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Archive for August, 2009

It has been happening slowly, almost imperceptibly, like the Titanic trying to turn away from an iceberg in its path.  The casual observer might not have noticed any change, but upon closer inspection you notice that something somehow has changed.  Remember when CNN was a news organization?  Remember when they reported what happened both in the U.S. and around the world and they were satisfied with doing that – sort of an American BBC?  Now they have morphed into a semi-entertainment show.  They’ve gone all a-twitter.  People can interact with them in real time via social networking websites.  Both Joe Redneck and Joe College can have their thoughts read aloud now on CNN news- as if their thoughts were representative of anything other than their own private musings.

But another, more insidious change has taken place in Atlanta.  CNN has developed a taste for provocative news, news that will get you excited, news that will keep you watching and keep you listening – because after all, they are a commercial enterprise and sponsors pay for ratings and ratings come from numbers of watching heads.  Plain old facts don’t give them the kick they need anymore. People listen and watch plain old facts for half an hour, understand what is happening in the world today, and then turn off the TV and go about their lives.  Not a profitable business model.  It appears that CNN has taken a glance at the FOX News business model and said, “Hmmm, we need to learn from these geniuses.  We need to get more into the news entertainment business.  Leave the straight factual reporting to the Brits.”

On today’s morning news on CNN it was reported that a government health plan could eventually result in rationing health care because the government would have no other way of controlling costs.  Que visions in people’s minds of someone pulling the plug on Grandma.  CNN reported that this conclusion had been reached by the Cato Institute, which had done a study of government health care.  CNN went on to say that the Cato Institute is a Libertarian organization.  (For those unfamiliar with Libertarian philosophy, it doesn’t mean the same thing as Liberal – as in left-wing Democrats.  Libertarians are fundamentally opposed to government in general and believe that the less government we have the better off everyone is.)  I guess CNN couldn’t find the time to fit in a brief explanation of Libertarian views, so that explanation was rationed out of the news.  The innocent listener was left thinking that government health care must be bad with all the rationing they’ll be doing.  Apparently CNN was short on time and couldn’t fit in an explanation that commercial health insurance companies, hospitals, dentists, dental insurance companies, and basically the entire U.S. health industry currently rations health care. So CNN rationed that out too.

“What?” you say.  “I don’t want anyone rationing my health care!” Neither do I, but it’s a fact of life.  Take a look at your insurance policy and see what’s covered and what’s not covered.  Look at the limits of your coverage for certain procedures.  Look at what is excluded.  Same with your dental plan.  Let’s say you needed a heart transplant.  Could you get one tomorrow?  No. You would be placed on a waiting list.  How about a new liver or kidney? Same thing.  How about just a routine operation to repair a problem with your back?  Ummm, let’s see, OK we have an opening in six weeks on Thursday.  Can you come in then? – Isn’t this all rationing? Of course. Our health care system doesn’t have infinite capacity. Our health care insurers don’t have infinite funds. There are limits on what you will get right now.  A government plan would be no different – only an idiot would believe otherwise.  In the real world their are limits to everything; unfortunately, CNN chose not to explain that and went ahead with the “rationing” story without further explanation, thereby conjuring up, once again, images of poor old, expendable, grandma having the plug pulled on her.

This isn’t news.  This is beyond news.  This is yelling “FIRE” in a crowded theater.  It is irresponsible journalism, a failure to report the truth by omitting facts.  This is deliberate stirring up misunderstandings and debate among ill-informed citizens all for the sake of an audience who will keep listening to learn more dire “facts” about what could go wrong if the government begins to provide health care for large numbers of Americans.  This is not helping.  Only the truth helps and this isn’t it.

CNN, you have crossed the line.  You have now entered the twilight world of Fox News, a world of half truths and innuendo, a world where not everything is at it seems. I suppose it could only happen on a television set.  CNN has  entered the Twilight Zone.

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It looks like the Republicans have Obama on the ropes now, doesn’t it?  The Public Option is all but dead, and the Republican base is buzzing around like a swarm of killer bees.  Led by their chief visionaries Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, and supported by congressional buffoons like Michelle Bachman, the Republican machine has easily roused the rural gun-totin’ fanatics who all share a fanatical distrust of “gummint’ in general and “revenooers” in particular.  These are people who want nothing to do with government of any sort, and they only type of government people they will tolerate are the Michell Bachmans of the world – a person whose only position on government is that there shouldn’t be any. What are those people in Minnesota thinking anyway?  Is this the best they can produce?

So did all the insane ranting work?  Did the mass assemblies at town meetings that essentially prevented any logical discussion of the issues do their job?  Have the Republicans, the people who brought us President “What Me Worry” Bush and Vice President Vader, won another one for the Gipper? Have they prevented the average American people once again from having access to affordable life-saving health care – unless they mortgage their homes and sell their children into slavery?  Has the unholy coalition of the Republican Party and the For-Massive-Profit health insurance and pharmaceutical industry won yet again?  Even though the vast majority of the American people actually want reform? Could it be that our Democratic Congress, while having a majority in both houses will be unable accomplish anything to improve American health care? Do we just have a weak bunch of Democratic sissies, afraid to play hard ball with a Republican minority?  I don’t seem to recall the Republicans flinching whenever they wanted to steamroll the Democrats –  and they did so, time and time again.  So what’s up, President Obama?  What’s going on here?  Are you just going to weakly compromise away everything you wanted to get done?  Is this the CHANGE you sold us on?

If we care to take a step back from all this for a moment, we might recall one thing.  President Obama is one smart guy.  He organized his way into the White House.  He blew away the competition – not just John McCain, but Hillary too.  He knew what the people wanted to hear and he gave it to them.  He assembled a smart and powerful team of advisers after his election and immediately began a series of major steps to save the country from the economic Hell that George Bush had created.  He took decisive steps to get us out of Iraq. He took decisive steps to close Vice President Vader’s little shop of horrors in Guantanamo. So now, all of a sudden, he runs into a stone wall when it comes to health reform  and concedes defeat? Is this the same Barack Obama we elected?

I don’t think so.  He’s also a basketball player.  He knows how to fake.  While the Republican morons gloat that they have destroyed the President’s government-controlled welfare state,  along with his socialist, communistic, atheistic, immoral, death panel dealing, economy destroying health plan, Obama has quietly moved the ball from his right hand to his left hand – his shooting hand.  The Republicans never even noticed.  The game isn’t over yet, boys.  But the Republicans have been faked out of position.  Obama’s plan never was to have a Public Option.  Without skipping a beat we are now talking about health co-ops and the Republicans are looking this way and that, wondering where the ball went and also wondering whether this is his plan or is there something else up his sleeve.  Did they just fall for the old hidden ball trick?  Did they waste all their ammo on a feint?  Did the mindless Republican base get all stirred up for nothing?  Can the Beck’s and Limbaugh’s and Bachman’s and the other mindless leaders of the Republican Party recover and devise a new disruptive strategy soon enough? And what will they disrupt?  People getting together to create and control their own medical co-ops?

The Republicans are gloating now, but like a battered prize fighter, a dim awareness will soon begin to arise in those mini-minds. “Hey!” they’ll shout. “Wait a minute.” But it will be too late.  Obama already sank the last shot.  Game over. The people win another game.  Get used to it, Republicans, he ‘s way too smart for you.  It’s going to be a long four years.

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There are a lot of Americans who are invested in the stock market one way or another.  Many have 401k retirement plans.  Many have 529 college fund plans.  Some have IRAs and others simply buy stocks or bonds directly through a broker.  One way or another, I would guess that perhaps half or more of the adult population has investments in the stock market.  Let’s say that is about 100 million people, give or take.

Today, the Dow Jones fell precipitously from the opening bell.  It fell very quickly and stayed low the entire day without a lot of up and down motion after its initial drop.  By the time the market had closed the Dow had dropped 2%.  There are a few curious things about this.  First, the Chinese market had fallen 5.8% earlier.  Interestingly, the Japanese market had also fallen.  The Nikkei fell by 3.1 %, despite the report that Japan had just exited from recession and was now in an economic recovery. So one has to wonder a bit.  Did those 100 million or so American investors suddenly wake up in their sleep, perhaps due to a bad dream about the stock market, and sometime in the wee hours of the morning place a massive amount of sell orders before the U.S. market opened?

And if they did, why did they also bail on the Japanese economy?  Japan is now the third major country, after Germany and France, to announce that they have recovered from the recent economic meltdown.  Wouldn’t you have thought those sleepy Americans would have held onto their Japanese stocks? Or was it maybe the Japanese citizens themselves who panicked when they heard the dire news that they had recovered from the recession? And what got into all those people who had invested in Chinese stocks? China has the largest stimulus package in this corner of the universe and they also own several tons of U.S. treasury bills.  Did the investors suddenly forget that?  Why would all these little investors suddenly wake up in the middle of the night and scream, “Sell all my Chinese stocks!”

Why indeed.  Unless there is more to this instantaneous worldwide sell off than meets the eye.  I wonder.  Could it be that this massive, worldwide purge of investments wasn’t the result of millions or billions of investors all making the same “sell” decision at the same instant?  Could it be that perhaps something else was going on?  Could it be that maybe this was an orchestrated sell off instigated by a relatively small group of traders?  And if so why?  Why would any group of traders that control maybe 5 0r 10% of the entire world’s stock markets suddenly sell everything?  What could they gain – except to maybe trigger a massive number of stop losses.

And even if they did.  What good would that do for them?  What would they do then?  What would you do?  Perhaps we’ll see tomorrow.

Of course, I could be wrong.  Maybe everybody did just run to the same side of the boat at the same time.  It could happen…. Right???  Couldn’t it?

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More than Catholicism, more than Calvinism, more than Judaism, more than Islam, more than Hinduism, more than any religion, there is one belief system in America that is above and beyond criticism: Capitalism. To criticize capitalism is to be called un-American by many citizens of this country.  Capitalism, of the free and unfettered type favored by Milton Friedman (there are in fact many definitions of capitalism), is our sacred cow – above criticism, beyond reproach, the cure for all of society’s ills, the defender and fount of our freedom, our goal and our vessel, our salvation, our Nirvana.  This is especially true if you are a Republican, for it is the extreme Republican right that are the true believers in this economic theory.  For them, capitalism is the cure for whatever ails our society.  If our economy is lagging, take off the controls, it’ll cure itself.  If our economy is overheated and inflation is rampant, stand back, it’ll correct itself.  If people are starving and out of work, do nothing, it’ll all get taken care of through the immutable laws of the marketplace.

In case after case, the true believers always have the same answer: take the controls off our capitalistic system and “let ‘er rip”.  For the true believers, the sanctity of capitalism is beyond reproach and certainly beyond question. For these people there is only one rule: capitalism always works in all situations.  For these people this rule is as inviolate as the rule that says 1+1=2, and anyone who dares to question or tinker with capitalism is either a fool or just simply un-American.  The thing these people don’t understand is that even in the ideal world of mathematics, 1+1 is not always equal to 2.  In the world of computers, 1+1=1, because computers do not use our decimal arithmetic, they use the rules of Boolean algebra for their internal computations. There are exceptions to every rule – that’s a hard and fast rule.

The true believers in unfettered, hands-off capitalism, prefer a simplistic world, a world of almost religious belief in an economic theory, a world where everything is well defined and the rules never change, a world where a centimeter is always a centimeter and a minute is always a minute.  Except we know from science that centimeters and minutes aren’t inviolate after all and lengths and times can expand and contract despite our definitions of what they are.  Just ask Albert Einstein.

Today, as we try to have rational discussions about improving our health care system, the advocates of change are being met by mobs of people determined to hang on to the free market type of health insurance system we have now.  They want no role for government in our health system.  Why? For the mobs, it’s a matter of a semi-religious belief in capitalist economics and a mistrust of government in general.  But for the health industry, it’s different.  It’s about money – lot’s of it.  If there is one thing that is notable about the history of American capitalism it is that is has produced some prodigious individual fortunes.  Just consider the robber barons of the 19th century, people like John D Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and John Jacob Astor. There are many more.  Is there one thing that distinguishes all of these people?  Yes, exploitation.  They came into a land rich in natural resources and they helped themselves to whatever they could grab, unfettered, unrestrained by any rules, they enriched themselves at the expense of others.  Today’s American health industry, while not as successful as the robber barons of the past, is no less greedy.  It is important to note that this is a for-profit industry, and they make lots of it.  Health care is big business and much of that big business wants to keep it that way: profiting from the sick and dying.  And the true Republican believers in unfettered capitalism have been suckered in by these businesses, becoming the unknowing and unthinking pawns in a high stakes game of finance of which they truly have no knowledge.  This is the Republican coalition of our 21st century: would-be robber barons and a large crowd of ill-informed, often deceived, and anxious Americans who truly believe that no rules capitalism is the true religion of America.

Unfortunately, unfettered capitalism is not confined to health care in the U.S.  It has also infected our airline industry (courtesy of Ronald Reagan) to the detriment of the safety of the traveling public and the aviation industry in general.   Congress is in the process of holding hearings about the safety of regional airlines in the wake of the Colgan Air (operating as Continental Connection) crash in Buffalo last winter.  It is clear from the hearings that Congress is very concerned about the very low pay that regional pilots receive and the conditions in which many of them have to live.  Many make the same pay as bus drivers in New York City. The result of this unfettered, free market capitalism in the aviation industry is that Congress has serious concerns about the safety of the regional airlines, mostly due to the extremely low salaries that are paid to regional airline pilots – a result of uncontrolled capitalism.  You can watch the proceedings here. Just be sure to set aside a couple of hours to watch the whole thing.

The problem we have in the U.S. is that we have this notion that having a completely free market and unrestrained, unregulated  capitalism is equivalent to being American. It means being free.  It doesn’t.  It’s just an economic theory that, unfortunately doesn’t work too well.  It needs adult supervision.  However, there are some very wealthy people in this country who are making a lot of money from this malfunctioning system, and like John D. Rockefeller, they would like things to stay this way.  Europe, the birthplace of capitalism (not the U.S.), faced these issues long ago and came up with a variety of solutions – all of which implement some sort of controls on their economic systems.  Most have moved to some variant of socialism.  It’s not un-American to consider some socialistic ideas, indeed we already have incorporated some, such as Social Security and Medicare.  And is there anything more socialistic than the Veterans Administration health system?  Aren’t our public schools a form of socialistic education?  If you look around you will see that we aren’t really a purely capitalistic society at all, we have incorporated many concepts of socialism when they made sense for society as a whole. The thing to understand is that it is OK to modify no-rules capitalism.

It’s time for American’s to stop listening to our 21st century robber barons and their pleas to patriotism that evoke knee-jerk responses in the ill-informed.  Capitalism is not our national religion.  It can be questioned and modified.  It’s only an imperfect economic theory, and far from being bound to its precepts like slaves to a stone idol, as Americans we have the freedom to fix it.

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There are times when we are presented with a piece of information that is truly breathtaking.  It leaves us stunned, not sure how to react, because it tells us that our concept of reality is not accurate. We’ve been wrong all along about something we took for granted.  Today was such a day for me.  I read in the news that a poll had been taken in North Carolina concerning President Obama.  People were simply asked whether they believed that President Obama had been born in the United States – a  requirement for anyone who wants to be President (unless you are John McCain, in which case the government is apparently willing to consider Panama to be part of the U.S.)

Now, before I tell you the results of the poll, you have to understand one thing.  North Carolina was a blue state in the last election.  North Carolina voted for Barack Obama to be president of the United States.  So, perhaps you might understand my shock when I learned the results of the poll: of the 749 people who took the poll, only a mere 54% believed that President Obama was actually born in the United States! This is in spite of the fact that his birth announcement had been printed in the Honolulu newspapers just after he was born and despite the fact that the director of the Hawaii Department of Health has confirmed the validity of Obama’s birth certificate.  Furthermore, 5 % of the people who took the poll did not believe that Hawaii was even part of the U.S. and another 3% weren’t sure if it was.  North Carolina is a state that has some of America’s top universities, like Duke and the University of North Carolina (the very first public university to be established in the entire United States).  North Carolina is also the home of the Research Triangle Park , the third largest high tech research area in the entire country – just after Boston’s Rte. 128 area and California’s Silicon Valley.  By any standard, North Carolina should be considered to have a significant segment of the brain power in the U.S., and yet they produce poll results like this!

So my question is this: are these people who took the poll just dumb or are they lying?  I mean, is there any alternative and rational explanation? (And no, truly believing Obama was not born in the U.S. is neither intelligent nor rational. So that doesn’t count.)  And what about the 8% of the people who didn’t even know that Hawaii was part of the U.S.?  It became the 50th state fifty years ago! And there are people who still are unaware of this? (By the way, I happen to know a few native Hawaiians who would be very, very happy if Hawaii were actually not a state.  They just want their country back – but that’s another story.)

Let me give the people who believe that President Obama was not born in the U.S. the benefit of the doubt:  I don’t believe they were lying. Which leaves only one option: they are hopelessly uninformed, i.e. they’re just dumb.  (Isn’t that the definition of dumb?) Now, let’s suppose that these people were an accurate cross section of the population of North Carolina, an assumption for which I have no proof, but let’s just say so anyway.  Well, since North Carolina voted for Obama – but just barely – it’s also a reasonable assumption that it pretty well represents the country as a whole, and we might then infer that a lot of people – maybe close to half – in this country don’t believe Obama was born here.  This is interesting because it sort of coincides with the number of people who are scared to death about health care reform, who believe the government will be setting up death panels, and who believe that they have the best of all possible health care right now, despite the fact that most civilized countries, like Canada, England, Norway and so forth actually have better health statistics than we do.  The inescapable conclusion from all of this is this: we have become a dumb country.  We have become dumbed down without even realizing it.  We still think we are on top of the world and we (collectively) are too dumb to realize that we actually lost that status about forty years or fifty years ago.

Just look at test scores.  Of the top sixteen nations in the world in science, guess where we stand in student test scores? Number 16. Just after the French, the Czechs, and the Austrians.  Those socialist Norwegians are number 1.  Sure, you say.  But what about math? That’s our strong point, right? Actually we’re 15th in math.  We beat the Austrians there.  It turns out the French are number 1 in math.  Yeah, I know.  Sorry.  If you look at test scores after the 4th grade, the 8th grade and the 12th grade, guess which countries turn out to be number 1 in science and math?  Singapore, Netherlands, Korea, Sweden, France, and Norway.   The U.S. position ranges from 3rd place to 28th place in the various grades and subjects. Don’t get too fired up about us getting a 3rd place finish in one category: we got it for 4th grade science).

It wasn’t always like this.  We used to be on top.  We had the best education system in the world.  Not anymore.  Why?

Now, not only are we unable to compete with a large part of the world because we don’t have the education we need, huge numbers of us can’t even tell when someone, like Sarah Palin or Rush Limbaugh, is flagrantly pulling the wool over our eyes.  As a people we’ll fall for anything that we hear. We’ve become uninformed, ill-educated, and easily mislead.  The polls show it.  The recent chaos in our town meetings show it.  The exodus of high tech jobs to other countries shows it.  Our reliance on an economy based upon credit and a real estate bubble shows it.  How can we possibly compete if we are so dumb that half of the population actually believes that President Obama wasn’t born in Hawaii, or even worse, that Hawaii is not even part of the United States?

It’s taken fifty years, but the job is complete.  We’ve been dumbed down. We’ve become not much more than a herd of cattle now.  The question is: is it too late to recover?  Can we once again produce the top intellects in the world? (And I don’t mean just one or two guys from Harvard).  I think so, but first we need to identify the cause of the problem and then we need to take the right steps to fix it.

The alternative is this: in twenty five years (or less) we’ll all be working in factories for subsistence pay making cars, stereos, computers, and television sets for export to China and India and the rest of the civilized, high-educated world.

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It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the American people so fired up – at least a significant portion anyway.  The town hall meetings that are being conducted are being invaded by coordinated groups of Republican protesters who clearly, desperately, believe that health care reform will bring about the destruction of the American way of life.  I don’t think I’ve have seen this much emotion from the American public since the Vietnam War protests many years ago.  Somehow though, I think this is a different crowd.  This time it is the people we usually call “conservatives” who are ranting and raving in the streets.  The question we should be asking ourselves is: why?  Why this huge disconnect among the citizens of the same country?  Is it that one group just doesn’t have the power of deductive reasoning?  Is it because one group has swallowed a bucket load of disinformation while the other group is totally well informed? Or is it just a fundamental difference in philosophy and  beliefs?

There are few Americans who would claim that citizens of this country are not entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  These words are embodied in our Declaration of Independence and provide part of our fundamental understanding of who we are, even though they are not incorporated in the Constitution.  So, from the standpoint of philosophy, doesn’t it make sense to say that if we have a right to life, then we also have a right to health care?  Because in order to live, everyone needs health care at some time in their lives.  To deny health care is to deny life, and to deny someone the right to life, by definition, makes one un-American.  Simple, right?  Apparently not.

The fundamental issue that is at the bottom of all this is the burning question: who is going to pay?  Do you really expect me to pay for your health care – from my tax dollars?  Hell no – I want a system where I don’t pay for your health care – I want private insurance.  You pay for your own health care.  That’s what the opponents say.  Uh…wait a minute. Isn’t insurance effectively the same thing as taxes? I mean we all put money in a pot – either a public or a private pot – and then those who need the money for health care get it from that pot. If you don’t get sick, you don’t get the money.  Isn’t it, from the financial viewpoint anyway, pretty much the same whether you buy insurance or use tax dollars to pay your medical bills? Either way, you are going to pay.

Oh, OK.  But what about being treated by the doctor you trust?  Doesn’t insurance mean you can choose your own doctor while using tax dollars means that some civil servant is going to decide on your health care treatment?  It seems to me that this is a major sticking point. And I can understand that.  I’ve had more than enough contact with civil servants and, like most Americans, I hold the vast majority of them in very low esteem.  I think my dog has more brains than most of them, particularly the ones employed by the Federal government, – but don’t get me started.   On the other hand, the major insurance companies also make decisions on heath care treatments, and these decisions are made by the bean counters and administrative people at those for-profit companies, so even though your doctor might recommend a certain treatment, your insurance company might say they won’t pay for it.  It’s not so much that the insurance company execs are dumb (like the civil servants) it’s rather that they are out to make a buck (yours that is) and they are not in business to simply use your premiums to pay for your medical needs – after all they do need to make a fat profit, you know.

It now seems that we have moved beyond rational discussion of the actual issues into those that are much more fun to talk about – if not actually relevant. So we have ex-Gov Sarah Palin decrying government “death panels”, and the Republicans have called in their squads of crazies and told the lunatic fringe to be ready on standby.  Rush Limbaugh is desperately trying to convince his listeners that President Obama is the second coming of Adolph Hitler, while Glenn Beck is content to simply call President Obama a racist and a fascist.

It seems that the Republican Party and their minions are now desperately throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the health care bill that is looming in Congress.  But why? Why is the Party desperately stirring up mobs of people and baiting them with misinformation? Is it because we have moved beyond rational debate about the pros and cons of health care reform?  Apparently so.  The Republican Party has apparently decided that rational debate is useless and has decided to unleash mobs of irrational, ill-informed, emotional people in a last ditch effort to derail the Congressional bill.  The key concept here is desperation  – so evident among the mobs of mislead people who are showing up in carefully orchestrated groups at the town hall meetings across the country.  As demagogues, like Sarah Palin, add fuel to the flames, the “masterminds??” of the Republican Party have unleashed their final solution to the health care issue upon the country: Helter Skelter.

Ultimately though, the Republicans just don’t have the votes.  Despite all the lies and distortions, the name calling, the character assassinations, the idiocy that spews from the lips of Limbaugh and Beck, the wheels are not coming off.  Health care reform will be passed, and all Americans will benefit.

And before you can say Abe Lincoln, the Republicans will be taking credit for all the good things it does for the people of America.

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With the Iraq War wrapping up, the administration canceling advanced fighter projects, like the F-22, and improving relations with Russia, Cuba, China, and maybe even North Korea, the U.S. military is anxiously looking around for an enemy we can all agree on – a new cash cow for the military and its industrial complex.  It seems that they have now latched onto the idea that Global Warming is a clear and present danger to the security of the U.S. and it is time for the superheros at the Pentagon to step in (with the help of a few trillion dollars in funding, of course).  The military missions needed to deal with Global Warming are still being defined, but rest assured, they will be.  The planners at the Pentagon know which way the wind blows.

The question is: does anybody else? I mean about the way the wind blows, i.e. climate. Does anybody really understand how the earth’s climate works (with the exception of Al Gore, of course, who is a noted expert in such matters)?  The reason I ask is that it seems to me there is a lot of uncertainty, not only about tomorrow’s weather forecast, but also about the long term future and the long term past.  For example, only a few years ago The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute published a scholarly paper questioning whether we are on the brink of another Little Ice Age.  It is a very well written article and, if nothing else makes it clear that we really don’t understand the mechanisms that control earth’s climate.  Our planet has gone through many cycles of extreme heat and extreme cold. Global warming has been going on for the last 13,000 years or so, ever since the last Ice Age – and no one knows why.

It is interesting to note that global climate change can occur extremely rapidly – a recent publication states that half of the warming that has occurred since the last Ice Age took place in a ten year period (and no, it was not the last ten years). A couple of years ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that global warming was unequivocal and that human activity was the main driver. I think what they probably meant was that we are in a 10,000 year warming period (of which we have no idea what caused it, but for the last several decades the chief contributor appears to be the activities of humans).  The implication here is that if we humans just stop our activities then global warming will also stop.  It won’t.

Interestingly enough, scientists have recently noted that the Sun’s spots, the sunspots, seem to have disappeared pretty much totally. This is interesting because many scientists think there is an association with the absence of sunspots and global cooling.  Of course not all scientists agree – and calling for an imminent phase of global cooling is certainly not the way to make friends in today’s scientific community – let alone the military community, it would seem.  Meanwhile, our friends at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are now finding, two years after their warning to the world, that they seem to have lost control of the situation. There are a lot of voices now in the climate research world, and not all of them are paying attention to the IPCC; many are now critics of the IPCC.

With all the scientists arguing about the reality or non-reality of global warming and now the Pentagon deciding to get it’s cut of the action, it is easy to ignore the fact that there has been another effect going on for a long time – a manmade effect, that has greatly mitigated global warming.  It’s called Global Dimming, and you won’t hear many people at the Pentagon talking about it.  You probably won’t hear a lot of people in the IPCC talking about it either.  I don’t believe I’ve ever heard the noted climatologist, Al Gore, ever mention it.  It certainly hasn’t made headlines in the New York Times.  However, this manmade effect has significantly  mitigated global warming and has also caused climate change in certain parts of the world.  It is suspected that global dimming and not global warming is the primary cause for the drought in northern Africa.

Global dimming is caused by the release of water vapor into the atmosphere, a byproduct of combustion. The leading source of this is jet engines. You can see this whenever you see a contrail in the sky.  There are lots of contrails in the sky every day worldwide, and the cumulative effect of these is to filter the sunlight, dimming and cooling the earth. So in a way, the more water vapor we put in the atmosphere the more we prevent global warming, which is caused by other gases we put in the air near the ground.  Hmmm….so let me think. Is there any way we could use this effect to help neutralize global warming? Anyone?…Anyone?

While the Pentagon gears up for the War on Warming, and the government combats greenhouse emissions with its cash for clunkers, windmill and solar collector production, and a whole new green economy, it seems to me that everyone is studiously avoiding a direct solution to the problem.  So tell me what I’m missing here.

And while you are at it, please tell me why we are not planting forests everywhere to replace the vast areas of the earth that have been clear cut, because it is the trees that remove that greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, from our atmosphere.  Maybe the Pentagon should just start a massive tree planting program throughout the world! That would probably help a lot.  I wonder if they would be interested?

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