Saturday, August 13, 2011

OK, Dana, here's the list:

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien
2. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
3. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert
5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin
6. 1984, by George Orwell
7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov
9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan
13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson
15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore
16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov
17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein
18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfus
19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick
22. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King
24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke
25. The Stand, by Stephen King
26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury
28. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman
30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein
32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams
33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey
34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein
35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller
36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells
37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne
38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys
39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells
40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny
41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings
42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson
44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven
45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin
46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien
47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White
48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
49. Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke
50. Contact, by Carl Sagan
51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons
52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
54. World War Z, by Max Brooks
55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle
56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett
58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson
59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold
60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett
61. The Mote In God's Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind
63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson
66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist
67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks
68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard
69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb
70. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne
73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore
74. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi
75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson
76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke
77. The Kushiel's Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey
78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin
79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire
81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson
82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks
84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart
85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher
87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe
88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn
89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan
90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock
91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury
92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge
94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov
95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson
96. Lucifer's Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville
99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony
100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis

I literally wept to see these books excluded from the list:

1. Through the Looking Glass/Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
2. The Dying Earth Series, by Jack Vance
3. The Night's Dawn Trilogy, by Peter F. Hamilton
4. The Otherland Series, by Tad Williams
5. His Dark Materials Series, by Philip Pullman
6. Forge of God/Anvil of Stars, by Greg Bear
7. The Riverworld Series, by Phillip Jose Farmer

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Right Side

In the village of Kunming, in the Province of Yunnan, there lived twin brothers who were known by all the villagers as prodigies. They were strong and swift of both body and mind, and in all things they constantly competed with one another. Yet though one would sometimes win and sometimes the other, neither of them would always win or always lose, and such wise not one of them could ever claim he was better than the other, no matter how much they both tried.

It came to pass that these two brothers tired of Earthly pursuits and so enrolled at the Jizu Mountain Monastery. Upon acceptance, they became novice monks of the first level.

Subsequently, the two brothers applied themselves to contemplation of The Tao unceasingly. Yet as the years went by neither of them, despite their excellence, was promoted to the second level.

One day the brothers visited the Monastery's most respected Teacher. "Father," one of them asked, "we both study hard and long. Why are we always passed over?"

"Follow me." Said the Teacher.

The Teacher led the two brothers to the central courtyard of the monastery, where stood an ancient stela. "Legend has it," he said, "that of all the sides of this stela, only one is right and all the others are wrong. Which ever one of you stands on the right side, I will promote to the second level. But neither of you will advance until you find the right side."

The first brother walked over and stood on one side of the stela. The second brother then stood on the opposite side. But the Teacher shook his head. So, the two brothers circled and stood on the unoccupied sides. Once again, the Teacher shook his head. In a flash, one brother leaped up and climbed to the top of the stela, but the Teacher shook his head again.

Finally, the other brother turned to the Teacher and said, "Teacher, the only side left is the one below the ground. Is that it?"

The Teacher shook his head a fourth time and walked away.

As the months passed, the two brothers could often be seen spending their precious few hours of free time, stitting in lotus position before the stela and meditating on the Teacher's seemingly impossible challenge. Finally one day they returned to the Teacher.

"Teacher," one of them said, "would you grant us a moment of your time?"

The Teacher nodded and followed the brothers out to the courtyard and the stella. One brother then stood on one side of the stela. The other brother walked over and stood beside him, where upon the two looked questioningly back at the Teacher.

The Teacher nodded. "I now promote both of you to the second level." He said.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

I said I thought it rubbish, you said
it was lovely, to your eye.
Which made me wonder if perhaps,
you were right and so was I.

For even if he say it poor,
or if he say it well,
Everyman has a beautiful story to tell.

Friday, December 25, 2009

War and Beatles


She said she loves you!
And you know that can't be bad...
She loves you,
And you know you should be glad, oooooooo!

The Beatles touch down at John F. Kennedy International Airport on the afternoon of February 7th, 1964. Two days later, 73 million Americans watch "these youngsters from Liverpool" on the Ed Sullivan Show and the British Invasion begins. The Beatles' first American tour starts in August and cris crosses the country. (My own sister went to the show at The State Fair Coliseum in Indianapolis and came back hoarse and red eyed.) Their concerts are nearly impossible to describe. Imagine thousands of teenage girls, most of them with tears in their eyes, screaming so loud no one can possibly hear the music. Hundreds faint from exhaustion and have to be carried out.

Lyndon Johnson is President and there are just over 16,000 American military "advisers" stationed in Viet Nam. The corrupt and incompetent South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem had been assassinated the year before and during the ensuing political turmoil, the Viet Cong had increased their hold over the rural population to over 40%. South Viet Nam owes its very existence to American military support.

By the summer of 1964, thousands of NVA regular troops are pouring into South Viet Nam via the Ho Chi Minh trail to join with over 50,000 Viet Cong guerrillas and the fall of the country to Communist forces appears imminent. In August, 10 miles off the coast of North Viet Nam in the Gulf of Tonkin, the USN destroyer Maddox is fired on by three North Vietnamese patrol boats. There are no U.S. casualties. Backed by strong public support, Johnson decides to retaliate with the first ever bombing of North Viet Nam by 64 Navy fighter bombers. Two are shot down, and Lieutenant Edward Alvarez becomes the first American prisoner of war. In the years that follow, Lt. Alvarez will be joined at the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" by over 600 downed U.S. airmen. Lt. Alvarez won't be released until February 12th, 1973, three years after the Beatles had broken up.


Everywhere people stare
Each and every day,
I can see them laugh at me
And I hear them say...

Hey you've got to hide your love away!

Despite repeated attacks on American forces in South Viet Nam (which by December of 1964 number over 24,000), and with an American public and Congress apparently hungry for a fight, Johnson holds off escalating the war until March of 1965, when he authorizes "Operation Rolling Thunder", with over 100 American bombers attacking targets in North Viet Nam. Intended to be short lived, the operation will go on for over 3 years. Also in March, 3500 U.S. Marines arrive in South Viet Nam to defend the American air base at Da Nang. 20,000 more troops are sent in April. By year's end, the U.S. will have over 180,000 troops stationed in Viet Nam, yet over half the countryside will be controlled by the Viet Cong. Over 90,000 South Vietnamese troops will throw away their weapons and desert. Almost 1900 kids are sent home in body bags.

By February, global sales of Beatles albums top 100 million. The Beatles' second American Tour starts on the 15th of August with the amazing concert at a packed Shea Stadium. 10 sold out concerts and 16 days later it ends at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. Queen Elizabeth II appoints the "Mop Tops" Members of the Order of the British Empire. In protest, several MBE members return their insignia.


Father McKenzie, writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear,
No one comes near.
Look at him working,darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there...
What does he care?

All the lonely people, where do they all come from?
All the lonely people, where do they all belong?

The war in Viet Nam drags on. Anti-war protests begin to break out across the country. B-52 bombers, armed with up to 60,000 pounds of bombs each, are used against the North for the first time. By December, 389,000 American troops are in Viet Nam. 5800 of our soldiers are killed in action. The New York Times reports that over 40% of the economic aid going to South Viet Nam winds up stolen or on the black market.

In March, John Lennon makes his now famous comment that the Beatles are bigger than Jesus. From 1966 to present, world wide Bible sales average around 3 million copies a year. Revolver sells 1.2 million copies in 9 days - and eventually reaches over 5 million total. The Beatles begin their last and final tour of America in Chicago on the 12th of August and finish it 18 days later at Candlestick Park. From this point on, the Beatles will retreat to the studio.


Send me a postcard, drop me a line,
Stating point of view.
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, Wasting Away.

Give me your answer, fill in a form
Mine for evermore
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?

Now the pace quickens. In 1967, across America, hundreds of thousands march in protest against the war. Martin Luther King declares "the poor white man and the negro" bear the burden of the war's hardship. President Johnson makes repeated peace overtures but all are rejected by Hanoi. The fighting is fierce. Due to often indiscriminate bombing, civilian casualties in the North number in the thousands. At the end of 1967, Robert McNamara has resigned as Secretary of Defense after privately concluding the war is not winnable. By then, one million American servicemen will have fought in Viet Nam.

Energized by a blossoming protest movement, a counter culture begins to emerge. The Beatles are experimenting with LSD and Sargent Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - which includes the quintessential Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds is released.


Blackbird singing in the dead of night,
Take these broken wings and learn to fly.
All your life...
You were only waiting for this moment to arise,
You were only waiting for this moment to arise,
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

The fiercest fighting of the war occurs in January of 1968 during the Tet Offensive, when 84,000 Viet Cong, backed by an unknown number of NVA Regulars, attack cities and towns across the South. The climactic battle is at Hue, where during the entire month of February, South Vietnamese troops and 3 U.S. Marine battalions retake the old Imperial City street by street and house by house. Over 5000 of the enemy are killed in this battle alone. Tet ends with a resounding South Vietnamese victory, but support for the war falters as the American public nightly endures graphic scenes of the savage, often confusing violence.

In March, over 300 innocent civilians are slaughtered by American soldiers at Ma Lai. Lyndon Johnson's approval rating falls to 36% and he announces he will not run for re-election. During 1968 over a thousand U.S. servicemen a month lose their lives. At the end of the year, we have nearly half a million troops in Viet Nam.

1968 is the Beatles' high water mark. Magical Mystery Tour is a mixture of psychedelic pop, influenced by the group's short and ultimately disagreeable sojourn in India with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Then follows the incomparable White Album in 1968. John Lennon, an early opponent of the war, begins to speak out and attracts the notice of the FBI. He is now preoccupied with Yoko Ono and tensions which will ultimately split the group apart begin to surface.


And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree,
there will be an answer, let it be.
For though they may be parted,
there is still a chance that they will see,
there will be an answer,
let it be.

Richard Nixon is inaugurated on January 27th, 1969. He has run on a campaign to wrest "Peace With Honor" from the seemingly endless war in Viet Nam. U.S. troop levels will peak in April of that year at 543,000 and steadily decline after that. But the war will go on until the Paris Peace Accords are finally signed on January 27th, 1973.

During these 4 years, the Nixon Administration's continued prosecution of the war divides the American public to an extent not witnessed since the days of the Civil War. American troops will mount attacks deep into Cambodia. South Vietnamese forces suffer repeated defeats, yet Nixon will claim Vietnamization a success. Starting in April of 72, North Viet Nam will suffer the worst aerial bombing of the entire war, along with the mining of its harbors and coastline.

By the middle of 1972, U.S. troop levels have dropped to 69,000, and by November of that year, only 16,000 advisers remain. On January 27th, 1973, Lt. Col. William B. Nolde is the last American soldier to be killed in Viet Nam.

The Beatles' last two albums are Abby Road, released in 1969 and Let It Be, in 1970. Both albums feature a number complicated themes - and a diversity which reveals that John, Paul, George and Ringo may have reached their limits as a group. And so it is. After Let It Be, the band will not perform together again. Paul McCartney will file for formal dissolution of the Beatles in 1970. But legal disputes will go on and the final dissolution will not take effect until 1975.

What did we learn?

The War in Viet Nam cost America over 58,000 killed in action and over 300,000 wounded in action. Of the wounded, 75,000 were classified as severely disabled and 23,000 as 100% disabled. The average age of those who served was 19.

These are the numbers, but they really don't tell us anything. On your computer, type in "Danny Fankboner" (funny name, that). What comes up first is a listing on for Private First Class Daniel Ross Fankboner, who perished in Viet Nam on 7 December, 1969. His name is listed on panel 15W, line 035 - and he was a friend. Of what importance was his life when weighed against the larger aims of greater men trapped within the vortices of history? I don't know.

Another friend of his leaves this message:


You were my first love. I remember you coming to my house party, as we called it then, and the shock of my parents when they met you!! We laughed so hard!!!

I have never forgotten you and never will. We were determined to make the world a better place, weren't we? Well you did, honey; you kept me free and safe.

I just wish you had not done it with such a great sacrifice. I will love you forever, Danny.

No one expected the South Vietnamese to hold out long after we left. Saigon fell in April of 1975 and we all remember the heartbreaking images of desperate people waiting to board the last helicopter to leave the roof of the U.S. Embassy. We left a lot of our friends behind.

To date, the sales of Beatles records have exceeded one billion units. John Lennon fought an order for deportation which had been obtained by the U.S. Government as a result of his anti-war activities. The order was finally overturned in 1975. But there remained one hurdle he could not overcome. On December 8, 1980, Mark David Chapman waited outside Lennon's apartment at the Dakota in Manhattan. When Lennon returned from a recording session at 10:59 PM, Chapman shot him four times in the back and he rapidly bled to death.

As a young man, I spent a great deal of my time protesting the war, but I probably spent just as much time listening to the Beatles. If we are indeed the sum of our experiences, over a million men and women fighting in the jungles of Southeast Asia helped build the largest part of one side of who I am. Four kids with three guitars and a drum set built most of the other.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Politico reported yesterday that some Republican Senators are "steamed at (Al) Franken because partisans on the left are using a measure he sponsored to paint them as rapist sympathizers — and because Franken isn’t doing much to stop them." Oh my!

It looks for all the world to me like these poor saps were just innocent victims of the same kind of "drive by" set-up Franken used in books like "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them". You know the M.O. Franken offers up this idealistic crapola in the form of an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill which everyone with half a brain knows is just plain unrealistic. Subsequently the Senators who live up to their responsibilities and vote against it are raked over the coals in the media. The Huffington Post even reports the creation of a mock website, Republicans For Rape. Don't go there, its really, really sick, and has the names and pictures of the 30 senators who had the moral fiber to stand up and try to vote this bit of legislative grand-standing down. Men like David Vitter and John Ensign, whose concern for all women, not just their wives, has been well documented hither and yon.

As we all know by now, the amendment would prohibit funding for any contractor who requires an employee, as a condition of employment, to sign an agreement which in effect surrenders their right to due process in certain instances, most notably rape.

Well any jackass can easily see how this would hamstring defense contractors in the performance of their duties while defending this country from God knows what. After all, we can't have a bunch of bed wetters out there being allowed to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed rights when we have Enemies of Liberty to fight. To drive this point home, in an op-ed for the The Tennessean, Republican Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker wrote:

"We voted against the amendment because it was overly broad, banning arbitration in too many cases where it would benefit employees.

...This amendment had nothing to do with criminal charges. Arbitration agreements do not in any way limit a prosecutor's ability to bring criminal charges against those who commit crimes.

...When Senator Franken offered his amendment, he said it was inspired by the experience of Jamie Leigh Jones, a woman who was raped by her coworkers, whose horrific story has incensed us all. Ms. Jones took her case to court and won because the courts decided that the arbitration clause in her employment agreement should not prevent her from pursuing her sexual assault claims in court.

...If the Franken Amendment had simply done what Senator Franken said it would do - preserve employees' rights to their day in court if they are victims of rape in the workplace - we would have voted for it in a heartbeat. But the Franken Amendment simply went too far."

Well now doggonit that sounds perfectly reasonable to me. After all, Jamie Jones got her day in court anyway, didn't she? Let's google that and see... OK, here's something. Its an opinion submitted to the Tennessean a day after the Alexander/Corker op-ed. In it ordinary citizen Sheila Hobson, a "human resources manager who lives in Goodlettsville" writes:

"I read the response of U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker (Tennessee Voices, Nov. 10) regarding how they voted against the "Franken amendment'' because it was too broad and went too far.

...Would they be satisfied with "using arbitration to resolve certain claims" as a way of dealing with this horrific crime, if their daughter, wife, sister or mother was brutally gang-raped as former KBR employee Jamie Leigh Jones was?...

Alexander and Corker also stated, "Ms. Jones took her case to court and won because the courts decided that the arbitration clause in her employment agreement should not prevent her from pursuing her sexual assault claims in court.

In a Larry King interview with Ms. Jones last week, she stated that Halliburton had appealed this decision and that she had been fighting for her day in court for four years.

"That is four years of reliving the hell she endured, again to have to fight the same employer that will not allow her any justice in seeing her rapists prosecuted in the U.S. judicial system.

The vote for the Franken amendment was 68 to 30, which included all female GOP senators voting for passage. Alexander, Corker and 28 other male Republican senators voted against the amendment. Basically, that was 30 men who said that it is permissible for big businesses like Halliburton to use arbitration instead of our criminal justice system to deal with violent crimes."

Waitaminit. Could it be that Lamar and Bob might not be giving us the straight skinny? I mean, did Ms Jones really have to re-live 4 years Hell while trying to get her case heard in civil court? Well let's see then. On July 28th, 2005, Jamie Leigh Jones was gang raped when she was all of 19 years old. This incidentally is about the age of Corker's two "college age" daughters, Julia and Emily (we won't go there). Here are the details:

"According to Jones, on July 28, 2005, several of her fellow KBR employees offered her a drink containing a date rape drug, of which she took two sips. The men then allegedly engaged in unprotected anal and vaginal gang-rape upon her while she was unconscious. She was able to name one of her attackers based on his confession to her, but was unable to identify the others due to her unconsciousness. Further, the lawsuit filed by Jones' attorneys cites the following: "When she awoke the next morning still affected by the drug, she found her body naked and severely bruised, with lacerations to her vagina and anus, blood running down her leg, her breast implants ruptured, and her pectoral muscles torn – which would later require reconstructive surgery. Upon walking to the rest room, she passed out again."Jones' account was confirmed by U.S. Army physician Jodi Schultz. Schultz gave the rape kit she used to gather evidence from Jones to KBR/Halliburton security forces, after which the rape kit disappeared. It was recovered two years later, but missing crucial photographs and notes.

Jones was confined by armed guards to a shipping container containing only a bed, under the orders of her employer, KBR. She says she was denied food, water, and medical treatment. After approximately one day, says Jones, a sympathetic guard gave her a cell phone and she called her father, Tom, who in turn contacted Representative Ted Poe (R-TX) who contacted the State Department. Agents were dispatched from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and removed Jones from KBR custody.

In May 2007, a State Department diplomat recovered the rape kit from Halliburton and KBR. However, notes and photographs taken by Schultz (of Jones the morning following her rape) were missing, undermining any chances of bringing the case through the criminal courts."

We now know that Ms Jones was unable to get help from the Department of Justice in pursuit of her case, and had to file a civil suit on her own. It wasn't until "September 15, 2009 the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled Jamie Leigh Jones' federal lawsuit against KBR and several affiliates can be tried in open court."

And that adds up to 4 years of living Hell in my book. Oh and by the way, the sweeties at Haliburton with their million dollar attorneys are still fighting this tooth and nail and Jamie's fight isn't over yet.

So it looks like I was wrong about this whole thing after all. When Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker wrote: "Ms. Jones took her case to court and won." They were pretty much lying through their teeth. To this date, Jamie hasn't won jack shit. About all she has now is the right to go broke trying to get some kind of compensation from the chicken shit assholes who did this to her.

Could it be they were lying about the rest of the amendment? Let's take a look at the text:

"Sec. 8104. (a) None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for any existing or new Federal contract if the contractor or a subcontractor at any tier requires that an employee or independent contractor, as a condition of employment, sign a contract that mandates that the employee or independent contractor performing work under the contract or subcontract resolve through arbitration any claim under title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or any tort related to or arising out of sexual assault or harassment, including assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, or negligent hiring, supervision, or retention."

And that looks pretty straightforward to me. All it is saying is that contractors paid by the government don't have the right to force their employees to sign away their rights to due process in an American court of law.

Let's have a show of hands here. How many of you reading this ever remember having to sign a contract, as a condition of employment, which requires you to give up any legal recourse to the enforcement of your constitutionally guaranteed civil rights?

I didn't think so. Businesses here in this country deal with all kinds of litigation every day. Consumers sue over shoddy products, employees make claims of workplace discrimination or sexual harassment and so on. Sometimes businesses win and sometimes they lose. Sure, its "unwieldy", but that's how the system is supposed to work.

Here's another blantant lie: Lamar and Bob accuse Franken and his amendment of "banning arbitration in too many cases where it would benefit employees.". Bullshit. Go back, look at the text and tell me where it says that. Under the amendment, companies like KBR would still have every right to offer arbitration. And you can bet your sweet ass they're saying this because, like every one with half a functioning brain cell knows, you would have to be out of your mind to accept arbitration when the very company you are suing gets to pick the arbitrator and the rules of arbitration.

Which makes me wonder what in Hell Lamar and Bob were talking about when they said the amendment "simply went too far.". Maybe if the amendment had been limited only to "gang rapes which occurred on July 28th, 2005 in Iraq" they would have been more inclined to give it a thumbs up.

All of this brings up an interesting question:

What kind of disgusting excuses for Senators are these 30 Republicans who had the nerve to stand up in front of the American people and say that some of the men and women who go out and risk their lives for this country should denied the same constitutional rights which we, safe here at home in our warm beds enjoy?

But you know I can't just leave it at that. These same thirty men had an opportunity to make a stand on the same principles which they say gives America the moral authority to actually be in places like Iraq in the first place. And they threw it away. What worthless buffoons they are.

What cowards!

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Amazing Dr. Happer

While sifting through my archived correspondence with a good friend of mine, I came across a mail I sent him in response to some questions he had last February regarding the opinions of one Dr. William Happer. Dr. Happer it seemed had added his considerable intellect to the Dark Forces of global warming denialism and his credentials were formidable. He served as director of the Office of Energy Research in the U.S. Department of Energy under George H.W. Bush. And "was subsequently fired by Vice President Al Gore, reportedly for his refusal to support Gore's views on climate change.".

And so it would seem that in Dr. Happer, denialists had finally found the long sought after Philosopher's Stone. Degreed scientist? Check. Head of a major, climate related department in the D.O.E.? Check. Expression of "politically incorrect" scientific views got him fired by AGW's Darth Vader, Al Gore? Check... and check mate!

But before we start popping champagne corks and celebrating the end of global warming, it only seems fair we give Dr. Happer a second look. Here is what I wrote (with a few minor corrections):


The car you are driving has an air conditioning system which uses an HCFC (hydro chlorofluorocarbon) refrigerant, known in the business as R134. This is true of all cars built since around 1997. Prior to that, automobile air conditioning systems used R12, a CFC (chlorofluorocarbon) refrigerant known to deplete atmospheric ozone. This change came about as a result of the Montreal Protocol, which Ronald Reagan signed in 1987 on behalf of the United States. I have a little first hand experience in this matter.

Back in 1987, I had an HVAC/R business which specialized in commercial refrigeration. Just about all light duty commercial refrigeration systems at that time used R12. Right after enactment of The Montreal Protocol, our government put up quotas which diminished, year after year, the production of R12, aiming at the eventual phase out of R12 production entirely - which at this time has occurred. As I said, we now use R134 instead.

Now because I was in a related business, I remember this transition quite well. For quite some time there was a great deal of uncertainty. R12 prices shot up. All sorts of predictable mayhem and double dealing occurred. There was speculation, smuggling, hoarding and price gouging. Yet eventually we all changed over to R134 and the American public hardly noticed.

Now this was odd because a great many of our leaders in and out of government had predicted widespread and calamitous consequences which would result from discontinuing the production of CFC's. People were going to starve in third world countries. Food prices would go through the roof. The effect on world economies would be devastating. I remember well these and many other dire predictions. But none of them came true.

The roots of The Montreal Protocol go back to the mid 1970's and the pioneering work by Dr. G.M.B. Dobson on the ozone layer. This work later formed the basis of ozone depletion models proposed by Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina, and independently, Paul Crutzen - who were jointly awarded in 1995 the Nobel prize in Chemistry for "their work in atmospheric chemistry, particularly concerning the formation and decomposition of ozone". Most importantly, none of their work or conclusions are questioned today by anyone, including the most ardent of their earlier detractors.

That Ronald Reagan would decide to sign the Montreal Protocol is a fascinating study in itself. Reagan was not a man who paid much attention to environmental issues. Yet many of his admirers consider Montreal to be a signal expression of his better qualities as a president - that is, the capacity (at times) to rise above petty politics and act decisively on the crucial issues of his day.

After the signing of the Montreal Protocol in 1987, a whole host of forces lined up to fight against its implementation. I want to focus on the part played by the George Marshall Institute and in particular, one of its staff - Sallie Baliunas. You won't find her work disputing ozone depletion models at the GMI site, despite the fact that they originated there. The reason is that GMI lost that battle and doesn't need evidence of its own, or Sallie Baliunas's incompetence lying around. But through the miracle of the Internet, here is her written contribution to the the congressional deliberations in the early nineties. Relevant to this note, here's an excerpt:

"The bare cost of replacing or retrofitting equipment is roughly $100 billion, because chemicals do not exist that can be simply dropped into existing equipment. A short term cost of $2 trillion will rip through the U.S. economy (!!!) according to a 1993 estimate contained in House Resolution 291." (emphasis added)

...and what a stunningly horrible prognosticator Ms Baliunas turned out to be. R134, a chemical which could literally be dropped into existing equipment was already being introduced as a replacement.

Steve, I wish you would take the time to read through this. Her arguments against the man-made causes of ozone depletion are eerily similar to the arguments which the George Marshall Institute is today making against the consensus view on global warming. THIS IS NOT A COINCIDENCE. It is just not plausible to say that, well, maybe the GMI was wrong on ozone depletion, but this has no bearing on their work regarding global warming. This is because, as I shall demonstrate, the GMI position against ozone depletion was NOT motivated by any consideration of sound science. If this was true, the GMI would by now have publicly conceded that ozone depletion models were correct (no one today disagrees they were not).

Let me say that again in a different way. IF, you consider the George Marshall Institute to be an impartial source of scientific information, why wouldn't they by now have revised, publicly, their stance on the effects of CFC's? Want proof? Go to the George Marshall Institute website - type in "CFC" in their search bar and see what comes up. What comes up is a dry link which goes nowhere. Now type in "Bauliunas". You then get lots of hits - mostly on global warming - but no mention whatsoever of her paper on ozone depletion. It's just not there.

The primary evidence against prevailing theory amounted to little more than a misunderstanding of Dr. Dobson's measurements of the annual ozone hole over Antarctica. You can find this misunderstanding from the ubiquitous Fred Singer, who chimed in with "My Adventures in the Ozone Layer", a piece of mumbo jumbo published in The National Review in 1988. I found a lovely summary of Fred Singer's current excuse for this (see Robert Parson's comment here):

"Singer has repeatedly claimed that back in the mid 1980’s, the weight of the evidence implied that most of the chlorine in the stratosphere came from natural sources. (I myself remember very well this assertion) He concedes that subsequent measurements contradict this, but insists that back in 1988 his conclusion was the right one to draw. In fact, his conclusion is based on asserting that one particular type of measurement (long-term trends in stratospheric HCl) is the only relevant one, and ignoring a cartload of other measurements going back to 1975 that lead to a different conclusion. His reasoning here has always struck me as peculiar - he concedes that he was wrong in 1988, but argues that everybody else should have made the same mistake that he did. To me, it would seem more natural to conclude that the other guys interpreted the balance of the evidence more accurately than Singer, since it was their conclusions that ended up being confirmed even by Singer’s preferred choice of measurements."

And that about sums it up. Scientists developed a testable theory that CFC's were destroying atmospheric ozone. This led to the creation of a world wide treaty banning the production of CFC's. The United States signed the treaty. Right wing front groups like the George Marshall Institute and many others mobilized and sought to overturn the treaty by questionable attacks against the science and the assumption that the costs of eliminating CFC's would far outweigh any of the benefits. Yet today we know the science was accurate and that the costs of banning the production of CFC's were wildly inaccurate. In fact, as I noted earlier, DuPont went ahead and developed R134 - and today makes no less money on this chemical than it did on R12.

Does any of this sound familiar? It should, because the same cast of clowns are using the same tactics against the scientific consensus on global warming and the proposed strategies for mitigation. Our government, including the likes of Ronald Reagan - didn't trust them then, why should we trust them now?

Oh... Dr. William Happer, the noted physicist, was a political appointee in the Department of Energy for two years under George H.W. Bush. When the Clinton administration took office in January of 1993, he was asked to stay on until April of that year. In the event, he immediately butted heads with the administration on the issue of ozone depletion and therefore was asked to leave in March. A rare insight on this comes from "Political Science" an article published in the right wing "Reason" magazine in December of 1993 (take note of the date). Some of the quotes attributed to Happer compliment Fred Singer's earlier (and now thoroughly debunked) claims. Here is one particularly egregious line:

Happer noted that the richest fishing area in the world, just off the coast of Ecuador, receives "a thousand times more UV-B radiation that do the oceans around Antarctica during the height of the 'ozone hole'. Yet many of the same species of phytoplankton thrive in both areas with little or no apparent damage."

And another:

"With regard to global climate issues, we are experiencing politically correct science," Happer says. "Many atmospheric scientists are afraid for their funding, which is why they don't challenge Al Gore and his colleagues."

Now Steve. Think. Regarding ozone depletion, way back in 1993 William Happer was pushing the idea that more UV-B radiation just might be good for us, and that scientists were afraid to go against the prevailing view for fear of losing their funding. Well, we now know that more UV-B radiation is NOT good for us - in fact it is bad - and that Happer was dead wrong. You can try to smoke the whole thing up with vague references to global warming - but that was NOT the issue THEN and Happer was wrong. I assume his excuse would be the same as Fred Singer's - that given the evidence, everyone else should have been wrong also - which is a rather bizarre, up is down way of exonerating yourself.

Let's wrap this up. Happer's testimony in 1993 was part of a larger effort in congress, headed by Tom DeLay and John Doolittle, to stop the phase out of CFC's. Thankfully, the movement rapidly petered out after Rowland, Molina, and Crutzen were awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1995, and we are all better off as a result. And where is Dr. Happer now? As executive director of The Marshall Institute, he's pedaling the same snake oil on CO2 as he did on CFC's. Let's hope he is no more successful now than he was then.


P.S. : For further research on the CFC controversy, you can read a 1994 paper by Robert Parson. The paper is a review of some works on CFC's by Dixie Ray Lee, who also submitted papers on behalf of the GMI. It gives you a fairly good grasp of the obvious, contemporaneous scientific reasons for why the contrary views of Singer, Happer, etal amounted to zilch.

Sites like The Marshall Institute routinely scrub links to failed or embarrassing positions on various issues. Sometimes you can find these scrubbed links at a The Way Back Machine - which archives thousands of pages of different sites dating back to 1999. You have to be absolutely precise when you enter the site you are looking for. The Marshall pages are at:*/http:////


An interesting postscript:

Scanning through the Baliunas material I referenced in my mail, I wondered how she came up with the 2 trillion dollar cost estimate for ceasing production of R-12. For her part, Ms Baliunas cited data from House Resolution 291. This resolution comes from the 103rd Congress. You can find it at Thomas by selecting the 103rd Congress and searching "2 trillion" as a Word/Phrase. But be careful to use this exact link as Thomas seems to be fairly unstable.

What you find is a bill proposed by John Doolittle and co-sponsored by a veritable laundry list of Republican gas bags, including today's prominent pests, Dick Armey and James Inhofe. A few excerpts from the text:

"Whereas substantial questions have been raised by many prominent scientists regarding the validity of the theory that the ozone layer in the stratosphere is thinning and that man-made chemicals cause such thinning;"

"Whereas it has been alleged that it is the chlorine in the CFCs that breaks down ozone molecules and causes a thinning in the ozone layer, even though 600 million tons of chlorine are released each year into the atmosphere from the evaporation of seawater and 36 million tons of chlorine are released each year from volcanoes, compared to only 7,500 tons of chlorine released from the breakdown of CFCs;

Whereas CFCs thus contribute about 1 thousandth of 1 percent of the total amount of chlorine released into the atmosphere by natural sources;"

"Whereas it is estimated that the mandated phaseout of CFCs may require the replacement of 610 million refrigerators and freezers, 120 million cold storage units, 150 million automobile air conditioners, and several thousand refrigeration units used for the storage of medicine, blood supplies, and vaccines, because the approved replacement chemical cannot be used in existing refrigeration systems;"

"Whereas such a delay in the development and an interruption in the food delivery chain will have particularly severe effects in the developing countries, where it could cause an estimated additional 20 to 40 million deaths per year from disease and starvation:"

I can't offhand come up with strong enough epithets for men who would write this kind of abominable legislation. Without a single shred of proof, they threatened the world with 20 to 40 million deaths if we proceeded with what was then the most responsible reaction to the predictions of honest, honorable scientists.

Among other things, ozone depletion has been linked to increased incidence of skin cancer, including malignant melanoma, which is fatal in 15 to 20% of all cases. Had these cheep, seedy whores succeeded in setting back the phase out of R-12, how many deaths would they now have on their hands?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Time For A Game Changer

It looks like America is really beginning to fall behind the rest of the world in a lot of important areas. By all accounts, we're moving towards the back of the bus in health care, education and energy. We've got ourselves bogged down in a couple of confusing wars. Billy Kristol says we've already won one of them but the math for that seems to work only in stories with transporter beams or fairy godmothers. In the other one, after 7 years we've decided to go after "hearts and minds", which probably means we've given up on beating the crap out of the enemy. That's not a good sign, judging from how well the hearts n' minds strategy worked in Viet Nam.

Liberals are taking a lot of heat for this because we're always blaming America. At the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas, Jeane Kirkpatrick was probably the first to uncover this politically disadvantageous habit by punctuating a long list of problems with: "But then, they always blame America first...", each time to thunderous applause. We became known as the "Blame America Crowd" and I think its high time we turned the tables. As anyone with half a brain knows - people like Sean Hannity for instance - the essence of good parenting is to teach your kids that when they screw up, they should always, always, blame somebody else. "Timmy, are you the one who hit Mildred with the spitball?" "No, it was Marvin." "Marvin isn't here today." "...well, then it was Billy...yeah, that's it... Billy shot the spitball..." And so on.

Republicans virtually own the moral high ground because they never blame America. Have you ever once heard of someone like Glenn Beck running outside the studio, staring at a rock and blaming it for socialized medicine? Or Rush Limbaugh standing next to a tree and calling it out for the pathetic SAT scores most of our kids are racking up? Of course not! Instead, they blame Americans. That is, the voters who identify themselves as Democrats, which are the ones who, when they're not out stumping for health care reform or increased funding for education, are blaming good, solid American rocks and trees for everything that's wrong with this country. What they ought to do is wake up and start blaming other countries, countries like Lichtenstein, or possibly Monaco. Folks, what we need here is a game changer...

Lousy health care? No problem. Its Lichtenstein's fault. Lichtenstinians live in a country with a name that sounds socially snobbish and intellectually elitist, like, "I'm Reginald Lichtenstein the Third, of the South Hampton Lichensteins, who are you?"

Well just who do these pencil necks think they are, to be always expecting us to kiss their asses, just because they come from a country with such a highfalutin name?

The strategy of blaming obscure, European countries with hard to pronounce names for America's woes might also pay big dividends for liberals out there in the "real" America, which is where people live on farms and stuff - like the ones surrounding Rush Limbaugh's 40 million dollar home on Ocean Drive in Palm Beach, Florida.

As everyone knows, "real" Americans like their answers short, sweet and simple - not like the long, boring olios of accurate facts and big words which liberal professors and activist judges are always bombarding them with - and they can't stand foreigners either - just try asking for Mousse de Saumon et C√Ępres with a beaujolais blanc at Dan and Deb's in Dillsboro, Indiana and see what happens. Real Americans would have no trouble believing that wherever there is a problem, some foreigner from a country with a hard to pronounce name is most likely behind it.

And another thing...

Hold on a sec... Yes nurse Pritchett, I heard you the first time! I'll be there in a minute! HEY, GET YOUR GRUBBY HANDS OFF MY COMPUTER! I was just