There’s nothing like a long holiday weekend – visiting relatives who can’t put politics aside during Thanksgiving dinner, endless movie previews before the feature presentation and mind-numbing waits at checkout counters – to spark a plethora of thoughts about the stories in the news that just won’t go away. And, fresh from a weekend of giving thanks, I’m grateful for this column as it gives me a chance to refine my thoughts on these weighty matters as we go into the final weeks of 2006 and all of the upcoming Christmas parties:

Global Warming. As more evidence of the sun’s impact on our planet’s climate pours in, politicians and other pseudo-climatologists have become more strident in their declarations that man, and man alone, is guilty of boosting the Earth’s temperature (soon!) to inhabitable heights. This unscientifically, pre-determined cause and effect should baffle post-Copernicus, Galileo and Sir Isaac Newton science buffs. Have you heard the phrase “global warming deniers?” This fully loaded phrase is in vogue with “Milton Friedman deniers,” “Islamo-fascist deniers,” “Weakness invites violence in the Middle East deniers,” and is so shallow and non-scientific in nature it is hard to attack without mocking. As you can tell, I failed miserably. Copernicus was accused of something similar to this, wasn’t he? My question is, why are global warming zealots solar warming deniers? If you want to weigh the seriousness of any given global warming argument, check to see if there is any mention of the sun’s role in planetary warming and cooling. Serious climatologists, and there are some out there, will examine the role of the sun, clouds, cosmic radiation, the Earth’s orbit, the tilt of the Earth’s axis, volcanoes, naturally and otherwise occurring greenhouse gases (By far the most significant greenhouse gas is water vapor. So, if the sun is warming the planet, there would be more evaporation, and more greenhouse gas!), and so on. Global or solar warming is a fascinating topic when the politics are taken out of the equation and science takes its place.

Next time you read or hear someone purporting to be an expert on long-range weather forecasts, note how much time or space is dedicated to the role of the sun. Then, ask yourself if the speaker would be disappointed by a study proving the sun’s disproportionate role in the planet’s temperature fluctuations. That was the problem back when Copernicus, Galileo and Newton were around. So many of the “great” thinkers of the day had an agenda. They did not want facts, only confirmation of their point of view. Is it just me, or is the pseudo-religious zeal of global warming man-blamers reminiscent of the kind of thinking that dominated the 16th-century Catholic Church?

And the next time you hear the solar warming deniers spout off they have 300 signatures of “scientists” who believe in global warming, remember that I can get 500 people to sign a piece of paper saying I’m better looking than George Clooney. “Voting” on global warming is the silliest, most adolescent manner of advancing an argument imaginable.

Michael Richards. I don’t know why we care what actors think, but since so many Americans continue to do so, it struck me as odd how sensitive we can be when learning what Richards and Mel Gibson say/think, yet we are not similarly affected when elected officials falsely accuse the president of being a terrorist, a Nazi, a murderer and worse. What Michael Richards said was sickening, even in the confines of a comedy club where as much hatred is spewed as some mosques we’ve heard about post 9/11. What politicians like Durbin, Kennedy, Reid, Kerry, Gore, Dean have said were not uttered in settings when anyone would assume humor might have been a hoped for result. Yet, their remarks pass with a yawn.

I read where Michael Richards is being recommended for sensitivity training and anger management. I concur. It couldn’t do him any harm and might do him some good. Not that his career would rebound, but like so many actors, he really should have stuck to working with scripts that someone else wrote. Which leads me to ask, why is Rosie O’Donnell on the air?

The Draft. Interesting that reinstating the draft is always advanced by liberals. The draft involves the federal government telling an individual what to do, how long they will do it and how much they will be paid for doing it. Conservatives believe in free choice. And, interestingly, an all-volunteer military is the most effective fighting force. The fact Democrats as a party never renounce the draft on substantive grounds (they don’t like the timing right now) tells you all you need to know about them. The latest proponent, tax-happy New York Democrat Rep. Charlie Rangel, sees the draft as a vehicle for social engineering and that is not something with which a good liberal can disagree. The draft, unless necessitated by an overwhelming crisis, is pure liberalism.

I am however interested in looking at a plan that would encourage our youth to look into service to our country for two years (in a break between high school and college) as a way to learn about and give back to our country. The service could be in the military or building parks, working on improvements to our infrastructure or communities. The student would choose his “Service Of Interest” and in between his/her work they would have classes in U.S. history, the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and other topics. This plan would not only teach our youth about why this is the greatest country in the history of the world, but would give them an opportunity to give back. My only problem with my idea is that I am against anything that raises the size or scope of government, so my plan isn’t yet perfect.

Wal-Mart. I see Wal-Mart has introduced a price-slashing campaign offering commonly prescribed generics at four dollars for a month’s supply. This has caused Target to follow suit. There was also news of Wal-Mart cutting prices on groceries and electronics – just before the holidays. Dirty rotten scoundrels. For some reason, I can’t get my mind around a “Hate Wal-Mart” agenda. I’d like to know from the likes of John “I outsource my Wal-Mart shopping to staffers” Edwards why my having more disposable income is a bad thing? Democrats don’t want me to have more disposable income from lower taxes or from shopping at Wal-Mart. Those extra dollars get spread around my community and my guess is those businesses enjoy me driving into their parking lots to spend my savings at their stores. When I save money in one area, I spend it in another. If that’s a bad result, tell it to the merchants getting the benefit of my savings.

Borat. I keep hearing Sacha Baron Cohen, the film’s star, is making a fortune (good for him!) lampooning Americans and American culture. I get that, but I see the hard-wired anti-Semitic, misogynist Borat character as taking a direct shot at Muslim extremists. Who are the world’s most committed Jew-haters? What culture de-values women to such a depressing extent? I think this comic genius is also a packaging genius. By making his character appear to be a product of a country – Kazakhstan – instead of a culture, Cohen has taken the focus off the source in the modern world of this kind of behavior and allowed us to laugh at (or feel shame and humiliation) at ourselves, perhaps, but not get caught up in the war of civilizations taking place right before our eyes. Brilliant. And I think by laughing at Borat’s aberrant behavior, many people who would not normally pay attention to politics and current events will eventually make the connection. Bravo!

Alexander Litvinenko, Anna Politkovskaya and Pierre Gemayel.The assassinations of these three individuals at this particular time tells us everything we need to know about the nature of our enemies and the world we live in. Life outside the Western cultures we have come to know from our overseas trips – during or after college – is dangerous and nothing like our forgiving imaginations might lead us to believe. If you do not believe Vladimir Putin approved of the assassinations of Litvinenko and Politkovskaya, then you are a danger to our country. If you do not believe Pierre Gemayel’s death was part of Hezbollah’s plot – funded and directed by Syria and Iran – to take over Lebanon, then you are a danger to our country. If you do not believe Israelis should be on the endangered species list due to the activities of Iran and Syria, then you are a danger to your country.

Sorry, but remaining free has its responsibilities.

The United States appears to be looking for a way to exit Iraq. It is counter-intuitive, but, as dangerous as the Middle East is, our presence there is required to prevent the deaths of millions and the oppression of millions more. We are showing signs of weakness (electing cut and run Democrats, firing Rumsfeld) and the increased violence taking place in Iraq is a result of our perceived weakness. The post-election/post-Rumsfeld firing violence is as predictable as Rosie O’Donnell going on an anti-Christian tirade just before Christmas.

The war in Iraq, if not an outright win, is a catastrophic loss. To minimize losses and maximize the benefits of our presence in Iraq, we have to unleash the full, deadly force of our military. A show of strength is as important to bringing peace as the victories the strength will yield. We have to stop fooling ourselves. We have to stop lying to ourselves. The Islamo-fascists trying to destroy a peaceful, Democratic Iraq, are the same Islamo-fascists trying to destroy a peaceful, Democratic Israel. We defend Iraq to stabilize the Middle East. We must fight Iran to save Israel. We save Israel to protect Europe. We protect Europe to save ourselves. If we don’t get our heads straight right now, we’ll have them cut off later. If you do not believe this, you have not spent any time studying our enemies. You have spent too much time, like global warming man-blamers, searching for random facts to support your pre-determined theory.

Sorry, but a clash of civilizations is a bitch.

Anyway, long holiday weekends are a good thing. They give us time to decompress and meditate on the thousands of news stories the media is kind enough to share with us. Unfortunately, many of these stories affect our lives and if we value our way of life, we have to put the necessary time in to study the problems we face. Whether it is global warming zealots, people infected with celebrity infatuation, low-price bashers, or evil deniers, they all seem to share a common trait: They are not critical thinkers. They live in fantasy worlds where dots are selectively and subjectively plucked out of the air to fit an agenda. After 9/11, one would think connecting dots, not erasing them, would be all the rage. The only way to overcome sloppy thinking and narrow-minded, self-defeating agendas is to stay dedicated to the truth. Like Copernicus, Galileo and Newton.

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