Patriotic shame of Corpus Christi, Texas

July 2, 2010

Flag in Corpus Christi, Texas, at corner of Staples and Craig - photo by Ed Darrell - IMGP4383

This flag needs to be retired. Will some patriot step up to the job?

Leaving Corpus Christi can be a trial.  It’s at least a 15 mile drive from the American Banking Center to Interstate 37, if you go by the Starbucks on Staples to get coffee for the drive back to Dallas.  (It’s a 100-yard drive otherwise.)

Tourist that I am I drove Staples all the way back, to see the nitty-gritty of the town.

Must it be this gritty?

The flag above, if it can still be considered a flag, struggles to honor our nation at the corner of Staples and Craig Streets.  Clearly this is not a flag that is retired at sundown, as the U.S. flag code urges.  It looks as though it has been flying there for at least a year.  Perhaps it has flown since September 11, 2001.  Perhaps it has flown since the War of 1812.

When a flag becomes tattered, it should be mended, appropriate for a symbol of our nation.  When it can no longer be repaired, it should be retired, according to the Congressional Research Service Report for Congress — The United States Flag:  Federal Law Related to Display and Associated Questions (pages 11 and 12):

Destruction of Worn Flags

The Flag Code states:

The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.*  The act is silent on procedures for burning a flag. It would seem that any procedure which is in good taste and shows no disrespect to the flag would be appropriate. The Flag Protection Act of 1989,38 struck down albeit on grounds unrelated to this specific point,39 prohibited inter alia “knowingly” burning of a flag of the United States, but excepted from prohibition “any conduct consisting of disposal of a flag when it has become worn or soiled.”

4 U.S.C. § 8(k).

Do we have any readers in Corpus Christi?  Could you drop by the shop where this flag is flown sometime through the week, and ask them to retire the flag, as an act of honor for our nation?

Thank you.


Michael Mann exhonerated again: E-mail thieves still at large

July 2, 2010

News from Pennsylvania State University.  The second investigation of Michael Mann, to determine whether he did not adhere to the high ethical standards of research scientists in activities revealed by e-mails stolen from East Anglia University late last year, concluded that Mann acted honorably.

Via Deltoid:

Penn State investigation concludes:

The Investigatory Committee, after careful review of all available evidence, determined that there is no substance to the allegation against Dr. Michael E. Mann, Professor, Department of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University.

More specifically, the Investigatory Committee determined that Dr. Michael E. Mann did not engage in, nor did he participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research, or other scholarly activities.

The decision of the Investigatory Committee was unanimous.

The person or persons who hacked into the computers at East Anglia University remain at large.

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Something to think about as you get your flag ready to fly for July 4

July 2, 2010

This is mostly an encore post, from last year.

July 4th is the 234th anniversary of the announcement of the Declaration of Independence.  I hope you’re thinking about how you’ll fly the flag this weekend in honor of the Declaration of Independence.

The resolution proposed by Richard Henry Lee calling for independence of the 13 colonies passed the Continental Congress on July 2, 1776.  The Declaration would be Thomas Jefferson’s crowning achievement, outshining even his presidency and the Louisiana Purchase.   John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, that July 2 would forever be marked by patriotic displays.

But the Declaration itself, which gave teeth to the resolution, was adopted two days later on July 4 — and that has come to be the day we celebrate.

Detail, John Trumbull's Signing of the Declaration of Independence - Theodor Horydczak photo, Library of Congress

Detail, John Trumbull's Signing of the Declaration of Independence - The committee of five presents the Declaration of Independence to John Hancock, the President of the Second Continental Congress; from left, the committee is John Adams, Robert Livingston, Roger Sherman, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin. Theodor Horydczak photo, Library of Congress

Adams didn’t miss a beat.  Who quibbles about a couple of days when the celebrating is so good?

Adams and Jefferson were two of the five-member committee the Congress had tasked to write a declaration.  Adams and Ben Franklin quickly determined to leave it up to Jefferson, who had a grand flair with words, and who had just written a couple of stirring documents for Virginia.  Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston, the other two members, went along.  And so it was that the Declaration of  Independence is almost completely the work of Thomas Jefferson.

Adams and Jefferson became friends only later, when they both served the nation at war as ambassadors to France, and then for Adams, to England.  A widower, Jefferson was taken in by Abigail Adams who worried about him.  After the war, Jefferson was in England when Adams was to meet King George III in a grand ceremony in which the king would accept the credentials of all the ambassadors of foreign nations to England.  As the king strode down the line, each ambassador or delegation would bow, the king would acknowledge them, the papers would be passed, and the king would move on.  Adams and Jefferson bowed.  King George moved on, ignoring them completely.

In such a case of such a snub, the snubbed foreigners usually made a quick exit.  Adams and Jefferson did not.  They stood at attention as if the king had treated them like all the rest, reversing the snub.  From the beginning, Americans and the United States pushed for more practical, reasonable, and compassionate government and relations.

Back in America in peacetime, and both members of the administration of George Washington, Adams and Jefferson fell out.  Secretary of State Jefferson favored a more limited federal government; Vice President Adams favored a more powerful one.  By the end of Washington’s second term, party politics had been well developed.  Adams defeated Jefferson in the election of 1796.  As was the law then, Jefferson was vice president as the runner-up vote getter in the electoral college; but Adams kept Jefferson out of all government affairs.  Perhaps because he didn’t have Jefferson to help, Adams’s presidency did not go well.  In the rematch election in 1800, one of  the bitterest fights ever, Jefferson’s party defeated Adams.  The gleeful Democratic-Republican electors all voted one ballot for Jefferson, the presidential candidate, and one ballot for Aaron Burr, the party’s vice presidential candidate.

Alas, that produced a tie vote in the electoral college.  Adams’s party, the Federalists, still held the House of Representatives before the new Congress came in.  A tie vote goes to the House for decision.  They could not bring themselves to vote for Jefferson, and the deadlock continued for 37 ballots.  Finally Jefferson’s former friend but now arch enemy Alexander Hamilton intervened, explaining that Burr was clearly the greater scoundrel, and the House elected Jefferson.  Adams slunk out of town, avoiding the inauguration.

It wasn’t until after 1809 when Benjamin Rush hoodwinked Jefferson into writing to Adams, and Adams to Jefferson, that the two became friendly again.  For the next 17 years Jefferson and Adams carried on perhaps the greatest series of correspondence in history between two great minds.  Letters went out almost daily, from Monticello, Virginia,  to Braintree, Massachusetts, and from Braintree to Monticello.  They discussed the weather, their families, old times, farming — but especially the republic they had been most instrumental in creating, and how it might be preserved, and prosper.  Eventually the letters became harder to read, both because their eyesight was failing, and because their penmanship deteriorated, too.

The ideas, however, flowed like a great river of freedom.

Letter from Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, August 15th, 1820 - Library of Congress image

Letter from Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, August 15th, 1820. From The Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Papers Series 1. General Correspondence. 1651-1827. Library of Congress image

Both men took ill early in 1826.  This was a landmark year, 50 years since the Declaration of Independence.  In Massachusetts, a grand display of fireworks was to cap off a day of feasting and celebration.  Adams hoped he might attend.  In Virginia, a week before, it became clear Jefferson was too ill to venture even as close as Charlottesville for the celebration.  Jefferson slept through most of July 3, but awoke about 9:00 p.m., and asked, “This is the fourth?”  It was not.  These are the last significant, recorded words of Jefferson.  He awoke at about 4:00 a.m. on the Fourth of July, 1826, but could not make a rally.  He died at 12:50 in the afternoon.

Adams, too, was too ill to attend the celebrations.  In the late afternoon or early evening of the Fourth, he awoke, and heard the celebration in the town.  Almost as if he had worked just to live to see that particular day, he checked the date.  Realizing he was near the end, happy that he’d seen 50 years after the Declaration, and unaware of the events earlier that day in Virginia, Adams said, “Thomas Jefferson still survives.”  Adams, too, died on July 4, 1826.

Fly your flag July 4th. Remember John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.  Remember their great work in creating the nation that protects our freedoms today.  Remember their great friendship.  Write a letter to a good friend you’ve not written to lately.

It is Independence Day this Sunday.  Their spirit survives in us, as we celebrate, and if we remember why we celebrate.


Skeptics noise broad; no deep effects on American opinions

July 2, 2010

A commenter with the handle Klem complained about my outlook on global warming issues, in a recent post about the desperation I see in the warming denialist world.  Klem finds my views not pessimistic enough:

Those purloined emails have ultimately destroyed the IPCC, it has no credibility with the public anymore. You seem like a smart guy but I can’t believe after this amount of time you still don’t understand this. And you say it’s the anti-warming camp which is desperate? Oops I think you’re in denial.

I’ve been involved in environmental issues since well before the first Earth Day.  Lack of understanding among the public at large is a constant issue, and not a recent development.  Lack of support for a clean environment rarely is an issue, however.  The old progressive era push for clean water, clean air, outdoor activities, and healthy living, continues probably stronger today than ever before.  No one defends smoking stacks as symbols of progress anymore.

Even petroleum companies spend millions in advertising to tout their “green” tendencies.  Big Oil doesn’t spend money like that if they don’t have clear indicators that it’s effective.

One indication of how deep is the desire for environmental protection is the mini-movement chronicled and maybe led by conservative writer Rod Dreher, known as “crunchy conservatism.” Dreher wrote about conservatives who, from most outward appearances — Birkenstock sandals, organic-food heavy diets, environmentally-friendly yards and homes — might be considered lefty environmentalists, but who adhere to conservative social and economic policies, and the Republican party (yes:  educated people who vote against their own best interests; go figure).

No matter how odd their views on economics, no matter how odd their views on their fellow humans, they recognize the basic benefits of the progressive movement on their own lives, and they would like to conserve those benefits.

Have the so-called skeptics changed those trends?  Did the stealing of e-mails convince most Americans that scientists are evil, conniving, and wrong?

Rather than take the denialists’ methods, the famous MSU technique*, how about we actually ask people what they think?

Recent polls with some depth on environmental issues show most Americans to be quite  level-headed about warming and other environment issues, and not so subject to the hot winds of talk-without-fact from Fox News, the Heartland Institute, or other paragons of science denialism.

Most Americans remain concerned about global warming

Pay attention to reality for a moment; the headline on the press release is, “Large majority of Americans still believe in global warming, Stanford poll finds”:

Three out of four Americans believe that the Earth has been gradually warming as the result of human activity and want the government to institute regulations to stop it, according to a new survey by researchers at the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University.

The survey was conducted by Woods Institute Senior Fellow Jon Krosnick, a professor of communication and of political science at Stanford, with funding from the National Science Foundation. The results are based on telephone interviews conducted from June 1-7 with 1,000 randomly selected American adults.

“Several national surveys released during the last eight months have been interpreted as showing that fewer and fewer Americans believe that climate change is real, human-caused and threatening to people,” Krosnick said. “But our new survey shows just the opposite.”

For example, when respondents in the June 2010 survey were asked if the Earth’s temperature probably had been heating up over the last 100 years, 74 percent said yes. And 75 percent said that human behavior was substantially responsible for any warming that has occurred. Krosnick has asked similar questions in previous Woods Institute polls since 2006.

“Our surveys reveal a small decline in the proportion of people who believe global warming has been happening, from 84 percent in 2007 to 74 percent today,” Krosnick said. “Statistical analysis of our data revealed that this decline is attributable to perceptions of recent weather changes by the minority of Americans who have been skeptical about climate scientists.”

In terms of average Earth temperature, 2008 was the coldest year since 2000, Krosnick said. “Scientists say that such year-to-year fluctuations are uninformative, and people who trust scientists therefore ignore this information when forming opinions about global warming’s existence,” he added. “But people who do not trust climate scientists base their conclusions on their personal observations of nature. These ‘low-trust’ individuals were especially aware of the recent decline in average world temperatures; they were the ones in our survey whose doubts about global warming have increased since 2007.”

According to Krosnick, this explanation is especially significant, because it suggests that the recent decline in the proportion of people who believe in global warming is likely to be temporary. “If the Earth’s temperature begins to rise again, these individuals may reverse course and rejoin the large majority who still think warming is real,” he said.

Ah, the Fickle Public — it appears only a small fraction of the public is fickle, after all.  Shifts in public opinion on the reality of warming were driven by weather, not weather men.

The poll also specifically addressed the effect of the computer break-in that exposed a few thousand e-mail messages from climate scientists under attack by anti-green critics:

‘Climategate’

“Overall, we found no decline in Americans’ trust in environmental scientists,” Krosnick said. “Fully 71 percent of respondents said they trust scientists a moderate amount, a lot or completely.”

Several questions in the June survey addressed the so-called “climategate” controversy, which made headlines in late 2009 and early 2010.

“Growing public skepticism has, in recent months, been attributed to news reports about e-mail messages hacked from the computer system at the University of East Anglia in Britain – characterized as showing climate scientists colluding to silence unconvinced colleagues – and by the discoveries of alleged flaws in reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC),” Krosnick said. “Our survey discredited this claim in multiple ways. ”

For example, only 9 percent of respondents said they knew about the East Anglia e-mail messages and believed they indicate that climate scientists should not be trusted, and only 13 percent said the same about the controversial IPPC reports.

That may explain why Anthony Watts’ logo for his Australian tour shows a kangaroo whose rear end has just been kicked (you can tell by the stars).

Climate skeptics butt-kicked in Australia logo

In cartoons, stars show where a character has been punched or kicked, right?

No agreement to control greenhouse gases came out of the Copenhagen conference last fall.  So-called climate skeptics patted each other on the back, claimed victory, and proceeded to send Christopher Monckton on his Bonnie Lies All Around the World Tour.  In cool light of morning, however, the facts can’t be silenced:  Warming continues, science shows the extremely high probability that humans cause it, official investigations show that climate scientists who had their e-mails stolen were victims of crime, not perpetrators, and climate skeptics failed to stop warming with their big-dollar, nice-banquet meetings with the Heartland Institute, or anywhere else.

If they are skeptics, they are pretty bad at it, falling like chumps for a story that fourth-grade science project made the case they have failed to make everywhere else, and for the story that one of their comrades was sent a bomb in the mail (it turned out to be a misdirected fuel filter).

No wonder Americans remain concerned about warming.

_____________

* Make S[tuff] Up

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