In short, one might conclude that all knowledge, wisdom, and wit are confined to those who inhabit New York City, Washington DC, or Hollywood.
As I creep inexorably toward nearly 70 years of life experience - which was gained in many cities in the U.S. and in about 30 foreign countries, I decided to put down some ongoing thoughts in a series I call "The View From the Outback." That experience has included the U.S. Marines, law school, the ATF, the CIA, Fortune 500 executive, writer, public speaker, educator, editor, and publisher - for openers. For over 20 years, I have written articles off and on for various magazines and newspapers. I've had an enormous number of letters published in major national publications. The Outback is the rural area in Northeast Texas where I have lived for the past 10 years. Each Saturday I will attempt to post a new set of musings from the Outback.
Last week, I wrote about the close look the FDA is taking at the prescription drug ads on TV and how I thought the ads are a bad idea. The FDA informed me that they are making my article part of the public FDA record in their inquiry into the matter. As I said in the article, you can make a difference. You have to speak up and to the right people. Just complaining to your wife or best friend won't help much.
In my March 24, 2001 column, I wrote about the color network logos that were burning permanent impressions into many TV screens. The Wall Street Journal later ran an article about all the logo clutter we are suffering. I sent them a letter in which I pointed out that some logos are actually damaging screens. The WSJ published that letter on Wednesday, April 4, 2001.
Barbra Streisand gave her farewell concert. Now, many are waiting for her to give her farewell speech. Don't hold your breath. Is there any doubt that her massive ego might push Barbra into a run for the House or Senate someday? Hill and Barb. The greatest team since Marx and Lenin!
"Bette," starring Bette Midler has been canceled. What a shame. There are so few people on TV who are truly "originals." Bette is one. You knew the end was coming. She appeared on David Letterman's show many weeks ago and complained about how hard it was to do a TV series and basically said she was not enjoying it. The man sitting at the interview desk, Letterman, owns Worldwide Pants who produced "Bette." Talk about breaking it to the boss gently. On his own show? Wow. I told you she was an original.
The ratings for "Millionaire" are waning. As I have pointed out many times, it seems incredible that anyone will watch a show where it often takes the contestant four minutes to answer a relatively simple question. What is the fascination with this agonizing display of ignorance? Not that I know many or most of the answers. But, these people have been screened. Maybe there should be more questions like the favorite one when I was in 6th grade, "Who is buried in Grant's tomb?" No, it is not Hugh Grant.
The Chinese Demand For An Apology Regarding The Aircraft Accident Is Preposterous
The flap over the American airplane that collided with the Chinese fighter is obviously very serious. The Chinese early refusal to let our diplomats have access to the crew, the refusal to release the crew, the boarding of the plane, which is "sovereign" American property, are all violations of international law or custom.
They claim that our lumbering prop plane ran into their jet. It is highly unlikely that the slow- moving, propellor-driven American aircraft could have clipped the Chinese jet - even if it had tried to do so. On the other hand, there is the hot-dog Chinese jet jockey, who had already been singled out by our military commanders for making close passes for some weeks. One report said that he flew so close one day that he held up his e-mail address for the American crew to see. All of this makes their demand for an apology ludicrous. Apologize for what?
So far, I have not heard anyone ask if the U.S. aircraft had a flight-recorder black box on board. If available, that device should show the altitude, the attitude of the wings relative to the horizon, the settings of the engines, and so on. And did the crews on neither side not take videos of the encounter? Were there no automatic cameras on board any of the three aircraft? And what about the radio traffic from both the American and Chinese planes. Where are the tapes, and why is nobody playing them? The Americans claim to have contacted the Chinese jet on the radio, for example.
The reconnaissance flight by the U.S. was open and in international airspace. It is not even technically "spying." That word attaches to it a notion of a secret gathering of information. This aircraft, and its mission, were never a secret from the Chinese. The media, and the Chinese, love to use the words "spy plane."
In the worst-case American scenario, there might be some demonstrable evidence that the crew of the American aircraft veered toward the Chinese jet, hoping to scare it off - and there was a collision. Still, no apology would be warranted. In that worst-case scenario, it would be a case of "chicken" played out by people on both sides who got frustrated with each other's conduct over a long period of time.
Did the Chinese apologize when they stole our nuclear secrets? They were not in international air space when they did that. Although I have been out of the intelligence business for many, many years, it is a safe bet that the Chinese espionage apparatus directed at gaining U.S. secrets is probably the largest in the world. The Russians never had a great deal of success in recruiting Americans to spy for them, with some notable exceptions of Ames and Hanssen, and few earlier ones.
But, there is a large population in the U.S. of Chinese decent. While I do not wish to disparage the Chinese in this country, it is a fact that in the intelligence business it is easiest to get people from your own culture to spy for you. As the saying goes, "blood is thicker than water."
Of course, there are many rabid anti-Communists among U.S. Chinese - perhaps most of the ones with U.S. citizenship. The fact remains that there is a huge pool of Chinese in this country for Chinese intelligence to target. It only takes one or two good "hits" out of thousands of approaches to pay large intelligence dividends. Again, I am not suggesting that large numbers of Chinese-Americans are spying. I am not so sanguine about those here on visas. Years ago, I worked with a Chinese man who had been a member of the Red Guard in mainland China. He managed to get out of China and was recruited by the CIA. He became one of my best friends when I served in S.E. Asia. So, I know that even a former Red Chinese can become loyal to this great country.
It is frightening to comprehend how many U.S. secrets have been obtained by mainland China though its various spies. And they have the colossal nerve to demand an apology from us when one of their fighters most likely rammed our aircraft in international airspace?
Chat rooms in China are even talking about holding the U.S. crew hostage until "compensation" can be paid to China. Compensation for what? Have the Chinese been watching Ally McBeal? Where do they get these bizarre ideas about how they should be compensated for their acts of aggression?
By making such a fuss over an incident in which there appears to be no grounds for an American apology, the Chinese leaders will no doubt focus more attention in the U.S. on their intelligence gathering against us. Maybe we should start expelling some of their diplomats whom we have identified as Chinese intelligence agents. Oh, the list is long, I am sure of that.
We bombed their embassy in Belgrade. It was no doubt a tragic and careless mistake. We did apologize for that and paid compensation! We apologized to Japan when our sub carelessly surfaced and sunk their fishing craft. And we will be paying for that for years to come. But, there is not the slightest similarity in the downed aircraft situation - and certainly no apology is in order.
Is this how a great nation, China, reacts to a normal event and the predictable consequences of their increasingly aggressive action to our electronic probing?
Give President Putin, the former KGB man, credit in Moscow. When we expelled 50 Russian diplomats for spying, he expelled 50 of ours. Then, he appeared to move on to more pressing matters, such as, "What's for lunch?" All this intransigence on the part of the Chinese, when none of the facts - or international law - are on their side, is ridiculous. The expressions of "regret" offered so far ought to suffice.
What Skill Is Required For A 7-Footer To Dunk A Basketball?
Decades ago, professional basketball was a game of skill and considerable grace, played mostly by men of average height to maybe 6 ft. 3 inches - or so. You could not put your head down and ram another player on the way to the basket. You could not run three steps with the ball cradled in your stomach, like a fullback. That was knows as "steps," and you turned the ball over.
On defense, you could not push the other player in the back to impede his progress to the net. Most importantly, you shot jump shots, set shots from outside, or broke away for a layup. Now, we see giants like Shaq who stand near the basket, turn and knock over opponents, and then while looking down at the basket, stuff the ball through the hoop. Slightly shorter players soar through the air and stuff the ball defiantly and hang on the rim like primates. Crowds are in awe. I don't get it.
What skill is being displayed by a giant who can look down at the basket while in the act of shooting? And how silly are "slam-dunk" contests? The words "slam-dunk" have now become a part of our lexicon. They mean to accomplish something that is easy to do, for which the outcome is not in doubt, and for which there is no challenge. In the old days, that was known as something being "a piece of cake." Or, "shooting fish in a barrel."
So then, why are people so ga-ga over this basketball act that takes no talent? You just need to be tall. Oh, yeah, there are some shorter guys who can slam-dunk. Now, is this a high-jumping contest, not one of finesse and skill at shooting? High jumping is a separate Olympic sport.
College basketball has a huge following, partly because the game is (has been) more "pure." But, in the NCAA playoffs, we now see 7-foot players, or taller. There goes the neighborhood. The female pro league is fun to watch, because it is about dribbling, shooting, and setting up plays. The last I looked, they were not dunking the ball. That would be their undoing.
There are backyard backboard sets that can be lowered to make it easier for younger children to make a basket. Buy one of these. Challenge your 8-year-old son to a game of hoops. Use your elbows and your weight to push the kid out of your way and then stuff the ball through the net. See if that make you feel like a gifted athlete? See if you feel macho and powerful? See if you have a great sense of pride in your accomplishment. Or, are you embarrassed that you used your weight and height to simply shove someone out of the way and then - without displaying any skill - you shoved the ball through the basket at eye-level? It will be hard to watch the NBA from now on, won't it. Enjoy.
Maybe we need another men's pro league. You could not be taller than 6 feet, and you must be able to make at least 78% of your free throws. One third of all shots must be from 3-point range, and nobody would be allowed to take a shot closer than 6 feet of the basket. No running with the ball would be allowed. And no blocking and tackling. It could be called the "Nostalgia League."
Environmentalism for Dummies
I had hoped to present an in-depth summary of many of the counter arguments regarding global warming, greenhouse gases, acid rain, drilling for oil in Alaska, and so on. But, such a review might better be the subject of a Ph.D. thesis. In the meantime, as I continue my research, I will make just a few points.
President Bush has decided not to pursue a more strict regulation of CO2. Every time I have seen him or his spokesman discusses the issue, they couch the response in terms of the need to get more power plants operating closer to peak efficiency and to build new ones. This might increase the levels of CO2 emitted. But, we need the power more than we need to strictly regulate CO2, they seem to be saying. .
One wonders why he did not make the case that there is no credible evidence that global warming exists, or if it does exist there is no credible evidence that man can affect it.
I'm just a guy sitting out here in the Outback, but for years I have casually searched the Internet on the issue of global warming and associated topics. If you avoid the Web sites that are sponsored by advocacy groups, and stick to the actual scientific studies and papers that have been written about global warming, you wonder why anyone needs to dance around the issue of CO2.
The weight of scientific evidence seems to be that global warming is cyclical and all the stuff we spew into the atmosphere doe not affect it. And it is hard to sell global warming to those in Siberia, where is was about 75 degrees (F) below zero this winter, or to those in the U.S. with record cold temps. We set a record low daytime temperature in the Dallas area the other day.
A guy sent an e-mail to a news show in which he pointed out that one gigantic forest fire, set by an act of God, lightning, releases more CO2 into the atmosphere than all of the power plants in the country (or words to that effect).
In the spirit of keeping this relatively short, I will refer to an article written in The Wall Street Journal (April 2, 2001) by a British professor of biogeography at the University of London, Philip Stott. It is aptly titled "Hot Air + Flawed Science = Dangerous Emissions." He calls global warming a "necessary myth" for many politicians, and goes on to explain why. Prof. Stott says that global warming was "invented" in 1988, when it replaced two earlier myths of an imminent plunge into another Ice Age and the threat of Nuclear Winter. He says, "The idea that we can control a chaotic climate governed by a billion factors through fiddling about with a couple of politically-selected gases is carbon claptrap." That is polite British-speak for "bullshit."
Prof. Stott is but one of many professionals who deal with the earth's climate who have tried to be heard over the din of the screeching environmentalists. Their message is quite universal. There are too many factors at work to be able to accurately predict a future climate. Global warming, such as it may exist, is cyclical and beyond the reach of man to affect it - one way or the other. And there are even those who make a good case that increased amounts of CO2 lead to more plant growth on earth and a more robust ecology. In the coming weeks, I hope to have some citations of research and comment for you to consider.
Be wary of "data" and conclusions found at U.S. government Web sites. Remember that much of the information is "forced science" fostered by Al Gore and others before him who have built an empire based upon the government's "need" to fiddle with the environment.
On a lighter side, if there is global warming, and Florida or Texas get too hot for comfort, let's just move to N. Dakota, Minnesota, Canada, or Siberia. A 10 degree rise in temperature over the next 100 years would be welcome there. Maybe it is God's plan that Miami Beach be abandoned to the animals who thrive on the heat. That should make the animal-rights people happy. Just move the stupid humans out of the area and let animals reclaim their land.
Just one other example. The Prudhoe Bay Alaska oil exploration was opposed by environmentalists, mostly on the grounds of the "devastating effects on caribou and other wildlife in the area." Now, a well-kept secret. There are now more caribou in the area than before the drilling began. The new proposed drilling site in the Alaskan wilderness would have a smaller "footprint" on the land than at Prudhoe Bay. Slant drilling would be used to minimize the disruption of the topography. The roads to service the site would be ice roads that melt in the warmer season when the caribou come to give birth. President Bush seems to be losing his fire for promoting drilling in the area. The facts and science are on his side!
When some of the environmental extremists (they nearly always seem to be based in California) go without lights and air conditioning for a while. And when they have to stand in lines for hours to get 10 gallons of gas - or maybe none at all, as we did once. Then, maybe they might be willing to let a few caribou perish. The truth is that no caribou would perish. But the myths and legends and hysteria continue. In the meantime, the oil sheiks are laughing their asses off at Americans - and driving their Rolls Royces to the bank with boxes full of money. More money than they can ever spend, even with a gold faucet in every room.
Mass Suicides Averted - Hillary Not Running!
Many people, including myself, were no doubt contemplating committing suicide on the U.S. Capitol steps if Hillary ran for President. The very thought of having to listen to her lies and distortions for a couple of years of campaigning was more than any human should be forced to endure. Now, she says that she has no intention of running for President - ever.
That leaves us with our favorite weapon during Senate debate and talk shows where she might appear - the MUTE button. I actually wore the paint off the MUTE button while Bill Clinton was president. Even before he became president, I had gone on record that he was a pathological liar. I did not have to wait for history or the finger wagging to unfold. My finger was on the MUTE.
Just as Al Gore distanced himself from Bill Clinton, Sen. Clinton is now embarked on the same campaign. She is in favor of new laws and regulations regarding how pardons are processed. Obviously, she has some keen insights. She and Bill apparently talk on the telephone, but are seldom together. This is the advantage of having so many residences. You don't have to sleep on the couch. You can sleep at the "other" place. And you can have pajama parties and sleep-overs with friends. No soap opera can come close to this stuff.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Richard C. Rhodes
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