More Gore

Off to Los Olivos tomorrow after school to write a profile on Wild Hearts winery…I’ll comment on their wines at a future date. For now–

This post over at HughHewitt.com by guest blogger Dean Barnett is darned funny. You have to see it for its wit. Barnett previously wrote a post in which he, fairly, argues that he doesn’t write about global warming nor Gore’s position on it for the obvious reason that he has not researched or read much about warming. He refuses to engage in debates about which he knows little. I think that is an ethical way to be and I confess I haven’t always adhered to it. But as I have read a lot more, researched a little more, I’m comfortable with the few posts on the issue I’ve made. Where I am ignorant, I admit it. But reading thus far has led me to the previous posts (scroll down).

As for the Vice-President, my brother Jerry points out that he takes Gore at his word, that he thinks him sincere. It has been reported that Gore is putting in solar panels at his mansion and other such greening has been going on, but let’s be honest–Gore has been making this argument for more than 20 years (Barnett says he’s been making it for 6 years. If you count Earth in the Balance as well as previous presentations he’s made, you’ll find it is much more than 6). If he’s known about global warming and the harm to the environment from CO2 and from greenhouse gases, one has to wonder why he didn’t put more effort into greening his own life sooner. And further, one has to wonder why he still allows himself to be ferried about on a private charter jet.

So, while I respect brother Jerry’s opinion, I still have to say that the man’s hypocritical and fraudulent behavior are quite apparent–and to me, that’s pretty important since it really is because of Gore that we have a wide dissemination of the silliness of global warming.

Piling On the Fraud…

I simply must follow up on this from yesterday’s post: This post over at Drudge is taken from a Tennessee group that did the research and, I think, it’s proof positive that global warming is a big hoax–at least the way Al Gore describes it….Gore says it is not a political issue, it’s a moral one. Really? Well then…

Gore has been not only vocal, but has attempted to sound a note of patriarchal maturity on his notion of a warming planet. He has claimed both in his movie and in his book that his commitment is not political, but is moral. He even made that claim at the Academy Awards directly stating with a completely straight face that this was a moral choice.

To be honest, I cannot fault anyone for believing him. He comes off as sincere, at least as sincere as a talking tree can be, and while he’s good for a joke, he’s aware of his own shortcomings when it comes to public speaking. Bill Clinton he ain’t. Heck, he’s not even George Bush, though one could argue that he doesn’t butcher the language as badly…most of the time.

That said, it’s pretty apparent that Gore is all hot air and CO2. Short of calling him a liar (which as a politician is, of course, his God-given right), it’s pretty easy to argue that he is, at least, disingenuous. How, you ask?

Well–look, Gore’s own expenditures at his own house in Tennessee exceed the national average by about 20 times. Thats pretty amazing, isn’t it? The man who spends a good deal of effort telling you and me what we can do to slow down or stop global warming, isn’t doing much at all to stop it. In fact, if his own science is to be believed, he’s adding to it in a tremendous way. Why is that, I wonder? That information alone is enough to simply shut off the political aspect of the debate, isn’t it?

Really–it comes to this: In light of Al Gore’s obvious hypocrisy about what people should be doing to stop global warming, one can only conclude that this particular cause du jour for him is either A) a way to keep him in the limelight B) a vehicle for him to use to run for the Presidency or C) an admission that while he believes global warming is happening, he doesn’t believe that he should have to do much to stop it–but you and I should. Which one do you choose? It really cannot be much else can it?

If you support Al Gore in this crusade of his, how can you possibly respond to the idea that his own home is a living monument to the “destruction of the planet,” because its “carbon footprint” isn’t just big–it’s gargantuan. The man’s own house burns 20 times more electricity than the average American household. So, how do you respond to that? I’m curious.

This, for me, brings me back to my original idea here (I dare not call it a thesis as I don’t think my thinking is that organized, but it is starting to be…) which is that after reading so much of the actual science on the issue of warming–on both sides–what’ s clear is that there is no consensus on what is causing what has been a one degree increase in the earth’s temperature in the last 100 years. That’s pretty much it. If you go much further than that, you are on shaky ground when it comes to whether or not the planet is warming and why. And as I write this, the United States, particularly the Midwestern U.S. is experiencing the coldest February in 70 years. So–earth temp gone up one degree, coldest February in 70 years. Are you seriously telling me that you understand the “science” on this issue?

There are some who want to split the difference and say, “yes, the planet is warming, but we’re not sure why…” At this point, I’m only willing to go as far as “the planet has increased in temperature by one degree.” That ain’t much–and even the IPCC says that sea level rise in the next 100 years is going to be about 17 inches. Does that matter at all? With the human ability to adapt to such things, does that even count? Does it require radical restructuring of our economic engine so that the sea level rise is, say, closer to 4 inches or not at all? Will that 17 inches endanger so many lives–so quickly, so devastatingly, that there will be no time to ameliorate? Well, no. That doesn’t seem a rational argument in any way.

And to think–all of that (and I’m just scratching the surface when it comes to asking questions about this stuff) comes from the very simple fact that the man who put this particular ball in play is a hypocrite. In fact, I should go one better: Global warming is as big an issue as it is largely because Al Gore has pushed the issue so hard. He has made a movie, written books and worked on policy that would attempt to ameliorate global warming. So important is the issue, he says, that lives are in the balance–people may actually die and we are, very rapidly, destroying mother earth. That’s Gore’s position.

But, apparently, it’s not the position of his 20 room mansion that uses 20 times the electricity of the average household. It’s apparently not the position of the private jet he travels on which burns fuel at, what Gore would refer to as, an alarming rate. In fact, so alarmed about global warming is Al Gore–that he apparently hasn’t done a damn thing about the plight of the earth other than talk about it and get everyone worked into a lather about it.

Global warming not political? Make your argument. I’m listening.

Food, Wine, CO2

Well, the first two pieces for Wine Country This Week are out, but they are not web accessible. The Central Coast edition is just getting up and running and so these are available only in the dead tree version. Apologies. If they get linked, be assured I’ll link them. If you’d like to see a PDF of them, e-mail me and I’ll be happy to send them to you (I’m an optimist. It could happen…).

Speaking of dead trees, I just watch with glee as all the global alarmists are working their healthy afterglow of Al Gore-basms today. You’ll recall that Rush Limbaugh coined the term “Gorbasm” as having to do with Mikhail Gorbachev and his pronouncements that the American left went wild about. Well, now, their Gore-basms are home grown. Al has come to the rescue and now that his film won an Academy Award, it’s just–well, weird. Here’s this about Gore that would seem to point out the man’s silly hypocrisy:

Gore’s mansion, [20-room, eight-bathroom] located in the posh Belle Meade area of Nashville, consumes more electricity every month than the average American household uses in an entire year, according to the Nashville Electric Service (NES).

In his documentary, the former Vice President calls on Americans to conserve energy by reducing electricity consumption at home. The average household in America consumes 10,656 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, according to the Department of Energy. In 2006, Gore devoured nearly 221,000 kWh-more than 20 times the national average.

Here in this post, the fabulous Disney Blogger wonders about how Happy Feet beat out Cars for best animated feature. He had not seen Happy Feet and so wasn’t able to comment on the film. Now, I saw it–and Cars, so I’m comfortable with commenting on both. Fact is, it’s hard to say which one was better-it really is. Happy Feet was a fun movie but for the last 20 minutes or so. Really, it was enjoyable fare and Peanut loved it, too. That counts for something, doesn’t it? But, it’s also an eco-whacko preachy film that has at its heart the message of–save the earth by loving penguins or some strange crap like that. Whatever. There is simply no way that the first “green” academy awards could pick a film about fossil fuel burning, CO2 emitting, pollutant dripping hunks of metal when it could pick a film about loving penguins and saving the planet so that the penguins could get more fish. Yeah–Happy Feet was good. But it seemed to want us to believe that over-fishing of Antarctica is a very serious problem. Yawn.

The inconvenient truth is this: global warming may or may not be happening. But the average Joe doesn’t really know–and the scientists are mixed. The politically driven IPCC says global warming is happening–and we’re to blame. Or at least, that is what the political summaries say. The science actually doesn’t say that, but details aren’t important, are they? What’s so funny is throwing it back in the faithful’s faces. Did that today with this piece that explains that this is the coldest February in 70 years in Chicago. Gw advocates often like to point out “5 of the hottest years on record have been in the last 10 years!” as though that means something. So today, as one friend of mine pulled out that world-weary quote, I pitched him a printout of the the aforementioned piece. Yes, February of 2007 is the COLDEST on record in at least 70 years if not more. Of course, a good gw apostle will tell you that global warming causes global cooling; to which the only reply I can muster is, “so what? It’s hot, it’s cold–it’s fine–we’ll live. Don’t worry about it.”

Again, it’s just weird. I’m not suggesting you should go and buy a V8 engine and burn as much gas as you can. If you want to, that’s fine–it’s your dime. I certainly don’t. I drive a Scion xb that gets about 27 mpg in town. It’s a 4 banger with very low emissions. My wife drives a Mazda MPV, one of the smallest minivans produced and it has a V6 engine. It gets about 19/20 mpg in town. Why? It’s cheaper. We don’t spend as much. I promise you I wasn’t thinking much about carbon emissions when we bought these cars. What’s funny is many of my friends who argue human beings are causing global warming drive either older model cars that emit a great deal of CO2, or drive large trucks or vehicles with V8 engines. Go figure. But again, in the left–it’s not what you do, it’s how you feel about what you do that is important.

It’s hubris, that’s all. If people alive now are really convinced that it is we who are having such a profound effect on the earth and that it is we who really need to watch our “carbon footprint” and it is we who can save the planet, well–that’s because they apparently have the kind of arrogance that allows them to believe that this time–right now–is the most important. They remind me of the Puritans of 1692 in Salem, MA–and we know how well that went as soon as everyone was convinced that obviously, witches had control of the young people there….

Amazing Grace

Sue and I packed off and saw Amazing Grace today. This was a fine film for a lot of reasons. It did indeed adapt the story of William Wilberforce a bit. Wilberforce’s life work was the abolition of slavery and it took nearly his whole life to accomplish that end. But it is his faith that fills the screen. It’s his deep and abiding faith–and his doubts that haunted him–that make him admirable.

Both Sue and I were touched by the film’s epic portrayal that also paid focused and specific attention to the close and personal relationships that Wilberforce maintained. His marriage to Barbara Spooner was layered into the film and was made more important by what was obviously her love for not only the man, but for his ideas.

To be certain, he was influenced by his Pastor, John Newton, known famously as the slave-trader turned preacher who wrote the hymn Amazing Grace. Though the hymn is testament to the man, one of his more famous statements in his old age that bears repeating today is, “I’m a great sinner, and Christ is a great savior…” What fitting tribute to both Newton and his protege, Wilberforce. Would that all of us who profess such faith could walk so humbly and do such good.

Explanatory per the Author

A couple of friends and some family have inquired about the post two ago. Allow me to explain the mundane particulars:

As the adviser for both the yearbook and the newspaper at the high school, I have created several very specific situations in order to make both publications work. I enjoy doing both and if I had my druthers, I’d do that–and that’d be it.

But, in order to be a full-time teacher, I also have to teach 3 literature classes. I enjoy doing those, as well–but sheer volume and weight have created such a condition that doing all three things, writing as a freelancer, raising a young daughter and being a caring husband are simply untenable. My time gets spread so thinly and the sheer volume of paperwork gets so overwhelming, that it is all I can do to go to work by 7, come home in time for dinner and collapse. Now, I cannot complain. There are those who work far harder than I, that’s certain.

However, in terms of running a successful program, I found that running both the yearbook and the newspaper is just a bit much. To be succinct, success is hard to achieve when you are pulled in every direction and you have to keep sacrificing this deadline for that deadline…

So, those are the mundane particulars. I have resigned from the newspaper effective in June. I’ll finish out the year, but beyond that I simply cannot split my professional–or even my personal–life in that many directions. It does not work.

As I reflected on this, I did so in very deep nuance and I decided to write a post on the specific feeling of failure–for that is what this is. It is an acceptance of limitations and that’s a healthy thing, but it’s a painful thing. My oldest brother, Doug, pointed out that failure is an absolute necessity if one is to succeed. And he is right, of course. This however, does not negate anything I wrote. There is much in life that is necessary for growth that is, nevertheless, painful to experience–failure among the rest.

However, I’m confident I’ve made the right decision for the students, for myself and for my family. And I’m truly appreciative to have been proven wrong in at least one instance of that post: I do indeed have that many people in my corner.

Thanks.

Mercy

There was rain yesterday in fine and strong amounts. It was the kind we needed–the rain fell most of the day in consistent and steady showers. Occasionally, it would get heavy, but never torrential. It was perfect. We need about 10 more days of it, of course, and whether or not we get them is up in the air–but, there was rain.

The rain led me to ponder, as I got my head outside of student publications for a moment, about the race for the Presidency. The rain’s consistent pattern, a word anyone who lives here would use to describe it, is the word that people are looking for when they elect a President. And therein lies the problem…

It is far, far too early to be starting the run-up for the election and I think there is a very real risk in starting this early. But Professor Gingrich is right, the candidates risk losing momentum. The Presidential elections are already marathons of fund raising and campaigning and to start now may prove the undoing of the contestants. They also risk, of course, alienating voters because, as near as I can tell, the only people really interested in this early and somewhat goofy beginning for the 2008 race, are political junkies like me–and even I am sick of it to some level.

So, a steady rain of money, message, maturity and mass appeal are needed by the candidates if they intend to run this marathon. It’s a long haul–and one thing only is certain: A lot can happen before November 0f 2008.

Dropping

When failure appears, it comes not like a thief in the night, focused, quiet and dignified. It announces its presence and even sends messengers that it is on its way. Failure almost never sneaks up. Rather, it is confident when it comes and it never has to fake itself. There are times, however, when it can be beaten. Because it announces itself, there is time to head it off. It’s almost as if it gives you a chance. So destructive a force is failure, that it seems to know its own presence is heavy, leaden and destructive. It lets you know it will arrive–giving you a chance to deal with it, to fight it—or to succumb to it…

When it arrives, it is not kind, nor is it menacing. It’s not monstrous and devious. It need not lie about who it is. It’s rather like an American aircraft carrier–there’s no hiding its presence, so there’s no attempt to do so. When an aircraft carrier moves into someone’s local seas, it’s followed by the media and announced. An aircraft carrier is not a secret. It doesn’t sail beneath the waves prepared to launch missiles in the silent depths and then stealthily slither away. Rather, it lumbers, achingly, toward its goal, sending out jets and loud propellers as advance warning. You cannot hide from it–but your behavior might change its arrival. Just like failure, it galumphs off of your coast unless you find a way to defeat it–or at very least, give it what it wants.

Failure is a kind of friend. It means you no harm and at times it seems it doesn’t want to cause you pain. It seems to share in your misery with you, but like a compassionate judge, it merely lets you know that what you’ve done has invited its presence–and it can do little to comfort you. It almost longs for you to find an answer to its lingering.

It is rather complete and encompassing affecting everything and everyone around you. There’s no getting around it–career failure translates back to you. You’ve done something wrong that is unavoidable and so it makes you feel miserable. You bring this home with you and it colors your mood, drives those you love further away from you, or at least driving you into yourself. When that happens, it is as F. Scott Fitzgerald described madness in Tender is the Night: “But the brilliance, the versatility of madness is akin to the resourcefulness of water seeping through, over, and around a dyke. It requires the united front of many people to work against it.”

And I’m not sure I have that many people in my corner…

Wine and Politics…

In a rare blend of my wine writing career and my fascination with the loonyness that surrounds the global warming debate, Appellation America has seen fit to publish my response to the fine wine writer Alan Goldfarb. Mr. Goldfarb himself was kind enough to respond to me in an e-mail to ask permission to print my response.

The thing that knocked me out about Mr. Goldfarb’s piece is that all of a sudden everyone’s a climate expert. I responded on that basis–the whole idea that a journalist can talk to one or two scientists and suddenly, there is consensus. What astounds me is that with a little bit of research, you’ll find that the “consensus” that is so often referred to by Vice-President Gore and many on the left is actually non-existent. That is not to say that there isn’t agreement by scientists–there most certainly is. But the pre-fab idea that somehow the majority of scientists all agree that A) The planet is warming noticeably and B) That warming is being caused by human beings predominantly is on its face simply not true.

Again, this is not to suggest that many scientists don’t believe there is warming. But almost all of the scientific articles that get touted by the media have far more nuance to them, far more real science, than the neat and clean, “anthropogenic warming is happening.” What’s more, there is a very large number of scientists (numbers? I dunno.) that says that much of what the IPCC has “reported” is not factual. In fact, the more the IPCC scientists themselves reveal their opinions, it becomes abundantly clear that the “real science” and the political summaries are far removed from each other and do not really amount the simple conclusion that man is warming the planet.

That’s a shame, of course, because what we have now is simply a political discussion. For any of us to have some sort of “debate” about global warming is merely standing on the shoulders of giants–I am no scientist and there is no way I have a grasp on the minutiae of climate science, itself a relatively new and not completely understood concept in the world of science.

What fascinates me, of course, is that many climate science experts are also meteorologists. Meteorology, of course, is the study of weather. See, here’s where it gets messy–for if we’re taking the word of meteorologists about global warming, then we really do have to ask how they can forecast the year 2100’s temperatures but they don’t know how to forecast tomorrow or next week. Again, though–I’m no scientist.

I am, however, keenly interested in this debate. And it is my reading and my discussions with others (especially those who claim the science is “settled) that have led me to state simply that as far as I can tell, this science is far from settled. What’s more, there is a great deal of scientific evidence that while human impact has indeed had an impact on the planet, there is also a great deal of scientific evidence that the planet deals pretty well with it. Again, this is stuff I am reading, not my opinion. I hardly think my opinion matters in this.

But that’s why I am fascinated. For some reason, everyone’s a climate science specialist now and everyone thinks they understand what the scientists in the IPCC are saying. Here’s where I’ll leave it: I trust the scientists to do what they do. But I will never trust the politicians and those with a defined political agenda on this issue, from whatever side, to give us the straight story. That, I am afraid, we are going to have to find for ourselves.

Simple Things part II

Tonight is the weird feminine pagan ritual known as Bunco. Mind you, I’ve rather convinced myself that it actually does exist, a good friend of mine says he has witnessed the rite, but still-I remain skeptical.

As it is Bunco night, that meant daddy-daughter night. Peanut has a bit of a cold and so she’s not quite herself. It’s rather unseemly and sad as it is hard to rationalize that someone so small can have that much goo in her nose and sinus cavities. Still, she was in good spirits and away we went. Her request? Wendy’s. Off we went hand in hand on a weirdly warm night for February, it was 80 degrees here today, and she ate her hamburger with onion, tomato, lettuce and “ranch” which is actually mayonnaise. She ate a little more than half and some of her fries before the cold kicked in and she rather just sort of sat, gazing off into the night.

Bedtime approached and I swear, I was in the room about 5 minutes after stories and prayers–and she was out. Poor thing. She needs a good long sleep.

Another 3 day weekend is upon us, but I’ll turn it into 4. It’s time for a day off as the pressure and the schedule the past couple of weeks has been quite hectic. Peanut has been doing remarkably well at school–and so, we’re doing a Disney break. Yes, it’s true–our lives are pretty easy and simple. And it’s also true that we’re going because, well–we can. But it’s also true that there are few things more important to me than creating memories with my family.

All else are details.

It's the simple things…

The pace of writing quickened today and for the first time in many years, I wrote a flurry of pieces of all different kinds. I hacked out four letters of recommendation, a “teacher article” for the yearbook, a half dozen long and involved e-mails and, most importantly, an academic essay. That’s right, an essay.

I think it got started because the novel I’m teaching to one of my classes, Their Eyes Were Watching God, is one of my favorites. I’ve always been moved by its imagery, its power and simplicity and I’ve always thought that it was one of the greatest novels of the 20th Century since I first read it. I’d been fairly successful with it, too. I’d gotten kids into it and they enjoyed it–found meaning in it and occasionally, I’ll get an e-mail or have a conversation with a former student, who brings it up. It’s rather heartwarming, really.

Well, this group is having a tough go. For whatever reason, they’re not on the ball and their writing and thinking about this novel is pretty pedantic. I knew this and have been attempting to ameliorate it, but they don’t seem to be following suit and so….

I wanted to provide them with an example of a piece of writing, let them see what a good essay would look like. I had some copies of student papers from the past, but they didn’t quite fit this group as many of my past students had a more expansive view of the book and took off with their writing, creating quite beautiful pieces, some academic, some more personal, reflecting on the work. No, if they were going to have an example of a literary response, I was going to have to provide it.

I began to see it as a kind of a challenge. After all, I’ve read and assigned literally thousands of academic essays, and on occasion I’ve joined my kids in writing about various works–but it has been a very long time, perhaps since grad school at the South Coast Writing Project in 2000, that I wrote a full literary response essay. I sat down to it yesterday morning. Between broken fits of writing, teaching, working on the yearbook and the newspaper, and coming home to my family, I tapped out 5 pages of response to the novel and I read it to the class today. I was really touched by their response and I really enjoyed writing it. It was fun to sort of challenge myself to be a student again. It was a kick to think about the literature from a writer’s point of view and really dig into it and consider my opinions.

I have to say…it made me fully aware for the first time in quite a long time—that I really love what I’m doing.