Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Difference Between Idealism and Reality

Things just aren’t going to suit Nancy Pelosi. Since the Democrats claimed majority status in Congress last month there have been more downs than ups for the first female Speaker of the House of Representatives. For example, she vowed that five-day workweeks would be a hallmark of a harder-working Democratic majority, but so far the House has worked only one five-day week, and the rest have been the “standard” three-day weeks.

She raised eyebrows and garnered justified criticism when she put Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), who had $90,000 in alleged bribe money in his freezer, on the Homeland Security Committee after pledging to make this "the most ethical Congress in history." (Making one Congress more ethical than another one is not a very ambitious goal by some standards, but a difficult task nonetheless.) "Pelosi had to put him somewhere," said an observer who was a minority counsel for a House Judiciary Committee member, "but I am troubled by the fact ... that [Jefferson] is the kind of guy who could not pass a security clearance test and yet now he has access to top-secret government info."

And, now Ms. Pelosi is showing some skin. Thin skin, that is. Vice President Dick Cheyney recently commented, "if we were to do what Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Murtha are suggesting, all we will do is validate the al-Qaeda strategy. The al-Qaeda strategy is to break the will of the American people ... and then they win because we quit."

Ms. Pelosi called President Bush complaining that Mr. Cheney had impugned her patriotism. Mr. Cheney's comments, however, represent an argument over policy, not patriotism, and the perception of Ms. Pelosi’s patriotism is no weaker following the Vice President’s remark than before it.

A recent poll showed that Ms. Pelosi’s approval rating for running the House is at 50 percent, but that is better that Congress overall, at 41 percent, neither figure all that much to get excited about. All of which brings two things to mind: First, it is routine for liberals to expect results that are not realistic. Second, trying to change the direction of the House of Representatives, where inertia has a tremendously advantageous head of steam, is not so easy as it might appear to an idealistic new Speaker.

Ms. Pelosi is learning the same lesson that Newt Gingrich learned after becoming Speaker in 1994, and that is no matter how honorable the goal, politics rules in Washington. And we can be assured that Nancy Pelosi is at best just another Speaker, and not Superwoman. At least not yet.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Attention John Murtha!

What part of The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States” do you not understand?

Or do you think you and your fellow travelers in the anti-Bush, anti-war camp are above the Constitution, Article II, Section 2, which vests control of the military in the President, acting as Commander in Chief.

Presidents have made mistakes for years in allowing Congress to act when it is neither called for nor wise, as in allowing the Senate to approve which general or admiral gets what top position. That is the President’s decision; the Congress has no roll in it. Yet, presidents, apparently trying to be nice and cooperative, have made the mistake of putting these assignments up for approval. Such behavior only increases the self-importance imagined by certain members of Congress.

In this case, they have come to believe they can manipulate the Commander in Chief by playing with funding. Such behavior is inappropriate, dangerous, and reflects the arrogance and petulant nature of Mr. Bush’s enemies, led by John Murtha.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Woo! Woo! Woo!

Hot Damn! I won the lottery!!

I can’t believe it. I didn’t even enter the darned thing. Yet, as the email below says, I’ve won £1,500,000. I don’t know how much that is in real money, but who cares?

Yeah, I know: it’s a scam.

Pay special attention to the language/English grammar. You’d think with all that money to give away they could afford to hire someone who actually understands and can communicate in English, or at least find someone to proof read the darned thing!

Government Accredited Licensed Promoters,
Ref: EGS/2251256003/02
Batch: 14/0017/1PD

BONANZA 2007!!!

The board of directors and entire member of staff of the National
Lottery wishes to inform you of the result of the (Email Address
Ballot)online Sweepstakes international program held on the 10th
of January, 2007 at the British Headquarter.

Your email account have been picked as a winner of £1,500,000.00
file KU/9023118308/03.

Your e-mail address attached to ticket number 653164251591-6011 with
serial number 7321410,batch number 14/0017/1PD,lottery ref number
EGS/2251256003/02 and drew lucky numbers 4-9-17-36-44-78 which
consequently won in the second category.

Be advice to keep your winning information confidential until your
claims has been processed and your money remitted to you. This is part
our security protocol to avoid double claiming and unwarranted abuse of
this program,For the release of your winning.

All winning must be claimed not later than One Week of Acknowledgment.
After this date all unclaimed funds will be returned to European Union
Treasury as Unclaimed. Please note in order to avoid unnecessary delays
and complications please remember to quote your reference number in all

You are therefore advised to give the following information's to your
claims agent listed bellow,

Full names........
Winning numbers.........
Winning sum................
Email address..............
Telephone/Fax number...........
Marital status..................
Country.............. immediately

Contact Person:Mr.zimmerman paul

Congratulations from the staff and thank you for being part of email
account users program.

Yours Sincerely,
Mrs. owen becky

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Obama Mystique

He’s likeable. He’s popular. He’s smart. He’s articulate. He’s clean. He’s Barack Obama, U.S. Senator from Illinois, and he may be the Democrat’s savior, if we believe the conventional wisdom.

Sen. Obama has taken the country’s left by storm, running second behind Hillary Clinton, and ahead of both John Edwards and Al Gore. Yes, he’s an average of about 18 points behind Mrs. Clinton in recent polls, but he is solidly ahead of Mr. Edwards and Mr. Gore. But Mr. Obama has achieved a measure of greatness even if he ultimately loses the nomination to Mrs. Clinton because of his storybook, fairytale start in the 2008 campaign.

Barack Obama is the first serious black presidential candidate the Democrats have had; the Democrats are excited. But does Mr. Obama really have a shot at being President? I don’t think so.

It’s nearly a year and a half before the conventions to nominate candidates for the 2008 election, and almost a year from the Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire Primary, the first of the important opportunities to take the public’s pulse on candidates. That’s a long time, and a lot can happen. There is ample opportunity for a candidate to self-destruct, to be over-exposed, and for the veneer to wear off.

All of these things hang over the head of any/every presidential hopeful this far in advance of the election. But I think Mr. Obama has a different problem. And, I think Mrs. Clinton has a similar problem.

I would have voted for Jeanne Kirkpatrick for president if the Republicans had nominated her, and I would have voted for Alan Keyes for president if the Republicans had nominated him. But I have serious doubts that the American electorate is prepared to elect either a female or a black as President of the United States.

Beyond that, each of these two hopefuls has their own set of problems that, while not insurmountable, are significant problems. Not to over-simplify these issues, but Mrs. Clinton is a far-Left socialist who is trying mightily to move to the center, and that creates all manner of official inconsistencies that will be hard to reconcile, and then she still has to sell her modified-radical ideas to the voters. And Mr. Obama has to overcome his youth and inexperience, his being only half-black (although perhaps some may see that as a plus), his strong liberal orientation, and his failure so far to express anything more than popular platitudes instead of actual ideas. And perhaps most important, in primary campaigns candidates generally tend to beat each other bloody along the way in order to make themselves look like the better candidate, and that has already begun between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama months before presidential campaigns usually begin.

As always, the political season will be fascinating political theater, and the fact that this one started so far ahead of the usual schedule only increases that aspect.

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Injustice in Pursuit of Political Goals

A while back I wrote a column about what I believe is a monumental miscarriage of justice and prosecutorial misconduct of the worst kind in the perjury trial of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby titled “Prosecutorial Discretion?”

It is my position that there was never a crime to begin with, and had prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald made that essential determination at the beginning, as he should have, the investigation in which Mr. Libby’s alleged perjury occurred would never have taken place, and Mr. Libby’s life would not have been turned upside-down by an over-zealous prosecutor more concerned with his own fortunes than with honorably discharging his duties.

An op-ed in The Washington Post penned by someone much more knowledgeable than I about the intricacies of the Libby case has painted a picture similar to that in my column, but much more damning. Victoria Toensing, a former deputy federal prosecutor and one of the key people in the drafting of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, the law that was allegedly broken in the alleged “outing” of CIA “agent” Valerie Plame, sees tremendous problems with the indictment and trial of Mr. Libby, as the following comments show:

Could someone please explain to me why Scooter Libby is the only person on trial in the Valerie Plame leak investigation? …

Fitzgerald apparently concluded that a purported cover-up was sufficient motive for Libby to trim his recollections in a criminal way. So when Libby's testimony differed from that of others, it was Libby who got indicted.

There's a reason why responsible prosecutors don't bring perjury cases on mere "he said, he said" evidence. Without an underlying crime or tangible evidence of obstruction (think Martha Stewart trying to destroy phone logs), the trial becomes a mishmash of faulty memories in which witnesses can seem as guilty as the defendant. Any prosecutor knows that memories differ, even vividly, and each party can be convinced that his or her version is the truthful one.

If we accept Fitzgerald's low threshold for bringing a criminal case, then why stop at Libby? This investigation has enough questionable motives and shadowy half-truths and flawed recollections to fill a court docket for months. So here are my own personal bills of indictment:

Ms. Toensing then goes on to explain why several others are just as eligible for indictment as Mr. Libby, given the circumstances of this "case." Those of you who believe in true justice ought to read the entire Victoria Toensing article.

I think you will come to the conclusion that the trial of Lewis Libby is a circus and a travesty, and stems not from a criminal act, but from an anti-Bush/anti-Cheney political agenda that attempted to create a crime—the supposed outing of CIA covert agent—where no crime, in fact, existed.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Al-Qaeda Threatens Oil Supply

An al-Qaeda-linked Saudi Arabian terrorist faction has urged Muslim militants to attack oil facilities in Canada, Mexico and Venezuela to stop the flow of oil to the US, according to an article posted on the Internet.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula believes that "cutting oil supplies to the United States, or at least curtailing it, would contribute to the ending of the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan."

Two thoughts: First, I don’t think interrupting the oil supply will affect our presence in Iraq and/or Afghanistan. A large number of Americans, including more than a few elected officials, are ready to bail out already, and if you add into the mix some discomfort at the gas pumps, quite a few more will certainly fold up under the stress. They don’t think we can win; they don’t want to win. Despite that, and while much of the recent behavior from some members of Congress tells the world that America is weak and has no will to fight terrorists, the Commander-In-Chief, the guy who makes the decisions on military operations, is not afraid, is not ready to bail out and is determined to defeat terrorists everywhere, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

Second, al-Qaeda’s fanatic obsession with hurting the United States produces actions that are bordering on, or perhaps venturing into, the la-la land of incoherent lunacy. So consumed with hurting the U.S. is this bunch of extremists that they kill fellow Muslims—man, woman and child—with complete disregard and now threaten to attack oil supplies, some of which are located in Arab/Muslim countries, some of which are in countries that are also enemies of the U.S., or at least not good friends of ours.

You have to wonder whether at some point al-Qaeda’s irrational behavior will turn the whole world against it?

The fact is that no nation is safe from these obsessed, supercilious goofballs, as is becoming more and more clear as time passes. Al-Qaeda may be focused primarily on the United States right now, but that is temporary. Anyone that doesn’t agree with the narrow, repressive, and murderous philosophy subscribed to by the maniacal leaders of this devil’s alliance is a future target. It is just a matter of time.

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Troubles Continue for the Big Easy

Okay, people, here’s the question: Whose fault is this?

9 Shot As New Orleans Starts Mardi Gras
February 16th, 2007

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - With tourists streaming into town for Mardi Gras celebrations, a spasm of gun violence left two people dead and seven wounded - more bad news for a city struggling to rebuild itself and its tourism industry.

Is it FEMA’s fault? Mike Brown’s? George Bush’s? The Department of Homeland Security’s? The Governor of Louisiana’s? The Mayor’s?

The level of violence in New Orleans is nothing new; it was a violent place before Katrina, and it is a violent place after Katrina. Mayor Ray Nagin did less than called for to prepare for the coming hurricane last August, and he hasn’t changed behavior during the rebuilding and repackaging of his city since.

After Katrina a debate raged about whether it made any sense to rebuild a city on the Gulf of Mexico that lies below sea level, but sympathy for its residents and nostalgia for the city itself carried the day. But if Mr. Nagin doesn’t quickly get control of the criminal element in NOLA, it will be a colossal waste of money and resources.

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Congress in 2007

Now that the Democrats have regained control of the U.S. Congress in last November's election, the reminders of why they shouldn't be in charge come rushing back.

Since the much vaunted 100 Hour Plan was dispensed with all we have heard from Capital Hill is a lot of noise about a non-binding resolution expressing the “sense of the Congress” about President Bush’s new way forward in Iraq. The measure is meaningless because it is a toothless action that can’t force anyone to do or not do anything; Congress doesn’t direct military operations, the Commander-In-Chief does.

The Democrats are guilty of—to be generous—exaggeration and disingenuousness in putting forth the claim that Congress is opposed to the Bush plan to increase troop strength in Iraq by more than 21,000. This politically-based foolishness began in the House of Representatives where the vote on the measure was 246-182, meaning that the resolution had the support of only 57 percent of the members who voted. That margin may be enough to pass a resolution that means nothing, but it is far less that necessary to support the claim that the House opposes the troop surge. For such a claim you would need the support of more than 70 percent of voting members, and to convey the idea that the House is solidly behind it, you ought to have 80 percent support. The measure had only 17 Republicans favoring it, and didn’t even have all the Democrats behind it, hardly a strong statement of solidarity of opposition.

The Senate will begin consideration of what to do about this silliness in a rare Saturday session today.

Typical of liberal initiatives, this affair substitutes symbolism for substance, and the only thing this foolishness will accomplish is to signal the world that the U.S. is weak and divided about our activities in Iraq. Isn’t that a great message to issue in support of our military?

If the Democrats want to make a real statement against the war, they ought to draft real legislation that would have a real effect, and that would be to defund the war. And they may in the future attempt such an ill-advised stunt. However, to do that would put the military at risk, and we all know how solidly the Democrats support the troops. What the new majority really wants is to have its cake and eat it, too: blather on about how the surge won’t work, but fail to take a truly principled position against it.

Democrats are overdriving their headlights on this one, behaving as if the election gave them a mandate to do as they please. It didn’t, and the closeness of the vote in the House underscores that point rather dramatically. The American people may be frustrated with the way things are going in Iraq, but they do not agree with the Democrat mantra: damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead—meaning get out of Iraq as quickly as possible, and let the chips fall where they may.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Important Advice for All Men!

Dear Tech Support:

Last year I upgraded from Girlfriend 7.0 to Wife 1.0. I soon noticed that the new program began unexpected child processing that took up a lot of space and valuable resources.

In addition, Wife 1.0 installed itself into all other programs and now monitors all other system activity. Applications such as Poker Night 10.3, Football 5.0 , Hunting and Fishing 7.5 , and Racing 3.6.

I can't seem to keep Wife 1.0 in the background while attempting to run my favorite applications. I'm thinking about going back to Girlfriend 7.0, but the uninstall doesn't work on Wife 1.0.

Please help!


Troubled User



Dear Troubled User:

This is a very common problem that men complain about.

Many people upgrade from Girlfriend 7.0 to Wife 1.0, thinking that it is just a Utilities and Entertainment program. Wife 1.0 is an OPERATING SYSTEM and is designed by its Creator to run EVERYTHING!!! It is also impossible to delete Wife 1.0 and to return to Girlfriend 7.0. It is impossible to uninstall, or purge the program files from the system once installed.

You cannot go back to Girlfriend 7.0 because Wife 1.0 is designed to not allow this. Look in your Wife 1.0 manual under Warnings-Alimony/Child Support. I recommend that you keep Wife 1.0 and work on improving the situation. I suggest installing the background application "Yes Dear" to alleviate software augmentation.

The best course of action is to enter the command C:\ APOLOGIZE! Because, ultimately you will have to give the APOLOGIZE command before the system will return to normal anyway.

Wife 1.0 is a great program, but it tends to be very high maintenance. Wife 1.0 comes with several support programs, such as Clean and Sweep 3.0, Cook It 1.5 and Do Bills 4.2 .

However, be very careful how you use these programs. Improper use will cause the system to launch the program Nag Nag 9.5. Once this happens, the only way to improve the performance of Wife 1.0 is to purchase additional software. I recommend Flowers 2.1 and Diamonds 5.0!

WARNING!!! DO NOT, under any circumstances, install Secretary With Short Skirt 3.3. This application is not supported by Wife 1.0 and will cause irreversible damage to the operating system!

Best of luck,

Tech Support

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Exxon Mobil Gouging the Public in Pursuit of Profits?

America’s oil companies have been taking a beating lately because at a time when gasoline prices are at an all-time high, oil company profits are also high. The favorite target for criticism is Exxon Mobil, which reported record net income of $39.5 billion in 2006. That’s $39,500,000,000, which is also a record increase from 2005 of 15% or $3,370,000,000. People get upset when they see gasoline prices soaring and oil companies are making big profits, and all they see is oil companies gouging the public. and making windfall profits.

Now $39.5 billion is a lot of money. But you can’t look only at how much money a company makes, you have to look also at what the company spent during the year and how much gross revenue (income before expenses are subtracted) those expenditures produced, and you have to look at what percentage of total business the profit amount is. When you consider that Exxon Mobil spent $310.2 billion and produced gross revenue of $377.6 billion, all of a sudden that $39.5 billion seems a lot smaller. It is only one-eighth of the company’s total expenditures (12.7percent), and was just 10.5 percent of gross revenue.

Put another way, Exxon Mobil spent $8.00 for every $1.00 it made. Put still another way, for every $100 Exxon Mobil spent doing business in 2006, it put $12.70 in the bank. The New York Times, The Washington Post and other newspapers don’t think that’s enough and look for 15-20 percent. Banks generally make 14 percent. McDonalds made 13.8 percent and Coca-Cola made 21.20 percent in a recent quarter. Google made 24.2 percent. Exxon Mobil’s profits are not really out of line when compared with other companies and other industries.

Exxon Mobil spent $310.2 billion in 2006 for things like wages and benefits, exploration and drilling, refining crude oil into consumer products, distribution of products, and taxes. Nearly a third of Exxon’s total expenditures, in fact, went to taxes, including $27.9 billion in income taxes, $30.4 billion in sales-based taxes, and $42.4 billion for other taxes such as payroll taxes. Altogether, Exxon Mobil paid $100.7 billion in taxes, more than twice as much as it recorded in net income. Those taxes to the federal government and state and local governments built roads, paid for schools, went for Medicare and Medicaid payments, Workers Compensation and other social programs, police and military forces, and so on.

What did Exxon Mobil do for the people who invested their money in the company? If you had bought Exxon stock on the first business day of 2006 at the lowest price paid on that day you would have spent $56.42 for one share. By the end of the year you would have been paid $6.62 in dividends, 17 percent of what you paid for the stock, and the stock would have been worth $76.63. That’s a pretty good return and pretty good growth. And contrary to the conventional wisdom, it isn’t only rich people that own Exxon Mobil stock; it is owned not just by individual investors, but by mutual funds and retirement funds and lots of Americans own mutual fund shares and lots of Americans have retirement plans. The corporation distributed a total of $32.6 billion to shareholders in 2006 through dividends and the purchases of outstanding shares. Does that benefit the economy? You bet it does. Is that good for people who own shares of Exxon Mobil stock or shares of a mutual fund that holds Exxon Mobil stock, or who participate in a retirement plan that own Exxon Mobil? No doubt about it.

The reality is that Exxon Mobil isn’t making obscene profits, and it isn’t gouging the public. Just because it produces a product whose cost has risen sharply lately doesn’t mean that Exxon Mobil ought to lose money or even reduce its profitability so the price of gasoline can be kept artificially low. Yes the company made a lot of money last year, but as a percentage of what it spent during the year it and how much revenue the company produced, it wasn’t all that much; many other companies showed higher numbers.

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Too Many Laws

The more laws we have, the less freedom we have. Ideally, a nation has enough laws to provide stability but not so many that you can't keep track of them or that they unnecessarily impede the enjoyment of living in a free land.

The Commonwealth of Virginia is bouncing the idea around of outlawing cell phone use by teenagers while driving. It is the third year this legislation has been introduced, and as is so often the case with proposed legislation, the intent is good. It resulted from an accident when the driver of a car, distracted from driving because she was talking on her cell phone, pulled into the path of a fast-moving truck and was killed in the accident, and her passenger seriously injured.

However, it is a well-accepted maxim that you can’t legislate morality, and it should be just as well accepted that you can’t legislate common sense, as this bill attempts to do. The death of the young girl and the injury of her young female passenger are tragic, to be sure. But they are not a proper basis for a law.

Laws should be relatively few and should be directed at major areas of concern. We shouldn’t have laws prohibiting spitting on the street, crossing in the middle of a block, riding a motorcycle without a helmet and riding in a car without a seatbelt, and a huge array of behaviors that do not substantially harm the populace at large.

We have too many laws already, and we Virginians should hope that the General Assembly has sense enough to stop this law again.

Here are some thoughts on laws and legislation by some smart people:

"It is one of the finest problems in legislation, what the state ought to take upon itself to direct and what it ought to leave, with as little interference as possible, to individual discretion" - Edmund Burke

"Prohibition goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation and makes crimes out of things that are not crimes." - Abraham Lincoln

"You do not examine legislation in the light of the benefits it will convey if properly administered, but in the light of the wrongs it would do and the harms it would cause if improperly administered." - Lyndon B. Johnson

"The world is not going to be saved by legislation." - William Howard Taft

"As a rule of thumb, Congressional legislation that is bipartisan is usually twice as bad as legislation that is partisan." - Thomas Sowell

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Are We Serious About Intelligently
Reducing Man-made Pollution?

Proponents of the man-causes-global-warming theory seem to operate from the position that man is bringing about the end of life-as-we-know-it through his polluting behavior and we have to stop the creation of greenhouse gases. Nowhere in that prescription is there any noticeable consideration for the costs of doing so, as if we just stop polluting and live happily ever after. And, to be fair, perhaps these proponents don’t really believe that we can quickly stop pollution, and what they want is some significant public policy effort to cut back on pollution or move in a direction that will replace polluting mechanisms and devices. Even so, there needs to be some perspective established on this issue.

Jonah Goldberg of National Review Online points out, however, that public policy initiatives always involve trade-offs. “Economists understand that if we put a chicken in every pot, it might cost us an aircraft carrier or a hospital. We can build a hospital, but it might come at the expense of a little patch of forest. We can protect a wetland, but that will make a new school more expensive,” he writes. Having said that, he then paints a picture of reality that ought to give every reasonable person something to think about:

“[I]n the history of trade-offs, never has there been a better one than trading a tiny amount of global warming for a massive amount of global prosperity. Earth got about 0.7 degrees Celsius warmer in the 20th century while it increased its GDP by 1,800 percent, by one estimate. How much of that 0.7 degrees can be laid at the feet of that 1,800 percent is unknowable, but let's stipulate that all of the warming was the result of our prosperity and that this warming is in fact indisputably bad (which is hardly obvious). That's still an amazing bargain. Life expectancies in the United States increased from about 47 years to about 77 years. Literacy, medicine, leisure and even, in many respects, the environment have improved mightily over the course of the 20th century, at least in the prosperous West.”

Even if man isn’t responsible for global warming to a significant degree, it just makes sense to reduce pollution, but as Goldberg said, it involves trade-offs, and the green movement must be prepared to do some trading along with the rest of us.

Less polluting than burning coal and oil to produce electricity, for example, are such technologies as wind powered turbines. But the environmental lobby, or a substantial faction within it, opposes wind power because the windmills spoil the beauty of the mountains and valleys. Nuclear power is also non-polluting and the raw costs of producing electricity are cheaper than with coal and oil, but storing the radio-active spent fuel worries many people, even though there has never been a serious accident with nuclear waste to date, and building the plants and converting spent fuel are expensive.

Hybrid vehicles produce less carbon-based emissions than gasoline or diesel engines, but they cost more money, and the savings on fuel purchases do not balance the investment during the normal life of a hybrid vehicle. Ethanol reduces the amount of gasoline needed to power vehicles but is less efficient than gasoline, and we don’t yet have enough ethanol compatible engines or the infrastructure to produce enough ethanol to make a difference.

Overcoming these obstacles is not impossible, but it is not easy, either. On the one hand, the environmental lobby uses scare tactics to try to persuade us that man is killing the planet so that we will be willing to take unjustified and drastic steps to reduce pollution, and on the other it opposes alternatives that would help accomplish its stated goal, because alternatives have consequences environmentalists find unacceptable. However, if we are to reduce man-made pollution, it will require investment and sacrifice. From everyone.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

It's What You Don't Say That Counts

First Joseph Biden, then George Bush; both victims of using the wrong words. It wasn’t the “N” word, nor was it the “F” word (either of them). For Biden it was “clean,” and for Bush it was “articulate.” Even though Biden also used the word “articulate” in describing Senator Barack Obama, the black senator from Illinois who is a popular Democrat hopeful, it was “clean” that got him in trouble, while “articulate” is what landed Bush in the language pokey. In both cases it wasn’t so much the words that were said, it was the words that weren’t said.

"I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy," Biden said. "I mean, that's a storybook, man." Some blacks immediately took offense, and, of course, the media, were quick to jump.

Later, Bush said: “He’s an attractive guy. He’s articulate. I’ve been impressed with him when I’ve seen him in person.” More offense taken, more jumping.

The assessment: their comments were “insensitive,” they were “racist.”

It’s not a surprise that blacks and the media imply, or even outright accuse George Bush of racism, but a lot of us wonder about blacks and the media calling a liberal Democrat like Biden a racist. Why would they do that? The answer is that both blacks and the media like Obama better than they like Biden. So Biden is fair game when Obama is the subject.

Be that as it may, the essence of this tempest in a teapot is that it was the words that weren’t said that were—are—the problem. Underlying the words of both Biden and Bush is the thought that Obama is articulate and clean for a black man. Yes, that’s right, both Biden and Bush made comments about Obama that they would not have made about a white male candidate, and they did it unconsciously, with no malice aforethought. They intended to compliment Obama, but in this poisoned political atmosphere, they insulted him.

Their comments were insensitive, and they concealed a subconscious attitude that blacks generally aren’t presidential material. It’s a small point to some, perhaps, but you can understand why black people don’t like it.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Prosecutorial Discretion?

What is the logical process for investigating complaints of laws being broken? You might think that the first thing investigators would do would be to make sure a law had been broken. That would be reasonable, wouldn’t it?

To most people, it would be, but not to everybody, and not to some people in the position to investigate complaints.

Failing to find a wrong had been committed before beginning an investigation into the complaint, as if the complaint were valid, is nonsensical, and yet that is precisely what the U.S. Justice Department has done in at least one case. And the result was injustice.

In the case of the alleged “outing” of a CIA operative, Valerie Plame, the investigation began before it was determined that Ms Plame had been “outed.” For her to have been outed she would have had to meet certain legislative criteria for being an undercover CIA operative, and the first responsibility of federal prosecutors was to have determined that Ms Plame was indeed an undercover operative, and if she was, and if her cover was blown by someone making it known that she was, then a crime was committed and an investigation would be justified to find out who let the cat out of the bag.

Unfortunately, Ms Plame’s status as an undercover operative was not determined before the investigation began, a clear screw up by the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald. Ultimately it was determined that Ms Plame did not meet the criteria for being classified as an undercover operative, thus no crime had been committed, and therefore no investigation was warranted. More unfortunately, however, was the fact that an investigation was held into a crime that wasn’t committed, and while no one was indicted for outing an undercover operative (since Ms Plame was not in fact an undercover operative), one person was indicted for “lying” about details about the alleged outing of Ms Plame, who was in fact not outed at all.

Lewis “Scooter” Libby is now on trial for perjury in a case that is not a case. How can someone be indicted and tried for lying about details of the outing of an undercover agent when the person in question was not an undercover agent? No harm, no foul, right?

Not in the United States of America. Just ask Martha Stewart, who fell victim to the prosecutorial misfeasance displayed by Mr. Fitzgerald against Mr. Libby.

A lot of people in this country are worried that the government is encroaching on our rights by listening in on overseas telephone conversations of suspected terrorists. I submit that we are in far more danger from overzealous prosecutors in cases such as Mr. Libby’s than from spying on suspected terrorists.

When the federal government can indict you and put you on trial and perhaps jail you for what may be no more than a bad memory about an event that was not a crime, I say we are in deep trouble.

What say you?

Creativity in Journalism

As an old newsman and the former publisher/editor of a newspaper, I appreciate creativity in journalism. I don't mean creatively making up news or finding creative ways to put forth one ideological point of view over another, I mean finding creative ways to present stories.

There are many attempts to be "cute" in the writing of text or headlines, and some are better than others. I found this one to be a good effort. The headline on an Associated Press story on the Fox News Website about the sad saga of astronaut Lisa Nowack read: "'Lust in Space' Astronaut Lisa Nowak Released on Bail."

Now that's creative headline writing.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Way to Go, Billy !

Congratulations to Billy Joel for understanding how the National Anthem ought to be sung and having the class and the personal security to do it the right way. The 57-year-old Joel sang The Star Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl last for the second time in his career; his initial performance was in 1989.

Billy Joel spared the nation another horrendous performance laced with ego and verbal pyrotechnics, as the people given this honor in past Super Bowls invariably try to out-do every other person ever selected to sing at any major sports event and sang the song the way it is actually written, the way it was intended.

"You know, honestly, I approach it as a musician," Billy said. "It's a difficult song to sing in the first place. There's a 15-note — an octave and a half span in the song.” "So," he concluded, "I think you stick to the script. Don't take it out 50 ways from Sunday. You have to treat it with respect,” he said.

Congratulations to Billy Joel for having the good sense to understand his role, to recognize that the Super Bowl isn’t about the person singing the National Anthem, and for singing it properly. Let's hope he has started a trend.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Cooking the Language

Note: Thanks to Winfred Mann, who pointed out that a word previously used in this piece is actually a noun (blush) when I thought it was only a verb. I have replaced that verb/noun with another word.

My wife Diane is a great cook. She studied, then taught, Home Economics, and cooking was her favorite element of Home Ec. I cook, too, though not nearly as well as Diane, and we both like food, so naturally we enjoy watching the Food Network. It’s great to see how the great chefs like Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay and the others do things, and find some great recipes to try out. And it’s equally good to look at Giada De Laurentiis, Sandra Lee, and Nigella Lawson (But that’s another topic). It used to be that the Food Network’s show personalities were professional chefs, but more recently they have shows featuring people who have some cooking specialty or another, but are not working as chefs.

Now, I am somewhat of a malcontent. Something attracts my attention, negatively, and I focus on that, and often I pick it to death. Such is the case with the Food Network. Or rather, with the people with shows on the network. Being someone who writes and who works with words and strives to use the language correctly, and as a writing tutor at a local college where I am expected to know right from wrong, I am sensitive to language and how it is used. Or, perhaps more properly, MISused. Okay, perhaps I’m more than sensitive.

I am especially irritated by the jargon, the “chef-ese,” used by people who cook on TV. Probably every career field has its own jargon, and I suppose the likelihood that they all are equal offenders of the English language is relatively high, but for some reason the chef-ese is especially irritating. They say things like, “Run your knife through it.” That conjures up images of pirates pillaging a merchant ship: “Run ‘em through with your sword, Matey! Aaaarrrgh!” What they mean, of course, is to “chop” whatever it is that they tell you to run through.

I also wonder why so many things are “upped” when cooking? “Cook this up until it’s brown, then serve it up.” Of course, you would never “chop up” something; you have to run your knife through it, although you would likely be told to “sharpen up your knife.”

However, as annoying as those verbal misdemeanors are, the most maddening of these chef-ese verbal misappropriations is the penchant for making nouns out of words that clearly, and traditionally, are verbs. When one of these cooks say something like, “Give it a quick knead,” I grit my teeth. Audibly. Diane frequently gives me that look, the one that says, “get used to it. This is how they talk.” The temptation to ask “Would you like a pink knead, or a mauve knead?” is great. Why the need to use words improperly? Why not, "Knead it a little?” Or, “Knead this until it is glutened up?”

Not only is this verbal misbehavior grammatically improper, it is also inefficient. It takes more words and more time to say, “Give this a little knead” than to say, “Knead it.” I guess the rule is that proper language, brevity and efficiency are not so important when you are cooking something up. And now that I’ve given it a rough rant, I’ll give up.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Global Warming: Fact, Fiction, or “We’re Not Sure?”

February 2 is the date the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will issue a report assuring us that human activity is the major cause of global warming.

ABC News got a copy of a draft of the IPCC report, and filed a story which said that “scientists now have more evidence than ever that human activity — mostly greenhouse gas emissions from burning coal, oil and gas — is largely responsible for the continuing rise in Earth's average surface temperature.”

The IPCC report involved more than 2,000 scientists from well over 100 nations. That seems like a lot of scientists, but a quick search turned up the fact that there are 7,400 (more or less) atmospheric scientists in the U.S. alone. The 2,000 or so IPCC scientists are but a fraction of all atmospheric scientists in the world. Are they the best possible group to work on this report? Are they a randomly selected group, or do they share a bias favoring the Man-Causes-Global-Warming theory? Some of us who aren’t ready to condemn mankind for trashing the planet without solid proof want to know more.

No doubt, global warming adherents will remain solidly convinced that Man is the worst thing to have happened to Nature, and that the report will correctly conclude that man has caused global warming, or at least contributed significantly to it. And there will be many more who are not necessarily environmentalists that will accept this theory as Gospel because it has received such positive support in the news and information media. But not everyone agrees with that assessment.

The National Center for Policy Analysis, for one, has this to say on the subject: “The Earth currently is experiencing a warming trend, but there is scientific evidence that human activities have little to do with it. Instead, the warming seems to be part of a 1,500-year cycle (plus or minus 500 years) of moderate temperature swings.”

And the National Aeronautic and Space Administration—NASA—isn’t so sure, either. “It may surprise many people that science—the de facto source of dependable knowledge about the natural world—cannot deliver an unqualified, unanimous answer about something as important as climate change. Why is the question so thorny? The reason, say experts, is that Earth's climate is complex and chaotic. It's so unwieldy that researchers simply can't conduct experiments to check their ideas in the usual way of science. They often rely, instead, on computer models. But such models are only as good as their inputs and programming, and today's computer models are known to be imperfect.”

A report in The Daily Telegraph of London in November 2006, reflects that even the IPCC isn’t certain about its own conclusions:

“Mankind has had less effect on global warming than previously supposed, a United Nations report on climate change will claim next year.

“The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says there can be little doubt that humans are responsible for warming the planet, but the organisation has reduced its overall estimate of this effect by 25 per cent.”

The IPCC is certain that mankind is responsible, but has just learned that its previous estimate of human influence on global warming was significantly overstated. And that begs the question, If the IPCC is that far off in estimating the degree to which humans have influenced global warming, how far off are its conclusions on the broader topic?

The Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine began a petition project in 2001 to dissuade the United States from signing the Kyoto agreement, which the U.S. ultimately refused to sign. In a letter seeking signatories to the petition from Frederick Seitz, Past President, National Academy of Sciences, and President Emeritus, Rockefeller University, is this opinion: “This treaty is, in our opinion, based upon flawed ideas. Research data on climate change do not show that human use of hydrocarbons is harmful. To the contrary, there is good evidence that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide is environmentally helpful.”

The petition contains similar language and bears more than 17,000 signatures of basic and applied scientists, and more than two-thirds of them hold advanced degrees. Among the signers were 2,660 physicists, geophysicists, climatologists, meteorologists, oceanographers, and environmental scientists and 5,017 scientists whose fields of specialization were in chemistry, biochemistry, biology, and other life sciences.

So, the IPCC report is the work of 2,500 scientists who believe that mankind has had a significant influence on global warming, while the petition contains the names of more than 17,000 scientists who disagree, and nearly 8,000 of them work in fields of science related to climate studies. That is a substantial body of divergent opinion that at the very least ought tell us that science has only a dim picture of our climate and how it works, and we will be well advised to take no actions based upon what amounts to conjecture on the part of the pro-greenhouse-gas lobby, but keep studying and searching for the truth.