Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Global Warming - it might get up to minus 10

I got braced by a global warming alarmist on the street the other day, who wanted to know if I liked polar bears.

"Uh, not in my neighborhood."

"Excuse me?"

"I said I don't want polar bears in my neighborhood. They eat people."

"Oh but I mean in the Arctic. Global warming is destroying their habitat and they're in danger of extinction."

"How is global warming going to threaten polar bears? I've seen them in zoos as far south as San Diego and they looked just fine to me."

She on the other hand, looked upset. "Global warming is threatening all life on earth!" she said accusingly, as if it were somehow my fault.

Since she had a clipboard, I assumed that she wanted either a signature or a donation from me, neither of which I was in much of a mood to give. So I temporized.

"Listen, I'm a little busy right now but I'd be happy to speak to you at length another time - if you can answer me a few questions."

1) Why is global warming happening on Mars now? I'm reasonably sure it's not from industrial pollution, but if it keeps up Mars' mean temperature (currently minus 46 degrees C) might get as high as minus 10 degrees Celsius in a few centuries.

2) Since the average temperature of the earth is four degrees short of the Climactic Optimum of 10 thousand years ago (when agriculture was invented) - can you tell me why global warming would be a bad thing?

3) In my youth, the fashionable world disaster was the Next Ice Age - could you please make up your mind? I look forward to hearing her answers. At least I'll know whether I should think about moving to Mars.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ahmedinejad and Columbia

Posted at The Right Angle http://humanevents.com/rightangle/
— 09-24-2007 @ 04:19 PM

I admit to being somewhat torn about Ahmedinejad speaking at Columbia. Like Cal Thomas in today's front page article at Human Events, I'm irritated that he got invited to Columbia and evidently spoke without interruption or heckling, while conservatives, border security advocates etc, are either disinvited or get the "hecklers veto".

On the other hand, I think our people should hear him.

People in this fat, happy, lucky country of ours just don't believe in evil anymore. Notice how people either avoid using the word - or use it in such a loose sense that it doesn't mean anything.

Our people need to hear it, see it and get close enough to look into the eyes of a man who would kill you without a second thought - for what? Having different opinions about religion? Refusing to acknowledge the superiority of his civilization? Any reason that you could comprehend at all?

The problem of our country today is, that we have had the good life for so long now that we've forgotten that there really are people like that in the world - and that a small but significant number of our own people find the idea of that kind of power exciting.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Right versus Left, versus Right versus Right

Note: I recently got to cover the press conference with General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, and wrote about it for Human Events here: http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=22371

The post-Petraeus report period is a great example of how hard it is to have a serious discussion about something as important as a war, when one or both sides have made up their minds beforehand and won't be budged.

It's also a pretty good example of how hard it is to have a serious discussion with a bunch of screaming loonies in pink tutus and tiaras in the room.

The differences between the Hard Left and the Right are exciting and attractive to a news media that thrives on sensationalism.

One the one side you have people who see America as a corrupt country, fatally flawed from it's origins.

On the other, people who see America as a great country with serious flaws - not the least of which is the presence of privileged elites who despise the country that made them some of the most fortunate individuals in the history of mankind by any objective standard.

What's getting lost in all the excitement, is the debate between the supporters and opponents of the attempted pacification of Iraq on the conservative and libertarian Right.

I refuse to call these positions "pro-war" and "anti-war." Nobody but a Nietchean lunatic is "for" war. The question is, is war at this time and place the worst alternative?

And here we see where the two sides stand, for reasons both principled and patriotic.

One side argues that Iraq has become the primary battleground of the West against jihadism.

From this point of view, even if it is conceded that invading and trying to rebuild Iraq along Western lines was a mistake, the argument is irrelevant. Rather like arguing that it would have been better to have invaded Europe at Calais, rather than Normandy in the Second World War. One the di is cast, we don't get do-overs.

The opposing view on the Right can be summarized, that we are not contributing to our future security by spending our treasure and the lives of our finest young men, attempting (in the words of an English friend) "to civilize people who cannot be civilized."

Unlike the America-hating Left, this view comes from love of this country and the civilization of which it is the finest exemplar.

And it's not that I necessarily think they are wrong - it's that I am terribly afraid that they might be right. If so, God help us all. Then this war will go on with no end in sight.

I wonder how many of them have considered that this must follow from their position, if indeed they are right?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Saw the Lincoln Memorial by moonlight

I haven't actually been doing a lot of sightseeing in D.C. yet, probably because I really like to save these experiences for when I'm with my family, but I had to take the opportunity to see the Lincoln Memorial at night.

Like the first time I saw the Parthenon, it lived up to expectations.

It's a straight shot down a grassy mall from the Capitol, through the Washington Monument, World War II Memorial to the Lincoln.

The building itself is... not so hot. It's a square classical box, but square is not the classical proportions. It's the statue that's impressive.

You walk in at night, to your left is the Gettysburg Address, to your right the Second Inaugural Address, and in front of you is the giant seated Lincoln.

What impresses are features like the huge knobby workingman's hands and the spectacularly ugly/beautiful face set in a look of unbearable sadness.

By now you've probably guessed that I have little patience for Lincoln-Civil War revisionism. Many friends and people whose opinions I respect on other issues have fallen for this bull$#@^ but sorry, it's just too silly for words.

I can't recall any piece of statuary quite this moving, though perhaps 'The Dying Gaul' comes close. This may be the finest piece of public sculpture our country has produced.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Where were you 9/11/2001?

That question is said to be the defining one for this generation, the way "Where were you when you heard President Kennedy had been assassinated?" was for mine.

So, I was in my apartment in Warsaw with my wife Monika who was then eight-and-a-half months pregnant.

My sister-in-law Kasia called and told her, "Turn on CNN right now!"

We turned on in time to watch the smoke rising from the first tower. I immediately suspected terrorism, but reminded myself not to jump to conclusions. After all, the Empire State building was once hit by an airplane.

Then the second tower was hit and I said, "It's terrorism."

That was the day that we learned again that an airplane with a pilot willing to die is a Cruise missile.

That was the day that we learned with grief and pride that Americans can still spontaneously organize, overrule standing doctrine and do what free men and women do better than anyone - improvise.

That was the day that "Let's roll" became a battle cry to be remembered through all our history to the last.

That was the day my son got his name.

That was the day we began to realize that our long holiday from history was over.

Monday, September 03, 2007

It's not the people - it's the system

It's odd, but I've been reading the same political stuff I've been reading for quite some time now - but living and working in D.C. really does give you a different perspective on it.

Of course, coming from Oklahoma gives me a different perspective from the Beltway insiders too.

For example, read any of the stuff about demoralized Republicans by almost anyone at Townhall.com. What emerges was succinctly summed up a long time ago by someone who complained, "There are no conservatives in Washington anymore, just Big Government Republicans" now known by the acronym RINO, Republicans In Name Only.

The fear is that the Republican base, having grown disgusted with the Republicans who once in office cannot keep their snouts out of the trough, will simply stay home on election day.

Of course, it's more complicated than that. The Right side of the electorate is perfectly willing to get their own snouts into it, even as they recognize on an individual level that government is too big, too intrusive and absorbs too much of the wealth produced by the people who actually make stuff, grow stuff, fix stuff and move stuff around.

Gerald Ford described it brilliantly in his inaugural address. Standing next to Carl Albert of Oklahoma (then Speaker of the House) he joked (paraphrased from memory), I freely admit that I have supported many worthy projects for the public good in the district of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and have opposed much unworthy waste of the taxpayers money in the state of Oklahoma.

You can still laugh at that, but these days you do it with a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach.

Congress simply will not control its apetite for pork, and the president will not use his veto. These days the way it seems to work is, when anyone objects to a spending bill the other side simply offers to cut them in on it with some spending in their district.

There are a handful of (mostly) Republican legislators who at least sometimes vote against porkbarrel spending - but how long can they continue when their own constituents are on the receiving end of federal largesse?

It reminds me of the time I absent-mindedly left a dog in my house with a frozen steak thawing on the kitchen counter. When I came back and found the inevitable had happened, I couldn't punish the dog for acting according to his nature.

The genius of the Founding Fathers was in realizing that to keep government in check, you have to work with human nature not against it. You work with it by organizing the incentives, balancing the greed, jealousy and power-lust of the people with the power against each other. That's the not-pretty reality behind the noble phrases "seperation of powers" and "checks and balances".

Well, it's obviously out of balance and I seriously doubt it's going to be fixed by voting out the "bad guys" and voting in the "good guys". (Which is not to say that I don't think some politicos would be much more of a disaster than others.)

What I mean is, the problem is not the people, it's structural.

There has been a lot of thought and some good suggestions about how to tweak the structure: term limits, a line-item veto, sunset laws, ending exemptions from certain laws enjoyed by congresscritturs* - but the constant problem is how to get congress to enact them when they are so clearly opposed to their own self-interest.

* For example, congresscritturs do not have to pay social secutiry taxes, they have their very own pension system.