Global Warming

Among other things I don’t understand is the knee-jerk reaction against the idea, promulgated by a large group of actual scientists, to the idea that global warming is a serious threat to which humans are contributing, and to which humans have a chance to apply some sort of amelioration before it’s too late. Okay, it’s not a pleasant thing to contemplate losing cities like London, New York, Singapore, and Miami, but the point of the warning is that the process can be slowed to the point where it will all happen slowly enough that we can do something about it. Already in Holland there is some famous below sea level land under cultivation. No little kid has to keep his finger in the dike, either, by the way. So, the best case scenario is that we’ll have time to deal with the inevitable changes, and probably make quite a few bucks off of a number of new, or newly energized industries into the bargain. That just doesn’t sound all that bad.

Maybe it’s because the people screaming in opposition tend to be of a type that seems, to me at least, to be guilty of something anyway. Like the Halliburtons of thw world, or Ann Coulter, who is probably the biggest fool ever to put pen to paper in this country (and I even include present company.) People who seem to think that they’ll be punished for doing something wrong. A corollary to that position is that these folks don’t seem to imagine any reason to behave properly other than that they’ll get punished. And yet we elect some of them to high office. That’s something else I don’t understand, but that’s for another day.

The only bad thing about the global warming scenario is that we’ll have to change. Whereas, of course, if it’s false, we’ll never have to change at all. We’ll have cheap oil forever, even. Huh?

The thing is, we don’t need automobiles, we need good, low cost, reliable and convenient transportation. We need to ship goods around the world quickly and efficiently. We need to be able to communicate instantly at any distance if we want to avoid blowing each other up. Those are things we need. Cars, petroleum, telephones, the Internet are things we use to get the things we need. Even if we keep cars just as they are, we don’t have to power them with petroleum. We don’t have to power them with internal combustion engines. We don’t have to generate electricity from burning coal and oil, or even from nuclear power. We don’t even need electricity, we just need power to run all the stuff we need to run to get the good transportation and communication and agriculture that we do need. Maybe you see where I’m going here by now?

The real story of the people screaming that global warming is a scam, except maybe for Ms. Coulter, who is apparently just a crazy bitch, is that most of them have a vested interest in keeping the economy just like it is, because they can’t see any other way for themselves to keep raking in the coin. Oddly, that’s the same sort of attitude that produced a huge opposition to horseless carriages a hundred and ten years ago. The descendants of those buggy makers, of course, are now the ones screaming because their oil/automobile/electrical utility stocks will nosedive if we start to take care of global warming.

As Mr. Gore points out in his slide show/lecture as presented in An Inconvenient Truth, it’s tough to get someone to understand something when his living depends on his not understanding it. Know what? Those opponents are acting out of their fear, instead of simply taking stock of the situation and taking advantage of it. How about investing in some alternative means of getting around town conveniently and quickly? Robot driven cars that run on hydrogen fuel cells? Well, it might work. Transporters, as on Star Trek? Believe it or not, that also might work (I’m not kidding.) Finding a way to store hydrogen so that it could be used directly as fuel? There’s zero carbon emission when you burn hydrogen, after all, so why not give it a try? There’s money to be made in the research, money to be made in the product introductions, and lots and lots of money to be made in manufacturing and maintaining whatever we come up with. Why be frightened of making piles of money?

Because they already have piles of money, and they’re afraid that they’ll lose them. Too bad for them, history shows that those who try to hold on rather than change with the environment lose their money and their place both. Ah, well, huh?

As for the rest of us, it’s worth noting that in fact there have been exactly zero articles published in peer-review journals (the only kind that count in scientific research) which are critical of the idea of global warming. Those studying the idea the most closely put the likelihood that humans are major contributors at ninety-eight percent. That’s one chance in fifty that we’re not major contributors. I live in Vegas, and I know that those are not good odds to bet on.

And finally, consider that if we’re wrong to be concerned but do what we’d need to do anyway, we create entire new industries, jobs and wealth and we may never know if it was our actions or nature that saved us. But, if we’re right to be concerned and do nothing, we destroy civilization as we know it. Go ahead, take as long as you need to make up your mind about that one.

An Ode to Christopher Guest

Hellllooooooooooo Cleveland!
You may remember that line from the famous movie “This is Spinal Tap.” “Spinal Tap” wasn’t a Christopher Guest movie, but he was one of the band. Since then, he’s gone on to make a bunch of further movies that purport to be documentaries about various groups of fictional characters. If you’ve never seen any of them, even “Spinal Tap”, then you’re in for a treat if you rent one of these films. I first ignored “Spinal Tap” until somebody gave me a copy for Christmas the year I announced that I was going into the comedy production business. It’s one funny, funny movie, although you need to keep at watching it for a while before you catch on to the humor. But, this is about Christopher Guest movies, so on with the show!
He was in one of my favorite movies, “The Princess Bride”, playing the chief blue meanie of the piece, Prince Rugen. But it was the series of films he’s made subsequent to his Spinal Tap appearance that I most like. The first of them was about a small town’s theater production. It’s called “Waiting for Guffman.” Guffman is a New York producer who supposedly will be seeing the locally written and produced musical and perhaps moving it to Broadway. Hoo-boy, the hilarity ensues. But not because of any slapstick or overt funny stuff. The comedy arises from within the characters, all of whom are odd in one way or another, but all of whom are also treated with the utmost respect. His films are often called “mocumentaries” because they are mock documentaries, but they never mock the characters, which is an amazing feat when you consider how eminently mock-able most of them are. He uses some regulars, among them Fred Williard, Catherine O’Hara, Parker Posey, himself (and the entire “Spinal Tap” band), Michael McKean, Eugene Levy and others. He gives them the scene set-up, then lets them improvise. This technique has produced some of the most amazing comedic moments I’ve ever watched.
In 2003 he released “A Mighty Wind”, which is about a reunion concert of a bunch of once star-quality folk singers who relive for one night their former glory. The music, much of which he wrote, sounds just like the real thing from those good old days of the late fifties and early sixties. But as you listen, it sounds more and more weird. For instance, the tag line for the movie goes “A mighty wind is blowing, it’s blowing equality. A mighty wind is blowing, it’s blowing you and me.” Think about that for a minute.
Maybe the funniest of the bunch is “Best in Show” which is about, well, frankly, the National Dog Show in New York, although they don’t use that name. I saw an actual documentary about how they made the fake documentary, and amazingly, it was based entirely on fact. That is, the characters in the real dog shows they attended weren’t that much odder than the ones portrayed in the movie. In what may be Parker Posey’s finest screen hour, she nearly eviscerates a poor pet shop owner because he doesn’t have an exact copy of the chew toy her dog is used to. Ouch!
So, this isn’t a rant, it’s a rave. Sorry, world, but sometimes I just feel positive. I have been listening to the soundtrack for “A Mighty Wind” while writing this. One song, not in the movie, that you really should hear, is the folk arrangement of “Start Me Up” by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Wowzers!

The Pointy-Haired Bosses Strike Again!

Daniel G. Bogden was named the top Federal Prosecutor in Nevada in 2001. He’s the prosecutor responsible for several of our corrupt former officials now spending time on the public dole, in prison that is. Last week was his last day, because he was fired. He was told that “There is a window of opportunity to put candidates into an office like mine,” Mr. Bogden said, recalling the conversation. “They were attempting to open a slot and bring someone else in.” (That’s from an article in the New York Times today, but also from several articles in the Las Vegas Review Journal over the past month or so.) Now, here is a quote from the New York Times article, of the same date as this posting:

The ouster of Mr. Bogden and seven other United States attorneys has set off a furor in Washington that took the Bush administration by surprise.
Okay, then, there’s the problem. As if I needed further proof, here we see that the current administration is composed primarily of dolts and idiots. How could they ever believe, for a moment, that people wouldn’t be upset by the idea that they fired top-notch prosecutors just to give résumé space to young friends? When that’s done in private industry it’s called nepotism, and frowned upon by any board of directors worth it’s salt. So, really, guys there in the West Wing, you’ve gotta figure that people won’t like it any better when you do it, even if you do fancy yourselves as ‘the government.”

Tell me, who elected these bozos, anyway?

Lessons from Political Also-Rans

Watching Al Gore these days is an interesting experience. I’d seen him on a few TV shows in recent years, but I got my first good look when I used his movie An Inconvenient Truth as part of a course on environmental science I recently taught. I’m not going to debate the merits of the movie’s content in this post. Instead, I’m going to talk about how Mr. Gore appears in the film, and in his TV appearances, and now again at the Academy Awards (it really is a good documentary, which opinion I share with even some of those who pooh-pooh the theory of human caused global warming.) Al Gore, now that is, has a good sense of humor, is well-spoken, can get his point across without sounding like a pedantic ass (like some political candidates I won’t mention at the moment), and basically comes across as the sort of person you’d like to get to know better. Which begs the question of just who was deciding how he should act when he was running for President?
Maybe it was because he didn’t really want the job, and who could blame him for that, but he put a lot of time and effort and money into trying to get it, so I doubt if that’s the case. Still, I’ve seen bathmats with more appeal than his persona on the campaign trail. Apparently, since he isn’t running for anything these days, and since he’s back to pushing an agenda he picked up in college decades ago, this is Al Gore. I’ll tell you, Mr. Bush is lucky that Al Gore never ran for President, because if he had, none of us would have ever heard of My Pet Goat, or at least not in the context we’ve come to know. I’ve heard speculation as to how much worse it would have been if Gore had been President at the time, but you know, maybe he’d have read the intelligence reports? I’ll bet that he at least wouldn’t have rejected the intelligence left over from Clinton’s years just because it came from Clinton. But, even if the worst had happened, was it really so hard to figure out to invade Afghanistan? Would Al have invaded Iraq? Well, we’ll never know, but things would have been different for Mr. Bush, that’s for certain.
I noticed a similar phenomenon when Bob Dole came out as just a person rather than a candidate. He pitched Viagra, he told jokes, he was generally a likeable guy. On the campaign trail he came across a lot like, well, a lot like Al Gore on the campaign trail. Obviously, not a good way to come across if you want to get elected. If Bob Dole had run, we’d never know who Monica Lewinsky is, and we’d know nothing whatever about Bill Clinton’s personal life. There’d have been no idiotic impeachment and trial, even. But Bob Dole, like Al Gore, never has run for President. Instead both of them ran under the disguise as whatever that is their respective teams of advisors told them to be. What that is, of course, is wooden stick figures that nobody likes. Maybe we should bring them both up on charges. Dole for allowing that BS in Clinton’s second term to happen, and Gore for allowing the Iraq mess. Maybe that would convince future candidates to, for Pete’s sake, just be yourself. If you can’t be yourself and get elected President, how in heck do you expect to do the job?
To all candidates out there, including those not yet announced, I say, please consider what I say seriously. We’ve had enough posturing idiots to last the rest of this century at least. Come on, be who you are, not who they tell you to be. If you can’t do that, just drop out now and save us trouble. Okay?

Pathos in Las Vegas

There was an article in the local excuse for a newspaper the other day about how some people who buy cheaper models of Mercedes then buy the emblem from the top of the line model and affix it to their vehicle. I’m not making that up. Even from our newspaper, there’s usually no blatant lies being delivered, so I’m pretty sure it’s true. And that is pretty pathetic, isn’t it? But wait, that’s not all!
Some of the people who actually bought the top of the line model are now upset with the dealership for selling the emblems. They are demanding that the dealer cease and desist this dilution of their status symbology. (I made that term up. Like it?) This, good heavens, makes the pathetic efforts by those buying the cheap Mercedes seem really sane. This is way beyond pathetic. In case somebody in either of these groups ever reads this, and yeah, like that’ll happen, right?, the truth is that if you’re a pathetic loser and you drive a top of the line luxury car, then you’re a pathetic loser driving a top of the line luxury car. Okay? Good. Just wanted to clear that up.
Besides, what possible reason would the dealer have for not selling those things? A dollar-fifty apiece to buy wholesale, fifty bucks when you sell one to a patsy. I tell you, that’s just too sweet to ignore. Patsy.

Meanwhile, Back In Nevada

Back in Nevada we have our share of scandals. For instance, just the other day another defendant in a sordid strip-club scandal (no, it didn’t involve the ladies inside in any way) was sentenced, to seven years I believe, for his part in a scheme to bribe County officials to get them to write the law the way he wanted it written. I recently taught a course in the History of Nevada and now know that such things are an old and honorable tradition around here. The judiciary in the 1880s was, by all accounts, the best that the mining and ranching interests could afford. And last year the Los Angeles Times, those nosy liberals anyway, ran a series about judicial corruption in Nevada. We elect our judges. Like many Western States we are heir to the direct democracy movement of a century ago. Some aspects of that movement worked out reasonably well, but electing judges leaves them open to be bribed. But, hey, it’s worked for a century and a half, why mess with it now?
But the other day that other liberal rag, the Wall Street Journal, ran a story about the FBI investigating the governor. Supposedly they have some e-mails between a couple who are friends with the governor and his wife which imply that the governor was taking bribes. He was in Congress at that time, so we all know how ridiculous it is to charge him, a representative in Washington, with anything scandalous, but there it is. He’s denied the charges, naturally, and seemed to say that they FBI couldn’t be investigating him because they’d never told him about it. Sorry, Gov, but I don’t think they mentioned to Al Capone that they were after him for tax evasion, either. They don’t have to tell you they’re checking into you.
The thing is, this guy is a member in good standing of the conservative congress club, which is to say that he’s a part of a group plugging for “family values” and “a new ethical government”, or at least they were plugging those things at one time. Well, nobody says he was doing nasty things with teenage pages, but it is, nevertheless, yet another scandal involving a politician from Nevada. Oh, yes, there was this allegation from a woman shortly before the election that he’d assaulted her in a parking garage on East Flamingo. To be honest, I doubt that charge myself, but now here the guy is involved in some sort of under-the-table money allegations. Is this New Jersey, circa 1962, transplanted west? Is this the best government money can buy? (If so, we need to get our money back.) I’m not ashamed to be living here. In fact, I’m glad to be able to help clean this mess up. And it is getting cleaner.
Remember, those commissioners and the strip joint owner are in, or will be shortly in the slammer. Good for them, good for us. Somebody in the FBI has blown the cover off of another bribery scheme, if that’s what it was. They’re using emails, as seems to be usual, to bring down the offenders. That, it seems to me, indicates that our State is starting to join the rest of the country, in that corruption is mild enough to be interesting, but not severe enough to make us a laughingstock. Heck, the gambling industry is clean these days, why not the government? Is that too much to ask?

And, we’re back

Greetings, everyone.

I hope you’ll forgive me for not posting last week. I traveled to Los Angeles for some elective surgery, and just wasn’t up to the rigors of typing. Sorry. But, that’s over, and this week’s regularly scheduled post will appear above shortly, if it isn’t there all ready.

Personal Responsibility

I read a lot about personal responsibility, and have been seeing a lot about it for years. The conservative movement started out saying it was all in favor of personal responsibility; those damned liberals were all about tax and spend to solve problems. Remember? I see snide remarks about it, little jokes, such as the one I saw in a humor mailing I received yesterday, where the tag line for a story about health in Britain was to the effect that, if it required personal responsibility, they were all going to die. Politicians, pundits, TV commentators, the guy in line at the supermarket all like that phrase, “personal responsibility.”

Now I can’t claim to be any kind of a Christian, because I’m no way going to do what Jesus said to do and give everything away to the poor. I’m not nuts about visiting people in prison, either, and tending the sick is best left to professionals. But one thing Mr. Nazareth said seems to me to be pretty germane to this topic. That is that you should take the beam out of your own eye before complaining about the mote in your neighbor’s. True, that does seem to argue for ‘personal responsibility’ but it also argues for tending to your own issues and letting other people tend to theirs. The fact is, there are reasons for things like income tax, and welfare, and other things that those who whine most about ‘personal responsibility’ claim to hate. For example, income tax keeps the gap between rich and poor from getting so big that the poor see nothing wrong with simply taking it from the rich at gunpoint. Let’s see, has there been an increase in crime lately? Hmmm. And welfare keeps the streets from being impassible due to the tragically poor clogging them up by sleeping in them and begging on every corner. Is there a homeless problem where you live these days? Hmmm.

Well, maybe if everyone could be responsible for their own welfare things would be better. In fact, I’m sure they would. Things would be better if people signaled lane changes, stopped for red lights, and didn’t speed through school zones, too. It seems to come back to some sort of Idealist vision of reality combined with a healthy dose of fear about the future that leads someone to start spouting about “personal responsibility.” I’ve ranted about those topics before, if you’d care to search this blog for the postings. Now I’ll just assume that you’ve read them and say something like, ‘well well, events seem to be developing the way my theory would predict. Hmmm.’ Okay, so I won’t do that. But I do wish that the personal responsibility crowd would take a hint from me, if they don’t like Jesus, and for Pete’s sake, take their own advice.