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Friday, August 24, 2007

How About an Honest Scientific Debate on Global Warming?

How About an Honest Scientific

Debate on Global Warming?

Frankly, I don’t know what to think. I see articles by journalists saying that Global Warming is a fact and articles by other journalists saying that Global Warming doesn’t exist. I see politicians like Al Gore predicting catastrophe in the immediate future if we don’t act on Global Warming, and I see other politicians saying that Global Warming, if it exists, is no threat. I really don’t know who to believe.

What I’d really like to see is all the journalists and politicians sit down and shut up, and instead have a real debate with legitimate scientists on this issue. The fact is that thousands of talented and credentialed scientists think Global Warming is baloney, while thousands of other equally credentialed scientists think Global Warming is a real threat. Where does the truth lie? 

In fact, the debate shouldn’t stop with Global Warming. Some scientists believe that Global Warming exists, but it is simply part of a historic pattern of warming and cooling. And speaking of cooling, some reputable scientists, including one in Toronto, Canada, recently stated that scientific tests indicate that the earth is cooling, rather than warming!
No wonder the average guy like me is confused about Global Warming. We don’t need shouting matches on CNN or FOX. We don’t need propaganda pieces by Time and Newsweek, we need an honest debate where both sides are fully aired.

Unfortunately, too many real scientists now have a vested interest in proclaiming the legitimacy of Global Warming because their livelihood depends on it. Any scientist who is making his living investigating Global Warming, pro or con, should be disqualified from participating in this debate. We need honest, fair-minded individuals with experience and credentials who will provide an objective look at this very public issue.

So please. Stop the shouting. Stop the propaganda in the schools. Take a deep breath, step back and examine Global Warming from a scientific basis. Does a close examination by the scientific method definitively prove it is true, false, or rather, someplace in between? 

I may be in direct mail, but I have a degree in engineering. I’d like to see some real facts and figures and proof that Global Warming exists. If it stands up to close investigation using the Scientific Method, then let’s talk rationally about what can be done, if anything, to help ameliorate the potential damage it might do. If Global Warming is the problem, as we have been told it is, then we need to hear from real scientists and engineers, not ideologues, politicians, journalists or other know-nothings. If it’s a hoax, then it deserves to be exposed, and those who have been promoting it should suffer the consequences.

Lasting Happiness

Lasting Happiness

My pastor likes to point out that when someone says they are blessed, they are really saying that they are being made happy. Indeed, my Fourth Edition American Heritage Dictionary says that being blessed means to have "happiness, pleasure, or contentment."

So, my question to you is, are you happy? Or perhaps, what brings you happiness? Is it winning that softball game? Or having your team win the Super Bowl? Or climbing to the top of the mountain? Or going to a movie on Friday night? What is it that gives you pleasure and makes you happy?

When I was a kid of 10, I loved to go to the amusement park. It was great fun. What did you love to do when you were young? Go on a vacation? Go to camp? Today, I suppose young people want the latest electronic device – an XBox ™ or an iPod™ which they are sure will make them happy.
Big kids want a hunk for a husband or a beauty for a wife. They want a house and a nice car. They want a Plasma TV and a good job.

Those are understandable objectives. God has blessed us (made us happy) by making it possible for us to get stuff that makes us happy—at least temporarily. But the car wears out, the house needs repairs, and even the best TV will eventually have to be replaced.

Wanting stuff, wanting your team to win, and wanting to attend concerts are nice things to do, providing you keep them in perspective. But when you and I get to the place where we think we must have stuff in order to be happy, we’ve been sucked in.

When I was in the Army, I was stationed at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. We were always up early and often out in the desert for a test. It was amazing. You could see the most incredible, shimmering mountains and lakes. But the mountains and lakes were only mirages. 

Looking for lasting happiness by getting stuff is the Devil’s illusion. I know folks who think: If I can only get that job, I’ll be happy. If I can only get that raise, I’ll be happy. If I can only have that woman, I’ll be happy. If I only had his bank account, I’d be happy. If I had a million dollars, I’d be happy. If I could be famous, I’d be happy. If I just had power, I’d be happy.

When you think you have to have something to be happy, or worse, when you think you need what someone else has to be happy, you have gone from enjoying God’s blessings, to coveting what others have. 

Yes, there are countless books on how to win the right girl, and how to make a million dollars, and how to get ahead, but if you become obsessed with such goals, I’m afraid you’re not going to find contentment and happiness, just disappointment.

If you think the rich and famous are so happy, then the next time you go through the check out line at the grocery store, just take a glance at the headlines in the celebrity magazines. Do you see any happy people there?

So how do you obtain lasting happiness? Real, lasting happiness comes from knowing that God loves you. Knowing He loves you so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus, to rescue us from our imperfections (sins), is a love so great it’s almost impossible to comprehend. Living in God’s love we can have real joy and happiness in our lives, even when things are going wrong. We can overcome life’s hurdles and problems, knowing that He cares for us as no one else can. People, stuff, and events will disappoint us, but God will never disappoint us.

It’s hard for me to remember who won the Super Bowl last year and I haven’t a clue as to who won it the last five years. The happiness that comes from stuff is soon forgotten, but the happiness that comes from knowing God loves me, never goes away. And, knowing that in spite of all my faults and weaknesses, I will, through His grace, spend eternity in happiness with God, is the greatest happiness of all. 

I wish you this never-ending happiness, too.

The Stones Cry Out!

The Stones Cry Out!

I just finished reading a great little novel called “The Stones Cry Out,” and I recommend it to you.  It’s a murder mystery written in the first person by Sibella Giorello.  Mrs. Giorello currently lives in the Seattle area and this is her first novel, although she was a feature writer for The Richmond News Leader for ten years.  In fact, she was nominated twice for a Pulitzer Prize, so she’s no amateur.

        The setting for the book is Richmond, Virginia, and it’s clear that Mrs. Giorello is very familiar not only with the physical layout of the city and its history, but also with the folks who live there.  Her intimate knowledge of Richmond gives a very real feel to the book which kept me turning the pages.

        The story revolves around a young FBI agent, Raleigh Harmon, who is given the task of investigating the deaths of a police officer and a black man who plummet to their deaths from the top of an empty building.  There are a number of interesting and believable twists and turns that keep you wondering where the story is going next.

         It’s a good, quick, entertaining read.  If you like murder mysteries, I think you’ll like “The Stones Cry Out.”

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Congestion: Silver Bullets vs. Band Aids

Congestion: Silver Bullets vs. Band Aids

According to national studies, the area that I live in (Fairfax County, Virginia) has the most congested traffic in the nation. I’ve lived here more than 35 years and my wife has lived here her entire life. There’s no doubt about it, traffic continues to get worse each year and since highway construction is virtually nonexistent, and the population keeps growing, it will undoubtedly get worse.

While I believe that road congestion could be solved if we applied all the gasoline tax dollars to the problem (instead of using it for non-related purposes), I’m also realistic enough to know that is not going to happen in the current political climate. I do believe, however, much could be done with an absolute minimum expenditure of tax dollars to ameliorate the situation.

I’m talking here about band aids, not silver bullets. As I grow older, I have come to believe in band aids. Silver bullets usually miss the mark, so why not focus on applying a number of band aids which may not solve the problem, but will certainly make driving easier. Truthfully, my hat’s off to the folks who work on highways and roads in Fairfax County. They are constantly making small improvements like extending access lanes and lengthening turn lanes that have a very positive effect on driving.

But, as I have traveled across the US, I have seen other cities come up with unique innovations that have greatly helped their congestion. Here are just a few concepts that I have seen work successfully.
Toll Roads. An old, but good idea providing the public is assured the toll will immediately come off the road once the capital cost of construction is retired. Otherwise, confidence in the integrity and honesty of politicians will continue to deteriorate and much needed roads will go un-constructed.

Elimination of Access Lanes. This is something that California has already done. It adds extra lanes for travel with no construction required.

Reversible Lanes. For more than 40 years they have used reversible lanes in the Seattle area and for many years in other West Coast jurisdictions. Again, the cost is minimal, but the benefit to commuters can be huge.

HOV or Commuter Lanes. Limit all HOV or commuter lanes to two passengers. It’s simply not practical to insist on more than two people in a car. When such a requirement exists the highway is always underutilized.

No Slow Down Toll Lanes. In Atlanta, Denver and Houston, cars with proximity passes can continue through the toll area on wide lanes that do not require any reduction in speed.
Millions of tons of air pollution could be eliminated from our skies and our lungs by building highways that get rid of the stop-and-go congestion that is the cause of nitrous pollution. Nitrous pollutants are released solely when automobiles accelerate. The construction of toll roads, with the mandatory removal of the toll upon pay-off of the capital cost, would restore public confidence in the politicians and it would go far to clean our air, reduce our stress level, and get us to and from work faster and more safely, while reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

My only concern is this: Do the politicians really care?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The New Morality vs. the Old Morality

The New Morality vs. the Old Morality

During the period when the nation was caught up in the Monica Lewinski-Bill Clinton peccadillo, I happened upon a rather fiery televised debate between one of the President’s top advisors and a conservative critic.  The President’s defender made a statement I’ll never forget.  He said, “Bill Clinton is the most moral President in the history of the United States!”  Of course, it is common for Washington politicians to use hyperbole, but at first blush, this seemed to be the most outrageous claim I had ever heard.  You can love or hate Bill Clinton, but it seemed more than improbable to claim that he was the most moral man to ever serve as President.

However, after thinking about this claim for some time, I decided it was true, providing you cling to a set of moral values that have absolutely nothing to do with the Ten Commandments.  The Ten Commandments tell us not to lie, steal, kill, commit adultery or covet, among other things.  But, to many in our society today, this is the old morality of traditional Christians and Jews that no longer applies.  In fact, they make the case that it’s ok to lie, deceive, steal, and cheat on your wife as long as you have the right objectives.

The new morality is about how you think and what your goals are.  It’s not about how you act.  If your goals are noble then you are moral, regardless of your personal actions.  The President’s defender was clearly a man who believed in the new morality.  Whether Bill Clinton was faithful to his wife was simply not relevant.  Whether he lied was not relevant.  The only thing that counts in the new morality is what your goals are.  

The catch is that a free society exists only so long as individuals choose to live responsibly.  It exists only when you and I exercise self-restraint in our daily lives.  If everyone decides that the laws don’t apply to them, no number of law enforcement officials can contain the chaos that ensues.  The less self-restraint we use, and the more we ignore the commandments God gave us, the less freedom we will have.  Without faith which compels us to do what is right to honor God out of love for Him, our free society will collapse.  As the old saying goes, men either fear the law or they fear God.  If they fear neither, there is chaos.

If there is no fear or love of God then only civil authority can maintain order and safety.  The less respect for God, for our civil laws, and for the rights of others, the greater the arm of the law becomes until freedom all but disappears.

Unwittingly, as our society chooses to tolerate or even celebrate immorality (as defined by the Ten Commandments), we begin to dismantle our freedoms.  We can’t have it both ways.  It’s simply not possible to ignore one commandment and expect the others to withstand the onslaught against them.  As the Bible says, when we break one commandment, we break them all.  When we reject honesty, faithfulness, love, truthfulness, and all of the other Judeo Christian virtues, we begin to bring down the foundation of our free society.

Ironically, even if you don’t believe in God, in your own self interest, it’s worth clinging to the old morality just so you can continue to enjoy the freedoms for which our forefathers paid such a high price.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Energy Bill?

                    Energy Bill?

Should we laugh or cry? There’s an "energy" bill being debated in the US House of Representatives today, but the bill makes no provision whatsoever for more oil exploration, more oil production, or greater refining capacity. Yes, there are provisions for more windmills, forced energy conservation, and other goofball ideas, but not one provision for increasing Americans access to gasoline! And this in the face of gasoline prices above $3.00.

Talk about irrelevant, that’s the United States Congress. American’s young and old are concerned about the steep rise in the cost of gasoline, and Nancy Pelosi plays the role of Nero. That’s leadership?

Frankly, I’m sick and tired of politicians talking about America becoming energy independent. The truth is that the politicians really don’t care. It does not take a genius to make the United States energy independent. It’s no dark secret and it’s not complex. Here are five steps that could be taken in less than 10 years that would not only guarantee energy independence, but also lower prices and reduce pollution:

Off Shore Drilling. Allow off shore drilling beyond the
                        30 mile limit. Due to the curvature of the earth, Texas
                        islands beyond 30 miles cannot be seen by someone
                        standing on shore. What about oil spills? Well, how
                        many oil spills from offshore oil rigs have occurred?
                        The answer is not one! There has never been an oil
                        spill from a Texas island, even in a hurricane! But did
                        you know that exploration for oil can only take place
                        beyond 100 miles! That silly, but then it was put into
                        law by silly people, America’s politicians. The
                        Republicans tried for a 60 mile limit, but that was just
                        too close for the Democrats.

Nuclear Power. More than 60% of the energy needs
                        of France come from nuclear power, yet Americans
                        haven’t built a nuclear power plant since the 1970s.
                        Why? Because of fear mongering. The opponents of
                        nuclear power always point to the power plant failure
                        at Three Mile Island, and to the disaster at Chernobyl.
                        But the truth is that no one died as a result of the
                        Three Mile Island failure because we built-in safe
                        guards that the Soviets refused to include in their
                        plants. Nuclear power plants are pollution free and
                        would not only provide all the electric generating
                        power we need, but they also would provide a power
                        source that is not dependent in any way on OPEC. In
                        order to really make an impact on pollution and to
                        increase energy availability, let’s start today to phase
                        out our conventional coal and oil fired electric
                        generating plants and replace them with nuclear
                        power. This is a step that is long overdue.

Domestic Exploration. Have you ever been to Alaska?
                        It is so incredibly vast as to be nearly
                        incomprehensible. We need to open up Alaska to
                        exploration (while implementing the necessary
                        safeguards to protect the environment). Tens of
                        millions of gallons of oil are there for the taking and
                        we need to proceed to get at them post haste. And the
                        same is true for vast reserves in Montana, Utah, and
                        Wyoming that are readily available. Politicians need to
                        stop the demagoguery and start acting like
                        representatives of the people by putting the people’s
                        needs first.

Liquid Natural Gas. I understand that our known
                        liquid natural gas fields are the greatest on the face
                        of the earth. Most of these are in the Gulf of Mexico.
                        It’s time to accelerate production of LNG and quit
                        trying to legislate scientific advances. I have been out
                        of the engineering field for more than 30 years. But
                        one thing you learn when studying engineering is that
                        you can’t legislate advances in technology. It’s a
                        waste of time and money. Congress can pass all the
                        bills in the world demanding and insisting that we
                        make new discoveries, but until those discoveries are
                        actually made, it’s just more hot air.

Refineries. I worked in a refinery for several years and
                         there’s something that can be done about our oil
                         refining capacity without building a whole slew of
                        new refineries. What most people don’t understand is
                        that a refinery is not just one unit that produces
                        gasoline. Most refineries are comprised of a whole lot
                        of units that produce all sorts of other byproducts, in
                        addition to gasoline, that are used for the         
                        manufacture of rugs, plastic, oil, etc. If we can’t
                        persuade states to let more refineries be built, we can
                        at least encourage and allow existing refineries to add
                        more units that produce gasoline. Many of these
                        refineries cover vast amounts of acres, sometimes
                        more than 1,500 acres, as did the one I worked in at
                        Port Arthur, Texas. There’s plenty of room to add
                        additional units to increase gasoline production. Let’s
                        get moving!

What I have proposed is just common sense. When you are getting a primary energy resource from an area of the world that, for the most part, is controlled by your enemies, you take the necessary steps to protect the sovereignty of your nation. Embarking on this commonsense course would make our nation energy independent in less than a decade. All we need are men and women of integrity and courage who are willing to act in the best interest of their constituents, rather than to radical special interest groups to whom they are beholding. Will it happen? Don’t hold your breath.