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The so-called “Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine” has done a good job of attracting attention, but a bad job, in my view, of educating people with it’s new billboard near the Green Bay Packer’s legendary Lambeau Field in Green Bay, that portrays a death figure with an anti-cheese nutritional message. On the group’s website, they portray the death figure wearing a bright yellow cheesehead, their attention-getting gimmick, but on the new actual billboard, the threat of a lawsuit from the Milwaukee-based company that manufactures the trademarked cheeseheads caused them to remove the popular symbol.

This stunt by the so-called “Physician’s” group, is the sort of distortion that obscures the correct message: that moderation in eating cheese, as in all things, makes sense. See the original “cheesehead” billboard as still posted on the “Physician’s” website:

A perfect early fall day at Geneva Lake, Wisconsin. If the Buffet Tax and the cuts in loopholes that surround it are truly in the offing, and the political will to enact those reforms remains in question, the 21st century version of the French Revolution may be deferred in America. Now if only we could also create some new jobs…

Following is a letter I sent to our local paper in Lake Geneva, WI., yesterday:

Letter to the Editor
Lake Geneva Regional News

Everyone hates parking meters, except maybe city government, because they give the city another way to tax drivers who patronize local businesses, doctors and services. Of course, the merchants hate meters, because they give shoppers another last minute reason to drive by their stores and head out to the big box merchants, who know the value of free and plentiful parking.

And cities love giving out parking tickets, because tickets add another gigantic tax on top of the regular taxes charged by meters, and usually make people feel too guilty to complain.

The last time I wrote a letter to the editor about the inconvenience of parking in Lake Geneva, several years ago, I was daunted to see in the same issue a front page story and photo of a retiring parking supervisor receiving, of all things, a gold-plated meter head as a going away present from the city.

Yes, parking fees and tickets are golden to the city. They don’t have to raise other taxes that citizens might notice, and influence their decisions at the voting booth. I recall hearing that Lake Geneva’s meters were first installed to raise money for a parking deck, to relieve the parking shortage downtown and help the merchants. It was never built. The city got used to the extra parking income, now close to a million a year.

The new electronic meters will be great, requiring a walk down the street and back, rain or shine, tired or not, just to pay more for parking, often buying time we won’t even need. While the electronic meters will cost the taxpayers a million or so to install, not to mention the cost of service, with no decrease in city-paid parking meter checkers (to issue all those tickets), the city says the pay back from the new system could, maybe, happen within several years. Start holding your breath.

Meanwhile, we just returned from our second trip this summer over by ferry to the little Michigan lakeside resort town of Saugatuck. Over there, where they have lots of nice shops, galleries and restaurants downtown, parking on city streets is free for 3 hours, to anyone (they appreciate out-of-town shoppers over there). They’ve even been known to put thank you notes on windshields of violators, pointing out that there are large free lots at each end of town, with convenient shuttle busses.

I tend to associate free parking with a friendly, small town atmosphere. Amen.

Last night governor Perry reiterated his belief that the “science is unsettled” on whether man’s carbon emissions is the primary cause of climate change, and whether we should change our economies on that basis. He raised the example of how Galileo was considered crazy in believing the world is round by the preponderance of scientists in his time.

In our time, today, the preponderance of science is on the side that mankind has accelerated potentially devastating climate change through our increase in modern carbon emissions related to burning fossil fuel. Yet there os also a historical perspective that suggests that monumental natural climate change has taken place several times before, but that the consequence to mankind is now greater because of the size and dispersal of our human population.

For example, after hurricane Katrina, some said that the answer was not to rebuild New Orleans in its aftermath, as has been done, but to rebuild a “new” New Orleans at another location that is not in the natural path of catastrophic storms.

I’d like to propose, not as a scientist, but from the perspective of a thinking person, that mankind should be taking a hedged approach to climate change: assume that to some extent that it is inevitable, but also assume that mankind should reduce carbon emissions that can only make climate change worse. For example, perhaps we should begin moving populations inland and to higher ground, at the same time we strive to reduce use of fossil fuels and develop alternative energy sources. Perhaps what we need to do is BOTH evolve our cultural footprint on this world and change our intensity of use and sources of natural energy.

Here’s a segment of my 2007 essay, “The Masai Mara Hood Ornament,” which can be found at, that reports one scientist’s expert opinion on this issue:

“The guest speaker was Richard Leakey, the renowned paleoanthropoligist, former director of the National Museum of Kenya and of the Kenya Wildlife Service. Yes, he is the 64-year-old inheritor of the legacy of famed fossil hunters Louis and Mary Leakey. Richard has devoted his life, as did his parents, to helping conserve the habitats of wild species in Africa and elsewhere.

“He shared an increasingly familiar concern when he said, “I think the most threatening crisis facing us and our descendants is climate change. No single thing is going to do more damage or wreak more havoc than the climate change cycle we are now entering on.”

“He observed that many byproducts of human activities, such as carbon spewing into the atmosphere, have a negative impact. But he went on to share his view that the human race, our very species, might not be what and where we are today but for naturally caused climate change, in earlier prehistoric times.

“The first of such changes was 2.6 million years ago, when the response to fairly rapid desiccation or drought was the development of the earliest record of technology – the first time primates started to use sharp edges to access a meat diet.
The second sweep of climate change took place in Africa about 1.8 million years ago, when early humans first left Africa, and we began to find their fossils in parts of Europe and later in Asia.

“Some of you may have participated in the National Geographic Society’s Genographic Project, a landmark DNA study of the human journey out of Africa to populate the world. Vicki and I sent our DNA samples in, and found the portions of Africa from whence our earliest descendants moved on into Europe.

“The last major pre-historic climate change, and one that still affects us, occurred just 8 or 9 thousand years ago, when humans around the world underwent pressures from desiccation that led to the domestication of plants and animals.
Leakey concludes, “Had there not been such climate change in three separate episodes, we probably would not be where we are today, as a species.”

“The difference is that in previous times there were relatively few people to be effected by climate change, but today it can affect an enormous population – some 6 to 8 billion people across the continents. He believes that today there are far too many people on the planet to absorb such change, particularly if we go through a period of years when rainfall patterns change dramatically, mean temperatures rise, and most significantly, ocean levels also begin to rise.”

Today is the perennial Muscular Dystrophy Labor Day Telethon, a creation of comic legend Jerry Lewis. This year, for the first time, Lewis, who has raised an estimated $2.5 BILLION for MD over the years, will not appear on the show, for reasons currently unexplained. His production company produced the shows for many years at great Las Vegas hotels. I was there for several Telethons in the 70s and 80s, representing McDonald’s, MD’s first national sponsor of the Telethon. We brought out McDonald’s restaurant employees, franchisees and company executives to present Jerry with contribution checks for millions of dollars raised by McDonald’s and its customers, and I had many encounters with the great one and his show biz luminary guests, even once including his old partner, Dean Martin. Jerry was always a problem child, quirky and difficult to deal with, but his heart was full to bursting when he’d relate to “his kids” with MD. Jerry truly leveraged his fame to make a positive difference in the world.

 For more information on chainsaw carving, contact Michael Bihlmaier at 815-404-6375, or Google him.

September 2011

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