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

Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Irony of 2009

And so, another year comes to an end. The inimitable Dave Barry summarizes 2009 nicely when he writes:
It was a year of Hope -- at first in the sense of ``I feel hopeful!'' and later in the sense of ``I hope this year ends soon!''

It was also a year of Change, especially in Washington, where the tired old hacks of yesteryear finally yielded the reins of power to a group of fresh, young, idealistic, new-idea outsiders such as Nancy Pelosi. As a result Washington, rejecting ``business as usual,'' finally stopped trying to solve every problem by throwing billions of taxpayer dollars at it and instead started trying to solve every problem by throwing trillions of taxpayer dollars at it.

In my view, 2009 was a year of irony. Here are a few of the ironies of the past year noted in no partuclar order:

  • It’s ironic that a MSM that was obsessed with ‘speaking truth to power’ during 2008, felt compelled to sing odes of praise to power during 2009. For the first half of the year, while the Obama administration made blunders on both the domestic and international fronts, the MSM was eerily silent. In fact, it was proactive in protecting its President from criticism. Journalistic objectivity was one of the many casualties of 2009.

  • It's ironic that throughout this year, the new administration decided that the only way to reduce the debt was to spend trillions of dollars we don’t have. The argument, of course, was that Washington had to “prime the pumps.” The sad reality is that the economic collapse that President Obama inherited cannot be fixed by the government. This, of course, is anathema to many in Washington, and as a consequence, we borrow from countries that are not our friends.

  • It’s ironic that an administration that promised to look forward has done so much looking backward. There has been no president in my lifetime who has criticized his predecessor so publicly. But it’s worse than that. When faced with a difficult problem, it seems that Barack Obama’s knee jerk response was to blame Bush. It’s unseemly, and worse, it’s not something that a good leader does. I suspect President Obama will not have that luxury in 2010.

  • It’s ironic that a President who convinced many that “soft power” would lead to reproachement with the many bad regimes that hate us instead demonstrated the futility of empty negotiation. It’s troubling that our President was rebuffed in his attempts to mold new relationships with China and Russia. It’s laughable that those who argued that Bush’s “cowboy diplomacy” was the reason that we could not come to terms with the NoKos, Venezuela, or Iran, seem unable to explain why ‘a man the world loves’ has made little or no progress with these thugs.

  • It’s ironic that in order “to make history” the President and his Congress have constructed a partisan bill that will do nothing to reform health care, but will assuredly move this country ever-closer to fiscal ruin. There’s no doubt that their efforts will “make history,” but I suspect it will not be the kind of history they envision in their delusional fantasies of health care nirvana.

  • It’s ironic that a President who views himself as a world leader traveled to Copenhagen and left with exactly … nothing. Is he unwilling to examine the growing body of evidence that brings many of the claims that humans are a primary cause of climate change into question? Is he such a true believer in the AGW religion that he will not entertain the notion that watchful waitng might be the best strategy? Is he really willing to support cap and trade legislation in 2010 that might make our economy weaker than it already is?

  • It’s ironic that the financial “masters of the universe” at Citibank, AIG, and many others were perfectly willing to accept charity from the U.S. taxpayer (after they failed miserably to conduct business in an ethical manner), but still insisted that in order to “retain” their financial geniuses they had to pay obscene bonuses. In 2009, driving a financial business into the ground through bad judgment and greed is no reason not to profit personally.

  • It’s ironic that a company like GM, chronically mismanaged for well over three decades, should receive a bailout from the very people who decided to buy their cars elsewhere. Why? Poor quality, ho-hum design, and redundant product lines. Each of those failings is the responsibility of GM management. No matter, what’s good for GM is … is it?

  • It’s ironic that a motley collection of Somali pirates could terrorize major shipping lanes off Africa while the western nations appear helpless to stop them. The problem, of course, is that all western nations have fallen prey to the fiction of “proportional response” when faced with murderous (or in this case, larcenous) thugs. Even though international law gives the nations of the West the right to stop the pirates with extreme prejudice, we tip-toe around the issue, worried that we might appear … What? Forceful? It’s pathetic.

  • It’s ironic that the media spent thousands of hours reporting the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, but seems oblivious to the coming problems associated with the ongoing government Ponzi scheme that we call Social Security and Medicare. It’s equally ironic that a majority of the Congress would gladly extend the Medicare Ponzi scheme to us all if they could just get a few “hold outs” to agree to the deal.

  • It’s ironic that the media hyped the swine flu epidemic, but was less than vociferous when vaccine was delivered late or not at all. Could you just imagine the media response had late deliveries of vaccine occurred under the evil Bush administration.

  • It’s ironic that the tragic death of Michael Jackson and the dalliances of Tiger Woods garnered 1000 times more media coverage that the Climategate scandal. After all, what’s more important, celebrity or evidence of scientific malfeasance that could have a direct and profound impact on us all? The answer, sadly, is obvious.

  • It’s ironic that President Obama rushed to judgment when he condemned the Cambridge police for acting stupidly by arresting Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. in a minor incident, but was hesitant to make any judgment when an Islamist Army Major gunned down dozens of his fellow soldiers in Fort Hood. Guess the police were guilty until proved innocent and a terrorist (oh, sorry, a disturbed and isolated Moslem soldier) should not be judged until all the facts are in.

  • It’s ironic that President Obama spent months pondering the right action to take in Afghanistan, only to learn this month that the war against Al Qaida has moved to Yemen.

But it’s equally ironic that with all of the idiocy, bad judgment, and political garbage, we all smile and hope for the best. Just because our leaders act like callous children most of the time, doesn’t mean that they won’t change in the coming year. Does it?

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Security Theater

It’s been my opinion for quite some time that the security procedures instituted at our airports are more about the appearance of security and less about the actual act of stopping Islamic terrorists from downing an aircraft. With each new event (the abortive Detroit incident is only the latest), the TSA has ratcheted up “safety procedures,” inconveniencing millions of travelers on a daily basis. Rather than using psychological and physical profiling (oh, the horror of such a suggestion!), our protectors ask an 80 year old to remove her shoes or undergo a pat-down search if her knee replacement sets off a metal detector. The intent, of course, is to appease the gods of political correctness—to appear even handed. But why?

While security personnel waste time on those with a 0.0001 probability of being a terrorist, it’s entirely possible that a potential bad guy (think: the Nigerian terrorist) waltz through the security line undetected. Not only could it happen—it just did.

Christopher Hitchens comments on this when he writes:
Why do we fail to detect or defeat the guilty, and why do we do so well at collective punishment of the innocent? The answer to the first question is: Because we can't—or won't. The answer to the second question is: Because we can. The fault here is not just with our endlessly incompetent security services, who give the benefit of the doubt to people who should have been arrested long ago or at least had their visas and travel rights revoked. It is also with a public opinion that sheepishly bleats to be made to "feel safe." The demand to satisfy that sad illusion can be met with relative ease if you pay enough people to stand around and stare significantly at the citizens' toothpaste. My impression as a frequent traveler is that intelligent Americans fail to protest at this inanity in case it is they who attract attention and end up on a no-fly list instead. Perfect.

Many on the Left continue to assert that most terrorist instances are “lone wolves” that can be treated as criminal assailants. It’s a useful fiction when you can’t accept a much harsher truth. Again Hitchens tells it like it is:
What nobody in authority thinks us grown-up enough to be told is this: We had better get used to being the civilians who are under a relentless and planned assault from the pledged supporters of a wicked theocratic ideology. These people will kill themselves to attack hotels, weddings, buses, subways, cinemas, and trains. They consider Jews, Christians, Hindus, women, homosexuals, and dissident Muslims (to give only the main instances) to be divinely mandated slaughter victims. Our civil aviation is only the most psychologically frightening symbol of a plethora of potential targets. The future murderers will generally not be from refugee camps or slums (though they are being indoctrinated every day in our prisons); they will frequently be from educated backgrounds, and they will often not be from overseas at all. They are already in our suburbs and even in our military. We can expect to take casualties. The battle will go on for the rest of our lives. Those who plan our destruction know what they want, and they are prepared to kill and die for it. Those who don't get the point prefer to whine about "endless war," accidentally speaking the truth about something of which the attempted Christmas bombing over Michigan was only a foretaste. While we fumble with bureaucracy and euphemism, they are flying high.

It’s time that we become grown-ups and jettison politically correct security theater for something really quite different. We must profile and do it without guilt or shame. There are people out there who want to kill us. They have relatively predictable profiles. In my view, it’s perfectly reasonable to inconvenience the relative few who fit into the profile group, rather than inconveniencing the millions who do not.

Friday, December 25, 2009


I had an opportunity to see the movie Avatar yesterday. James Cameron and his team should be applauded for introducing a new generation of CGI effects and a form a 3D imagery that is easy on the viewer and a pleasure to watch.

The visual effects were spectacular, and the movie is worth seeing. But I’m sure I’m not the only viewer who was troubled by a story line that could have been compelling, but instead fell back on a tired Hollywood meme that demonizes the American military and has nothing good to say about multinational corporations.

In a nutshell, the story goes like this.
The year is 2154. A multinational corporation has traveled to an alien planet, Pandora, to mine a valuable new element, unobtainium. The native people of the planet, the Na’vi , are an elegant version of the noble savage, at one with Pandora’s environment, spiritual, and, well … just good (not to mention very physical and attractive in their own way). The corporation’s science team has developed avatars that allow a human to inhabit an exact duplicate of a Na’vi’s body (they’re 10 feet tall) and thereby study the culture and try to negotiate concessions from Pandora’s inhabitants. The corporation also has a force of mercenaries, lead by an obviously blood-thirsty U.S marine colonel to put down any rebellion as the corporation thoughtlessly takes Na’vi lands and sacred sites.

A wounded (paraplegic) marine arrives on Pandora to inhabit one of the avatars. At first he’s a Hollywood caricature of a “marine” (hoorah), but as he learns about the Na’vi and falls in love with a Na’vi princess, he begins to realize that the people he works for have evil intent. The rest of the story should be reasonably obvious.

The problem with Cameron’s movie is that it journeys 150 years into the future to tell a story that is 150 years in our past. It is true that the US military and avaricious business interests did decimate the American Indian population throughout the second half of the 19th century (the Europeans and many others did the same in other parts of the world at different times in history). What we did was unforgivable. But to imply that we’ve learned nothing and would decimate an innocent indigenous population today (much less 150 years hence) is both dishonest and insulting. Using dialogue that includes phrases like “shock and awe,” Cameron’s crude metaphor implies that our military efforts over the past decade are somehow equivalent to the story of Pandora. If you take the metaphor at face value, it’s hard not to believe that our current military are a bunch of bloodthirsty scoundrels and that indigenous populations that we have encountered are as pure as the Na’vi. The reality is rather considerably different.

Cameron could have told a somewhat different story within the same theme. It would draw from today’s realities and project them 150 years into the future. Let’s try just one possible variation:
The year is 2154. The planet of Pandora has been invaded by Ta’Li , a people who are fanatic and blood thirsty and want to subjugate the native people of the planet, the Na’vi, who are an elegant version of the noble savage, at one with Pandora’s environment, spiritual, and, well, just good (not to mention very physical and attractive in their own way).

The Ta’Li are brutal—a misogynistic cult that fears all outsiders, murders those Na’vi who question its dictates, attacks other planets without remorse or provocation, cuts off the hands of female Na’vi children who attend schools. All in all, bad aliens.

After the U.S has been attacked by the Ta'Li, a Marine expeditionary force journeys to Pandora to hunt the Ta’Li down. An American science team has developed avatars that allow a human to inhabit an exact duplicate of a Na’vi’s body and thereby study the culture and try to encourage Pandora’s inhabitants to help in the fight against the Ta’Li. U.S forces are tough, but try hard not to harm the Na’vi as they fight the evil Ta’Li.

A wounded (paraplegic) marine arrives on Pandora to inhabit one of the avatars. At first he’s a Hollywood caricature of a “marine” (hoorah), but he learns about the Na’vi and falls in love with a Na’vi princess. As his respect for the Na’vi grows, he realizes just how evil the Ta’Li are and works with the Na’vi to defeat them. Together, they succeed.

Yeah, I know, it’s fantasy, but at least it’s grounded in some semblance of modern reality.

Then again, Avatar is a Hollywood fantasy. It just kind of sad that Hollywood fantasy too often makes America the bad guy refusing to tell us about the real evil that lurks just beyond the margins of even its best stories.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


There was a market crash yesterday, but with the exception of the UK’s Financial Times , it went largely unreported:
Carbon prices plunged yesterday in the aftermath of the Copenhagen conference on climate change, dealing a blow to the credibility of the European Union's carbon-trading scheme.

For those who believe that humans are the prime drivers of climate change (a proposition that is becoming more and more tenuous as the core data and models used by AGW believers come under scientific scrutiny), this news is as disturbing as the collapse of the climate conference itself. But for the rest of us, it just might be an indicator that the entire foundation of the UN conference was so brittle that it was doomed to failure from the onset.

George Will comments on President Obama’s strange take on the Conference:
It would have been unprecedented had the president not described the outcome of the Copenhagen climate change summit as "unprecedented," that being the most overworked word in his hardworking vocabulary of self-celebration. Actually, the mountain beneath the summit -- a mountain of manufactured hysteria, predictable cupidity, antic demagoguery and dubious science -- labored mightily and gave birth to a mouselet, a 12-paragraph document committing the signatories to ... make a list.

Rather than a arrogant attempt to transfer wealth from developed nations to corrupt third world dictatorships, the conference might have adopted a more modest agenda. Each country could have defined a set of incremental and achievable commitments for lowering pollution, reducing the use of fossil fuels, and otherwise being environmentally conscious. No money need be transferred and no draconian measures need be applied.

But that couldn’t happen, because 'incremental' and 'achievable' are not in the vocabulary of climate change hysterics. When you're a true believer, the world is coming to an end … and soon. Only measures (that are neither incremental, achievable, or advisable) can be mandated when apocalypse is a just around the corner.

I suspect that President Obama has been privately chastened by the failure of Copenhagen, but then again, maybe not. If he is, in fact, a true believer, he may in 2010 ask Congress to proceed with another “historic” piece of legislation that like the health care bill that will surely pass over the next few weeks, will drive our nation still more deeply into debt while at the same time disrupting a weakened economy.

But heck, it’ll be "unprecedented" and historic, won't it?

Saturday, December 19, 2009


During the latter years of George W. Bush’s presidency, the MSM reveled in every instance of international umbrage at his policies, his speeches, his overall cowboy persona. When an Iraqi reporter threw a shoe at Bush, the MSM was barely able to conceal its glee. When Hugo Chavez, the two-bit, dictatorial, neo-Communist leader who is single-handedly wrecking Venezuela, suggested at the UN that Bush was the devil ("It smells like sulfur here”), network anchors replayed the translation of the speech as if it were a homily by the Pope.

Did you know that in his anti-Capitalist speech at the now-failed Copenhagen Climate Summit, Hugo Chavez mentioned sulfur yet again?
"Which is why Evo [Morales of Bolivia, a Chavez acolyte] tells a great truth: If Obama, Nobel War Prize, said here ... by the way, it smells of sulfur here.

"It smells of sulfur. It keeps smelling of sulfur in this world.

"The Nobel War Prize [Obama] has just said here that he came to act. Well, then show it, sir, don’t leave by the back door, eh?"

Hmmmm. So much for our President’s ill-advised attempts at rapprochement with Chavez.

Interestingly, the MSM in the United States didn’t quite treat Chavez’s sulfuric comments about Obama with the same intensity that they applied to identical comments about Bush. Why is that?

I think part of the reason is that bad people (and Chavez, among far too many world leaders, is a bad person) are not impressed by “soft” power, conciliatory gestures, or attempts at rapprochement. They view those who use "soft" approaches with contempt.

That harsh reality flies in the face of the progressive meme that suggests that “soft” power, conciliatory gestures, or attempts at rapprochement are the only effective tools in foreign policy. Chavez’s comments belie the meme and hence, are better left unreported.

After observing President Obama on the international stage for the past 11 months, it’s pretty obvious he’s on a very steep learning curve. He seems unable to grasp the most important lesson of all—that the harsh realities of international relations demand toughness and tough actions.

Based on Obama's "soft" actions, clowns like Chavez and serious players like Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Russian strongman Vladimir Putan (not to mention the mullahs in Iran) will treat the President and our country with contempt. If this continues over the next few years, Barack Obama will be a one-term president.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Deleting the Bad Stuff

Russia accounts for 12.5 percent of the earth’s landmass. It would seem reasonable, therefore, that the global temperature database controlled by the now infamous University of East Anglica CRU (the same database that was used as the basis for the UN IPCC report that supporters of AGW continually cite) would include all temperature data provided by the Russians.

But the climatologists at CRU (to a man, AGW proponents) decided that only 25 percent of the data was applicable. James Delingpole quotes a Russian news release:
Climategate has already affected Russia. On Tuesday, the Moscow-based Institute of Economic Analysis (IEA) issued a report claiming that the Hadley Center for Climate Change based at the headquarters of the British Meteorological Office in Exeter (Devon, England) had probably tampered with Russian-climate data.

The IEA believes that Russian meteorological-station data did not substantiate the anthropogenic global-warming theory. Analysts say Russian meteorological stations cover most of the country’s territory, and that the Hadley Center had used data submitted by only 25% of such stations in its reports. Over 40% of Russian territory was not included in global-temperature calculations for some other reasons, rather than the lack of meteorological stations and observations.

The data of stations located in areas not listed in the Hadley Climate Research Unit Temperature UK (HadCRUT) survey often does not show any substantial warming in the late 20th century and the early 21st century.

The HadCRUT database includes specific stations providing incomplete data and highlighting the global-warming process, rather than stations facilitating uninterrupted observations.

On the whole, climatologists use the incomplete findings of meteorological stations far more often than those providing complete observations.

It seems that with every passing day, evidence of scientific fraud and data tampering bubble to the surface. In almost any other instance, media outlets around the world would be in a frenzy, each trying to dig up more evidence of collusion and fraud. But we've heard almost nothing of these recent matters in the MSM. After all, the facts conflict with the AGW meme and when that happens ... silence.

Those who are true believers, including our President, pay no heed to fact-based allegations of fraud. After all, “the science is settled,” isn’t it?

Update 12-17-09

It's also kind of interesting that the MSM in the US hasn't given much mention to Hugo Chavez's warm reception in Copenhagen. The Australian reports:
Then President Chavez brought the house down.

When he said the process in Copenhagen was “not democratic, it is not inclusive, but isn’t that the reality of our world, the world is really and imperial dictatorship…down with imperial dictatorships” he got a rousing round of applause.

When he said there was a “silent and terrible ghost in the room” and that ghost was called capitalism, the applause was deafening.

But then he wound up to his grand conclusion – 20 minutes after his 5 minute speaking time was supposed to have ended and after quoting everyone from Karl Marx to Jesus Christ - “our revolution seeks to help all people…socialism, the other ghost that is probably wandering around this room, that’s the way to save the planet, capitalism is the road to hell....let’s fight against capitalism and make it obey us.” He won a standing ovation. [emphasis mine]

Hmmm. Draw your own conclusions about AGW and any hidden agendas that might exist. If the science is bad and the politics are obvious, any result is highly suspect.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


In an article published today, Ben Stein, a conservative writer, actor, economist, and lawyer, writes about the human condition:
… we try to rise above our puniness compared with our problems and pretend that we have solutions and explanations that will take away much of the mystery of life and history and make everything clear. We create models that we think make us appear to be gods.

He goes on to describe how some of these models have resulted in “religions” (e.g., Marxism) that result in massive cruelty. Those who promoted these “religions” tried “to come up with a theory to explain everything and then to use that theory to control [their] fellow man....”

On numerous occasions, I have suggested that the AGW movement is a “religion.” Climate change advocates generally fit the model of earlier proponents of pseudo-religions. In Copenhagen this week, advocates claim impending catastrophe (with only the most tenuous proof) and suggest massive transfers of wealth from rich countries to poor ones. In the USA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with the full blessings of the Obama administration, has declared CO2 to be a “dangerous” gas. No matter that the science that the EPA uses as its justification is weak and possibly fraudulent. No matter that heavy CO2 regulation may create economic problems that could have long-lasting effects on our country. No matter that there has been no detailed analysis of the long-term unintended consequences of such regulation.

Stein addresses these issues when he writes:
Karl Marx was a demon sent from hell, but he said a mouthful when he said that "all history is the history of class struggle." Maybe what we are seeing now is class struggle between the academics and bureaucrats and the businesspeople and oil people and utility people. Maybe that's what this recent tomfool notion of declaring CO2, a life-giving gas, a dangerous pollutant is. If the government can have a right to control CO2 emissions, it can control every aspect of life everywhere. This is a recipe for blowing up the Constitution. In the name of a goal which may be unrelated to carbon dioxide emissions, which may not even be a real target, which may be a wholly specious goal, we are considering giving government control over our lives beyond what would have been considered conceivable just a few months ago.

I think Stein’s comments are a bit over the top, but there is a seed of truth in what he says.

In the United States, we try very hard to separate church and state. In the main, we’ve achieved a reasonable balance. But it seems that the climate change church is immune from our constitution, and the canons of the AGW church have been adopted by the Obama administration. These true believers have anointed the EPA as their religious army. Unless we’re very careful, the EPA’s crusade could become a threat in and of itself.

As Stein states:
Surely this breathtaking assault on freedom merits absolutely total certainty by everyone with a microscope that we will all die very soon from carbon dioxide emissions if we do NOT take away freedom. To allow the government this kind of control over our lives, climate change should be an imminent, life and death issue understood as such by everyone.

The true believers do think that “we will all die very soon from carbon dioxide emissions.” The problem is that a more reasoned and far less hysterical view exists. Let’s hope that those of us who hold that view—the heretics—are not burned at the stake.

Update (12/15/09)

Something you probably won’t see in the MSM in the United States. From today’s Times of London discussing Al Gore’s speech in Copenhagen
Mr Gore, speaking at the Copenhagen climate change summit, stated the latest research showed that the Arctic could be completely ice-free in five years.

In his speech, Mr Gore told the conference: “These figures are fresh. Some of the models suggest to Dr [Wieslav] Maslowski that there is a 75 per cent chance that the entire north polar ice cap, during the summer months, could be completely ice-free within five to seven years.”

However, the climatologist whose work Mr Gore was relying upon dropped the former Vice-President in the water with an icy blast.

“It’s unclear to me how this figure was arrived at,” Dr Maslowski said. “I would never try to estimate likelihood at anything as exact as this.”

Mr Gore’s office later admitted that the 75 per cent figure was one used by Dr Maslowksi as a “ballpark figure” several years ago in a conversation with Mr Gore.

The embarrassing error cast another shadow over the conference after the controversy over the hacked e-mails from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, which appeared to suggest that scientists had manipulated data to strengthen their argument that human activities were causing global warming.

Monday, December 14, 2009


During the height of the Iraq war, every antiwar protestor, most Left-leaning media outlets, and virtually all Left-leaning blogs characterized our effort as a “War for Oil.”

It’s interesting, therefore, to note that not a single US oil company has been given a contract to develop Iraqi oil fields – not one. I suppose that this result confirms my belief at the time that the “war for oil” meme was patent nonsense.

But on the other hand, you’d think the Iraqis might feel just a little beholden, given that the United States spend a trillion dollars and over 4,000 lives ridding them of a brutal dictatorship.

Nah, what am I thinking? This is the Middle East, after all, where most Arab countries (and Iran) view themselves as a perpetual victims, where every promise is negotiable at a later date, where every statement has to be triple checked for veracity, and where collective memory is very short when it comes to help provided by the West.

President Obama should observe the Iraqi response to our efforts and extrapolate it to Afghanistan. Regardless of our attempts to nation-build in a country that is better suited to the 8th century, our efforts will be met with cold eyes and little reciprocity. Sure, they’ll take our money, and they’ll allow us to shed blood, but at the end of the day, they are who they are … and they are not, nor will they ever be our friends.

Come to think of it, with the singular exception of Israel, we have no friends in the Middle East, and that's unlikely to change.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

It's Clear

In an op-ed in The Washington Post, Alan I. Leshner , chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and executive publisher of the journal Science, castigates AGW “doubters” [it appears that even true believers now recognize that the term “deniers” was just a bit over the top] and suggests that they simply don’t understand: (1) the science, (2) the severity of the consequences, and (3) the importance of action now. He makes the following statement:
Climate-change science is clear: The concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide -- derived mostly from the human activities of fossil-fuel burning and deforestation -- stands at 389 parts per million (ppm). We know from studying ancient Antarctic ice cores that this concentration is higher than it has been for at least the past 650,000 years. Exhaustive measurements tell us that atmospheric carbon dioxide is rising by 2 ppm every year and that the global temperature has increased by about 1.1 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century. Multiple lines of other evidence, including reliable thermometer readings since the 1880s, reveal a clear warming trend. The broader impacts of climate change range from rapidly melting glaciers and rising sea levels to shifts in species ranges.

Sometimes it’s important to look at what someone doesn’t say, as well as what they said. What Dr. Leshner says is that “Climate-change science is clear.” Okay. If the matter is clear and “settled,” it would seem that in addition to his discussion of CO2 ppm and projections of possible temperature rises, he’d breakdown the percentage impact of all climate variables—CO2, sun spot activity, ocean currents, cloud density and formation, changes in the earth’s magnetic field, volcanic activity, ocean salinity, changes in land reflectivity, oceanic algae growth, among at least 18 variables. He doesn't do that.

For starters, why not tell us the percent impact that CO2 has on global temperature variability to the nearest, say, 2 percent. At the same time, provide us with the percent impact of other variables. After all, climate science is clear, is it not?

In a strikingly similar op-ed in USA Today, Melanie Fitzpatrick, a climate scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, makes essentially the same arguments, denigrating “polluter-funded front groups and their allies in Congress” for “making exaggerated claims about stolen e-mails from climate scientists in a last ditch effort to derail action.” Like Leshner, she notes that “Global warming is accelerating faster than expected — and we need to act quickly to curb emissions.” But again, it’s what she doesn’t say. She cannot and does not indicate the quantitative impact of anthropogenic CO2 emissions on the earth’s climate. It’s an important piece of information that would be readily available if the science was understood at a level Fitzpatrick implies.

Of course Dr. Leshner, Dr. Fitzpatrick and other AGW true believes can’t provide answers to these seemingly important questions, because they don’t have them. Maybe the impact of CO2 (the human component) is high, or maybe it’s not. If it is high, then we should work to reduce its impact, but if it's low, we're addressing the wrong variable.

Don’t you think it might be a good idea to find out before we take very expensive and intrusive actions that might make matters no better and could have unintended negative consequences?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

A Boulder

As the UN Climate Conference grinds on, attendees are presented with a horror film in which a little girl clings to a tree, set against angry skies, as the earth’s waters rise to drown her. Funny, I’ve attended dozens of scientific conferences and never has the assemblage been presented with such hyperbolic nonsense.

Have AGW believers jumped the shark? It could be happening.

AGW believers are fond of attacking those who desire a more scientific and objective approach to the problem. They call us “deniers.” But as the ClimateGate revelations mount, it seems that the true believers (with some notable exceptions, such as George Monbiot) are the real deniers.

When faced with the reality that much of the data and many of the models that have been used to make their case have been doctored, they cover their ears and eyes as if nothing has happened.

“What about vanishing ice sheets?” they exclaim.

When I lived in Connecticut, there was a huge (I do mean huge, half as big as a small house) boulder in the field next to my house. It got there when a glacier (ice sheet) that covered Connecticut during the ice age receded. But gee, there were no cars, or trucks, or power plants or people in Connecticut at that time. Oil hadn’t been discovered, and yet the ice sheet receded not by a few hundred miles but by thousands of miles. The boulder was left behind.

Sure, the climate changes. It always has changed. It always will change. The boulder is simple proof. But that’s not the issue.

The question—which is far from “settled”—is whether human output is a significant factor. AGW proponents believe it is, but base that belief on the “hockey stick” representation of paleoclimatological data that have now been shown to be less than honest. A few of the true believers, much to their credit, see the problem and have stepped back to ask for clarification. But the majority continue with their fanaticism.

For those old enough, Mona Charen revisits another environmental religion of 40 years ago:
The same people whose hair is on fire now about climate change have dressed up in fright masks before. Thirty years ago, they were (no joke) enormously agitated about the coming new ice age. From these same precincts (the Club of Rome, 1972) we were warned that the world was rapidly running out of oil, gas, aluminum, lead, zinc, copper, tin, and uranium. (We didn't.) At the same time, all of the smart people were absolutely convinced that overpopulation was the greatest threat to the globe and to humanity itself. Paul Ehrlich, author of "The Population Bomb," offered in 1980 that "If I were a gambler, I would bet even money that England will not exist in the year 2000." That same year, the Carter administration issued a global forecast predicting that "the world in 2000 will be more crowded, more polluted, less stable ecologically ... and the world's people will be poorer in many ways than they are today." Um, no.

The scaremongers' track record is poor. For people who seem to worship Mother Earth, they are oddly arrogant about their ability to understand complex systems like climate. Every day brings new discoveries about the incredibly complicated interplay of oceans, atmospheric gases, algae, wind, plants, animal excretions, solar radiation, and so forth.

As a young engineering student, a professor told us, "Before you can solve a problem, you’ve got to understand it.”

Because we don’t yet understand the climatic system in enough detail, it’s the height of hubris to think that we can solve it. Worse, the solutions that have been proposed may do nothing to affect the earth’s climate in any substantive way, but may have a profound negative impact of the world economy.

Update (12/08/09)

For those who are more technically oriented, I'd suggest a detailed discussion of some of the science here. Among many worthwhile points, the paper lists no fewer than 18 variables that all contribute to climatic change. Bottom line, there has been no credible research that can accurately measure the human component in climate change. It could represent 1 percent or 50 percent. It is irresponsible to define major policy initiatives that focus on CO2 when we have no idea what the percentage is. Here's why.

Let's say that CO2 contributes 5 percent to global warming (that's a guess, but it's no less accurate than the best science to date), and we reduce emissions by 50 percent (a major achievement). We've reduced warming by 2.5 percent. If temperatures are projected (by questionable doomsday models) to rise by 6 degrees in 100 years, the net effect of a 50 percent CO2 reduction would be 0.15 degrees over 100 years or 0.0015 degrees annually. Is that worth 1 trillion dollars and potential damage to the world economy? Is it worth the hysteria currently be promulgated those who have adopted AGW as a religion? I think not.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Increasingly Off-Key

President Obama spent three months conducting a detained analysis of his Afghanistan strategy, before making the decision to send more troops and at the same time, define an exit strategy. His supporters in politics and the media praised his careful and complete review in which (if we can believe White House insiders) the opinions of all parties were presented and discussed at length.

This week, the President jets off to the UN Copenhagen Conference to commit the United States to a variety of environmental goals all related to the increasingly controversial and scandal-plagued anthropogenic global warming (AGW) hypothesis. I find it fascinating that the same administration that has been praised in the MSM as "deliberative" has spent relatively little time conducting a detained analysis of the science associated with AGW. The President (via his spokeman) seems unconcerned with the growing ClimateGate scandal that calls into question the data and models that are used to justify much of the Cap and Trade taxation and trillions in economic impact that he supports. His administration seems to dismiss the growing concerns of many serious climate researchers, continually suggesting that the science is settled. Odd.

It’s as if President Obama doesn’t want to do a detailed deliberative analysis of AGW because he and his staff are afraid of the conclusions that may come out of it.

He might, for example, ask his staff to read and report on an excellent layman’s summary of both the science and the politics of AGW written by Steven Hayward . Discussing ClimateGate, Hayward writes:
As in the furor over Dan Rather's fabricated documents about George W. Bush's National Guard service back in 2004, bloggers have been swarming over the material and highlighting the bad faith, bad science, and possibly even criminal behavior (deleting material requested under Britain's Freedom of Information Act and perhaps tax evasion) of a small group of highly influential climate scientists. As with Rathergate, diehard climate campaigners are repairing to the "fake but accurate" defense--what these scientists did may be unethical or deeply biased, they say, but the science is settled, don't you know, so move along, nothing to see here. There are a few notable exceptions, such as Guardian columnist George Monbiot, who in the past has trafficked in the most extreme climate mongering: "It's no use pretending that this isn't a major blow," Monbiot wrote in a November 23 column. "The emails extracted by a hacker from the climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia could scarcely be more damaging. .  .  . I'm dismayed and deeply shaken by them. .  .  . I was too trusting of some of those who provided the evidence I championed. I would have been a better journalist if I had investigated their claims more closely." Monbiot has joined a number of prominent climate scientists in demanding that the CRU figures resign their posts and be excluded from future climate science work. The head of the CRU, Phil Jones, announced last week that he will temporarily step down pending an investigation.

The President seems hell-bent on making commitments that could have a deleterious impact on our economy, and worse, do little or nothing to affect the earth’s climate.

George Will comments on the President’s commitments:
Barack Obama, understanding the histrionics required in climate-change debates, promises that U.S. emissions in 2050 will be 83 percent below 2005 levels. If so, 2050 emissions will equal those in 1910, when there were 92 million Americans. But there will be 420 million Americans in 2050, so Obama's promise means that per capita emissions then will be about what they were in 1875. That. Will. Not. Happen.

Before he acts precipitously and makes promised that cannot be kept, he might live up to his image as an intelligently deliberative leader and spend some time studying the problem before he concludes that “the science is settled.”

Hayward states what many of us who have questioned AGW hysteria over the past few years believe:
Climate change is a genuine phenomenon, and there is a nontrivial risk of major consequences in the future. Yet the hysteria of the global warming campaigners and their monomaniacal advocacy of absurdly expensive curbs on fossil fuel use have led to a political dead end that will become more apparent with the imminent collapse of the Kyoto-Copenhagen process. I have long expected that 20 or so years from now we will look back on the turn-of-the-millennium climate hysteria in the same way we look back now on the population bomb hysteria of the late 1960s and early 1970s--as a phenomenon whose magnitude and effects were vastly overestimated, and whose proposed solutions were wrongheaded and often genuinely evil (such as the forced sterilizations of thousands of Indian men in the 1970s, much of it funded by the Ford Foundation). Today the climate campaigners want to forcibly sterilize the world's energy supply, and until recently they looked to be within an ace of doing so. But even before Climategate, the campaign was beginning to resemble a Broadway musical that had run too long, with sagging box office and declining enthusiasm from a dwindling audience. Someone needs to break the bad news to the players that it's closing time for the climate horror show.

The problem is that our President and much of his administration, along with some in the Congressional leadership, have already bought tickets to this “Broadway musical that had run too long.” As they hum their favorite tunes, they’re sounding increasingly off-key.

Update (12/7/09):

Marc Shepard provides a detailed discussion of the CRU’s (and Al Gore’s) “hockey stick” temperature proxy measurements and the dishonest (and potentially fraudulent) effort to hide the cyclical nature of global temperatures over the past millennium. Although this article presents detailed science, it does so in an understandable fashion. Read the whole thing.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Precautionary Principle

In discussing the revelations of “ClimateGate” with some of my Left-leaning friends, I’ve been surprised that so few have any idea what it’s really about.

“It’s just a few scientists who have been hacked. It doesn’t change the reality of global climate change,” they state dismissively. “And besides, even if there are questions, it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

In essence, AGW proponents dismiss clear evidence of scientific tampering and invoke the “precautionary principle.” Daniel Henninger comments:
As defined by one official version: "When an activity raises threats of harm to the environment or human health, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically." The global-warming establishment says we know "enough" to impose new rules on the world's use of carbon fuels. The dissenters say this demotes science's traditional standards of evidence.

It is possible that the AGW proponents are correct. There is a risk that global temperatures could cause havoc over the next few centuries, but the probability of such a risk is unknown and the impact over the next few hundred years is difficult or impossible to predict. The near term costs and economic impact of risk mitigation can be estimated and if fully implemented by the political class, will be in the trillions of dollars.

Costly and economically disruptive risk mitigation should wait until objective science provides us with a way to understand the probability and impact of AGW. We are not currently in crisis, any more than we might be when we project the truly catastrophic impact of an asteroid strike on our planet.

Let’s think about the “precautionary principle” in that regard. Unlike AGW, where evidence is sketchy and difficult to interpret, there is clear and irrefutable historical evidence that an asteroid will strike our planet. We’re not sure when, but the impact just might destroy our civilization and most life forms. If we invoke the precautionary principle in the same way that AGW proponents do, we’d declare a imminent “crisis”, meet in Kyoto or Copenhagen, and spend trillions to relocate the world population to some safe place? But we don’t do that, do we?

The risk of an asteroid impact is real, but it is low probability in the short term. So rather than hysteria (and discussions of an “inconvenient truth”), competent scientists are spending modest sums quietly working on methods of asteroid detection and collision mitigation for that future eventuality.

As President Obama travels to Copenhagen, he might give just a little thought to nexus of climate change and asteroid impact. They’re both potential dangers to the planet, and the risks associated with them should be handled in much the same way.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Fools and Liars

Anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming (AGW) is a pseudo-religion for many people. They follow their apostles (e.g., Al Gore) and have their selected wise men (e.g., the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change-IPCC). The problem is, their beliefs are based on flawed science, their projections are derived from inaccurate algorithms and self-serving models, and worse, there is now proof that their experimental data have been dishonestly manipulated for political and ideological reasons (e.g., google the recent "climategate” scandal).

The AGW true believers continuing attempts at debunking serious AGW skeptics are, in their own way, similar to a Church's attacks on those that question fundamental doctrine. The church’s arguments sound good on the surface, but fall apart upon closer examination. For example, Al Gore denigrates those who are asking pertinent questions about AGW (“The science is settled,” he declares pompously), but at the same time, he refuses to debate the issues because, as we say in the sciences, he's exactly one question deep.

Richard Fernandez of the The Belmont Club comments on the fact that the original data used to develop the dire predictions of global warming has somehow been “lost” and that only the data that has been messaged by the institutions now embroiled in the “climategate” scandal remains. The implication—there is no way for independent scientific verification of the climate projections or the models that were derived to produce them. Hmmm. Fernandez comments:
The main objective criticism of the carbon-based warming model is that it is not proved. That’s different from saying it’s not true. It may or may not be true. However, until it is conclusively shown to be true and the results can be reproduced, it would be unwise public policy to embark on a trillion dollar amelioration program, with far-reaching economic, social and environmental effects. Government normally intervenes when there is a compelling public interest to do so. It should never intervene on the basis of an uncertain bet. Government is not the racetrack where bureaucrats can bet taxpayer money on the horses they fancy.

Nor can the “precautionary principle” be rationally invoked without recognizing the possibility that the climatologists, deprived of a real fact base, may in fact be getting their prescription wrong. The precautionary principle would assign danger to both the chance you may get a cough and the possibility that the brown liquid in the unmarked bottle may not be what you think it is, because the label has peeled off long ago. Is it Nyquil or is it Drano? And do you feel lucky today? Robert de Niro and Christopher Walken illustrated the principle of dangerous living in the Deer Hunter. “Climate change. Click.” Then spin the cylinders again. But the question must be asked, is the world allowed to peek in to the chamber? Isn’t it allowed that much? Can we have the data please?

Data? Nah, you have to believe! Otherwise, you’re a “denier.”

Even Clive Crook at the Left-leaning Atlantic is troubled by all of this. At first he argued that climategate was much ado about nothing, but now, after examining the emails and the data that have been released he thinks otherwise:
The closed-mindedness of these supposed men of science, their willingness to go to any lengths to defend a preconceived message, is surprising even to me. The stink of intellectual corruption is overpowering. And, as Christopher Booker argues, this scandal is not at the margins of the politicised IPCC process. It is not tangential to the policy prescriptions emanating from what David Henderson called the environmental policy milieu. It goes to the core of that process …

I'm also surprised by the IPCC's response. Amid the self-justification [for the flawed IPCC report that is used by the likes of Al Gore to justify global warming], I had hoped for a word of apology, or even of censure … At any rate I had expected no more than ordinary evasion. The declaration from Rajendra Pachauri [of the IPCC] that the emails confirm all is as it should be is stunning. Science at its best. Science as it should be. Good lord. This is pure George Orwell. And these guys call the other side "deniers".

And remember, this comment comes from a once strong defender of AGW.

But none of this means that those of us in the Center who are skeptical of the claims associated with the AGW religion can’t also be “green” in the best sense of the word. For the most part, we’re in favor of complete energy independence, alternative energy development, electric and other alternative fuel vehicles, pollution controls, and recycling. It's just that we refuse to accept politically motivated “science” as fact, particularly when it serves as the basis for policy that can have far reaching deleterious affects that may do nothing to green the planet.

Rather than traveling to Copenhagen, our oh-so-smart President might take a few hours out and meet with serious scientists who have a rather different view of climate data than Al Gore. What he’ll learn is that more objective study is needed before trillion dollar commitments are made to a "science" that has an extremely shaky foundation. He’d also learn that no one yet knows the true impact of the human component in the earth's climatic system, and anyone who claims they do is either a fool or a liar.