Thursday, February 24, 2022

At Least Two Sides to Every Story

Growing up, did you ever hear that sage old line, “there are always at least two sides to every story. Your side, their side, and the truth, which is somewhere in the middle.” I not only heard that line, I sometimes fretted over it. You see, my mom would use that line to get to the bottom of the “he said, she said” issues that arose regularly amongst her 8 kids. 

Mom would separate the 2 bickering kids and listen to each separately and independently tell their story. Knowing that one of my brothers or sisters was telling a side of the story I couldn’t hear, had the effect of making me stick pretty close to the truth when I got to telling my side of the story. In the end, of course, mom would decide what the truth was and she would hand down her decision and corrective actions accordingly. That line though, stuck with me.

KamloopsNow, do you remember last summer’s heartbreaking story about the discovery of hundreds of graves of children at the Kamloops Indian Reservation School in Canada? It was awful… and the Government and the Church (especially the Church) was at the center of it according to all the media doing the reporting.

“The Kamloops “discovery” of 2021 created a major sensation across the globe.

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau immediately referred to “a dark and shameful chapter” in Canadian history.
  • British Columbia Premier John Horgan said he was “horrified and heartbroken” to learn of a burial site with 215 children that highlights the violence and consequences of the residential school system.
  • The Canadian federal government lowered the flags on all its buildings to half-staff. Later, it instituted a new holiday to honor "missing" children and survivors of residential schools. 
  • Several media outlets, including The New York Times, amplified the story. And some in the media world proclaimed that “thousands” of children had “gone missing” from residential schools, and the “mass graves” that were found contained bodies dumped in a jumble.
  • And then finally, with a sense of closure, the Canadian Press honored the children of residential schools as the “Person of the Year 2021.”

Did your heart bleed for those poor children? Did you feel righteous anger at the perpetrators from the Church and Government who were responsible for the Kamloops School?

Did you cheer on those who “took action”:

  • Sixty-five churches were burned or vandalized across Canada
  • At other churches, clusters of shoes and orange shirts were placed on the church steps in memory of the little victims. 
  • Statues were spray-painted and pulled down in apparent retaliation for the fate of the children. 
  • The statue of Queen Victoria in front of the Manitoba Legislature was defaced and pulled down. 
  • Montreal’s statue of Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada's first prime minister, was knocked down, his detached bronze head symbolically rolling on the ground.     

A terrible tragedy all the way around. Such overwhelming sadness for those hundreds (maybe even more) of children buried in unmarked or mass graves on the Kamloops school grounds. Damn those Government and Church officials.

The press, of course, went onto other “news” and our attention was swept away after hearing all of these voices telling just one side of the story. However, as mom would say, there are always at least two sides to every story and the truth is somewhere in the middle.              

In the case of the Kamloops discovery of 2021, do you know that not a single, solitary body or grave has actually been found per this discovery/accusation? 

How can that be? 

Well, Dr. Sarah Beaulieu, an instructor at the University of Fraser Valley since 2018 (she received her Masters in 2015 and her PhD in 2019), tells one side of the story; the side the press and politicians chose to amplify. You see, Dr. Sarah pioneered the use of Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) as a remote sensing method in her work as a modern conflict anthropologist. She’s used her techniques to research WWI interment sites, to survey cemeteries, and to search for lost graves from the past across Canada. 

Dr. Sarah’s astonishing discovery and her horrifying claims of hundreds of childhood graves at the Kamloops school was based not on finding graves, coffins, or human remains. Rather her claim was based on ground penetrating radar showing depressions and abnormalities in the soil of an apple orchard near the school. She then interpreted those depressions and abnormalities as the lost graves of hundreds of children. And her horrific tale became “news” 

A few months after her discovery and the press tsunami that swept us all up in the horror of the story, Dr. Sarah did scale back her story a bit saying the “probable burials” are based on disturbances her radar picked up which “have multiple signatures that present like burials” although they could be “tree roots, metal and stones”. Did the press report on this twist in her story so as to allow us all to take a questioning pause? Nope.

Dr. Sarah’s side of the story induced the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to portray the situation as “a large-scale human rights violation.” The UN urged Canadian authorities and the Catholic Church to conduct “thorough investigations into the discovery of a mass grave containing the remains of over 200 children” — remember, in actuality, not a single body has been uncovered.

The supposed perpetrators of this “crime” even began “making excuses: governments, religious communities, and the Conference of Catholic Bishops. In June, Pope Francis expressed his pain for “the shocking discovery in Canada of the remains of 215 children” at Kamloops” and Aboriginal leaders began “demanding a formal apology” with some calling on the church to provide compensation for survivors.

By never pointing out that all these supposed graves are merely a matter of speculation and that no remains have yet been found, “governments and the media are simply granting credence to what is really a thesis: the thesis of the “disappearance” of children from residential schools. From an allegation of potential “cultural genocide” the story moved to one of adamant “physical genocide.” All based “only on soil abnormalities that could easily be caused by root movements”, as the anthropologist Dr. Sarah herself cautioned in her follow-up press conference.

Yep, mom was right, “there are always at least two sides to every story and the truth hides somewhere in the middle.” As hard as it might be in today’s world of shocking headlines and immediate demands to decide and choose sides, please seek the other sides of any story and hear it out for yourself. You just might find the truth.


Saturday, February 19, 2022

Climate Change by What Standard of Value?

As a kid, did you ever hear these old parental songs?

  • Don’t sit so close to the TV! You’ll ruin your eyesight.

  • If you keep doing that, your face is going to stay that way!

  • Keep doing “that” and you’ll go blind!

Did those predicted catastrophes come home to roost? Did you ruin your eyesight, is your face stuck in a funny expression, did you go blind?

As an adult, are you now hearing the climate change song: “pollution from fossil fuels are hazardous to our health, irreversibly ruining our environment, we must take massive and expensive action now”.

Do you recognize, the many historical verses of that ol’ song:

  • Back in 1970 Life Magazine wrote, “in a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution (forget about COVID for a moment) … and by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half”

    • That would trigger global cooling, right?

  • But also in 1970, Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University, sang out “Air pollution … is certainly going to take hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few years alone”

    • And then he doubled-down in 1971 saying, “by the year 2000 the UK will be simply a small group of impoverished islands inhabited by some 70 million hungry people”

  • Then in 1986, Dr. James Hansen of the Goddard Space Flight Center, crooned about average global temperatures rising by ½ to 1 degree Fahrenheit between 1990-2000 and then rising another 2 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit in the following decade.

    • Of course, that would trigger massive global warming, right?

  • In 2012 environmentalist, Bill McKibben serenaded Duke students with “the choice of doing nothing - of continuing to burn ever more oil and coal - is not a choice, … it will lead us, if not straight to hell, then straight to a place with a similar temperature”

  • And just 3 years ago, in 2019, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez rapped out, “the world is gonna end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change and your biggest issue is how are we gonna pay for it?” 

    • She was paraphrasing a United Nations report that insisted “rapid and far-reaching transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities” are our only hope.

What actually happened over all those decades? I’ll give you a hint… it is a very different crescendo.

People around the world nearly doubled their use of fossil fuels. And instead of epic catastrophe, we witnessed improvement in human life across the board. Yes! Life got better for billions of people in just a few decades largely because of more fossil fuels. 

  • The global death rate fell significantly

    • the global crude death rate fell from 17.7 per 1,000 to just 7.6 per 1,000 between 1960 and 2016 per the World Bank

  • Fewer children die young

    • Globally, 160 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 1950 improved to just 65 per 1,000 in 2017 per World Health Organization estimates

  • The end of famine is in sight

    • Global average population weighted food supply per person rose from 2,196 calories in 1961 to 2,962 in 2017 according to the United Nations Food & Agriculture organization

      • Undernourishment in the world fell from 37% of the total population in 1969-1971 to under 11% in 2018

      • Tremendous progress

  • More trees and land for mother nature

    • The global tree canopy increased by 865,000 square miles between 1982 and 2016 per the University of Maryland in a 2018 study in Nature

      • Need a point of reference as to how big 865,000 square miles is… well, the entire city of San Francisco, (big, right?) is just 49 square miles. 

      • So, we are talking about nearly 18,000 San Francisco city sized forests!

Yes, in spite of all the expert predictions singing in our ears for decades, the globe's increased use of fossil fuels actually led to billions of people living longer and more fulfilling lives. Sing that tune!

“Fossil fuel technology transforms nature to improve human life on an epic scale. It is the only energy technology that can currently meet the energy needs of all 7+ billion people on this planet. While there are some truly exciting supplemental technologies that may rise to dominance in some distant decade, that does not diminish the greatness or immense value of fossil fuel technology.”
Epstein, Alex. The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels (p. 34). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Quite the surprise result. Perhaps it is more about the standard of value we use that should determine the song. 

  • If you want to scare people, make it a scary song and light a short fuze.

  • If you want to raise huge amounts of money (that you can control), wait until everyone is really scared, and then tell ‘em you have a plan, but it’ll be expensive, so taxes must go up.

  • If you want to hold a totally pristine nature (think the Genesis Garden of Eden) as your standard of value, then you must get people to take action toward fossil fuel reduction while ignoring the human gains enabled by fossil fuels.

  • However, if “human life” is your standard of value, well, breathe a huge sigh of relief! We are already on a very positive, fossil-fueled path that delivers increasing amounts of energy the world so badly needs. 

Just as the songs of our parents about TV viewing distances and such, proved to be non-catastrophic,  the climate songs being sung to us are not the catastrophes being professed. They do require us however, to ask questions including the actual standard of value all the proposed actions are grounded upon. 

The simple reality is that if human life is the standard of value with which to measure success or failure, we need more energy, from more fossil fuels (along with energy from other sources too) to solve the real human troubles that remain in our wonderful world.  

The next time you hear the siren call of a climate song, stop and ask what the standard of value is behind the plans being put forth.


Thursday, October 01, 2020

The Tuesday Debacle Debate

Well, what about that Tuesday evening? Wasn't sure what to expect but it was a true spectacle, a Roman Colosseum, throw ‘em to the lions, good ol’ public event. 

  • You're a clown. 
  • You haven't done anything in 47 years. 
  • You're the worst there can be. 
And the colosseum’s watching crowd roared over social media. Sadly, much of the crowd was spewing forth what can only be called “hatred”: I hate his hair. I hate that position. I hate that group. I hate that man. 


Now, there are certain foods I tend to say I hate… I mean when you have to hand-massage with olive oil a weed called kale just to make it edible … well, to me, that’s just ridiculous! 

And I’ve been known to say I hate various forms of exercise … and now you know, why I look the way I do … 

But hatred for another person or group of people? Not just disagreeing, ever so strongly, with their position. But hatred? A hatred so strong that we have to profess it publicly, on social media? Is this what the lion’s den of our government officials has inspired us to?

I did not last very long with Tuesday’s debacle, I mean debate. And I quickly left social media for the immediate sake of my own health. 

Instead, I decided a quiet Bourbon and a good cigar would be far less of a threat to my health than either of those going-ons.

As the evening drifted by, 

  • Thoreau’s words came to mind “government is best which governs not at all” 

  • and then Churchill’s “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those others that have been tried”

Those thoughts led me to reaffirming that I only want 3 core things from my Government:

  1. First, I want my Government to provide for a national defense - that’s ready when we’re attacked (militarily, riotously or virally)

    1. We do not need to be the world’s “police” force

    2. We should only go on the offense when it’s defensively required

    3. We should recognize that threats emanate from internal as well as external sources 

  2. Secondly, I want my Government to provide for the protection of the lives and properties of all citizens

    1. This is really about recognizing that property rights and human rights go hand in hand. They can not by definition be separated.

      1. The concept of property rights is the foundation for every right we have. Every right is either a defensive claim to keep what you are holding, or an offensive claim to take something some else is holding.

    2. I have the right to breathe, therefore I need good air

  3. Thirdly, I want my Government to provide for a system of arbitrating contractual disputes among citizens when they arise

    1. And we know disputes will arise as there is something in our nature that always seems to desire what we don’t have and thus threatens discord that needs to be resolved.

    2. This is tendency to take each others’ property and therefore get into disputes with one another, is such a core human problem that 7 of the 10 Commandments speak directly to it:

      1. Don’t covet thy neighbor’s goods

      2. Don’t covet thy neighbor’s partner

      3. Don’t bear false witness

      4. Don’t steal

      5. Don’t commit adultery

      6. Don’t kill

      7. Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain

So, there you have it. I don’t want more public spectacles that fuel hate spewing social media outcries from all political corners. Our leaders and the media appear hellbent on turning us against each other. We can’t let that happen.

I just want these 3 simple things. 3 things that are powerful enough to form the foundation of real freedom for all. It’s not about a free lunch or for that matter, a free anything.

  1. It’s about a strong, capable defense against valid internal and external attacks

  2. It’s about protection for property and therefore human rights. 

  3. And lastly, it’s a system to arbitrate when we citizens go astray as we know we will.

If you’re with me thus far, you may be saying, OK Greg. How do we do all that?

Well, I’ll welcome you to join me for another bourbon and a good cigar.