14 April 2006

The Puritan Regime

By Matt Berry, Guest Contributor

Last week's Hollywood Reporter contains an almost comical story. Apparently, film industry insiders are blaming the poor box office performance of Basic Instinct 2 on the same people who started Global Warming and planned 9/11:
Paul Verhoeven, director of the first "Basic Instinct" (which scored $353 million worldwide) as well as "Showgirls,” attributes the erotic-thriller genre's demise to the current American political climate.

"Anything that is erotic has been banned in the United States," said the Dutch native. "Look at the people at the top (of the government). We are living under a government that is constantly hammering out Christian values. And Christianity and sex have never been good friends."
Of course, Basic Instinct 2 would have done better if it hadn't been "banned." It opened March 31, 2006 nationwide and was shown in close to 2,000 theaters nationwide. How would Verhoeven explain the box-office failure of Showgirls (1995) during the Clinton years?
Scribe Nicholas Meyer, who was an un-credited writer on 1987's seminal sex-fueled cautionary tale "Fatal Attraction," agrees, noting that the genre's downfall coincides with the ascent of the conservative political movement.

We're in a big puritanical mode," he said. "Now, it's like the McCarthy era, except it's not 'Are you a communist?' but 'Have you ever put sex in a movie?"

Observation #1: Who says American culture is "Puritanical"? Have they been confined in the Gulags of Russia since “Leave it to Beaver” went off the air? Have they not watched Fox, CBS, NBC, or ABC every night of the week? We aren’t even talking about cable. Have they not taken up amateur Ornithology and typed woodpecker into a Google search on the Internet before? Or have they not glanced through their little-sister’s Seventeen magazine?

Observation #2: Maybe Hollywood is so screwed up that normal American life does seem Puritanical.

Conclusion: Of the top 25 grossing films of all-time in the domestic U.S. only one is rated R: The Passion of the Christ. The remainder of the list includes puritanically boring films like Star Wars, E.T., Shrek 2, The Lord of the Rings, Spiderman, The Lion King, Finding Nemo, and so on and so forth. Even the recently released C.S Lewis Christian-thriller The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe came in at #23.

Maybe America just doesn’t want to see erotic-thrillers.

While Verhoeven and Meyer and the rest of HollyWeird get their kicks watching Grandma Stone take her clothes off, I will churn some butter, get in my horse and buggy, and go see something a little more puritanical.

12 April 2006

Global Warming: Blame Bush!

Care to read beyond the headlines and actually get at "the facts?" Those disenchanted with the current administration love to feed their blind hatred with the alarmist headlines of the New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS and NPR with a little humor added from Jon Stewart, the Colbert Report, The Onion, and Paul Krugman.

We watch, read, and listen to them all. Sometimes we have a difficult time distinguishing between the humor and the headline because of their laughable nature and the shrill tone that dominates liberal media.

Unfortunately for these pessimistic purveyors of doom and destruction, the facts don't bear them out. The frustrating thing about facts--pesky little things--is that they always seem to get in the way of the liberal media-propagandized worldview that holds Bush responsible for everything from Katrina to 9/11. Oh wait, he was responsible for that, wasn't he?

In the 1970s environmentalists predicted a great "die off" of over 65 million Americans due to drought and global cooling. The 1980s and 90s saw them predicting "sahara like" conditions throughout the world. We think that makes the alarmists 0 for 3. If we are to believe "The Day After Tomorrow" then global warming will actually cause global cooling and force us all into Mexico. We're scheduled to be in Cancun in June, hopefully that will be soon enough.

Administration critics declare almost daily that the President is wrong about something. Exactly what that is in specific terms (backed up by evidence) remains to be seen. Simply saying that Bush lied, caused Katrina, induced 9/11, illegally wiretapped, leaked, etc. etc., doesn't make it so. And the OpEd page of the New York Times hardly represents a so-called American consensus about the current state of affairs. The politicians and mainstream media that parrot them present one version of reality. It is hardly the only version or the accurate one.

Here's one example:

The following is a piece by Rirchard Lindzen - Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT

Climate of Fear


There have been repeated claims that this past year's hurricane activity was another sign of human-induced climate change. Everything from the heat wave in Paris to heavy snows in Buffalo has been blamed on people burning gasoline to fuel their cars, and coal and natural gas to heat, cool and electrify their homes. Yet how can a barely discernible, one-degree increase in the recorded global mean temperature since the late 19th century possibly gain public acceptance as the source of recent weather catastrophes? And how can it translate into unlikely claims about future catastrophes?

The answer has much to do with misunderstanding the science of climate, plus a willingness to debase climate science into a triangle of alarmism. Ambiguous scientific statements about climate are hyped by those with a vested interest in alarm, thus raising the political stakes for policy makers who provide funds for more science research to feed more alarm to increase the political stakes. After all, who puts money into science -- whether for AIDS, or space, or climate -- where there is nothing really alarming? Indeed, the success of climate alarmism can be counted in the increased federal spending on climate research from a few hundred million dollars pre-1990 to $1.7 billion today. It can also be seen in heightened spending on solar, wind, hydrogen, ethanol and clean coal technologies, as well as on other energy-investment decisions.

But there is a more sinister side to this feeding frenzy. Scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear, their work derided, and themselves libeled as industry stooges, scientific hacks or worse. Consequently, lies about climate change gain credence even when they fly in the face of the science that supposedly is their basis.

To understand the misconceptions perpetuated about climate science and the climate of intimidation, one needs to grasp some of the complex underlying scientific issues. First, let's start where there is agreement. The public, press and policy makers have been repeatedly told that three claims have widespread scientific support: Global temperature has risen about a degree since the late 19th century; levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have increased by about 30% over the same period; and CO2 should contribute to future warming. These claims are true. However, what the public fails to grasp is that the claims neither constitute support for alarm nor establish man's responsibility for the small amount of warming that has occurred. In fact, those who make the most outlandish claims of alarm are actually demonstrating skepticism of the very science they say supports them. It isn't just that the alarmists are trumpeting model results that we know must be wrong. It is that they are trumpeting catastrophes that couldn't happen even if the models were right as justifying costly policies to try to prevent global warming.

If the models are correct, global warming reduces the temperature differences between the poles and the equator. When you have less difference in temperature, you have less excitation of extratropical storms, not more. And, in fact, model runs support this conclusion. Alarmists have drawn some support for increased claims of tropical storminess from a casual claim by Sir John Houghton of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that a warmer world would have more evaporation, with latent heat providing more energy for disturbances. The problem with this is that the ability of evaporation to drive tropical storms relies not only on temperature but humidity as well, and calls for drier, less humid air. Claims for starkly higher temperatures are based upon there being more humidity, not less -- hardly a case for more storminess with global warming.

So how is it that we don't have more scientists speaking up about this junk science? It's my belief that many scientists have been cowed not merely by money but by fear. An example: Earlier this year, Texas Rep. Joe Barton issued letters to paleoclimatologist Michael Mann and some of his co-authors seeking the details behind a taxpayer-funded analysis that claimed the 1990s were likely the warmest decade and 1998 the warmest year in the last millennium. Mr. Barton's concern was based on the fact that the IPCC had singled out Mr. Mann's work as a means to encourage policy makers to take action. And they did so before his work could be replicated and tested -- a task made difficult because Mr. Mann, a key IPCC author, had refused to release the details for analysis. The scientific community's defense of Mr. Mann was, nonetheless, immediate and harsh. The president of the National Academy of Sciences -- as well as the American Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Union -- formally protested, saying that Rep. Barton's singling out of a scientist's work smacked of intimidation.

All of which starkly contrasts to the silence of the scientific community when anti-alarmists were in the crosshairs of then-Sen. Al Gore. In 1992, he ran two congressional hearings during which he tried to bully dissenting scientists, including myself, into changing our views and supporting his climate alarmism. Nor did the scientific community complain when Mr. Gore, as vice president, tried to enlist Ted Koppel in a witch hunt to discredit anti-alarmist scientists -- a request that Mr. Koppel deemed publicly inappropriate. And they were mum when subsequent articles and books by Ross Gelbspan libelously labeled scientists who differed with Mr. Gore as stooges of the fossil-fuel industry.

Sadly, this is only the tip of a non-melting iceberg. In Europe, Henk Tennekes was dismissed as research director of the Royal Dutch Meteorological Society after questioning the scientific underpinnings of global warming. Aksel Winn-Nielsen, former director of the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization, was tarred by Bert Bolin, first head of the IPCC, as a tool of the coal industry for questioning climate alarmism. Respected Italian professors Alfonso Sutera and Antonio Speranza disappeared from the debate in 1991, apparently losing climate-research funding for raising questions.

And then there are the peculiar standards in place in scientific journals for articles submitted by those who raise questions about accepted climate wisdom. At Science and Nature, such papers are commonly refused without review as being without interest. However, even when such papers are published, standards shift. When I, with some colleagues at NASA, attempted to determine how clouds behave under varying temperatures, we discovered what we called an "Iris Effect," wherein upper-level cirrus clouds contracted with increased temperature, providing a very strong negative climate feedback sufficient to greatly reduce the response to increasing CO2. Normally, criticism of papers appears in the form of letters to the journal to which the original authors can respond immediately. However, in this case (and others) a flurry of hastily prepared papers appeared, claiming errors in our study, with our responses delayed months and longer. The delay permitted our paper to be commonly referred to as "discredited." Indeed, there is a strange reluctance to actually find out how climate really behaves. In 2003, when the draft of the U.S. National Climate Plan urged a high priority for improving our knowledge of climate sensitivity, the National Research Council instead urged support to look at the impacts of the warming -- not whether it would actually happen.

Alarm rather than genuine scientific curiosity, it appears, is essential to maintaining funding. And only the most senior scientists today can stand up against this alarmist gale, and defy the iron triangle of climate scientists, advocates and policymakers.

03 April 2006

ConSource Connection

We attended the ConSource benefit dinner Friday night. Also in attendance were former Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O'Connor (the featured speaker), Senators Hatch and Bennett from Utah, Senator Smith from Oregon, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, and Randy Quarles, Undersecretary of the Treasury. At our table sat members of the Eccles family--generous benefactors of the University of Utah and BYU whose name graces the U of U football stadium. We quickly disclosed that we attended BYU and after some good-natured razzing, enjoyed an evening of friendly conversation.

Senator Hatch introduced Justice O'Connor. Among the many anecdotes, we were interested to learn that before meeting and marrying John O'Connor, the future Justice O'Connor briefly dated a young William Rehnquist.

Justice O'Connor's life serves as a wonderful example to aspiring jurists--male and female. Suggesting that her accomplishments--or those of any woman--are only an example to other women is a shibboleth, limiting the scope of their influence and impact of their achievements. We were struck by the sheer volume of Justice O'Connors accolades. What she has done would be impressive for any person--male or female. She isn't just "good for a girl," she is a powerhouse.

She gave a strong speech in favor of ConSource's effort to "democratize" Constitutional documents by making them available to everyone. Though she just turned seventy-six, her age clearly has not slowed her mind or wit as she delivered one-liners with ease. She spoke at length about Justice Warren Berger. He gave up his post as Chief Justice to lead a commission commemorating the bicentennial of the Constitution. A strict constructionist (other than Roe v. Wade), he argued for the importance of Constitutional structures like separation of powers and checks and balances. His love of the Constitution inspired Justice O'Connor and she in turn argued forcefully for the importance of teaching the American founding in public schools. She suggested, and we agree, that ConSource presents an excellent opportunity to expand national knowledge of the Constitution.

Many criticize Justice O'Connor for her "case by case" approach to Supreme Court rulings. Justice Scalia has been particularly unforgiving in his assesment of her rulings which he characterizes as inconsistent and contradictory. The Wall Street Journal took to calling her a "walking amendment." This is no doubt due, in part, to her "swing vote" status on the Court and her unpredictability in decision. Still others appreciate the individualized way in which she approaches each case. Every case is different, they reason, and therefore requires new interpretations of the law which do not necessarily follow precedent.

Following her address we met Justice O'Connor and thanked her for her rousing speech. She did not have time to field any questions--including ours. There are few times when someone meets or exceeds expectations. This was one of those rare moments. The same was also true of Elder Oaks, whom we had not before met.

Thanks and congratulations to Matt Berry who invited us to this event. Mr. Berry is one of the original Founders of ConSource and plays an important role in its continued success.