Monday, February 26, 2007

Global Warming, plus the Academy Awards' Worst Acting

I have a feeling that global warming advocacy - "the world is gonna end soon unless we do something now" - is going to become like all those New York shops that are perpetually "going out of business".

Most such businesses have been "going out of business" for six, seven, even ten years or more. Moreover, I think it is particularly ludicrous - as I've said here before - to believe that global warming can actually be fought, as if one can stop a natural process without seriously, negatively disrupting the environment and life as we know it.

We hear a lot about how, never in recorded history, have temperatures ever been this high, sea levels rising this much, and so on and so forth. But, ah, what about un-recorded history? You know, the - what is it, now - four billion years or so of Earth's existence?

I'd like to hear about how the dinosaurs contributed to global warming 100 million years ago.

Wait, didn't global warming do in the ancestors of the denizens of "Jurassic Park"?

You bet it did - other than evolution into birds, a major theory of how the "terrible lizards" died out or disappeared is that a meteor struck around what is now the Yucatan peninsula, causing volcanoes to erupt on the other side of the planet and with little doubt sending waves of flame around the world in such a way as to scour the planet of most of its life.

A cosmic weapon of mass destruction, plus molten hot
lava, clouds covering the planet and ash raining down upon it, solar heat checkin' in but not checkin' out...yes, all of that would significantly contribute to the greenhouse effect, and cause the globe to warm.

Move up 65 million years, and I bet you could posit a theory that global warming was a major motivation behind Marcus Brutus's plot to assassinate Julius Caesar. Oh, and ah, I have it from reliable sources that the Romans didn't crucify Jesus - that was global warming. The Black Death? Global warming caused that. The Earthquake of 1906 that devastated San Francisco? Duh,
global warming! The Russian Revolution? Global warming. France succumbing to Nazi Germany in 1940? Global warming brought the French army to its knees. Vietnam? Global warming.

That horrible situation on the second rock from the Sun, the planet Venus? Global warming! The Greenhouse Effect! Well, that's actually true. And though we can't be blamed in any way for the sad state of Venus, just you watch - one day, someone, probably on the far left, will try and find a connection.

I'm pretty sure they'll blame the Israeli occupation.

Again, for what seems like the umpteenth time, I don't discount the evidence of human contributions to global warming. I don't deny that humans have since industrialization cavalierly polluted and wrecked the environment, a significant amount. I won't challenge that.

But I
will challenge global warming activists who try and shift the blame for global warming and the greenhouse effect to humanity alone from the forces "of Nature and Nature's God" (to quote the Declaration of Independence) that have been at work for much longer than humanity has had anything within the realm of description worthy of being called "civilization". Give credit where credit is due - share the blame. Display some honesty on the issue, not just demagoguery.

So long as the people who are the chief advocates of "fighting" global warming are the same people suffering under the delusion that Iran seeks nuclear power for peaceful purposes only, they will lack moral authority and moral credibility in my eyes. This will remain my position even if the world ends, and even if Al Gore ends up running for the White House and winning the 2008 presidential election.

By the way, before you get to thinking I'm totally anti-Gore, the inconvenient truth - for some people, anyway - is that I
did vote for him in 2000, and NOT just because he had a Jew running with him for VP. The past is the past, and right now, I don't like the way his environmental message is being propagated.


P.S. Why is it that at the Academy Awards, the actors and actresses who are presenters tend to do a horrible job on the little skits of pithy banter written into the show, yet directors and producers like Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese often do a better job of "acting" than many nominees for acting roles when they're on stage?

The people normally behind the camera come off as classy (genuine), whereas the people getting paid the big bucks to act in front of it come off as corny at best - or just plain bad at worst (contrived, fake, overrated). You ever notice that? I'd say the actors should become directors, and directors actors, but not all of 'em can be like Ron Howard. And the films probably wouldn't be as good.

Then again, maybe they would.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Search for an Honest Peace

Didja hear the big news?

Sure you did. And if you didn't, well, sit tight.

Palestinian factions, meeting in Mecca, came to an agreement on a unity government this week. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is talking about future peace talks. Everyone suffering under a delusion about the reality of the Middle East believes, once again, that “peace in our time” is the next big thing for that region. Syria says that “recuperating” the Golan Heights is central to peace in the Middle East one minute, and then says that solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict is central to peace in the Middle East the next.

Well, which is it? The Golan, or the “Arabs of ‘48”, and the refugees of '67?

A lot of the time, you’ll hear advocates for the Palestinian “cause” (which, let’s be honest, is still for the Palestinian leadership a cause meant to result in the destruction of the State of Israel) talk about “peace and justice” in the Middle East. “Peace for Israel,” they say, and “Justice for Palestine”. That sounds nice. It really does...never mind, of course, “Justice for Israel”. But anyway, is that all there is to it? Unfortunately, no. Those who advocate for “peace and justice”, often sprinkling their speech with veiled and not-so-veiled anti-Semitism, know something.

They know that different people on different sides have different ideas of what “justice” is. It is, to a large degree, a hollow sort of justice meant when “peace with justice” or “peace and justice” and Israel and the Palestinians are mentioned in the same breath, or same paragraph even. If you ask me, we should be focusing less on a search for “peace and justice” and more on a search for “peace with honesty”, “a peace of honesty”, or some other way of bringing those words together.

What sort of honesty do I speak of? One of the most simplest kinds there are. Honesty about human nature. And just what do I mean by that?

Look, it isn’t as if the Framers of the Constitution had some overly idealistic conception of human nature. The reason they put the protections, restrictions, and rights they did in that document, which has served the United States and the American people pretty well over the past 217 years and change, is because they knew human nature. They knew humans were, while generally trying to be good, human. They knew that power corrupts. They knew that humans, once in power, would be tempted to abuse it – not, usually, for the benefit of others, but for themselves.

“Peace with honesty” would recognize that, for example, in the Arab-Israeli conflict, the side more likely to break any peace agreement with the intentions of committing genocide would be the Arab side. “Peace with honesty” would recognize that in that region
which I am currently happily no longer living in, as good as it was for me to live there – the only peace worth having is an honest peace, because only an honest peace in the Middle East would be a just peace...a peace worth having.

With certain regard for these, our United States, “peace with honesty” with those of the ilk who carried out the acts of war on September 11, 2001 – the end result of which I have the “opportunity” to see every day but generally don’t, ‘cause the PATH train station at Ground Zero is too cold, too open air for weather like this – would only be a peace that recognizes terrorists don’t need the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Americans in Iraq, or any other reason to try and kill us.

The Barbary Pirates weren’t carrying out “al-jihad fil-bahr” – “the holy war at sea” – because the infant United States were after Middle Eastern oil. Hell, back in the days of the Barbary Pirates, the days of Washington, Adams and Jefferson, no one even knew the Middle East had oil like it does (or once did). Christians were enslaved upon capture, and tribute paid to Muslim chieftains, and it had little to do with Europe or America trying to police the world.

It’s like global warming.

Global warming has been happening since long before the end of the last Ice Age (how else would that Ice Age have ended, the mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers die out, etc.?). We can do what we can to stem the tide of human contributions making the Earth warmer than would normally happen thanks to the spin of the Earth, our planet rotating on its axis, and our distance from the sun. But if we’re being honest about global warming, we can only do so much. We can only, literally, do our part.

Scientists, and the media, make a big deal over announcements that global warming will last for centuries into the future. Well DUH, of course it’s already lasted several millennia. Yeah, millennia. What are a few more centuries to a phenomenon that’s lasted since, well, probably since the first few million years it took for the Earth to cool into a floating ball capable of supporting life? Just how many Ice Ages have there been, anyway, and how else could those have ended? Magic?

If we’re being honest, not deceptive or utopian, about global warming, the answer should be obvious.

And, for that matter, if we’re being honest about peace in the Middle East, the key there is remembering that relatively few Palestinian children will hold to the agreements made by the elder generation of their particular sector of the Arab people so long as such children are taught in school to hate, to destroy, to sing the praises of murder...and so on and so forth.

If we’re being honest about the search for peace in the Middle East, we’ll not get excited at the latest reports of a Palestinian deal forged in Mecca to stunt the civil war taking place in Gaza, we’ll not look at the relatively recent suicide bombing in the southern Israeli city of Eilat as an isolated incident, we’ll not get worked up over deceptive “hudnas” when the vast majority of people don’t know what a “hudna” is, and we’ll believe Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, when he calls for the destruction of Israel or says something else anti-Semitic.

“Peace with honesty” is a much more mature, thought out and
dare I say it? honest approach to the Middle East. Because quite HONESTLY, any peace in the Middle East that isn’t honest is a peace that – barring the involvement of Providence – is doomed to fail, eventually. Everyone knows it, and few can deny it...unless, of course, they aren't being honest with themselves. Or us.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Turning the Heat Up


"Stop global warming….start global cooling. Make the world a giant icebox!" – The Penguin (Danny DeVito), Batman Returns (1992)


Does anyone really think the last Ice Age would have ended if it weren't for climate change…if it weren't for global warming? We have the world we have, and not one full of wooly mammoths and saber-toothed tigers, because of global warming. Should we blame humanity for global warming? Only that portion of it which humanity is responsible for. For all the rest, blame the Earth – spinning on its axis, tens of millions of miles away from the Sun – and, if you're so inclined, thank God.

I would have been more satisfied if all of the recent talk about global warming paid a little more attention to the global warming of the past 10,000 years or so, instead of just the past six years of the Bush Administration. I mean really, though we hear scientists mentioning that their studies have been ongoing, one would think that – for all of the criticism – President Bush caused the death of the mammoths.

Most interesting to hear would be the opinion of the GEICO cavemen, those shaggy leftovers from a bygone era who aren't happy that signing up for GEICO is referred to as being "so easy, even a caveman can do it". Or, we could just pop in a tape of that perennial classic, "Encino Man", and muse over what Brendan Fraser's caveman character might think about a world much warmer than the one he knew before he froze solid and Pauley Shore defrosted him.

I think we should look at global warming and its potential effect on our lives the same way we look at technology. Who, today, can imagine a world without iPods or other MP3 players? If you, like me, ride the subway almost every day in New York City, it's difficult to find someone who doesn't have some sort of miniscule music-listening device. All too quickly, we've gone from reading or talking on our commute home to hiding behind the music. Didn't take too much of an adjustment.

If humanity can adapt that quickly to new technology, who is to say we couldn't do the same to a new environment? It isn't as if we're totally clueless when it comes to dealing with climate change. Anyone who has lived in a place where it is bitingly cold in January and oppressively hot and humid in July – or commuted between a mountain city and coastal city daily – learns to adjust, deal with it, or move someplace else.

And hello, human beings have managed to survive thousands of years of global warming already. If our species' ancestors had not managed to do so well in spite of global warming, our planet would likely look very different than it does today.

Yes, changes in the environment, wrought by human-caused and natural global warming (natural global warming, of course, having been around much longer than human industrial plants and waste-dumping into rivers), will affect many different aspects of our lives. It will probably require an adjustment to our dining habits, as fish or birds or whatever we like migrate someplace else or die out.

And yes, we should do something to curb those elements of global warming which are causing natural global warming to proceed faster than it normally would. I'm not arguing not to do something about global warming. I'm merely stating that it's not something to panic over. Sure, I'm skinny, and I like hiding that as much as possible under long-sleeved shirts.

When it gets warmer, though – when, not if – I will make necessary changes. I already like to think about working out, and building muscles, so I don't look so laughably, ah, slim in many t-shirts and polo shirts. Maybe global warming can help me to finally stop thinking, and start acting – I'm constantly making pledges to myself to do more push-ups than I already do, but living up to those not too often. If I must wear short-sleeves more often, I'll have no choice. Or, I'll just be really uncomfortable.

I'm not freaking out about global warming. Though Al Gore might be miffed to hear it, it's not such an inconvenient truth to me; at least, it's not any more inconvenient a truth than that represented by death. And it's important to remember we didn't start the warming. I do think it's irresponsible to deny that global warming is happening, but then again, that's hardly more irresponsible than the demagoguery we're being fed by the anti-global warming activists of "the end is nigh" variety.