The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Vicious Victims

In a recent NYT op-ed, entitled appropriately, “Iran the Vicious Victim, Max Hastings correctly identifies the psychology of this fundamentalist country in the context of Iran’s seizure of British marines:
The United States and Britain have suffered a disastrous erosion of moral authority in consequence of the Iraq war. The Blair government has been dismayed to perceive the indifference, or worse, with which its European partners have treated the seizure of its naval personnel. Britain has been obliged to water down the draft resolution that it is circulating at the United Nations Security Council, because some members rejected its original tough wording.

What should be regarded as an unanswerable case of armed aggression by a rogue state is instead being viewed by many nations as the sort of embarrassment the British should expect, given the dubious legitimacy of their presence on the Shatt al Arab.

The Iranians know all this, of course, and it fortifies their intransigence. The game they play with considerable skill is to project themselves at once as assertive Islamic crusaders, and also as victims of imperialism. They crave respect and influence. Their only claims to these things rest upon their capacity for menacing the West, whether through international terrorism, support for Palestinian extremists, or the promise of building atomic weapons.

It is often suggested that support for President Ahmadinejad is waning amid his disastrous economic stewardship. Yet whatever Iran’s internal tensions, there is little prospect that people committed to normal relations with the West will gain power any time soon.

In my view, this is a reasonably accurate assessment of the situation. Many countries in the ME play the role of “assertive Islamic crusaders” while at the same time wailing about “victimization,” and they do it very well. But why do they succeed when they apply this ridiculous behavior?

The answer I think is the target of their “assertive Islamic crusade.” Have you ever noticed that their crusade avoids targeting any nation (e.g., China or Russia) who might respond in an unconstrained fashion. Instead, they focus on Western democracies who are limited by self-imposed constraints. Western countries increasingly shun the use of coersion of any kind and would prefer to kick the can down the road, hoping against hope that Iran will change. Even Hastings admits that “there is little prospect that people committed to normal relations with the West will gain power any time soon.”

But maybe we can wait them out. Maybe a miracle will happen, Maybe their “assertive Islamic crusade” will abate once they gain access to WMD. Maybe.

But what if none of these things come to pass? It appears that Western democracies, the US included, are willing to wait and see, perfectly willing to avoid a confrontation now and risk a major (possibly world-altering) conflagration a decade from now.

Hasting reflects this view:
The only realistic course, even after the latest insult represented by the British sailors’ seizure, is to sustain the policy of engagement, however thankless this seems. Privately most European governments, including the British, assume that around the end of the decade Iran will achieve its purpose of building nuclear weapons. Even the so-called moderates in Tehran are committed to this objective.

In the eyes of many Americans, such words represent characteristic European pusillanimity, indeed appeasement. But some of us suggested when the 2003 Iraq invasion was launched that it could result in a drastic diminution of the West’s ability to address graver threats from Iran and North Korea. So it has proved.

We must keep talking to the Iranians, offering carrots even when these are contemptuously tossed into the gutter, because there is no credible alternative. Even threats of economic sanctions must be considered cautiously. Their most likely consequence would be to feed Iranian paranoia, to strengthen the hand of Tehran’s extremists. A state of declared Western encirclement could suit President Ahmadinejad very well indeed.

So we wait and watch, we talk, we apply meaningless UN sanctions, we try diplomatic initiatives that are bound to fail. In essence, we do nothing, except kicking the can down the road.

There is, of course, a certain political cunning in this approach. By doing nothing, domestic criticism in Western countries is muted. There is, after all, no armed conflict, no crippling sanctions, no tough talk, nothing that can be criticized by the MSM and the political opposition. No demonstrations by “anti-war,” “anti-imperialism” activists, just relative calm as the storm gathers.

But that’s someone else’s problem, way down the road. For now, we'll keep talking and try to "negotiate" with Iran. Wretchard of the Belmont Club offers a comment on these engotiations:
The kidnapping of fifteen British sailors by Iran has inadvertently given the public a glimpse of what it means to "negotiate" with the Ayatollahs. It is also an illustration of how safe it is to stay on "your" side of the border, such as for example within the sovereign territory of a United States embassy, or manning an outpost on the Israeli side of Lebanese border, sleeping in a housing unit in the Khobar towers, visiting a friendly Yemeni port, keeping a watch on smugglers in Iraqi waters while in a British naval vessel and -- in case anyone still remembers -- going to work in Manhattan on an autumn day.

Oh don't worry, all of those were just isolated instances. Just keep kicking the can.

It’s ironic that the same people who worry so ardently about climate change 100 years from now and demand immediate action -- not talk, mind you, action, to remedy the climate “crisis,” tend to be the very same people who are perfectly willing to ignore a very real crisis that is likely to be precipitated by Iran 10 years from now. For that crisis, continuous talk is the only approach. Yeah, and a fervent hope that it will all go away. Maybe it will, but history seems to indicate that doing nothing rarely derails those bent on regional or global domination.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Double Standard

As I do now and then, I just visited the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch Web sites. Among other articles on their home pages, both AI and HRW noted reports on [AI’s words] “the need to close Guantánamo and to end the lawlessness that it symbolizes.” That really goes to their claim that the USA is violating the Geneva Conventions at Guantánamo Bay.

I decided to search the AI site for articles addressing the Geneva conventions and found that there are 1,890 citations under “Geneva Conventions” including lots of articles that condemn the USA for Guantánamo and Israel for a variety of acts in the “occupied territories,” Lebanon, Gaza and the like. At the HRW site, a similar search yielded 2,500 citations including a commentary by Jamie Fellner, the Director of the U.S. Program at Human Rights Watch, who accused the U.S. of a “double standard” when it applies the Geneva Conventions at Guantánamo.

Hmmm. I went back and checked the home pages again. Surprisingly, there was no mention of the Iran’s gross violation of the Geneva Conventions that occurred just today as the Mullahs paraded kidnapped British marines in front of TV cameras.

Talk about a “double standard.”

Organizations that characterize themselves as “defending human rights world wide [HRW’s catch phrase] should recognize that the world is a very big place with lots of very bad people, and not all of those people reside in Western democracies or carefully selected third-world dictatorships. They should be just as willing to condemn Hezballah, Hamas, and Iran -- not with muted tones or with qualifiers, but with the same fervor that currently reserve for just two countries -- the USA and Israel.

I guess that's the "double" standard they're happy to live with.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


Watching the most recent “attornies scandal” unfold after a politically tone-deaf administration acted without careful thought, one can only wince at the sheer idiocy of it all. Accusations leveled by the usual sanctimonious suspects were so predictable they were laughable, driven I suspect, more by Bush-hatred than by real concern that the wheels of justice in the US were somehow slowed by the dismissals. But no matter, the MSM has found its scandal de jour, and this baby has legs, at least for now.

CNN’s Lou Dobbs comments:
And this is what passes for a big-time, dramatic, historic constitutional crisis in 21st century America? You've got to be kidding. This is the most partisan, politically driven administration in history, and we're all supposed to be surprised by its conduct and motivation in the firing of these U.S. attorneys? Please …

This is the same Democratic-controlled Congress that millions of voters thought would be so vastly different from the last gaggle of partisan buffoons in the Republican-led 109th Congress. With almost 30,000 young Americans killed or wounded in Iraq, with a half-trillion dollars spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this Congress can do no better than publicly fulminate in futility and bray endlessly without effect on the course and conduct of the war in Iraq. Is there no sense of proportion and higher purpose anywhere in Washington?

While this president's so-called free trade policies continue to bleed the nation and the economy of millions of jobs and add to a $5 trillion mountain of trade debt, and while our public schools continue to fail a generation of young Americans, this Congress chooses to invest its energy and time in pure partisan blather and cheap political theatrics.

Is there not one decent, honest man or woman in either the House of Representatives or the Senate, in either party's leadership, who possesses the courage and the honesty to say, "Enough. The people who elected us deserve better"? So far the answer is no. Is there really any wonder that public opinion polls demonstrate that the president and this Congress share equally low approval ratings in poll after poll?

The White House is behaving with utter contempt for Congress and Congress is acting without respect or regard for this president. Could it be that, at long last, they're both right?

They are.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


In two recent pieces in the NY Times, George Soros and Nicholas Kristof act as a tag-team to reinforce the growing “blame Israel” mime among many on the Left. It’s as if they've coordinated their articles, much to the joy of the NY Times editors, both asking for a “re-evaluation” of America’s relationship with the only liberal democracy in the Middle East.

Kristof states: “The lack of serious political debate about our policy toward Israelis and Palestinians harms America, Middle East peace prospects and Israel itself.” Citing the King of Jordan as his mouthpiece, Kristof quotes the King: "The wellspring of regional division, the source of resentment and frustration far beyond, is the denial of justice and peace in Palestine."

Not to be outdone, Soros (a billionaire and major campaign contributor to the Democratic party and Liberal causes) presents a rambling article in which he states:
Then came the blunder I am talking about. Israel, with the strong backing of the United States, refused to recognize the democratically elected Hamas government and withheld payment of the millions in taxes collected by the Israelis on its behalf. This caused great economic hardship and undermined the ability of the government to function. But it did not reduce popular support for Hamas among Palestinians, and it reinforced the position of Islamic and other extremists who oppose negotiations with Israel. The situation deteriorated to the point where Palestine no longer had an authority with whom it would have been possible for Israel to negotiate.”

Soros is either purposely trying to mislead or completely misunderstands the dynamic in the ME. The fact that Hamas is unequivocal in its desire for Israel’s destruction seems not to enter the picture. Should the US and Israel fund the purchase of even more weaponry that is used to kill Israelis? I guess they should, because of all the Palestinian "hardship."

But wait. Today's NY Times seems to contradict Mr. Soro's claim that aid and "hardship" are inversely proprotional:
Despite the international embargo on aid to the Palestinian Authority since Hamas came to power a year ago, significantly more aid was delivered to the Palestinians in 2006 than in 2005, according to official figures from the United Nations, United States, European Union and International Monetary Fund.

Finance Minister Salam Fayyad estimates that the Palestinian Authority received more than twice the amount of budget support in 2006 than in 2005. Instead of going to the Palestinian Authority, much of the money was given directly to individuals or through independent agencies like the World Food Program.

The International Monetary Fund and the United Nations say the Palestinians received $1.2 billion in aid and budgetary support in 2006, about $300 per capita, compared with $1 billion in 2005.

If we conflate Soro's claims and the NYT's facts, it appears that the Palestinians's “hardship” (actually, "suffering" tends to be the operative word among those who make excuses for the Palestinian barbarism and inability to govern themselves) increases in direct proportion to the aid they are given. I do suspect, based on the Times article, that those who buy weapons may be "suffering" a bit. But if Soros and Kristof have their way, that will be remedied with still more aid, provided directly to Hamas by the US and Israel.

Kristof and Soros opine that if only Israel would be more pliable, if only AIPAC wouldn’t influence American foreign policy to the extent that it does, if only … hell, what they really want to say, I’m convinced, but can’t bring themselves to say it, is: if only Israel would disappear, all would be right in the world.

That is utter nonsense.

Kristof blames much of the strife in the ME on Israel. Soros does so, although with a bit of indirection. Ed Koch comments:
How do the King [of Jordan] and Kristof [and by extension, Soros] explain the eight-year war between Iraq and Iran, the war of Egyptian military forces in a military coup creating the Yemen Arab Republic, the occupation by Syria of Lebanon, the threatened war by Syria against Jordan stopped by Israeli tanks, the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, and the genocide currently engaged in by the Sudanese Arab government against the black Sudanese of Darfur? They don't. Surely they were not the result of Israel's existence. Kristof says, "Though widely criticized, King Abdullah was exactly right: from Morocco to Yemen to Sudan, the Palestinian cause arouses ordinary people in coffee shops more than almost anything else." Kristof is implicitly defending the Palestinian suicide bombers who have killed over a thousand Israeli civilians and maimed many more.

But no matter. It appears that Left-wing attitudes about Israel are no longer about facts, no longer about reason, no longer about the realities in a troubled part of the world. They are, as I have said many times in this space, about reaction formation. The Left is faced with an intractable problem, caused by Islamofascist hatred, an unwillingness to accept a non-Moslem state in the ME, and virulent anti-Semitic propaganda promulgated by virtually every Arab state and all of their state-run media, along with al Jezera. So what do many on the Left do? Attack the target of the hatred, the intolerance, the propaganda.

It makes no sense to me, but then again, I’m guilty of relying on facts, reason, and reality, and that, obviously, leads to my confusion.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The big question

Prospect Magazine (hat tip: The Belmont Club) has invited 100 eminent “thinkers” – scientists, economists, sociologists, politicians, writers, government officials, artists – to address the “big” question: Left and right defined the 20th century. What's next?. I’d suggest spending a bit of time reading their answers. As the magazine editors note: “The pessimism of their responses is striking: almost nobody expects the world to get better in the coming decades, and many think it will get worse.”

My own humble response:

I think the greatest challenge to those in developed and developing countries is grappling with complexity:

  • information/communication complexity evidenced by agenda-driven mass media, a torrent of competing sources, and a trend toward sensationalism over fact-based;
  • social complexity evidenced by competing needs of young vs. old, rich vs poor, educated vs. uneducated;
  • technological complexity evidenced by changes that are happening so fast that few have the capacity to absorb them;
  • economic complexity driven by globalization and its impact on local economies and work;
  • political complexity evidenced by retaliatory conflict among political parties that leads to poor legislation and poorer decisions;
  • ideological complexity exemplified by the current long term clash between Jihadist Islam and secular Western democracies.

The challenge of course, isn’t really complexity. It’s that most people flee a complex problem, preferring to abandon critical thinking and believe the demagogue who offers simple (some would say, infantile) solutions, to look for guidance from those who would take away the freedoms they hold most dear, to grasp at a utopian vision of a future that will never come to pass. The challenge is, as it always was, the human psyche and it’s never-ending quest to seek simplicity and calm when the world is neither simple nor tranquil.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Weather Cooking

It appears that as a consequence of widely viewed documentaries, such as The Great Global Warming Swindle, the scientific community—always severe critics of Al Gore’s premise that man-made CO2 drives climate change—are beginning to be heard in the media.

A historical perspective, presented by Harvard Astrophysicist, Sallie Louise Baliunas, is both entertaining and enlightening. It serves as a clear warning that bad science and uncritical belief are no substitute for rational thought. See it on YouTube.

Monday, March 12, 2007

TMI, Redux

As a follow-up to my last post, let’s assume for a moment that Al Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenience Truth is scientifically accurate and that every scientist interviewed in in UK Channel 4’s TV documentary, The Great Global Warming Swindle. is a shill for big oil and that all the claims in the Channel 4 piece are absolutely incorrect.

Then we are to believe that CO2 is the primary driver of global warming. It isn’t, but we’re assuming …

Now, think back to the late 1970s when the Movie, The China Syndrome was released. Less than two weeks after its release, the Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear accident occurred – a perfect storm for environmental activists. As a consequence of these events, the development of Nuclear Power in the United States simply stopped. The Hollywood and media elites celebrated their victory ,and we moved forward into a cleaner, environmentally safer world … but wait.

Today, almost 30 years later, Hollywood and the media celebrate Al Gore and ask why the USA is so callous as to produce tons of CO2 that are “causing” global warming.

Lee Haslup runs a few numbers that are sort of “inconvenient” when we juxtapose the China Syndrome, TMI, and Al Gore’s documentary:
Let's do a little math. Electrical power plants in the US emit something like 500 million tons of carbon into the air as CO2 each year. None of that carbon comes from the 20 percent that is currently nuclear so 500 million tons divided by 80 percent non-nuclear gives us 6.25 million tons of carbon to generate one percent of the power we use in the US. If we assume that we would be generating an additional 30 percent from nuclear power then we would emit 187.5 fewer millions of tons of carbon each year. It has been 28 years since The China Syndrome/Three Mile Island so we can approximate the cumulative effect by multiplying the yearly emission difference by 28 and then dividing by two. That way we assign one twenty-eighth of the yearly emissions in the first year, two twenty-eighths in the second year, and so forth. So let's see... 187.5 million tons times 28 years is 5.25 billion tons divided by two to allow for our approximation of linear growth gives us 2.625 billion tons of carbon. Assuming each ton is 2000 pounds and bearing in mind that each pound of carbon combines with 2.7 pounds of oxygen to form CO2, we get, lets see... 2.625 billion tons of carbon is 5.25 trillion pounds of carbon -- which is enough to make 19.425 trillion pounds of CO2. Since we are approximating here lets round that to twenty trillion pounds. That's 20,000,000,000,000 lbs of CO2.

So what was the damage done by the accident at Three Mile Island? The number two reactor was damaged beyond repair. Enough radioactivity was released to equal a chest X-ray or two for the operators of the plant. And, thanks to the tireless efforts of Jane Fonda [the star of The China Syndrome], twenty trillion pounds of extra CO2 were released into the atmosphere over the next twenty eight years.

Now, legitimate science indicates that CO2 is not the problem when global warming is concerned, but it is interesting to see how thoughtless environmental activism, backed by shaky science and political spin can result in unintended consequences.

Update (3/12/07):

I apologize, but this is hard to resist. The AP reports the following:
MINNEAPOLIS - A North Pole expedition meant to bring attention to global warming was called off after one of the explorers got frostbite. The explorers, Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen, on Saturday called off what was intended to be a 530-mile trek across the Arctic Ocean after Arnesen suffered frostbite in three of her toes, and extreme cold temperatures drained the batteries in some of their electronic equipment …

"They were experiencing temperatures that weren't expected with global warming," Atwood said. "But one of the things we see with global warming is unpredictability."

Of course, local climate events can be aberrant and the reported event proves little about global warming. Then again, most climate change activists continually argue that hurricanes, droughts, floods, occurrences of hot weather (local climate events, all) are harbingers of catastrophic climate change and that we're the cause of it. Can’t have it both ways.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

And the winner is …

A few weeks ago, the least surprising of all the academy awards went to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. To be a bit cruel, the lightweights who make up the Hollywood elite—people who wouldn’t know a real scientific study from a porn movie—became entranced with the “Goracle’s” grossly inaccurate and overly hysterical view of global climate change.

But no matter, the MSM—long convinced that global warming is being caused by human-produced CO2 (Gore’s claim)—celebrated the award as yet further validation of the half truths and distortions contained in Gore's documentary.

To their credit, UK’s Channel 4 has produced a scientifically accurate documentary that worries that “the global warming alarm is now beyond reason.” The hour and a quarter TV documentary presents interviews with eminent climatologists from around the world, provides the science in a cogent manner, and suggests that what we’re experiencing is The Great Global Warming Swindle. If you’re convinced that global warming is an impeding catastrophy, spend the time to view the whole thing. It just might change your mind.

The climate change folks continually make reference to climate models as the basis for all of their dire predictions. As one scientist in the Channel 4 documentary states” “All it takes is one assumption to be wrong and the model is all wrong.” Virtually all climate changes models overly emphasize the importance of CO2, even though sun cycles and water vapor have a significantly greater affect on climate and correlate far more strongly with the average temperature of the earth. In fact, if you examine the science, it appears that CO2 is a function of temperature, not the other way around. Stated another way, historical data collected over thousands of years (including the ice core data that the Goracle so prominently features) indicates that rising temperatures result in increased CO2 output from natural sources (e.g., the ocean), not the other way around. These natural sources produce hundreds of times more CO2 that humans ever could or ever will.

A technical aside: For those who have viewed An Inconvenient Truth, I'm sure you'll recall Gore's lengthy discussion of CO2 vs. temperature using a full-wall electronic display of ice core data over tens of thousands of years. Here's what's interesting -- it appears that the graphs were constructed to purposely mislead the viewer. The CO2 and temperature were not overlaid (one on top of the other), but rather placed one above the other. The viewer sees the shape of the graphs (which are similar) and assumes that Gore's claim of cause and effect is obvious. However, it just might be an optical illusion. If the temp trace were lowered to the same level as the CO2 curve, it appears that it would lag the CO2 curve just slightly. Temp rises, then CO2 increases! As a consequence, Gore's argument falls apart.

It appears that “modelers are less concerned with producing a forecast that is accurate than to produce one that is interesting” to the media. Dramatic results are required, hence ridiculous predictions of a 20-foot ocean rise, mega-hurricanes, cities under water, and a complete disregard for accurate science.

Another scientist comments:
The analogy that I might use is my car is not running very well, but I’m going to ignore the engine – which is the sun – and I’m going to ignor the transmission – which is the water vapor – and instead, I’m going to focus on one lug nut on the right rear wheel – which is the human produced CO2. The science is really that bad.”

Why does all of this misinformation get so much play? At the beginning of the documentary there’s a quote worth noting:
“Because world communism failed and the [Berlin] wall came down, a lot of peaceniks and political activists moved into the environmental movement bringing their neo-Marxism with them and learned to use green language in a very clever way to cloak agendas that actually had more to do with anti-capitalism and anti-globalization that they had to do anything with ecology or science.”

Obviously some right wing neo-con from the Bush administration or maybe Rush Limbach said this, right? Think again, the speaker is Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace.

In the conclusion to the documentary, Channel 4 addresses the argument that goes, “What’s the harm. It’s better to be safe than sorry.” Problem is, the restrictions imposed as a result of the bad science espoused by climate change fanatics hurt the world poorest people the most. Again, Greenpeace’s Patrick Moore comments:
[One of the most pernicious aspects of the global warming movement] “is the implied romantization of the peasant life and the idea that industrial societies are the destroyers of the world.

Possibly without meaning to, the global warming movement has become the strongest force in preventing development in the developing countires.

I wonder if Al Gore is proud of that.