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Purveyors of Apocalypse

Next up on my list of writing projects was a piece on fracking but the recent cold snap bumped this one to the top of the list.
If you are a frequent reader of this blog you are well aware of my long skepticism of AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) now referred to as “climate change”. I’ve taken some significant amount of ridicule for that view over the years, particularly from the readers of “The Vancouver Sun” where I offered some thoughts on the subject after the intellectual dishonesty at the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was exposed.

So, it brought me no small measure of satisfaction when the expedition to the Antarctic to study the impact of global warming found itself stuck in the sea ice. The ice breaker sent to rescue them also got stuck and then the US sent a huge ice breaker to try to free both ships. True to form, of the first 41 news reports on the incident, 40 of them failed to mention what the Hell they were doing down there and simply referred to them as “tourists” or “scientists”. According to the expedition leader’s website, Professor Chris Turney of the U. of New South Whales, they were there to study the effects of global warming on sea ice. You would think that the media would be unable to resist this rich irony, but of course you would be wrong. They have too much invested in the global warming story.

The news services, however, cannot ignore the cold spell that is now breaking 100 year old temperature records all over the North American continent. Of course, they can cry that this “polar vortex” is just a very unique phenomenon and has in no way disproved global warming, er, climate change. This is the thesis of Jason Samenow, the weather editor of the Washington Post, who has made a career out of pushing the global warming story. It is true. You can’t predict what’s going to happen a hundred years hence by a single weather event. However, whenever a nasty event like a heat wave, tornado, hurricane or drought strikes somewhere on Earth these same guys and gals are loudly blaming it on global warming. Some yahoos have even tried to blame the polar vortex on AGW.

Dr. Roger Pielke of the U. of Colorado is a professor of Environmental Studies and he testified before Congress on December 11, 2013 that hurricane landfalls since 1900 have NOT increased, nor are they more intense or causing more damage. His studies also show the same is true for floods, droughts, tornadoes and forest fires. There is simply no evidence that these extreme weather events have increased in the last couple of decades. Did you see that on NBC Nightly News?

No? Maybe you saw this one? A sea level study by Lennart Bengston, a Swedish researcher using satellite data from the U of Colorado concludes that sea levels have risen an average of 3 mm/year over the last 20 years. This slow increase in sea level continues a trend begun at the end of the last ice age and the rate has not increased in the last 20 years.

To put this in perspective let’s do a little metric conversion arithmetic. There are 2.54 cm in one inch or 25.4 mm. So 3mm equals about 1/8 inch rise in sea levels per year. In 100 years that comes out to about a foot or so…just a tad lower than the 20 foot prediction in Al Gore’s Academy Award winning 2006 film “An Inconvenient Truth”. But hey, Al’s made some $200 million dollars since losing his bid for the Presidency. Perhaps winning the prize for Purveyor of Apocalypse of this decade and pocketing the $200 million will be sufficient consolation?

There have been many predictors of the coming Armageddon who have cashed in on the gravy train. After all, nothing sells newspapers and magazines or loosens the purse strings of governments and rich donors like the end of life on our fragile planet. No one wants the facts to mess up a good story or to obstruct the government grants to universities and think tanks to study the problem. The US has doled out billions to energy related start-ups (mostly to large donors to Obama and the Democrats) for wind or solar farms, electric car developers and solar panel manufacturers. Most have gone tits up.
We also recently learned that the Obama brain trust has given $4.7 billion between 2010 and 2012 to other countries to battle global warming! Draining the public treasury to do battle with a ghost like AGW is one thing but the war on carbon has more dangerous implications when mandated policies like closing down coal fired electrical generating plants and putting unnecessary restrictions on drilling or pipelines is added to the insanity. As this unusual cold snap is demonstrating, electrical grids are dangerously close to their limitations during prolonged frigid periods. Closing power plants because you hate coal and nuclear is simply irresponsible.

It doesn’t seem to matter that past dire warnings of the coming apocalypse have proven hopelessly wrong, the gullible public always falls for the next one. Recently we had the Y2K computer crisis. Some smart computer nerds made a bundle on that one. And what about the Mayan Calendar 2012 scare? Hard to dispute the Mayans were pretty clever dudes for their day. But I did wonder how smart they could be if they sacrificed their prettiest virgins to make it rain? Just sayin’. Here in more enlightened times we just sacrifice tax dollars and economic prosperity.

Nor does being hopelessly wrong about predictions that the world is coming to an end seem to adversely impact a reputation or income. Take Paul Ehrlich, a Stanford professor of biology who in 1968 appeared on Johnny Carson to promote his book “The Population Bomb” predicting mass starvation in the next 20 years due to overpopulation. This is, of course, the same crap espoused by Rev. Thomas Malthus in 1798.

The population of the earth in 1960 was 3 billion people at the time and Ehrlich and his fellow doomsayers professors John Holdren and John Harte, among others jumped on the bandwagon. They predicted that growing populations would outstrip the food supply and the world would soon run out of everything including oil, copper, iron, tin, etc. This became the “settled science” of the period and governments and journalists called for action to control population growth and resource consumption. The guys selling this apocalyptic vision made a bundle selling books, making speaking fees and with cushy university jobs. Politicians of all stripes jumped on the bandwagon. By 1970 Earth Day had kicked off the modern environmental movement and Nixon created the EPA.

Of course, there were skeptics most notably Julian Simon, an economist and business professor at the U of Illinois. Simon believed that technology and human ingenuity would prevail and that resources were not finite. This led to a very public battle between the two… essentially the apocalypse camp and the optimist camp. Simon proposed a bet with Ehrlich that soon became very public. Simon offered to let Ehrlich pick any five commodities (he chose chromium, copper, nickel, tin and tungsten) and bet that these would not increase in price in the next decade. If they were to become scarce they would obviously increase in price. Ehrlich was assisted in selecting the five by Holdren and Harte.

So, how did the bet turn out? Not good for Ehrlich. All five commodities were LESS costly. (This is all detailed in the book The Bet by Paul Sabin.) What about the mass starvation that was predicted by these guys in 1968? The earth’s population has more than doubled since then and the only starvation is caused by war and political repression. Improved farming practices, seed genetics and mechanization has vastly improved yields. Besides, the UN among others are predicting that the earth’s popu-lation has peaked and will be declining in the coming decades.

Ehrlich and his fellow doomsayers were hopelessly wrong about everything so their credibility as prognosticators should be over, right? Wrong! Like the guy on the street corner with the sign, “Repent. The world ends on July 14th!” When it doesn’t happen he simply changes the date.

Ehrlich is still a Harvard professor and much in demand for his opinions on the serious threat of global warming.

John Holdren who seems to never have been right about anything, is now Obama’s“Science Czar” and helps shape their climate change agenda. John Harte, now a professor at Berkley has written a book called “Climate Shock”.

Ya gotta give it to these guys and their guru, Al Gore; they’re pretty good at riding the latest apocalyptic fad to the bank.

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Verbal Crutches

In the winter of 1973 we moved to Cold Spring, a small town in central Minnesota where I had recently taken a job. Our kids soon became acquainted with the neighbor kids down the street. We had been there less than a week when Tara, our oldest daughter, says to her younger sister, “Come here once, Karen.”

“Once?” I thought. “Why not twice?”

I soon discovered that it was a local speech custom to attach useless and unnecessary words to the end of perfectly good sentences. Much like Canadians stick an “Eh” at the end of a statement or question. Minnesotans would tack on a “once”, “then” or “hey”.

This is, of course, not all that big a deal and cannot be compared to, say, the Iranians getting a nuclear bomb and wiping out Israel. Nor is it as annoying to certain speech crutches currently in vogue. Repeatedly sticking in “you know” between comments can be distracting and seems to be a common filler for athletes being interviewed by sports reporters. You would think that star baseball or football players who are frequently asked for on camera comments and who make the big bucks would have someone from the team’s media office taking the guy aside and saying, “Look Dwayne, you said ‘you know’ 37 times in that two minute interview yesterday. That makes you sound like a dumb shit and you are a graduate of Notre Dame and make $10 million dollars a year. Can we cut the ‘you knows’ down to perhaps 10 next time around?”

President Obama has a reputation for being a gifted orator, but that depends on whether he is reading his speeches off his teleprompter or not. When he is forced to speak off the cuff things do not go quite so well and he typically sticks in repeated “ah, ah, ahs” in the middle of sentences and phrases. It seems he’s groping for the thought or correct word. I guess that’s why they haul the damn teleprompters everywhere he is going to make even the most unimportant speech.

Some of the stuff that annoys me most is now part of the youth culture propagated by the all-pervasive media. The use of the word “go” as a substitute for “said” when recounting a conversation can be confusing to senior citizens like me. (“So he goes, blah, blah and I go blah, blah, blah and then he goes…..” etc.) In my memory, failing as it is, the verb “go” is not a suitable substitute for “said”.

But, by far the most maddening verbal crutch of recent times is the repeated and unnecessary insertion of “like” into conversation. “Like” is a perfectly useful word but has no place getting stuck excessively and inappropriately into otherwise perfectly fine sentences. Example conversation: “He was like really mad and I was like completely totally like shocked.” You get the drift.

I guess this is not so shocking. Teenagers all watch the same stuff on TV and the same movies and all their heroes talk this way. What really drives me nuts is to hear 40 something celebrities talking like (acceptable usage of the word) teens on Jay Leno or Jimmy Kimmel. My wife used to count the “likes” on those occasions and often could make it to 30 or 35 before I grabbed the remote and switched channels. Don’t these people ever watch one of their own interviews?

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Clusterfrack

Note: This is not a piece about drilling for natural gas.

The extraordinary events of recent weeks have prompted me to break my personal promise to retire from writing about politics. While these latest developments are unlikely to affect me very much in a direct sense, they will certainly intrude on the lives of my children and grandchildren.

First, let’s talk about ObamaCare. You might notice if you pay attention that Obama and his minions happily referred to the program by that name until it started to turn to crap. Now it is Administration and liberal policy to refer to it as The Affordable Care Act or the ACA. ObamaCare has been banned from the lexicon of the left.

The Democrats in the dark of night pushed through this monster, a radical confiscation of the US healthcare system, by numerous questionable tactics and without one Republican vote. Now the Dems are blaming the GOP for not helping them implement the law! This is the height of absurdity. Remember Pelosi’s famous line? “We have to pass the law to find out what’s in it.” Surprise! It’s like a piñata full of poisonous snakes.

In a brilliant article by Andrew McCarthy in the National Review Online called “The Scheme Behind the Obamacare Fraud,” McCarthy explains why Obama and his supporters lied repeatedly about the plan. Unless you’ve been living in a cave and eating roots and berries you have certainly heard the President assuring folks that “If you like your plan you can keep your plan. Period.” Turns out that was a big lie as millions of people got notices that their plans were cancelled. Obama tried to blame the insurance companies but that would not hold water because it was obvious that HHS had changed the rules. Everybody’s plan had to include buying Sandra Fluke’s contraceptives, abortions, prenatal care and maternity benefits among others. It didn’t matter if you were a 90-year-old male widower who hadn’t had an erection since the Carter Administration; you still had to have maternity benefits in your insurance. With all this added stuff, including accepting everyone with pre-existing conditions at the same price, only a career politician or a liar would assert, “… everyone would save an average of $2500 on their insurance costs.” You’re going to get more and pay less? Yet Democrat apologists continue to assert that people will get better plans on the exchanges for less money.

“If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” Says Obama again and again. Another lie and they knew it. Doctors are retiring in droves and are being dropped from group plans. More and more are refusing to see Medicaid and Medicare patients. Specialized hospitals and clinics like the Mayo Clinic and Seattle Children’s Hospital (where a couple of my grandkids go) are being cut out of group plans because under ObamaCare, group policies can no longer afford it. Which raises another question in my mind. Why are the insurance companies nailing together their own gallows and tying the noose for their own hanging? It’s pretty obvious that Obama intends to put them out of the health insurance business. They seem to be quietly walking to the scaffolds. Executives of these companies should be screaming their bloody heads off.

The most recent and seemingly unrelated story last week was Harry Reid’s decision to invoke the “Nuclear Option” and change over 220 years of Senate tradition by changing the rules such that instead of requiring 60 votes to approve a judicial or administrative appointment, only a simple majority would suffice. This allows the Democrat majority in the Senate to pack the DC Court of Appeals (and others) with liberal justices. Why is this important? The DC court is the only check on the rules issued by unelected bureaucrats in the EPA, HHS and other intrusive branches of government. It’s a power grab pure and simple. The Senate Democrats are pretty fearful that the voters are awakening from their slumber and realizing that they have been lied to by their Democrat rep and will likely take revenge in 2014.

Getting rid of the 60-vote requirement also allows the Obamaniks to appoint leftists to the IPAB, the Independent Payment Advisory Board. This outfit, beyond judicial review, will effectively have control over prices, reimbursement to doctors and, essentially, rationing. These guys are what Sarah Palin so accurately called “Death Panels”.

Speaking of Palin… perhaps you missed that Martin Bashir of ultra-liberal MSNBC decided that Ms Palin was not entitled to use the word “slavery” when referring to the national debt being accumulated in the name of our grandchildren. He was so angry about it that he said she should suffer the same fate as the punishment meted out by one of the world’s worst slave owners: That someone should urinate and defecate in her mouth. What did MSNBC have to say about this? How about NBC, the parent of MSNBC? Well, nothing. Not a single word. Paula Dean lost her career because she admitted in a courtroom that she may have used the word “nigger” at some point in the misty past but Bashir did not even get a reprimand.

Nor did NBC have anything to say about the collapse of the ObamaCare website or the millions having their heath care plans cancelled. No interest in the disaster of the $900 million flop of Healthcare.gov or the no bid contract to build it given to Michelle’s Princeton pal’s company. Total silence. If the major networks don’t mention it, it didn’t happen. The media has protected Obama since 2007 and the Obamas have reason to believe that policy will continue.

Speaking of lies and the media…Obama’s re-election hinged on several frauds as well. First, Benghazi. To perpetuate the myth that Obama’s policies had terrorism on the run they had to blame the Benghazi disaster on “a protest of an anti-Islamic video” when it was obviously a lie. Second: It is now clear that Obama used the IRS to harass and silence the Tea Party organizations around the US. Finally, Obama used the Census Department to fudge the numbers to put the unemployment figures below 8%. That, too, was a lie. But for those lies and the untimely arrival of Hurricane Sandy, there would be an honest man in the White House today and the economy would be booming. ObamaCare would not exist.

Getting back to the failing ObamaCare program… McCarthy asserts, and I agree, that it was designed to fail from the start. The “scheme” as he points out, is to get the US to a “single payer” system like Canada, the UK and other European socialist counties. Obama admitted as much in a speech in 2003 and again in a speech in 2007. More people are already being forced into Medicaid and Medicare. The cost and unsuitability of the policies being pushed on the young “invincibles” will not attract enough of them to make the economics of the program viable and perhaps a 150 million more people will lose their employer provided health care at the end of 2014 when the “grandfathering” runs out. With millions uninsured by the private market the liberals will be there with the solution: Government health care. ObamaCare is a carefully scripted program to get the US to a single payer system. To the leftists if lies, fraud and deceit are necessary to get there, so be it. The ends justify the means. If high cost, long delays for essential services, rationing and bureaucrats deciding who lives and dies are your thing, you’re gonna love it.

By the way, the Democrats in the faint hope to cover their asses in the 2014 elections have pushed the release of the costs for health policies for 2014 past the November elections. How cynical is that?

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Gemini 11: A Story in Photos

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The Chicago Way and Alinsky

Many barrels of ink were expended and countless trees sacrificed in the aftermath of the surprising re-election of Obama. Many theories were put forward but the statistics clearly showed that it was the turnout of the normal GOP base that did Romney in. Now we are starting to understand just how the Obama Administration managed to suppress that vote as the many scandals are beginning to be revealed.

With the assistance of a compliant left leaning media (more on that later) Obama managed to bury what really happened in Benghazi until well after the election. It is now clear that the Administration lied about what actually occurred and withheld information. Worse, it appears that the lives of Americans were sacrificed because to send assistance would destroy the Obama campaign narrative that the Al-Qaeda threat had been neutralized. That’s why they called it a “demonstration over an anti-Muslim video that got out of hand”. You don’t send in the Special Forces or F-16s to quell a “demonstration”. The Obama team ran out the clock until after the election, an insult to the families of these brave men.

More recently we are learning about the abuses of the IRS in their blatant efforts to suppress and discourage the Tea Party organizations and individual Romney donors. Given the enormous power of the IRS this should be frightening to all Americans. The Tea Party is credited with bringing about the substantial defeats of Democrats in the 2010 off-year elections despite the concerted efforts of the media, Hollywood and left-wing comedians. Using the old Alinsky stand-by of ridicule and accusations they were called racist, tax dodgers and “tea baggers”, a nasty homosexual slur.

According to White House logs the President met with the head of the National Treasury Employees Union, Colleen Kelly on March 31, 2010 at 12:30. The very next day the targeting of Tea Party groups by the IRS began. A coincidence or smoking gun?
It did not thwart the tide of the 2010 elections but the Obama Team was determined to make sure the Tea Party and Romney supporters were not going to keep Obama out of power in 2012.

Lois Lerner, earned her partisan stripes by leading the Federal Election Commission’s three-year harassment of the Christian Coalition. It was the largest lawsuit in FEC history. So, naturally she was the perfect choice for Director of the IRS’s Office of Tax Exempt Organizations.

In my blog post shortly after the 2010 elections I questioned whether or not the Tea Parties would be a factor in the Presidential elections in 2012. Now we know why they were not. We have learned that DHS, as early as 2009, had sent a letter to the FBI asking them to look into “right wing extremists” groups which meant opponents of abortion, advocates of states rights, 2nd Amendment fans and opponents of higher taxes. That pretty much describes the Tea Party groups.

The full power of the IRS with all its intimidating and coercive force was directed at groups and individuals that were political opponents of the left wing administration now fearful of being tossed out of office. This is a blatant abuse of power.

Unfortunately, it was not just targeting Tea Party groups seeking tax-free status but individuals too. Big donors to the Romney campaign suddenly found themselves and their businesses targets of IRS audits. Their personal data was being illegally leaked to left wing bloggers. Naturally, big contributors to the Romney campaign were wary of getting IRS targets painted on their asses.

The tale of Catherine Engelbrecht’s nightmare is the most chilling imaginable. She and her husband own and manage a small metal manufacturing company in Texas that they started 20 years ago. They have 30 employees and have never been audited. Catherine served as a poll watcher for the 2008 elections and was so appalled by the voter fraud she saw that she started a Tea Party and an organization called “True the Vote” that specialized in voter fraud by attempting to stop dead folks from voting as well as other abuses. After applying to the IRS for tax-exempt status for her two groups, the three-year nightmare began. The IRS audited her, her husband and their business for the first time. Then the FBI came calling asking questions… and came back again and again. OSHA did a surprise inspection and audit. The ATF did a surprise visit and inspection, supposedly because the business had a license to manufacture guns. They never had made any guns. The ATF came a second time and, of course, the IRS audited them again.

The question is: Who sicced all these government agencies on these people? This is not just “a couple of rogue IRS agents in Cincinnati”. The logical path leads right back to the White House and the Obama re-election campaign.

It’s also right out of Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” and those methods differ little from “The Chicago Way”. The only question for the proponents of this leftist political philosophy is “does it work?” Obama got elected twice in Chicago by using less than ethical methods and it looks like he’s pulled out another one by employing the awesome power of the Federal Government against his political foes. He thought he could get away with it because the mass media has failed to do its job. If you wonder why the major TV networks are so often biased toward the White House and so frequently fail to mention negative news on Obama, take a look at this.

 

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If you watched the smug and arrogant behavior of Ms. Lerner and her IRS cohorts in  the House hearings on this matter, you would think they feel pretty secure and that they have been assured the White House and left leaning press will cover for them. Maybe. But, House Speaker, John Boehner asked, “I want to know who’s going to jail?” Good question but a better one might be, “Who’s going to be impeached?” A good start would be Eric Holder for all his lies and illegalities.

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Reluctant Blogger

I said to myself, “Self, forget blogging about current events and work on that short story.” So I did. Slogging away I piled up 13 pages in a story and ground to a halt. After reading it over, I determined that I was telling the tale all wrong and needed a different approach. Six pages into that, I happened to stop by a book store and buy a book on ‘how to write a short story.’ Big mistake. I had never thought about this stuff before and had just been doing it by feel or instinct. I wondered if it was like over-analyzing your golf swing when you step up to the ball? If you think about it too much, you can’t do it.
Meanwhile, some news items on which I have strong opinions were passing by and blogs were writing themselves in my head on my daily walks. But I resisted while the six pages of the new approach to my story languished. For example.

Two women that I admire died on the same day, April 8th. Margaret Thatcher, famously called “The Iron Lady” died on that day at the age of 87. Also passing on that date was Annette Funicello at age 70. The two women could not have been more different. Thatcher, strong willed and determined, rose to political power to be the Prime Minister of the UK from 1979 to 1990 despite the rough and tumble all-male politics of the time. Sticking to her conservative principles, she reversed the economic decline of her country at a time when her philosophical soul mate, Ronald Reagan, was doing the same thing in the US following the disastrous Jimmy Carter.

Funicello was simply America’s sweetheart and came on the scene in the middle ’50 as a youthful star on the Mickey Mouse Club. This was about the time we got our first TV set and young fellows of my vintage were getting our first shot of hormones. Walt Disney was a bit of a prude but he knew marketing. Those tight sweaters on the blooming Mouseketeer girls were no accident. Of course, her later movie career did not distinguish her as much as her determined and classy battle with MS. Maggie and Annette, RIP.

Another story that caught my fancy was the petulant tantrum of the child dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-un. While his people starve and only 26% have electricity in this impoverished country, he spends lavishly on weapons and his million-man army. To get attention, he decided to declare war on South Korea and the US. It appeared he might be crazy enough to do it and then he disappeared from the news with the coverage of the disgusting bombings at the Boston Marathon. The tales of tragedy and heroism and the subsequent search and apprehension of the two Islamic Terrorists (there, I said it; the President and his minions can’t seem to get those words past their lips) took Kim Jong-un completely out of the news. Without the spotlight, he lost interest in his own threats and we have not heard a peep out of him since. Not much to be said about Boston, the coverage was wall to wall.

A couple of other related news items crossed my field of vision that may not have been so obvious to your average news junky. First, the April 22 issue of “National Review” had a cover story on the “miracle of the Canadian oil sands” called “The Quiet Gold Rush” by Charles Cooke. He actually visited the various oil sands projects and saw first hand the process, the restoration of the mined areas and the extensive emission controls. Every “environmentalist” should read this article.

The second piece was in the “Financial Post” on April 13th The FP is the Canadian “Wall Street Journal”. It is called “Hedge fund billionaire leads donors in pushing Obama on Keystone XL”. Tom Steyer who made billions running a hedge fund now has taken on the task of saving the world from global warming. Nearly all rational people are now forced to admit that temperatures have not increased a bit in at least the last decade. I don’t know what it is with these hedge fund guys? They must all feel really guilty about making obscene amounts of money in a business that does nothing but make bets with rich people’s money. Steyer, like George Soros, another absurdly wealthy hedge fund player, all feel they have to remake the world to conform to their own prejudices.
Steyer has decided that his enemy is the Canadian oil sands and has lined up like-minded liberals to pool their money and blackmail Democrats and Obama to veto the pipeline. Not satisfied to sabotage the Keystone XL to the Texas coast, they also are funding the opposition groups to stop the Canadians from building a pipeline to their own coast where they would ship the oil to China. Why don’t they go fund groups in Saudi Arabia to oppose the oil industry there? Or maybe Iran?

The American public overwhelmingly supports the construction of the pipeline (65%) and the Democrat controlled Senate does too (62-37) and well as the House. Now the unions are protesting in favor. Still Steyer and his fellow limo liberals plan to fund Democrat senate challengers against senators who support the pipeline. Great idea, Tom. Go for it.
The news that really got me fired up was that the FAA planned to stick it to the flying public by furloughing the air traffic controllers to meet a 4% cut in spending instead of cutting some other less critical expenses. This was part of the Obama Administration’s cynical attempt to make the sequester cuts as painful as possible so that they could gain political points on the GOP. They were petulant that the Republicans would not agree to raise taxes again after doing so in January and their first action was to cancel White House tours for school kids on spring break. Really? Out of a $3.6 trillion dollar budget the first place you are going to go to find cuts of about $40 billion is tours of the White House for school kids?

The cuts to the air traffic controllers delayed 6700 flights for a couple of days before the Democrats realized they had mis-calculated and they, not the Republicans, were getting blamed for this obvious boondoggle. They quickly passed a bill to allow the FAA to restore the controllers, something they really could have done without congressional action. Whew! Just in time for the congress to fly home for a much needed break.

Note: WSJ article on 4/24 called “The FAA Strikes Again, the FAA Brags”.

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Rehab Rainbows

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In our childhood we have all experienced the agony of waiting for some much desired event:  A birthday, a vacation, getting out of school for the summer, or perhaps being able to drive for the first time.  Sometimes our imagination so glamorizes the event that when it arrives it fails to live up to expectations. This can even happen to grown ups.

In late January and February of 2012, when I had my heart bypass surgery, followed by the second surgery to fix things, I was one sick puppy.  I spent nine days in the hospital in Bellingham with the fix and was weak as a baby when I got home.  I could barely walk around the loop in our neighborhood (about 1/8th of a mile).  During the long and difficult days of trying to rebuild my strength (and my hemoglobin levels) one of the things that kept me going was my anticipation of our annual fishing expedition to Minnie and Corbett Lakes scheduled for the first week of June.Dad fishing 1

My fishing pal, Rob, and I have been doing a spring trip for many years and staying at the yurt on Minnie for the last five.  For several of those trips we have taken along two other guys, which helps with the expenses but requires that each of us act as half-assed guides for our guests.  Not that our guests were raw novices but the boats are two-man situations and we know the lakes and what flies and techniques generally work.  For this trip we decided that we would go by ourselves. Although I was getting stronger by the day, I did not feel all that enthused about acting as a guide and running the boat for myself and someone else. For Rob’s part I guess he felt if we fished together he could keep an eye on me.

Rob and I have fished together so much that we function smoothly, each guy anticipating the other’s moves without much discussion.  He casts lefty and I cast right-handed so we can both sling away without shooting line over the other guy’s head.  We never have much debate about when to move to another spot or change up the strategy…fish dry flies on the flats or chironomids off the drop offs?  Whatever.  Rob’s boat is perfectly set up for two guys to fish with Hurley up on the deck in the bow, protecting us from low flying suicidal waterfowl and other fishermen encroaching on our territory.

By the end of February, they pulled the PICC line (the permanent IV thingie in my arm) out and Loi no longer had to pump antibiotics into me twice a day.  The docs were gradually sorting out my chemistry and I was getting stronger.  With the usual crap weather in early March, I headed to the mall and walked in the dry warmth with the other old farts.  The sainted surgeon who did the chest fix cautioned me against swinging a golf club or other exertions that might interrupt the healing of my abused sternum.  Having blown it open once, he did not have to beat that into my thick skull.  I did want to get out my new 6-weight fly rod and see how my casting was going to work but held off.

The time was fast approaching when it would be too late to cancel at Minnie Lake and Rob and I agreed to go for it.  I was getting stronger and now up to walking 3 miles at a crack and getting faster at it.  In mid-April I finally dug out the Winston and did some casting in the back yard.  My dreams of being a bionically-created championship caster were dashed, but I was able to sling it out there in my typically awkward fashion. Good enough.

Through May my anticipation for the trip built and I spent more time than required to prepare the menu and shopping lists.  We do our own cooking at Minnie and rely heavily on grilling… mallard breasts, moose steaks etc. Not complicated. fishing 5

On the 3rd of June I drove up to Whistler, and Rob, Hurley and I headed over mountains on the Duffey Lake Road to the Douglas Lake Ranch and Minnie Lake.  We have experienced some really hot weather on some of our trips to Minnie Lake in early June.  Not this time. It was cold, wet and the wind was howling.  We went fishing anyway after we unloaded our gear.  Apparently the fish were pissed at the weather too and uninterested in anything we had to offer.  We scratched out one measly rainbow each.

The next morning brought more of the same, except windier.  Minnie Lake sits out in the open with few trees around it and when the wind comes from the west it sweeps the lake and renders negotiating the lake with an electric motor nearly impossible.  The adjacent lake, Stoney, about a half mile away, has a sheltered back bay that’s fishable in the worst of conditions, so we headed over there.  Apparently the fish in that lake didn’t like the cold weather either.

The next morning we rose to even worse conditions and the temperature inside our yurt was 2 degrees C.  We restarted the fire in the wood stove and crawled back into our sleeping bags.  In the afternoon we fished Stoney again with lean results. The final day of our stay at Minnie continued with a bit less wind and rain and we did manage to fish a somewhat sheltered bay on Minnie and pick up about a dozen ‘bows each but nothing big (4 to 6 lbs).  That evening we gave in and hit the outdoor shower.  On previous trips the biggest challenge in using that balky thing was fighting off the mosquitoes.  This time with that icy wind blowing we each managed to break the record for shortest shower.  Dad fishing 6No bugs.

The next morning we packed up and headed to Corbett Lake.  Before we left we checked the water temperature.  It had been so cold that the temp in the lake had actually dropped 5 degrees during our stay.  No wonder the fishing was lousy!

We caught a couple of rainbows that afternoon at Corbett but things were still not great and the weather the next morning turned even nastier.  We donned layers of clothes and full rain gear and went anyway.  Anchored with our backs to the wind, we flipped out some chironomids and settled in to wait.Dad fishing 2

Chironomids represent a staple of BC trout diets and there are literally thousands of species of these tiny insects.  Fishing these sometimes microscopic flies usually consists of dangling an unlikely-looking imitation on a long leader below a floating strike indicator.  Because dedicated chironomid fishermen are so smug about their skill in this technique, I have always derisively called it “bobber fishing for snobs”. But it works, so I have slowly accepted it.  With the wind and the rain on this morning, it seemed like a particularly good idea.

Hurley had curled up on the bow taking a nap in the rain and Rob and I stood with the cold wind at our backs and stared at our floats.  As happens in these situations, what with morning coffee and cold weather, a man’s fancy turns to urination.  Considering several layers of clothes and major shrinkage (hey, cold weather plus icy fingers), this would be a two-handed operation, so I put the fly rod down.  With the rain pants around my knees and in mid relief, my strike indicator was jerked under the surface.  Not bothering to tuck Mr. Happy away or hoist my rain pants, I grabbed the fly rod and set the hook.  The rod throbbed in my hands and the fish came out of the water like a pissed off porpoise and headed for deep water.

fishing 4Rob and I both shouted when we saw the size of the fish, waking Hurley who joined the chorus.  With my reel screaming the fish took another couple of jumps about 20 yards directly off the bow.  It was too much for Hurley and he launched himself into the water after the fish.  Rob and I were both screaming at Hurley visualizing the dog, fish and line all intersecting but the fish had reversed course and by the time Hurley got to where the rainbow had last jumped, it was long gone and jumping behind the boat.  Hurley swam back and Rob unceremoniously hoisted him out of the lake where he took up his rightful place on the bow.  In the several attempts to get the big fish in the net, Hurley crowded to get a better look and stepped on my other fly rod snapping it cleanly.  Rob netted my fish and I was finally able to pull up my rain pants.  We guessed the fat rainbow at 8 1/2 lbs and gently released him.

We both figured that would be the big fish of the trip, but a short time later, Rob latched on to another monster that, when boated, proved to be of equal heft, though longer and skinnier.  Later we each caught nice twin 5-pounders along with a number of other lesser trout.  I guess they were finally getting hungry.

We fished another day at Corbett and then the following morning (both so-so) before packing up and making the 4 1/2 hour trek back over the mountains to Whistler.

The trip may not have lived up to my fondest expectations, but it sure gave me something to look forward to during an extremely low ebb in my health and spirits. And landing the biggest rainbow trout of my life with my rain pants around my knees will be remembered for a very long time.  Thanks Rob.

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The Demonization of Inanimate Objects

Today I was driving around in my car and listening to talk radio. OK, I know, I’m a right wing radical. But Dear Readers, can you really defend the crap that serves as musical entertainment on the radio these days? The offerings of No Doubt? Or, Lady Gaga? Justin Bieber? Come on, listening to that crap would have you driving off the road into a tree on purpose.

Anyway, I heard this guy espousing that if Connecticut (in case you missed it, the state where the recent Sandy Hook massacre took place) had laws restricting the number of shells allowed in magazines then fewer kids would have been killed. He argued that if mags were restricted to 10 instead of 15 or 20 rounds, everything would be just dandy. This is what passes for intelligent thinking on the subject of gun control that has been much in the news in recent days. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion but people who don’t know shit about a subject should try to keep quiet. Anyone with even a passing familiarity with guns would know that it only takes seconds to change magazines. That’s hardly enough time for frightened six year olds to organize a counter attack on the shooter.

The anti-gun movement has been all aflutter with this latest opportunity to pass even more restrictive laws on guns. This comes from politicians who see a chance to get some face time and pander to a constituency that consists primarily of people who have never been in the military and have never hunted or owned a firearm. C’est normale.
The sad news is that they will probably pass something and the most likely candidate will be gun registration. Lawmakers will ignore the fact that Canada has already tried gun registration and it failed miserably. It was recently rescinded. It cost about a hundred times more than it was supposed to, compliance was spotty and it did absolutely nothing for the death rate by guns. Nor will the anti-gun folks consider the experience of Mexico that has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the world. They also have a much higher rate of gun related death than the US and fully 2/3rds of the guns in the homes of Mexicans are illegal. Registration simply doesn’t work.

In this image, here are two weapons for consideration. The lower one would be banned by Feinstein’s legislation, but the top one would not.  The surprising thing is that they are the same weapon, a Ruger 10/22.  They are identical rifles except for the added cosmetics.  If you think the bottom one looks scary, you should see it with the round drum rather than the banana clip.

The obvious fact that the only people who register their firearms are the honest owners who would never shoot anyone seems to elude people who say, “We must do something!” What never occurs to these people is to look seriously at the nut bags that do this stuff. Not many gun owners suddenly decide to shoot up a kindergarten. What’s going on with those that do?

It occurred to me that the current push to demonize guns is the same mentality that dominated after 9-11. In the aftermath airline travelers had their cuticle scissors, nail clippers and cork screws confiscated under the absurd theory that an 80-year-old grand mother might use one of these “weapons” to take over an airliner. Subsequent attempts at airline sabotage tightened regulations and soon we were subjected to restrictions on the size of our shampoo bottles. Our toothpaste tubes could not be larger than a bureaucrat’s flaccid penis. Then we had to take off our shoes and belts and have our genitals groped. While grannies were being strip-searched and wheel chair bound passengers fondled, the TSA could not do the one thing that made any sense… profile. Young men of Arab extraction and from Middle Eastern countries do one hundred percent of all terrorist attacks. Is some special attention given to them? Not a chance.
This demonization of the inanimate object and not the person committing the crime is hardly new in our modern society populated by too many greedy lawyers and generous judges. Fell off your bike? Sue the bike manufacturer. Broke your neck on your trampoline? Sue the maker of that thing. No matter that you jumped out of tree in an attempt to launch yourself over your garage, its the trampoline’s fault. No blame is attached to the fools who injure or kill themselves using perfectly fine equipment. No individual is ever to blame for their misfortune or foolhardy behavior.

Like the baby pool I saw on the back porch of my friend’s place. Maybe 3 feet in diameter and 4 inches deep when filled, it had the following warning emblazoned on the inflated tube, “No diving”. Really? You think someone who could read would actually attempt to dive into a pool of water 4” deep? Maybe. So the company lawyers dictated that the message be put there.

Blaming the gun and not the shooter in these incidents is no different than confiscating granny’s scissors or your corkscrew. It won’t do anything but it will give some people and politicians the conviction that, “at least we’re doing something!”

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Sandy Hook

Preface & disclaimer from the author:  I couldn’t help but weigh in on this issue, maybe as much to organize my thinking as anything. However, if you are expecting any brilliant explanations out of this piece, I suggest you save your time and read the sports pages. No body really knows why some people drop off the deep end and suddenly start killing indiscriminately. When it’s little kids, we have even less chance of understanding. After the grieving we need to have a rational discussion about it. Perhaps this is a place to start. Send me your comments.

Adam Lanza’s decision to devote last Friday to slaughtering 27 people including 20 school children aged 6 and 7 and then killing himself has set off a media frenzy and collective grieving unlike anything we have ever experienced. I guess it is the horror of imagining anyone so callused and cold being able to look innocent and helpless children in the face and then shoot them. Trained and hardened combat veterans cannot do that to a wounded or unarmed enemy.

For pure body count Anders Breivik of Norway wins the prize. He killed 69 and injured 170 in his bombing and then shooting attack at a summer camp on an island off the coast of Norway. And, Seung Hui Cho killed 32 and injured 17 in the Virginia Tech massacre. But for pure horror, Sandy Hook beats all.

Most recently James Eagen Holmes killed 12 in his theater attack in Aurora, CO but perhaps the most infamous incident prior to Sandy Hook was the 1999 Columbine High School shooting carried out by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold where 12 students and one teacher were killed.

Robert Leider, a U. of PA School of Law fellow had a thoughtful article in Monday’s WSJ (“Breaking the Gun Control Stalemate”). Inevitably, when one of these tragedies occur, the left cries out for more gun control laws and the gun rights people argue that if someone at the school had had a gun they likely would have stopped the asshole before he ran out of ammo. Note: Mr. Holmes may well be insane but he was smart enough to choose a theater in Aurora that did not allow people to carry a gun inside. Colorado has a “concealed carry” law and in most theaters you can pack your sidearm.)

David Kopel wrote a piece for the WSJ today (12/17) and points out that all of these shootings occur in “gun free zones” and says, “… these shooters are weaklings and cowards who crumble as soon as an armed person shows up.” Indeed. In the recent Clackamas Mall shooting in Oregon, after killing two people the shooter shot himself as soon as he saw a legally armed citizen aiming his gun at him. While some jurisdictions are allowing teachers to carry guns (Harold Independent School District in Texas just voted to allow teachers to pack heat and Utah already does) the emotionally driven push will be toward further restrictions on guns. This, of course, will accomplish nothing.

Biker Lance Armstrong wrote, “It’s Not About the Bike.” It’s also true it’s not about the gun. Recently 36-year-old Min Yung jun in the Chinese village of Cheng Pin stabbed an 85 year old woman with a kitchen knife then stabbed 22 children between the ages of 6 and 11 outside an elementary school. He cut some of the children’s ears and fingers off. This is the most recent of a string of knife attacks on school children in China and 20 have been killed and 50 injured so far. China does not permit private ownership of firearms. [Editor’s note:  China now requires you to register any large kitchen knife purchases with your name, ID card number, address and you must state the purposes of knife use.]

The one thing that all these mass killings have in common is mental illness. The VA Tech shooter had a history of mental problems but privacy laws prevented VA Tech being informed about it. And, because he was never actually committed to an institution, he was able to legally purchase firearms. As Adam Lanza’s life gets dissected we will learn more about this young man’s mental problems. Unfortunately, we will never be able to ask his mother about it and also question her about the wisdom of keeping a collection of guns where he could get his hands on them.

Dr. Steven Segal of the U of California-Berkeley has written extensively on the subject of civil commitment law in the US. The legal system can take credit for making it pretty tough to keep mentally ill people in hospitals where they can get help. He points out in the Kopel piece that the number of beds in state mental hospitals has declined to 1850 levels. Given the amount of money spent on health care, this is difficult to comprehend. He also contends that there is a strong correlation between homicide rates in various states and the strength of their involuntary commitment laws. Clearly, if we want to get a grip on mass shootings the mental health system is a good place to start.

Many people have speculated about the role of bullying, the Goth culture and video games. There seems to be no question that the wall-to-wall media coverage of this stuff seems to be a trigger for some unstable individuals to try to emulate the fame of an Adam Lanza or Dylan Klebold. Already there have been a couple of copycat attempts following the Newtown tragedy. The media needs to take a serious look at how they handle this kind of story.

I’m not too convinced that bullying or the Goth culture has much to do with it. These young men all seem to be social outsiders and as such are likely bullied, and Goth seems to be a place for weirdos anyway. As for video games….. The last game I played was “Frogger” and something with a rolling ball so I am hardly an authority. However, I have seen the ads and many seem to involve a lot of realistic shooting of multiple targets. I suppose most kids can play these games with no ill effects but perhaps one in ten million youngsters with psychological problems will be desensitized and motivated to try shooting real people.

Like I said in my disclaimer preceding this piece, I don’t make any pretense to having a solution. I am quite certain, however, that passing more restrictive gun laws on law-abiding citizens will accomplish nothing. I personally would endorse tightening up restrictions on gun ownership for persons with a history of drug or mental problems. And would not I oppose closing the loopholes on gun shows. But, as a practical matter in a country with an estimated 200 million guns already floating around out there….. Yeah, exactly. This, of course, will not prevent the politicians from bloviating on the matter endlessly.

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American Idol President

For President Obama dial: 1-866-BaddAss and for Mitt Romney dial: 1-866-DAWhimp. Cast your votes and vote as many times as you want!! Long distance charges may apply.

U.S. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney (L) and President Barack Obama debate in front of moderator Bob Schieffer during the final U.S. Presidential debate in Boca Raton, Florida

Big surprise. Despite record high unemployment, a desultory economy, sky-high gas prices, and scary levels of national debt Barack Obama was re-elected yesterday going away. Go figure. Not only that, a number of far left Senate candidates were returned to office and the Senate remains firmly in control of the Democrats.

Millions of words will be written about this election and I have not read a single one of them. Too discouraged. Let me spout off with a few thoughts and then I’m done with politics.

My first reaction is: What the Hell are the people who voted for Obama thinking?! Clearly, for the majority of voters performance had nothing to do with their vote. The first clue for me should have been the popularity of Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift. Neither can sing worth a pinch of coon shit yet they are the most popular singers out there. Likewise, the Kardashians. Why are they famous exactly?

During the election Obama did appearances on John Stewart’s show, Letterman and with other celebrities rather than interviews with serious news outlets. Famously, he had no time to meet with Netanyahu when they were both in NY for the UN meetings but he did find time to go on The View and smooze with the fawning blowhards that host that show. His handlers obviously knew which were the important appearances to garner the votes. This election reminded me of one giant playing of one of Jay Leno’s bits called “Street Walking” where he asks basic third grade level questions of people on the street. Natch, they probably pick the dumbest ones but you are left shaking your head at the end of the bit thinking, “My God, these people are eligible to vote!” Apparently they voted in large numbers last Tuesday.

While that may offer some amusement, the real issue is the changing demographics in the US. Blacks voted 95% for Obama and Hispanics were not far behind at 75%. Women (inexplicably) went 55% for BHO. (I guess free condoms are important after all.) Those groups are growing.

Romney’s candid comment that 47% of the people would never vote for him because they receive direct benefit from the government is, unfortunately, true. Many receive food stamps, welfare, Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. Additionally, government employees are not going to vote against the party promising bigger government. Nor are union workers, teachers, environmentalists, lobbyists and trial lawyers who believe that the Democrats will keep the money flowing and some of it will drift their way. A lot of people don’t want less government spending no matter how irresponsible.

So in a larger sense, Americans are voting themselves into the same hole enjoyed by a number of European social democracies…. Bankruptcy. Apparently the metastasizing national debt means nothing to the majority of voters. Let the next generation worry about it.

Gas prices and unemployment did not matter either apparently. The rogue EPA was of no concern to New York and New Jersey voters who overwhelmingly elected BHO and Democrats. Many of those voters have been out of power for a couple of weeks courtesy of Sandy. Given four more years of Obama’s EPA when they get done with outlawing fracking and shutting down all the coal fired electrical generating plants and the lights go out in the North East for lack of capacity, maybe they will think again.

The Obama guys knew they could get away with blaming Bush even as the election approached: “…Go back to the policies that got us into this mess…” That massive lie was never refuted or even attempted. Yes, it’s complicated but it had to be addressed. Think about it. The current recession is the fault of the unprecedented prosperity we’ve enjoyed since the Reagan era? Or something else? Clue to my liberal friends: It’s the policies of easy money by the Fed and lending money to people who could not pay it back.

This election proved once again that negative campaigning works. Massive numbers of negative commercials in key states early in the campaign painting Romney as a corporate raider and greedy capitalist and that proved effective. The first debate overcame some of the negative image but not enough.

The media played its usual role in cheering on the Democrats and ignoring stories harmful to Obama, particularly Benghazi. This is malpractice but a fact of life. The media and Hollywood wanted Obama and now they have him. Congrats.

After the euphoria of the Obama supporters subsides the hard reality will set in. This election insures that ObamaCare will survive and be implemented and the substantial tax increases and policies associated with it will kick in. The electorate will certainly not appreciate the result. Taxes are surely going up. The Republicans who still control the House will not be able to resist the Democrats in their desire to impose a tax increase on the “rich”. The only question is how far down the income scale they deem the wealthy to be. Clue: The Rich don’t have enough money to make a difference so the middle class will get hit eventually. Creating massive inflation is the only way to corral the runaway debt. I’m certain that’s the Democrat’s hope and plan. Gee, this is going to be a lot of fun.

Unemployment is probably going to limp along. The young people who voted for Obama better be prepared to live in their childhood bedrooms for a few more years. Or maybe for a long time.

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