Friday, May 29, 2009

The Obama Admin Admits More Than They Tell

Read this amazing article:

To understand what is shocking about this article requires that you understand some core realities of the global warming issue.

Here is a primer:

The core of the issue with global warming is the concern that the surface temperature of the earth will change significantly enough that it will change the environment. This is immediately followed by a debate about the effect increasing ratios in carbon concentrations have on that environmental equation. Within the carbon emissions (increasing that ratio) issue rests the debate about how much of those emissions are directly related to human activity. This debate is very complicated and rests mostly on the shoulders of statisticians who may or may not being reading data correctly on either side of the debate and they attempt to draw both correlation and causation with regard to human activity that causes increased earth surface average temperatures (Anthropogenic Global Warming or AGW.)

What most people don’t know or won’t tell you is that the predictions are coming, for the most part, from information provided by models. What does this mean? Well imagine that you are looking at a farmer’s almanac. The almanac tells you the weather history in that part of the country and from a series of recorded events the hope is that you can guess the weather for the time frame you are in at the moment, based on the past.

The fact is, that is too simple an explanation if we are supposed to imagine how predictions in global warming are established today. Imagine being a part of a collective of farmers. You watch your area while others watch theirs. Now, the manager of the farmers looks at all of the almanacs. From there they pull out their slide-rule and predict what the weather will be like tomorrow. Do you trust it? Sure. Why not. How about a year from now? Are you willing to imagine that the farm manager is so accurate based on the local information that you can decide if you will have a picnic outside a year from now? Now imagine 100 years from now. And you, as a farmer, have to invest $100 billion and your farms future on whether or not the farm manager’s prediction is accurate. What about a 1,000 years from now? Can you trust that? And now imagine that there are a couple farm managers working together and they have conjoined their results and are now delivering the following prediction, “We believe that in 100 years approximately the temperature will be between -200 degrees and +200 degrees F.” What is the value of a prediction like that? Now, imagine the farm managers feel they have read enough farmer’s almanacs that they decided to mostly throw out the almanacs and they are now going to plug their best guesses are the values of certain variables into an equation to come up with a prediction like that? Still feeling pretty good about the prediction (as well as the science and the math?)

This is AGW science. The predictions are based more on the results of people sitting in labs plugging numbers into models rather than information from the field. If the models don’t agree with field research then rather than challenge the science they just attack the scientist for being an “AGW denier.” The predictions across a number of teams modeling results can be as much as 400% variant (if you were on the job and your boss asked you for inventory levels for production and after you gave him the result you said “But my numbers may be as much as 400% off,” how long do you think you would get to keep your job?)

And even within those models, we now know that they underestimate certain factors and leave out others completely (this can be like trying to bake a cake and then forgetting to include flour or including way too much salt.) This is the science of models. This is what we are being told is the “undisputed” science behind much of AGW. Not facts, but models that predict with 400% variance at times.

So what does this article tell us?

To understand this, you have to understand one of the larger alternative understandings of Global Warming.

The Alternative Global Warming Understanding Primer:

While we do know that the carbon ratio is increasing, we know that we are only talking about parts per million. Now, maybe your mom once said to you that you are “one in a million” but that simply means you are really unique. Carbon at parts per million is debatably not a huge determinant of weather or global average temperature when you consider that it is minor compared to the full spectrum and intensity of all of the greenhouse gasses known in our atmosphere (again, in the world of greenhouse gasses carbon would be like the nerd in school who got expelled for aggressively flicking his booger at someone while the school mostly ignores the fact that the halls are being overrun with gangs that regularly beat people up.)

So what does affect the surface temperature record and is likely skewing AGW model predictions? The answer is “Urban Islands.” Urban Islands have everything to do with increasing the area of surface temperature around cities mostly due to land use and not carbon emissions. Said another way, these islands of heat are warmer than say, a forest, and as the city grows the heat island grows. Does this affect AGW? No. By definition temperature changes that are explained as local phenomena cannot be considered global (this is not my definition, this is the way it is measured and defined.) So how does this skew AGW numbers or modeled predictions? Well, they have to factor it out, which they do, but do they do a good job at that?

Imagine that you want to measure and see if people are regularly experiencing more pain than did people of a previous generation. We will call this measurable global analytical model Natural Global Pain or NGP. To determine the degree to which people are feeling pain we would need to find a previous record of pain. And for each degree of pain greater than the average, we add a point to the NGP Crisis counter.

Now, going into hospitals for that record would skew the results since they might be in pain if they are in the hospital. And let’s imagine that most people in the hospital are measuring 12 points above the pain average. Well, since a hospital is a “pain island” we have to adjust downward for these scores. If the average pain score in a hospital was then 12 above average, then naturally you would think we should adjust downward by 12 knowing that some people will be experiencing a measurable 14 which will add to the NGP Crisis counter. Well, if we are going to act like AGW scientists, then instead we adjust downward by only 5.

Naturally then we are saying that at least half of the pain in the hospital is not due to an isolated local experience putting us in the hospital (“pain island”) but rather that half that pain is really just higher because, well, people experience more pain now for some reason. But we don’t know that. We are simply just factoring our bias into the conversion offset scale. This is the affect that measurements on “urban heat islands” have on the models for AGW. They are bias and there are published scientists who have publicly stated that the offsets with regard to Urban Islands in the AGW equation are showing that bias. And even though they try to factor Urban Islands out, we believe they don't do this without unreasoanble bias. But nobody disagrees that Urban Islands need to be factored out.

So maybe you are starting to put two and two together. If the numbers going into the models (again, not facts but models that predict) are skewed, then the results are skewed. More over if they are hoping to dodge skewing the results by factoring out the affects of the Urban Island because they know it have nothing to do with “Global” warming, then they are admitting that the Urban Island isn’t an AGW problem but just something to skew data.

But in this article, the Obama administration is claiming that part of the solution for global warming includes dealing with Urban Islands by painting roofs white. Now either this leader in the Obama administration doesn’t really understand the arguments and (crappy) science behind AGW …or… they are just making a Freudian slip in revealing that amongst completely political “solutions” to AGW that simply serve to redistribute wealth across the planet under the guise of AGW Prevention, they know they also have to implement some steps that will lower the “perceived average temperature” experienced in Urban Islands so that people will say “See, we are fixing the problem by paying carbon taxes to the U.N. and reinvesting in a new Green Economy!” (where people like Al Gore have gone from a net worth of around $2 million to $100 million in only 8 short years mostly due to his “green” business investments that continue to ride the coattails of his movie.)

This news is just too telling. When will people round out their understanding of the issues surrounding AGW to include the very reasonable questions that they don’t even know to ask yet because they trust these politicians and “green” businessmen more than their own intelligence?

Quote of the Week - Lowell Ponte

"We simply cannot afford to gamble this possibility by ignoring it. We cannot risk inaction. Those scientists who say we are entering a period of climate instability are acting irresponsibly. The indications that our climate can soon change for the worse are too strong to be reasonably ignored."

- Lowell Ponte, "The Cooling", 1976 Prentice Hall (Books)

This is a quote from only 30 years ago on gobal cooling, the impending ice age that was supposed to have overtaken us by now and the question, will we survive it. Here is a quote from Lowell Ponte today:

"But the Leftist press continues to quote bug and flower scientists about global warming - including doomsayers who three decades ago were predicting a fast-approaching, planet-freezing ice age. I should know, being author of the 1976 Prentice-Hall bestselling climate book The Cooling."

If you are open to being personally challanged on this issue, read "The Skeptical Environmentalist." The author of this book, a Danish statistician and Green Peace activist, set out to prove wrong the claims of Julian Simon who said that these current environmental fears are unfounded and that the world was actually improving. Throughout his research he found that Simon was more right than wrong and book reflects the outcomes resulting from his research.

Monday, May 25, 2009

On This Memorial Day: Reflection on Iraq

Whether you agree or do not agree with a U.S. presence in Iraq, I want to honor the lives of U.S. soldiers who while serving in the military gave their lives. We won't forget your sacrifice to defend the world from a environment filled with oppression and terror.

I would also like to specifically honor those who have fought with honor. Even though some press would explicitly estimate that over 600,000 Iraqis died purportedly at the hands of coalition forces over the course of the last six years I would like to remind those harbingers of untruth that even now in 2009 the Haditha massacre remains unproven (Time magazine said of this event, "Human-rights activists say that if the accusations are true, the incident ranks as the worst case of deliberate killing of Iraqi civilians by U.S. service members since the war began." 15 people died horrible deaths.) Not to minimize, but if this is the worst case of deliberate killing in the entire Iraqi conflict while those who perpetrated it should be severely dealt with, it says something quite admirable about American soldiers at war. Like I said, who ever participated in that situation (if any US soldiers did) should be dealt with severely. But the fact that such attrocities are not happening says something about the quality of the people who are serving.

I don't know how Time magazine can say what it says while the Lancet survey claims so many violent deaths?

Bad Financial Advice (or bad advice, period)

It is a bit morbidly entertaining to watch someone in financial disarray give financial advice. Tell me you haven’t observed this! You likely have an uncle or friend of the family that is full of get rich quick schemes, ideas for making money if it weren’t for a distinct lack of financing, and on-demand (or without request) advice for the would-be investor or the financially troubled.

This character has even made its way into movies. You’ve seen it, right? The semi-crazy street vagrant dressed in rags carrying around a disconnected rotary dial red telephone yelling “Sell, sell!” into the handset.

The world is full of self-proclaimed experts and as a result it is always important to ask the right qualifying questions before even listening to advice to plague your mental process. Take for example, an old lost friend. He used to talk about money quite a bit. If you were to simply ask him if he was a business magnate or someone of just relative success he would be quick to tell you about the number of entrepreneurial businesses he was brought in to consult with on their way to the big-time. If you simply said, “Well, that works for me!” you wouldn’t ever hear the part of the story where nearly all of those businesses took his advice and are currently either in various stages of bankruptcy or in some cases the executives lost their right to be executives in any business ventures for nearly a decade as a result of them taking advice from him directly. Asking the right relevant questions is as important as getting purportedly good advice from “experts.” You can’t outsource your intelligence.

Such is the financial political world in the U.S. at the moment. If you are finding yourself affected at all by or thinking about the new national direction on issues like welfare, immigration, taxation, lending, regulation, government (deficit) spending, ecology, environmental laws and policies, housing market trends then you might want to ask yourself, “Where are we getting our advice on these new moves?” The answer is, well, no single source really. But what a reasonable person can do is look at parallels and say, “Are there states or governments that have already moved in the direction our nation is now headed in and what is the outcome of the progress they have made as a result?”

This is by all means not a foolproof technique in estimating the potential for success, even if it is how most of us make our daily decisions on a broad cross section of situations (i.e. we consult friends who have been through similar situations and learn from their missteps or successes.)

Our best parallel on nearly all of these socio-political fronts is both a U.S. state as well as the 9th largest economy in the world: California. Since the end of 2008 and in the beginning of 2009 California is, for lack of an actual legal ability to declare itself as such, bankrupt. States can’t declare bankruptcy, while local community governments and cities (more specifically) can do so, and in the case of California have (or in some cases nearly have if it weren’t for Federal bail-out.)

When you look at the policies in all of these categories it is no surprise that California runs a regular annual budget deficit of over $30 billion. It has falsely propped up its housing market. It has publically funded healthcare and lax boarders that allow illegal immigrants the benefits of legal immigrants and U.S. citizens. It has the highest personal income taxes in the country. It has the highest energy costs partially due to so called "green" legislation. It has the second highest unemployment rate in the nation (at 9.3%, and second only to DC which is nearly 10% unemployment.) It has completely over-leveraged its value against its lending power. It has been bailed out by the Federal Government and it has its hand out again!

Now, if you listen to the New York Times, they would have you believe that this is a shared story amongst Americans. Our American spirit should have us rally behind supporting a Federal bailout for California (as they ask for it again) because, well, this will likely be our states story too, right? Well, unless you are in New York City, that just isn’t true. And the runner-up for “in between a rock and a hard place” NYC is still only half as hard off as California. All of the states in between these two monolithically self-important socio-politically similar communities are not nearly in the same situation financially and otherwise. Oddly, if you go back as "far" as October of 2008 you can see Nancy Pelosi claim that bailouts are "bad policy" as she spoke out against it then and later wrote checks to NYC and now possibily against her own advice, to California. So why would we bail out these clear exceptions to the rule if the rule across the country doesn't trend into the toilet like these less-than-apologetic examples that spend and legislate themselves into a hole (and don't look like they are about to change that trend)?

The answer is simple, and you’ve likely heard this on TV: we can’t afford to let them fail. What you haven’t heard is the reasoning behind that statement. The can-do-people behind such statements need California to be a raging success because they epitomize the model implementation of their current nearly-manifest dream for the nation. If California can’t survive, and all of the states between California and DC are being turned into little Californias (politically and financially speaking through legislative action and spending) then naturally, California cannot be left to fail.

Maybe in this context, the New York Times would then be correct for once. If we all become little Californias, then maybe our states would all genuinely have a financial fate similar to the aforementioned. Then the Fed will swoop in and buy up the political landscape through the power of bailout funding that forces states to conform to the new political agenda.

In response to this unparalleled federal spending spree that attempts to change the socio-political momentum of the country through the power of financial leverage using these bad-example-communities, I have decided to start a mock campaign against this very obvious political movement called…

“Bailout BONANZA! America sells low.”

I am thinking about creating bumper-stickers.

On a more serious note, I think the solution could be a whole lot smarter. If we allowed for the creation of state to state lending where profitable states could provide contingent financing for less profitable states, then we sell out less and can skip the more costly middleman (the Federal Government, who would have to take money from the more profitable states anyway.) And contingencies could be established by the more profitable states, demanding that states requiring bailout take a few lessons on management from those more well-off states and set into motion plans that move them in the right direction. Now, mind you, my bias shows through in this statement, because the most profitable states across America are all fiscally and politically conservative states. At the same time, and with less bias, the upside is that funding would come from real sources and not the Fed which would either print more money lowing the value of the dollar or by just taking it from other states in the least efficient manner possible.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Cap And Trade Market Is The New Wallstreet

The word on the street is that the Carbon Pollution (still only a theory and disproved more and more everyday by observed non-anomilic science) “Cap and Trade” is poised to make certain folks into quick billionaires. GE is one of those companies. There are many others. Here is how this will work.

For some time now a number of companies organized as a group called “USCAP” have teamed up to recommend how cap and trade works. The gist is, based on recommended levels for carbon pollution, companies in the US would be awarded credits. If you are beating the cap then you get credits and if you are exceeding the cap then you need to go out and buy credits due to your credit deficit. Over the course of the next 50 years those credits would be progressively reduced lower carbon pollution numbers (wait for it.) Here is the problem.

  1. Carbon pollution is not science nor are the standards. They are manufactured "Caps" (I will explain how these Caps came to be in the next point.)
  2. The USCAP group is recommending standards that stack the deck in their favor. If the government adopts their recommendation, then since those companies have a head start on adhering to the standard they would be awarded an inequitable number of credits.

As a result many other companies would have to go to them to buy credits. And companies like GE are then awarded in the billions of dollars. Years later after politicians are willing to agree with the current science debunking AGW and proving we are on a new cooling trend, rather than returning all of our money they will only claim we've now solved AGW at a globally and ecologically infeasible speed and now we can stop doing Cap and Trade and energy taxes... wait a minute, WHO AM I KIDDING?

If the government can crank up personal energy taxes, why would they EVER STOP? And if companies can OWN the Cap and Trade system before it even gets going, how hard will they lobby Congress to keep that cashcow alive long after Anthropogenic Global Warming pseudo-science is debunked publicly?

Well, the answer is, they won't stop. This is a new industry they are creating. And we are not talking about companies trading billions based on carbon credit trading alone. Here is where you are I come in.

Carbon Cap and Trade laws would very quickly affect the average American household at the rate of over $3,000 per year. This is already all over the news based on the plan being proposed. If you think you have a tight budget now, imagine finding another $3,000 per year to handle trickle down Cap and Trade economics. If you are single with a roommate renting a home, well then it will only be $1,500+ for you, but I am sure you are now doing the math. As energy costs go up, also due specifically to energy taxes, it is being estimated that people will retire older electronic devices and from who will they purchase those new devices? Two letters: G.E.

This also affects companies and communities. G.E. is not only a major participant in crafting the Cap and Trade recommendations to the US Government but it is the largest manufacturer of the purported consumer AND company AND community level “solutions”. Where will people buy windmills from? New generator? Updated "low polution" arcraft engines? G.E. And this is only one company in the mix.

Let's talk about oil. Since the beginning of AGW theories ExxonMobil has been quit public about disputing the science behind the claims. And while they have not publicly changed their position, they are surprisingly getting involved in USCAP to help shape those policies before they become laws. So they aren't debating the fact that they don't believe in AGW anymore today than they did yesterday. They are only reading the writing on the wall and grabbing a seat at the big table so they can be one of the key families in the new enviro-mafia.

So (like usual) let’s do the math:

Cap and Trade doesn’t solve any problems, it creates a new trade market.

Moreover it creates or IMPLEMENTS a scheduled problem for average Americans to which that same group “creating” the problem will then be the very group providing the solution. The last time I heard a storyline like this I think I was watching the movie “The Godfather.” I am just starting to really understand those funny new “Tea Parties” in the news these days. You know? Those blips in the news where the media tells you that a few people got together to complain about taxes? Well, historically, people got pretty pissed because England wanted to get more money out of the colonies, so while England controlled the tea being exported to the colonies, they saw an opportunity in controlling the taxes associated with them. To be fair, Cap and Trade is just a new Tea Tax. But in this case it isn't tea they are taxing, it is carbon - the most prevelant element in the known universe. Said another way, if America could tax you for breathing, comparitively they couldn't raise as much funding as the AGW carbon "polution" taxation market will be able to do.

So, am I nuts? Where do I get the guts to call Cap and Trade a planned ploy to create a problem and then pimp the only solution? Well, just follow the story for yourself…

OK, be a good American and read these two articles:

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em: Industry owns Cap and Trade rather than really being about Green Legislation


Cap and Trade Slumlords: If going green is so altruistic, how did Al Gore go from a net worth of $2 million at the end of his vice presidency to over $100 million in only eight years due to the new green market?

...and if you prefer to watch video instead then check out...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Saturdays and Sundays

Wearing my tennis shoes, shorts and pullover, sporting my freshly cleaned glasses I gripped my warm caramel cappuccino in one hand as I cradled my newly purchased books in the other while dialing in some good walking music which ended up being Tom Middleton’s “life tracks” album. This is a balancing act whether you throw in a moving escalator or not.

At the bottom of the down elevator I meandered out the front door of the Barnes & Noble at the corner of 12th and E Street. It is worth mentioning that E Street turns into Pennsylvania Avenue one block East. It is worth mentioning because even though the weather is a bit chilly, hence the pullover, people seem to swarm the vicinity of the Whitehouse on the weekends. If you slow down enough and do a little crowd observation you will see people standing around the parameter fences gazing at the place in hopes to see the president, or some recognizable government official walk past a window. Ironically, these are the same people that would ask themselves “Who is this idiot?” if they saw their own state senator giving some commentary on the nightly news, let alone recognize a government official stroll past a window in the Whitehouse. But I digress. The streets are filled with people and just out the doors at the base of the escalator I will become one of many as I work my way toward the metro.

The breeze on the street gives me goose pimples on my legs as I walk making the coffee that much more welcome. I really love a warm coffee on a cool day. Thankfully, the overcast sky is holding back the raindrops and I am really digging the walk, and the crowds, the clean streets and the eclectic mix of it all. The music really helps too.

As I round the corner to go East down G Street toward Chinatown I find myself thinking about the movie I just watched and how it reflects a few key moments in my life. The film was “Management” with actors Steve Zahn and Jennifer Aniston. Not all of the film is a great match to my life but what movie, or book for that matter, ever is. In fact if I were to write a book or a screenplay I don’t think I would make it too much like my life for fear of mostly boring the snot out of the sucker who dropped the cash to call the story entertainment. But this movie definitely struck a chord with me. I could go into the details and explain but it is maybe better to just recommend the film and tell you that it contained some decent writing and a few moments of great acting. Even though it is a somewhat melancholy film I still think it has a metric ton of heart and touches on some very intimate moments that most films so callously blast through with over acting and dramatic scoring. I am still thinking through the parallels between the two main characters. It is worth the $10 ticket.

At about G and 10th I can see the Verizon Center flickering in the distance. It is a nice little walk as it takes you past the north side steps of the National Portrait Gallery. That is where people sit and chat, eat ice cream on a warm summer day (which this is not), talk on their cellphones and such, as the world buzzes by headed for the Capitol buildings or the Shakespeare Theater or the Spy Museum.

Just as I am about to step across the street the person to my right seems to say something to me. I turn slightly and give a nod and as I turn back to cross I notice he is smiling right at me. For fear that I have done something unintentionally awkward and in an effort to fix the situation I slip one earbud out of my head dulling my walking soundtrack just slightly and ask him, “Did you just say something?”

He struggles to respond. I am thinking maybe I made a mistake. My assertive question seems to have made him a little uncomfortable and he is searching for words in his mind as if I have just asked him, a perfect stranger, for money and he is now dragging his hands through his pockets out of inconvenient kindness.

“Do you…where…ugh…know you…Chinatown?” He is foreign. Every word is crystal clear and even though he doesn’t quite have all of the nuances worked out, his broken English makes perfect sense. Fhew. I am not the crazy guy hearing voices and barking at people on corners today. He did say something.

I attempted to explain how the huge building in the near distance with the blinking signage for sports events and concerts was basically the edge of Chinatown. He didn’t get it. Finally, “Hey, just follow me. I am walking in that direction,” I offered.

Over the next few blocks I learned that he is going to be in the U.S. for a month and is hoping to explore his way up to Manhattan before heading home. He didn’t speak a word of English when he got here. He is basically picking up the language as he goes. I am starting to envy his journey. “Where are you from?” Tajikistan is his reply.

My brain is riffling through memories from the 10-years-or-older file when I once remembered learning something about Tajikistan. I asked him, “So what languages do you speak then?” He replied, “I can… Tajik, Russian…now English.” He smiled. There were a few other languages that he picked up along the way but I was confused a little by his pronunciation of their names. My brain also stopped at “Russian.”

At the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, I took a few years of Russian. I had taken a number of years of German in High School and wanted to continue learning that but in between my Freshman and Sophomore years of college I traveled to Russia where I caught the bug. So, midway through my Sophomore year of school I started taking Russian language classes. That turned into about two and a half years of Russian, about 12 years ago. In my mind, as time passes and you don’t use a certain skill, you lose street-cred in that area. Doing the rough math of street-cred depreciation I figured I have retained the equivalent of maybe one year of Russian language skills, if I am lucky. Nonetheless, it felt like an opportunity to jump back on the bike.

“Ya ezuchia-you po-Ruski adeen le-yet vv-Oonivers-i-tyet,” I said. He smiled again. “You know Russian?” I just told him I studied the Russian language for one year at the University (I think) and he now wanted to chat about it… in Russian. “Vwee ezuchach Ruski Yazik, vam?” It started coming back to me. “Adeen Lyet v-Oonivers-i-tyet, dyesiet lyet… ugh… ago!?” I told him I studied for one year at the university, ten years ago. Of course this wasn’t quite right, but my street cred was low and I couldn’t remember how to say the number 12… or the word “ago.” He corrected my grammar a little and I tried to say it a little better repeating the pronunciation he just gave me.

“You say… I understand… very good.” I got the thumbs up. Then somewhere between Russian and English and over the course of a few blocks I was informed that my pronunciation was very good and that if I wanted he was offering to sit and have more coffee so I could practice my Russian. For one, what a nice offer, and two, I was shocked that any of that Russian was coming back to me. In fact, in retrospect now I don’t honestly remember translating some of the phrases I said. It just seemed to come back to me, which is very cool if not completely inspiring. But at the moment I was also quite overwhelmed. I should have sat down and had more coffee and talked but at that point I had fully exhausted the remainder of my Russian vocabulary.

We exchanged names and email addresses and I turned to head for the metro. He opened a notebook and pointed to an address. Apparently there was a particular place in Chinatown where he was headed and it worked out that I had my iPhone on me so I could give him directions. I punched in his destination as we walked North to the corner of H and 7th. Amazingly his destination was less than a full block West on H Street and he smiled again. “I am lucky,” he said. We shook hands and went in two different directions.

I have decided that my life is often most fun in the “by chance” moments. Some call it providence, some call it luck, others destiny in the hands of God. I don’t believe any of that honestly. I think in all of those situations God would have people connecting to people and the result is a somewhat profound moment when we realize that making a living connection is better than a phone call, or a movie or a book, or the internet or even blogging or reading someone’s blog. The moment is made by God, but not like two wind-up toys marching toward each other in a fated collision course. We are not automaton robots who are slowing figuring out that we are either on or off God’s script. We are dancing with Him and dancing with each other and this is His party. Sometimes we are so busy self destructing or trashing His place that we lose sight of the party and take no joy in it. Others of us are so amazed at those in attendance that we forget who is throwing the party to begin with. And once in a while we realize He has pulled this thing together and no matter what our backgrounds happen to be, where we have been or where we are going, God is throwing one great party and I don’t want to miss it. I don’t want any of us to miss it. Lots of people are invited to this party, but so few ever really show up.

In conclusion here, I also want to give a shout-out to my friends the Hartantos. On Saturday they picked me up at my place and took me to Annandale, VA, (a veritable Korea-town part of sorts) where we feasted on some amazing Korean cuisine. All I can say is that you two are a blessing to me. Thank you for making my Saturday and showing me around a bit. I really appreciate it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Al Gore Buys Offsets (Good Conservationist?)

The winner in the Anthropogenic Global Warming debate is the conservationist lifestyle (but I am a little more worried about the losers than the winners.)

A poll by the New York Times about fuel taxes implies that Americans are somewhat welcoming to the idea of higher fuel taxes if (and a mostly BIG "if") those dollars go directly to investment in sustainable reasonable fuel alternatives. In other words, the population is willing to consume less and pay more in hopes that they will dodge the doom of a global meltdown. This reminds me of press that seemed to come out at about the time the IPCC and another gentleman won the Nobel prize for their AGW movie and research.

In fact, recall when the IPCC co-won the Nobel prize and the UN that supported it started to more vocally promote carbon taxes as the key solutions, other long time conservationists starting to jump ship from the "global warming" momentum. To date they treat anthropogenic global warming (AGW) like the noisy slightly slow cousin who keeps stirring up the right interest, just not quite in the right direction. I am going to agree with that. I love the idea of promoting conservation through responsible moderation. I however hate it that AGW gets to run wild in the streets dumping its pseudo-science everywhere, fearing-mongering the population into redistribution of wealth through taxation. It's a fundraiser powered by fear that doesn't result in fixing anything.

Well, the first benefactor of these get-financial-redistribution-quick schemes is none other than the individual who was the co-winner of that Nobel Prize, Al Gore.

Some of you might recall that soon after the movie "An Inconvenient Truth" came out it was revealed that Al Gore's Tennesee home consumes 20 times the power as compared to the average American home. His response... I (Al Gore) invest in carbon offsets.

Now regardless of what you are I think about carbon offsets, maybe that is still admirable. At best, carbon offsets are ensuring that while you personally waste, you are paying to ensure that someone else doesn't (or rather bears the burden of maximizing their conservation so you don't have to.) At worst, ideologically, carbon taxes and cap-and-trade and buying offsets equals giving people the right to buy an increase in pollution. ie. "I am beating up the planet, but at the same time I am making donations into the DON'T BEAT UP THE PLANET fund, so we're good, right?"

I wish this story ended there! Recently, it has come to my attention that Al Gore actually buys his offsets from General Investment Management. The problem: Al Gore co-founded General Investment Management (GIM)!

So, do the math. His movie, his prize, his company, and if the laws and taxes are all successful, then his profits!? So his offsets are really an investment in an offset resource company that will make him more money?

For one, you have to admit that this is questionable at best. At worst, he is fear-mongering for cash! And so all of the "settled science" claims, his unwillingness to debate with reputable scientists who would like to discuss the science behind AGW just simply buy time as our government is swindled into forcing American companies to buy his GIM company services because we got into bed with the UN to redistribute wealth across the planet.

The most horrible part of all of that: none of it stops or slows down the "big problem" that is carbon emitions (remembering that just about everything on this planet is carbon-based ... they are setting up a tax plan for the most abundant element in the known universe). Why are we pursuing it? Good question.

But regardless, people intuitively know the right answer to this wrong question. The answer is personal responsibility to own a more conservationist lifestyle. There is no good reason to waste resources or over consume (step one should be changing the advertising monster that roams the planet psychologically demanding that we replace our perfectly good funiture and kitchen appliances with more stylish ones, just because) and so while people are still mostly confused about the science and reality of AGW, they are really hoping for answers that lead to Christian values like "intentional awareness of moderation." The funny thing about that NYTimes poll on rising fuel costs: less than half of the people who said they would be fine with rising fuel costs if it would help said they would continue to be OK with it if the revenue didn't reall help better the situation.

I am hopeful that the world pays attention and learns moderation and reasonable conservative living. I am however afraid that it might be at the expense of allowing a myth to continue and worse yet promote a secondary agenda at the expense of the planet. If you think that the myth is mostly harmless, read this review that anticipates something more like global bankruptcy if we follow through with this and other UN-based redistribution of wealth initiatives.

A few last videos to review:

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Animal Farm Sunday Afternoon: A Book Report Long Overdue

I am not sure if it was because I jumped states between my eleventh and twelfth grade years in High School or if I had teachers obsessed with pimping their own specialty list of literature, but there were a handful of books I missed as a kid. Recently a friend accused me in classic “Good Will Hunting” movie style, “Steve, you have all the wrong books.” So I have been setting aside some time to read a few older books that I apparently shouldn’t have missed here at 35 years of age. Book one in my series is “Animal Farm” by George Orwell.

I woke up this morning at about 7:20 and knew I had a day of reading ahead of me. Before I could dive into Animal Farm I felt like I had to finish up some reading I had already started. There are times when my bed stand gets quite full admittedly, as I am cruising threw a number of books concurrently in hopes that at least one of them grabs my attention in which case I would then read to completion. Alas, I am a bit compulsive and typically finish all of them, but not all at the same time. So having recently lain to rest “Slam” by Nick Hornby, I had about a dozen pages left in “The Associate” by John Grisham before jumping out of bed and devouring “Animal Farm.”

“The Associate” retired next to all of the other Grisham novels I have collected over the years and after a quick shower (amongst other preparations) I checked the weather, a cool 70 degrees with a breeze all over DC today, I headed for my favorite reading seat in the city, the metro.

During the ride into the city I devoured the first 50 pages of the story. Animal farm is a quick read at around 150 pages and after the 15 minute ride beneath the street I decided it was time to emerge from the trains and find a nice spot in a coffee shop to fuel the mind a bit with a nice caramel latte.

The read slowed a bit as the next 90 pages took about 2 hours alternating pages with sips from my indulgent drink and stolen moments of people watching. It is fun to watch people flow in and out of their morning like little trains on many different tracks going to all different destinations, all of them coffee drinkers: couples, runners, young families, teen girls, slutty women wearing yesterday’s dresses, flamboyant gay men looking around hoping to watch people watch them, people going to and coming from traditional Sunday morning church services. You could imagine that I was distracted, and while normally I would agree as it is admittedly not hard for me to become, the truth about those 90 pages is that they are thick with storytelling.

The original story “Animal Farm” used to carry the sub-title “A fairy story” and I can agree. As the story unfolded for me, I found the tale quite enchanting. The most enchanting part had everything to do with the fact that it was a well crafted warning of the historical failings and weaknesses of communism, but equally as importantly you quickly find your mind drawing lines between the experiences of the animals on the farm and one’s personal experience of current event today. It is amazing how history repeats itself.

After the coffee was gone and I had fully conformed the seat to my hind quarters, I decided to take a walk down E Street where I was enjoying my morning. By this time, the morning was soon going to turn into a very early afternoon. And as my favorite movie theater often showing independent films from around the world was just down the block, I figured it was a fine enough moment for a little reading break.

As I walked I pulled up the movie theater on my iphone to check out the schedule and see the show list. One caught my attention and it started in about 40 minutes. Well, it is a lazy day, and, well, why not? I thought.

Sitting in my theater seat alone in a before-noon independent film showing I was enveloped by super dim lighting accompanied only by my thoughts about the book. It would seem that no one else was interested in this movie. I hoped that was less about the fact that I just wasted my money on a perfectly bad movie and more about the fact that it was still early in the day. The room was dark and I was pondering if I could get someone to turn up the lights so I could read while I waited for the movie to start, when it hit me that my iphone could likely provide enough light to make reading possible.

I was able to see enough to read a chapter and then one more person sat down just in time for the movie to get started.

After the movie I meandered myself around the long way to the metro for the quick ride home. After a nice long walk and stop for some Japanese noodles I found my way home and snuck a quick lazy nap.

After the nap I consumed the final pages of the book. It ended well as I imagined it would. By well I don’t mean well for the characters, but rather well written with all of the right twists and implied conclusions.

The gist without giving it all away:

First off, you really need to go buy this short cheap and very insight-filled book. It is not only an amazing piece of literature, but it is timely. The basic idea behind the book is that the farm animals in an effort to liberate themselves from tyrannical rule kick the farmer from the premises so that they can pursue a farm life where all animals are equal and the subjugation of animals by the farmer becomes a thing of the past.

My favorite character (this is the sort of thing you write in a book report, right?) is really a tie between Boxer the horse and Benjamin the mule. Boxer personifies a very natural inclination toward fair and balanced way of imagining the world, extending confidence in the best intentions of people around them, filled with hope and a willingness to work hard toward justice and fairness. His greatest and most admirable strength is without a doubt his greatest weakness. And his end is the perfect analogic personification of his utility. Read it to find out my meaning.

Benjamin the mule is, well, all of the things you might imagine a mule to be. His favorite line is, “Donkeys live a long time.” He doesn’t get involved too much in the story itself except for a few key moments.

As the story proceeds the pigs lead the farm away from the ideology of the tragic times under the farmer to the hope of better days out from under the farmers rule. But as the farm animals are asked to give more than ever before and promised to gain more than ever before, and as questions are asked about the sacrifice they should make as “good comrades” they are met with revisions and exaggerations of the past sorrows under the farmer and encouraged to stay the new course because “You wouldn’t want (the farmer) to come back would you?” Clearly the hope for the future of this new Animal Farm run by the animals equally hinges upon their adherence to these new drastic sacrifices they would make due to the decisions of the pigs who would lead them.

Spoiler Alert (don’t read on if you don’t want to know what happens):

By the end of the story the pigs have simply wielded their plans, their rules upon the animals having propagandized them into either chanting the unfounded accolades of the leader pig Napoleon or if the animals decent then they are drowned out in the noise of the sheep (another analogy) bleating slogans while the pigs (an obvious analogy) change the rules in an autocratic manner all the while pretending that all animals are created equal “but some, more equal than others.”

What is a most interesting unintentional prognostication from the author to modern events is the character of a pig early in the story that in a desire to protect the farm goes to battle with the people who attempt to invade the farm. All of the animals go to war and in the end that pig is injured in battle but before and after the injury makes a valiant effort to defend the farm. Snowball (the other pig) is awarded for his valiant bravery on behalf of the new farm. When Napoleon and Snowball come to disagreements about how to help the farm or defend the farm, Napoleon publically rejects all of the plans and ideas of Snowball. Eventually Napoleon manipulates the farm and runs Snowball off, reinventing history and turning him into a war criminal rather than a valiant defending of the farm. Without Snowball to contend with Napoleon claims Snowballs best ideas for himself and continues to defame Snowball or anyone who thinks like Snowball.

I think this is an amazing little story. Historically, it is a great warning against communism. But contemporarily it is a warning to Americans everywhere to not be like the animals on the farm in the story. Whether the sheep or dogs or Boxer the horse or Benjamin the mule, despite our strengths we should be well aware of our weaknesses and not be afraid of confronting the weaknesses in the political plans that surround us (whether in the context of communism, socialism or democracy.) Whether the government is saying we had better be OK with some decision or fear the economic downturn, we can’t be sheep or chickens or cows or mules that simply assume that our options are do what they want or something worse will befall us. Whether the government demands that we embrace new taxes else we will bring impending anthropomorphic global warming to the planet, we don’t have to believe that the answer is only found in taxes else something worse befalls us. And whether the government says that subjugating American parents to laws managed by a new U.N. Treaty supported by 90 senators that supersedes a parents ability to raise their kids the way they prefer else a worse thing befall us, we do not need to bow our sensibilities to this and many other fear-mongering approaches that demand from us agreement or doom. While I love the character that is Boxer, heaven help us if our response to our leaders becomes “If Comrade Napoleon says it, it must be true.”

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Living On Credit Cards

Dear Friend,

For some time now my budget has been busted. I have been spending way more than I can afford or even have. And right now I feel so sad because the people around me are also suffering financially. So here is what I have decided to do. I have asked all of my friends to pool as much of their disposable income with me as they can.

Some can afford a little and some can afford more. Many are not giving at all. I am doing my best to lay on thick the guilt trip to those friends who are doing well (or at least better than me.) The tact I have taken is to make them feel bad for being a success when people around them are not. The trick is that I say this fairly loud and in the presence of people who aren't doing well. The people who are poorer than me even add to the angry feelings toward the folks that are doing well.

I mean, who do those wealthier people think they are after all? Why do they have money while others don't? Wait. Don't answer that. I don't even want to know. I just want to hear the sound of them opening their wallets.

Now, once I have created this pool of funds, I have decided to turn around and open a huge line of credit using those funds as collateral. Sure the interest rates are fairly high on this sort of fund, and I am having to borrow that money from people not in my neighborhood, but in the end, it feels soooooo good to hand out wads of cash to people. I mean, they need the money right? And I am giving it to them, right? How cool is that. By the way, I actually took the loan out in their name. So when the lender from the other neighborhood shows up to collect, well, let's just say that won't really be my problem.

It just feels good to help, well, to help right now. Right now is when we need it the most, right? I mean, sure, we are living on credit together, but as long as I keep handing out the cash, it seems to me that nobody is asking questions, you know? They just need the cash.

So what if in a while they figure out the cost of that cash? They need it now, no matter the cost. And I am willing to help, no matter the cost. Gosh, that makes it sound like I have values and like I am taking on the responsibility of that cost. I am not. My friends and neighbors are, but let's not get distracted by those details. Let's just be good neighbors and get out there and buy new microwave ovens and locally manufactured automobiles and homes.

Oh man, take the wad of cash I handed you and follow my example by getting out a loan against your wad of cash. It is amazing how you will feel, well, right now! Maybe later you will realize it costs more, and more for a fairly long time (how long have we all been making payments on those crazy credit cards now?) but that is the magic of living on credit. Sure you are paying for it until you die, but man what a house, right? Well, what a house until the not so close neighbor takes it away when they come to collect their loan back. But I just can't think about that right now.

Right now I need to do something. And not a smart well thought out something, but a right now kind of something. A quick close your eyes and sign on the dotted line and ignor the fine print kind of something. We don't have TIME for talking about alternatives or shopping for better loans or whatever! Because, in the end, I know that I will feel good once they hand me that briefcase full of money. And I know I will feel better once I am handing that out to my neighbors! Who cares if it comes from China, right? Who cares if we are paying for it darned near the rest of our lives. We just need to focus on the cash, people! Focus! Over here! Not over there, over here! Seriously, stop looking at the fine print over there and just look at the cash in this briefcase over here.

Clearly this is the answer. Just ask all of my friends. When the chips are down and we are out of money, we just pull out the credit card and go have dinner and movie, right? I mean, what else could we do? Wait. Don't answer that. Focus!

- America, 2009


Hi! America here! That was me back in 2009. Wow, I was not really thinking of my future. I quickly found myself buried under amazing debt and it wasn't until I stopped panicking and started talking to all of my friends that I started to get things under control. Unfortunately, here in 2030 life is getting a little better. I have paid down a lot of debt, but it started with getting my spending under control. My friends called it a budget and while it took a few false starts to learn how to live on one, I am now doing much better. Budgets really help you to prioritize, I tell you. For a while there I was calling things priorities that should never have been. After the spending was under more control and I was doing a lot better monitoring my ability to live under my budget, next I was able to refocus a bit. It is funny. Living under a budget helps you set realistic goals (and in my case my goals were all over the place.) By re-examining my purpose I was able to focus on my goals again, pay down my debt and focus on that purpose. It's funny what happens when you are in a tight spot and panic sets in. I really stirred myself up and got all freaked out. Thank goodness some of my friends were not all joining me in my panicky freakout sessions. I even accused those friends of not caring because they weren't freaking out with me (I was such a dork!) If they hadn't been patient and forgiving I might not have chilled out and took their advice. It is funny. I really knew what I needed to do all along. It is just too bad I made the decisions I did anyway (I guess the fact that I am still paying for it serves as a good reminder.) In the end, I can say that being in a tough spot was somewhat my fault and somewhat not, but my reaction is something I needed to own up to. And I continue to own up to it each day. Thank God for caring, patient, long suffering friends.