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Death Wish: A Korean Dog’s Last Gasps

10-Jul-2008

WARNING: This article contains descriptions and videos of animal brutality that some may find disturbing.

South Korea and China (as well as other countries) have a tradition of eating cat and dog. While I personally find such an idea repulsive, I can respect that different cultures have traditions that outsiders find reprehensible. Many citizens of India for example, find American habits of eating cow unfathomable.

I am a dog person, and love canines (my beagle is sitting next to me as I type this). However, I will not take issue with these peoples’ habit of eating dog meat itself. It is the manner of keeping, and especially of butchering, of some of these animals that I take offense at.

Some people who eat dog believe that the more adrenaline the animal has in its system when it dies, the more tasty the meat, and the more health benefits one gets by ingesting the meat. To accomplish this, the dog (or cat) is brutally tortured before its death.

I was not aware of the practice of hanging a dog until it died, and just how brutal and drawn-out these deaths are. The following video shows examples of these practices. WARNING: This video is very graphic. I, personally, have only been able to watch about half of it, before I can take no more.

I am writing this article, not just to raise awareness, but also to encourage readers to petition South Korean diplomatic missions. The butchering and eating of dogs is illegal in South Korea – but these laws are commonly ignored. International pressure and rising internal protests are starting to have an effect. This next video, if you ignore the goofy play-acting, shows this rising effect.

If you do contact Korean representatives on this issue, remember: be respectful! MOST Koreans do not practice or approve of this brutality, and it is already illegal to do this in Korea. Enforcement is the key.

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The Late, Great Planet Earth

8-Jul-2008

No, this is not about Hal Lindsey’s famous book. Rather, I had intended to write an article about anything other than energy/the environment However, two blog posts dragged me back in (screaming and kicking, you can be assured).

The posts describe the earth as dying, or in need of saving. I took issue with these posts, writing a comment, that in part said:

“[We can] neither save nor kill the earth (or the environment, for that matter).

“Mankind’s existence on this world is but an eye-blink, geologically speaking. No matter what we do to this earth, life will continue. We may destroy our own kind, and we may destroy other species. But, after we are gone, other species will evolve, and the earth will have forgotten about our brief presence. Hundreds of millions of years of life preceded us, and hundreds of millions of years of life will succeed us – regardless of what we do now.

“If we cannot destroy the earth, we cannot save it either. Therefore, what are we actually trying to save with environmentalism? ”

Making such broad claims of “saving the earth” smacks of smug, self-righteous, false-altruism. When someone says they want to “save the earth”, they imply that anyone who disagrees with them wants to destroy it. Such hyperbole is not helpful. A common consensus would be much easier to achieve when the real goals are spelled out. Otherwise, we may just as well be arguing over religion.

The author of the second blog I listed, responded with a well thought out response. In it, he stated a sentiment I can agree with; that the goals of environmentalism include the conservation of resources.

I would ask though: Conserve for whom? Ourselves. Future generations. Other species. After all, nature really doesn’t give a damn if we destroy an ecosystem; over time it will be replaced – but it’s impact on us humans can be devastating.

We should embrace environmentalism, not because the earth is in peril, but because it is the right thing to do – for ourselves.

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Cheap Gas! – Redux

3-Jul-2008

What price are we willing to pay to willfully waste oil?

Two blogs have caught my attention lately, that highlight a common theme – wasting energy purely for the sake of the waste. The first is a blog commentary about Rush Limbaugh’s intentional use of a gas-inefficient vehicle over long distances. He did this to “stick it to the environmentalists”. The second is in a similar vein – a blog entry in response to a commentator urging public buildings to reduce air conditioning. In order to flaunt his ability to waste energy, the blogger turned his thermostat down to 65 degrees Fahrenheit – even though he is not there to enjoy it.

Nominally, Rush and the blogger are the one bearing the “cost” of their actions. If they have the money, why shouldn’t they be allowed to do this – even if it is wasteful? Even though gas is $4.00 per gallon, these guys decided to use this expensive commodity, and pay for it themselves; right? But, what are the *real* costs?

How many marines are you willing to let die in the middle east, so Rush can drive his 12 mile-per-gallon behemoth? How many soldiers should lose their legs, arms, eyesight or portions of their brains, so bloggers can turn thermostats to 65 degrees – just to prove a point? Because these are the *real* costs.

We import more than a third of the energy we use (includes all raw energy we consume, like that used to generate electricity). More than one-fifth of the imports come from the Persian Gulf.  Significant imports also come from Nigeria and Venezuela. Do you think we would be fighting in Iraq if not for oil? If we are on a humanitarian mission there, then why do we not also fight in Rawanda? How about Zimbabwe? Cuba?

We, the people, have already funded terrorists via Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the Emirates. We have built the nuclear facilities in Iran. We ponied up the money for bin Ladin and his 9/11 band. All paid for by America’s oil obsession.

Why have we seen success disarming a nuclear North Korea (who’s leader is as much a whack job as anyone), but have no luck with Iran?

It is only a matter of time before we are involved in other wars on other continents. Nigeria is a corruption mess, that is becoming more and more important as an oil exporter to the United States. We are funding Hugo Chavez’s anti-American stance (and raising his role from petty-wacko dictator to regional trouble maker), by purchasing Venezuela’s oil. How long before troops are in Africa and South America, losing life and limb, so we can rest assured Rush can waste freely, and bloggers can freeze their abodes to prove their point?

At what price?

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Global Warming: A Whole Lot of Mistakin’ Going On

2-Jul-2008

Ok kids, it’s time for your global warming quiz. Sharpen up your number 2 pencils, and answer the following questions:

1. Approximately what percent of annual CO2 release to the atmosphere are humans responsible for?
a) 95%
b) 75%
c) 50%
d)  3%

Answer: d, 3%. Source: International Panel on Climate Change and Dr. Elmar Uherek.

There is a lot of hand waving about how much CO2 we are “polluting” the earth with. However, nature sources about 97% of the CO2 gas released annually.

2. Which chemical is responsible for the vast majority of the “greenhouse” affect?
a) CO2 – Carbon Dioxide
b) CH4 – Methane
c) H2O – Water

Answer: c, Water. Source: realclimate.org (estimates 67% to 85% of greenhouse affect), and Freidenreich and Ramaswamy, Solar Radiation Absorption by Carbon Dioxide, Overlap with Water, and a Parameterization for General Circulation Models (estimates 95% of greenhouse affect).  (Note, I have not personally seen the latter paper).

Despite all of the concern over CO2, water constitutes between two-thirds and nineteen-twentieths of the total “greenhouse” affect.

3. If the concentration of pre-industrial revolution CO2 in the atmosphere were doubled (a 100% increase), this would increase the total CO2 affect on global climate by:
a) 1,000%.
b)   100% (or double).
c)    12%.

Answer: c: 12% increase. Source: A combination of the following: using calculation from the International Panel on Climate Change This professor thinks the IPCC estimates are high. This site also offers a radically different interpretation from the IPCC. Note: ALL sources predict a logarithmic relationship (this is known from basic chemistry) – the disagreement is one of scale.

Because of saturation, CO2 (and other “greenhouse” gasses), have a logarithmic, not linear, relationship with the amount of gas versus the amount of energy the gas can hold. Therefore doubling CO2 concentrations would not double the affect.

Climate change is a natural occurrence. Our world has experienced many cycles of warming and cooling over the last 400,000 years or so. Many “ice ages” have occurred, and “global warming” has followed.

We are seeing climate change today. We will see it in every era, because of the natural cycles. The question really is: are our activities as humans having a significant affect on the earth’s climate? Are we causing “global warming”?

Frankly, I don’t know. But people hand waving and frothing at the mouth about poorly understood items are not helpful. I do not claim that spewing tons of CO2 into the atmosphere is a good idea. However, the public at large is ignorant of what “greenhouse” affects are, how we came up with the idea of man-made climate change, and where the numbers come from that predict dire increases in temperatures.

Yet, we are insisting our politicians make decisions based on our own ignorance.

Our data sets are narrow. Precision temperature measurements are only good for the past 100 years or so. Predicting a .5 degree Celsius average temperature increase using data with an error factor of a +- 2 degrees, is just foolish.

We also must understand how the predictions for a future rise in average temperature is made. This is done using computer models, that are very simplified, and make many assumptions. These assumptions have been wrong before. This NASA data resulted in large scale changes to the models in 2004. Lately, more sattelite data, has shown some of the basic premises of human contributions to global warming to be incorrect. The result; the current models are mere guesswork, not scientific fact.

What should be done? We need to let the scientists do the science. They will eventually figure it out. But when politics mixes with incomplete data, the science debate changes. It becomes a creationism vs. evolution debacle, where fanaticism overrides concrete data and common sense.

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The Rise and Fall of a Gullible Man

26-Jun-2008

I am endlessly amazed at the gullibility of the human race. Every time I think that people cannot believe something more inane, I am proved wrong again.

What set me off on a rant this time, was the unveiling of Barack Obama’s new website, www.fightthesmears.com. Now, let me say right now, that I support McCain for president (something I am reconsidering in light of his flip-flop on off-shore drilling). However, Obama launched this website because of persistent emails making such credible claims as Obama is a closet muslim; Obama was sworn into the Senate on a Koran; Obama’s wife called white people “whitey”; Obama refuses to say the Pledge of Allegiance, and so on.

I’ve seen these emails. When I received them, I laughed, and hit the delete button. But people actually BELIEVE this drivel. Are people really that stupid?

Every day I read the latest urban legends on www.snopes.com. Most of the items that this web site exposes to be untrue, would require a person to completely suspend any hint of intelligence they may posses in order to believe them. Yet, believe them, they do.

I can understand people being conned. People want to believe that something good is happening to them, and are therefore psychologically predisposed to being conned. But the silly urban legends, and these amazingly foolish rumors about Obama, people believe even though they have nothing to gain by believing it.

My theory is that people believe what reinforces their bias or chosen position. I guess people feel better if they made a decision, and have data to prove their decision correct; even if that data is total crap.

Skepticism makes one credible – gullibility makes one a fool.

Oh, and despite the email claims otherwise, Obama DOES wear a lapel flag pin. I am posting the picture here to prove it.

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Rap, Gangsta’ and a dead teen

11-Jun-2008

There is a sad and serious item in my local area: a young man of 17 was shot and killed by a St. Petersburg, Fl, police officer on Saturday, June 7th. Whenever lethal use of force must be employed, it is sad; but it is doubly so when the person who died is still a minor.

I must qualify right now that, for a short time, I was a sworn officer in the St. Petersburg police department. At the very least, I can testify to how serious any officer in that department takes using lethal force. The training and department culture lend itself to officers never wanting to draw their weapons – and *never* wanting to shoot another human being.

This young boy, Javon Dawson, who never had a criminal record before, died because he made a seriously bad choice. He was in a large crowd of people, shooting a revolver, apparently shooting both vertically and horizontally. Police came out to clear out the crowds of people, and Javon refused to put his gun down when ordered to by an officer. By accounts in the news, Dawson turned away from the officer, and then pointed his gun behind him. The officer shot Javon twice, killing him.

Javon is black. The officer who shot him white. A group of extremists in St. Petersburg, the Uhurus, are attempting to portray this as police murder. Javon’s father is quoted as saying “They took my son’s, … took his life. The St. Petersburg Police Department took my son’s life.” A witness to Dawson’s death said “I was screaming and crying. I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is somebody’s child.’ ” Finally, a neighbor of Javon’s said “I don’t think he deserved to die. I never seen him fight. Never seen him get mad. All you saw was him trying to flirt with girls.”

Why would this teen, who “never[got] mad”, shoot a gun in a crowded street? Why would he *ever* consider disobeying an officer’s order to put the gun down, let alone point it at the officer? For me, I think the answer lies in his MySpace page.

Like many young people, Javon was a fan of so-called “gangsta” rap. His MySpace page has a video of Dawson with blaring rap in the background, while he punches the air telling the n*****s to “back down”, to shut the f*** up, and “I’d better not get my hands on you”. At the end of the video, he picks up what appears to be a gun, and points it at the camera. Other pictures on his page show him in various fighting stances. Mostly outside. I guess his neighbor missed these action scenes.

In the comments section of this news story, many people have remarked on his violent MySpace page. One commenter though, had this to say: “SO WHAT! I’d guess half the teenage males on my space, certainly half the black male teens on my space take on that persona. Part of its interest to teens is the fact that its a place to put on airs where you don’t have to be yourself. Its a teen thing, and it means absolutly nothing as far as this case is concerned.

Frankly, I think that comment sums up the problem. So called “gangsta'” has permeated young minds, and affected their thinking. With such wholesome thoughts such as “F*** B******, Get money”, our children are being led down a path of self-destruction, careless attitudes towards our fellow human beings, and the celebration of narcissism.

Yes, similar things have been said about other music, television, movies and video games before. Studies have shown only a mild affect, if at all, from exposure to violence on these mediums. However, two points must be made before dismissing attacks on “gangsta” rap as just another witch hunt: 1) It is true that media HAS affected our views on sex and our attitudes towards our neighbors, and more importantly 2) “gangsta” is a full immersion medium. It is not just a musical medium – it is a philosophy of its own. This is unlike all of the others.

Rap started as an outlet for artists in low income and crime ridden areas to express themselves. It evolved. The cruder, the harsher, the more violent, the more selfish, the better. The way youth, particularly black youth, are trying to emulate these artists is, in my mind, unprecedented. To some extent, this did happen in the ’60s. Timothy Leary told a generation to “tune in, turn on, drop out”. Many did, to their own destruction. However, in the ’60s, we took exception to these messages, and many pushed back. Those who fully immersed in the Leary like attitudes were relatively few, and were harmed for it.

Not so rap. It has been reluctantly accepted. Our children are emulating these lifestyles while we believe “it means absolutly nothing”. Instead of the community banding together and try to make sure the “gangsta” philosophical attitudes do not kill another young person, we blame the police; society; whites; government. It can’t be the rap songs which encourage the brandishing of guns, and celebrate the killing of cops – no, it is the cops fault that he shot when a gun was pointed at him. After all, rap is just music, right?

We are concerned that sports figures use drugs or get arrested. Why? Because we know that these public persons are role models for our youth. So, why do we believe that “gangsta” rap is different? Immersion into sports can have consequences, but immersion into “gangsta” life styles can’t?

It is time the community, and especially the black community, came together, and start guiding our youth. Get our children away from music that does nothing but tear down, and show them how to be constructive. Teach them that attitudes make or break them – and the adoption of “gangsta” attitudes CAN get you killed. Show them that being dead is not glorious; you are just dead. It is time that we, the people, put an end to the evils “gangtsa” rap would instill in a generation.

How many more Javons will it take? When will we say “enough!”? Will Javon be the last? I hope so; but it is unlikely – until you AND I do something.

I hope Javon has found his peace. My sincere condolences go out to his family. I would give this advice to them though: if you have any other minor age children, get them away from “gangsta” rap, and teach them what it means to be a productive member of our society.

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Cheap Gas!

27-Apr-2008

Gas prices have hit record highs. Even adjusted for inflation, the price-per-gallon of gasoline is higher than it was in the 1970s. These increases have affected everything from costs of travel to Wal-Mart discounts to agriculture prices. Our economy is deeply affected by the price of a barrel of oil, and peoples’ jobs are at stake. And the high cost of oil is the best thing that could happen to America.

We, as a nation, knew 30 years ago that we were vulnerable because of our dependence on imported oil. When we were embargoed in the 1970s by the Arabic oil-producing nations, gas prices soared, our economy soured, and people waited in line for hours just to get gas. When the crisis passed, what actions did the United States take to assure our future energy supply? We bought SUVs and Ram trucks with 8-cylinder engines, that bypassed laws on MPG ratings – just to take our kids to school or go to the shopping center. We shunned alternative energy sources, because the initial costs were more expensive than continuing to use oil. We built suburbs in Phoenix, Atlanta and Las Vegas, useful only with intensive vehicular travel. We demanded the cheapest electric sources NOW, regardless of other impacts. We let ourselves believe the North Sea and Mexican oil discoveries had saved us.

We have not demanded government investment in renewable domestic energy. We have not demanded that our country stop doing business with countries who fund terrorists. We have not availed ourselves of public transport systems. And today, we bitch about gas prices.

Because of cheap oil, we continued pouring money into nations who were, and are, funding our enemies. Osama Bin Laden would not have been a household name, if not for cheap oil. Hugo Chavez would be a name like Castro – disliked but easy to ignore, if not for cheap oil. We would not have a war in Iraq, if not for cheap oil. Iran’s nuclear ambitions would be moot, if not for cheap oil.

We brought it on ourselves. WE are to blame. WE bear some responsibility for September 11th, because of our love affair with SUVs. WE are the reason our economy is in trouble today. WE will have to bear the pain in order to save ourselves.

Had we worked on this issue 30 years ago, the pain would have been less, the transition easier. Now, however, we’ve proved that the only way we will act, is for oil to be expensive. We *still* think we can get our cheap oil back without pain. Groups, such as this blog one , delude themselves into thinking we can go on forever; just like the stock market of 1999, and the real estate market of 2005. We need to be familiar with terms such as “peak oil” and “the Hubbert curve”, if we think the party will just go on forever.

Expensive gas will make our country more secure, keep less of our dedicated armed forces from dying overseas, and maybe, just maybe, bring us to our senses.