Posts Tagged ‘Washington Post’

Beyond the Redskins

July 3, 2014

Now that the US Patent and Trade office has, probably illegally but what does that matter in Obama’s America, cancelled the Washington Redskins trademark, what is the next step for Progressives who want to perform some symbolic action and push people around without actually helping anyone? If Simon Waxman of the Washington Post has his way, they will force the military to rename any weapons system named after an Indian tribe. Have any Native Americans come forward to demand such changes? For that matter, is renaming the Washington Redskins really a high priority among Native Americans? No, but Mr. Waxman believes such names are an insult and a slur and is offended on behalf of the Indians.

But even if the NFL and Redskins brass come to their senses and rename the team, a greater symbolic injustice would continue to afflict Indians — an injustice perpetuated not by a football club but by our federal government.

In the United States today, the names Apache, Comanche, Chinook, Lakota, Cheyenne and Kiowa apply not only to Indian tribes but also to military helicopters. Add in the Black Hawk, named for a leader of the Sauk tribe. Then there is the Tomahawk, a low-altitude missile, and a drone named for an Indian chief, Gray Eagle. Operation Geronimo was the end of Osama bin Laden.

Why do we name our battles and weapons after people we have vanquished? For the same reason the Washington team is the Redskins and my hometown Red Sox go to Cleveland to play the Indians and to Atlanta to play the Braves: because the myth of the worthy native adversary is more palatable than the reality — the conquered tribes of this land were not rivals but victims, cheated and impossibly outgunned.

The destruction of the Indians was asymmetric war, compounded by deviousness in the name of imperialist manifest destiny. White America shot, imprisoned, lied, swindled, preached, bought, built and voted its way to domination. Identifying our powerful weapons and victorious campaigns with those we subjugated serves to lighten the burden of our guilt. It confuses violation with a fair fight.

It is worse than denial; it is propaganda. The message carried by the word Apache emblazoned on one of history’s great fighting machines is that the Americans overcame an opponent so powerful and true that we are proud to adopt its name. They tested our mettle, and we proved stronger, so don’t mess with us. In whatever measure it is tribute to the dead, it is in greater measure a boost to our national sense of superiority. And this message of superiority is shared not just with U.S. citizens but with those of the 14 nations whose governments buy the Apache helicopters we sell. It is shared, too, with those who hear the whir of an Apache overhead or find its guns trained on them. Noam Chomsky has clarified the moral stakes in provocative, instructive terms: “We might react differently if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes ‘Jew’ and ‘Gypsy.’ ”

Noam Chomsky supported the Khmer Rouge and refused to believe the reports that they were massacring half of Cambodia’s population. I don’t think he should be respected for his (lack of) moral clarity. Waxman’s version of Indian history which casts the Native Americans as the hapless victims of the wicked White people, with no hope of defeating the White Man’s superior technology and cunning is actually rather insulting, and perhaps racist. If I were a Native American, I know which narrative I would prefer, the one which casts them as noble, heroic warriors. And, in fact, he is wrong.

The truth is that the Native Americans were quite capable of holding their own against the European invaders, at least until the industrial revolution. The Europeans did have guns and horses which gave them an advantage, but it was not really a insurmountable advantage, especially considering that the Native Americans far outnumbered the Europeans in the early stages of the conquest and settlement of the New World. The Europeans did, however, have a secret weapon, a weapon so secret that even they weren’t aware of it, disease. The European explorers who first discovered and explored the Americas carried within their bodies the germs which caused such diseases as smallpox, measles, cholera, and others. They had built up an immunity but the Indians had never been exposed to these diseases. The resulting plagues decimated the Native population. Had this not occurred, the earliest settlers would have had a much more difficult time establishing a foothold in the New World. When the first English settlers arrived at Jamestown and Plymouth Bay, they did not find a primeval wilderness. They found cultivated land where the cultivators had obligingly died off.

Another factor missing in Waxman’s narrative is the extent to which the Native Americans’ inability to come together to fight what turned out to be a common foe. The Indians were not unacquainted with savage war and deceit. When the French or English showed up, most Indian tribes were eager to trade with them for firearms, the better to fight their traditional enemies, and enlist them as allies to help destroy them. The French Jesuit missionaries were horrified by the near genocidal war between the Iroquois and Huron, touched off by trade with the French and Dutch.

The Spanish conquistadors may have had superior technology and were cruel and desperate men, but they could never have conquered and ruled large empires without the help of native allies, and, of course, disease. The Aztecs were hated throughout Mexico for their aggression and Cortes had little difficulty raising an Indian army with the hope of throwing off the Aztec yoke. That the Aztec yoke was quickly replaced with a Spanish one may seem to indicate that they chose poorly, but then the Spanish didn’t demand that they provide human sacrifices to their God. The Incas were still recovering from a devastating civil war and plague when Pizarro showed up. Their king, Atahualpa, was considered a usurper by the nobility. Most of the peoples that the Incas ruled had been conquered within the last century and didn’t see enough difference between the two sets of conquerors to care who won. They did choose poorly since the Spaniards were far more rapacious than the Incas.

The point of relating this history is to show that the American Indians do have a history to be proud of. They were not helpless, simple-minded victims, nor were they primitive, noble savages who lived in harmony with nature and each other. They were human beings who tried the best they could to preserve their lives and liberty. There is no question that the White man has treated the Red man shamefully. The fact that if the situation were reversed and the Native Americans discovered Europe they would have acted in the same way is no excuse. The least we can do to make amends is to honor them for their noble heritage and not to pity them or presume to speak for them.

Chief Sitting Bull

Not a victim or a child (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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The Future of Fast Food

November 14, 2013

While automation has eliminated many jobs in the manufacturing sector of the economy, so far the service sector, especially the fast food industry has remained labor intensive, employing hosts of young and unskilled workers. That may be changing, however. Perhaps the future of fast food can be found at Bolt Burgers, a new restaurant in Washington D. C. What makes Bolt Burgers a little different is that when the restaurant opens, the process of ordering and getting your food will be as computerized and automated as possible. The Washington Post has the story.

No restaurant in D.C. has been better outfitted for the iPhone generation than the forthcoming Bolt Burgers. It is a restaurant full of screens — touchscreen systems for ordering your food and making your drinks, tablets at every table, and a 16-foot-wide projected TV screen to watch while you wait for your order.

You can order food without having a single interaction with another human being, which, for millennials who prefer texting and online ordering through Seamless to picking up the phone, is a major plus.

Michael Davidson, Joe Spinelli and other partners at Bolt Burgers are banking on it. When the 3,200-square-foot restaurant opens by Thanksgiving at 1010 Massachusetts Ave. NW, they’ll have put more than 18 months into perfecting the computer systems behind Bolt, a concept they plan to franchise.

There are several ways to order a Bolt burger, and one of them can be done from your office. An online pre-ordering system will allow customers to order in advance for both take-out and dine-in: Give the server your order number when you arrive and, if all goes according to plan, your food will be at your seat within 10 minutes.

If you haven’t pre-ordered, a server will present you with a table number if you plan to dine in. Use that to place your order at one of the touchscreen kiosks, or through the touchscreen tablet at your seat.

One of the technological centerpieces of Bolt Burgers is a no-flip burger grill. The device can cook a six-ounce burger in exactly three minutes, to the exact same level of doneness every time. It can make 1,200 burgers an hour. “I think it’s fantastic,” said Clayton. “I have the confidence that the guy at the grill will hit a button and get a perfect burger every time.”

The restaurant’s opening, in approximately three weeks, will depend on getting all of its systems up and running. “There’s a lot of complicated electronics that have to work,” Davidson said. When Bolt opens, it will seat about 80 people indoors and about 40 on the patio. It’s located in an area near the D.C. convention center that doesn’t yet have much competition — until the restaurants in the new Marriott Marquis open, at least — but is at the intersection of daytime workers, evening residents and out-of-town guests.

I don’t expect to see McDonald’s or Taco Bell doing anything like this soon. The costs of retooling and automating their restaurants would, at present, be far greater than any benefits they might gain from reducing their workforces. That could change if well meaning activists manage to have the minimum wage increased or making fast food restaurants pay their workers a living wage. Then,we could see a lot more places like Bolt Burgers opening up. I know that trying to make a living on $7 an hour is not much fun, but it is better than making $0 an hour, which might very well happen. It is not enough to be well meaning. You have to consider consequences.

 

Helium Shortage

August 19, 2013

We may be facing a shortage of helium in the not too distant future. This may seem like a trivial problem. We can live without balloons, right? Actually, helium is used for a number of industrial processes and a shortage, with a corresponding increase in prices could be serious. As you might expect, government has helped to create the problem. Here is the story in the Washington Post.

Earlier this spring, there was a rare bipartisan flurry of activity around something almost every legislator could agree on: Avoiding a sudden lapse in the national supply of helium.

After years of warnings about rising worldwide demand, Congress remembered that a 1996 law demanded the shutdown of the Federal Helium Reserve–a vast underground lake of gas that stretches from Texas to Kansas–just as soon as it paid off the cost of its creation. That will happen at the end of this fiscal year, October 1. If nothing changes, the rest of the 10 billion cubic feet would have to stay underground, cutting off 40 percent of U.S. consumption, while the cost goes through the roof.

In April, the House made short work of a bill that would keep the program operating. The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources followed suit in June. And then: Nothing. Congress leaves for recess today, and no vote is scheduled; the Senate leadership office didn’t return calls for confirmation on whether the bill would be brought to the floor.

And that’s making the folks who run the helium reserve very nervous.

“We are contingency planning for a shutdown of the Amarillo facility,” said regional Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman Donna Hummel, referring to the program’s 47-person office. “We will be providing notices to employees of Amarillo, private refiners and storage contract holders–companies that store their helium in our reservoir. If we shut this down, you can imagine some consequences there.”

Yeah, no kidding. Helium isn’t just a party gas–it’s also used in a wide range of advanced manufacturing processes, like making computer chips and optical fibers, as well as research and medical procedures, like cooling magnets for MRIs and visualizing lung tissue. That’s why corporations like Intel lined up to push for the helium reserve’s continued operation, along with private refiners that use pieces of the federal infrastructure. Then there are all the government users–scores of universities and military agencies that get a special rate on helium for things like rocket systems and chemical warfare testing. Most of us owe some piece of our daily lives to helium, without even realizing it.

That wasn’t the case in the mid-1990s, when Congress passed the Helium Privatization Act, giving the Bureau of Land Management a date certain for when it would have to get out of the business. Technically, that isn’t until 2015, but the reserve ended up selling off enough helium to pay back the $1.3 billion loan at a faster-than-anticipated clip.

“Our good work is being punished,” sighs Hummel. “We should’ve dragged our feet a little bit, because we really had two years.”

The Senate bill does solve the problem at least in the short term, allowing the Amarillo office to live off its own revenue selling helium until it gets down to 3 billion cubic feet, which will be retained for federal use. After that, Amarillo will be reduced to a skeleton staff (an earlier reduction in force got rid of most of the younger employees, so most are nearing retirement anyway). And then, the feds will manage helium extraction on government-owned land just like any other natural resource, like natural gas (of which helium is actually a byproduct).

My understanding is that by forcing the sale of so much helium, Congress has helped to push the price below market levels, encouraging increased sales and wasting. No matter what happens with the helium reserve, the price will almost certainly increase.

You might wonder why there could possibly be a shortage of helium since it is the second most common element in the universe. Helium is common throughout the universe, but not here on Earth. Hydrogen and helium have the lightest atoms and the Earth’s gravity is not strong enough to hold them, so there has been a steady leakage of these elements from the Earth’s atmosphere. Hydrogen is very reactive and its atoms combine readily with other atoms to form compounds so most of our hydrogen is still on Earth, in water, rocks, etc. Helium, on the other hand is the most noble of the noble gases. Helium atoms do not combine with any other atoms, so whatever helium was present at the Earth’s creation is mostly long gone. Most of the helium present today is the result of the alpha decay of radioactive elements like uranium, and it appears as a byproduct of natural gas.

Maybe I should start hoarding helium balloons and canisters. There is no telling how valuable each balloon will be twenty years from now.

Helium canister

It could make my fortune. (Photo credit: Get Folksy)

 

Fast Food Strike

July 30, 2013

Employees at some fast food restaurants are planning to walk off the job to demand higher wages. Read about it here at Fox News.

Workers at the nation’s best known fast-food restaurants in seven cities across America are planning to walk off the job Monday to protest what they say are wages that are too low to live on. In a move orchestrated with the help of powerful labor unions and clergy groups, the workers plan to strike for a day to demand their wages be doubled.

The Washington Post reports that the protests will take place in New York City, Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Flint, Mich., involving workers at McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and KFC. Some employees at stores including Dollar Tree, Macy’s and Victoria’s Secret are also expected to join the protesters in several cities.

The workers are calling for wages of $15 per hour, more than double New York’s current minimum wage of $7.25.

A network of local community groups, clergy and unions, including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), are backing the strike.

“SEIU members, like all service-sector workers, are worse off when large fast-food and retail companies are able to hold down wages and push benefit standards for working people,” Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, told the Washington Post.

In New York City, the protests were organized by a group called Fast Food Forward, which states its Twitter account: “No one can survive on $7.25.”

“A lot of the workers are living in poverty, you know, not being able to afford to put food on the table or take the train to work,” Fast Food Forward director Jonathan Westin told CBS New York. “The workers are striking over the fact that they can’t continue to maintain their families on the wages they’re being paid in the fast-food industry.”

The group posted a photograph on its Twitter account early Monday depicting workers who have “walked out” in New York.

Fast-food workers in New York City earn an average salary of $11,000 annually. That’s less than half of the average daily salary — $25,000 — for most fast-food restaurant CEOs. Employees in the $200 billion industry make 25 percent of the money they need to survive in New York City while working at fast-food restaurants, according to the group’s website.

I sympathize with these people. Working in a fast food restaurant is an unpleasant job and they don’t get paid what they really deserve. The trouble is that no one gets paid what is actually fair. They get paid according to how much their labor is worth. There is no shortage of people qualified to work at McDonald’s and given the present unemployment rate, I doubt that McDonald’s is having too much trouble finding people to staff its restaurants. These factors tend to keep wages low. On the other hand, it may be unfair that a corporate CEO is paid more in one day than many are paid in a year, but there are not that many people who have the skills and experience to be a CEO. If you try to pay a CEO according to what might be fair, you may find it extremely difficult to attract somebody who is actually qualified, as Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream discovered.

Also, I don’t  about the finances or profitability of these restaurants but it may be that their profit margins are slim enough that they cannot pay their employees much more without suffering losses. Most people do not go to fast food restaurants like McDonald’s for the fine dining experience. They go because the food is cheap and fast, so places like McDonald’s cannot raise their prices by very much, or they will lose customers and money. I am afraid that if these employees force matters, they may find out the hard way that while it is difficult to live on $7.25 an hour, it is far more difficult to live on $0 per hour.

I know this might sound harsh, but we must deal with the world as it is, not as we might like it to be. The simple truth is that your employer is not obliged to pay you a “living wage”. They are only required to pay you what your labor is worth, and sometimes they don’t do even that. If you are trying to live on minimum wage, then you need to take stock of your life and decide what skills and experiences you can acquire that an employer is willing to pay a decent wage for and then figure out how you can acquire them. This is not easy. In fact, it is very difficult, but it may be the only way you can get ahead. You will never get ahead by complaining how unfair life is, or how unfair the other guy was born with more opportunities than you have had. It is unfair, but we each must make the most of what opportunities are given to us.

 

Miss Him Yet?

April 23, 2013

I have always thought that it is unfair that George W. Bush left office with the lowest poll numbers since Nixon and with a consensus by presidential historians that he was a failure as president. I would not say that Bush was the greatest president in American history, or even that he deserves to be rated among the top ten. Still, he was not a failure. If Bush’s media coverage had not been so unrelentingly negative, he might been more popular when he left office. If the media did their jobs and actually covered President Obama, instead of being his lap-dog, it is likely that Obama’s favorability ratings would be even lower than Bush’s. As for the historians, it is obviously too early to make any sort of balanced assessment of Bush’s presidency and I think that his low ranking among historians is more a reflection of their political biases then any considered reflections on his presidency.

I have also thought that over time, the public and historical perception of George W. Bush would improve somewhat. Harry Truman was also very unpopular when he left office, yet many people today regard him as one of our better presidents. I thought that this process might take somewhere between twenty and fifty years. It seems, however, that the public perception of George W. Bush is improving more quickly that I expected. Bush’s presidential library opens this week, and his approval ratings are up, according to the Washington Post.

George W. Bush will return to the spotlight this week for the dedication of his presidential library, an event likely to trigger fresh public debate about his eight fateful years in office. But he reemerges with a better public image than when he left Washington more than four years ago.

Since then, Bush has absented himself from both policy disputes and political battles. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll suggests that the passage of time and Bush’s relative invisibility have been beneficial to a chief executive who left office surrounded by controversy.

Days before his second term ended in 2009, Bush’s approval rating among all adults was 33 percent positive and 66 percent negative. The new poll found 47 percent saying they approve and 50 percent saying they disapprove. Among registered voters, his approval rating today is equal to President Obama’s, at 47 percent, according to the latest Post-ABC surveys.

Majorities said they still dis­approve of Bush’s performance on the Iraq war and the economy, but his economic approval numbers nearly doubled between December 2008 and today, from 24 percent to 43 percent, with 53 percent disapproving. Iraq remains the most troublesome part of his legacy. Today, 57 percent say they disapprove of his decision to invade, though that is down from 65 percent in the spring of 2008, the last time the question was asked.

Much of the reason for this improvement in Bush’s ratings is due to his decision to stay out of the public eye. Bush hasn’t been aggressively promoting himself but has stayed at his ranch. He does make speeches, etc, but he seems content to no longer be at the center of things, and maybe that is not something he ever really wanted. Of course, no matter what happens, the liberals are going to hate George Bush. They can’t live without hatred.

Another reason might be that compared to his successor, Bush’s record doesn’t look at all bad. And, say what you will about Bush at least he didn’t feel the need to apologize for America to every tin-pot tyrant and Muslim terrorist.

I do.

I do.

The Washington Post and the Carbon Tax

February 10, 2013

The Washington Post has published an opinion piece in favor of wrecking the economy. Well, not really of course, but they do want President Obama to address climate change by putting into place a slowly rising carbon tax.

PRESIDENT OBAMA will deliver his 2013 State of the Union address on Tuesday, and expectations are high that he will devote significant time to climate change. We hope that he adopts a different approach to explaining the need for action than he did in much of his first term.

In past addresses, talking about green jobs didn’t work, nor did talking about energy independence. The credible way to justify fighting climate change is to discuss the science, the real reason to cut carbon emissions. There is overwhelming evidence that the planet is warming. The widespread burning of fossil fuels, meanwhile, pumps heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every second. There is still uncertainty about exactly how sensitive the climate system is to a given increase in carbon dioxide concentrations — but not enough uncertainty to justify ignoring the risks of rising temperatures.

Well, the evidence that the planet is warming may not be so overwhelming as they contend. I would say that there is not enough certainty to justify levying a tax that would permanently slow down the economy and put the US at a competitive disadvantage with China and India.

Here is their proposal.

Putting a slowly rising, significant price on carbon emissions would encourage people to burn less fossil fuel without micromanaging by Congress or the Energy Department. This approach would enlist market forces to green the energy sector. It would also allow for similar policies in other nations to connect with America’s, creating a bigger, global market for carbon.

Anything like carbon pricing must get lawmakers’ approval, though, which is the first reason Mr. Obama should make reaching out to them on climate policy a priority. True, a coalition of anti-regulation Republicans and coal-state Democrats killed the last major effort to price emissions, a 2010 cap-and-trade bill. But, in the big budget reform politicians have been promising, they will need new revenue from somewhere. A carbon tax would be an ideal source.

Even second- and third-best alternatives would need Congress’s say-so. These include establishing a national clean energy standard requiring that a defined and rising amount of electricity come from sources cleaner than coal, the top climate villain. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the Energy Committee’s lead Republican and a voice of reason within her party, just released a 121-page plan with other ideas that could serve as a basis for some congressional action, such as paying for energy technology research, reforming subsidies for green power, advancing hydropower and promoting energy efficiency.

Since almost every industrial process emits some carbon dioxide, especially in energy and transportation, a tax on carbon dioxide emissions would be a tax on just about every industry and business in America. These costs will be passed on to consumers and the cost of living will increase. It is true that a new tax would be a bonanza of the federal government, at least until they squander the increased revenues on subsidies for green power.

It’s nice that they refer to coal as the top climate villain. How an inanimate substance could be a villain is not clear to me, but at this time, coal is also our cheapest source of energy and the one that is most abundant in North America. Requiring that a defined and rising amount of energy come from cleaner than coal would raise the cost of energy over time and again raise the cost of living. I begin to think that the editors of the Washington Post don’t like the poor and middle class very much, or perhaps they love the poor so much, they want to make more people poor.

And, they finish with a threat.

The president should also remind Congress that, without ambitious action from lawmakers, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can and will act on its own. The EPA has already established or is in the process of establishing a range of new air pollution rules. These rules will ensure than no new conventional coal plants are built in the United States, and they will force the closure of some particularly awful, ancient coal-fired facilities. More regulations are likely in store in Mr. Obama’s second term. The EPA, for example, has not yet set rules regulating the carbon emissions of major, existing sources of greenhouse gases. Using the EPA’s top-down approach, though, is not the best way to reduce carbon emissions. Mr. Obama should invite Congress to work with him on a better alternative.

So, do what the president wants, or he’ll have the EPA do it anyway. Why bother with a Congress at all, if that is the way we are going to do things? It seems to me that this is the best argument ever for reining in, or even abolishing the EPA. They have clearly become a rogue agency, seeing themselves as above the law and even common sense. Maybe, Congress should abolish the agency and replace it with something more responsible.

Moving on Gun Control

January 7, 2013

It would seem that President Obama is going to move ahead with some form of gun control policy in the next few months. Now, there are two way in which he could go about this. One would be to meet with Congressional leaders of both parties and even with gun rights advocates such as the NRA and craft legislation that would be acceptable to a broad base of the American public. Such legislation wouldn’t amount to much and would probably have no real effect on gun ownership or gun crimes, but he, or a future Democratic president, could use such legislation as a precedent for the more draconian anti-gun laws they really want. This would be gun control and eventual confiscation by slow degrees, and would have a good chance of succeeding. The other option would be for Obama to propose a series of wide ranging restrictions on gun ownership, which would be certain to arouse opposition in Congress from all the Republicans and many Democrats. He could demonize the NRA and gun owners generally as fiends who want to see children murdered and, when it became obvious that his proposals had little chance of getting through Congress, simply enact as much as he could through executive orders.

Knowing President Obama, which course do you think he will follow? My guess would that he will pursue option two. Obama does not seem to be interested in any sort of incremental action. He wants to be a transformative president. Obamacare could have passed a whole lot more easily as a series of small acts than as the unpopular monstrosity it became, but that is not Obama’s style.

This story in ABCNews suggests that I might be right.

US president Barack Obama is reportedly considering implementing the most comprehensive gun control measures seen in decades.

A task force led by vice-president Joe Biden is reportedly considering wide-ranging proposals going well beyond simply reinstating a ban on assault weapons and high capacity ammunition.

The Washington Post reports that a national data base tracking gun sales, mental health checks, and background checks are all on the table.

And in a move that is set to anger opponents of gun control, the taskforce is reportedly looking at measures that can be implemented by the president’s order without the approval of Congress.

The White House is understood to want swift action while the public remains outraged over the deaths of 20 children and six adults in the Newtown school shooting in Connecticut last month.

Some reports suggest Mr Obama will have the proposals on his table within weeks.

Democrat congressman Chris Van Hollen says any approach the Obama administration takes must be comprehensive.

“The argument against gun safety provisions is always because it doesn’t solve everything we shouldn’t do anything and I don’t subscribe to that,” he said.

“I believe we need a comprehensive approach, we need to look at all the different elements here and just because a particular effort won’t prevent something in one particular incident, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything that might help in other incidents.

“Right now you can be on the terrorist watch list, you can be prevented from boarding an aeroplane, but you can go down the street and buy a semiautomatic assault weapon.”

With the new Congress sworn in just days ago, 10 different bills are already on the table dealing with gun laws separate to Mr Obama’s working group.

So, he is going to move fast and he is not going to pay to much attention to the what the law or constitution says about the matter. Now might be a good time to stock up on ammunition. It is probably a terrific time to invest in gun manufacturers’ stocks. And, if things keep going the way they have been, it might be a good idea to prepare for another Civil War.

Zimmerman Sues NBC

December 7, 2012

Good for him!  George Zimmerman is suing NBC over their reporting of the incident between Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin. Whatever may be said about that incident, and I am not commenting on that here, it is obvious that their reporting was slipshod and perhaps intentionally deceptive. Here is the story I read at the Washington Post.

Lawyers for George Zimmerman filed suit today against NBC Universal Media over a well-publicized editing error that portrayed their client in racist terms in his pursuit of Trayvon Martin on a drizzly evening in February.

“NBC saw the death of Trayvon Martin not as a tragedy but as an opportunity to increase ratings, and so to set about the myth that George Zimmerman was a racist and predatory villain,” states the civil complaint in its opening salvo against NBC.

This is the part to pay attention to.

NBC’s editing of the 911 audiotape in the Martin case became a public fixation after the media-monitoring Web site NewsBusters.org noted editing oddities on a “Today” show broadcast March 27. Here’s how NBC News portrayed the audiotape:

Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.

The full tape went like this:

Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.
Dispatcher: OK, and this guy — is he black, white or Hispanic?
Zimmerman: He looks black.

Zimmerman thus didn’t volunteer a racial profile of Martin; he was asked to provide it, a point that the lawsuit makes in colorful fashion: “NBC created this false and defamatory misimpression using the oldest form of yellow journalism: manipulating Zimmerman’s own words, splicing together disparate parts of the recording to create illusions of statements that Zimmerman never actually made.”

The suit contends that this and other examples were no innocent mistakes but a deliberate attempt to stir up racial trouble for the sake of higher ratings. I wouldn’t care to speculate on anyone’s motives but I think that the media has to be held accountable. If it turns out that NBC’s reporting of this case was intentionally deceitful, I hope Zimmerman wins the suit and I hope he cleans up.

By the way, I read some of the comments below the article. There is nothing quite so depressing as seeing how stupid many of these people are, on both sides of the issue.

Global Warming is Here

July 6, 2012

As I write this, the temperature here in Madison, Indiana is 103° F. Does this mean that the end of the world is coming? According to the Washington Post, it might. I saw this article a couple of days ago but I have been busy at work and haven’t had time to write about it until now.

Fueled by the record high heat, this was among the strongest of this type of storm in the region in recent history, said research meteorologist Harold Brooks of the National Severe Storm Laboratory in Norman, Okla. Scientists expect “non-tornadic wind events” like this one and other thunderstorms to increase with climate change because of the heat and instability, he said.

Such patterns haven’t happened only in the past week or two. The spring and winter in the U.S. were the warmest on record and among the least snowy, setting the stage for the weather extremes to come, scientists say.

Since Jan. 1, the United States has set more than 40,000 hot temperature records, but fewer than 6,000 cold temperature records, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Through most of last century, the U.S. used to set cold and hot records evenly, but in the first decade of this century America set two hot records for every cold one, said Jerry Meehl, a climate extreme expert at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. This year the ratio is about 7 hot to 1 cold. Some computer models say that ratio will hit 20-to-1 by midcentury, Meehl said.

“In the future you would expect larger, longer more intense heat waves and we’ve seen that in the last few summers,” NOAA Climate Monitoring chief Derek Arndt said.

The 100-degree heat, drought, early snowpack melt and beetles waking from hibernation early to strip trees all combined to set the stage for the current unusual spread of wildfires in the West, said University of Montana ecosystems professor Steven Running, an expert on wildfires.

If we have an unusually cold winter with a lot of snow and temperatures below freezing, can I announce that a new ice age is coming? I would hope that I would not be so foolish to say such a thing, except in jest. These people are doing their cause a great deal of harm with their alarmism. Yes, heat records were set, in the United States. So what? A hot summer in one part of the world does not imply that the mean temperature of the Earth as a whole is increasing. Making these kinds of statements is misleading and irresponsible.

Why is it assumed that an increase in mean temperature would be an absolute disaster? It seems to me that such an increase would have many effects, both positive and negative. It may well be that the benefits of a warmer planet would outweigh the disadvantages. It seems that the idea is that there is one set temperature of the Earth and any change would have unprecedented effects. But, we know that the mean temperature of the Earth has changed over time. A thousand years ago, during the Medieval Warm Period, the Earth’s temperature seems to have been warmer than today. Four hundred years  ago, during the Little Ice Age, the temperature was cooler. And, let us not forget the real Ice Ages, the last of which ended about 10,000 years ago. The only thing that is constant about Earth’s climate is that it is always changing.

The ideas of the global warming supporters and Greens generally seem to me to be based less on science than on a sort of religion, or a parody of Genesis. All the organisms of the world lived together in complete harmony and innocence in paradise. Instead of the serpent bringing sin into the garden, it is humanity that ruins everything. This might explain why some Greens are so misanthropic. Instead of humans being created in the image of God, their religion teaches that humans are devils who only destroy the Earth.

Perhaps I am too skeptical about this sort of thing but I grew up thinking that an environmental catastrophe was just around the corner. It hasn’t happened yet.

 

 

That last link is especially interesting. Did you know that Seattle has had unusually cool summers three years in a row? Or that, in this hottest summer ever, Scandinavia is having its coldest summer on record and Australia is having an unusually cold winter? All evidence of warming I suppose.

Most Polarizing President

January 31, 2012

I know that Obama has been a fairly polarizing president, but ever? This article in the Washington Post argues so.

President Obama ran — and won — in 2008 on the idea of uniting the country. But each of his first three years in office has marked historic highs in political polarization, with Democrats largely approving of him and Republicans deeply disapproving.

For 2011, Obama’s third year in office, an average of 80 percent of Democrats approved of the job he was doing in Gallup tracking polls, as compared to 12 percent of Republicans who felt the same way. That’s a 68-point partisan gap, the highest for any president’s third year in office — ever. (The previous high was George W. Bush in 2007, when he had a 59 percent difference in job approval ratings.)

In 2010, the partisan gap between how Obama was viewed by Democrats versus Republicans stood at 68 percent; in 2009, it was 65 percent. Both were the highest marks ever for a president’s second and first years in office, respectively.

Here is the chart they included.

Note the chart only goes back to 1953. Before that they either had not divided approval rating by party or polling techniques were less certain. I think that this is the sort of conclusion that one develops when not considering historical perspective. I can think of a few presidents who were at least as polarizing as Obama is now. Abraham Lincoln was such a polarizing figure that half the country seceded when he was elected. Franklin Roosevelt was loved by many and just as deeply loathed by many.

I am just a little skeptical by claims that present day politics is somehow uniquely divisive. It couldn’t be worse than the 1850’s.


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