A Bully Pulpit

A website may not be quite the “Bully Pulpit*” that Theodore Roosevelt felt the White House was for expressing opinion, but it surely beats “Letters to the Editor” which have the life of a mayfly and mainly are read by folks who don’t give a R.A. about your opinion. I’m posting personal opinions here which, hopefully, some readers will find interesting, even useful - and may even wish to pass on to others.

Robert Beeman, 18 September 2001    (Please see post scripts of 2002 and 2003 at end of this section).

* Teddy Roosevelt often used the word ”Bully” to mean wonderful or great.

Attack on America - A Perspective

The enormity of this event should drive a thinking person to reach for some perspective, some understanding of this situation which seems almost beyond belief. Fanatic groups state that the United States deserves such actions for its actions in the world arena. Some ultra-liberal groups, even within the United States itself, cry that America brought such actions upon itself. And, democracy always has its apologists.

If these negative positions have any truth in fact, then we should indeed re-examine our actions and take corrective action. However, stepping way back to see this matter in the broad view of history, shows that these groups apparently have a major shortcoming in perspective. The fanatics are so mired in historical hatred, and those ultra-liberal groups are so mired in the thinking of the 1960’s, that they have not noticed, or have not understood the unique, and huge global changes of the last one or two decades. What is understandingly threatening to these fanatically nationalist groups and the beliefs of some ultra-liberal groups is a ground swell that now is beyond the control of even the most powerful nations on earth. That is the advent of globalization, an irresistible force which is indeed depleting nations of their power and their nationalization, and is indeed forcing a homogenization of their politics, customs, and even their religions. Thomas Friedman has observed, in his excellent book of 1999, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, that this globalization is the product of the information and communication explosion through the democratization of technology, finance, and information. Whether globalization is good or bad, a mixture of both, and whether we all can adapt to it is for the future to decide. For most countries globalization will mean greater democracy, a tremendous uplift in the standard of living and an unprecedented increase in personal and organizational opportunity. Most nations desperately are trying to take advantage of it and a few countries and groups, conspicuously undemocratic ones, desperately are trying to avoid it.

The United States merely is the largest and most conspicuous player in the globalization event and thus has become the key icon of this force. If the fundamentalist terrorists were to topple the United States, an impossible objective in itself, they would then have to topple most of the rest of world’s nations, and end the age of information, to rid themselves of the real and imagined evils of globalization. Friedman compares globalization to the dawn. It does more good than harm, but whether you much like it or not, there isn’t much anyone can do to stop it.

Ironically, globalization is the force which is bringing the world together and will finally lead to a condition where we must all learn to live together*. However, the path to that condition, dreamed of by idealists for centuries, may be very painful along the way.

What of the near future? The terrorists, like the Japanese militarists of the mid-20th century, apparently don’t understand the mass and scope of their opponents, to say nothing of their awakened resolve. Those who would attack America apparently have not done their arithmetic. Some of them evidently are blind to our size and nature. Others are ignorant of it and kept that way by their own leaders. Even if there were scores of successful attacks on the United States, can we imagine a situation where the persons who lost their lives, horrible personal losses but actually a tiny percentage of the American work force, would not have their business positions refilled and where the material items lost would not be replaced - and relatively soon? And the rebuilding would pour huge sums into construction, security, and other industries. If this comes true, and it certainly will, then the terrorists would have accomplished only terrible, unwarranted revenge, terrible even to themselves because it was misplaced.

*Also a bit ironic, is the fact that some of those ultra-liberals and apologists, still mired in the philosophies and simple-life thinking of the 1960’s , are such Luddites that they won’t even see this electronic message, much less understand it!

Robert Beeman

Post Script: 30 September 200l.

Since penning the above paper, I have thought a great deal about the "what about the future?" perspective. A good deal of what I have come to think, plus much more, and expressed so much better than I could articulate it, has been posted by Dr. Tony Kern, Colonel, Former Director of Military History, USAF Academy. You must read it at: www.snopes.com/rumors/tonykern.htm . This URL was posted, as a verified true item, by a website that specializes in identifying false vs. true web postings regarding the Attack on America. So many rumors are floating around (I was drawn into the "Wingdings" false rumor), that it would be good to look at this site before passing on any stories about the WTC attack.  Find this excellent website at: http://www.snopes2.com/rumors/rumors.htm.


Post Post Script: 1 April 2004:

It just seems amazing to me that after all that has gone on since the above notes, that those comments seem just as appropriate today as they did then!!

Sometimes I feel like a spectator at some sort of theater of the absurd!
I do think that dividing up the world into power blocks and thinking that all is powered by money is far too simple a view. Rather we seem to be at an incredibly complex turning point in history. For better or worse, the unstoppable driving force is globalization, largely due to the level of communication that has developed- this has put formerly distinct groups within each other and changed even the very nature of war and peace.  At this point, trying to find pure right or pure wrong in most any world action is probably a futile exercise. We can be sure that things will, in any case, get a lot worse before they get better. Push the fast forward and see what is there!! I wouldn't bet on anything, but out a few(?) decades I would expect to find quite a different world - and the winner is..........CHINA??  Then, at some point, nationalism and nations will have to become obsolete. We think of our present time as so important, and it is to us, but this whole "civilization" thing only started a mere 8000 years ago* - not even an eyeblink (covered by a wonderful German word, Augenblick) in geological, or even evolutionary,  time!
 *Wonderful read to put things in perspective about the origin and fate of human societies :  Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel. (I recommend Diamond's book as one of the best books that I have ever read - guaranteed to give you a better view of the human race and civilization! You'll tell your friends about this book! Yes, it is even better than Harry Potter and it is NOT fiction!)  Follow up with the above noted Lexus and the Olive Tree.

Robert Beeman, 10 December 2005

It is really astonishing to read and hear some folks carry on about an incredibly complex subject about which they really don't have much of a clue - i.e. global warming. Their lack of good data doesn't keep them from running around and stating their opinions as facts - and predicting dire things without good basis. I was very impressed by this article from the WSJ Opinion Journal, which, among other things, puts a firm and balanced hand on the complaints that the U.S. has not signed the Kyoto Protocol: (please see some of my comments which follow the article).

WSJ Opinion Journal
Kyoto's Dead Hand
Even signatories are giving up on their emissions targets.

Saturday, December 10, 2005 12:01 a.m.

Global gabfests can be fun, which may explain the paradox of the 12-day U.N. conference on climate change that ended yesterday in Montreal. On the one hand, the conferees spelled out the fine print that will make the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which has been ratified by 156 countries, "fully operational," according to conference chairman Stephane Dion.

On the other hand, even those who support radical cuts in carbon-dioxide emissions are realizing that the Kyoto Protocol is a failed instrument for achieving their goals. "The blunt truth about the politics of climate change is that no country will want to sacrifice its economy in order to meet this challenge," says British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

He can say that again. India and China, which are exempt from Kyoto's emissions cuts, have no plans to submit to those mandates any time soon, though China is the world's second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases. The U.S. has also consistently rejected Kyoto. This has been true throughout the Bush years, but it was equally so during the Clinton ones. In 1997, the U.S. Senate adopted the Byrd-Hagel Resolution by 95-0 (RDB note: yes, every Democrat, Republican, and Independent voted against signing such protocols!), urging the Clinton Administration not to sign any climate-change protocol that "would result in serious harm to the economy." In 1998 Al Gore signed the Protocol. Yet President Clinton, who was in Montreal yesterday to scold the Bush Administration for its inaction, never submitted it to the Senate.

And then there is the performance of Kyoto's signatories in meeting their own targets. Kyoto requires developed nations to bring their total greenhouse-gas emissions to 5% below their 1990 levels by 2012. Yet in 2003, emissions were above the 1990 baseline by more than 10% in Italy and Japan, more than 20% in Ireland and Canada, and more than 40% in Spain.

Germany and Britain have met their Kyoto targets, but this is the result of one-time events: the collapse of British coal and the shuttering of much of the former East Germany's industrial base. Given Germany's anemic economy and Britain's reduced growth forecasts, the appetite in either country for costly environmental virtue is not likely to increase.

Nor should it. For even as the Montreal crowd treats man-made global warming as established fact, the science behind the long-term forecasts remains ambiguous and sketchy, while the benefits of "doing something about it" are by no means clear.

Consider a few recent developments. In 2003, Canadian researchers Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick demonstrated that the "hockey-stick" analysis--a key element of global-warming dogma that purports to demonstrate that global temperatures held steady for centuries until rising sharply in the last 100 years--was riddled with "collation errors, unjustifiable truncation or extrapolation of source data, obsolete data," and so on. The Canadians found that the Medieval warm period had indeed occurred, suggesting that periods of warming and cooling were natural trends unrelated to the number of SUVs on the road.

In 2004, a conference of leading economists met in Copenhagen to prioritize the world's environmental needs, and they put global warming at the bottom of the list. "The benefits [of dealing with climate change] are far into the future and the substantial costs are up front and immediate," wrote Nobelist Douglass North. "Given the uncertainties associated with both the projections and the consequences, climate change cannot compete with other urgent issues we confront."

More recently, scientists have been grappling with data distortions caused by the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines. That eruption initially caused ocean temperatures to cool; now temperatures are rising as the "Pinatubo Effect" unwinds and distorts the long-term trend data. Scientists have also noted weakenings in Atlantic currents that move cold waters south and warm waters north, leading to predictions that Britain may experience Siberia-like temperatures in the coming decades. Whatever else that is, it isn't "warming."

The lesson we draw from all of this is that the uncertainties in climate forecasting remain huge. And given the costly and fraudulent scares we have just lived through--mad-cow disease, genetically modified foods--the End Is Nigh crowd should be held to a higher standard of proof than it has been before. The needs of the world's poor and sick are too pressing to squander limited economic resources on what could be another false alarm.

Fortunately, there's another game in another town. Next month, the U.S., Japan, China, South Korea, India and Australia--collectively accounting for nearly half the world's population--will meet in Sydney to launch the Asia-Pacific partnership. Unlike Kyoto, which pits developing countries against developed ones, the Partnership is a collaboration to develop cleaner energy resources.

Unlike Kyoto, too, it is a voluntary partnership that seeks to address environmental issues through economic growth and technology, and not by targets and command-and-control mechanisms. Some of the technological fixes--zero-emissions power plants, efficient hydrogen fuel cells--may be decades away. Then again, so are the real-world consequences of global warming, if they materialize at all.

So many politicians and activists have committed so much to their faith in man-made global warming that events like Montreal will continue regardless of the evidence. But anyone who cares seriously about the needs of the poor--and of the environment--needs to get out from under Kyoto's dead hand.

Copyright © 2005 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The Kyoto’s Dead Hand article tied right into some “up front” experiences that Tosh and I recently had in Alaska where everyone can see, and get a real perspective about, global warming as opposed to the hand wringers standing around in such places as in San Francisco and the Marin/Sonoma county eco-freak zone where they don’t have a clue.  Local example: an activist, who could not be confused with a deep thinker, wrote to our local paper condemning them for not mentioning that a recent two week run of unusually warm weather surely was a result of global warming!  I wondered if we had had a two week cold snap whether or not she would have written to the paper exclaiming that the global warming problem was over!  Anyway, here is a comment which I placed, blog style, on the “What’s New” section of our www.Beemans.net website:

After being laid up with a huge respiratory infection, imported from Alaska (perhaps contracted from down under fellow travelers, to whose bugs I was not immune!), finally I feel enough better to comment a bit about our fantastic Cruise West trip to the Inland Passages of Alaska and the Denali Range. Only 55 persons on the cruise; 8 on the Denali ("Mt. McKinley") exploration. We saw the wonderful expected things along the inland passages but were stunned by the reversal of most of our thinking about inland Alaska.  Never realized that tundra can be fairly steep and that most of inland Alaska basically is a desert with less than 15” total precipitation (snow and rain) annually on top of permafrost water barrier – with such angled sunlight that the precipitation does not evaporate – nor melt the impenetrable permafrost just below the surface.  It is marvelous the way that both the wildlife and the natives have come back to their old ways and numbers – streams almost solid with salmon – both fish and game harvested on a sustained basis.  Mt. Sheep and other wildlife have had over a 1000% comeback in the Denali National Wilderness Area – thru the efforts of Teddy Roosevelt, Charles Sheldon, and the Boone and Crocket Club of New York, all three of whom were/are trophy hunters! (The ecofreak guide could only mention that the Mt. Sheep had been almost wiped out by market hunters for the gold seekers of the late 1800s, but she just could not bring herself to mention the key, leading role of hunters, who taxed themselves to rebuild the wildlife population later! Nor Ducks Unlimited’s fantastic success – without any tax money or help from Sierra Club, and others who talk so much, but you should follow the money!).   The six main tribes of natives, and dozens of sub-groups of natives, are relearning their identities, differences, history, and languages – and we had expected only Eskimos! (Never did find out if they made pies!).  

The glaciers were not only a knockout visually but intellectually – many are receding, like the famous Mendenhall Glacier – shrunk back by 64 miles since it started rapidly receding in the 1700s – yes, Seventeen Hundred!  Nearby is a glacier that is advancing!  Glacier Bay has glaciers that have had the fastest retreat in history.  When Captain George Vancouver sailed into the bay in 1794 he reported a glacier front a mile thick.  When John Muir visited in 1879 (85 years later) that glacier front had retreated 48 miles. But in 2004, 125 years after Muir's visit, the glacier had only retreated 17 additional miles! (Quiz: Which period had the greatest number of SUV's and aerosol cans??). 

The National Forest Service experts turned out for seminars, explaining that we are in a most unusual warm period of the Ice Age; there clearly is global warming, BUT the involvement of mankind in that warming is not at all so clear. Too many workers and media folk are jumping from the clear understanding that global warming is happening, at this point in time, to an unsupported conclusion that man, with significant activity involving only a very tiny percentage of this planet’s entire surface, via actions after the main amount of glacier retreat, is the cause. The local experts stressed that the obvious changes are due to changes in earth axis tilt and that, if the past is any clue to the cycles of the future, the present warming is only temporary and that given “normal cycles”, Canada and Northern USA can expect to be under 1000’ of ice in perhaps 3000 years. This would be more like the norm of the last hundreds of thousands of years – maybe we will want to see if we can produce more “greenhouse warming” to save the Great White Waste!

The paleogeologic record of climate clearly shows that we are in an approximately 15,000 year window of mild climate within an ice age.  This very favorable climate period may well be the cause of the rise of "civilization" in just the last 8000 years. Climate fluctuations, both warming and cooling, FAR greater than we have seen during our little window of favorable climate, are the norm of this little planet!

(Side note: mankind may not be the main source of the greenhouse emissions. And, even if we were presently the main source, and Americans and Europeans were to achieve the absolutely impossible status of producing NO greenhouse gases at all - India and China would be producing more of such gases, within 20 years, than all of the rest of the world's humans combined!  We, and those countries of so much greater industrial growth, might benefit hugely from the ability to run on hydrogen as a fuel - but at present producing such fuel is very inefficient and expensive.  It might be necessary to "bite the bullet" and make some hard, necessary decisions instead of dreaming.  We can have almost unlimited energy from atomic means - and we really have the means of doing this quite safely NOW. Such energy sources could allow huge production of hydrogen as well as electrical power and even feasible desalination of seawater and long distance distribution of desalinated water.) (Wild idea: using the incredibly low cost of atomic generated power - would it be feasible to launch huge missiles, laden with atomic waste, directly into the sun- which already is a radioactive mass thousands of times greater than the earth?)

Here is the BIG problem: most global warming activists blatantly claim that most scientists feel that global warming is real and that the actions of mankind are the main causative factors.  I'm a bonafide scientist with a doctorate in science from Stanford attesting to advanced university training in biological sciences and environmental science - but I don't agree that man is the primary causative factor in global warming. This is where so many activists get confused- they don't separate the fact of global warming and the cause of it.  Scientists can very accurately measure global warming; they can track it over time and most surely would agree that it is occurring again - though they might present very different timetables than do the activists. But what scientists cannot do is present ANY experimental data which proves that any action of man is causing it - they might have opinions, but I doubt (even given the liberal, anti-industry bias of the great majority of our university professors) that most would be of the opinion that we have experimental evidence of man's guilt. Recent calculations by leading European climatologists indicate that about 95% of the greenhouse gases are generated by volcanic activity - including submarine volcanic emissions, gas release by organisms - from bulls to bacteria, oceanic outgassing, etc.. If mankind is responsible for less than 5% of the release of such gases, this would mean that if we cut back such emissions by an impossible 50% worldwide, then the human-caused releases of such gases would decrease about 2%!!

The National Forest Service speakers also highlighted Alaska's great success in maintaining sustained populations and yields of salmon and other wildlife.  For the sustained harvest of fish, the key is a fixed number of commercial fishing license- which, like liquor licenses, can be bought and sold.  Each year, based on field research, the government tells each operator how big a harvest he can take that year - and the license holders are eager to abide by the restrictions - a violation would mean the loss of their golden egg goose - the license!  The experts also discussed the success of reforestation (actually most of the USA has had great success in reforestation) and the interesting matter of glacial rebound(!). Alaska makes it clear that the sky is not falling – and that it does not need to fall!

The wildlife was great and numerous; most big game quite close – usually within easy rifle range for me – but somehow I didn’t think that I would increase my already politically incorrect position by hauling out a scoped magnum centerfire and resting it on the ship’s railing – and asking for a game pickup via Zodiac inflatable boat!  Sure would have perked up some of the meals!  (Alaska is very pro-wildlife, but not all that Politically Correct – a restaurant featuring game dishes has a road sign announcing:  “There’s room on Earth for all of God’s creatures – right next to the mashed potatoes!”).  

Nevertheless, it was good to get back to our own paradise.  I don’t think that we could handle 20 hours of night, interrupted only by 4 hours of twilight, and -40 and -60 temps.  A local told us that when the winter weather “warms up” from -60 to +20, an eighty degree rise, that kids start wearing T-shirts!  Hmmm?  And Juneau property values like Sonoma county, California (small 3BR= $800,000)??  We purchased Alaska from the Russians for about 7 million dollars; I think that we will keep it – good bargain – at that price, one would think that it had been made in China!!