Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Reaping What You Sow

A couple of long years ago I did a couple of items here on “ProfessorWard Churchill at UC/Boulder. He provoked outrage when he declared quite vocally that the victims, those men, women and children that died in the World Trade Center on 9/11 were the guilty parties, deserving of their fate and likening them to Adolph Eichmann and the Nazis. That would certainly be a warped opinion if put forth by a deluded, drug-addled street person. From a tenured professor at a major university it seemed ill-advised at the very least.

First Comments On Ward Churchill

The Circus Comes to Town

The incident brought the case of Churchill under the lens of public scrutiny. In fairly short order it was revealed that he received his education from a somewhat questionable college that catered to extreme left wing views and wasn’t accredited. He was hired to teach a single course on Native American issues and based on that experience he was offered, first a full professorship and almost immediately a department chairmanship—all of this without possessing a PhD!

Credentials lacking, further checking uncovered clear evidence of plagiarism in his writings and very questionable sourcing of his research. In short, he was demonstrably a fraud. Not only was his willingness to appropriate other’s writing as his own apparent, he also was uncovered as posting art work under his own name which was simply an image reversal of another artist’s painting.

In short order, Churchill became a cause celebre for the extreme leftists on the Boulder campus (who are the majority by a large margin) and the academic apologists of the nation as they rallied to his cause. Academic freedom, they shouted. He has a right to spout whatever drivel he wishes to promote intellectual curiosity in his students. Whether right, reasonable, accurate or not, he should not be muzzled. TV cameras followed his every appearance and provided a forum for his agony. He would fight, he would stand up for Native Americans, and he would prevail.

But, then it was discovered that even his Native American-ness was very questionable. He was it seems the recipient of sort of an associate membership in some miniscule tribe. You have to be an Indian to be an authority on Native American studies apparently, so he bought himself an ethnicity.

Now, after researching the allegations and conducting in-depth discussions the Board of Regents has finally canned this fraud.

Standing Up for Truth

Naturally the defenders of the twit continue to obfuscate the issue with First Amendment pronouncements. That clearly isn’t the issue. The issue is that the guy is a liar, a cheat, a loon and a fraud. He isn’t qualified to teach at a pre-school. He’s a throw-back to the revisionism of the ‘60s when guys like Timothy Leary were confusing research with recreational mind-blowing drugs.

University of Colorado/Boulder has done the right thing. It took them long enough, but eventually they got around to it. Now we can look forward to Churchill’s posturing in court and hopefully it will cost him a lot of money and strongly confirm his unsuitability. One can only hope.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Even The Left Notices

I don’t like Susan Estrich very much. She’s probably a very nice person, but her voice simply grates on me. It reminds me of one of those wrong side of the tracks gin mill harpies who have smoked cheap cigarettes and downed straight shots of Kessler’s for way too many years.

I don’t like her politics very much. She’s out there on the far left in Mao country. Her rise to national prominence came when she managed the presidential campaign of Michael Dukakis and we all should recall how that worked out. Riding around in an M-60 looking like a GI Joe bobble-head doll was the kiss of death for him. Almost as funny as John Kerry striding around in camo with his shotgun and a lackey running behind carrying a dead goose as he attempted to demonstrate hunting credentials to the electorate.

But, Susan offers a great commentary on Barack Obama in this piece:

No Room In The Boat

The fact is that when we go to the polls to choose the leader of the free world and the President of the United States we are going to be selecting someone who will be directing a huge enterprise in perilous times. Barack may be intelligent. He may be articulate. He may have potential. He certainly can raise money and his campaign so far has shown some creativity and wit. The reprise of the “1984” Apple commercial with Hillary in the starring role was great theater. The bouncy little music video of “Crush on Obama” was charming as well.

But he doesn’t have any experience.

That’s the key word. EXPERIENCE. He hasn’t been tempered in the cauldron of life. He’s done nothing beyond go to school and spend a few years lawyering for social welfare programs—a sinecure without much in the way of challenge. Some time in the Illinois senate without a list of great policy accomplishments doesn’t show much either. And, a mere two years in Washington won’t cut it. There’s nothing on the stage of real achievement to recommend him.

Estrich points out that Obama has got a wheelbarrow full of money. That’s going to make it interesting. But it also should make us afraid. Let’s hope that the electorate demonstrates some wisdom. Let’s hope that it isn’t going to be a slick media blitz without substance that elevates this young man to the most important job in the world. It makes me apprehensive that the Republic might not be strong enough to survive the experience.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Becks, Barry, Benoit, Bikes and Vick

I’m astonished at the sports pages these days. I know pro sports is all about the Benjamins and hardly about the competition, but aren’t things getting out of hand?

Let’s start with Becks and Posh. Does anyone really believe that bringing Beckham to LaLa Land is going to suddenly convert all of redneck America into avid soccer fans? Whoever it was that thought there might be justification for writing a $33 MILLION check to this guy in anticipation of future revenues for American soccer teams had to be ingesting some sort of illegal pharmaceuticals.

We’ve had soccer in America for decades. It’s the game suburban kids play on Saturday mornings in large grassy fields behind the mega-mall surrounded by Stepford moms in gas-guzzling behemoths. It teaches “teamwork” and sportsmanship and it’s very inexpensive compared to Pop Warner Football or Little League Baseball. You don’t need a lot of equipment or uniforms. Simple shorts, T-shirts and shoes are pretty much it. Oh, yeah, you need one of those black and white volleyball things too. It’s perfect for the ultra-lib set because you don’t have a lot of contact or bruising. Nobody scores very often, so there’s not a lot of damage to self-esteem by keeping score. And, the chubby kid can play goalie so he doesn’t need to run around too much.

But beyond tiring the brats out for the weekend, nobody really cares much about soccer. They didn’t forty years ago, they didn’t twenty years ago and they don’t today. Watching a bunch of guys run around a pasture for ninety minutes without hitting each other or scoring isn’t exciting television for us. Having a referee in short pants hand out little colored cards for infractions and writing a name down in a notebook is nowhere near as exciting as third-and-long with fourteen seconds to play and a four point deficit. It doesn’t have the visceral joy of seeing a power play in the third period as your star center is in the penalty box with blood streaming down his face. No, there’s not much appeal to soccer in America.

So, we’ve got this big paycheck for Becks and Posh. We’ve got a TV special for Posh to coo about life in America and we’ve got dinner parties for the couple hosted by Tom-Kat and all of the Hollyweird glitterati. Then we’ve got THE game, but poor Becks has got a sore ankle—didn’t they do a physical on this clown like an NFL team would for an aging quarterback? Becks plays ten minutes, the game is lost one-zip and there’s reinforcement that this isn’t going to be the Next-Big-Thing in American sports.

Meanwhile in San Francisco we’ve got the Bonds watch. There’s this Hulkamaniac, all bulked up on clear and cream and human growth hormone, waddling to the plate to swat a ball out of the park and break a record for career home runs set by a gentleman without the aid of chemicals using only his God-given talent a few decades ago. Frankly, I don’t care. Bonds can hit a million home runs and the record will always be tainted. Give me Ruth and Aaron. Hell, give me Pete Rose.

Could all sports be headed the way of pro wrestling? Until a few weeks ago we thought it was simply escapist entertainment. But, how harmless can it be when the plot for the show revolved around the chairman of the “sport” being supposedly murdered in a bombing that blew up his white stretch limo? Is this what we want to teach our kids? Reality intruded and real people got killed when one of the stars in an alleged “roid-rage” incident wiped out his wife, kids and himself. Hardly the role-modeling we should want for our ten year olds whether the fiction or the real life drama.

We could seek escape by turning to Europe where the Tour de France is wending its way through the countryside. No Lance Armstrong this year, so we find it hard to cheer for a Yank particularly after last year’s discredited victor. Each day we see who wears the yellow jersey and get new allegations of doping. Isn’t there any place that’s going to teach us that fair play, hard work, dedication and grit will get us through life? What does sport teach us these days?

Maybe basketball? Ooopss. Nope. How can you trust a sport played by seven foot oddities and controlled by referees with a couple of large riding on the outcome against the spread? Probably reinforces your kid’s distrust of authority and unwillingness to submit to justice.

At least there’s football. All we need to confirm our faith is for the NFL to summarily suspend Michael Vick for his disgusting after-hours activities at his mansion. Don’t start with that “innocent until proven guilty” business. That’s about the law, this is about the reputation of the sport. If the league is to be consistent in their expressed determination to bring responsibility back it must act against Vick, a franchise player, as it has against the secondary collection of thugs and miscreants it has fined and suspended so far. One can only hope.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Healthy Skepticism

The problem is the collection of the “usual suspects.” I’m naturally skeptical of almost everything I hear, see or read these days. Whereas once I might have accepted pronouncements on face value, particularly if they seem consistent with independent observations, now I often look for ulterior motives. Is there a hidden agenda? Are the data being accurately presented? What’s going on?

So, I try to make sense of the global warming crisis. Last year I spent my first full summer in Texas since 1971 when I lived in San Antonio. It was a record-breaker—almost—in that we had forty-some days in a row over 100 degrees. But, it wasn’t a record, because the year was badly overshadowed by a sequence of quite a few more days of high temps more than thirty years ago. Yet, it seemed like it might be a first-hand view of the planetary crisis with worse to come.

Oh, sure, I remember being fascinated as a sixth-grader about the ice ages alternating over millennia with the semi-tropical bogs and rain forests that provided habitat for the dinosaurs. That would indicate to most folks that the planetary climate is cyclical. But, man is now here and we might be doing damage to screw up the normal cycles. Or, maybe not.

This year, the drought is long gone in north Texas and the water crisis is not about lack but about over-abundance. So much for the warming cycle in that regard. And, the temperature has yet to come within five degrees of the century mark even though we are in the middle of July. Time for some personal research—and mine will be worth as much as Sheryl Crow’s observation that the beach these days is much hotter than she recalls from thirty years ago.

I’ve started checking the year for the record high temperature each day that is reported on the weather page of the local fish-wrapper. If there is an accelerating trend, we should see the record dates clustering toward more recent years in the history of weather data documentation. I’d think we’d have some meaningful numbers if we saw that the record high temps were consistently within the last ten or twenty years. Today, for example, the record high was noted as occurring in 1980. That seems supportive.

But, in the last month, I’ve seen many more record high dates from 1911, 1913, 1935, 1951, 1947, etc. etc. Might that mean it was just as hot or hotter a hundred years ago? In many instances during periods without the broad use of the internal combustion engine? Why yes, I think it might! I know that is anecdotal and in no sense scientific, but it is at least as valid as the hysteria we saw last week at the global Live Earth concerts.

As record cold, snow, rain and wind were being demonstrated globally there was a gathering of “usual suspects” who were there to raise awareness and “Save the Planet!!!!!” But, the hysteria looked so much like a Leni Riefenstahl Nazi propaganda film. Shouting and posturing and chanting of slogans to indoctrinate and fire up the masses with the purity of their mission along with vilification of the current administration who somehow seems targeted for shouldering the entire blame for the problem—if indeed there is one.

Check the cast of characters. They seem to be the same folks that march in step with and Michael Moore. Their motivation seems as focused on bringing socialism to government and tearing down the administration as saving the planet. The hypocrisy of flying hundreds of private jets to massive concert venues filled with energy consuming lights, air conditioning, water, trash, and whatnot so as to stop global warming seems obvious.

The hypocrisy is apologized away, however, by the purchase of “carbon offsets.” Why of course, we—the elite who know what you should know—can waste energy and pollute the planet profligately if we simply say we are offsetting our carbon footprint (whatever that means,) by planting some trees in the rain forest or recycling some trash in Indonesia. Or maybe not doing that, but simply say that we are doing it by sending some cash to a carbon offset fund somewhere which may or may not do anything at all that changes a thing in the environment.

Gimme a break. We’ve got divinity school drop out and Yale C-student Al Gore along with such intellectual giants as Madonna, Sean Penn, Bon Jovi, Rosie O’Donnell and who knows who all else providing us with sloganized science that somehow implies that we are destroying the planet by living comfortably and that they are the ones who know how to cure it by first ousting the administration and second by feeling guilty enough to drive a hybrid cracker-box car.

Sorry, the cast of characters and my own observations and the list of questioning scientists challenging the global warming assertions all lead me to believe that this isn’t about the environment at all but rather about personal aggrandizement for a few.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Unintended Consequences

“Don’t just stand there. DO SOMETHING!” Say that to a legislator and you’ll get action. It will make everyone feel better, because once enacted the problem will be solved and the issue will go away. Won’t it? Actually the problem will usually get worse. That’s the impact of unintended consequences.

I remember the oil shortages and dire predictions of 1975. Suddenly the pundits were calculating that the world would be out of oil by the year 2000. We needed to “do something.” What we did has apparently had very little impact on the problem. The doom-and-gloom crowd was proven wrong, the efforts to reduce our consumption were largely ineffective and now we’re well past the end year. We’ve still got plenty of oil and a lot more consumers of it as the economies of China, India and other regions are booming.

We steadfastly refuse to harvest our own petroleum reserves and the enviro-whackos won’t allow refineries to be built in this country. They scream about reducing our dependence upon foreign oil and the latest solution is ethanol. Why, it’s perfect. It’s renewable, so we can simply grow another crop of corn to fuel our cars for the coming year. It’s compatible with the internal combustion engine, so we see the Indy Car Racing League running their exotics exclusively on ethanol. And, we don’t need those nasty old despots of OPEC telling us what the price of oil will be for our lifestyle. What’s not to like?

Oh, sure, we know that ethanol doesn’t have quite the energy bang for the buck that gasoline does. We’ll get a little less horsepower and a little bit poorer gas mileage. We can pay that price willingly. Oh, and it will cost us a little bit more per gallon because of production and shipment costs. That’s a bargain if it will save the environment, isn’t it?

And, by the way, the tanks for the ethanol will have to be specialized and the old gasoline refineries will need some upgrading and the engines of your cars will have to be modified a little bit to burn more than a small percentage of ethanol. There will be costs, but think of the benefits.

Now, we’re learning more about the issue. The first hint after the applause of the Iowa, Illinois and Indiana corn farmers died down was the clamor coming from south of the border as the population of Mexico suddenly discovered that there was a corn shortage for their dietary staples. Yep, it may be renewable but it isn’t infinite in supply. Use corn here and it isn’t available there.

But, this year we see something else. Not only tortillas are more expensive, but corn-on-the-cob for our summer picnics is a bit pricier. And, that steak dinner is costing significantly more as well as our legislators learn that beef eats corn on the way to the table. Lots of food costs are higher because of the ethanol demand.

When we add it all up, we find that we get less efficient energy, much higher production and shipping costs, a huge boost to food costs, and an unquantifiable impact on our foreign energy dependence. In the long run we’ll see land depletion as farmers attempt to meet the artificially induced demand for corn. Whether the impact on the environment from the consumption and production of ethanol will be plus or minus for the long term, it is becoming increasingly clear that the costs are well above those estimated at the onset. Clearly the consequences have been unintended.

Later That Same Day

Friday, July 06, 2007

Suspend Your Disbelief

Shortly after the overthrow of the Shah of Iran in 1979, a book discussing the events leading up to the fundamentalist revolt of Khomeini was released. The Fall of the Peacock Throne discussed the culture of Iran and dissected the immediate history leading up to the events. I recall few of the details of the book which I read more than 25 years ago other than one unusual observation. The author pointed out that an unusual characteristic of that Middle-Eastern culture is the ready acceptance of statements as facts which are clearly in disagreement with actual observation. Essentially there is an eagerness to believe things that are said regardless of known facts. Whether this is simply a courtesy to the speaker or a philosophical acceptance that possibly events which one observes are interpreted incorrectly it makes little sense to the Western mind. The old cliché of “don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see,” is turned upside down.

Fast forward twenty years to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Recall the Iraqi Minister of Information standing before the TV cameras and reporting on the abject failure of the coalition forces to defeat the brave Republican Guards of Sadaam’s army even as US Abrams tanks rolled down the street in the background. “Baghdad Bob” became a punch-line for late night TV comedians and a symbol of the convoluted repression of the collapsing regime. But the behavior fits perfectly with the cultural observation of the book. The people of the region accepted the statements regardless of the conflict of their observations.

Now we can hardly pick up the morning newspaper without reading a tale about our misunderstanding of Muslims. We regularly hear of Islam being a religion of peace which forbids torture, murder, killing of Muslims and suppression of women. We are cautioned not to blatantly condemn the millions of Muslims because of the intemperate actions of the few fundamentalists. Muslims, we are told, are people just like us who seek to raise families, prosper, live in peace and make a better life for themselves and their children.

Yet, we see surveys of American Muslims which disclose double-digit percentages in favor of al-Qaeda and the jihadists. Extrapolating the numbers we quickly discover that there are hundreds of thousands living in the US who conceivably could be the next generation of suicide bombers.

Last week we watched a cadre of medical professionals in Great Britain, Muslims all, conduct a series of botched terrorist attacks. Here we have a double conundrum: not only are they supposedly peace-loving Muslims, but they are also healers under an oath to “first, do no harm.” Can we suspend our observations to believe the statements of peace?

Last year it was France that had the adherents of this religion of peace spilling into the streets of French cities burning cars wholesale. Should we consider this merely an unruly sub-set of the peace-lovers and deny the observation in favor of the declarations of peace?

Israel, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, throughout Africa, in most of Europe, in short, wherever we find significant Muslim populations we see evidence of murderous extremism. Fatwas declaring that this or that individual should be murdered for a drawing, a publication or a statement that might be construed by some Imam or Mullah as disrespectful of the Prophet are commonplace. Is this the conduct expected of civilized people who are believers in a religion of peace? Should we believe what we see or what we are told?

An editorial this morning in the local newspaper, written by Clarence Page, pointed out a fact that needs regular and consistent repetition. “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all of the recent acts of terrorism have been committed by Muslims.”

Which raises the politically incorrect question: What is wrong with profiling? Why would it be improper to concentrate efforts to thwart terrorism on young, bearded, Middle-Eastern Muslims? Until young suburban soccer moms with babies on their hip start being linked to suicide bombings we might spend less time shaking them down at airports. Until eighty year old men with canes start parking bomb-laden vehicles in no parking areas we might lessen the focus on them for a while.

Should we believe what we observe or should we accept the cultural custom of the Middle East and believe what we are told regarding the desire for peace. I know what I think.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

How Clear Need It Be?

The hoopla attendant to the commutation of Scooter Libby’s prison sentence makes even the most jaded political observer gape with disbelief. How about Representative Jesse Jackson Jr’s comments on impeachment for the action?

A Need to Read

On the off chance that the Honorable representative might stop in here, I post the text of Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution:

Section. 2.
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

It seems pretty clear to me that this act was well within Presidential authority clearly stated and certainly wouldn’t be any stretch of the document to cover the situation. But, then again, maybe Rep. Jackson hasn’t read it recently. And probably neither have his constituents.

It also seems a little hypocritical to be so upset by this commutation which leaves intact the $250,000 fine for apparently obstructing justice by not offering evidence of a "crime" which the prosecutor was never able to prove that anyone commited. For comparison we might note this list of pardons granted by the predecessor of the current President:

Pardon Me?

Somehow the outrage seems exaggerated.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Warriors Cried

Yesterday we laid a hero to rest. Fighter pilots from across the nation came together at the US Air Force Academy to remember, to honor and to memorialize Brigadier General Robin Olds. The events were extremely moving with full military honors, copious tears, hearty laughs remembering the great times shared and prodigious consumption of adult beverages. Robin wanted it that way. He earned the honors more completely than many who have passed before. The affection that those of us who knew him carried for the man led to the tears and the wonderful memories of his grand sense of humor prompted the laughs. The consumption of adult beverages was exactly what he would have led were he still alive to join us.

Minimalist Insight Into a Giant's Life

The formal ceremony at the Air Force Academy chapel was highlighted by reminiscences from his friends, his two daughters and his granddaughter who tearfully recalled the lessons he taught her and finished with a reading of John Gillespie Magee’s poem, “High Flight”. General Ralph Eberhart, now wearing four stars, was a cadet when Robin, recently returned from the war in Southeast Asia was Commandant of Cadets at the Academy. He told of Robin’s impact in changing the emphasis at the Academy from “management” to LEADERSHIP and the unculcation of the warrior ethic. Brig. General Bob Titus, Robin’s closest friend, spoke eloquently of Robin’s larger-than-life impact on fighter pilots, the military, his friends, his family and his community. Verne Lundquist, hall-of-fame TV and radio sports announcer and neighbor of Robin during his final decades in Steamboat Springs CO, told wonderful stories of Robin’s love of life, his enthusiasm for golf and skiing and one amazing encounter between the triple ace fighter pilot and Olympic Gold Medal ice skating legend, Scott Hamilton.

The long stairway and approach to the chapel was lined first with an incredible contigent of bikers in Harley-Davidson regalia standing at attention and holding eight foot standards with American flags. The stairs themselves were lined with the Academy cadet honor guards at stiff attention. The urn bearing Robin’s remains was carried into the Chapel by bearers from the USAF color guard. The urn itself was a magificent case of dark mahogany adorned with brass plaque and bronze sculpted wreaths, topped by a two foot high eagle sculpture with wings spread and head held high. A truly fitting repository for the grand man.

The cemetery ceremony included the traditional 21 gun salute and taps. Then the air warrior was honored by a series of flybys commemorating much of his aviation life. Two T-33s, symbolic of the F-80 fighter that Robin flew with the first USAF aerial demonstration team, followed by a P-51 Mustang reminding of the aircraft in which he earned many of his WW II kills, then a MiG-17 to recall his adversary of the Vietnam war, a flight of four F-16s and finally a flight of four F-4Es executing the famous “Missing Man” fly-by. The F-4 pilots modified the pass and rendered the ultimate (and appropriate) honor—the leader of the formation, not the #3, executed the pull-up and departure from the flight. It reflected the truth that we all knew, Robin would always be our leader.

Flyby Honors Hero

The memorial then went to a nearby hotel where friends and family gathered to share drinks and great anecdotes of encounters over the years with General Olds. His daughter, Christina, spoke briefly of his life and then unveiled a small oak barrel, bound in brass and sealed bearing a small portion of Robin’s ashes. “He wouldn’t have wanted to miss the party,” she noted, “so here he is!” That was followed by unveiling of a plaster sculpture of Robin’s gloved hand displaying the single digit salute that so many of us received over the years and usually felt honored that he felt strongly enough about us to offer it.

Nickels on the grass were freely rendered, tears continued to flow, ribald songs were sung and I’m sure that from Valhalla, Robin looked down upon the party and smiled. What a ride it was.