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Happy New Year, All Things Considered

This is our last essay of 2017, and the way things have gone this year we’re glad of it. Journalistic tradition and the traditional slowness of the news cycle dictates that end-of-the-year essays be a look back at the past 12 months, a prognostication about the next 12, or a top ten list of the past 12 month’s something or another, but traditions don’t matter lately and we’re taking the news one day at a time.
The big story of the year’s last days, appropriately enough, is that it’s cold out there. Here in Kansas the daytime highs are lately struggling to get past freezing and rapidly dropping into single digit lows after the early sundowns, and when you add in the Kansas winds that are blowing down from the North Pole it feels far worse than that. To the northwest and the northeast it looks even worse on the weather maps, and it looks like a very long drive to the southwest or the southeast to get warm enough for our tastes.
Which kept us inside most of the day, and reading the rest of the desultory news. We noted that President Donald Trump “tweeted” about all the cold weather from the fabulous Florida resort where he was playing some holiday golf while a shifting truck block the news crews from filming, and he gloated about being vindicated for his controversial decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. Being climate change skeptics ourselves we’ve also taken advantage of these annual cold snaps to kid our global warming alarmist friends, but we mean it as a joke rather than a serious scientific argument, and the “tweet” struck us as unpersuasive and un-presidential.
He also “tweeted” about a very minor flap between Vanity Fair magazine and former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, with the former standing accused of making a slightly sexist joke about the latter in a little-seen video, and of course Trump ridiculed the magazine — “which looks like it’s on it’s last legs” — for “apologizing for the minor hit they took at Crooked H.” We’re skeptical about Vanity Fair and Clinton, as well, but that also struck us as something a president with some sense of dignity should be far too busy to do.
Meanwhile, down in Alabama, which still looks too cold for our tastes on those weather maps, the Republican Secretary of State of certified the upset election of Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, which was another big story of the day despite its inevitably since last month’s election night. Republican candidate Roy Moore was contesting the election results right up to the last minute, filing a court challenge alleging just enough voter fraud to reverse the outcome, but but after a Republican judge dismissed the suit the fait accompli was at long accomplished. It was a fitting end for one of the sorrier stories of the year.
Moore was arguably the worst nominee the Republican party ever nominated, the present competition notwithstanding. His inglorious career of public service and private enrichment and antebellum views about slavery and women’s rendered him upset prone even before several middle-aged women came forward to describe how he had pursued them when they were teenaged girls and he was a 30-something prosecutor. He was so awful he lost in Alabama, off all places, to a Democrat, of all people, and he never did concede that fact. His last-minute filing had a statistical analysis proving massive voter fraud in one particular mostly-black county, but one of the experts had also previously proved by statistical analysis that were was a massive conspiracy to kill President John Kennedy, and in the end the Republican Secretary of State and the Republican judge and the Republican sheriffs who had checked out some other claims included in the lawsuit all signed off on a Democratic senator.
Former Moore supporter Trump didn’t “tweet” anything about it, so far as we can tell, so Moore’s confederate cause seems at long last truly lost. What with that Vanity Fair versus Clinton flap and the ongoing “Russia thing” and another round of golf he had more important things to worry about, we suppose. The stock market was slightly up, the unemployment rate is still low, and the economy seems to be generally progressing along its pre-Trump trajectory, so Trump did find time to “tweet” about that.
All the meteorologists are telling us this dying year will come to a frigid end and the next year will start off just as bad, and all the political prognosticators are sounding just as dispiriting, but we’ll just take it day by day with a reasonable exception for better days. By late June the temperatures will be comfortably in the mid-90s around here, we’ll not gripe about the 100s of July and August, and the springs and autumns are always delightful except for the occasional severe storms. The economy has a good chance of surviving all the politics, and we hold out hope that rest of us will also survive the politics.
Our Wichita State University Wheatshockers head into their inaugural basketball season in the American Athletic Conference as the eight-ranked team in the country, by the time they finish what we hope will be a long run in the national championship tournament the pitchers and catchers will be reporting for spring training, with our New York Yankees looking very promising after some hot-stove season acquisitions for an already potent team, and that’s something far better to worry about that some flap involving Vanity Fair and Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
All things considered, we can wish all our readers a very Happy New Year.

— Bud Norman

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We Won’t Always Have Paris

Although we’ve always been skeptical about the more alarmist claims of the anthropogenic global warming theory, and were opposed to President Barack Obama’s signing of the Paris Climate Accords, we’re nonetheless also skeptical about President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement.
There are strong arguments to be made on both sides of the matter, and we expect they’ll take up much of the next several days of news. That will push aside all the talk about Kathy Griffin and covfefe, at least, and barring any bigger-than-usual bombshell about the Russia thing with Trump and Russia it might even overshadow that. The arguments will be about science and economics and diplomacy and domestic politics, too, with plenty of good points being made on both sides of each of them, and for now we’ll not bother to listen to anyone who claims to have all the answers.
Those opposed to Trump’s decision will reflexively insist that the science is settled, but that’s not quite persuasive to us. They’re right that most scientists accept the anthropogenic global warming theory, and although it’s almost certainly not the 96 percent they always claim it might well be enough to comprise the consensus of scientific opinion they always claim, but science is not settled by majority rule and the consensus of scientific opinion has often proved objectively wrong over the past many millennia.
There does seem to be a relatively recent-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things warming trend on the planet, and there’s also evidence that it seems to have stalled for the last few relatively-blink-of-an-eye decades, and it’s awful tricky figuring out how the latest trends compare to all those millennia before Daniel Fahrenheit started measuring temperatures not so long ago so in the 1700s, and nobody denies that temperatures have gone up and down over the long history of the universe. We’ll not deny that all the carbons humankind has undeniably been emitting into the atmosphere over the past couple of brief centuries are bound to have some effect, but anyone arguing in good faith will admit that the almighty sun and it’s changing cycles are also influential, and all the computer models that underly the theory that it’s all man’s fault did fail to predict the recent pause, so at this point we’re skeptical of anybody’s projections for the next few hundred years or so.
There’s also a dauntingly complex argument about what humankind should do about it. All those carbon emissions come courtesy of an expanding post-Industrial Revolution global economy that has not only averted a Malthusian catastrophe for the planet’s seven billion or so inhabits but has also dramatically raised their collective quality of life, so those quantifiable advantages have to be weighed against the still-theoretical disadvantages of all that carbon-emitting. At this moment almost all the people in the world who are aghast by Trump’s decision are still going to drive in automobiles and fly in jets and log in to electric-powered entertainments and otherwise enjoy the extravagant-by-historical standards luxuries of the modern carbon-emitting age, and for now they don’t have a persuasive argument that they can have their environmental cake and eat it’s industrialist deliciousness too. They’d be hard-pressed to make the case that cockamamie Paris agreement somehow squares that circle, but that doesn’t mean the world wouldn’t be better off with a little less carbon-emitting.
Except for Syria and Nicaragua and now the United States everyone is in agreement with that Paris accord, and although the consensus of global political opinion has also often proved objectively wrong over the many millennia that also seems well worth taking into account. Whatever the hard-to-calculate environmental and economic effects of Trump’s decision, the immediate diplomatic consequences are not likely to be helpful. We’d probably be more supportive of any other Republican president’s decision to withdraw from the Paris boondoggle, but any other other Republican president probably wouldn’t have spent the preceding weeks antagonizing the rest of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the seven most industrialized and post-industrial nations of the west, and made the credible case to the international community that the Paris accords were flawed for all of the world’s seven billion or so inhabitants.
Trump only made his campaign-style “America First” case for the decision, and it remains to be seen how that plays out in our domestic politics. He made a convincing case that any restriction on carbon-emitting would hamper an economy that thrives on them, even if he characteristically overstated it and invited all the plausible arguments about how an alliterative energy economy might thrive, and we don’t doubt that it will be welcomed by those folks who already support him. Annoying all those euro-trash and other global elites is another added benefit, as far as Trump’s most ardent supporters are concerned, but the president will probably have to make case to the rest of the country to nudge his poll numbers past their 40 percent or so, and so far he hasn’t shown much of a knack for that.
Any other Republican president and most of the plausible Democratic possibilities probably would have stayed signed on and did what the rest of the countries do, which is mouth the required platitudes and then let their economies expand to whatever carbon-emitting levels it might reach, and although that’s pretty damned cynical it seems a smart move. America is asserting its sovereignty by withdrawing from the accord, as Trump rightly notes, but sovereign nations often enter into international agreements, as Obama and every other president did, including all the presidents who were on board with that NATO deal and all the other agreements Trump has lately been undermining, and how that plays out in domestic politics is anybody’s guess.
In any case we expect both the planet and our domestic politics will somehow survive Trump’s decision, and that the Russia thing with Trump and Russia will soon be back in the news again, and that some D-list celebrity or incomprehensible presidential “tweet” will once again intrude on  the conversation.

— Bud Norman

On the Climate, Both Figurative and Literal

All that heated argument about anthropogenic global warming notwithstanding, Thursday was colder than a well digger’s posterior or even a witch’s breast here in our portion of the prairie. The sky was a depressingly Ingmar Bergman-esque gray all the short day long, the winds that came sweeping down the plains from the North Pole were whipping around a desultory amount of snow the in otherwise dry atmosphere, and we had chores to do.
Our beloved Pa helped us deal with the dreary task of getting our newfangled cellular telephone to reveal those noisome voice mails it now features, and to replace it with the old Ma Bell land-line number that had been in the phone books for as long as we or any of our friends who might call can remember, which our Pa insisted on in case there was some family emergency that only we can deal with, and after making it all happen with the help of the earnest but rather dim-witted woman at the phone company’s east-side strip-mall shop he treated us to a couple of very nice slacks at a nearby clothing store that was already touting its Valentine’s Day specials. After that we helped we helped our beloved Ma and Pa take down all their fabulous Christmas decorations in their enviable retirement apartment and return them for another 11 months or so to their place in a nearby rental storage space, and although some of those boxes were heavy enough to cause a strain in our back it also somehow lifted our heart.
All that bother also kept us largely away from the rest of the news all day, and we happily listened to old rockabilly and garage band music and the crazed conversation of the regulars at a dive we sometimes frequent on the way home, which also did us much good. When we at long last got home to our adequately-heated old house and turned on the space heaters in our poorly ventilated airplane room of an office we logged on to the internet and found it as desultory as ever, but we decided to dismiss it all with the same hopeful attitude that our Pa and Ma lately seem to have. They’re both convinced that the age of Trump can’t be any worse than the age of Obama, which is all too convincingly plausible, and that the weather is bound to get better for at least a little while, which is inarguable.
The weather for today here on our portion of the plains is forecast to be just as awful as yesterday, and we’ll have more chores to do, but we nonetheless have our own high hopes. We’re slated to get up relatively early to take an old and dear friend of ours home from the hospital, where he’s undergoing some nether-region-invading procedures that he assures us are quite routine yet still require sedation that prevents him from driving himself home. He once woke up even earlier on an even colder morning to give us a ride home from the airport after we’d been visiting the folks when they were living back east during Christmastime, and we expect that the chance to partially repay the favor will boost our spirits past what the thermometer shows. That gray-ponytailed old hippie is also convinced that the age of Trump can’t be any worse than the age of Obama, and although he’s a couple of decades younger than our Ma and Pa we’ll consider his wisdom, and look forward to a brief nap today despite all its other chores.
By next Tuesday the temperatures are forecast to be near 60 degrees Fahrenheit around here, and although that’s nowhere near were we like it to be we’ll still be glad of it. There’s every reason to believe that our Pa and Ma will be starting their early Valentine’s Day celebrations during their 60th year of marriage, and that our gray-ponytailed friend will be relieved that those intrusive tests have proved happily negative, and that the age of Trump will prove at least no worse than the age of Obama, and that no matter what all our friends will still be able to reach us in case of emergency at that same old land-line number.

— Bud Norman

A Climate of Conspiracies, With Sauce

The Washington Post has been a veritable feast of fascinating news stories lately, but on Monday two in particular caught our eye. One was about former Vice President Al Gore’s long chat with president-elect Donald Trump about anthropogenic global warming, the other concerned some heavily armed guy who walked into the trendy Comet Ping Pong pizza parlor  in a fashionable neighborhood of the District of Columbia in search of the satanic pedophilia ring that recent Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is said to be running in the back room.
Gore described his conversation with Trump as “extremely interesting” in a brief statement to the press as he exited Trump Tower in New York City, and we don’t doubt that he overstated it one little bit, but somehow that pizza parlor story seemed even more intriguing. We’ve been following the “Pizzagate” saga as it has unfolded in the far lunatic fringes of the internet the past few weeks, and the apparent unsuccessful rescue attempt was too tasty a plot twist to pass by.
For those of you who have been relying on the more reliable news sources and are therefore unaware of “Pizzagate,” it’s hard to sum the story thus far. Suffice to say that it began when someone Wikileaked a bunch of Clinton consigliere John Podesta’s e-mails, and they revealed his friendship with a fashionably weird performance artist whose work is said to include occult illusions, and is in turn a friend of that Lady Gaga woman you can’t help but have heard of, who is a well-known shape-shifting Illuminati reptilian, and there were also frequent references to “hot dogs” and “pizza,” which are apparently pedophile slang for sex with young boys and young girls, and Comet Ping Pong’s owner and staff do seem to have odd taste in art and music, and it has hosted Clinton fundraising events, so what more proof do you need that she’s running a satanic pedophilia ring in the back room?
That and a few more coincidences have persuaded numerous concerned citizens around the country to issue death threats against Comet Ping Pong’s owner and staff, as well the neighboring businesses, which have some suspicious signage that suggest they’re also connected by a system of underground tunnels, and on Sunday it apparently prompted that well-armed fellow to enter the pizza parlor and fire a couple of shots from a rifle in the course of what he reportedly told police was a “self-investigation.” The suspect is a North Carolina man whose friends and describe him as devoted father and tenderhearted idealist, and one speculated that “He most likely really believes this conspiracy theory. He’s a good guy with the best of intentions. He probably saw himself as more on a hero mission to save children than anything else.” All of which seems plausible, given how very stupid tenderhearted idealists can be, and should provide a warning to any others to await more conclusive proof of a satanic pedophilia ring before rushing into a pizzeria armed with a rifle, shotgun, handgun, and folding knife.
To the more conspiratorial way of thinking, though, it just goes to show how shrewd these satanic pedophiles can be. Within hours of the suspect’s arrest there were several YouTube videos explaining how the entire incident was staged to discredit the people who are exposing “Pizzagate,” with one of the theorists boasting that he had predicted just such a “false flag” operation some days ago, and the true believers were more convinced than ever that somebody needs to storm that pizzeria with plenty of guns to save those poor children who are surely suffering in some subterranean hellhole. They all note that there’s no definitive proof that they’re wrong about any of it, except perhaps for the testimony of that heavily armed guy who reportedly spent 45 minutes looking around the place, including the rooms where he had to shoot off the locks, but of course he’s just an actor hired to play the part, and in one of those weird coincidences he apparently has acted in a couple of low-budget flicks filmed near his hometown, so we expect the conspiracy theorizing will continue for a while.
We’d love to slough it all off as one of those crazy crazes that always happen, and no more harmful to the public good than mood rings or pet rocks or that Lady Gaga woman’s admittedly inexplicable popularity, but lately such conspiracy theories have been threatening policy. The whole “Pizzagate” story seems to have started with Alex Jones’ crazypants “InfoWars” program, probably the country’s leading purveyor of crackpot conspiracy theories, where president-elect Trump has appeared as a guest and praised the host’s “awesome reputation,” and Trump has also insinuated that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya, a theory he has since claimed credit for debunking, alleged that President George W. Bush lied about the intelligence regarding Iraq’s weapons programs in order to start a war for nefarious purposes, and urged everyone to read The National Enquirer’s claim that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s father was in on the Kennedy assassination.
Although Trump has backed off his campaign promise to have former Secretary of State Clinton jailed for her use of a private e-mail server, which Trump had urged the Russian government to hack, and now says that she and her husband are good people he wouldn’t want to hurt, which is also fueling some intriguing conspiracy theories over on the leftward lunatic fringes of the internet, he hasn’t yet used the “Pizzagate” hashtag in any of his recent “Tweets.” He’s only a couple of degrees of separation away from it, though, as his controversial choice for national security advisor, Gen. Michael Flynn, has “tweeted” about Clinton that “U decide — NYPD Blows Whistle on New Hillary E-mails: Money Laundering, Sex Crimes w Children, etc … MUST READ!” Putting aside the depressing fact that presidential advisors write such prose, even The Washington Post conceded that it wasn’t necessarily a reference to “Pizzagate,” and that Flynn might have been referring to other news about both Clinton’s relationship with the convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, whom they rightly note also has a documented relationship with Trump. Yet Flynn’s son, who is also a paid advisor to the presidential advisor, has more blatantly “tweeted” that “Until #Pizzagate proven to be false, it’ll remain a story. The left seems to forget #PodestaEmails and the many ‘coincidences’ tied to it.” Given all the proof he might need in in those scarily quotation-marked coincidences, and his military upbringing, perhaps he’ll be the next to storm that trendy pizzeria.
Our president-elect has also peddled the conspiracy theory that anthropogenic global warming is a hoax concocted by the Chinese government to cripple American industry, so it would have been indeed been extremely interesting to hear him talk about it with past presidential popular vote winner and electoral college loser Gore, whose post-political career has mostly been devoted to peddling the scientific theory that man-made air pollutants should have drowned Trump’s fancy Mar-a-Lago resort on the Florida coast by now. We’re skeptical of Gore’s theory, for reasons that are even more complicated to explain than “Pizzagate,” but we find Trump’s idea that the Chinese came up with it just as laughable, so the conversation would have made for an interesting “thread” in some internet chat room or another. Alas, all we know of it is Gore’s unsatisfactorily brief statement that “I had a lengthy and productive session with the president-elect. It was a sincere search for areas of common ground. I had a meeting before hand with Ivanka Trump. The bulk of the time was with the president-elect, Donald Trump. I found it an extremely interesting conversation, and to be continued. I’m going to leave it at that.”
Gore can leave it at that, but the conspiracy theorists should be able to come up with a few plots to be continued. Ivanka Trump is said to be the typically fashionable high society New York City sort of Democrat that her father was until a few short years ago, and he admit she’s the one behind his liberal maternity leave policy proposal, and she’s in the business of selling very expensive clothing and jewelry to rich jet-setters who tend to believe in anthropogenic global warming, and she’s apparently inviting Gore into the sphere of presidential influence, so perhaps another one of Trump’s campaign promises will shape-shift. The true believers in Trump won’t mind if he continues Obama’s carbon regulations, probably not even those West Virginia coal miners, not when there’s satanic pedophilia rings going in the back rooms of trendy pizzerias.

— Bud Norman

Debating to a Desultory Draw

Two of America’s most widely reviled people had a 90-minute nationally televised argument Monday night about which one of them is the worst, and expectations are that the audience was bigger than anything since the series finale of Jerry Seinfeld’s show about nothing. Even our happily apolitical brother in Colorado called shortly beforehand to say he was skipping the evening’s National Football League contest to watch the first presidential debate, which is saying something, but we expect that the massive audience was as disappointed as we were.
The so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters of Republican nominee Donald Trump were no doubt disappointed that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton didn’t keel over or drop dead or at least require an extended bathroom break during the ordeal, as all their latest health rumors had predicted, and at the end of the 90 minutes she was even able to riposte Trump’s question’s about her stamina with a plausible boast about all the miles she’d logged and the hours of congressional inquiries about her various scandals she’d survived. Clinton was feisty enough for the hour-and-a-half to get in a few digs that had Trump on the defensive, make a disarmingly apologetic answer about that ongoing e-mail scandal, spin some heartwarming yarns about her small businessman pop and her toddler granddaughter, and generally strike that middle note between presidential and shrill.
Although we doubt that any of Trump’s so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters were swayed by Clinton’s performance, we expect that anyone still undecided about about which of these two widely reviled people is worst considered it the abject humiliation that Trump promised as he taunted his way through debates with a wide field of vastly more qualified Republican opponents. Clinton’s more reluctant supporters will probably concede, meanwhile, will have to concede that she also didn’t score any knock-outs.
Trump didn’t go on any racist tirades or mock anyone’s handicaps or boast about his penis size, as he did during his successful run through those vastly more qualified candidates on his way to the Republican nomination, and he even made a show of addressing his opponent as “Secretary.” He got in a few digs of his own, and even if none of them will be widely-looped soundbites today neither will be any of his already-familiar gaffes. After a half-hour or so When he finished with a boast about his superior presidential temperament it got a laugh from the studio audience, which had mostly been as quiet as instructed, but we doubt many were tuned in by that point.
Anyone paying any attention to the more substantive parts of the so-called debate were likely the most disappointed. The boring part started off with Trump asserting that since the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed American manufacturing employment had declined, Clinton failing to note that American manufacturing output has also increased since then due to the technological innovations that have actually had more to do with that employment decline, and neither candidate sounding at all like the understood the economic realities of the moment. Clinton blasted the “Trumped-up trickle down economics” of her opponents tax plan, he failed to defend the Reagan economic record or make the arguments about her soak-the-rich nonsense, and it all devolved into a shouting match about how much money his rich dad had loaned him to start his much bragged-about business. Trump denied having “tweeted” that global warming is a hoax invented by the Chinese, which he actually did, and although we think it is a hoax we doubt it invented by the Chinese and have to score that a desultory draw. He criticized her awful decision to topple the Libyan dictatorship of the undeniably awful yet largely defanged Moammar Gaddafi, which led to all the lies she told about the lives lost in the aftermath in Benghazi, but she rightly pointed out that he had advocated the same policy, and we have no doubt he would have told the same sort of lies about the aftermath, so we now have to score even that deplorable and disqualifying episode in her career as a draw.
Clinton actually struck our old-fashioned Republican sensibilities as far more sane than Trump when she talked about the importance of honoring America’s treaty commitments and credit obligations, and we doubt that Trump’s “America First” isolation will have any appeal to her reluctant leftist supporters. Trump seemed more reasonable on the slightly-less-old-fashioned “law and order” theme, but we doubt that his appeals to America’s minorities will prove persuasive. Both caught the other on a couple of outright falsehoods, such as Trump’s oft-repeated lie that he was against taking out Gaddafi and Clinton’s newly-minted claim that crime rates haven’t been rising in New York City, but we expect that few people will bother to look any of it up. Clinton seemed to score a point when the conversation got around to Trump’s year’s long efforts to prove that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya, and his recent admission that “Barack Obama was born in the United States, period,” and after Trump spent several moments trying to claim that Clinton was responsible and that he deserved credit for proving Obama’s native birth Clinton got another laugh from the generally well-behaved crowd by simply responding “Just listen to what you heard.”
The next round of polling will deliver the final score, and in this crazy year we hesitate to offer any predictions, but we’ll be so bold as to call it a draw. Our brother called us before the big event because we used to be involved in high school and collegiate debate and we wanted our insights how it might work out, but we told this wasn’t any sort of debate we were used to but rather a reality television show that both of the participants knew better than we ever wanted to know. Our scant familiarity with the format suggests that the women Trump is doing poorly with didn’t like how he kept interrupting her, based on our experiences with women, and that the men Trump is leading with didn’t like the way she kept talking, based on our experiences with men, and that this is how presidential elections are elections now decided, based on our observations of how very awful things are these days.

— Bud Norman

On Texas, Christmas Eve, and What Else Matters

Our holiday travels have now taken us deep into the heart of Texas, where most of the paternal side of the family now resides, and as much as we hate to be away from God’s own Kansas it’s good to be here. The weather is warm even by heart-of-Texas standards, which will no doubt encourage all the global warming alarmists, while reassuring all those social justice warriors who worry that a “white Christmas” is somehow racist, but we’re nonetheless enjoying the warmth of family on a Christmas Eve.
The drive down unlovely and casino-clogged and incongruously up-to-date I-35 was surprisingly grueling — who knew that a jaunt through relatively tiny Temple, Texas, would be even slower than the legendarily clogged Dallas-Fort Worth area or even out-of-control Austin — but for the most part we enjoyed a respite from the even more grueling news of the day. Most of the drive was spent listening to ancient family lore and the music of Ernest “Texas Troubadour” Tubb and Jim Ed Brown and Hank Snow and other mellifluously nasal old-time honky-tonkers on the folk’s newfangled Sirius radio system, and except for a brief update from the Fox News station and a quick reading of the news after our beloved aunt somehow recalled the password for the internet wi-fi that a more tech-savvy daughter set up for her we mostly ignored all the latest political and economic developments. Given what we found on those brief looks at the news, it was probably best to stick with the old-country music.
Barring something unexpectedly catastrophic, we’ll stick with Christmas carols and old-time country music and family lore today, and we urge you to do the same. There’s still good news out there, even if you have to turn off the news to hear it.

— Bud Norman

The Climate for Satire

Pity the poor satirists, who are finding it ever harder to come up with a burlesque broad enough to exaggerate the latest news reports.
Readers of a certain age and certain subtle sense of humor will fondly recall the straight-faced surrealism of the great Bob and Ray, who used to pepper their satiric radio show with fanciful advertisements for such fictional companies as the Monongahela Metal Foundry, “casting steel ingots with the housewife in mind,” Einbinder Flypaper, “the brand you’ve gradually grown to trust over three generations,” and The Croftweiler Industrial Cartel, “makers of all sorts of stuff, made out of everything.” Our favorite was a spot for Cool Canadian Air, “packed fresh every day in the Hudson Bay and shipped to your door,” but apparently even that delightful absurdity has recently been overtaken by reality. According to a report in the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail, one of the hottest selling items in China right now is a bottle of Canada’s Vitality Air, billed as “100 percent Rocky Mountain air.” Apparently the air pollution in Beijing has become so bad that consumers there are willing to shell out 400 yuan, which is about 46 bucks or 42 pounds according to The Daily Mail, just to suck in the promised 150 or so breaths of pure “Lake Louise air” found in each soda-sized container.
Even such Gaia-hating and pro-industrialists sorts as ourselves have to admit that’s a sorry state of affairs, although we will gloat a bit that capitalism can hardly be blamed for it, and that so far only the most Bob and Ray sort of absurdist entrepreneurship seems to be offering any solution, so we can only hope that the big global warming alarmism confab in Paris will set things right. They’ve reportedly come up with something, although the Obama administration is calling it an “agreement” rather than a “treaty,” which would require the approval of two-thirds of the Senate, where it would probably fare even worse than that 95-0 rejection of the Kyoto “Accord” that happened back when Ted Kennedy and John Kerry and Paul Wellstone and most of the current liberal Democrats were in office, and so far as we can tell China has only agreed to start to clamping down on air pollution when the price of Cool Canadian Air becomes prohibitive, and India still seems intent on the same sort of coal-fired electrification of its rural villages that the Franklin Roosevelt administration once embarked on, so we’re not hopeful. Neither are we worried that both nature and human nature won’t revert to historic norms soon, which will admittedly lead to some inevitable cataclysm or another, although we hope it will occur sometime after our own expiration date, but we have to admit we can’t come up with a better joke than this unintentional comedy of climate change hysteria.
There’s nothing in this “agreement” or “plan” or “framework” or “accord” or anything else you might want to call it other than a “treaty” that forces China stop polluting its air before 150 or so breaths of Cool Canadian Air is worth 400 yuan, there’s nothing that will persuade India to leave its rural villages in the off-line dark, and since you dare not call it a “treaty” there’s nothing that will oblige a more sensible President of the United States to screw up the American economy to atone for communist China’s sins. Secretary of State John Kerry has said that “public shaming” will be the enforcement mechanism, but he’s not at all ashamed to have five lavish and energy-consuming houses and a motorcade of limousines and a private jet and a fancy yacht that doesn’t run all the time on wind power, and we don’t expect that China and India and all those other countries aspiring to American levels of extravagance will be any more shamed.
Then there’s the rest of the news, where Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the front-runners for the next presidency and all sorts of similarly unsavory characters are waiting in the wings in the rest of the world and some sort of religious terrorism that cannot be named keeps popping up everywhere. It’s all far beyond our limited powers of satire, but we thank you nonetheless for dropping by The Central Standard Times, “a view from the middle of America.”

— Bud Norman

Nothing Changes but the Climate

The weather around here has been awful lately, with constant cold and rain and ice, but we’re hopeful that over the next 10 days the world leaders who have gathered in Paris will come up with some solution for this recent inclement change in the climate. They’ve done such a stellar job of bringing peace and prosperity to the planet that they now consider climate change the world’s most pressing problem, so they should be able conquer nature with time to spare for a carefree Parisian weekend.
Or maybe not. The government of India is “seen as obstacle to meaningful climate deal in Paris,” according to the headline at the Financial Times, which is aghast that a smog-ridden country with “more at stake than any other large economy represented at this week’s climate summit” is reluctant to cripple its economy just as it has begun pulling its population out of centuries of abject poverty. There is a similar indignation throughout the press that even in the countries where those world leaders have taken up the climate change cause there is little enthusiasm about the project among the voters who elected them, and that the inevitable economy-crippling consequences of a meaningful climate deal will result in new leaders who will scuttle any deal that’s made. Not to mention that most nations probably won’t keep their end of any bargain, just as they have done in the past, and that the ones who do will be crippling their economies to no effect. There’s also a possibility that whatever deal they come up with be a lot of pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo that makes no difference even if implemented, which also would not be without precedent, and that nature will continue to mock mankind as it has since the dawn of the time.
Still, we’re sure that they’ll give a try and it will make for a most entertaining spectacle. Speeches will be given, moral authority will be asserted, skeptics will be scoffed at, giant papier-mache puppets will be paraded down streets and earnest activists will dress up in polar bear costumes. If the terrorists don’t decide to shoot up Paris again everyone involved will enjoy some fine French wine and the famous Parisian nightlife, some sort of deal will be concocted, and the concluding speeches will be quite self-congratulatory.
The press almost everywhere will will try to help out, too, but we doubt that they’ll be able to rouse their readers to the hoped-for level of alarm. According to all the polls the American electorate remains stubbornly more concerned with such issues as terrorism and economic growth and the latest celebrity, even in a Germany where a famously less questioning-of-authority population buys in global warming alarmism most the public isn’t inclined to accept the economy-crippling measures that supposedly required to do anything about, and in those parts of the world still aspiring to American and European levels of economic development there’s even greater skepticism. The Indian government is talking about “carbon imperialism,” and the “indigenous peoples” of various nations are grousing they’re not invited to Paris to lobby for their first light bulbs, and although they’ll probably be disappointed to learn that anti-imperialism and indigenous peoples have been supplanted by climate change as the cause du jour of modern liberalism we expect they’ll nonetheless have their say. Despite all the open talk about legal prohibitions against any skepticism about all this nonsense, we expect that the American electorate will also eventually be heard.
As we were writing this another one of those darned earthquakes rolled through, and after all the ice that was already dragging down our tree limbs it’s made quite a mess of the front lawn. Once they’ve solved that pesky global warming problem, perhaps our world leaders can address themselves to this situation.

— Bud Norman

Too Darned Hot

The latest alarming claim made by the climate change alarmists is that everyone’s sex life will suffer as a result of anthropogenic global warming. Their theory seems to derive from an old Cole Porter song, which famously observed that “According to the Kinsey Report, every average man you know much prefers his lovy-dovey to court when the temperature is low. But when the thermometer goes way up and the weather is sizzling hot, Mister, pants for romance is not. ‘Cause it’s too, too, too darned hot.”
The movie version of “Kiss Me Kate” has it “according to the latest report,” as any mention of Kinsey was considered too racy for ’50s audiences, even though the Ann Miller dance number is still somehow sexier than any obligatory big-name nude scene Hollywood has since filmed, which goes to show how the cultural climate is continually changing, but it’s still the same basic idea that the global warming alarmists are peddling. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research’s report, if our more conservatives readers will forgive our mention of the “N word” and the “B word” in the authors’ name, hot weather does indeed lead to a diminished “coital frequency.” The authors found that when the thermometer goes way up and the weather exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit, which is more specific than Cole Porter ever was, a significant decline in births shows up nine months later. This is a bad thing, according to the authors, who seem less concerned about a resulting worldwide crankiness from such diminished coital frequency than with the more easily quantifiable economic consequences.
All of which strikes us as peculiar, somehow. The climate change crowd is the same radical environmentalist crowd that has been openly yearning for a Gaia-saving decline in the human population for years, and they’re the same more broadly liberal crowd whose outspoken enthusiasm for exclusively non-procreative sex has not been diminished by the inevitable effects it will have on their beloved Ponzi scheme entitlement programs, and they don’t typically concern themselves with economic consequences. We note that the authors are also predicting an increase in air-conditioning sales, with a resultant increase in electrical use, which should have a salutary effect on the gross domestic product yet alarm the true believers, so the public relations strategy behind this latest alarming claim isn’t at all clear.
As much as we hate to ever disagree with the great Cole Porter, we’re also unconvinced of the claim that it’s ever too darned hot. Certainly not at a mere 80 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the sunrise temperature around here for most of the summer, when the women are most scantily dressed and Roy Orbison’s rendition of “Pretty Woman” seems to be playing in every man’s mind as they walk by, and if you’re waiting for the temperature to drop below a mere 80 degrees Fahrenheit it might be when the days grow short as you reach September. That’s here in the middle of the prairie, too, not on the more romantic beaches of Rio de Janeiro or the French Rivera or Paul Gaugin’s topless Tahiti, and we notice that even in the most war-torn and un-air-conditioned hellholes of the Middle East the birthrates remain high enough to have lately posed a problem for all those northern Europeans who are somehow reproducing at lower than replacement levels.
Judging by the content of your average hit sit-com or beer commercial, or even a half-century-old Ann Miller dance number, it’s going to take some significant warming to cool the public’s ongoing enthusiasm for sex. Paying the carbon taxes they climate change alarmists want to impose on top of the ones that were already there to pay for all those Ponzi scheme entitlement programs, and then picking up the tab for the sudden exodus of half the overpopulated warm-weather countries to the inexplicably infertile north, not to mention all that “yes mean yes” negotiating that the colleges and the feds are now insisting on, will probably discourage a high birth rate more than an 81-degree day ever did, and it might even interfere with all that non-procreative sex.

— Bud Norman

Is This the End of RICO?

At the risk of being imprisoned on federal racketeering charges, we will admit that we have our doubts about that whole anthropogenic global warming idea. We might eventually be proved wrong, in which case we will humbly admit our culpability in the end of all life on the planet, but in the meantime we don’t see any reason to to make a federal case of it.
At least 20 climate scientists disagree, though, and have written a letter to President Barack Obama urging that he use the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act to punish any criticism of their theories. Noting that Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse has already proposed a similar idea, they ask  for a RICO investigation “of corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about climate change, as a means to forestall America’s response to climate change.” Perhaps they don’t mean us, as we are not a corporation and thoroughly disorganized, and we can swear in any courtroom that our doubts about the whole anthropogenic global warming idea are quite sincere and not meant to deceive, but we still find the scientists’ suggestion rather chilling.
Such a ban on public debate also strikes us as illiberal, and anti-scientific as well. Aside from a few quibbles about the First Amendment and the ramifications of a criminal justice system assuming it can read the minds of those citizens who avail themselves of its rights, the plan doesn’t seem likely to advance our understanding of mankind’s effect on climate or, assuming that mankind does some exert some effect, what to do about. We expect the censorious climate scientists will insist that the science is settled, and their policy prescriptions beyond any reasonable debate, but that’s the same thing the scientific community told Galileo when he was espousing a heliocentric rather than geocentric theory of the universe. Ever since then that tawdry episode was blamed on the Catholic church, which is always more fun, but that some overwhelming consensus of scientific opinion being asserted today was also in on it.
There were a few other dissidents against that consensus then, just as there are more than a few now, and we’re glad their arguments somehow survived the official sanctions that were imposed then, and we’re hopeful the current dissidents’ arguments will fare as well. Even so, we’d rather that the debate proceed without any RICO indictments. If the case for anthropogenic global warming is indeed iron-clad, as those climate scientists insist, they shouldn’t necessary. If those scientists are wrong, as any scientifically skeptical thinker would acknowledge is still a possibility, then the American economy will be needlessly hampered, science will be set back, innocent people will be wrongly persecuted, we’ll have to rely on the outside-our-jurisdiction Germans to for rebuttals, and there won’t be any conceivable way to blame it on the Catholic church.
We note that of the signatories of that letter is Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, who once wrote an e-mail to his colleagues, since discovered among the hacked “climategate” e-mails at the University of East Anglia, admitting that “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t,” and whose thus-far unfulfilled prophecies of more and stronger hurricanes has been criticized as knowingly deceptive. We’re not suggesting he should be hauled into court, but so long as the First Amendment still applies to scientific debates we thought it worth noting.

— Bud Norman