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Global Warming and Climate Change: In the Tunnel with Uncertainty and Skepticism Part III
This is the final installment in a discussion about global warming and climate change that questions the reliability and accuracy of prevailing theories. It is intended to promote continuing dialogue on issues that remain unresolved. The debate is not over.
Hear no evil, See no evil: One group with a shriveled spirit of inquiry objects to Global Warming skeptics being heard at all. Charles Krauthammer’s recent column, “The Myth of settled science” - 2/ 20/14, appeared in the Washington Post and other news outlets despite the efforts of 110,000 Tweeters trying to stop the publication of “climate lies.” Is this the way we should deal with dissent? Ban it? Maybe we should just throw dissenters in the slammer. A Rochester Institute of Technology professor, Lawrence Torcello, has proposed a way to settle the debate on global warming. He suggests that scientists who do not fall in line should be charged with criminal negligence.
• The bandwagon is slowing: According to a recent Gallup poll, only about one-third of Americans see global warming as a significant threat to their way of life. The percentage of people who do not see global warming hampering their lives has doubled since Gallup's first survey. This is despite a barrage of hugely complicated assertions about a catastrophic new world of blistering temperatures, a rise in sea level of 12 feet or more, and massive storm activity to come.
• Earth and sun. Does natural planetary and solar activity dwarf the alleged human-caused factors? According to Nature Magazine, May 8th: …” University of Washington atmospheric scientists have estimated that up to half of the recent warming in Greenland and surrounding areas may be due to climate variations that originate in the tropical Pacific and are not connected with the overall warming of the planet.”
Warming observed over the past century may actually be the continuation of a longer-term trend which began in about 1700 AD, before anthropogenic influence with greenhouse gases became appreciable. Some scientists say this longer-term trend is attributed to natural fluctuations in solar activity.
• A symbol in peril: The polar bear is said to be on the brink of extinction because of global warming. The photo of the seemingly stranded bears on a melting ice floe that would eventually cast them into the water to drown, certainly provokes sadness and outrage.
A television program called “Media Watch” discovered that the photo was taken in August, when the edges of the Arctic ice cap melt regardless of global warming, and the photographer was a marine biology student who didn’t think the bears were in any danger because the coast was close and they could swim to it. Polar bears may or may not be imperiled. The data are uncertain, partly because more than 200 of them are killed every year by hunters.
• The role of greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide is so complicated that you will probably be glad that I have decided to avoid the issues in near entirety. I will only note that most measurements appear to place China securely in first place on billions of metric tons of CO2 emissions, followed by the United States, India, Russia, and Japan. IF you support the Gore version of climate science, I hope you will consider that even if the United States somehow managed to meet the President’s demand of a 30% reduction in CO2 emissions, there would remain the nearly inestimable challenges of eliminating the 15 billion metric tons contributed by the other four countries, as well as drawing accurate conclusions on how much CO2 emanates from the natural processes of the planet compared to how much humans contribute, and how much must be reduced to significantly affect the climate.
What’s the worst that could happen if we’re wrong? Secretary of State, John Kerry.
The burden for some would be crushing. Increasing radicalization of regulations on industry and personal behavior will cause suffering beyond our power to adequately assess it. Strangling middle class jobs (about 75,000 of them in the short term) in an already challenged economy is bad; coming close to wiping out the livelihood of entire states is worse. “We’re getting the living crap beaten out of us,” West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said last year. “There has been nothing more beat up than coal.”
A subject for serious consideration should also be, “How much are developing nations going to suffer if the climate change juggernaut advances unimpeded?”
This column has turned into a lengthy essay and it could easily be much much longer. There is so much to explore, so many issues to analyze, and so much riding on our ability to figure this out. In my opinion, those who raise questions about the science of global warming and climate change should have far more comprehensive exposure than the media currently accords them with the incessant refrain that “the debate is over.”
At long last, The End, and some words from Michael Crichton:
• “I want to talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you're being had. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results.”
(Janice Peterson is a former college professor at Santa Barbara City College in the field of communication, with emphasis on public speaking, argumentation and debate. Janice tries to be a useful member of the community and a willing volunteer. )
Global Warming and Climate Change: In the Tunnel with Uncertainty and Skepticism Part II
Part one outlined worries about the massive campaign global warming/climate change activists are pushing with greater pressure every day. Since its inception, this movement has been conducted with disdain for opposition as well as, in my opinion, a shocking absence of respect for traditional principles that separate political ideology from science.
The very expensive campaign to wed questionable conclusions on climate change to draconian regulations has the full support of the Obama administration, in fact, President Obama is leading the charge. His latest attack on the “deniers,” delivered at a commencement address on June 15th, compared skepticism about man-caused alterations to the environment to a belief that the moon is “made of cheese.”
In startling contrast to his present view, this is what Barack Obama had to say in 2008:
“The truth is that promoting science isn’t just about providing resources - it’s about protecting free and open inquiry. It’s about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics. It’s about listening to what our scientists have to say even when it’s inconvenient - especially when it’s inconvenient.”
I submit the following unranked and far from inclusive list of concerns for consideration on the subject of global warming/climate change.
• Way too much of the global warming “dialogue” is political. We are investing the energy of our beleaguered nation in more calamities than we can track - foreign wars, a porous and vulnerable border, a Veterans Administration accused of abandoning the men and women who wore America’s uniform, lingering questions about Benghazi, and declining trust in our leaders. All of it is political. Our opinions on immigration reform and what happened at the IRS and whether the president should have traded one captive soldier for five Guantanamo inmates is grounded in our political ideology. So, it often appears, is global warming.
The defenders of human-caused climate change argue that anyone who opposes them has to be a member of the vast right-wing climate denial machine. Of course it could be as reasonably hypothesized that the defenders are left-wing supporters of a climate propaganda machine.
Climate predictions must be founded on science. Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe. Empirical and measurable evidence is subject to specific principles of reasoning. Studies draw conclusions out of these procedures, not out of wishful thinking, political advantage or convenient avoidance of democratic processes.
• Understanding is hampered by suspicion that surrounds the data collection, statistics, and tactics of human-caused warming theorists such as The United Nations’ IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change). The IPCC was embroiled in controversy in 2009 over a report that came to be known as “Climategate.” Much has been written about it and you can judge for yourself whether the criticism of the IPCC report was fair.
The IPCC’s most recent paper is also under attack by opposing groups of scientists such as the NIPCC (“Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change.”) The authors of this report claim that the hypothesis of human-caused global warming fails to meet tests of reasonable scientific certainty or even plausibility. They argue that the weight of evidence now leans heavily against the theory.
• Al Gore’s dubious credibility: Global warming’s exploding popularity began with Al Gore and “An Inconvenient Truth.” The film has attracted many critics and allegations of more than 35 serious theory-bruising errors.
What about temporal considerations? The urgency to do something drastic right this minute may be misplaced. Does Armageddon wait just over the smoggy horizon? An April, 2014 Seattle Times’ front page headline announced -Studies: Polar ice sheet doomed, BUT HOW SOON?” (upper case emphasis mine) The initial “collapse” is expected to take anywhere from 200 years to a thousand or more. The imminent danger of sea level rise is about a quarter millimeter a year. In another article, commentator, Bill Plait, warned against the inevitable media abuse: “One word being used for this event is ‘collapse,’ which has connotations of a rapid, catastrophic event. However, in the scientific sense it means the end-game event of the rapid melting of a glacier. In a geologic sense it is fast, but we’re talking a few centuries here.
• The global warming/climate change movement has precedents that didn’t pan out:
Population disasters: Paul Ehrlich, population analyst and major cultural force in the 70’s, advanced some accurate predictions. He also made mistakes in asserting, for example, that India was doomed as a viable nation, the UK would be impoverished -possibly not even existing as a country by the year 2000, and we were heading for “oblivion”. He gave voice to the possibility that billions of people would starve to death and we would be eating our dead. Ehrlich’s views gave rise to a group to which I belonged and whose principles I vigorously supported. Zero Population Growth (ZPG) members believed it was nearly criminal to have large families. Would I have had more than two children if I’d never read The Population Bomb? I am not certain, but I do know that Ehrlich was influential in guiding decisions my husband and I made that exerted impact on the rest of our lives.
• No crybabies allowed: May, 2014 - Globally recognized climatologist, Professor Lennart Bengston joined a group of scientists skeptical of radical policies to combat global warming. He found subsequent threats and attacks “virtually unbearable,” and resigned. Bengtsson’s defection has been called the biggest switch from the pro-climate change lobby to the skeptic camp to date. One colleague called him a crybaby and another withdrew his name from a paper co-authored with Bengtsston. He has authored 200 papers. He called the bullying aimed at him a form of McCarthyism.
Global warming -- at least the modern nightmare vision -- is a myth. I am sure of it and so are a growing number of scientists. But what is really worrying is that the world's politicians and policy makers are not. -David Bellamy
Please watch for the third and final segment.
Global Warming & Climate Change: In the Tunnel with Uncertainty and Skepticism Part 1
“Politicians are people who, when they see light at the end of the tunnel,
go out and buy some more tunnel.”
Unyielding pessimism and rejection of any evidence that questions Al Gore’s ham-handed approach to climate explains part of the public’s skepticism. Question the prevailing viewpoint and you are a Denier or a member of the Flat Earth Society or worse. Gore’s dramatically apocalyptic movie, began with a spongy thesis treated as gospel truth and he has never wavered despite the many inconvenient errors.
The point of this column is less to oppose the global warming science (or what, in many cases passes for science, despite the clarity of its activist underpinnings) than to suggest a number of reasons why so many people smell a rat; why growing numbers of Americans suspect that this entire movement is based on a collection of fallacies and coercive tactics that serve the interest of a few rather than humanity as a whole, and may do great harm.
This all started with “global warming” and shifted to the more encompassing “climate change” when the weather didn’t cooperate. “Climate change” captures all the meteorological hijinks under one tent.
It allows believers to say, “See? I told you so!” whether the temperature is100 degrees Fahrenheit or 100 degrees below zero. Tornados, hurricanes, heat waves, and cold snaps - all results of anthropogenic (human caused) polluting misbehavior. We are guilty as sin and we add insult to injury by asking questions. .
Movie stars and politicians ridicule us, although the rich and powerful among them, such as Al Gore, John Travolta, and the Obamas, are not expected to suffer along with the rest of us. They have the influence. They have the big private jets. They have the government grants. They have the Environmental Protection Agency. They have the Department of Ecology. They have thousands of unelected bureaucrats who are making and enforcing policy decisions with little oversight.
The President of the United States issues executive orders that circumvent Congress. He proposes demands that will cut carbon emissions by 30% by 2030. The Secretary of State gets his facts wrong and proclaims to the world with a straight face and appalling ignorance, “What’s the worst that can happen if we’re wrong?” There are some devastating answers to that question.
News on June 6 announced that the insurance industry has initiated lawsuits to force municipalities to obey global warming regulations or face loss of coverage. In San Juan County, government has been in step with the global warming believers for a long time. Soon we will have the “climate action imperative,” a series of lectures slated for June and July.
Global warming/climate change claims involve questions of correlation, cause, definition, and duration. They are rife with subjective interpretations and predictions not based on rigorous scientific method, yet we are to believe that the planet is teetering on the abyss. Done deal. Fait accompli. The debate is over.
Many advocates say none of our climate phenomena are much affected by the sun, no need to discuss historical cycles of warming/cooling, and no point in taking time to answer questions about computer modeling and arctic ice core samples that don’t seem to fit the popular theories. The sky is falling, the polar bears are drowning, and the end of the world is at hand.
Some of the current global warming analysis says the game is so over that we couldn’t fix the planet if we tried. We are suspended in mid-air like a saucer-eyed Wiley Coyote about to crash and burn; there is no avoiding the inexorable fall. No surviving the Acme Climate Machine.
Do you have doubts? I do.
Global warming and climate change have counterparts in recent history. Portentous warnings of a coming ice age alarmed us in the 1970’s. In the same period, yet more frightening speculation about population growth foretold the total collapse of major nations by the year 2000. An illustrious scientist predicted the likelihood of famine and being forced to eat our dead.
There is SO much we should know before we give in to the climate “imperative.” An author who once warned of the coming ice age, and is now a believer in global warming, wrote, “To capture the public’s attention, scientists have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts.” That’s pretty scary in itself.
Stay tuned. Part II will offer evidence that the holier-than-thou believers in a global warming apocalypse have seriously overstated their case. The suppression of legitimate science-based and common sense questions does no service to their cause. The debate is NOT over. Nothing is beyond debate.
Let me end for now with results from two studies (involving about two-thousand members of the American Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Union.
The majority of the scientists said they believe global warming is happening, but they are not clear on whether this isn’t a natural process, if it poses any serious danger, or that attempts to mitigate it will do any good. Only 5% describe global climate change as “fully mature” science.
The believers in anthropogenic global warming and climate change
are trying to turn off the light at the end of the tunnel.
Maybe their pessimism is premature.
All Over The Map
Traveling through six western states in three weeks offers a literal and a figurative sense of how geography both portrays the physical reality of a region and defines the attitudes, values, and meaning of life itself for the people who call it home.
The length of Highway 93 from Twin Falls to where it ends in Caliente, might as well stretch across a Martian landscape for as much as it resembles the topography of San Juan County and for as much as it can be fairly said that the people are just like us. They aren’t. At least in some respects they aren’t.
When some of us leave the island and say we are going to America, we are acknowledging a certain truth about this place. If Dorothy Gale lived in Friday Harbor she would have been on target (“spot on” as we say) to notice that there is no place like home.
A long trip through a monotonous desert landscape offers a drowsy view of sand, sagebrush, and not much else. You can drive 70 mph or more but it feels slow. The next place to gas up is always 67 miles down a hot road and you’d better believe the signs.
A few hundred miles on these desolate highways is much like driving down the Baja peninsula, morbidly curious if an open Pemex station will shimmer into reality when you are running on fumes and imagining your bones bleaching in the dust.
What does distract the eye in long stretches of Idaho, Arizona, and Nevada are billboards -gigantic updates on the diminishing distance to Las Vegas and local opinions on politicians, regulations, and wind farms- all hostile.
The wind turbines “may not have anything to do with the world’s oldest profession but the effect is the same.” It took me a while to get that. You might agree if you could see these things crowded onto the land as far as the eye can see.
We might do well to keep our eye on the Bureau of Land Management in its contemplation of wind farming on additional federal lands as well as its kindred spirits in state and local bureaucracies bragging about their protection of some precious patch of dirt that hosts a rare species of termite.
Dozens of signs along the highway inform passers by of “extremely sensitive habitats,” prompting suspicion that these are just the first moves in a land management effort from the owners of 80% of Nevada’s land (the Federal government) -an undertaking that local communities might detest but would be powerless to prevent.
But I digress.
The small towns along the way communicate disparate personalities. Wells, Nevada seemed unfriendly and Caliente welcomed us with open arms. Here’s how a couple of random experiences can lead to premature generalizations:
In Wells, we stopped for lunch at a roadside café announcing home-made meals -everything from scratch. Restrooms labeled “for paying customers only” were not friendly but also none of my business. The food turned out to be expensive, about as homemade as a Hostess Twinkie, and almost as tasty.
But the knife in the heart for Bella’s Eatery was the ugly paperback at every table. This grim little (homemade!) volume offered advice on how to escape boredom on the road, with the “universal point system” and winning the game of highway slaughter. 5 points for a frog, 10 points for a cat, 50 for a dog, 100 for an environmentalist, and 1500 for a politician. Go have lunch at Bella’s if you don't believe me.
Now, Parker, Arizona. That’s a fun and friendly town. A Da Vinci exhibit of inventions and paintings at a casino put Parker on our itinerary. Well crafted replicas of Leonardo’s ornithopter, armored tank, and anemometer made the exhibit well worth seeing. Unfortunately the paintings were bad copies.
But no matter. The campground by the river was full of sociable full-time RV-ers and local revelers of all ages, raucously appreciative of Toby Keith’s country tunes. A trip highlight was the Road Runner Bar party barge jammed with tattooed inebriates singing about the winners, losers, chain smokers, and boozers from Keith’s “I Love this Bar.” We loved that bar too.
Caliente. What a place! Hot Springs, beautiful old buildings, and approachable people. Bumper stickers boasted, “My dog is smarter than your honor student.” A closed sign on the local museum invited travelers to knock on the mayor’s door and he would find someone to let them in. It was sweltering (surprise) in Caliente but the lady in the grocery line told me it was only 95 and wasn’t the breeze pleasant?
My first impression of Jackpot, Nevada turned out to be my only one because the life-sized fiberglass Clydesdale advertising Budweiser just over the line from Idaho was so big and, in my opinion, beautiful, it was hard to see anything else. Fiberglass isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but I like it.
Sad side note: Luis Jimenez, a gifted artist, died when one of his large fiberglass pieces fell on him. The sculpture, a mustang, is on display now at the Denver International Airport.
The sparsely populated regions of the Western United States have endured financial stress just like everyone else but the still-lagging economy in these small towns seems stoically inured to hardship. The “Green Acres RV Park” is just dead brush now and the RVs no longer stop there, but a few new houses are under construction down the road and the convenience stores attached to the gas stations look healthy.
These Americans do not appear feverish about global warming or caught up in the furor of regulating every living thing on earth. Environmental hysterics will not find an endangered smelt in the vast emptiness of these surroundings but who knows what small slithering reptile in the nearly barren earth of the Nevada desert might draw their attention.
My advice is put a trip like this on your own to-do list. Who knows what’s in store for that 80% of Nevada?
“A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”
-John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley
(Janice Peterson is a former college professor at Santa Barbara City College in the field of communication, with emphasis on public speaking, argumentation and debate. Janice tries to be a useful member of the community and a willing volunteer. )
I cling to the remnants of a once-proud lexicon, asking myself, “WTF has happened to the English language in the 75 years since Rhett Butler didn’t give a damn? How did we get to The Wolf of Wall Street and its record 569 repetitions of the F word?
Imagine a modern dialogue for Gone With the Wind: “Do you mean to effing tell me, Katie Scarlett O'Hara, that effing Tara, that effing land doesn't mean effing anything to you?!”
It has been a gradual slide for film, music, television and standard usage in general since 1939. Deplore it, ignore it, or applaud it, some of the forbidden words George Carlin called the “heavy seven” that could never be used on television have infiltrated not only television but every other communication medium.
In the beginning, the ultimate Rhymes-With-Duck word landed embarrassingly in our midst as a “bomb,” dropped unintentionally (haha) when the speaker actually meant to say “freaking,” “frigging,” “flogging’”, “forking”, or “fricken,” all of which are at least minimally acceptable. Saturday Night Live, always in the vanguard of the cool, catalogued record-setting F bombs, reportedly influencing the decision to dump performer Charles Rocket in the early eighties for misreading the limits of network tolerance.
Little did Fruit of the Loom know in the old days of plain white t-shirts that we would one day use them to proclaim and exclaim the profane. Some of us not only wear our hearts on our sleeves but our opinions silkscreened on our chests.
Shirts available on a website that promises to make profanity fun declare, “F” the Police, the Force, the 1%, the government, and, of course, “You.” When our beloved Seahawks were about to win the Super Bowl, a popular shirt shouted in big green letters, “Seattle F-ing Seahawks!” The 12th Man purchased and wore it proudly.
It’s odd, isn’t it that a simple arrangement of letters has such power to shock us? If this essay spelled out the popular profanity of our times, you would be offended, yet it’s all right if I use euphemisms, abbreviations, and #%&*!*! exclamatory punctuation.
We have been trying to devise a workable definition for obscenity ever since we learned to talk, an impossible task so far. In some cases, bad language follows the Humpty Dumpty premise; words mean what I say they mean, no more, no less. This has no utility as a generalizable theory.
Consider Madonna, who got herself into trouble on Instagram a few months ago when she used the “N word.”
Frantically back-peddling, she protested, “I am sorry if I offended anyone with my use of the N word. It was not meant as a racial slur.. I am not a racist…It was all about intention. It was used as a term of endearment toward my son who is white.” Figure that out.
The N word in recent times has relegated the F word to penultimate status. The N word is king of the malign although it often shares air space with gender- and ethnicity-based invective that I am not even going to mention. (Google Lenny Bruce for details). Suffice it to say that the F word, unlike the N word is an equal opportunity expletive, although both operate in circumstances that are variously friendly and vicious.
Regarding the darker side of profane language, a recent news bulletin from the National Football League noted that the head of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which monitors diversity in the NFL, expects the league to institute a rule where players would be penalized 15 yards for using the N word on the field.
In a similar effort to control objectionable language, a group of feminists are promoting a ban on the word, “bossy” for demeaning women and girls. Oh please. Let’s hear it for the First Amendment.
On the lighter side, selective indignation about swear words often fogs the reality that sufficient provocation can inspire most of us to turn the air blue with words “that would make a sailor blush.” (Professor Higgins sang those words in My Fair Lady). Even Francis, an exceptionally popular pope, let the F word loose in a recent papal speech.
Football coaches are famously profane during games, and politicians (Joe Biden and Dick Cheney for instance) publicly err on the side of vulgarity when the microphone is unexpectedly live. Jesse Jackson, a pillar of sanctimony, offered unprintable commentary about Barack Obama, not knowing then that the words would rival his Rainbow Coalition in memorable phrases.
Charles Krauthammer, a columnist whose luminous vocabulary must be the envy of admirers and detractors alike, wrote a piece in 2004 titled, “In Defense of the F-Word” in which he opined, “I am sure there is a special place in heaven reserved for those who have never used the F-word. I will never get near that place.”
Neither will I.
“If you shoot a bullet someone dies. If you drop a bomb many die. You hit a woman, love dies. But if you say the F-word... nothing actually happens.” -Richard Curtis
The Grand Gamut of Gimme
“If this country is ever demoralized,
it will come from trying to live without work.”
- Abraham Lincoln
Let’s talk about that creeping, calamitous phenomenon that makes us lazy and turns our emotional musculature to flab. It has been called an American Ponzi scheme. Depending on who’s opining, it is a national disgrace or an undisguised blessing.
It is the Grand Gamut of Gimme that constitutes entitlement in the USA.
Entitlements are not just gifts; it is polite to thank someone for a gift, and choice is the rule. You don’t have to give me a present if you would rather not. Entitlements escape the usual bond between the giver and the receiver.
Entitlements can mean many things other than money but if we are talking about money - and it makes sense to start there - the heavily taxed wealthy have a certain unsavory taint no matter how much they share. The one-per-centers many believe, are oppressing the 49% of citizens who live on public assistance.
However, as Margaret Thatcher argued, entitlement spending gets into trouble when you run out of other peoples’ money. “People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations,” she offered. “There's no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation."
The obligation of historical significance is work. The Silhouettes, exemplars of fifties song-writing brilliance advised, “Dip dip dip dip dip dip dip dip
Mum mum mum mum mum mum Get a job Sha na na na - sha na na na na”
According to recent figures from the Census Bureau, more people are on public assistance than work full time. These are complicated statistics but no one would deny that the number of citizens and non-citizens on welfare, some of them for generations, is huge and growing.
A surprising news item suggests that much of the effort we spend debating the minimum wage is unneeded because entitlement programs in many states offer a far higher “salary” than McDonalds could ever hope to provide.
The Cato Institute released research results in 2013 showing that welfare pays more than $15/hour in 13 states and bestows more than a minimum wage job in 33 states and Washington D.C. Highest on the list is Hawaii, where welfare recipients are paid $29.13/hour or $60,590 a year. Hawaii, Massachusetts, and D.C. pay more in welfare than the average person with a job earns there.
A broader interpretation of government entitlements extends beyond money to selected creatures of the land, air, and sea.
“All animals are equal, but some are
more equal than others.”
The principal commandment
of George Orwell’s Animal Farm.
Barred owls, for example, have been declared legal targets as a means of (maybe) saving the spotted owl. The spotted owl has the ultimate entitlement (life). The Fish and Wildlife Service is spending $3.5 million to kill 3,600 barred owls, although punitive regulations already in place have apparently failed.
Some Pacific salmon species have also earned a life entitlement according to the National Marine Fisheries Service, who plans to kill unentitled California sea lions to save the imperiled fish.
It has been reported that the Obama administration is allowing wind energy companies to be held faultless when the spinning blades of wind turbines kill bald and golden eagles. The irony is inescapable. Bald eagles must have lost their entitlement as an endangered species.
A last example concerns the famous delta smelt, a 3-inch fish on the Endangered Species list, who acquired entitlement in 2007 when more than 300 billion gallons of water were diverted away from California’s Central Valley farmland into San Francisco Bay, and from there to the ocean. The smelt’s survival is still up in the air and the man-made drought cost thousands of farm workers their jobs and inflicted 40% unemployment on some communities. You can drive by today and see the dead orchards.
The differences in human beings and animals as regards entitlements are, of course, vast and varied, but we are -all of us- affected by these rules imposed by those in power - these benefits, privileges, legally imposed “rights,” prerogatives, and permissions, awarded to some but not all, often with well-meaning motives, and more often than not, little or no success.
Government tends to be inefficient, expensive, politically driven, pathologically self-serving, and thoughtless. According to some studies, the numbers of citizens who trust elected and appointed officials are dwindling rapidly. Too many of those in power have forgotten that they derive their authority from the just consent of the governed.
“Dream Big. Stay humble. Work hard.”
“Why not you?” Russell Wilson’s dad
Going…Going…Gone 2013 is History
This is the time of year to look at our watersheds and milestones - what and who is gone - not just going, but utterly and absolutely gone - exactly like the wicked Witch of the West when the Mayor of Munchkin City pronounced her not merely dead but sincerely dead. Not coming back.
Experience of recent years suggests that a great deal is (often regrettably) in transition from living to dead and back again, less gruesome than the zombies lurching around our tv screens but just as resistant to a clean goodbye.
Bob Dylan wrote a strange sad song titled “Going, Going, Gone” in 1974 and Lee Greenwood sang a country ballad with the same title about lost love. (Most country music seems to be about lost love).
Here are the opening lines of a new rendition of “Going, Going, Gone” by Janice Peterson:
“Just when we forgot them and hoped they were gone,
They crawled out of their holes and a new game was on.
What does it take to get rid of the shutdowns, the cold wars, the Wieners?
The Zombies, the Spitzers, the streets that get meaner?!”
Starting with a slightly unorthodox sampling of things that appear to be going but haven’t yet fallen into oblivion, the items below are sometimes interrelated, sometimes not, sometimes a cause for celebration, and sometimes a source of collective sorrow and/or anger.
The moving finger having writ, moves on: The incremental disappearance of handwritten letters, hard copy correspondence in general, the teaching of cursive in schools, newspapers, magazines, professional desktop publishers, and just about everything that arises from traditional alphabetic literacy is already changing our lives, both personally and professionally. John and Abigail Adams will have no 21st century counterparts to endow the future with a legacy of intimate communication (unless their email messages are retrieved and their conversations recorded for posterity - and they probably will be).
The U.S. Postal Service is in trouble that can only get worse unless radical innovation occurs.
Horologists (Those who build and repair wrist watches) are disappearing. Why have your watch repaired when it is cheaper to buy a new one? Or, better yet, forget watches and use your phone to get the time. A similar decline is in progress with cameras and photographic equipment and small appliances.
The textile industry: Some estimates predict a 50% decline within 4 years in the number of jobs available in sewing, cutting, and operating machines that process cloth. The jobs are going overseas or being replaced by computer-assisted machinery. Fabric stores themselves seem to be going away. Sewing the family clothes is almost as expensive as buying them, and who has the time?
Traditional funerals: Jessica Mitford, author of a scathing attack on the funeral industry written decades ago, would likely approve of the changes we are seeing. The American Way of Death used to be a sepulchral affair with organ music and tears, often with the guest of honor present for all to see. I haven’t attended a funeral in years. Now we have celebrations of life, with music, open-hearted speeches, and as much merriment as all the heartbroken attendees can muster.
Smoking and its paraphernalia: Every year brings more restrictions and higher prices. It does seem paradoxical, however, that at the moment in our state’s history when we could hardly be more rancorous about cigarettes, we have just legalized recreational marijuana. I wonder if this could produce a comeback for ashtrays. If you are old enough, you may remember making kiln-fired ashtrays for your parents as Christmas presents.
Video Stores like Blockbuster and formats like BETA and VHS, already just about gone. If we can stream the video with downloading, we don’t need DVDs. This is personally disappointing to me because I like the tangibility of a beloved movie on a shelf in my book case,
Free airline transport for luggage and carry-on items. Don’t get me started.
Privacy: If it isn’t yet a remembrance of things past, it appears to be on the fast track to its finale.
Civility: Obviously we have had periods of much greater internal strife (the Civil War comes to mind) but we are certainly a contentious lot these days.
Military service among members of Congress: Whether this is a good thing, a worrisome circumstance, or of no significance at all, it may be worth remarking that only 86 of 435 members of the present House of Representatives and 17 of the 100 U.S. Senators have served In the military.
Carbon paper. Probably mimeograph and Gestetner machines too. Typewriters are still manufactured and you can pick up a nice one for a little over $100.
Apple products: Dozens and dozens of Apple products have been discontinued but, of course, more are designed every year to take their places.
Incandescent light bulbs: Well, actually not completely gone but they will not continue in manufacture much longer.
The San Juan County Charter adopted by the voters in 2005
The “Winter Council”
Sleazy politicians: Many remain but many others have finally been kicked out by an outraged public.
James Gandolfini, Esther Williams, Paul Walker, Corey Monteith, Peter O’Toole, Nelson Mandela, Doris Lessing, Tom Clancy, David Frost, Karen Black, Eileen Brennan, Margaret Thatcher, Lou Reed, Ken Norton, Jonathan Winters, Elmore Leonard, Frederick Pohl, and Jiroemon Kimura are just a few of the celebrities who died in 2013. (Mr. Kimura, in case you wonder, was 116 years old).
We lost San Juan Island friends in 2013 too. It feels presumptuous to mention them by name and leave someone out who will be long-remembered. But we will remember them; their lives now reside in our memories where they will live as long as we do.
2014 begins now. Happy New Year!
When those now young are old… Remembering John Fitzgerald Kennedy
50 years ago, the president of the National Geographic Society wrote, “When men now boys are old, in distant time beyond the year 2000, they will say, ‘I remember. I remember when they brought him home, the murdered President, from Dallas…’”
And now it is 2013. About 20% of the population is over 55, old enough to say, “I remember” -and most of us do. We recall the exact moment when normalcy unhinged itself from the mundane predictability of our ordinary lives and never quite righted itself. The time since has been slightly skewed as if certainty has fled and lunacy hovers at the edges of a perfect day, waiting to pounce.
Medgar Evers was killed the same year, and In 1968, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy also died at the hands of homicidal freaks. The sixties brought us the commencement of war in Vietnam and the foundations of redemption with the Civil Rights movement; It was the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, it was a decade of magic and mayhem. The mayhem began in earnest on November 22, 1963.
I was standing in our front yard in Santa Barbara with my baby son on my shoulder when the Danish widow who lived next door ran to the fence and cried, “Oh Janice, they’ve shot the President.” Her accent made the word “pwesident,” and of course that sticks in my memory too.
For many days afterward millions of Americans hardly left their living rooms. From the minute Walter Cronkhite announced the grim news, we began our melancholic vigil, staring at television screens, hearing the same words over and over; “President Kennedy has been shot in Dallas. President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time, 2:00 Eastern Standard Time.”
Jacqueline Kennedy stood mute and glassy-eyed next to Lyndon Johnson on Air Force 1 as he took the oath of office. Returning to the White House she began arranging a funeral to duplicate Abraham Lincoln’s in the essential respects. Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested and Jack Ruby shot him dead, thus removing almost every vestige of confession or denial potentially available to a public obsessed with conspiracy. 50 years later it has abated some but still abides in the hearts of persistent skeptics. Oswald said he was innocent, that he was only a patsy. That was about it.
The images of those sad days still reside in your memory if you witnessed the end of America’s Camelot (a comparison, incidentally, that the Kennedys were reported to have scorned or welcomed, depending on who was doing the reporting).
JFK’s brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, helped with the funeral arrangements and supervised the removal of personal effects from the family’s quarters and the Oval Office - the books, the paintings, the ship models, and the files. The last items removed were President Kennedy’s two rocking chairs.
And then it was all over. The eternal flame was lit at Arlington National Cemetery and the 35th President of the United States was consigned to history. Like Lincoln, he belongs to the ages. He was 46 years old, his life shorter by a decade than Lincoln’s. If he had lived and avoided illness and assassins as well as surviving the debilitating Addison’s disease he carried to his grave, John Kennedy would have been 96 in May. Jacqueline died at 64 as did Lyndon Johnson.
From the day the President was killed until the present, more than 40,000 books have been written about him. Not surprisingly, JFK’s assassination is a major focus that makes it nearly if not completely impossible to develop a rational assessment of his presidency.
Since he was only able to serve for 1063 days, his incomplete tenure also makes it difficult to judge Kennedy’s leadership according to major issues of his time such as Civil Rights, the Cold War, and what he might have done to advance or retreat from our involvement in Vietnam. How much credit should he earn for his handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis and how harshly should he be judged for the Bay of Pigs? How should history evaluate programs such as the Peace Corps and the inspiration Kennedy provided for the space program? How much does the retrospective view of his personal life matter in the overall portrait of a President?
We have had 50 years to think about the life and death of the youngest president we have ever elected. John Kennedy’s stature will never be equal to that of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt -the top three on just about everyone’s list- but I believe he will be well-treated by posterity for qualities vital to leadership and often In short supply. He was smart without being an intellectual snob, he could laugh at himself, he took responsibility for his own mistakes, he abandoned safe positions when the risks were worthwhile, and he was admired by people around the world.
Two things stand out in my memory. One is specific -the President’s unflinching courage during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The other is ubiquitous- his mastery over language and the presentation of his ideas. He was an incredible speaker.
We who were young in 1963 remember John Fitzgerald Kennedy.