J. KARL MILLER: Things we can do without in 2013

Wednesday, January 2, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:37 p.m. CST, Wednesday, January 2, 2013

As I have said before, I don't concoct New Year's resolutions for at least two reasons. The first — the primary one — is that I understand fully that no one out there in reader land has the slightest interest in my almost certainly futile attempts at self-betterment.

However, the second remains the most relevant — I don't make New Year's resolutions. I tell myself that to succumb to such tomfoolery would be an admission that I am not perfect as I am, a statement that would cause dismay among my supporters and provide new fodder for my critics.

The real answer though lies in the realization that at my age it is best to enjoy what I have. If I do something, it is because it pleases me, and at age 78, I see no reason to eschew pleasure for the sake of self-denial. How many of you remember Red Skelton's "Mean Widdle Kid?" His "If I dood it I get a whipping. I dood it anyway." has become my mantra.

Nevertheless, there are a few things out there of which I have seen and heard far too much. One might assume that these are merely minor annoyances of a crotchety old man — but, I wonder how many actually agree.

Although not necessarily in order, the first that comes to mind are those self-serving and unscrupulous television advertisements by what I like to call "ambulance-chasing attorneys." Instigating litigation for injury or death relating to asbestos, to medications, to automobile- or work-related accidents, malpractice, "abridgement of civil rights" or "the heartbreak of psoriasis," this annoying practice has turned us into a society suffering an overdose of litigation.

I understand the Supreme Court's 1977 Bates v. State Bar of Arizona ruling in favor of commercial speech as free speech, but the proliferation of televised engaging in "drumming up business" with unverifiable promises is not only a "video pollution," it also wounds the already unhealthy public esteem of attorneys. Is there a more obnoxious commercial than actor Robert Vaughn's "Tell them you mean business. Call the Hurt Line"?

Next among my pet peeves are the celebrity radio and TV ads for organizations claiming the power to clear credit-card and income-tax liabilities for virtually pennies on the dollar. Admittedly, MasterCard, American Express and the IRS are not held in high esteem by the public; however, where did the idea originate that we could incur indebtedness with little or no responsibility to pay?

Did it ever occur to anyone contemplating employment of one of those agencies that settling those debts at less than contracted is the proximate cause of high credit-card interest and lost revenues for government? Defaulting on personal responsibility seems to be the way of a more progressive country.

I am also extremely tired of the global warming/climate change controversy that has raged out of control for more than a decade. There is no question that climate change has and will continue to occur. The current Ice Age (Quaternary or Pleistocene glaciation), the latest of five separate ice ages, began 2.58 million years ago and, like all of the others, began its warming period without the presence of Homo erectus or any of its human ancestors.

Accordingly, the strident, holier-than-thou declarations that humans are the cause of the current period of climate change has, in my opinion, little basis in fact. Yes, we are inundated with manifestations of "scientific consensus" or "a majority of scientists agree," but to disguise reality as a scientific consensus is not necessarily factual. After all, was it not a scientific consensus at one time that the earth was flat and sailing ships dare not approach the edge?

Politically, my pet peeve lies in the playing of the race card in the often tacit but also overt implication that Republicans are, by their very nature, racists. Alleging that skin color was the reason behind holding Attorney General Eric Holder accountable for the "Fast and Furious" arms debacle, questioning U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice's account of the Benghazi failure and even implying that it was a major factor in GOP voters not voting for President Barack Obama, the accusations are preposterous.

Even more reprehensible is the claim that a GOP candidate's use of language such as "Chicago," "food stamps," "Keep America American," "incompetent" and "lazy" are code words to describe people of color. One would think that after a majority of Americans elected Obama to the presidency twice and Republican President George W. Bush appointed two black Americans secretary of state along with four other black Cabinet members, this would be a dead issue among intelligent politicians, media personnel and voters.

Locally, I am less than enamored of the arrogant, discourteous and outright ignorance/disdain for the rules of the road of a growing number of this city's bicycling crowd. I do applaud your lessening of carbon pollution, your penchant for physical fitness and your love of the outdoors; however, that does not accord you a special dispensation for ignoring safety, common courtesy or traffic lights.

Lastly, at the risk of alienating the Chamber of Commerce, some of the local newscasters and those who advocate a more sophisticated and cosmopolitan aura to our fair city, I say lose the affected "The District" to describe central Columbia. Downtown Columbia is and will always be "downtown" to us rustics and provincials who number the majority share of the population.

Those are my least favorite things of the year past. I am certain that many of you can add to the list.

Have a Happy New Year.

J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via email at Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.

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Michael Williams January 2, 2013 | 8:17 a.m.

I don't watch TV much, and I've started turning off the radio. For the latter, I just can't tolerate 20 minutes of every hour as commercials, and that includes our local programming; for example, one of our local 1400 Sunday morning talk radio programs doesn't even start the discussion until 17 minutes after the hour! What's up with that? Fact is, I don't even turn it on until that time.

Forget watching football on TV....the commercials have ruined the continuity of the game. It's no longer a game; it's commercials interrupted by a shadow of a game.

As for those "causes of advertising failure" commercials, I can tell you the #1 cause for advertising failure....TO G.D. MANY COMMERCIALS!!!!

Over and over again, sometimes in the same commercial break.

To hell with the TV and radio commercials. If I want to find something, I head for "google" and make every effort to NOT look at the commercials there.

PS: Spelling mistake, 5th paragraph, last sentence....what's a "hearbreak"? Kind of an appropriate "mistake" if you ask me; I certainly turn off commercials for a "hear-break".

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle January 2, 2013 | 6:00 p.m.

Climate Change? Glad you mentioned. Your denial is utter depravity. I know you're old and you don't care; it won't affect you. But it will most certainly affect future generations.

First on that whole, "Oh, the earth's climate has changed before" baloney:

Summary: The fastest, most severe increase in global temperatures, the PETM, took about 15,000 years to occur, based on the best evidence, data, and scientific analysis we have. We are currently on track to force the climate to go through that same amount of change in about 150 years - specifically because of AGW.

Yes, the earth's climate has changed before, on a fairly regular basis in fact. But there's nothing in any historical records that indicates any kind of change has ever happened at anywhere near this speed: About 100 times faster than the fastest we've ever been able to detect any previous change in earth's climate.

Then, just another hint of the enormous mountain of evidence that the climate really is changing, rapidly and drastically:

Colonel Klink himself doesn't need to change, but hey, everyone else does, to suit Carl's desires and worldview... huh?

Children born in the US today will not only inherit over $50,000 per person in national debt, they will inherit a planet whose climate will be a hellish nightmare.

Just because this takes a lifetime to manifest, and won't affect you old farts, doesn't mean it's not your responsibility to do something about it - even if it's just finally admitting the truth, and suggesting we do something about it. You're pooping in your grandkid's nest, big time. The future wil not be kind to the memories of the pockets of climate change deniers.

What am I doing about it? I'm riding my bike for transportation. Have almost all my life (yes, we knew about global warming 30 years ago). I'm a near-vegetarian, too. Over my lifetime so far, I've not burned and emitted about 40 tons of carbon that the average person my age would have.

Furthermore, I realize I still need to change: pedal even more, drive even less, conserve wherever I can, support renewable energy.

Please join me, as a true conservative, to actually conserve. Because human-driven climate change is very, very, VERY real, and in the long run will be devastating to everyone's way of life.

Oh, I stopped watching TV over 30 years ago, too. It's the 2nd best and most important decision I ever made as a teenager, after committing to using a bike for transportation. On the TV issue, I concur with Mike, just turn the dang thing off. Get rid of it. It's basically mental poison, and Carl's obviously gotten way too much of it.

And yes, those *ARE* "dog whistle" phrases and terminology, although only some of them are truly race-based. Carl's screed on that is called, "Projection."

(Report Comment)
frank christian January 2, 2013 | 9:10 p.m.

"Furthermore, I realize I still need to change: pedal even more, drive even less, conserve wherever I can, support renewable energy."

So, all Americans follow your suit. Then what? Will they be able to pay their energy taxes? Heat their homes? Help others around the world? Hell NO! Somehow, try to get a life!

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams January 2, 2013 | 10:12 p.m.

Derrick: "The fastest, most severe increase in global temperatures, the PETM, took about 15,000 years to occur, based on the best evidence, data, and scientific analysis we have. We are currently on track to force the climate to go through that same amount of change in about 150 years - specifically because of AGW."

I think you've made an unwarranted assumption here, to wit, that the 15000 years was made in a nice straight line...gradual, but nonetheless up.

I think that's incorrect. In fact, I'd bet the PETM had more ups and downs than than a male teenager in a room full of coeds. You later stated "there's nothing in any historical records that indicates any kind of change has ever happened at anywhere near this speed." In point of fact, there's nothing in the historical records to show that it hasn't...on a short term basis!


Because the further back you go, the less likely you will be able to discern 20-30 year trends.

PS: You still have to explain the climate change of the 1930s. Do you really think that has never happened before?

(Report Comment)
J Karl Miller January 3, 2013 | 10:35 a.m.

Derrick, When you cherry pick blogs and other treatises that just happen to agree with you, watch out that they don't come back to bite you. For example your Cosmos Magazine piece contains the following paragraph:

"A drastic increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at the end of the Paleocene and the beginning of the Eocene, about 55 million years ago, caused an increase in global temperatures by about 6ºC, which was sustained for nearly 150,000 years."

That "dramatic increase of greenhouse gases," the largest ever recorded, occurred during a period that there were no humans. Accordingly, no SUVs, no gas guzzzling automobiles, no burning of fossil fuels, no barbecue pits etc. So you see, that paragraph is in total agreement with me.

By the way, don't put too much stock in the recent articles labeling 2012 as the warmest in the history of the middle west. 1934 and 1935 eclipsed that,

Finally, you might consider spelling my name correctly--it is Karl with a "K" rather than a "C." That may not seem too important to you; however, it may be difficult for other readers to take seriously the comments of one who commits simple unforced errors.

(Report Comment)
Skip Yates January 3, 2013 | 5:12 p.m.

"a dead issue among intelligent politicians, media personnel and voters"..... Therein, I think lies the problem - intelligent!

(Report Comment)

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