Blogito, Ergo Sum

by Gregg Calkins

29 January 2009, a Thursday

I can hardly resist this one:

Pictures of a jacketless President Obama at the White House last week may signal a discreet culture shift.

But I'll try.

Maybe I can confine myself to remembering that when I first went to work for Standard Oil as a geophysicist working inside the office, not in the field, that the dress code was white long-sleeved shirts only, plus suit and tie.  No colored or patterned shirts at all!  Sports coats were...well...okay occasionally, if very subdued.  Worker-bees like me, who actually had to dig through records and draw maps and actually create something new were allowed to take off our jackets and even roll up our shirt-sleeves to keep them out of the ink and pencil drawings we were working on, but the managers kept their jackets on at all times.

A dozen or so years later when I began working as a Realtor in the SF Bay Area, sports coats and ties were considered to be the look of success and professionalism, but colored shirts were okay. 

I was delighted when I moved up to the California foothills, to Jackson, where the only people who wore ties any more were attorneys on their way to court, the undertaker, and the bank managers, all in similar lines of work in many ways.  In fact, wearing a tie made it slightly difficult to "connect" with a lot of the local folks, many of whom were second and even third generation families in the area, but this was also back in 1980 and my, my, how the foothills have changed since those days!  By the time I moved here, twenty years later, it had gotten positively citified.

Down here in Costa Rica, of course, we're back to the California foothills on 1980.  Here in La Fortuna only the professionals wear ties, and not necessarily the attorneys except on court days, and the banks are among the few air-conditioned buildings, as well as  state-owned, so they adopt a more formal dress code.  I still have a few ties somewhere, and a sports coat, I think, and maybe even a suit that is decades out of style and no longer fits, but my dress 99% of the time consists of no more than a light cotton tee-shirt, underwear, and some variety of cargo shorts, plus plastic sandals.  If I have to travel to San Jose for some reason I'll wear regular shoes and socks (well, the shoes are no longer made of the hides of dead animals, of course) and don't require polish, or laces, so it depends on what you mean by "regular", I guess.  And since San Jose can get chillier, I often wear long pants and a "regular" shirt, as which I mean something which buttons up the front.

I've always liked that line in the song (Jimmy Buffet?)..."going where the weather suits my clothes".  That's exactly how I feel, living here in La Fortuna.

Up in your strange world, Nicholas Kristof illustrates perfectly what is wrong with Liberals as he lectures:

President Obama is resisting calls for an investigation into torture and other abuses during the Bush years, so the chance to learn from our mistakes is slipping away.

Mr. Obama understandably wants to focus on economic recovery rather than a dissection of the past. Why fritter political capital on an inquest that would antagonize Republicans and imperil our economy and his agenda?

But as George Santayana, the eminent Harvard philosopher wrote: “Those who forget history are destined to repeat it.” Rather than lose forever the chance to grow from our missteps, here’s a two-step proposal for confronting the past without distracting from the work on the economic crisis.

The first step is to appoint a high-level commission — perhaps a McCain-Scowcroft Commission? — to investigate torture, secret detention and wiretapping during the Bush years, as well as to look ahead and offer recommendations for balancing national security and individual rights in the future.

Did you know that at Harvard they teach us that history began when George Bush took office, and trying to remember anything that happened prior to that time, especially under the Clinton administration, should be disappeared down the deep, dark memory hole?

You see the "evil Bush/Cheney" morality play doesn't work very well if you actually have to include history in order to learn about our mistakes.  Kristof doesn't really want to learn about our mistakes, he wants to PUNISH someone, very likely because, as he perhaps carelessly acknowledges, it is only Republicans who he expects would be antagonized.

If only the Clinton administration had been Republican we might have been able to include it, Professor Santayana, but as it is we have to figure that the Bush administration sprang full-blown from the forehead of Zeus...if you don't mind my including a little more, ah, history in this lesson.  That's the way they used to do things back then.

Because if it didn't happen that way, then maybe we have to also study some more history in order to learn where the government institutions and policies the Bush administration inherited actually came from. 

We'd have to study the fact that the Clinton justice department claimed that FISA was only for openers, Bubba said he had the authority to conduct warrantless physical searches of American citizens, let alone tapping in on international calls...which Liberals like Kristof always refer to as "spying on American citizens", you may have noticed. 

We might have to consider what Bubba did when he fired off rockets and dropped bombs (from very high altitudes so the civilians down below couldn't actually be seen, you understand) on several different sovereign countries without so much as thinking of consulting the United Nations, much less the Congress of the United States.  You want to talk about an imperial president, I'd say that the man was blazing a pretty good trail.

We might have to consider that the evil CIA Director who tortured, slashed and burned with gusto and abandon was actually inherited from the Clinton administration, and in fact HE was the one who assured the gullible and credulous President Bush (a man we have been assured is at best a moron, very possibly an idiot) that the presence of WMD in Iraq was a "slam dunk", carefully couching it in sports-code-language so Bush could comprehend the technical CIA spook jargon.

If history begins with super-CIA-spy Joe Plame Wilson returning from a not-so-secret mission to declare that Saddam thought yellowcake was a pastry he didn't even enjoy, you might have to wonder where he got all of the yellowcake that only last year--aha, during the Bush administration!--was finally finished being shipped to Canada from, my golly, Iraq. 

Because if history begins any earlier than Joe's report, we're forced to realize that we knew for an absolute fact that Saddam had that yellowcake...the U.N. inspectors had already tied a yellow ribbon 'round that old nuke tree.

(What's that?  Why was the CIA so short of trained spooks--this was before Valerie had been outed, too, even if the only covers she had been under recently were her own and Joe's--that Cheney desperately called for not her but former ambassador Wilson to be pressed into service because the mission, upon which the whole crucial decision to go to war rested perilously, was so vital?  That's another history entirely, kiddos, still in the process of revision.)

If history does not begin with the Bush administration, we might even have to look at some of the Public Laws on the books at the time the moronic brute stole the office, thanks to a complicit Supreme Court, laws which Bubba and Al thought would be Al's to inherit.  There wasn't a soul in the whole of the solar system who thought Bush would be the one to inherit Clinton's official U.S. policy statement about capturing bin Laden..., hold on a second, there wasn't any public law on the books about Osama bin Laden, was there.  No, but there was one which declared it to be official United States policy for supporting the overthrow of not only the duly-elected Saddam Hussein but also his entire regime, whatever that might be precisely determined to be, and, furthermore, it was Clinton's (and thus presumably Algore's) stated intention of (gasp) replacing it with a democratic government!  The entire Congress, consulted this time, stood up and applauded the idea.  Some perhaps even dimly recalled JFK's words about spreading freedom and democracy around the world in the name of making it a safer and happier place.  But, no, surely history did not exist then.

If history begins with Bush, then we are taught that he took it into his head one day to go after Saddam perhaps in revenge for Saddam's attempt on his dad's life, or maybe it was to finish the job dad and Colin left unfinished years earlier, but absolutely certainly because if there was one thing Bush loved doing, (besides, presumably, watching baseball games) it was forcibly imposing democracy and freedom upon people who not only did not deserve it but were ill-suited to handle it if it happened to them.

I'm not an Obama man, but I do wish him well, and I suspect and hope that he is considerably smarter than Mr. Kristof and knows that another branch of 'history' teaches us that once you open Pandora's Box you can't just slam the lid back down at some arbitrary cut-off date which involved only the Bush administration and Republicans.

If you want to know all about the CIA and renditions and "black prisons" abroad during Bush's time, for instance, you probably will have to learn how they were operated during Clinton's administration in order to learn what Bush inherited, once again keeping in mind that the man who was actually expected to inherit them was a man who had spent the previous 8 years supervising them.

Clearly Mr Kristof, who envisions only antagonized Republicans, doesn't think that will be necessary in order to produce the scalps he wants to see dangling in the breeze.

That distant sound you hear might be Santayana weeping at the misuse to which his words have so often been put.

Obama frowns as George looks on with interest:

Judge Denies Obama Request to Suspend Guantanamo Hearings

Funniest Op-ed question of the week...or longer:

E.J.'s Precinct: Does Obama Irk Limbaugh?

E. J., I think you got that one backwards.

Fun and games in Obamaland, from the Wall St Journal:

"White House Unbuttons Formal Dress Code" reads a headline in today's New York Times. President Obama was photographed without a jacket in the Oval Office the other day, "only the first of many signs that a more informal culture is growing up in the White House under new management. Mr. Obama promised to bring change to Washington and he has--not just in substance, but in presidential style."

It turns out, though, that the interesting part of the story is not the contrast between the president and his stick-in-the-mud predecessor. Rather, it is why Obama doffed his jacket:

Mr. Obama, who hates the cold, had cranked up the thermostat.

"He's from Hawaii, O.K.?" said Mr. Obama's senior adviser, David Axelrod, who occupies the small but strategically located office next door to his boss. "He likes it warm. You could grow orchids in there."

This is hardly in keeping with candidate Obama's declaration last May: "We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times . . . and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK," Obama said. It's good to be king.

To be sure, we'd much rather see the president of the United States in shirtsleeves than in a hair shirt. But if the Bush Oval Office had been hot enough to grow orchids in January, you can bet the Times's coverage would have been a lot chillier.

Further, when it comes to the cold, Obama talks tougher than he acts. The Associated Press reports that he scoffed at his daughters' school for calling a snow day yesterday:

"Can I make a comment that is unrelated to the economy very quickly?" the new president told reporters at a gathering with business leaders. "And it has to do with Washington. My children's school was canceled today. Because of, what? Some ice?"

The president said he wasn't the only one who was incredulous.

"As my children pointed out, in Chicago, school is never canceled," Obama said to laughter. "In fact, my 7-year-old pointed out that you'd go outside for recess. You wouldn't even stay indoors. So, I don't know. We're going to have to try to apply some flinty Chicago toughness."

Asked if he meant the people of the national's capital are wimps, Obama said: "I'm saying, when it comes to the weather, folks in Washington don't seem to be able to handle things."

So according to the spin of the moment, he's from Hawaii and a hothouse orchid or he's from Chicago and tougher than nails.  He gets to keep his office so warm he doesn't need to wear a jacket, but the rest of the citizens cannot expect the world to put up with that for them.  Ah, yes, it's good to be king.

Or a motley fool pretending to a throne.  Why does ANYONE listen to this man?

"Senator, I'm not against nuclear power, but I've grown skeptical about the degree to which it can expand. Unfortunately, nuclear reactors only come in one size -- extra large. They've very expensive. The nuclear industry now has zero ability to predict how much these things will cost. Wall Street is showing no interest in investing. Therefore, I think it's only going to play a very small part."

... The reactor aboard the Cassini Space Probe generated less than one kilowatt. Research reactors usually produce 1-5 megawatt (1 MW = 1,000 kilowatts) and Navy reactors generate 20-50 MW. When Duquesne Light and Power "beached" one of Admiral Hyman Rickover's 70-MW submarine reactors at Shippingport, Pennsylvania, in 1957, it became the nation's first commercial plant. The reason we build the 1,500-MW behemoths of today is that that's the cheapest way to produce electricity. The bigger the reactor, the less heat is lost. Coal plants are built to the same dimensions.

... The Russians are putting 60 MW reactors on barges and floating them into the Arctic to power Siberian villages. Hyperion, Inc., a California company, just introduced an 80 MW reactor the size of a gazebo that can power a city of 50,000. ...

But the biggest shocker came when Gore explained that reprocessing of nuclear fuel -- the technology being employed by the French -- actually worsens the so-called problem of "nuclear waste." As reported here last May, reprocessing has been a huge success in France. The French now store all the their high-level waste from 30 years of producing 75 percent of their electricity beneath the floor of one large room at Le Havre. On this side of the Atlantic, however, the rumor has taken hold that the French are only increasing the problem. "Reprocessing of nuclear waste actually expands the amount of high-level waste," Gore told the committee yesterday. "I know this sounds counterintuitive. I only learned this recently."

Counterintuitive indeed. When challenged by Senator Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Gore said he couldn't remember where he heard it...

Gore is either a lying fathead, a fatheaded liar, or...or...or an ex-senator?  Note that not one of these 100 intelligent men, or their staffs, stood up to point out the humungous fallacy in Gore's statement about reactors coming in only one size.

Apparently no listening MSM journalist did, either, even though the statement is so obviously untrue that any child knows better...unless more really are being left behind than I think.

Here's the killer, though, folks: it any wonder that all the new nuclear facilities in America are being built by Areva, the French giant, while the American industry is essentially moribund?

Have Americans become ignorant fools being led by even more ignorant fools, especially when it comes to science?  Algore, remember, won a Nobel prize for peace because even the increasingly politically correct but increasingly inept Nobel Committee could not bring themselves to face the criticism that they feared would erupt if they have him any kind of prize for science.  Yassir Arafat likewise got the prize for peace, which if nothing else clearly illustrates how meaningless that award has become.  And Algore getting an Oscar that wasn't for science fiction was a direct slap in the face to the creators of some extremely fine special effects movies.

What's next?  NASA's Dr Hansen gets the Pulitzer for poetry as a result of his lyrical explanation for why a month's worth of falsified Russian temperature data were included in his analysis because, he explained, he had no independent means of verifying "data" submitted by others?  Send me whatever you've got, I'll use it?  What's that?  I'm wrong about mocking poetry when that's clearly more science fiction?  Okay, you got me there.

Hansen is a cutie who made his bones by announcing in outraged tones that Bush was trying to silence him.  This remarkable stroke of shocking genius has enabled him to not only survive at least two major scientific embarrassments but actually increase his influence.  You might think his admission that he was including data that he had no ability to verify independently might have rendered his scientific technique the least bit suspect, but when knowledgeable amateurs pointed out flaws in his methodology which caused him to falsely characterize 1998 as the century's warmest year, surely that would have caused most people to hang their head in shame rather than merely quietly correct their official data as a result.

I have to shake my head in wonder.  Where are the journalists to report this?  Where are the scientists to point out to Algore that nuclear reactors come in sizes small enough to be fired into space on satellites, or medium-sized for nuclear subs, or bigger for aircraft carriers, or that he clearly and painfully obviously had no idea what he was talking about?

And you can trust me that I'm being charitable to Gore on this one, because I suspect he knows very well what he's talking about and he's counting heavily that nobody else does.  So far the U.S. senate seems dead set on proving him right.

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