeterminate time at which the Iraqis can find peace among themselves. The situation is not going to miraculously be solved in the time it takes to make a bag of popcorn in the microwave or in the span of a 60 minute TV show or 90 days or 9 months. Despite what President Bush claimed at the beginning, anyone with real common sense knew this would take years or decades. I knew it. Could we bring Iraq back from the brink of all out collapse? Maybe or maybe not; but we owe to it the Iraqis, to the world, and to future generations of Americans to try with ALL our will and not a fraction less.

Winston Churchill once said “Once you are so unfortunate as to be drawn into a war, no price is too great to pay for an early and victorious peace.”

What exactly does a non-binding resolution accomplish? Does it not mean anything to these democrats and few republicans when General Patreous says a congressional resolution against a troop build up in Iraq essentially emboldens the enemy? They say they support the troops, but a vote for the non-binding resolution is a vote against the troops in my opinion. A vote to defund the war effort is a vote against the troops. We did not learn a damn thing from Vietnam. We did not learn that when it comes to war, we should not let the politicians make operational decisions. The only thing we learned from Vietnam was to not call our troops “baby killers” and to not spit on them when they come back to America. It is amazing that we learned anything.

15 February 2007

Disgust

I am completely disgusted with our "leaders" - and I use that term loosely - in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere. Here are some examples of my disgust:

1. Taking more than 3 years to realize that you really f---ed up Iraq because you refused to listen and think about the consequences of your actions in an area with THOUSANDS of years of history. Then still not listening to what the real solution should consist of.

2. Being asked to guard our border but not being allowed to shoot back when shot at by criminals.

3. Kicking off your presidential election campaign in New Orleans by complaining about two Americas and then returning to your 28,000 square foot house (supposedly "connected space") on 100 acres across from a trailer park.

4. Spending more than $300,000 for a ONE-WAY trip across the country arguing that because you are the first woman speaker of house you have security issues and you do not want to stop to refuel a plane. A ROUND TRIP first class ticket from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco costs $1,937 (an equivalent coach ticket costs $283.80). To top it off, complaining about global warming while flying on these planes that emit more carbon dioxide in one trip than I do in a year driving around in my VW Jetta diesel.

5. Providing immunity from prosecution to a known drug smuggler who later on sues the United States for $5 million because he was shot in the ass while smuggling drugs into the country (last I checked I thought it was illegal to smuggle illicit drugs into the country). Sending the border agents who “covered up” shooting the smuggler in the ass to jail for 11 to 12 years because they really did not think they hit him.

6. Claiming that you need 5 years to balance the budget when you have a $9 trillion "credit card" bill.

7. Lying to (sorry, "misleading") United States representatives during a congressional inquiry into the shooting in the ass of the drug smuggler mentioned above essentially throwing the border patrol agents under the bus.

8. Providing social security benefits to illegal aliens who worked in the United States for 18 MONTHS as long as they provide their paycheck stubs that have their illegal identities on them. A United States citizen must work at least 10 YEARS before being eligible for social security benefits.

9. Black listing scientists and lay people who disagree with your self-righteous slide show while flying around in your personal jet to tell us how bad carbon dioxide emissions are screwing up this planet. This coming from a man whose father made millions in the oil industry. Al Gore is the modern day Joseph McCarthy.

10. Worthless politicians doing what they do they best – NOTHING. Debating a non-binding resolution ad nausea. I think we know where they stand on the Iraq issue. When can we finally move on and tackle other issues that this country is also facing. How about tackling that balanced budget thing? Let’s come up with a real plan and decide the best course of action? And no, pulling out is not an answer. It is time we became accountable for the messes we create. And the United States has made some really big ones.

11. Studying the No Child Left Behind Act and determining that only minor changes need to be made to the act while turning a blind eye to a broken system. Teaching for a test does not provide the tools necessary for our children to learn and prosper and ensure they can compete in a GLOBAL economy. It only creates a generation of morons that cannot think for themselves – I suppose that is what the democrats and republicans really want.

12. Allowing a former Clinton cabinet official to get away with stealing official documents. Wow.

13. More or less giving a pass to a democrat who made some stupid remarks about Obama when a republican would have been asked to resign under the same circumstances. Hypocrites.

14. You and me sitting on our asses and letting the idiots in Washington and in the media run our country into the ground. Nice.

"The past does not repeat itself, but it rhymes." ~Mark Twain
Photo by KCThinker, Door in German castle

26 January 2007

The First 100 Hours...

What exactly has been accomplished in the first 100 hours of the democrats rule of the house and senate? Sure they voted on some feel good legislation that means absolutely nothing to 99.4 percent of America. But have they unveiled any strategy to tackle the insolvency of Medicare and social security? Have they decided to cut out the pork and balance the budget this year instead of having a five-year program? Have they decided to take a real critical look at the Iraq situation and realize the true impact of their "redeployment" scheme on the region? Have they done anything other than pat themselves on the back because they are the kings and queens of Washington, D.C. again? Does proclaiming your support for your state's college team in the bowl championship game on the floor of the house and senate count as doing anything of substance, or was that part of the 100 hours? Please tell me how the democrats are any different from the republicans. In my opinion they are more of the same just under a different moniker.

Photo by KCthinker