Saturday, December 28, 2013

Clobal Cooling?

If you like a little irony in your holiday down time, you can't do much better than this headline on CNN this week:

"Icebreaker trying to reach trapped ship in Antarctica also stonewalled by ice"

The original ship is filled with researchers looking at how "Climate Change" (Anthropogenic Global Warming?) has affected the area. They are icebound, stuck in ice floes. The Chinese icebreaker who went to rescue them is stuck in ice. A Russian icebreaker ship is headed there now.

I'm not a fan of the term "Climate Change". It's the magical one-theory-fits all nonsense that covers a non-science political agenda. Not enough ice? Climate change. Too much ice? Climate change. A lot of tornadoes? Climate change. A record low of tornadoes? Climate change. Big hurricanes? Climate change. A year without many hurricanes? Climate change. You get the idea. Yet, it's a term used as a cudgel by those who also wield the term "deniers" like a hammer. It's BS.

So, enjoy the ironic story of the researchers stuck in ice, along with the icebreaker. The ice itself is a global warming denier.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

2013 at the Movies: My Top 10 List

I am a film buff, and have been ever since I was a movie theater usher as my high school job in 1977. I see a lot of movies in the theater. More than I should. Plus, I have attended the EbertFest film festival for the last five years.

2013 was an odd movie year for me, though. My Top 10 movie list would be way different than most. And I'm okay with that. This was the year of smaller films, for me. Ebertfest type films. I took my son to Ebertfest 2013 and saw some amazing films. I'll miss that experience.

I skipped a lot of the blockbuster movies. I've just had enough of them in my life. Enough. I can live without Elysium or the Lone Ranger or even Gravity. And you can keep the big action pictures that I took my boys to, like Thor or Man of Steel or World War Z. Too much relentless CGI, made for the video game generation - not for me.

I walked out of a few movies this year. Critically acclaimed movies even - like The Way Way Back. Also Brad Pitt's Killing Them Softly. They did nothing for me. Less than nothing. No point in staying all the way through just because other people liked them. I know what I like.

Having said that, and having reviewed the list of movies released in 2013, here are my favorite 10 of the movies that I actually watched - chronologically:

Warm Bodies

Blancanieves (Silent film, B&W, from Spain. Saw it at EbertFest, met the Director. Loved it!)



Despicable Me 2

Stuck in Love

2 Guns

The Spectacular Now (EbertFest film, star and director at the Q&A)

Don Jon

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Last thoughts:

- There are three 2013 movies that I wish I had seen:

Enough Said

12 Years a Slave


- the Best Plot Twist goes to: Prisoners

- Best movie you will never see is: Escape From Tomorrow

I saw this movie at EbertFest also. It was an indie film, shot covertly on location at Disneyworld, without Disney's permission. Trust me, they would not have given permission. I expected a shaky cam amateur film, and it was way better than that. I thoroughly enjoyed it, dark though it was. I'm guessing it will not be released outside of film festivals.

Who knows what 2014 will bring at the cinema. I'll likely see less movies. By choice.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Me, a Moderate? Yes - on Global Warming

I found myself thinking about Global Warming recently on a blue-sky August day in the MidWest in which I opted not to ride my motorcycle to work because it was too chilly in the morning. I think about this topic a fair amount, and discuss it occasionally with friends on the internet – where ironically I find the topic too often draws more heat than light. How fun is that.

This week I was in a unrelated discussion online about President Obama and his State of the Union address, which contained this:

"But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Now, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods -- all are now more frequent and more intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science -- and act before it’s too late.”

We should look at those factors that he mentioned. We could also look at the folks in Atlanta wearing sweaters last week. Or the mayor of London talking this Spring about a mini-ice age brewing. Or about the Farmer’s Almanac calling for a long cold winter this year. There is a bit of fact in all of that, and a bit of alarmism as well. We all have our perceptions of what the weather / climate is doing. I don’t believe that the evidence shows that natural disasters are increasing in frequency, You might have watched the tornadoes ravaging Oklahoma this Summer and thought tornadoes are increasing. They are not. Neither are hurricanes, even if we give them good PR names like “Superstorm!” (Is that a real meteorological term?)

I probably think about weather, and time, and weather over time more than the average layman on the internet chatting about Global Warming. I think about these things for some very practical reasons. One of those reasons is that I'm a business traveler on the road for an inordinate amount of days each year. I have been behind the wheel of 35 rental cars already in 2013, in multiple states, at all hours of the day, in vastly different and changing weather conditions. Just stop and take that in for a moment - 35 rental cars. I'm aware of the environmental conditions around me in my world because I have to be. And because my hobby of travel photography compels me to think about them. I "see" our landscape and industry at a more focused level than many of you reading this. I just do.  What catches my photography "eye" when I'm out and about that is relevant to this topic?

The sky: So many weather patterns that are visually interesting (and can complicate my business day...). I'm 15 minutes from an airport at home and I love to watch how the jet contrails linger and change by evening.

Energy: Power stations.

Electrical power line towers.



Time: I love to photograph rock layers in parks and canyons and on cut-throughs for interstate highways. It keeps me grounded (no pun intended) that our planet has a history.


Moraines: which also make me think of weather over time. I Iearned about moraines back in college. They are mounds or debris fields that were pushed ahead of advancing glaciers and are left in place when the glacier retreats. I took some nice pictures this Summer in the Moraine Valley in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado on vacation. Every time I see the sign for the Moraine View State Park, I am reminded to be grateful that the land that I'm standing on is not currently encased in a glacier as it was 15,000 years ago. Yay warming! Yay climate change over the history of our planet.


If you've read me online you know that I am a partisan on politics. Not so much on science issues, and I am certainly not "anti-science". I love science. I've loved science since I was a little boy and watched the moon landing live in '69. Since I spent hours drawing tracings of the X-15 space plane and then eventually worked in engineering at a major aerospace company. Since I was a high school Mathlete competing in geometric functions and orthogonal equations. Since I took and passed the requisite chemistry, biology, physics, and 4 semesters of calculus through differential equations in an engineering program at a Big Ten university. Since I studied technology in two of the US Air Force's best technical schools (honor graduate each time.) And mostly since I've worked in technological career fields my whole life, including working at the top of the game in American manufacturing in an "ology". (Metrology - "The Science of Measurement", which I'll come back to.)

But, here's the thing. I learned basic science before the internet turned every discussion into a spat among keepers of "the truth". And I've been engaged in practical science most of my career, which tempers my views on certainty, certainly on issues that have measurement results as their foundation. I've seen things in the measurement world that would give you pause to be so certain about things. Together, those two things give me a starting point and a point of view. I am not an expert on climate science. I am a layman. I read. I live. I work. I ponder. And I find that I am not in either of the two extreme camps on the internet on this topic. They are:

1. True Believer: "All scientists agree" that Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is real, that is in large part due to the activities of mankind, that it poses a grave immediate danger, that governments must take action now, and that if you express scepticism at all you are a "denier". If you are in the “all scientists agree” camp, you can stop reading now, because you will not hear anything that I say in this post.

2. AGW is a "hoax", has no merit, and is pushed purely for political purposes. If you believe this, keep reading. I have some thoughts for you.

Neither is correct, in my humble opinion. And I find the use of the term "denier" to be loathsome in a discussion on science. I am a moderate on AGW. Let's look at how, letter by letter.

A - Anthropogenic.

I am generally attribute a great deal of the changes in both weather and climate that occur, and have over the whole history of our planet, to that big yellow variable-output heater in the sky called the sun. Surface temperatures have not statistically significantly increased in the last 16 years, a time when we’ve seen less sunspot activity than usual. We are a few months away from the sun reversing its poles – with South becoming North and vice versa – as itdoes every 11 years

"During field reversals, the current sheet becomes very wavy, and as Earth orbits the Sun, we dip in and out of the current sheet. This means we can see an uptick in space weather, with any solar storms affecting Earth more. So, there may be more auroras in our near future.”
Having said that, I see those contrails in the sky every day. I see those smokestacks belching smoke every day. It’s inescapable that it’s likely that man’s activities to power our homes and industries would be impacting the chemical composition of our atmosphere to some significant degree. So, yes, I am with the A for Anthropogenic in AGW.

G – Global

Oh, yes. I’ve traveled globally. I’ve been in China and seen real pollution – more pollution than America is generating right now. Any UN AGW plan that includes America but does not include India and China is fooling everyone. Our atmosphere is global.

And America can surely learn from foreign Green Technologies that reduce energy use. I was taken aback the first time that I checked into a hotel in Germany. I saw that my room’s key card had to be left in a slot in the room for anything to have power on and that, conversely, when I was out of my room nothing was consuming power. Wow! I was humbled to my core in that one little act. We have things we can learn and do better to reduce our need for energy. So, yes on G for Global.

W – Warming

Are you sure you want to commit to warming? To temperature trends in one direction? After all, I came of age in the 70’s when the hysteria was about Global Cooling. Do you think that I have forgotten that?

Actually, the language of the debate tells me that many of you don’t want to commit to “warming”. You’ve been burned by AGW conferences cancelled by blizzards too many times now to say “warming” in public. Hence was born the euphemism “Climate Change”. It still sounds daunting, but you won’t get embarrassed in the next mini ice age. Never mind that the climate has changed over the whole history of the planet, with cycles of ice ages covering where I live and then not. Never mind. Let’s get wound up about Climate Change.

I am not convinced on W for warming for the following reasons:

1. Surface temperatures have not increased a “statistically significant” amount since 1995. That’s per Phil Jones, AGW guru, and many others.

BBC: “Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming?”
Phil Jones: “Yes, but only just.”

2. The models used by climate scientist don’tfully explain that.
"But the fact that global surface temperatures have not followed the expected global warming pattern is now widely accepted."
The latest effort to explain is that the heat from CO2 is hiding at the bottom of oceans, and don’t you try to find that sneaky CO2 heat. They have new ballon thermometers down there trying to find it.

True believers have the unique ability to take in answers like that without snickering. Really.

3. Before you have temperature trends, you have temperature measurements as a foundation. I am keenly aware of that because of my 14 years as a metrologist.

4. Temperature measurements don’t have the absolute certainty that you think that they do. Not even digital readout thermometers. Especially digital readout thermometers. Trust me on that. I was at the top of the game in metrology, and operated million dollar temperature controlled gage labs with highly detailed measurement uncertainty calculations. Now add the certainty of mixing “proxy” data from tree rings and such, and tell me how certain you are of temperatures 1500 years ago to .1 degree Centigrade.

5. There are not an infinite number of base temperature measurement databases. According to the report the British Parliament issued after ClimateGate (which I read and you didn’t), there are basically three data sets that everyone shares for their analysis of trends. Those are East Anglia University – which supplies data to the UN’s panels, NASA, and NOAA. The last two consider their data sets inferior to the one at EAU.

6. The data set at EAU has been manipulated. Again, we learned that through ClimateGate. This was not well covered by the media. I discovered it in my reading of the emails and the UK Parliament report. There was a lot of focus on emails that admitted the “trick” that Michael Mann was recommending to others to fix data. The UK Parliament report waived that off, saying it just means it’s a recognized technique to correct data. Well, of course it is. I recognized the validity of using correction factors to adjust in response to a known data irregularity for an assignable cause. That’s not the problem, frankly. The problem is this: The EAU adjusted the data and then destroyed the original data set (because they were “out of memory space”). There is no way to go back and check if the legitimate corrections were correctly applied to the raw data – because the raw data is gone gone gone.

Last, I’ll add this thought. There is a difference between accuracy and precision. This is a basic principle of metrology. It’s on my test for my ASQ Certified Calibration Technician credential – which I still hold  -  every time. Precision is the degree of closeness of a data set. Accuracy is the degree of agreement with the actual value of the measurand. In other words, you can shoot a pretty tight grouping at the target range – and that is important – but your group may be well off the 10 ring bullseye. I see a pretty high degree of precision (grouping) in the trend analysis of climate scientists – and I regard that with respect. Is it accurate? Well, to me that depends on the accuracy of the underlying temperature data measurements and there are questions about how certain they are.

Do all scientists agree on AGW? Don’t let people tell you that they do. I’ll offer as an example a study that I read last week that was published in a peer reviewed journal titled "Peer-Reviewed Survey Finds Majority Of Scientists Skeptical Of Global Warming Crisis". The authors were true believers that wanted to prove the bias of "geoscientists" and "engineers" that work in the petrochemical business. They surveyed 1007 of those scientists, and offered them 5 categories to choose from for their views. 1 catgegory was “true believer”, which only attracted 36% agreement. The skeptical view was split over the other four categories, which equals 64%. All scientists do not agree. The author’s answer would be that the oil scientists have a bias. It’s a bias that I’m okay with because I’ve been a working practical scientist (ologist) for most of my career and have an affinity for them. Plus, I would argue that people that make their living off of government grants have a bias to them as well. How many of them will write a grant proposal that says “the sun causes climate change and there’s not much we can do about it. Now give me a grant.”

The true believer will then point out that some huge percentage in the high 90s of peer reviewed studies agree that there’s AGW. What they don’t acknowledge is that some of those papers take a moderate view as I’ve outlined. None of the skeptics that I read take the hoax position – that there is nothing to AGW. So they would be counted in the high 90 percent. It’s not 90% true believer.

Science is not political, or should not be. But the Presidency is. The Congress is. The United Nations certainly is. There is a lot of UN activity that is flat out wealth redistribution from the first world to the third world. Climate change proposals are not immune from this. UN IPCCofficials admit this:

Edenhofer: First of all, developed countries have basically expropriated the atmosphere of the world community. But one must say clearly that we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy. Obviously, the owners of coal and oil will not be enthusiastic about this. One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore, with problems such as deforestation or the ozone hole.

The bottom line for me is:

- Do we know enough about AGW to be pursuing reasonable, practical, and effective Green technologies for our power generation and our power usage? Yes we do.

- Do we know enough about AGW to begin implementing draconian tax schemes? No.

- Do we know enough about AGW to engage in UN wealth redistribution schemes? Absolutely no.

- Do we know enough about AGW for our President to propose killing the American coal industry that powers electrical plants (and provides jobs) in my town? Hell no.


That’s my take on AGW at this point in time. It is the moderate position, as far as I see it.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Going to War in Syria? Against Whose WMDs?

Drudge linked a story this morning about the UN weapons inspectors looking into the gas attack in Syria were coming under fire.

That reminded me of the Duelfer report from Iraq.

Duelfer lead the Iraq Study Group looking for WMD's in Iraq after we went in. He eventually issued a final report on what they found. Of the people reading this post, I'm going to guess that I'm the only one who read Duelfer's full report when he issued it. Most media outlets reported that the group found no evidence of WMDs. Case closed.

But not every media outlet reported it that way.

What they didn't tell you was that Duelfer's group came under fire too. They got attacked when they tried to investigate reports that the WMDs were moved to Syria before we got there - reports that I think are credible. Two members of Duelfer's team were killed in the attack, and the site investigations stopped at that point. The team concluded that there was no official movements based on interviews with Iraqi scientists and Hussein himself after his capture. Did they interview General Sada - his Chief of Air Force - who claimed he flew the WMDs out in 53 sorties under cover of humanitarian aid? Not in any report that I see.

The reports say this:

"Based on the evidence available at present, ISG judged that it was unlikely that an official transfer of WMD material from Iraq to Syria took place," the addendum says.

- Well, what qualifies as "official"? Did Sada's flights qualify?

"Duelfer said the group found that Iraq had transferred military and other non-WMD material to Syria in violation of U.N. sanctions prior to the war."

Okay, there were some transfers to Syria. On Sada's flights? Or otherwise?

"The addendum says the group "could not rule out the possibility" of WMD transfers, as it was unable to complete its investigation. Site visits in Iraq were shut down last November because of security concerns, he said, noting the deaths of two team members from suicide bombings since September."

Bingo. Unable to rule it out because members of their team were killed and they reasonably stopped looking. So, don't rule it out.

"For now, this report is the best picture that could be drawn concerning the events, programs, policies, and underlying dynamics of the relationship of the former regime to WMD over the last three decades," Duelfer wrote.

- the best picture, but not a 100% picture.

Furthermore, the report does not rule out the possibility that unofficial transfers of "limited WMD-related materials" might have occurred.

- So don't you rule it out.

That report came out in 2004. You can find it if you look. I did, here.

We've learned other things since then. Two things come to mind:

WikiLeaks contained many documents that showed that WMDs were hunted and found after the report.

Chemical weapons were used in Syria last week. Where did they come from. Do we know?

Who used them? The Iranian-Soviet-Hezbollah backed government of Assad? Or the Sunni-Hamas-Obama backed rebels fighting under the black flag of a-lQaida.

Clearly, John Kerry and John McCain are beating the drums for war in Syria. The Obama administration will start the war without answers to the two questions (where did they come from and who used them).

Are you ready for war in Syria? Do you have an opinion on whether we should back the Shia radicals or the Sunni radicals in this civil war? Are you okay that Obama gave weapons to al-Qaida in this fight, and that the CIA trained "rebels" are advancing on Damascus - murdering Christians along the way?

Speak up...

Sunday, August 25, 2013

What Happened to Ethics and Customer Service

A fun little story of an epic fail in ethics and customer service today:

Taco Bell had a big sign right over the cashier today that got me for an impulse buy. Shredded Covered chicken burrito, $2.99. It's a deal. I'll take two. I added up my order in my head as I went, and the total she asked for seemed like more than it should have been. I paid it, but it bugged me as I ate. When I was leaving I noticed that there were no customers at the counter. So, I stopped by and asked for clarification.

Me: I don't understand the pricing on my receipt, and I was wondering if you could clear it up for me. I might be missing something.

Cashier: Okay, I'll try.

Me: Your sign right there says that the chicken smothered shredded burrito is $2.99 each. I ordered two. That would be six bucks. But on my receipt it's $7.98. What am I missing?

Manager, who came over to help: The chicken burritos are $3.99 each.

Me: Not on your sign. It's right there over your head. $2.99 each.

Manager: We'll it's $3.99 with tax.

Me: No. It's not. You have a separate line on the receipt for tax. And besides, the tax on three bucks is not a whole extra buck per burrito. The tax on my whole meal is $1.06.

Manager: We'll it says $3.99 on the computer.

Me: I can't see your computer. I can see your sign. I ordered from your sign. Your sign says $2.99

Manager: The sign is wrong. I can't change the price.

Me: You know that is the wrong answer, right? You charged me two dollars more than the advertised price.

Manager, taking the sign down in front of me: The price is $3.99. I can't change the price.

We'll we're not getting anywhere here. It's Sunday, and I just heard a great sermon, and I'm in a good mood, and I'm not getting through to this ethics challenged manager. So I left.

Before I got on my motorcycle though, I turned and walked back in. I saw that the manager had changed the sign to $3.99 - that quick - and hung it back up. I smiled and asked simply and politely "How can I contact the owner of this store?". She gave me a phone number, I thanked her, and I left.

If the owner of the Taco Bell is reading this, I have questions: What happened to customer service in America? To ethics? Well, the computer says what the computer says and that's that.

And, in the words of the paperboy to John Cusack way back in "Better off Dead": I want my two dollars.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

More "Birther" Fun

Ah, heck. Birther stuff is back in the news, with this week's offering from Sen. Ted Cruz of his Canadian birth certificate in anticipation of a possible presidential run. Now we have to talk about it again. It's not top on my list of things to talk about in a week when the Mideast is on fire, but there is one fun aspect of it.

I wrote an article on my previous blog Partisan News Junkie about my take on the Obama eligibility issue. It was a nuanced position: I'm not a birther, but I understand their argument and thought it was the most misstated and misreported story of the 2008 election. The real challenge is not his place of birth, but his dual US / British citizenship at birth due through his father. The "Natural-Born Citizen" requirement in the Constitution - a subset of all possible citizens - was about allegiance. They understandably didn't want dual allegiance after fighting a revolution with England. Natural law at the time of the founding traced natural born citizenship through the father.

Then I wrote a post on this blog about what I considered Marco Rubio's eligibility problem. Born in the US, yes. But his parents weren't US citizens at his birth. They were Cuban, and were naturalized after his birth. Dual allegiance? Is that why he's pushing (and lying about) the immigration bill so doggedly? My argument then was that for Birthers to be consistent you would have to challenge Rubio's eligibility as a NBC - per the child of two citizens test - also. If Obama is ineligible, Rubio is ineligible. And I'm okay with that.

Now we have Senator Ted Cruz, tea party favorite, who I like a lot. But, his dual allegiance at birth is a problem worth discussing. Born out of the country, with dual US/Canadian citizenship, to a father who is not a US citizen. Worst case, in terms of eligibility.

There is one and only one job in America that has a restrictive requirement for a Natural-Born citizen, as specified in our founding document the Constitution. I know many of you think that it is silly, and I know our current President has established a pattern of disregarding law that he doesn't like. But, until you go through the right channels to change it, the NBC requirement is still binding.

If Obama is ineligible as described above, and I stress if, then so is Rubio and Cruz. And I'm fine with that. There are enough talented people in the country that can serve as president that we don't need to violate the Constitution just because we favor one particular candidate. Let's pick one of the remaining 300 million Americans that is clearly eligible on all counts, and get on with it in 2016.

But, here's the fun part: by protecting Obama on the eligibility question, leftists have also immunized Rubio - and probably Cruz (who is a citizen). Ha!

So, I get to eat my cake (thinking Rubio and Cruz may be ineligible) and have it too (getting to vote for them because you guys immunized Obama). Big fun!

Not that it matters. At all. The GOP House will cave on Rubio's "Gang of 8" amnesty sellout, and the Democratic party is in a permanent majority all the way to the impending crash. It matters not if it's Rubio or Cruz or Paul or Christie or any of the rest of the field. The eligibility chat is just a parlor game. And a tired one at that.

Now, are we going to talk about the Obama foreign policy crashing and burning on the continent of his father?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

If a Republican President had said this...

From George Will - on Obama changing the terms of the ObamaCare law without authority to do so:
"Explaining his decision to unilaterally rewrite the Affordable Care Act (ACA), he said: “I didn’t simply choose to” ignore the statutory requirement for beginning in 2014 the employer mandate to provide employees with health care. No, “this was in consultation with businesses.”

So, let me get this straight: the President arbitrarily delayed the collection of "taxes" (the imposition of the employer mandate) on businesses after consultation with businesses.

If a Republican President did that - delayed taxes on businesses after consultation with businesses - he would be excoriated in the press for being in bed with businesses. There would be no skin left on a Republican president, journalistically. It would be thermonuclear war, journalistically. "Republican president does bidding of business..." in every media outlet.

Yet....America yawns.

It's not even true. He did it because his party would get slaughtered in the midterms if they actually implement this abomination in an election year. It's outrageous.

Still, his fake explanation should draw some outrage too, no?

Where is everyone? Is the President of the United States arbitrarily tweaking laws not enough to outrage anyone anymore?

No? We really are past the tipping point.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Still a Nation of Laws?

So, we are at the point where our lawless President can stroll to the podium in front of his dutiful scribes and dazzle them with smooth explanations for his unconstitutional actions in revising a law that will otherwise hurt his party in the midterm elections - and the nation yawns.

George Will argues eloquently that in making "tweaks" to a law outside of his authority, he has outdone Nixon:

"Obama’s audacity is more spacious; it encompasses a right to disregard any portion of any law pertaining to any subject at any time when the political “environment” is difficult.

Obama should be embarrassed that, by ignoring the legal requirement concerning the employer mandate, he has validated critics who say the ACA cannot be implemented as written. What does not embarrass him is his complicity in effectively rewriting the ACA for the financial advantage of self-dealing members of Congress and their staffs."

Wake up, friends.

President Obama's domestic policy - including his signature law which was predictably not viable - is unraveling. His foreign policy, such as it is, is aflame in the Mideast. 

Are you really okay with the President altering a law in any way he likes because he has political opposition?

Are you really okay with the President providing lethal military arms to al-Qaida jihadists in Libya and Syria, and to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt?

Are you really okay with the surveillance state he is building?

I'm asking...

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Putting the MB Genie Back in the Bottle

The military is taking power in Egypt and declaring a state of emergency to suppress the Muslim Brotherhood. We've seen this show before....

A lot of people who cheering the Arab Spring in Egypt in 2011, and the ousting of Hosni Mubarak forget how Mubarak came to be the leader. After Sadat was assassainated by the Muslim Brotherhood, Mubarak instituted a state of emergency to suppress the Brotherhood which ultimately lasted more than 30 years.

It lasted, that is, until the Arab Spring took the boot off of the neck of the MB, and the evil genie was out of the bottle.

A year later, the military is attempting to put the boot back on the neck. We'll see how it goes this time, when the whole of the Mideast seems to be on fire.

Prayers for the Coptic Christians under attack this week.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Super-cool with "Rebels"

Please fill in the blank for me in the question.

Our President has engaged our government in acts of providing lethal military weaponry to openly al-Qaida affiliated radical islamic jihadist "rebels" in efforts to depose or kill foreign leaders without an authorizing vote of our Congress, and I am super-cool with this because___________________.

Note: Your answer should not include "But.....Bush!"

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day Reflections

SSgt John Campisi, of Covina CA. That's who I think about first on every Memorial Day since 1990.

SSgt Campisi served our country in the 55th Organizational Maintenance Squadron (OMS) at Offutt AFB in Nebraska. I served as a SSgt in that unit as well, just down the road. I was a PMEL troop (test equipment calibration) with a cushy job in a environmentally controlled building. John was a flight line maintainer. We were roughly the same age. I was nine years married, and John was married with four children - two girls and two boys.

The 55th OMS deployed recon aircraft (and maintainers) within hours of Sadaam Hussein's troops crossing the border into Kuwait. John deployed. I performed my national security task from Omaha and - though I was ready to deploy - did not.

SSgt Campisi is listed as the first death in Operation Desert Shield. He was not killed in combat, but in a truck accident as a hazard of working long hours on a strange airfield at night. Tragic.

SSgt Campisi served his country in peacetime and, suddenly, in war. He deployed when called without question. He did not come home to his family. I think about his family now and then, and certainly on Memorial Day. How is his wife? Do his children know about him?

My prayers go out today to John Campisi's family. My gratitude today to all of the men and women who served and did not come home. We remember them.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Movies that are Tea Party, not Occupy!

What is it with Hollywood actors getting the politics of a movie wrong? It's aggravating. It happens more than I like.

I watched Les Miserables tonight on DVD. Having seen the stage musical 4 times, you can say I'm a fan. I enjoyed the movie version in the theater at Christmas, and then again tonight. I particularly enjoyed Hugh Jackman's role of Jean Val Jean, to which he brought an incredible portrayal of brokenness and redemption and mercy. True depth.

Ah, but then I made the mistake of watching Hugh Jackman the man opine in the special features about how timeless Les Miz is, and how the French Revolution and the Occupy movement started the same way. (Cue the documentary filmmaker who made the special feature to show glowing photo montages of the Occupy crowd).

Oh, heck no.

Did Jackman not watch the film he was in? The stage musical and the movie are conservative through and through. Tea Party conservative even. Certainly not representative of the Occupy Wall St phenomenon, which was organized by athiest Marxists.

Set aside that Les Miz is a spiritual musical / film which protrays and respects faith and personal redemption and charity. Just take in the early scenes of JVJ's treatment at the hands of the state versus his treatment by the Bishop of Digne, who saves his soul for God and transforms his life to a life of service and charity. A conservative vision indeed, and thoroughly un-Marxist.

Yes, Les Miz is a story about the wretched poor and their plight compared to the royal class. `But the solution to their poverty is not found in the failed revolution. It's found in the capitalist factory run by the mayor. A factory that he established using the capital of the silver given to him by the Bishop. JVJ sings it well in his inspiring self-examining solo "Who am I" when he sings "...I am the master of hundreds of workers, they all look to me. Can I abandon them, how will they live if I am not free?"

Indeed, Fantine starts her death spiral when she's forced to leave his factory and survive in the streets. Before that, working in JVJ's factory, she had the means to pay for the care of her daughter Cosette. After, as she died, she was forced to lean on the personal charity of the redeemed Christian man to rescue her little girl. Occupy Wall St. has nothing on that.

I had this same unsettling experience with actors last March when "The Hunger Games" came out. I had read all three books, and was eagerly anticipating the movie. Then I had the misfortune of watching Donald Sutherland compare his movie to Occupy Wall Street.

Oh, heck no.

Did Donald Sutherland even watch the movie he was in, or just read his lines in the script? The Hunger Games is not about New York City and Occupy Wall St. It's not about the 99% being oppressed by bankers and the one percent.

The Hunger Games is a Tea Party book. You can compare the Capitol in THG to our actual Capitol in Washington DC. The Capitol residents live in wretched excess just like our permanent political class does in DC, where the richest zip codes in America are. They play golf 128 times and are feted with top talent concerts in the West Wing while people out in the states (the "Districts") battle joblessness, layoffs, and inreasing taxation.

Note to Hollywood actors: Les Miserables and The Hunger Games are not leftist Occupy analogies. If anything, they are Tea Party conservative. Watch them again.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Benghazi Matters

I had a conversation with a co-worker this week. It went like this:

CW: "What's a Benghazi?"

Me: "It's where a terrorist attack ocurred last year on the anniversary of 9/11, and our ambassador was murdered."

CW: "Benghazi is a city?"

This is a college graduate asking me this question. 27 years old. A go-getter, good at her job.

This is a complete failure of media in our country.

I tried this week, as I traveled on business, to catch news of the Congressional hearings featuring the Benghazi whistleblowers. It was hard to find. No major media except Fox News carried the testimony of the whistelblowers live. Much of the media dismissed it all as "Republican talking points" or as the GOP "politicizing" a tragedy.

It's the other way around, actually. The Obama administration "politicized" their policy failures in Libya and Benghazi two months before a presidential election. They told a story to the American public about what happened that was false, up to and past a presidential election. Did I mention that there was a presidential election at stake, and that it was inconvenient to acknowledge that al-Qaida types carried out a coordinated attack that murdered our ambassador ON AN ANNIVERSARY OF 9/11 when the campaign narrative was "al-Qaida is decimated and on the run". That's politicizing, hardcore.

I've been outraged by Benghazi since before the attack on 9/11. Many of my online friends are not still, and mock it. But it matters.

It was foolish policy from day one of this misadventure. It was foolish for the Obama administration to jump into Libya's civil war as the "Arab Spring" was roiling North Africa. It was outrageous to commit lethal weapons use on behalf of the United Nations but not our Congress. It was outrageous to provide lethal weapons to al-Qaida affiliated "rebels" in a misguided effort to depose and kill a nation's leader without a vote of Congress. It was incompetence and malfeasance to send an Ambassador into an undersecured "Special Mission" (not an embassy or consulate), and to deny his pleas for more security in an area that was "Flashing Red" according to the bipartisan Senate report on the attack.
It was outrageous that there was no military response to rescue our exposed staff during an 8-hour long firefight in two locations in Benghazi. Two ex-special forces operators ignored orders to stand down and went to the aid of their colleagues. They died while providing cover fire on a roof at 4am from mortar fire while no one came to their aide. What good does it do to have Commanders-in-Extremis Forces (CIF) that can't - or are not allowed to - respond to an Ambassador in extremis in one of the true hot spots on the planet ON AN ANNIVERSARY OF 9/11?

The whistleblowers were in Congress this week testifying to denied security measures and to stand down orders on a military rescue. Who was listening? Were you listening? Who covered it, and who mocked it - and treated the brave witnesses as hostile witnesses? That's telling.

What will unravel, of course, is the cover-up. It always does. President Obama offered one generic reference in his speech on 9/12 to "no act of terror" will go unpunished. After that speech, he climbed on Air Force One and flew to a fundraiser in Las Vegas - making that day a political day in an election campaign. View his remark in that context.

After 9/12, every statement after coming from key players in the Obama Administration - from Obama, Clinton, Rice, etc. - downplayed terrorism as the cause and implicated an anti-Islamic YouTube video as the cause of a demonstration that became an attack. It's not true. Nor is it true that the administration didn't have evidence of a coordinated tIn errorist attack. So, why then did they tell that story? Why did the White House / State Department send Susan Rice on 5 Sunday talk shows to blame the video, using talking points altered by a political team in the midst of a presidential election to remove the intelligence about an attack by al-Qaida affiliates - who we had armed?

So, was President Obama telling us the truth on 9/12 when he said "no act of terror" would go unpunished? Consider the statement of the mother of Sean Smith - who was murdered in the attack alongside of Ambassador Stevens - on the O'Reilly Factor this week. She told the story of Hillary Clinton talking to her in front of the 4 flag-drapped coffins as their bodies returned from the site of their murder. "We're going to get the maker of that video", Hillary and others told Smith's mom. And they did. The video maker was arrested, and is in jail still. Not so much any al-Qaida types who carried out the attack in Benhazi.

We armed al-Qaida type "rebels" in Libya - specifically in Benghazi. Ambassador Stevens was there as our point man supporting the "rebels". Hours before he was killed, Ambassador Stevens met with the ambassador to Turkey - coincidentally a country through which we are now sending arms to the Syrian "rebels" to help take down Assad in their civil war. It's a continuation of foolish - and deadly - policy. Stop it already.

Benghazi is not the worst scandal in the Obama Administration. There are many, including this week's reveleation that his IRS was tartgeting Tea Party members, and on and on and on.

But Benghazi is outrageous on many fronts. And it matters.

The media, complicit with Team Obam during the election, is doing their best to dismiss this story. But, cover-ups unravel. And this cover-up is beginning to. Wake up, my friends.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Roger Ebert - an American Treasure - has Gone

Roger Ebert - a gracious and inspring man who passed away today - was my friend.

He didn't have to be. He was Roger Ebert, after all. He was an multi-talented accomplished man known world wide. He was America's best film critic, a gifted writer, and the purveyor of the best blog on the internet, bar none.

And I'm just Randy. A guy from small town MidWest America, with a day job unrelated to the film and entertainment world that Roger thrived in. So, how did I come to know Roger - and he know me?

I found Roger Ebert's Journal around Christmas 2008. I was on Rotten Tomatoes looking for a movie review, and I saw a headline that said "Roger Ebert's Worst Movie of 2008". I had to click on that, and the link took me to Roger Ebert's Journal - Roger's blog where he talked about things other than movie review like politics, religion, and science. The linked article was about the movie "Expelled" with Ben Stein, about the Intelligent Design controversy in schools, which Roger hated with a white hot passion. The article "Win Ben Stein's Mind" was about more than a movie review and explored Evolution vs. Creationism - a pet hobby of mine. It had a comments section, and I was in! I left a heated comment disagreeing with Roger's take. When I went back the next day, I was surprised to find that Roger had posted my comment and had embedded a reply to me that was a very civil in contrast to my heated post. Wow! I cooled it down and commented in kind. And that began a conversation on that thread every night with Roger and with commenters from around the world that lasted months and went for 3000 some comments on that thread before it stopped accepting comments.

Roger was energized by the Ben Stein thread, and wrote a few more articles in the same vein to continue the conversation. Of me, "the most stalwart defender of Intelligent Design", he wrote:

From "The Blogs of My Blog": "Randy Masters
is revealed on "Lick Creek Photography" as not only a determined defender of Intelligent Design, but a gifted photographer...Randy is a good fellow for many reasons, not least for his key role is extending our debate on Darwin to a current total of 3,600 comments. He also traveled to Champaign-Urbana for my Ebertfest 2009

And this from "the Longest Thread Evolves": "It must be said that Randy Masters debated heroically...He was battered by the Darwinians but pulled himself up by the ropes and stepped back into the ring time and again...Since his argument, in my opinion, cannot be won, I was impressed by his persistence. I confess there were times when I wondered if he was deliberately acting as a devil's advocate, spurring on his opponents. Most of his predecessors had fallen out of the discussion, but he was game, ingenious, and sincere. And week after week, month after month, the thread grew."

Though I was often the odd man out on Roger Ebert's Journal - being a rare political conservative in a commenter community the attracted political liberals from around the world - Roger was always gracious to me, and often defended me. I challenged his views of the world, he would say to my many detractors, and he valued that. I was not a troll, he would periodically declare. I did irritate him at the end, especially on one memorable occasion when I fell for a particularly bad photoshop fake of Obama and linked it on the Journal. "Randy, you're such a tool", he said, but when I left the Journal for a bit in a defensive huff he encouraged me to come back and contribute.

Here's a tidbit. Roger was on the leading edge of technology on the web. When he became enthused in Twitter, I joined Twitter myself. I followed him, and suprisingly he followed me. Roger had more than a half million followers on Twitter, but he only followed two hundred or so and for a long while I was in that select group. Every now and then he would reply to, or retweet, one of my tweets. After the election in November, he Tweeted a link to my blog and my mea culpa on being wrong. I got a lot of hits that day! A highlight was the time that I sent a Tweet coming out of the movie Prometheus - a 140 character ironic movie review. He replied to me and I replied to him. And viola! Two days later his new blog post "Promethian Panspermia" on musing on the science of Prometheus was inspired by and referenced our three Tweet conversation. Another highlight was his gracious compliments for my photography website, which he referenced in "The Blogs of My Blog" and from which he used pictures to illustrate his article "The Autumn Leaves of Red and Gold". That meant a lot to me.

I met Roger at Ebertfest a few times. I've been four times, this year will be my 5th. The first time was in 2009, when we were still in the Ben Stein thread on the Journal. Roger emailed me and invited me down to the fest, where he graciously left a pass at the window. I went one day. I saw a Matt Dillon movie, with Dillon as the Q&A guest after the movie, and an amazing movie called "The Fall", a movie moment I'll never forget though I have had many more like it at EbertFest. I sat with Roger at a small Ebert Club breakfast and discussed my experience of seeing the restored version of the silent film "Metropolis" with the Alloy Orchestra playing the score live. Seeing a silent film was a "deeply inner experience" we agreed.

Roger enjoyed being one degree of separation of people meeting through him. The photo I'm posting here illustrates that. I met many of the people that I talked to virtually on the Journal live and in person at an EbertFest. No arguing politics or science there, we just hung out as friends and watched great movies together. One of my frequent sparring partners on the original Ben Stein thread was Dr. Dave Van Dyke. We disagree on most things, and have sprited debates online. Friends first, though, as we say. I had been at EbertFest 2010 for a couple of days when Dave and his lovely wife came down for a day. We met up in the Illini Union where a panel discussion was in progress. At the end, I took Dave over to meet Roger. "You two are here? Together??", he wrote on his notepad. He was astonished! Roger had Dave and I shake hands, and then he put his hand on top of ours for the picture. One degree of separation. Indeed. I've had that experience many times now, last year with my friend Rich Voza. And so many others.


Roger Ebert energized and inspired me, even though I disagree with him on most every topic except movies. He was my favorite movie critic by far. He was a brilliant writer - you'll not find any finer writing on the internet than his articles "How I Believe in God" or my favorite "I Remember You" . He was an intelligent and curious man. A caring man. A gracious man. And my friend, when he didn't have to be. I will miss our virtual talks.

Take a couple of minutes and read this bit of Roger's Journal musings. I disagree with the sentiments but, as always, marveled at the grace of the writing.