The sounds of our lives

Posted on 17. Jul, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Social/Cultural

Thanks to the marvel of electronics, our ears are now exposed to a multitude of tones that regulate our daily lives. Our Big Ben alarm clock bell used to wake us up. Now it’s an electronic tone (or buzzer) that sends us out of bed like a SAC bomber crew running for their plane!

Old A.G. Bell’s invention had a pretty distinctive ring on the customer’s end while the switchboard operator’s side had another (I know because I played at the feet of the Chief Operator for the Bell Telephone Company office in Evansville, Wisconsin). This was in the early fifties before the company went automated. The switching room below the two-story building was a magical place to a young boy, and the friendly switchman, Ed Erpenbach, was only too glad to show this lad how the switches went clickety-clack, on and off. I was mesmerized, transfixed, waiting for the second act.

Sitting upstairs on high swivel chairs, the telephone operators would answer, “Number please, thank you,” and a cord was plugged in to a hole in the mammoth panel, bearing the number of the customer. In larger cities, exchanges had identifiers. When I lived in Milwaukee, our number was Humboldt 35592 (my mother drummed it into my pea brain in case I got lost). Those were the days when a fellow could walk a mile or two to school without fear of being kidnapped.

An auto horn had a fuller, richer sound than the irritating higher pitched ones of most cars today, and each model could be easily identified even if you couldn’t see the car: one for Caddies, one for Packards and another for Studebakers.

At home, our Hoover ‘talked’ to us, commanding our full attention as the huge bag filled with air and the giant metal body clacked over floorboards to get to the rugs. Mixmasters of old didn’t sound like they would careen off the kitchen counter like the fancy ones of today with their high-speed motors that whine at high rpms like race cars at Le Mans. In our parlor (living room), our grandfather clock chime sounded like an operatic baritone doing his scales, unlike the silent stealth digital clocks of today.

There were special washday sounds, too, like rugs being beaten or of sheets being squeezed through the ringer of our modern Kelvinator washer. Our Singer sewing machine’s treadle made a special sound that shared space with other sounds from the non-electronic world. On coal delivery day, I remember the sound of that sooty black fuel sliding down the chute, clunking to its resting place in the coal bin next to our furnace in the basement.

Tones or sounds alert us when something is ready like coffee makers or microwaves, but back then coffee percolated and the brew could be heard and seen through a glass top on the pot. One sound that I will never forget, though, is the air raid siren, whose singular purpose in life was to tell us to head for cover. Living in the Midwest, that usually meant tornadoes, but during WWII (and the Cold War years) it also meant enemy planes…or worse an atomic bomb.

Back then, every child played “Blind Man’s Bluff,” but when I was alone I would sometimes close my eyes and pretend to be sightless as I walked through the house and out the back door onto the grassy lawn, processing each individual sound as I inched my way forward. Life has gotten considerably more demanding, and our sounds reflect it. I fantasize about disconnecting the seat belt and ‘door ajar’ bell, doing away with the irritating chirp of the smoke alarm’s low-battery reminder and all the inane customized cellphone rings.

I wonder how today’s children would fair if they were blindfolded, transported back in time and exposed to the sounds of my youth. Would they be struck with fear without all the familiar beeps that inhabit their world? Anyway, it’s good to know that some things never change, like the sounds of birds enjoying a dip in our birdbath and the yelping of coyotes at a full moon. Think I’ll go out and check the sundial to see if it’s time for my nap.

- Editor

Borders without Boarders?

Posted on 17. Jul, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Politics, Social/Cultural

In the Albuquerque Journal Outlook of July 8, 2013, Jerry Pacheco proved his own thesis that “Immigration reform (is) a sensitive minefield” by giving us a mere reporting of the political machinations of the issue rather than an in-depth local look at what immigration reform might mean for our state and business community. I don’t blame him for being cautious about giving his own opinion on the issue as I assume he has many interests on both sides of the border to keep happy, but I do think that his ‘ink’ could have been put to better use.

He could have examined the Senate bill and future House bills to see if they address what immigration truly is. It’s a privilege to come and work and live in our country. Those who see it as a right are mistaken, and that’s what divides us more than our physical border. Second, amnesty (or forgiveness) for breaking the law starkly separates the legal absolutists who believe in the consistent and fair application of law from the legal relativists who believe in the selective application of law.

Third, it’s a political issue for special interest groups who have an agenda like the reconquistas, businesses benefiting from cheap labor or politicians who want to ‘be on the right side of history’ by cozying up to what they think are monolithic-thinking ethnic groups who will vote for them simply because they favor absolution rather than resolution.

The parties seem to have chosen their teams and their jerseys. The Republicans portray themselves as the home team seeking to build strong fences and then deal with the illegal/ undocumented with penalties like paying fines, taxes, going to the back of the line after the legal applicants, learning English and registering themselves. The Democrats are more like the visitors team choosing to forgive and forget, willing to let bygones be bygones and accepting a little law-breaking as the price for moving the country forward.

Pacheco’s argument that both teams are jumping on the immigration bandwagon because of an impending spike in the Hispanic-American demographic may very well be true, but it is a low blow to all of us who believe in principled lawmaking. If I read him right he is saying that we must get ready to kowtow now, “Republicans will have to step lightly around this issue so as not to offend a growing voting bloc.” Boy, howdy as they say in Texas! If this is new age politics where we must avoid good lawmaking for fear of offending some group, any group, then we might as well turn in our gavels and govern by popularity poll.

I realize that we’re Mexico-centric here and it’s understandable as the culturalization of our state owes much to its Hispanic influence, heritage and history, but any comprehensive immigration bill must address ALL the illegal aliens from ALL countries residing in the rest of the USA as well as the illegal Mexicans living in southern border states.

Make no mistake, there are hundreds of thousands of ‘undocumenteds’ from exotic countries as well as from the more well-known respectable ones (it’s estimated that upwards of 40% of our illegal population are visa over-stayers). If we end up with a bill that doesn’t address those shadow figures as well it will be like the little Dutch Boy who plugged the hole in the dyke with his fingers until he had no more fingers left for the new holes.

It’s generally a tough decision to leave the country of one’s birth. I know because I talked with many immigration applicants at U.S. embassies around the world. To a man (and a woman) they were respectful of our laws, appreciative of the opportunity America offered them to come here and saw immigration as a pathway to citizenship and a brighter future.

Mr. Pacheco could have touched on the impact our illegal immigrant population has had on New Mexico’s education and healthcare services, on our criminal justice system or most importantly what impact legalization or regularization of New Mexico’s undocumented workers will have on our border economy and our trade with Mexico.

He could also have commented on what will happen to the billion dollar plus cash repatriations made by illegal workers back to their families in Mexico once legalization takes place (and their paychecks are reduced because of the new fines, penalties and taxes). I’d like to hear a few quotes from Mexican businessmen, Maquiladorans and from Mexican officials, too. Maybe Mr. Pacheco could report some of these next time the subject comes up. I’d also enjoy hearing his opinion on how immigration reform would affect small business development in our state. I’ll be on the look-out for the next Outlook.

- Editor

German Ambassador to visit New Mexico

Posted on 01. Jun, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics, Social/Cultural

The German Ambassador to the United States will make his first visit to New Mexico on June 4-7. Ambassador Peter Ammon, who holds a Doctorate in Economics from Berlin’s Free University,most recently served as State Secretary at the Foreign Office. Born 1952 in Frankfurt/Main, he has close ties to the US through family relations and many long-standing friendships .

From 1999 to 2001, he served at the German Embassy in Washington,D.C. as Economic Minister. In 2007 and 2008, he was appointed German Ambassador to Paris, France. Prior to that he served as a career diplomat In London, Dakar/Senegal and New Delhi.

From 1996 to 1999, he was Head of Policy Planning and speech writer to the German President. A staunch advocate of free trade, he takes strong personal interest in what it takes to build a fair, peaceful and prosperous global order. As Director General for Economics at the German Foreign Office from 2001 to 2007, he helped prepare the G8 World Economic Summits for German Chancellors Schroeder and Merkel.

While in New Mexico, the Ambassador will meet with New Mexico’s Lt. Governor, German company CEOs and Hispanic leaders at a special “Hispanic Leaders Forum” at the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce. He will also tour the special Karl May Exhibition as a guest of the New Mexico History Museum in Santa Fe. He will end his visit with a tour of German Air Force facilities at Holloman Air Force base before returning to Washington on June 8th. He will be accompanied on his trip by Mr. Klaus Guehlcke, Consul-General of the German Consulate in Houston.

- Editor

Access to Medical Marijuana for Patients with PTSD?

Posted on 30. May, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Healthcare, Politics, Social/Cultural

Access to medical marijuana for patients with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Oregon passed that State’s Legislature. If signed by the Governor, Oregon will become the 4th state in the nation to recognize PTSD as an Eligible Condition. Bi-Partisan cooperation was key to the bill’s passage.

(SALEM, OR) – Today, the Oregon House passed Senate Bill 281 with a vote of 36-21 to allow people suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to qualify for Oregon’s medical marijuana program. It passed the Oregon State Senate earlier this spring.   If signed by the Governor, Oregon will join New Mexico, Connecticut and Delaware as the fourth state to specifically recognize PTSD as an eligible condition for medical marijuana.

The bill, sponsored by Republican Senator Brian Boquist, had bipartisan support in both the Senate and the House. Patients with PTSD, who often have trouble tolerating the side effects of pharmaceuticals prescribed for a variety of PTSD indications such as sleeplessness, anxiety, and social isolation, find that medical marijuana is a helpful alternative. There is also evidence that use of medical marijuana reduces the risk of accidentally overdosing from traditional prescription drug cocktails.

“This is a great victory for the citizens of Oregon, and especially for military veterans who are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress and who have not been able to find relief from prescription medications,” said Jessica Gelay with the Drug Policy Alliance’s office in New Mexico. “Military veterans and victims of serious trauma and violence deserve the freedom to choose the safest treatment for their disabling conditions. They deserve access to the medicine that works for them.”

New Mexico’s medical marijuana program is a nationally recognized model for supporting patients with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.  Today, more than 3,700 New Mexican residents with PTSD are actively enrolled in New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program. Most of them are military veterans, patients living with disabilities, and victims of serious trauma and violent crime.

“When I returned home from Afghanistan I was diagnosed with PTSD. I worked with my doctor and tried many prescription drugs. Taking handfuls of pills every day, every one with a different set of side effects was hard on my body, and I still experienced some symptoms,” said New Mexico resident Michael Innis, who served in the military and who was awarded a Purple Heart after the convoy he was traveling with got hit by an IED and was then ambushed. “Cannabis was not my first choice of medicine, but I can tell you first-hand, this medicine works for me. Cannabis allows me to leave my house and has helped me to return to work.”

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is the nation’s leading organization of people who believe the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. DPA fights for drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights.

This information was submitted by: the Drug Policy Alliance. They can be reached at: www.drugpolicy.org or by phone at: (505) 920-5256

The middle class breadline?

Posted on 17. Apr, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Social/Cultural

I had a feeling of déjà vu the other day as I pushed my shopping cart through the cavernous maze of Costco. Every time I enter this pantheon of discount bulk foods I’m drawn back in time to countries I lived in like the twin island nation of Trinidad and Tobago which lies 25 miles off the coast of Venezuela in the Caribbean Sea.

Shopping in the islands was an experience. There were no Safeway’s, Albertsons or Piggly Wiggly’s. Small grocery stores and specialty markets with high prices were the rule. If we wanted more variety and a sashay down aisles wide as the interstate we had to fly to Miami. Munich, Germany was much the same way, and while the stores were bigger the aisles were smaller. Go figure it.

I suspect that the experience of American supermarket shopping with its piped in music and spacious surroundings never translated well to the Europeans who had limited time to shop after work, used public transportation to and from the market AND had a tradition of buying fresh food every day.

Plus, there were the outdoor markets offering every imaginable food choice from produce to meats to freshly baked bread. In Munich, there was the ‘Viktuelienmarkt’ (from the Latin word, victualia meaning provisions) which was located just a few blocks from the physical center of town easily accessible by the tram and not far from an underground station.

Back to Costco. I have a few pet peeves about this wondrous concept, the biggest is I never know with absolute certainty where anything IS except for the frozen food lockers, the produce section and the meat counter and maybe the OTC medicines, the electronic/computer products and the Eyeglass and Photofinishing counters as well as the wine racks. OK, maybe there are not THAT many things that are moved around like peas in a shell game, but it seems that way every time I can’t find a canned good or paper product.

Costco could take a lesson from Sam’s Club, their venerable competitor just down the street. Sam’s puts up the names of categories on signs high above the aisles so people can navigate without fear of taking a wrong turn and ending up in Zanzibar without a sextant. I’m a member of both not because of the different product assortments or the lower prices on cat food (Sam’s is best) but because I can get a free lunch in two places any time I want!

Actually that’s not true, but I suspect it might be for some people. This week I did some undercover research. I pretended to shop at both Costco and Sam’s but really observed the eating habits of my fellow shoppers. Both stores offer what I call the middle class breadline.

This takes the form of portable food sample carts with steam tables or tabletop skillets that cook exotic items and slingshot the aromas with an irresistible ‘come taste me’ invitation into every nook and cranny of the store. Beware the shopper who just came in to pick up his vacation photos or have his eyeglass rims tightened, he will be tempted.

Costco and Sam’s are the modern day equivalent of Shéhérazade who mesmerized the Persian King with stories that lasted 1001 nights. The difference is they do it at lunchtime with food, and so well that it’s not unusual to see a whole family huddled around a three bean green chili salad or mini-pizza cart like baby sparrows in a nest waiting for the next morsel from mama bird.

I know the stores do this to sell more food, but some of my friends are suspicious. They think this might be a secret Obama Administration plot to reduce the number of food stamp recipients and help out the working poor by keeping them off the Government’s poverty statistics. All I know is that these people are always blocking the aisles making it much more difficult for me to get lost. Enough already!

- Editor

Thirty-five New Mexico writers to converge on Moriarty

Posted on 17. Apr, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Social/Cultural

Mystery! Suspense! Action! History! Drama! Fiction! Non-fiction! On Saturday, April 20th, 35 home-grown writers from New Mexico will be on hand at the Moriarty Civic Center at 202 Broadway from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm to meet the public, sign books and speak about the ‘mystery and magic’ of writing.

This is the seventh such event, and ‘Authors for Literacy,’ is generally very well-attended and is supported by the New Mexico Coalition for Literacy and the United Way of Central New Mexico.

In addition to being able to meet local published authors, there will be two discussion panels: the first starts at 11:00am and includes authors who will discuss the writing process and at 1:00pm a panel on reader expectations.

For more information, please contact: Tina Cates-Ortega at the Moriarty Public Library. Her telephone number is: 505/832-2513

 

Cast a vote for Roadrunner Food Bank

Posted on 02. Apr, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Social/Cultural

Help the Food Bank receive a Walmart grant to fund child hunger programs on Facebook with the ‘click’ of a mouse

All month, Roadrunner Food Bank is hoping the public will use their computer mouse to vote for the Food Bank to earn a $45,000 Walmart grant for childhood hunger programs at the Food Bank. Votes can be cast on Facebook until April 30 at 11:59 pm est.

The grants will be awarded to food banks with the most number of votes. The Food Bank is encouraging the public to take three easy actions to help achieve the grant.

“We are so grateful for this opportunity and we hope the community will take action and vote for our project.  Funding like this helps us ensure the Food for Kids program is there for nearly 4,000 children every week.  Without it, many of our children wouldn’t have access to regular weekend food.  Your vote helps us secure food for vulnerable children,” said Melody Wattenbarger, president and CEO of Roadrunner Food Bank.

The grant is part of Walmart’s “Fighting Hunger Together” initiative.  By voting, the public decides what organizations will receive grants.  More than 300 different hunger relief organizations from across the US are competing. The more votes a Feeding America food bank receives, the better chances they have of receiving the grant. At the conclusion of the voting, top vote getters will split $3 million in funding from Walmart. The funds won will then be used to support local child hunger relief programs.

Roadrunner Food Bank would utilize the grant to help fund its Food for Kids Program.  The program is targeted to providing low-income elementary school aged children food to eat over the weekend.  Every week, 45 schools receive backpacks filled with food for low-income children to take home on Fridays.  Children eat the food over the weekend and then return the backpack to be filled again.  Often, the food in the backpack is the only food a child might eat for two days.

Funding for child hunger programs is especially critical given the significant need that exists. According to the USDA, more than 16 million children in the United States struggle with hunger. Roadrunner Food Bank serves about 90,000 hungry children every year, however there is an estimated 146,000 children who struggle with hunger in New Mexico.

For more information about Roadrunner Food Bank visit www.rrfb.org.  To vote, please visit: https://apps.facebook.com/walmartlocal/?applet=hunger&organization=1

This was submitted by the Roadrunner® Food Bank, a Feeding America member. It is the largest non-profit dedicated to ending hunger in New Mexico and operates warehouses in Albuquerque and Las Cruces.  Last year, the Food Bank distributed nearly 23 million pounds of food through its own programs, a statewide network of partner agencies, and regional food banks helping nearly 40,000 children and adults weekly.  The Food Bank also rescued more than 16 million pounds of food last year keeping food out of landfills.

New Mexico First Accepting Nominations for Bipartisanship Awards

Posted on 30. Mar, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Social/Cultural

New Mexico First Accepting Nominations for Bipartisanship Awards education, healthcare, energy and lifetime achievement

New Mexico First, a nonpartisan public policy organization is accepting nominations for the Spirit of Bipartisan Award to be presented at the annual First Forum Lecture Series on June 21, 2013. This award honors lawmakers and other leaders who have been role models for cross-party collaboration primarily in specific policy areas, such as health, education, energy, environment, and economic development. Awards will be given at state and local levels. Awardees must have proven, in tangible ways, their ability to put good policy above partisan politics.

In conjunction with the awards presentation New Mexico First is hosting the 2013 First Forum: A Policy Tribute to U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman. This tribute will primarily focus on issues Senator Bingaman prioritized while in office: energy, education, and economic development. Moderated by ABC newsman Sam Donaldson, the event’s panel of speakers will be U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman, Martin Heinrich, and Pete Domenici (invited).

The First Form Lecture Series is a tradition in the state that enables New Mexicans to hear national figures speak about public policy topics. Previous speakers include Justice Sandra Day O’Conner, Cokie Roberts, Tom Brokaw, George Will and Governor Mario Cuomo. This year’s event will be held at the National Hispanic Cultural Center on June 21, 2013.

Nominations can be submitted online at www.nmfirst.org. The deadline for submitting nominations is April 16.

“New Mexico is a state that has a long history of different people from very different backgrounds finding a way to work together to move the state forward,” said Gene Baca, selection committee chair. “This organization is seeking to recognize lawmakers and community leaders, who in this age of divisiveness, put the people of New Mexico first and who work to find good solutions to the challenges we face.”

The awardees will be chosen by the awards committee, made up of Gene Baca, Heather Balas, Dino Cervantes, Janet Green, Edward Lujan, Cynthia Nava, Brian Rashap and Tony Trujillo.

“In this time of political disunity, people sometimes overlook lawmakers and community leaders who are working together, across party lines, to strengthen New Mexico,” said Heather Balas, president of New Mexico First. “This award shines the spotlight on these hard-working role models.”

This release was submitted by New Mexico First, a nonpartisan, nonprofit policy organization. New Mexico First is dedicated to engaging citizens in public issues and providing a catalyst for positive change. It addresses a range of public policies, including education, economic development, healthcare, energy and water. For more information, contact: Melanie Eastwood at 505-241-4814

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Waffle Cure

Posted on 14. Mar, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics, Social/Cultural

Say what you want about Cagney, Bogart, Mitchum or Wayne, one thing is for certain; they were men of few but powerful words. Sure, sure, I know they were actors, but their characters represented something Americans used to prize highly…brevity and sincerity.

You knew where you stood when Cagney gave you that piercing look or The Duke cocked his head just before unloading a four-word answer like, “you bet I do.” Mitchum may have looked like he ate something bad and was tasting it all over again, but you stopped and waited until the moment of his seeming indigestion had passed and he had rolled out his response.

It’s almost painful to watch their old movies because I’m constantly fast-forwarding to the present, to the current crop of weasel-wordsmiths that populate America’s political or celebrity world.  You know the ones I mean, the wafflers who are simply out to evade the questions we ask them. I don’t mind telling you, I’m fed up to the rim of my barracks bag with people who cannot seem to give a straight answer to a simple question.

True, there are some questions that make us dig way down deep into the well of our personal feelings, and I can understand when someone feels that a question is just too personal to answer. I can even accept an answer like, “Sorry, I haven’t thought that one through,” but what really sticks in my craw is hearing a person go way off the reservation into the never never land of high falutin’ rhetoric.  It’s like watching a sleep walker amble around not knowing where he’s going until he finally bumps into something and wakes up.

I realize that evasion by running out the clock is a normal tactic folks use when they don’t want to answer a question, but it has to stop. I have begun to blame the interviewers who don’t press their guests. They’re the real culprits – the waffle enablers.

There are solutions, however, but they are not politically correct ones. What about mandating that all Sunday interview programs (we’ll start small and work our way up) install guest chairs with seats laced with electrical wiring? You know, the stuff that’s similar to the wiring under our heated floor tiles.

A low electrical charge would be constantly present and be sort of comforting like the heated seats in our cars. BUT, when a guest starts to stray far afield from the question, an off-stage technician would turn up the rheostat and give the guest a little jolt of the juice. Just how much would be determined by a live studio audience (very democratic, no?).

I’m confident that this simple device would do the trick and make the programs considerably more fun to watch. Imagine your least favorite politician suddenly sit up straight and answer a question honestly after receiving a little electric shock to his/her derriere!

My mind is simply overflowing with images of certain people I would like to see on the ‘hotseat.’ As a matter of fact, that’s what we would rename the talk shows: Piers Morgan: Tonight on the Hotseat, Moyers and Hotseat Co., or my favorite, 20/20 @ 220 volts.

For a period of twelve years (1975-87), Senator William Proxmire from my home state of Wisconsin gave out the Golden Fleece award to the public officials or government departments that wasted the most money. I remember one of them vividly. It was the Dept. of Education that spent over $200,000 on a curriculum package that taught college students how to watch television.

Using Proxmire’s example, we could get nominations from all over America and create our own awards ceremony for ‘America’s Biggest Wafflers’. I’m betting companies would line up around the block to sponsor our show and that eventually we’d even overtake the Oscars. What kind of trophy should we give? What else, a golden waffle iron!

- Editor

Rationalized Science

Posted on 19. Feb, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Social/Cultural

So convenient a thing it is to be a rational creature, since it enables us to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do. — Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography

Otto von Bismarck was the great Prussian minister who unified Germany during the second half of the nineteenth century.  Of laws, he once said:  Law is like sausage—if you like it, you should not watch it being made.

I spent almost twenty years in Washington, DC, watching our government grind out sausage.  In this process, influence is vital.  This explains why like-minded people band together into groups with impressive names like “The Union of Concerned Scientists,” “Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility,” and “Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy.”  The implication associated with these names is obvious:  if you disagree with the members of such organizations you are unconcerned, irresponsible, or insane.

Now New Mexico has its own organization of “New Mexicans for Science and Reason.”  At the risk of being branded irrational and anti-science, I would like to take issue with a couple of claims made by David Thomas, president of this organization, in his Op-Ed “Writer Wrong on Climate Change” (Albuquerque Journal, Feb 4, p. A11).

Thomas’s Op Ed is a critique of an earlier article published in the Journal—E. Thomas McClanahan, “‘Climate Change’ Fearmongers Lose Ground to Data,” (Journal, 25 Jan, A9).  In response to McClanahan’s comment about there being a “lack of significant warming since 1998,” David Thomas wrote:  “This is simply wrong — there has been significant climatological warming since that year. The word ‘climate’ refers to a multi-year average, and the climatic average temperature is significantly higher now than it was in 1998.”

I am not quite sure what semantics game Thomas is playing with his comment about what has transpired since 1998.  However, in November of last year, the UK Daily Mail reported that the British Met Office’s Hadley Centre and the Climatic Research Unit of East Anglia University jointly released figures showing “that from the beginning of 1997 until August 2012 there was no discernible rise in aggregate global temperatures.”

Even before the release of the UK data, two leading American climatologists had already noted that there had been no global warming for about a decade and a half.  These climatologists are Richard S. Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Judith Curry, head of the climatology department at the Georgia Institute of Technology.  As long ago as 2008, Lindzen reported that there had been “no warming since 1997 and no statistically significant warming since 1995.”

Curry’s position on global warming was highlighted more recently as a result of a report from a study group headed by Professor Richard Muller, a physicist from the University of California-Berkeley.  Muller’s study concluded that the earth’s temperature had increased by 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit in the last two hundred-plus years.

This conclusion was well-reported in the press.  Less well reported is the fact that Muller was and continued to be skeptical about the role of human activities as a cause of this increase.  Furthermore, Muller noted that even if this warming is caused by human activity, there is virtually nothing the U.S. can do to abate its effects, given the growing carbon emissions produced by the expanding economies of India and China.

Another major point missing from some of the coverage of Muller’s report is Professor Curry’s dissatisfaction with reports of the Muller committee’s findings.  Curry, who was a member of Muller’s panel, held that the publicity surrounding the Muller study had mischaracterized its results by saying that this study should end skepticism about global warming.

In fact, Curry noted, the Muller study had pointed up a major anomaly for those who might still believe that the earth is warming and that this warming is caused by human use of fossil fuels: there had been no increase in the global temperature since 1998 in spite of the fact that carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that is considered the major cause of global warming, has continued to increase.

Regarding the continuing increase of CO2, the Journal featured an article in June of last year with the following sensationalist headline:  “Levels of Carbon Dioxide Troubling” (Journal, June 1, 2012, p. A9).  The article featured a number of lamentations from various supporters of global warming.

Yet, the data on increasing CO2 when combined with the stabilization of global temperatures over the past decade and a half call into question any direct cause-and-effect linkage between carbon dioxide and global warming.  This in turn suggests that the continued use of fossil fuels will not produce the catastrophic results predicted by global warming zealots like Al Gore.

Thomas’s article also raises questions about how global warming advocates view the nature of the scientific process.  At one point, he claims that “the great majority of scientists” involved in climate research hold that “humans are causing most if not all global warming by releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.”  Leaving aside questions about the size of this majority, assuming it exists, let’s look briefly at the role majorities might have played in the history of science.

For one thing, had the majority prevailed in 1543 when Nicolas Copernicus published his classic Revolution of the Heavenly Orbs, astronomers would have continued to adhere to a geocentric concept of the universe.  Had the majority prevailed in 1603 when Johanne Kepler published his New Astronomy, astronomers would have rejected Kepler’s elliptical planetary orbits and continued to explain planetary motion by using the circles on circles employed by the ancient astronomer Ptolemy.

Had the majority prevailed in 1789 when Antoine Lavoisier put forward the oxygen theory of combustion, scientists would have continued believing that combustion was produced by the release of phlogiston from the substance being burned.

Regarding those who have accepted the idea of anthropogenic global warming and malign anyone who disagrees with their views, I would remind them of the words of J. B. S. Haldane:  “To sum up, science has owed its wonderful progress very largely to the habit of doubting all theories, even those on which one’s action is founded.”

This article was submitted by Donald Baucom


 

 

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