Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Grand Re-Opening of Static Art


Come one come all!

I have re-built the site with updated (in focus) images. They look so much better that it's worth a new look. I added a few new pictures and an new feature. Click on "Anatomy of a Painting" and follow the progress of the painting I am currently working on. Thus far I have chosen a subject and bought a fresh canvas, but once I get started it progresses quite fast.

So, please take a fresh look and feel free to download any image...


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

European Arrogance: The Big Lie

You do understand that as an American you and you alone are responsible for "climate change". America is the #1 emitter of greenhouse gasses. You should be ashamed. Europeans, on the other hand, can continue to pat themselves on the back and revel in their superiority.

It should come as no surprise that our smug friends in Europe believe that if only the cowboy in the White House would just sign Kyoto the world would be saved. Yes, it's all George Bush's' fault. Never mind that President Clinton never signed on. Never mind the 1990's famous 99-0 vote in the US Senate rejecting Kyoto (including Senator John Kerry, I might add). Never mind that the two fastest growing national economies in the world, namely China and India are entirely exempt. Just you never mind all that. These facts cloud the issue at hand - America is destroying the world.

Not so fast...

It is sad that it takes an Internet blogger from Germany to break a story our own media should be hyping if they weren't so damn unAmerican. The blog David's Medienkritik bills itself as "Politically Incorrect Observations on Reporting in the German Media" and today offers us the text of a very revealing speech by Kurt Volker, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs of the U.S. State Department at a meeting of the German Marshall Fund. Visit the website for the full article - here I submit some excerpts:

Now, I know there is a deeply held view among many in Europe that the U.S. Government doesn't get it. That we don't care about climate change, that we are doing nothing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and that Europe, while perhaps not perfect, is doing a far better job of tackling the issue than the United States. This proposition--no matter how simple, no matter how widely held, and no matter how much it fits a pop-culture "blame-the-United States" paradigm--is completely wrong, on every point. (...)

The United States is number one in greenhouse gas emissions primarily because it is the number one economy in the world. With 5% of the world's population we produce 25% of global wealth. And despite being relatively clean and green, Germany leads Europe in emissions, because it is Europe's largest economy. Our emissions are not out of line with the size of our economy. And it's worth noting: the International Energy Agency is forecasting that China, with a smaller economy, is expected to surpass U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2009.(...)

...from 2000-2004--the most recent period for which we have good, comparative data--U.S. greenhouse gas emissions increased by 1.3 percent. This is an increase, but a very modest increase. The EU-25, on the other hand, increased collective emissions by 2.1 percent.

And, no, this is not because the new EU members added since the 2004 expansion run dirtier economies than the previous 15 members, and this then bumps up the numbers. Actually, the new members have the opposite effect. Those nations--by moving away from some older energy technologies like brown coal--are part of the good news story. If the new EU members did not bring down the average, the old EU-15 would get a worse report card--having increased emissions by 2.4 percent during this same time period.(...)

I would venture to say that few people in Europe know that from 2000 to 2004, EU-15 emissions grew at nearly double the U.S. rate, and that Europe, at least during this period, has been moving away from-not towards-its Kyoto target of an 8 percent cut. (...)

Now notice something else. This time period of 2000 to 2004 was a period of rapid economic growth in the United States. Between 2000 and 2004 we grew our economy by almost 1.9 trillion dollars (or nearly 1.46 trillion Euros). That's about the equivalent of adding Italy to the U.S. economy. And we increased our population by 11.3 million people--adding more than the population of Greece. And yet our emissions grew only 1.3 percent--that tells you a lot about how the U.S. economy is already changing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.(...)

There you have it. Not only is Europe, the righteous and noble guardians of the planet falling behind their own Kyoto targets the trending actually shows the U.S. moving decisively in the right direction. This while Europe's economy stagnates and the emerging super economies of Asia are becoming dirtier and dirtier despite being only a fraction of the size of America's economy.

We need to quit beating ourselves up and we need to shrug when the self-righteous, smug, elitists in the European media flaunt their self deluded superiority. Surely we have work to do. We need to continue to set higher standards and attain higher goals regarding our own stake in the carbon emissions sweepstakes - but we are doing it - not just beating our chests.


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Cabin Fever

cabin fever The Oxford American College Dictionary ... cab·in fe·ver • n. informal irritability, listlessness, and similar symptoms resulting from long confinement or isolation indoors during the winter...

I've got it. We have been enduring a prolonged period of below normal temperatures in these parts for weeks on end. Today there was a promise of moderation and I was actually looking forward to crawling under the cars to change the oil - looking forward to it! But the temp outside has peaked a 12F. I am not crawling under the car today.

I think my little 3 day jaunt to Arizona a couple of weeks ago has only made it worse. I can't stand my family, my dog or myself right now. The NFL season is over and college hockey only plays on Friday and Saturday nights - in other words sports offers no distraction. I walked like a zombie through Hollywood Video and found nothing even remotely interesting. Cable TV is as dull as the day is long. And politics, now that The Nancy and Harry Show is on 24/7, is like watching Sesame Street for adults only more boring.

Cabin Fever! Aaaahhhh!!!!!

Give me my Global Warming, NOW!!!!!!!


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Commissioned Art

Here is my latest painting and my last for a while since my office at home will be turned into an... office. It's tax season and my easel had to be taken down to make room for the craft table that will support reams of paper for this years tax preparation marathon. Every year I long for a flat tax so that this whole charade can be accomplished by attaching electronic versions of my W2's to an ssl secured IRS Web app and we'd be done with it. But that's a subject for a different rant...

This painting was commissioned by my wife. She hopes to hang it up in her new office, in her new building where she works for a brand new company (presumably they have no pictures on the walls). The subject was taken from one of our favorite photographers and a fellow Minnesotan, Jim Brandenburg. Brandenburg is a rather famous fellow in the photography game having worked for many years with National Geographic Magazine. He has produced a handful of very successful books and documentaries featuring his work. He lives and works in the Ely, MN area right on the edge of Minnesota's famous Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

"Rookie Lake Overlook"
18X24 (acrylic)

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Presidential Report Card: Why Wait

I know George W. Bush has nearly 2 years left in his presidential run but his impact on history has already been ordained - in part. I truly believe that his true importance will not be fully appreciated for decades to come. Similar to Harry S. Truman, also an unpopular wartime president, Bush has much of the country demanding an answer to the Iraq end game. Truman had many, including his immediate successor, Dwight Eisenhower, demanding that the U.S. get out of Korea. Our ultimate success in the cold war hinged on the early years of the Truman Doctrine just as the War Against the Terror Masters now calls for the resolve of what is left of the tattered and bruised Bush Doctrine.

Unlike his predecessor Bill Clinton, George W. Bush governed during truly remarkable historical events. This presidency was consequential, albeit far less consequential than it could have been. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 will overshadow it all. The Bush presidency, still in its infancy was transformed that day. It would be interesting to explore this man's tenure in an alternate time line, without 9/11 - but alas, we have only this one reality to reckon with.

The war on terror (a stupid name to call this global battle) and Iraq will dominate the history books, but it's the economy that dominates the lives of ordinary Americans. By and large The President has done a very good job with the economy. Many mocked Bush when he urged Americans to shop and spend, to live the American dream. The economy, fueled by consumer spending, increasing real estate values and corporate investment has kept our society from coming apart at the seams. Amazingly, even with the main stream media doing all it could to talk down our economic might and resiliency, America again leads the world down the path to global prosperity.

Economic considerations, however, are only one measure of a leader. We all know that statistics can be used to paint any picture you want. There are people out there who can take today's statistics and show you we are living in a time that rivals the Great Depression. This is poppycock, of course, but it will sway a small subset of opinion. When this subset of our society happens to work for the newspapers and TV networks the megaphone principle is in full effect.

If there's one thing I have learned it is that the American people, despite what you may have been led to believe, are not stupid when given good information. The average man (or woman) can tell when they are being played for fools. Americans are also fair to their leaders even when they don't deserve it. Unfortunately the Bush Administration did not trust the American people enough to tell the truth about Iraq, Afghanistan and the Global War on Terror. The fact that the Iraq gambit was merely a part of the geo-political chess match that has the containment of Iran as the it's central focus. Now the administration, hampered by the set backs in Iraq, will never be able to refocus the public on the threat Iran poses because they never came clean on what Iraq really meant.

So the report card on President Bush must focus on the economy and the foreign policy this administration had chosen to follow:

Tax policy: A-
(Could be A+ if cuts are made permanent)

Economic incentives: B
(Capital Gains cuts and Corporate Accountability helped to stabilize the financial markets)

Education Policy: C
(At least they tried to require accountability for all that federal money)

Supreme Court: B
(Would have been an A but for Harriet Meyers)

Federal Judges: B
(Tough going - but many good judges approved)

Environmental policy: C
(Held the line on junk science influencing policy)

Fighting Socialism: C
(Medicare Part D - really should have been means tested)

Handling the Media: F-
(Can there even be an F- ? simply terrible)

The Bully Pulpit: F
(Terrible delivery of the message)

Immigration/Border: F
(This head fake was too little too late)

Relations w/China D
(Bend over America)

Relations w/India: A
(A job well done with this strategic partner)

Relations w/Australia: A
(A job well done with this true friend)

Relations w/North Korea: C
(multilateral negotiations producing results???)

Waging Preemptive War: F
(Iraq, say no more)

Waging War on al Qaeda: B
(Afghanistan et al)

International Diplomacy: D
(Most internationally hated President in history)

Handling Congress: F
(Both Houses in his pocket... This was not supposed to be an adversarial Congress)

Handling the UN: A
(Unanimous Security Council vote on Iraq, Bolton, Oil for Food Scandal exposed, egg on Koffi's face!!!)

Foreign Aid: B
(A real willingness to give (AIDS) aid to Africa, not just lip service like BC, Tsunami relief, Pakistan and Iran earthquake relief)

Saturday, February 03, 2007

It's Not Just Your Car, It's Your Freedom

In a recent article by Vasko Kohlmayer on the American Thinker web site called "The West Alone" we are treated to a lesson we should all know intuitively. He describes the situation the West finds itself in and how we are alone as the only successful culture still standing in the 21st century. And yet instead of a celebration of our unqualified greatness Mr. Kohlmayer observes:

Perhaps at no point in history has a major civilization been vilified more virulently than the West is today. Castigated and denounced from without and within, it has been blamed for nearly every problem there is...

It would be difficult to think of a greater paradox than the existence of such sentiments toward a civilization that has done so much for the good of the human race. Gratitude rather than condemnation would be a far more appropriate attitude for the numerous gifts the West has bestowed on mankind. Many could be mentioned, but let us for now focus on one which truly staggers the mind - the gift of the modern world.

Whether it be democracy, capitalism, the car, the airplane, electricity, the computer, the gas stove, the hypodermic needle, the microwave, the internet, the television, the wristwatch, the flush toilet, the mobile phone or communication satellites - all this plus nearly all that is encompassed by the term ‘modern' has been brought into being by the West.

Indeed the very same people who decry the rape and pillage of the world by Western man through the megaphone of the media and popular culture have been enriched by the system of democracy, freedom and high technology the West has developed.

Perhaps the one thing most responsible for the acsendancy of the West is under the greatest assault - the car, our personal transportation. When General Motors ran an ad campaign a decade ago that declared It's Not Just Your Car, It's Your Freedom no truer words have ever been spoken. Ladies and Gentleman your freedom is under attack.

The car is said to be responsible for all the great tragedies facing the modern world. From global warming to urban sprawl. From terrorism to oil wars. From the rape of the land to the filth in the sky. It is claimed that the car costs the world too much. Plain and simple your freedom is killing Mother Earth.

Wait it is not as bad as all that. In a January 28th piece in the Washington Post messengers Ted Balaker and Sam Staley clear up 5 Myths About Suburbia and Our Car-Happy Culture.

Starting with myth one they put to rest the outright falsehoods we have been brainwashed into believing :

1.Americans are addicted to driving.

Actually, Americans aren't addicted to their cars any more than office workers are addicted to their computers. Both items are merely tools that allow people to accomplish tasks faster and more conveniently. The New York metropolitan area is home to the nation's most extensive transit system, yet even there it takes transit riders about twice as long as drivers to get to work...

Some claim that Europeans have developed an enlightened alternative. Americans return from London and Paris and tell their friends that everyone gets around by transit. But tourists tend to confine themselves to the central cities. Europeans may enjoy top-notch transit and endure gasoline that costs $5 per gallon, but in fact they don't drive much less than we do. In the United States, automobiles account for about 88 percent of travel. In Europe, the figure is about 78 percent. And Europeans are gaining on us.

The key factor that affects driving habits isn't population density, public transit availability, gasoline taxes or even different attitudes. It's wealth. Europe and the United States are relatively wealthy, but American incomes are 15 to 40 percent higher than those in Western Europe. And as nations such as China and India become wealthier, the portion of their populations that drive cars will grow...

The other four myths are skewered with enough logic and fact that make you want to get behind the wheel and drive for the sake of driving. The one myth that truly floored me was the myth that we are paving over America and that soon there will be only the dreary concrete jungle of the Megalopolis. The fact is only 5.4 % of American land is developed according to the US Census Bureau. They descibed developed as 30 people per square mile. In an urban area many thousands can live in a square mile.

We should certainly work hard as a society to develop more efficient and technologically advanced cars. We should try to reduce pollution and be mindful of the effect of sprawl. But we should do so with the mind that cars are one of the crowning glories of Western Civilization.

And remember: It's Not Just Your Car, It IS Your Freedom!


From Arizona With Love

It's 70 and sunny, the windows are rolled down and I'm cruising the famous Arizona highways. For those of you huddled together this day enduring a brutal sub-zero winter day I feel for you. No, I really do...

When I left the Minneapolis/St Paul International airport this morning it was so cold... "How Cold Was It?" It was so cold the parking brakes on the A320 were frozen solid. It took two hours with what I assume was a measly 1200 watt hair dryer to break them free so that we could defy the bonds of gravity and jet off to the land of the Sun Devils.

It's just such an odd sensation to be on the verge of depression contemplating day after day of inhuman temperatures only to be transported to a "mid June" afternoon two and a half hours later. Right now I am listening to the glorious sounds of a basketball bouncing on the tennis court outside my hotel window.

I'm in Phoenix on business and today is a travel day so I am free to do whatever I want with it. So I rented a car and took a drive out into the desert along Arizona's famous Apache Trail. The thing about Arizona is that if you don't like the geography you find yourself in just wait 10 miles. I don't think there is another state outside of California that can boast such a diverse geographical footprint. It's simply amazing.

Here we have entered Tonto National Forest when we whip around a mountain switchback to have our wondering eyes filled with this awesome vista. This is Canyon Lake. I only wish a photo could do it justice. I really was beautiful.

At the beginning of the trail where the metropolis of the greater Phoenix area comes to an end we ogle the mysterious Superstition Mountains. This rugged monolith juts out of the desert and is as imposing its name...

Now, mind you, all is not well along the Apache Trail. While I do see those ubiquitous "Adopt-a-Highway" signs it seems no one - and I mean no one - has been out picking up litter for a long, long time. Frankly it's disgusting. In Minnesota with all our pretentiousness and outright snobbery at least our highways and byways are clean. It only stands to reason the further you get away from the city the cleaner it gets. But soon you realize the other great problem with this would be fabulous Sunday drive.

What's wrong with this picture?

"Why, look here, there's a line running right across the sky." You are so right. Every direction you look while cruising along Highway 88 you see power lines. They are everywhere. It is nearly impossible to take a picture from the roadside without these lines cutting through them. It is understandable that for access reasons it is necessary for these power lines to follow along the highway but it is very distracting for the tourist.

Having been out here now on 4 or 5 different occasions it's no wonder so many people from the upper mid-west spend their winters here. It's wonderfully warm.