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GLOBAL WARMING: THE BASICS (Written 1999) A National Science Foundation study of tree rings, ice cores and corals found that itís the hottest in 220,000 years. Few Nebraskans who survived this July would disagree. But our experience is anecdotal, not scientific. The science of global warming is not terribly hard to understand. On a summer night, walk by a brick wall thatís been heated by the sun during the day, and in the dark you can feel the heat. When objects absorb solar radiation they re-radiate it back out as thermal radiation at longer wavelengths --this is the heat you feel at the brick wall. To simplify: The atmosphere is transparent to the incoming sunshine, but not to the infrared, so it comes in but canít get back out. The carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gases) in our air absorb that re-radiated heat, and the atmosphere warms up. If it werenít for the carbon dioxide, the planet would average -6 C., below freezing. This is pretty basic science, old news. How old? Fourier coined the "greenhouse" analogy in 1827, and in 1896 Arrhenius was the first to do extensive calculations of the warming that would result from increases in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The more carbon dioxide, the more greenhouse effect. The CO2 level stood at 280 ppm (parts per million) prior to the Industrial Revolution and is now 360 ppm, a 30% increase, and rising steeply. Analysis of ancient ice cores shows the highest CO2 level in 420,000 years. By burning fossil fuels and firewood we add ]1999] 5.5 billion tons* of CO2 per year to the environment, of which "ocean uptake" disposes of 2 billion and forests 0.5, leaving about 3 billion tons per year "net storage in the atmosphere." The United States alone emits 1.6 billion tons, while the land area of the U.S. absorbs only about one tenth of that, according to the latest measurements (reported in the July 24 Science News). *By 2002 this figure had risen to 7 billion tons. Twenty percent of the greenhouse warming comes from methane, smaller in quantities than CO2 but pound for pound a much more effective greenhouse gas. 85 million tons of methane are added yearly from "enteric fermentation" --gas from you and me and our cows. (Use Beano, save the planet.) Rice paddies add another 60 million tons, fossil fuels 100 million. Total methane production is up 145% in this century. RECORDS The predictable and unavoidable result of all that added CO2 and methane is global warming. How much warming is difficult to measure with precision --you canít just stick a thermometer in Gaiaís ozone hole. But itís interesting that 1995 was the hottest individual year since records began in the 1860s, and that the ten hottest years on record have all occurred since 1980. 1990, Ď95, and Ď97 each set new records. Nine months of 1998 each set new records for the month. The July 1995 heat wave killed 465 in Chicago alone. Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel complains of the cost of proposals to regulate greenhouse emissions, but the 1998 wave of extreme weather inflicted at least $90 Billion in damages. According to National Science Foundation research on climate history by scientists from the Universities of Massachusetts and Arizona, reported in the journal Nature, the years 1990, Ď95 and Ď97 were the hottest since 1400 AD, even after allowing for factors such as changes in solar radiation, the strong El Nino of 1791, and the cooling effects of the Tamborra Volcano in 1816. El Ninos are now occurring twice as often -- about every three years instead of about every seven. Long term studies over the past half century (one from 1949, one from 1951) show nighttime highs going up twice as fast as daytime highs, and show increases in heavy cloud covers at night, which hold heat in. EXTREMES Warming means added energy is pumped into the planetís weather systems. Logically, just as turning up the heat under boiling water makes it roll more violently, the climate cycle should experience greater extremes, such as droughts and flooding. Indeed we find NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration, warning that the greenhouse effect "enhances the hydrological cycle and increases [the frequency of] more intense droughts .......and flooding." Weíve seen record droughts in the central southern US in 1996, midwest floods in the spring of Ď95, the "hundred year" Mississippi River basin floods of Ď93 (simultaneously with drought in the Carolinas), floods in California 1994-95 after droughts there in the winters of 1986 through Ď88, and so on. Separate research by the National Climate Data Center concludes that there is only a 1 in 20 chance that such extreme fluctuations are natural. More parts of the puzzle fall into place. Warming above the US intensifies the Arctic Oscillation, producing stronger winter westerlies, which pick up warmth as they pass over the Pacific --if they are stronger than usual, they bring warmer and wetter winters (Likewise across the Atlantic into Europe), reported NASA researchers from the Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University, in the June 3 issue of Nature. This explains the observed warming of winters in the Northern hemisphere (up to 9 degrees F over the past 30 years, 10 times the average global warming of 0.9 F). ECOLOGY Evolution fine-tunes each lifeform to its own environment. Climate change disrupts these fine-tuned ecological systems. A few examples indicate how serious this is. University of Texas researcher Dr. Camille Parmesan and twelve other international researchers have studied 35 nonmigratory butterfly species in Europe. They found them dying out at the southern edge of their ranges, where it has become too warm, and spreading into new northern areas or higher altitudes. "63% of the butterflies have ranges that have shifted to the north by 35 to 240 kilometers." Their caterpillars need a specific 8 week window of time when host plants are edible, thus they are sensitive indicators of changes in growing season and climate. Any species unable to keep pace with climate change and find a suitable habitat will die out, as is already happening --the butterflies showed a four-fold increase in rate of extinction. Along the south central coast of Alaska, the spruce bark beetle, normally kept under control by cold temperatures, is now exploding and has killed most of the trees in a 3 million acre area, "one of the largest insect-caused forest deaths" ever. Trees canít get up and walk away from newly virulent pests, nor can they stroll to new habitats, so we can expect a devastating impact on forests from climate change. On July 20 the World-Herald reported that Moscow was suffering a record-busting heat wave. The unprecedented Russian summer "produced a plague of ravenous locusts in south west Siberia, where several hundred square miles of crops have been damaged." Warming will spread human diseases as well. We might expect Anopheles mosquitoes to expand across the southern US soon. New Zealand public health researchers conclude that dengue fever outbreaks in the Pacific are "directly related to global warming." In June the British Medical Journal as part of a World Health Organization research project listed some of the new health problems warming will create: Malaria, visceral leishmaniasis, tickborne encephalitis, and others can be expected to increase their ranges. Flooding will be a health hazard in several ways: it spreads many diseases, brings on overflow of toxic waste sites, and dissolves chemicals stored in the ground. And as ocean levels rise, salt water infiltration will damage croplands and contribute to famines. (Island nations in the Pacific are complaining to the UN that this is already happening.) Coral reefs, the "rainforests of the sea" were suffering record die-offs in 1998 due to "heat-induced bleaching." Happening simultaneously in scattered areas all over the planet, it can only be "global" warming. The amount of zooplankton, the base of the ocean food pyramid, has dropped 70% since 1977 off the North American west coast. "Indicating food chain collapse, ocean seabirds in the California current declined 90% since 1987" AN EXCHANGE OF LETTERS In response to my signature on a mass mailing to Congress expressing concern over global warming, Senator Chuck Hagel wrote, in a letter dated 6/9/99: "Greenhouse gases," such as carbon dioxide and methane, are normal byproducts of activities like farming, ranching, manufacturing, electricity production, and transportation. ÖSome of our countryís most distinguished scientists Östrongly object to the scientific claims advanced by the Clinton Administration that global warming is a result of manmade greenhouse gases. Ö.Satellite and weather balloon data have actually shown a cooling trend over the last 19 years [see below]ÖIíve held four hearings in my subcommittee on the global warming issue. During my hearings, it became clear that there is no reasonable basis for moving forward with the drastic actions required by the Kyoto Protocol, Ö To which I replied, by email: Senator Chuck Hagel; Thank you for your letter of June 9, 1999. In that letter you stated: "Some of our countryís most distinguished scientists ...strongly object to the scientific claims advanced by the Clinton Administration that global warming is a result of manmade greenhouse gases." Could you be so kind as to specify who these scientists are, and to furnish the references to their research (in peer-reviewed professional journals), so that those of us interested in the facts can have access to all the relevant material? Thank You, Jim Bechtel P.S. I find objectionable your attempt to politicize what should be an objective analysis of data by saying itís the "Clinton Administration" making these claims. Wouldnít it be more accurate to say the Clinton Administration SUPPORTS the determinations made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the other bodies charged with studying the issue? And that you (and the American Petroleum Institute) OPPOSE these determinations? To which the esteemed Senator responded July 1 that itís not the disruption of the earthís climate that threatens our existence, but the attempts to do something about it through international treaty: "I oppose the Kyoto Protocol because it is a threat to American sovereignty, national security, and our economy. Even if the science of climate change were certain, this treaty would do nothing to solve it. It excludes 134 developing nations, Ö. It is clear to me that the Kyoto Treaty would turn control of our economy over to the United Nations through treaty mandates on our energy use and costsÖ. I will continue to fight this treaty Ö." Hagel cosponsored Senate Resolution 98 which states that the Senate will not consent to any treaty that harms the US economy or fails to include developing countries. This is a red herring. An editorial in the Amicus Journal reveals whatís really going on regarding the Kyoto Treaty. "Industry has seized on the one issue that is most likely to destroy an international political consensus. They are spending at least $13 million ...... to convince the American public that there should be no limits on US use of fossil fuels unless limits are set for the developing world at the same time. What the campaign does not say is that developing countries are the poorest in the world, responsible for only 25 percent of greenhouse gases emitted to date, that they are already required to create programs to curb global warming, and that many have indicated they will submit to limits as long as industrialized countries take the first step." Theyíre waiting for our leadership. Instead they get a PR campaign. [Note: in late 2004 Russia signed the Kyoto Treaty over Bushís opposition, putting it into effect. See On Hagelís evolution on other issues, see the Addendum at the end of this essay.] Well, who is really responsible for global warming? We all are, of course, with our rampant consumerism. But where can we find leadership on this issue? Not from the scientists and researchers, they donít make policy. They canít even get science portrayed accurately in movies or on TV. Of course, special responsibility must be borne by all those pinhead Big Business Senators whose votes are for sale to the largest campaign contributors, but also by everyone who feeds into Americaís fuzzy-thinking binge, such as the producers of all the superstition-based shows on TV, and all the New Age gurus who tout every snake oil that comes down the pike, telling us empirical evidence is unimportant, encouraging anti-science attitudes and irrational thinking. (See The Braunstein Chronicles XXX LINK) THAWING AND MELTING Meanwhile, the scientists plod along, digging out the facts. The tundras of Siberia and the arctic hold as much carbon as at least 1/3 of that already in the atmosphere, and they are melting, changing from carbon sinks to carbon releasers. New Scientist, in an October 1997 issue, reported the permafrost is thawing in Alaska. Two thousand landslides in the Mackenzie River valley were attributed to the melting permafrost. Tree ring studies showed nothing comparable in the last 400 years. "Thermokarsts" are multiplying. They are holes "where the surface collapses after buried chunks of ice melt --often with expensive consequences." It cost three million dollars to rebuild one kilometer of road near Fairbanks. According to the data from the University of British Columbia, University of Illinois, and US Global Change Research Program, the thawing is linked to the changes in winter wind patterns. The same issue of New Scientist reported that British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook rebuked the GOP Congress for its myopic opposition to greenhouse gas restrictions, pleading for "more internationalism." So much for Hagelís vaunted "expertise in foreign policy" where it really counts. (The phrase is from Matt Kelleyís July 15th World Herald column praising the Senator.) The Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at the University of Colorado at Boulder reports: "the Columbia Glacier in Alaska [above Anchorage] has increased its speed from 25 meters to 35 meters per day in recent months ......." The US Geological Survey says an increase in the rate of "calving" (icebergs breaking off the glacier) poses a risk to shipping lanes in Prince William Sound, the site of the Exxon Valdez disaster. NASAís Goddard Institute warns: Arctic sea ice has been shrinking three percent per decade. Areas of sea ice that usually formed around the Antarctic Peninsula during four out of five winters are now freezing over only one or two winters out of five. And as a result of Greenland glaciers spewing icebergs at a faster rate, the sea may rise more than the 20 inches previously projected for the next century. Lewis Glacier on Mount Kenya lost 40% of its mass from 1963 to 1987. In South Peru the Qori Kalis melted 3 times faster during 1983 to 1991 than previously. And in the Qilian Mountains in China the ice cores show it is the warmest there in 12,000 years. Perhaps because Iíve been to Kenya and Peru and China these are not just meaningless figures about obscure, irrelevant corners of the globe, but potential disasters to very real people, threatening the Kenyans and Peruvians and Chinese who were so friendly and hospitable to an old backpacker. COOLING In his letter, Senator Hagel stated "Satellite and weather balloon data have actually shown a cooling trend ..." There are two kinds of coolings, the erroneous and the bad. First, the erroneous. Scientists were puzzled --and challenged-- by the satellite readings, and looked into it. They found the explanation. In Nature (vol. 394) researchers report that the anomalous data were caused by the routine orbital decay of weather satellites, which effected their readings. There is no cooling going on after all, at least not down here where we live. But there is a certain kind of cooling happening as a result of global warming, and itís not good news for the Hagels. Itís not good news for any of us. It works like this. Three fourths of the atmosphere is in the troposphere, which is the bottom 12 to 15 kilometers (seven to nine miles). And itís warming. Next is the stratosphere, 15 to 50 km, which is cooling. It includes the protective ozone layer, endangered by the cooling. Then comes the mesosphere, 50 to 90 km, which is cooling a degree a year, ten times faster than any prediction. Gary Thomas at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder, calls it "the minerís canary." (For details, see New Scientist May 1, 1999, and the April 1998 Nature.) In a nutshell, global warming strengthens the tropopause, an inversion barrier which traps heat down here in the troposphere, leaving less heat for the upper layers. Incidentally, like most everything else, air shrinks when it cools. The mesosphere has "descended" by about 8 km in the past 40 years. The sky is falling. The role of radiative cooling and adiabatic cooling (caused by the lowering of pressure, as inside your freezerís coils) are being given priority for research. First indications are that cooling over the Arctic will open holes in the ozone like those over the Antarctic, endangering the Scandinavian countries. ALTERNATIVE THEORIES Alternative explanations for global warming have been offered, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is in the midst of an 18 month "full scale scientific assessment" of these alternatives. The main candidate is natural cycles caused by solar activity or by volcanic emissions. In the June 10, 1999, Nature, British meteorologists with the Hadley Center for Climate Prediction and Research describe their sophisticated analysis of the geological evidence regarding volcanic emissions, and the tree ring data for natural cycles (the carbon-14 in the rings varies with the climate). These factors, they found, may have accounted for fifty percent of the variations before this century, but the observed rise in global temperature in the twentieth century is unambiguous: Only human activity explains it. The British scientistsí conclusions are seconded by the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder. In the June 22 New York Times, William K. Stevens reported on additional research, including on "aerosols" (micro droplets), both natural and manmade. "Sulfate aerosols from volcanoes sometimes spread to the stratosphere, where they diffuse globally and cool the earth. But they dissipate in two or three years. That is what happened with Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, which temporarily cooled the earth by about 1 degree ..........[But] sulfate aerosols from industry generally rise only into the lower part of the atmosphere and fall out as acid rain ...." In terms of solar activity, "satellite measurements show some small variations, less than one-tenth of a percent, in concert with the 11-year sunspot cycle." It becomes clearer with every study. Human activity is pumping out greenhouse gases, and the gases are warming the planet and altering climate. Warming is real, and manmade. It is accurate to consider this the "consensus" view of the scientific community. Nevertheless ... SCIENTISTS DISAGREE ...of course scientists disagree, real ones are cautious folks, they donít toss around words like "facts" and "truth" the way TV shows and quacks and politicians do, so casually. When the scientists tell us of the statistical correlation they find between CO2 and our heat waves, they put the ball in our court. Itís up to all of us to decide what to do about it. Back in the 1950s they told us of the statistical correlation between tobacco and lung disease: the more smoke, the more cancer. But it was up to activists to do the lobbying, get the warning out, ban the ads, and so on. Weíre at that point with global warming, we have to become activists; for starters we have to identify the equivalent of "tobacco senators" who represent only those interests whose income stream is threatened by environmental concerns, and vote the bums out. And we need to be aware of whoís active on the other side. Meet three of the anti-environmental lobbies: Alliance for America is for "protecting the constitution, property rights, humans, and the earth" [in that order!]. They listen only to "independent experts (those not employed by environmental groups, government agencies or otherwise reaping rewards from spreading alarm)." Power Online, which describes itself as the information source of the power industry. It put out a long critique of global warming. Long, that is, on rhetoric (e.g., hysteria is promoted by environmentalists as a fundraising tactic) but short on facts. The only empirical datum I saw was a 1992 Gallup Poll that found 80 % of the climatologists polled seven years ago were still "uncertain." The World Climate Report is put out by The Greening Earth Society, which is "dedicated to promoting the optimistic scientific point of view ...and the proposition that humankindís industrial evolution is good and not bad and that humans utilizing fossil fuels to enable our economic activity is as natural as breathing." When a legitimate scientist like Frederick Seitz expresses sincere doubts (maybe all the thermal energy possible to be absorbed has been absorbed, and more CO2 wonít matter), you can count on his musings being picked up by these groups and spread all over, to give the impression there is no consensus. And of course any good scientist admits he could be wrong. Anything is possible --perhaps God really created the Universe ten seconds ago and filled our brains with fake memories. You cannot "prove" He didnít. But this is where Ockhamís razor comes into play --which explanation is the MOST LIKELY? That all this talk of global warming is a fundraising plot? Or that the people who have spent years drilling out ice cores, for example, know what theyíre talking about when they explain how the ancient air trapped in the cores provides a record of 160,000 years of CO2, and that it shows excellent tracking and correlation with records of "Global Mean Annual Temperature" --as the one went up, so did the other. WHAT NOW? What are the odds you can make your car run better by randomly fiddling with things under the hood? We are conducting a similar experiment, on a vast scale, on the fine-tuned biosphere of our home planet. The human race does not have a very great track record for managing nature, even on a small scale (cf. the National Parks, or your backyard). We certainly donít understand the complexities of a worldwide system that has been perfecting itself for eons. I doubt if the Galactic Federation would give us a passing grade in Planetary Management 101. Prudence would dictate that we not gamble. Should we wait until there is no longer any dissent about global warming? Or start now to end the fiddling under the hood? The American Geophysical Union put it this way: "Remaining scientific uncertainty does not justify inaction in the mitigation of human-induced climate change.... The global climate crisis, perhaps the greatest challenge in the history of civilization, calls upon us to act decisively and without delay." Interested? Come to any meeting of REASON, held every first and third Saturday at 3:00 PM at the Main Library, downtown. For more, go to and for those who still read books: Global Warming: The Complete Briefing, by (Sir) John Houghton, Second Edition, Cambridge University Press, 1997, for the science, and for the politics, The War Against the Greens: The "Wise Use" Movement, the New Right, and Anti-Environmental Violence, by David Helvarg, Sierra Club, 1994. Addendum on Senator Hagel: Although he will never be known as an ardent environmentalist, will never understand the web of life on Earth in anything but the most superficial way, will go on assuming that our consumerist-capitalist culture is beneficent and needs no criticism; in short, heíll never be an Al Gore (whose 1992 book Earth in the Balance was widely praised by biology professionals), nevertheless I have to give him his due as an evolving moderate on other issues, especially for his opposition to Bushís reckless militarism. Hereís an email I sent to our group in late 2004: ----- Original Message ----- From: jimbechtel2@ To: Reason-Omaha@ Sent: Wednesday, November 17, 2004 9:57 AM Subject: Hagel He sounds more like a Democrat: We're "adrift in a sea of incompetence." I'm especially impressed by his ability to change his view of the Vietnam war (better late than never). You have to wonder how much influence his brother had. To the extent that he represents the moderates in the struggle for control of the GOP, we should wish him well. ---------------------------------------- Published Wednesday November 17, 2004 Hagel starts writing next chapter BY ROBERT G. KAISER ? THE WASHINGTON POST Note: In August, about two weeks before the Republican National Convention, Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel made it known that he was considering running for president in 2008. While Hagel hasn't made a final decision, the possibility has begun drawing national attention. OK, now that the election is over, are you ready to talk about 2008? Chuck Hagel is. The Republican senator from Nebraska has been thinking seriously about 2008 since he won re-election in 2002, and he's been considering a run for the White House even longer. People in politics want to "influence the course and direction of our country . . . and the world," Hagel told middle school students in Crete, Neb., last month, responding to 13-year-old Alex Rivas' question about whether Hagel wanted to be president. "The president of the United States is the most powerful person in the world," Hagel said. "I think most of us in this business . . . do think occasionally about running for president." His interest comes as no surprise to Hagel's friends, including former Nebraska Congressman John McCollister. Hagel began his political career as an aide to McCollister. "I warned Lilibet," McCollister, 83, said, speaking of Hagel's Mississippi-born wife. "I warned Lilibet before Chuck even ran for the Senate that she better get used to the fact that her husband was going to be running for president someday." Hagel, 58, is not your standard-issue politician: He is outspoken and an independent thinker. Richard Fellman, a liberal Democrat and professor at Hagel's alma mater, the University of Nebraska at Omaha, calls Hagel "the best Republican senator this state has had since George Norris," one of Nebraska's political giants, who supported both Roosevelts and the New Deal. Hagel polled 83 percent of the vote running for re-election two years ago, winning by the largest margin ever in a Nebraska Senate race. During three days touring the state last month, Hagel was repeatedly stopped by passers-by who wanted to shake his hand. Many saluted his independence in Washington. But McCollister, Hagel's mentor, was unhappy when Sen. John Kerry quoted Hagel's criticism of the Bush administration in one of the presidential debates. Harold Andersen, retired publisher of The World-Herald, wrote that Hagel's blunt criticism of President Bush's Iraq policy had angered Nebraska Republicans, who were "increasingly skeptical, if not sharply critical, of his attention-attracting performance on the national news-media stage." Hagel personally wrote a combative retort. "With all due respect, Harold Andersen does not know what he is talking about," Hagel wrote. Asking tough questions about Iraq policy is his job. "I have a responsibility to do everything I can to assure our men and women who are serving in uniform and their families that America has a policy that is worthy of their sacrifices. . . . The deadly struggle for Iraq is not a video game that can be turned off until Nov. 2. War is not an abstraction. . . . I know. I've been to war," Hagel said. He was referring to Vietnam, the formative experience in Hagel's life. Chuck and his brother Tom ended up in the same unit and the same armored personnel carrier, fighting in the 9th Infantry Division south of Saigon in 1968, the bloody year of the Tet Offensive. The two nearly died together - twice. That wasn't the only difficulty that faced Hagel and his family. His father, Charles, fought in the Pacific during World War II. He went home to northwestern Nebraska and married his sweetheart, Betty. Chuck was born nine months later, in October 1946. Chuck Hagel's brothers, Tom and the youngest, Mike, who is an artist living in Omaha, both describe him as the classic big brother, conscientious and disciplined - the apple of his dad's eye, who from an early age succeeded at almost everything he tried. Dad was a charming schmoozer, but he was never successful. He moved from town to town in the Sand Hills, working for different lumberyards. "He always felt a little bit trapped. He didn't have the education. It was a very difficult deal. . . . Some people took advantage of him," Hagel recalls. The father worshipped his firstborn but picked on Tom and was never close to a fourth son who died in 1969 in a car accident. "I've tried to always - not necessarily protect my dad in that, but try not to dwell on that, because I've seen too many politicians, especially, blame their fathers or the difficulties they had growing up. . . . Did we have a hard time? Yes. Did my dad have a drinking problem? Yes. And it was probably far worse than certainly I've ever talked about." Vietnam caused its own problems in the Hagels' lives. The two brothers reacted differently to their Vietnam experience. Tom, who was in his late teens at the time, concluded that he had participated in war crimes in Vietnam, killing people senselessly. He suffered from depression and drank too much. But he sought therapy through the Veterans Administration. He dedicated his life to helping people and became a lawyer, a public defender, and now a law professor at the University of Dayton. He is a liberal Democrat who hoped fervently for a Kerry victory. Chuck, who was in his early 20s in Vietnam, initially maintained his view that the war was a noble crusade. For years, the two brothers fought about this, forcing their mother to ban conversation about the war from all family gatherings. Today, Chuck Hagel acknowledges that his brother dealt with Vietnam trauma better than he did. "I think I had suppressed too much of my feelings (and) what I saw. . . . I had a pretty ideological sense of the world, how the world should be, why we were in Vietnam, why I was there, why I thought it was right," Hagel said. Hagel pretended that adjusting to civilian life was easy. "I just kind of took the American Legion path and just said, ". . . I'm going to get along with my life, there's no baggage that I brought back, I'm fine.'" But this didn't work. After returning home, he and Tom enrolled at UNO, and for a year they were roommates. Then Chuck decided he needed time alone, and he rented a little house on the edge of the city for $50 a month. "I didn't go to parties, I didn't talk to anybody. I did two things: I went to school, and I went to my job," Hagel said. In that year, he found a way to deal with the war, then resumed a more normal and sociable life. It took years longer for Hagel to conclude that Vietnam, despite its "noble" origins, had turned into a bad war fought for bad reasons. "I read everything I could about Indochina, about the war, about the French, about Vietnam, about our policy, what got us there. . . . And the more I read, the more I understood. . . . I got a sense that there was just so much dishonesty in it. And it was chewing these kids up. . . . So I started connecting all the deaths and all the suffering and the chaos and wounds. I started to sense a dishonesty about it all." The last straw was the release several years ago of Lyndon Johnson's White House tapes. Some of the recorded phone calls made Hagel cringe. He remembers especially a conversation between LBJ and Sen. Richard Russell, D-Ga., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, who thought Johnson should get out of Vietnam. "It isn't important a bit," Russell said. Johnson said he didn't want a war, but he worried that "they'd impeach a president . . . that would run out, wouldn't they?" Reading Johnson's words, Hagel says, he had to accept that the Vietnam War had been waged dishonestly for "an abstraction of policy" and to save face. "That's when it shifted," Hagel said. In the angry retort to The World-Herald, Hagel wrote that "the tough questions were not asked when we sent young men and women into Vietnam. Where were our elected officials then? Eleven years and 58,000 deaths later, we lost. I don't want that to happen in Iraq." When Hagel was questioned in Nebraska last month about his loyalty to Bush, he noted that he supported the president on "96 to 98 percent" of Senate votes. But the few votes he cast against Bush included the president's three biggest domestic initiatives: the 2002 farm bill, the No Child Left Behind education bill, and the reform of Medicare including creation of a drug benefit to begin in 2006. He calls the Medicare bill "a sham and a rip-off for nearly everybody . . . and actually, it's going to make our problems worse." Though deeply partisan, Hagel has made friends across the aisle and says he believes in bipartisan government. He refused to join Republican colleagues in demonizing Kerry. "I like him. He's smart, he's tough, he's capable. I don't agree with him on a lot of things (though) I am closer to him on foreign policy questions," Hagel said. ". . . He's certainly qualified to be president." And Hagel is far from politically correct in speaking about the recent Republican record. "Look at the deficits that have been run up. . . . And Republicans have been in charge. . . . We've been adrift in a sea of incompetence, with no fiscal responsibility," he told a group of small businessmen in Lincoln in October. He said the country is in trouble because of "a lack of leadership, a lack of vision . . . and a lack of leveling with the American people." Hagel promises that if he runs for president, he will level. "I happen to believe that by 2008, this country is going to be ready for some people to talk very clearly, plainly - not frighten them, not demagogue them, but say it straight, say it honest," he says.