Monthly Archives: April 2017

TRYING TO UNDERSTAND CLIMATE CHANGE

I have been conflicted for sometime about the subject of “Global Warming” more appropriately renamed as “Climate Change.”  I had no doubt there has been a significant change in our weather conditions.  My conflict has centered around:

  1. How much of this has been caused by man and what he is uploading into the atmosphere as opposed to the cyclical changes we’ve had for over 2,000 years?
  2. Is it really an impending crisis or a distraction from the failure of liberal politicians to buy voters with their dependency programs?
  3. What can we really do about it? If we lead, who and how many will follow?  (See the Paris accord to follow.)
  4. How much can we afford to do with a somewhat fragile economy?

Let’s start by outlining who the players are in this debate:

  • The proponents of climate change as a “crisis”: Al Gore (who also thinks he invented the internet); the liberal Democrats who tend to exploit problems the government can address; the U.S. National Research Council (USNRC); the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); and many scientists, maybe a majority.
  • The skeptics, who tend to call the problem luke-warming: The Libertarian CATO Institute; the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT); the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI); and a number of scientists, probably a minority.

To deny climate change and global warming is akin to denying the Holocaust or the landing on the moon.

I’ve read much of the arguments proffered by the ayes and nays, but my conflict remained so last fall I took a short course at UCLA that concentrated on the need for renewable energy sources and reflected on the overall climate change issue as well.  It was taught by Tom Flood, Ph.D., a retired USC Professor of Environmental Studies.

The course concentrated on renewable energy, which I knew a little about from my early affiliation with the electrical industry.  It seemed an appropriate focus because it appears to be the single best answer to my question #3 above.

Today, about 80% of our electric energy is generated by fossil fuels.  There are several facts which contribute to the need to try to decrease our use of fossil fuels and use more renewable energy sources.

So let’s look at some facts:

  1. No one seems to doubt that our primary source of end use energy will be electric.
  2. We have climate change—how much man contributes may still be a question, but we have it.
  3. There is a strong political effort to reduce fossil fuels used to generate electricity from 80% to 50% by 2050 and reduce it further from there—to zero.
  4. Burning of fossil fuels dumps CO2 into the atmosphere and at least to some extent contributes to climate warming and change.
  5. In the 2016 election cycle, only 34% of the voting public thought climate change was an important issue.
  6. Sooner or later, we will run out of fossil fuels…probably a lot later.
  7. The average global surface temperature has risen about 1.4 degrees over the last century. Two-thirds of that rise has happened since 1975. That rise will contribute to low crop yields as well as retreating sea ice and more frequent extreme weather events.
  8. The average water temperature has risen only about .18 degrees. As water temperatures rise, ice melts and water levels rise, and creates more powerful storm surges.
  9. Let’s see what history tells us.
    1. If we look at the record—let’s say the last 2,000 years—we see that people really suffered during the cold periods. During the “Little Ice Age,” from around 1400 to 1850, things were really cold in Europe.  Harvests failed.  Food became scarce.  People starved.  There was much disease.  It was a miserable
    2. Before that, however, we had a “medieval warm period” around 1100 A.D.
      Temperatures then were at least as hot as they are now, maybe hotter.  During this time, the Vikings were able to discover and settle Greenland (they actually grew crops on Greenland!).  Life was good in Europe.  Cathedrals were built.  Wars and violence decreased.  People prospered.  There was plenty of food, even a surplus.

Despite the climate fear mongers’ dire predictions, the historic record clearly shows that a warmer period is better for human beings than a colder period.  Humans are nothing if not infinitely adaptable.

We have always had warming cycles with even fewer people.  There does certainly appear to be increased evidence of the effects of climate change today.  All across our country we are having hotter summers and colder winters.

Is it a crisis?  Hard to tell!  Is it approaching some danger point?  Probably, just like the national debt!  The critical question is can we really do something about it?

The major contributor to the man-made part of this problem is the burning of fossil fuels, which is why it is important to concentrate on trying to increase the use of alternative energy sources.

  1. Fossil fuels are coal, oil and natural gas.
  2. What do we mean by “alternative energy sources?

Hydro 6.3%               Wind 4.5%                Nuclear 8.0%

If you also include solar panels, geothermal, biofuels, tidal waves, concentrated solar and hydrogen altogether, you have a total of about 20% of what we use today.

3. Waste and inefficiency:

  • 2/3 of fossil fuels burned to generate electricity is wasted.
  • Only 18% of gas in your car is efficiently used to power the car.

The luke-warmers believe that elements for man-made climate change is compelling but is exaggerated by faulty climate models and perverse incentives in climate science.

So now you can see the general outline of the arguments about climate change.  Next month we’ll address what the crisis advocates want to do…and the chances of success.

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HOW MANY LANDMARK/HISTORIC SITES DO WE NEED?

Recently, I read in the L.A. Times that the former home of Ira Gershwin was being demolished by the new owner so he could build his own dream mansion.

The preservationists were aghast, up in arms.  How could you tear down the 8,000 square foot house where one of the last century’s great lyricists had once lived?

Don’t get me wrong, I personally loved “The Man Who Got Away” and many other Gershwin hit songs.  I couldn’t care less, however, about the home he once lived in.  He wasn’t born there.  He didn’t die there, and we don’t know how many, if any, hit tunes he wrote when he lived there.

The whole concept of landmark and historic status has, I think, grown to somewhat ridiculous heights.  Trying to preserve untold numbers of homes and buildings that some feel have some kind of historic value has been carried to the extreme.

An owner of a designated historic site has some potential benefits in the form of public recognition—the right to post a plaque, some tax credits and/or outright funds for specific improvements, all of which varies depending on the government entity, i.e., city, county, state, federal authority who provides the designation.

On the other hand, there are certain restrictions imposed by each level of governmental authority on buildings and/or residences which are granted historic designations.  More on that later.

Let’s take a look at the scope of historic designations; a few sites having been granted and/or seeking recognition as a historic landmark:

  • Henry’s Tacos in North Hollywood, CA
  • The Post Office in South Gate, CA
  • John’s Evangelical Church in Chicago, IL
  • 5 Firehouses in New York City (1 or 2 aren’t enough)
  • La Tuna Canyon in Sunland, CA
  • Sears Dept. Store in Santa Monica, CA

The City of Los Angeles alone has over 1,000 historic cultural monuments, which include among the most well known:

  • Biltmore Hotel
  • San Antonio Winery
  • A&M Records Studio
  • California Club Building
  • Bullock’s Wilshire Building
  • Pacific RR Depot
  • Grauman’s Chinese Theater
  • Angel’s Flight
  • A. Central Library
  • Bradbury Building

Some of these may be appropriate, but how many of the other 990 listings do you think might really be worthy?  The National Trust for Historic Preservation lists 220,000 sites, a number of which are in need of heavy financial support for renovation and upgrading before anyone can be allowed to see them.

It’s one thing for existing building owners to want to acquire some form of landmark status, we can assume they are willing to live with whatever restrictions may apply as a tradeoff for the benefits they hope to enjoy.

New potential buyers on the other hand need to be very sure about what they’re thinking of buying.

Here are two examples:

Castle Jeans wanted loft space for an office and a small production facility.  They found some space to rent that they thought would meet their needs.

The building was for sale, though, and they were concerned about the long-term stability of a rental in a building for sale.

The owner of Castle told his parents about his dilemma and they jumped to the rescue by becoming the new owners of the building.  Okay so far!

After a while, Castle fell on hard times and was about to go BK.  The owners/parents found a bank who wanted to move in and remodel, including an ATM on the outside.

Sorry, the building had a landmark designation (they didn’t know) which prohibited any change on the outside façade.  Result:  No deal!

The second example really irks me every time I drive by.  It’s the Aero Theater, a single-screen theater on 14th Street and Montana in Santa Monica.  It opened in 1940.  It showed second rounds of first-run movies.  We went several times to see movies after their opening runs.

They began to have less success and closed down in the early 2000’s.  Because it had a landmark designation, it proved impossible to find a new owner who didn’t want to do extensive remodeling.

Finally, in 2004, the non-profit American Cinematheque, offshoot of the Filmax Film Festival, bought the property as a sister to their main efforts at Grauman’s Egyptian Theater in Hollywood.

They currently show old, sometimes classic movies and sometimes television.  Have no idea whether it is currently a successful business model.  The major point is we lost a welcome movie theater and/or a new modern business because profit-making owners could not live with the restrictions on a designated landmark.

How about the old Sears store in Santa Monica, now closed for lack of business?  It’s an old dumpy retail store.  What historical reference does it serve?  What is being preserved?

Maybe it’s time to be a little more judicious about handing out all those historic and landmark designations.

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THE BRAWLS IN THE NEWS

I’m not sure if it’s my advancing age, my approaching senility or just my natural orneriness, but I am puzzled and somewhat disturbed about an awful lot going on now in the public arena.

David Brooks, writing in the N.Y. Times, expresses it a lot more eloquently:  “We haven’t entered the age of milquetoast bourgeois relativism.  Instead, society has become a free-form demolition derby of moral confrontation:  the cold-eyed fanaticism of students at Middlebury College and other campuses nationwide; the rage of the alt-right; holy wars over transgender bathrooms; the furious intensity at every town-hall meeting on every subject.”

In no particular order, my troubling concerns are over:  sanctuary cities, ICE calling themselves police, the Freedom Caucus, as well as all this intense scrutiny of the Trump camp interaction with Russian officials and hacking of Trump Towers.

Sanctuary Cities – States – College Campuses

Either we are a nation of laws or we’re not.  You can’t just decide to abide by some laws and not others.

The sanctuary cities say “if you get a warrant, we’ll hold the illegals for ICE.”  A warrant, although it serves the same purpose, is a time-consuming, drawn-out practice compared to a detainer request.

If you don’t like a particular law, get together and campaign for a change.  Declaring your opposition to any law by government officials who have sworn to uphold the constitution is ludicrous.

Until the law is changed, I believe any means available, including denial of funding, should be employed to remind people that laws have been enacted to be implemented.

Anything less will lead to the “decline and fall of the U.S. Empire,” just like the one in Rome.

ICE – Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Apparently the ICE agents sometimes, or maybe always, identify themselves as “police” when knocking on a door.  A number of people object to that practice.

It would certainly be a mouthful if the ICE agents announced themselves as “Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”  They could just say ICE, but that’s kinda cold.

I thought all law enforcement agents are “police.”  How does the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms identify themselves?

Just not sure it matters very much but the open borders crowd uses any excuse to discredit immigration laws.

Freedom Caucus

Like its Tea Party predecessor, it is an enigma that destroys the whole legislative process.  If it continues its totally inflexible, unbendable positions in Congress, it may also destroy the Republican Party.

The elephant party proclaimed its intent to repeal Obamacare for eight years because it was a very flawed financial disaster waiting to happen.  They could never draft a replacement bill because of the intransigence of the Freedom Caucus.

These were the most vociferous opponents of Obamacare.  What did they win?  Nothing!  Not supporting the Ryan Plan was self-defeating.

And their inability to accept the basic principal of legislative action, i.e., the need to compromise in order to achieve any results.  Their unwillingness to alter their “principals” was totally self-defeating.  We still have Obamacare and the $300 billion per year deficit it creates.

Hacking Trump Towers

There were enough leaks to suspect that there probably was some hacking at Trump Towers during the transition.  It clearly was not Obama who would have had to get a warrant from the FISA Court and didn’t.

The tweeting from Trump was ill-advised and blatantly false.  That doesn’t mean some outside party did not hack into the phones at Trump’s offices.

The Russian-Trump Connections

What’s all this fuss about?  Let’s start with some facts:

  1. The Russians interfered in our election by hacking into Clinton campaign officials’ emails, and we may all be surprised if we learn the RNC and the Trump campaign were hacked as well.
  2. There is no evidence that the Russian activities interfered in any way with the actual voting process.
  3. Our CIA, as well as the Russians, have meddled in the election of numerous other countries for years.

Now to all the brouhaha with congressional investigations of the Russian-Trump connections.  If Trump officials during the campaign or the transition had conversations with Russian officials, who cares?  Why is this important?  If they gave away military or strategic secrets, that surely should be looked into.

Anything else, however, seems to be a complete waste of time and effort.  So let’s move on to getting some things done.

President Trump has a boatload of counselors and advisors available to offer advice and counsel on a great variety of issues and problems.  In this day and age, I believe he ought to add one more—a Twitter editor.  We’d all benefit

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DIVERSITY IN REVERSE BENEFITS NO ONE

There is no question that diversity and inclusion of all people—black, white, yellow or green—have achieved great strides in the workplace.  There may be room for more improvement in this arena, but the remaining problem areas are far more isolated.

The residential arena with single family homes, apartments and condos has made significant progress as well.  Personal relationships, too, have seen sizeable increases in their number.

The stupefying problem today is in our colleges and universities.  We appear to be having reverse diversity on that front.  It’s getting worse and it’s baffling.

Our country’s youth have always been on the forefront of “progressive change”; i.e., their support for gay marriage, legalizing marijuana and free speech.

Why, oh why, do we have more and more segregation on college campuses?  Why do we have less inclusion and integration of races and religions as well as ethnic, political thinking and cultural backgrounds?  The only exception in the college universe is in their sports teams.

Fraternities, clubs, dining rooms and all centers of student interaction appear more segregated than ever.  The emphasis at college and university diversity programs seems aimed primarily at the admission process and/or the number of women and minorities—a narrow and stifling view.

Writing in eNEWSLINE, Barron Harvey, Dean of Howard University Business School, had some interesting comments:

“Diversity in the U.S. continues to grow and is one of this nation’s dominant attributes.  Minorities make up more than 30 percent of the nation and are responsible for more than 60 percent of its population growth.  Institutions of higher education still have a long way to go to reflect this attribute.  Although most universities use mission, vision, and value statements to convey the importance of diversity, the reality is these statements do not result in actions that generate significant impact to diversity populations in classrooms, nor does it eliminate barriers for inclusion.  One of the great challenges of higher education today continues to be how to develop effective diversity and inclusion programs, how to sustain these programs, and subsequently incorporate them into university and college life.

Growing Pains 

“The topic of diversity and inclusion for most administrators at top institutions of higher learning is a difficult and painful discussion.  Although most universities can share information about their diversity programs or activities, discussions are made more difficult due to the lack of significant results and progress.  Universities and colleges fail when they struggle to outline a coherent strategy for diversity and inclusion and to situate it as a continual element of improvement.  The key is not only to have a coherent strategy, but the strategy must be coupled with active and consistent engagement.

Elusive Sustainable Success

“Although not reflective of the nation’s diversity, the top medical and law schools in the U.S. are able to report that 15 percent of their graduates are underrepresented minorities.  That is more than 60 percent better than most business schools.

“One argument being made as to why the minority enrollment at top business schools remains significantly low over the last 20 years places blame on the obsession with MBA rankings.  Business schools have been so focused on recruiting only the students with the highest GMAT scores and undergraduate grade point averages in order to maintain or improve their position on a variety of national and international MBA rankings that it has been harder to make any significant increases in diversity.

“Another major argument resides in the fact that business schools are, and have woefully been, devoid of diverse faculty.  This remains a long-term problem for most business schools and the number of minority faculty will remain minimal in the foreseeable future.

Looking Ahead

“I wonder what would be the result if we were to turn this paradigm on its edge and use the same or similar resources and strategies used to internationalize our business schools to diversify our learning environments and include more marginalized and underrepresented populations.

Faculty Diversity

“According to data compiled by the Higher Education Research Institute, only 12% of university faculty identify as politically right of center, and these are mainly professors in schools of engineering and other professional schools.  Only 5% of professors in the humanities and social-science departments so identify.

“The advocates of diversity in higher education claim that learning requires the robust exchange of ideas, which is enhanced when students and faculty have the greatest variety of backgrounds.  They argue that exposure to people from different backgrounds breaks down unfair stereotypes and promotes understanding of those who come from different circumstances than oneself.

“It is also claimed that being in a diverse academic environment better prepares students for an increasingly diverse workforce, and that this preparation can only be developed through exposure to people of diverse cultures, ideas and viewpoints.  But if diversity is really such an important academic value, then why are universities making so little effort to increase the political and ideological diversity of their faculties?  A diverse faculty provides students with role models who demonstrate that people from all backgrounds and political persuasion are worth emulating.

“The hue and cry for `safe places’ on college campuses should be dismissed unilaterally as an attempt to foster the gathering of fools.”  For those of us in the out-of-touch generation, safe places are areas where like-minded airheads can congregate without interference of people with opposing points of view.

“This is the exact antithesis of diversity.  This is segregation of the narrow minded.”

From my personal experience, I have described in previous blogs about the diversity and inclusion of my college fraternity which gave me an enriching and rewarding college experience.  We thought the success of our community would spread and launch a movement to help change the world.

It is my firm belief that the most effective program of diversity in the college world is integrated housing, coupled with sports and other activities that spring from these integrated houses.  It doesn’t matter whether these are independent dorms or fraternities.

It puzzles me that today’s students aren’t able to benefit from the same cultural interchange and experience.

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