The Global Warming Debate Heats Up

It will be interesting to see if the current economic problems make people a little less likely to accept all of the global warming studies and to put up the money that will be needed to materially reduce greenhouse gases. In the meantime, global warming naysayers are publishing some interesting articles, like this one. I think it will be difficult, politically, to justify huge expenditures on environmental initiatives, particularly those based on predictions of catastrophic results happening well into the future, when governments are running enormous deficits already. In some ways, environmentalism is only politically popular when its costs are borne entirely be others, like a particular industry or a far-away country. When an environmental decision has significant consequences for the average American — as apparently is the case with a recent set of federal regulations that will dramatically restrict the use of river water in California, with profound repercussions for farming and potential growth — politicians are highly critical. This report on the water use regulations, for example, quotes Governor Schwarzenegger, who is generally viewed as environmentally friendly, as saying that the regulations put the interests of fish above the interests of human beings. Now, where have we heard that kind of argument before?

I think we are going to start to see some serious pushback on the “consensus” on global warming. One predicted point of attack: the computer models that are the foundation of virtually every global warming. The models are based on significant assumptions about the climatic reaction to certain gases, temperature trends, and so forth. Pardon the pun in the context of a post on environmental issues, but we should all remember that one of the basic truisms about any computer program is “garbage in, garbage out.”

American artists, British bands

Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry

There are eight Americans and two Brits in the top ten of Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 greatest artists of all time

Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash

(not a definitive list, but useful for illustrating my point). What’s strange is that all the Americans entries are individuals, while the British entries are for bands. Going down the list, it’s pretty much the same, with a few exceptions. Marvin Gaye, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison for the Americans, the Clash and the Who for the British.

Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra

Elvis

Elvis

It’s not a fluke. Anyone who’s listened to pop music from the past fifty years has probably noticed that America’s best contributions come in the forms of individuals, while British ones come in the form of bands. None of the “best American bands” we’ve discussed so far are as influential, in my opinion, as Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson. Many of America’s best bands have been dominated by a single member – Nirvana by Kurt Cobain, the Beach Boys by Brian Wilson, the Doors by Jim Morrison – while Britain’s best bands traditionally derive their brilliance from collaboration (or compromise) – the Beatles from Lennon and McCartney, the Rolling Stones from Jagger and Richards, etc.

Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin

Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder

The “American artists, British bands” rule applies too consistently to be dismissed as coincidence. Why is it this way?

Maybe it has something to do with America’s culture of individualism. The republican ideal of a man free to work to improve his own life has, perhaps, helped create the image of the American singer-songwriter

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan

who blazes his own path through music. This explanation strikes me as too idealistic, however.

Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen

It could have something to do with America’s celebrity culture. Americans love creating personas for public figures. Maybe individual artists, with songs reflecting their own personality and values, resonate more with the American people. With more popularity, they are more likely to have successful careers that allow them more creativity. In fact, nearly all the great American musicians have personas like this. Sinatra was classy, Elvis wild but respectful, Springsteen working-class, Madonna sexual, etc. We even give them nicknames like “the Boss” and “the King.”

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson

Prince

Prince

Another likely explanation is that, for whatever reason, America started a tradition of successful singer-songwriters that musicians imitated throughout the years. The great musicians whose pictures are in this post might have been following the model set by Chuck Berry and Little Richard, jazz greats like Miles Davis, or country legends like Woody Guthrie. In Britain, aspiring musicians would be more likely to follow the example of their country’s legends, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

Jay-Z

Jay-Z

In the past thirty years rap has dominated American popular music. More than any other genre, rap is all about individualism. I wonder if this is continuing the same tradition. After all, rappers do tend to have well-known personas (usually involving a huge ego).

Edited to add: Time to Vote for your choice for Best American Band!

Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake

D-Day Remembered

D-Day was 65 years ago today. The U.S. Army has an interesting website with information, photos, and a transcript of General Eisenhower’s famous speech to the troops. The successful invasion of Normandy marked the beginning of the end for the Nazi regime in Germany and changed the world — not forever or unalterably, but for the better.

D-Day was a day where ordinary men who had trained to be soldiers did extraordinary things. I think the photo above helps to capture — admittedly, in a very limited way — what it must have been like to be on one of the landing craft on that fateful day. I cannot imagine, however, what it must have been like to leave that craft, to jump into the water as the bullets flew and the artillery fire raged, to make your legs move and keep your head as friends were being killed, and then to take the beachhead. When the beachhead was taken and the pillboxes had been knocked out and the adrenalin flow began to return to normal, what was it like to stand on the heights and look back on the carnage? Did the men reflect with pride on their achievement, or mourn their dead friends, or pray, or just want to smoke a cigarette and thank their luck and their God?

We should never forget their sacrifice.

Happily, Not On The List

I am happy when some lists exclude Columbus — like this list of the 15 most dangerous cities in America. The list itself is interesting because it doesn’t include any cities in Ohio, nor does it include New York City, or Boston, or Chicago. Although some of the cities always seem to make this kind of list (like Detroit, Miami, Baltimore, and New Orleans), some come as a surprise to me. I would not expect Memphis, Charlotte, Nashville, Orlando, and Charleston, S.C. to be in the top 15. Las Vegas, I suppose, should be expected; after all, it is where CSI is set.

Crime statistics are always a bit abstract and remote, but the facts reflected on this list are somewhat shocking. The authors counted only the truly heinous crimes of murder, non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. In Detroit, which is number 1 on the list, there were 1,220 violent crimes for every 100,000 people in 2008. In short, 1 out of every 100 people in Detroit was killed, raped, or physically assaulted in a traumatizing way! No rational person who is economically capable of moving will live for long in that kind of environment.  What do you think that means for Detroit’s future?