Dienstag, Dezember 26, 2006

What They Are Doing To Themselves...

Now this is interesting (HT: Blue Crab Boulevard...)

The last line is the telling one: to paraphrase, what the Iranians are doing to themselves is
much worse than anything we could do to them.

First: Iranian oil and the accompanying revenues will start to run out over the next several years, with a 10%-12% decline per annum, meaning, according to the link, that Iran will cease to be a significant oil producer by 2015.

Second: Iran is not investing in its oil industry, and as a matter of fact has a very lopsided economy. Oil revenues are 65% of the Iranian governement's revenues, which means that the non-oil economy can only support 35% of Iranian government spending. Heavy subsidies for many basics means that the Iranians are, fundamentally, eating their oil, or at least consuming it.

Third: this explains why the Iranians are so adamant about developing nuclear power. They are faced with the devil or the deep blue sea: either they drastically reduce their exports NOW in order to supply their own domestic demand in the future - which would be actually the economically sensible path - and then face massive popular protests when Iranians realize how fundamentally poor they are - subsidies prevent that from happening right now - or they have to have an alternative source of energy.

Doesn't mean that they aren't developing nuclear weapons, it's just that they are trying to finesse acquiring them as a neccessary part of their own development.

Iran is in many ways exemplary for the Arab world and its abject failure to modernize and to make their own futures: they have squandered their oil billions, either on populistic measures that buy temporary stability or on ambitious political and military projects that serve to stabilize the government control of the population.

There are some exceptions: some of the Gulf Emirates have built up significant infrastructure and world-wide holdings that can provide them with a more than comfortable income stream for the foreseeable future. These are small countries, though, with limited demographic problems. Countries like Iran don't have that option anymore. Their demography is working heavily against them, the same demographic development that they embarked on decades ago, aimed basically at increasing their populations such that they would have more than adequate number of soldiers to throw at Israel (this followed from some analysis I saw after Yom Kippur, that basically Egypt lost because they failed to field enough soldiers that would have kept the Israelis permanently on the defensive, unable to risk an attack because of the need to maintain the necessary reserves to counter all the forces fielded).

But fundamentally the Arabs and Iran have squandered what should have been able to upgrade the economies of the area so as to provide an industrialized future.

It's intriguing to think that ultimately the Arabs and Iran invariably screw things up without the West having to do anything about them. I remember reading in the early 1980s about the Iraqi plans to establish their own aircraft industry, developing their own ground-attack aircraft and munitions, of using their oil monies to establish modern industries and develop their country. I remember reading, again in the 1980s, of the massive Iranian investments into engineering schools and technical academies in order to gain the critical mass that they needed to develop indigenous industries.

I don't think at all that their is something "wrong" with Iranians, with the Arabs. There isn't: you can see how many flourish and thrive in the West. But there is a fundamental charachter flaw in Arab, in Iranian culture: the apparent inability to maintain long-term commitments to change for the length of time needed to actually implement the changes. I put it down to the fatal flaw of these cultures. There is an inability of transformation, an inability to combine traditional ways with the demands of modern society.

It is the tragedy of the Iranian and Arab world that they have failed to understand - or have wilfully ignored, or willfully denied - that you cannot have long-term scientific development and the resulting improvement of living standards without coming to some sort of reconciliation with the past. For them, Islam is the core of life, the Koran is not merely their "bible", but rather the literal word of God and as such not subject to interpretation and "modern" rational analysis.

That is the tragedy of what they are doing to themselves. That is the greatest tragedy.

Unless, of course, they do build their own nuclear weapons and destroy Israel, with the resulting destruction of Arab and Iranian culture for generations to come in Israel's retaliation and vengeance strikes.

The question now? How to manage the coming collapse of the old-tier oil economies - not economies using oil, but rather the economies that depend on selling oil - while avoiding the human costs of general collapse in the Arab world and Iran. And while at the same time managing the transition from oil-based economies to ... something else.

Samstag, Dezember 23, 2006

Democratic Stupidity ... or the pride of ignorance


Over here at the Schizoid Mansion (apologies to Jerry Pournelle) we're packing the goodies. We've got all sorts of goodies - it's been not a bad year, albeit not the best year. There've been worse, there've been better.

But we find this particular piece of stupidity here, hat tip Greg Mankiw.

So let's fisk this.

Fewer and fewer Americans support our government's trade policy. They see a shrinking middle class, lost jobs and exploding trade deficits.

First of all, where's the basis for this? Fewer and fewer? Because the Democrats were elected in this election cycle? Second, the middle class isn't shrinking: it's growing. Third, jobs haven't been lost in net, but rather have increased. The only thing that is "accurate" is that the trade deficit has increased: but the proper metric isn't an increasing trade deficit, but much rather what is the proportion of net exports as a % of GDP? Further, you have to take a look at why a trade deficit is happening.

Yet supporters of free trade continue to push for more of the same -- more job-killing trade agreements, greater tax breaks for large corporations that export jobs and larger government incentives for outsourcing.

Sigh. Supporters of free trade become the bogeyman: trade agreements that "kill jobs" (That's right, Mr. Lin, I'll get a discount if I fire 10,000 people? Sign me up!), tax breaks (which part of the tax code covers that one? I can just see the schedule: for every 1000 jobs exported, you get 12.4275% reduction in taxes on profits in excess of 1.2342 times your average profits over the last 10 years, exclusive of tax deductions, up to 12000 jobs exported, thereafter a 6.4456% reduction up to 100000 jobs exported; over 100000 jobs there is a uniform rate of 3.8379%...), and I guess I missed that issue of the Federal Register that covered the legislation that provided for subsidies for outsourcing.

Last month voters around the country said they want something very different. They voted for candidates who stood up for the middle class and who spoke out for fair trade. They did so because they understand what's at stake.

I'll grant the first point: they sure did. But given the first, that means that the vote was a vote of "vote the bums out". But that means that people didn't vote for, they simply voted against: that means that the Democrats are trying to read the granting of a mandate into a protest vote. And since when did the Democrats ever assume that the voters really understand what they did? We've been hearing for decades from Democrats about how stupid voters have been for voting in people like Reagan, Bush I, Bush II...

Over the past 100 years, Americans have built a thriving middle class. It's the envy of the world, and it didn't come easily.

No, it didn't come easy. The Democrats have been trying to stop it for decades, increasing the taxes of the middle class whenever they can get it through: getting your tenterhooks into the middle class is the best way of raising revenues for whatever boondogle or pork you're going to foist onto the nation.

At the turn of the 20th century, child labor was common; working conditions were often abysmal; there were no enforced workplace health, safety or environmental requirements; no unemployment insurance; and no workers' compensation. Workers were attacked and killed for the sole reason that they wanted to form a union; there was no 40-hour week, minimum wage, job security, overtime pay or virtually any other limit on the exploitation of employees.

List of nasty stuff that hasn't been around for a really long time: so what? No Republican has ever, ever called for anything like a turning around of any law pertaining to any and all of these developments. None.

America was split dramatically between the haves and have-nots. It was a harsh work world for many: nasty, brutish and, too often, short.

Ohhh, Hobbes! They can quote Hobbes! What does Calvin say? Seriously, America was split dramatically between those who owned land and slaves: the Georgists were the closest thing that the US came to in developing a theory of the proletariat that would have led to socialism. But there are a myriad of reasons why this didn't happen: guess what, Georgism doesn't work.

Worker activism, new laws and court decisions changed all that during the past century. As they did, a middle class grew and thrived. By mid-century, it became the engine that drove an ever-expanding economy in which benefits were shared by tens of millions of Americans. The American Dream of a secure, well-paid job with benefits, a nice house and a high-quality public education seemed within reach of everyone who worked hard and played by the rules.

The first is wrong: new laws and court decisions changed all of that. Worker activism didn't change any laws, didn't force any court decisions. Worker activism can affect legislature via lobbyism; court decisions can be influenced by elected judges. But worker activism isn't a key part of the legislative and judicial parts of the government.

And what is the middle class anyway? Something that these idiots never define or try to properly describe. The middle class is first and foremost a statistical contruct, defined as a set proportion of the population with certain charachteristica: in reality, the middle class refers to those whose income exceeds their cost of living, allowing the acquisition of capital via savings. That is how a middle class develops. Now, how does this happen? How can anyone start saving?

Simple. It's the difference between skilled and unskilled labor. In a primitive economy - i.e. non-industrialized - unskilled labor is never paid more than the marginal cost of labor, since the individual can be replaced by someone who will be willing to work for that cost. Adding skills to the equation results in wage differentiation, since that particular worker can no longer be replaced by anyone, just by someone with a similiar skill set. That only happens in an industralizing society: in a fully industrialized society, job skills become the key motive to acquiring free time in order to further improve job skills via education.

This is beneficial to anyone who can become skilled: further, it creates capital, and is fundamental to the development of capitalism as we know it today.

And people, fill me in here: when did the American Dream become a secure job with well-paid benefits, a nice house and high-quality public education? Talk about defining the field! The American Dream is nothing more than giving people the freedom to achieve what they set out to do, whatever that may be, and not to keep them under control, as is still the case today in many countries.

That is what's at stake when we talk about trade policy: America's middle class and the American Dream.

Uh, no: what is at stake in trade policy is whether people as stupid as these two are going to try and recreate the same situation we had in the 1920s and resurrect Smoot-Hawley. Which would be mind-bogglingly stupid, but seems to be exactly what is being argued here. Just in a different name and in a different form.

The new mobility of capital and technology, coupled with the revolution in information technology, makes production of goods possible throughout much of the world. But much of the world at the beginning of the 21st century looks a lot like the United States did 100 years ago: Workers are grossly underpaid, exploited and abused, and they have virtually no rights. Many, including children, work 10, 12, 14 hours a day, six or seven days a week, for only a few dollars a day.

Blah blah blah. Now, if industrialization can move anywhere - which it can't, or we'd see advanced industries in Africa, given cheap labor and proximity to raw materials - then you'd see the development of the middle class in those countries as well.

And sure, most of the Third World has really shitty working conditions. But you know what? The alternative is for those people, working their tushes off, to not be employed and to be condemned to further abject poverty, of having only their muscle power to sell.

And what these two are really complaining about is that the rest of the world isn't like us: duh.

The result has been a global race to the bottom as corporations troll the world for the cheapest labor, the fewest health, safety and environmental regulations, and the governments most unfriendly to labor rights. U.S. trade agreements paved the way for this race: While rejecting protections for workers or the environment, they protected investors and corporate interests.

Right. By not being just like us here Americans, them people overseas are being downright...

Unamerican. By gum!

The results of such trade agreements are skyrocketing trade deficits -- more than $800 billion this year alone -- and downward pressure on income and benefits for American workers. Why? Because these agreements enable countries to ship what their low-wage workers produce to the United States while blocking many U.S. products from entering their countries.

Duh. The reason that the US is running a trade deficit is that the US imports more than it exports. Any sort of trade is going to put downward pressure on income and benefits for US workers: after all, given comparative advantages, those other countries produce more efficiently that US workers. And the argument that US exports are being blocked is an old one of the protectionists: the GATT works very well in addressing these problems.

Equally important, by enabling this kind of trade, the agreements force U.S. workers to accept cuts in their pay and benefits so their employers can compete with low-wage foreign producers. And those workers are the lucky ones. Millions of others have lost their jobs as corporations moved overseas to build the same products with cheap foreign labor. It is no coincidence that salaries and wages today are the lowest percentage of gross domestic product since the government began keeping track of this in 1947.

Uh, competition of any kind does this. This is pure protectionism: those damn foreigners are the fault of everything. And the idea that salaries and wages are my income is laughable: what about my benefits? This is stupid: these two lash out about the dismantling of the benefits of the middle class, but ignore them when benefits would destroy their argument.


It took a century to build a thriving middle class and economic security here in America. We need to protect that for which we have sacrificed.

Ah, they actually say it! We want to protect... but not the interests of the American consumer, but rather the interests of our own sacred cows.

We must insist that all trade agreements have labor, environmental and other protections so that American workers can compete on a level playing field. Trade agreements must also be reciprocal. The American market is the most desirable in the world. Every country wants access to it. That gives us a great deal of leverage, if only we'd use it. Barriers to U.S. products overseas should not be tolerated.

Insist all you want. Then the Europeans will demand that American workers should not be allowed to work more than 35 hours/week and take 30 days of vacation, and that no one can be fired except for extreme cause. Welcome 10% permanent unemployment as a fact of life that no one is willing to change, and let's make sure that we don't let in too many foreigners either. The reason that everyone wants to sell here is that we are the largest single country market in the world: but put up barriers, and prices will rise, meaning that domestic makers will no longer be exposed to competition, allowing them to raise their profits. Who loses? The consumer: your choices will become limited, you won't have recourse to alternatives, innovation will slow significantly and you, the average consumer, w i l l b e p o o r e r.

What shouldn't be tolerated are these idiots.

Free-trade agreements have protected drug companies, international investors and Hollywood films, yet failed to protect our communities, our workers and our environment.

Free trade agreements have lowered prices, increased diversity of product choice available, and have led to domestic innovation in the face of foreign competition. And how the hell is the environment helped by making less productive use of limited resources???? What they are saying here is that protected industries, industries that due to union restrictions in deciding how to put their workers to use are having difficulty competing, that those have not been protected. Oddly enough, that's the user base of the Democrats...business as usual, pandering to their masters.

We believe there is a better way. Fair trade is not the enemy of more trade. It's how we expand international trade without reversing U.S. economic progress.

Fair trade is just another way of saying: we control it and decide if it is fair or not. Given that, it's not free any more. And their effects, just as Smoot-Hawley's effects, would be just as stupid.

If Dorgan-Brown were to get their way, the effects would be of the same dimension as Smoot-Hawly: Dorgan-Brown, the new Smoot-Hawley!

Sigh. Both Smoot and Hawley were Republicans, and it took decades to drive that nonsense out of the party. Guess it's now the Democrats' turn to learn those lessons: but it will be, just like it was back then, the consumers and workers, who will pay the bill for the pride of ignorance.

Merry Christmas...

Mittwoch, Dezember 20, 2006

So, we've got another 3000 years, is that what he is saying?

Ah, the ignorance of history.

Here we have that oh-so-charming nice Mr. Ahmadinejad, who was just handed a significant electoral defeat, goes off on one of his tangents. As far as he is concerned, the West will disappear just like the Pharoahs did.

Well, besides the snide hit at the Arabs (gee, do you think he meant it like that?), that indicates we've got quite a while to go yet.

Let's look at the facts: according to your friendly local Wikipedia, the Pharoahs started ruling around 5200 years ago, and the last of the pharoahs (pharoahettes?) died around 2036 years ago. Now, let's just round things up and go for a time span of 3200 years.

If we take the establishment of the United States some 230 years ago - gee, it just seems like yesterday - then we've got, even rounding upwads, another 2950 years to go.

Way to go, Ahmadinejad: go and wait your turn. We'll give you a call in the year 4956 and give you the keys to the city hall.

But let's be nice and put the beginning date with the reformation and the birth of the West as a concept in, say, the mid 1600s: that means Ahmadinejad can come on over and collect the key to the city any old time in, say, rounding once again, the year 4800.

Gee, I hope he's being patient about that. Must be a really major bummer to have to wait that long.

Ah, the ignorance of history...

Oh, and yes, I am dating the reign of the pharoahs from the protodynastic period through the final occupation by the Romans. Why use the protodynastic period? Because that's the period where the concept of Egypt, with pharoahs, was established. One *could* start with the first dynasty, but that shaves only 200 years off the dating. Same difference.

Dienstag, Dezember 19, 2006

Now *this* is brilliant...

This links to the first clever use of Second Life.

The possibilities are getting to be mind-boggling: virtual conferences, virtual meetings, virtual almost any damn thing.

And people are using this to escape their first lives? Bizarre.

Think about it: no more need to get your clients together into a stuffy room to have their brain cells killed off by PowerPoint and get fed rubber chicken. Simply set up a Second Life to replace travel.

Of course, there's no face to face, press the flesh kind of contact: with some clients, that's probably a plus rather than a minus.

This could revolutionize the meeting business. Or, more exactly, put it *out* of business...

Montag, Dezember 18, 2006

Air America and the Twilight Zone...

So, Air America is going tits up. You can read what the NYT says here...

Like this is surprising?

Back when I was living in DC, one of the jobs I had was working on the fair market value of radio and TV stations. The basic methodology was to estimate the market, then the market share trend of the radio or TV station according to the demographics, and then do a discounted cash flow, based on current balance sheets and estimated cash flow from their continuation, to determine what the fair price should be, i.e. the price where the purchase is financed out of the cash flow, plus an up-front payment for the actual plant and equipment. The difference between the fair value and the actual purchasing price reflected immaterial value, such as station reputation, the DJs involved, etc. That was always fun writing up.

Air America was doomed to failure from the start, since as you can read above, they had no business plan. The professionals involved were constantly stymied by the political nature of the program, but more critically by the absolute incompetence of the left-wing supporters of the station.

But that's typical of the left: no business plan, but let's burn through lots of other people's money. They burned through $45mn, top heavy with management that wasn't worth a tenth of what they were being paid, and no attention paid to market share.

All in the name of challenging Rush Limbaugh.

What the left doesn't realize, isn't capable of realizing, is that in the radio and TV business, it isn't enough to get on the radio or TV and gab. Rush tried that with TV and failed: he is much, much better on the radio, purely on the radio.

But first and foremost you need to have a business model. But that is anathema to the left: that takes work, putting one together, and it takes real work to implement it, going out and making sure that your program is listened to in order to sell advertising.

I have the very first show that the Twilight Zone produced, made to sell the series. We all know and love Rod Serling, the man with that profound cadence and pacing of his melodious voice, the announcer of that show. He didn't pitch the show - probably the best TV material ever done, although Farscape comes close - as the best of writing and the best of acting, but rather sold it first and foremost as entertainment that would lead to people buying the advertiser's product. And he finished off his spiel with the prediction that Sanka Instant would be the best selling instant coffee on the market in the new season (I'm assuming that Sanka financed some of that first show).

That's what makes TV and radio work: not the decision to make a new series with good acting and great stories, or in the case with Air America, bad acting and political dogma, but rather meeting the needs of those who finance you.

And apparently, according to the Grey Lady, that was the last thing on the minds, if I might use that term with great liberty, of Air America.

And I disagree with the NYT on one count: I rather doubt that Air America really ever had 2.4mn listeners.

If they had, and if they had been able to get advertisers, then they wouldn't have had to go into bankruptcy. But that's typical for the at least a significant majority of the left in the US: no business experience, no ability to put a business plan together that doesn't require the destruction of capital, and above all no hesitancy in wasting other people's money.

The sad thing is that they now control Congress...

Freitag, Dezember 08, 2006

Insight into the leftist problem...

Just ran across this website for the first time: ShrinkWrapped. This is the link for the following...

The key quote is this:

Some on the left are overtly anti-American; there have always been non-democratic Americans who believe that their particular brand of Utopian ideology is necessary to save our nation.  From the neo-nazis on the right to the Trotskyites on the left, these people do not believe in consensual politics.  Their threat has been obvious and is not my concern at this point.  Today the bigger threat comes from a vocal and integral part of the Western Political Elite, the MSM and the Professoriate.  While many liberals believe Ward Churchill is a dangerous fool, too many think that his ideas, while perhaps too strongly expressed, have some relative validity.  After all, the white man did take the Native American's land; shouldn't we be tolerant and understanding of their anger and the need to redress their grievances.  When he argues that the 9/11 attackers are simply retaliating for our numerous misdeeds, it may be noxious to many, but isn't there some truth to his charges?  After all, the United States did support tyrants in the Middle East and elsewhere.  In another instance of similar logic, the ACLU is suing Donald Rumsfeld on behalf of several people who were abused by US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.  There is a superficial plausibility to the case.  After all, the chain of command does go through Rumsfeld, and prisoners were abused; shouldn't something be done to set things to right?  In these cases, as in many others, the left and liberal aggrandizement of their own ideological ideas presents a serious danger to our prosecution of the war.  The ACLU, people like Ward Churchill, groups like Moveon.org and Human Rights First insist that their motives are pure (while everyone who disagrees with them have motives that are typically corrupt.)  They are upholding human rights; the right to be treated with respect; the right to counsel; the right to free speech.  As abstractions, these rights are inviolate; as explanations for their behavior (which could appear to be harmful to our nation's interests) they are superficially plausible; yet, reality always supervenes.  To be more attached to abstractions than to the welfare of others in one's community is a classic signifier of the Narcissist.  It is one step removed from the narcissistic disavowal of the other: my beliefs are more important than your life.

Repeat that last thought:

my beliefs are more important than your life

and rephrase it this way:

my political career is more important than foreign lives

and I think you can understand the depravity that passes for political wisdom in Washington, DC.

Shrinkwrapped rounds the above post up by saying:

The only way we can lose this war is to undermine our efforts from the inside.  When our elites in the media, academia, the judiciary, ignore or refuse to look at the words of our enemies, and support abstractions over reality, it endangers our welfare, and our rights.  If a judge, who can not or will not see that this is merely one more theater in a global war, is successful in engineering the release of Jose Padilla and he then causes an atrocity (he was working on a dirty bomb, and failing that, had planned to blow up an apartment building) does anyone doubt some basic rights will be curtailed at the demands of a frightened and aroused populace?  Does anyone doubt that if we are attacked with mass casualties, our restraint with Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia will be over?  Our system depends on the consent of the governed; when people are told they have no right to reasonably defend themselves and that abstract rights for our "victims" (ie, those who want to kill us and destroy our country) are more important than our rights to (in Dennis Miller's immortal words) "not walk down the street and get blown up", we will see a rapid erosion of the very rights we hold dear.

And we see today the results of this stance: there are times I think that the Left actually wants the kind of repression and witch-hunting that might come after a WMD incident in the US to prove how their beliefs in the fundamental nature of the US were right. It would make no difference to them that they manufactured the circumstances: the only thing that counts is being right.

The French Explain It All...

Leave it to the French to make sense of the Middle East.

Or rather, view it in such a way that explains their policies.

Basically we don't need to worry about the establishment of a Shi'ite led New Caliphate, because the Shi'ites will do nothing but squabble. It's all just hot air and posturing. The tribal conflicts and petty power-mongering is such that the establishment of any New Caliphate will fail, since the parties have too many issues and problems with each other.

So the French view - more than a tad colonialistic and paternalistic - is that we don't need to do anything: the inhabitants of the Middle East will fuck up any and everything that they will try to do.

Might be true - I dare say that there really aren't too many obvious success stories in the Middle East besides "that shitty little country" - but doesn't mean that you can simply press on and ignore what is going on.

It's bad enought that you have a region of chaos, anarchy, tribal warfare and barbarism. It'd be much, much worse if you have that coupled with what I call container bombs (i.e. nukes that you fit in a container with international shipping as the delivery vehicle), so that the Crazies can export their violence.

France, you're part of the problem: this is not a solution.

You can find an English translation here.

Donnerstag, Dezember 07, 2006

Asymmetrical Warfare...

I've got a copy of the ISG report but haven't had a chance to read it yet. That will come.

But here's another take on asymmetric warfare. Rather surprising from the LA Times, one of the papers out there with a more than alarming tendency to report propaganda rather than the news. Must be an attempt to get back a few readers.

It's a legitimate point: we've all heard the joke where the wife filing for divorce says "what's mine is mine, what's your's in negotiable".

That's the view of Islam: what once was Islamic remains so, regardless of what has happened. It must be so, after all, everything is Allah's will.

On Sunday I watched Lawrence of Arabia for the first time in many years, the two-disk DVD. What struck me in that movie wasn't the representation of the Arabs as childish and squabbling, as many have criticized the film. I've read the Seven Pillars book by Lawrence, did so while in Jordan in 1977.

What struck me is the inability of Arab culture to adapt and change.

That has been the a significant part of the problem, is a significant part of the problem, and will continue to be a part of the problem.

But getting back to the article:

Put another way, when Muslims beat infidels, it's just too bad for the latter; they must submit to their new overlords' rules with all the attendant discrimination and humiliation mandated for non-Muslims. Yet when Islam is beaten, demands for apologies and concessions are expected from the infidel world at large.

This is the asymmetry I am talking about. The Islamicists cannot accept change and defeat: they cannot, as this would contradict the idea that everything is Allah's will. A temporary setback is something that can be expected, but there is no acceptance of the rights of others to believe what they chose. In other words, an asymmetry of allowable behavior, a double standard to which the West is held but the Islamists are not.

Makes their lives infinitely simpler: they do not believe that they *can* lose: they believe, after all, that it is the will of God. And no man may abrogate the will of God.

Makes it hard to argue with such folks.

Makes it hard to even talk to those folks.

And yet that is apparently what the ISG wants the US to do exactly that.

A sad day, a day that will live in infamy. Not that infamy: the infamy of displaying your ignorance in the face of your enemy. Abject stupidity.

Sonntag, Dezember 03, 2006

Iraq And Disaster...


The rhetoric of the chatterers is such that Iraq is "now" classified as a "disaster."  One of the old media channels even calls the violence there a "civil war." And it's all Bush's fault.

Why is this wrong?


"They" believe that Iraq wasn't a disaster before the Ba'ath party was deposed and Saddam Hussein was pulled out of his hiding place. They believe that the entire region just needs some stability and then everything will get back to normal, that Bush's greatest failure was to believe that the people in the Middle East actually wanted democracy, how naive could he have been? And how stupid he has been not to have followed "their" ways of reconstructing Iraq, of having disbanded the army, of having destroyed the society. Bush's policies, they maintain, have led to the disaster, indeed have *been* the disaster.

I had a brief exchange of mails yesterday with one of FT's editors, where he raised the question of whether our choice was now between clever people without character or stupid people with it. It's a legitimate question, but underscores the popular, popular amongst the so-called intelligentsia, that Bush is stupid. And with that stupidity came an arrogance - how often that has been repeated - that America can change things in the Middle East.


The reality is that the whole region is a disaster, a catastrophe of an imposed and unsustainable attempt at stabilizing that which isn't stable. But it's not Bush who caused this disaster: it is the entire post-colonial era that is a catastrophe: this is the root cause. The problem is with autocratic rulers, creating new political dynasties in countries like Syria and Egypt; the problem lies in generations held in ignorance, manipulated by theocrats whose very existence, their lives of luxury, is deeply and permanently threatened by the secular and oh-so-successful West. The entire Middle East - and I am deliberately not naming countries, since the borders in the Middle East are arbitrary and meaningless, since they do not follow the reality of demography and society - is an abject failure in terms of economic development, scientific and technical development, social development - my god, they systematicaly mutilate their daughters - and virtually all indicators of civil society.

What has happened in Iraq is the pulling off of the blindfold. But it's the blindfold the entire western world wears: it's the blindfold that masks the critical factor.

The situation in Iraq isn't limited to Iraq: we just cannot avoid seeing it there. You can now scarcely avoid seeing it in Lebanon, where it really has been visible for many years; it is well hidden in Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iran.

You don't see it in Israel at all.

Remember, if you can, the policies of past administrations: stability in the region. Keep things stable, keep things under control, keep things manageable. Don't get the people upset (don't upset the "Arab Street"!) in those countries, everything could get completely out of control.

But what has happened is that you've had a pressure cooker that you've been keeping "under control," one that is now well past its maximum pressure. If you've ever dealt with industrial processes and controlling complex reactions, you know that the greatest nightmare is that the process gets out of control, that backpressure builds and fittings fail, that chemicals mix that must be kept apart and that the whole thing blows up.

Do you see where I am heading here?

The greatest disappointment in the Middle East since Iraq's attempted takeover of Kuweit and the lack of closure to that event has been the abdication of responsibility of the West, more specifically of those who created the problem in the first place (and yep, you old Colonial powers, I *am* speaking of you), the craven abdication of these countries, of their abandonment of their fundamental responsibilities.

Europe just doesn't have the will to go in and work to establish civil society: they prefer to finance instead the terrorists, followig their - the European's - odd sense of "justice."  This isn't justice in the broad sense: this is justice in the narrow, narrow-minded, political sense, of redressing political grievances against, as a French diplomat put it, "that shitty little country."

But I'm getting off topic.

The disaster in Iraq isn't that the US went in and screwed everything up - 20/20 hindsight is at best useless and and at worst sanctimonious posturing (and yes, you progressives and leftists, I *do* mean you) - but rather that the world can now see what the real problems in the Middle East are: tribalism, crushing poverty and overpopulation, ignorance and the accompanying demagogery that passes for religion, the perversion of the modern that sees the pinnacle of western technological development - the Internet - being used to push an agenda that would have meant that the Internet would have never been developed.

And the disaster in the West is the preference of the left to pillory the right for having pulled off the blindfold, instead of working to push a progressive agenda as policy for the US in the Middle East. Help those countries in need? Sure, but tied to education of girls and health care for women; where are the feminists who decry female mutiliation and the repression of literally hundreds of millions of women across the world?

That is the disaster: that there is, amongst the left, no vision of what they want the world to be, based on their principles, but rather only a nagging gaggle of nattering negativism, dead in the water and unable to see beyond their own feet of clay. The left still hasn't understood that Marxism and all of its nuances are dead, dead, dead in the water, and not pining for the Norwegian fjords. Progressivism might have a chance yet, pushing a humanist, secularist agenda and goals, but instead has latched on to that obscure and opaque beast, transnationalism, pushing not human liberty and dignity, but rather control and repression.

Sad. The Iraqi disaster could be an object lesson in what to do and what not to do: instead the collective lie of the failure of intervention will be trumpeted from the rooftops until the Big Lie is established as memes in the collective consciousness.

Once upon a time the Left was also a critical left. Marx's critique of western capitalism wasn't poorly done (it was mistaken in more than one aspect, but that's another story entirely), but the capability for critical thought on the left was destroyed by the totalitarian parties that took the mantle of Marxism to the extreme and brutally repressed critical thought.

That reverberates today. Critical thought is as rare as hen's teeth: what passes for critical thought is rote recessitation of dogma from the left, learned and learned (pronounce those two words differently to get what I mean) uncritically and as a new catechism.

Mittwoch, November 29, 2006

A Simple Sentence...

Normally I enjoy reading Martin Wolf in the FT. This is his most recent column, unfortunately behind the usual subscription barrier.

But there is one sentence that underscores how wrong he is here.

"Gerhard Schröder could not have won an election in 2002 on an anti-American platform if the German people's confidence in the US had not been undermined."

Sorry, this is absurd.

Gerhard Schröder won the election based on his anti-American platform, a platform that was able to take advantage of literally decades of anti-American propaganda that Schröder most cycnically used, playing a receptive population. Not because of something that Bush did - here the usual demonization of Bush sets in, yawn - but the result of taking an existing resentment and deliberately, cynically destroying what had been a decades-long partnership in security affairs by offering it as a sacrifice to the gods of democracy, by appealing to the resentment of the German voter, especially in the East, to the US as an economic, political and military power.

I live in Germany and have done so pretty much solidly since 1980. That's 26 years, and back then already German anti-Americanism was rampant on universities, driven largely by East German financed "student" groups, who were being paid to mount black propaganda according to their SED and KGB masters. It was also wide-spread in the SPD, Schröder's party, and of course amongst the Greens.

Schröder's blatant and deliberate populism served one purpose only: to get him elected. For that reason he was more than willing to declare Germany to be a radically pacifistic state, one that would fail to shoulder its responsibilities in the world arena, sacrificing principle for short-term political gain.

The damage that Schröder has caused to the US-German relationship will take more than a decade to repair. It wasn't Bush's doing. The blame here lies squarly on Schröder.

Mittwoch, November 15, 2006

Reality intrudes...

Been quiet here. As I've said before, reality intrudes...

First the election in the US: for me it was a disappointment, but the US voting population made its decision and that's all that matters. Interesting to note that many, many races were very close indeed, and that the Democrats have in many cases not the mandate that they hoped for, but rather have taken the Congress with very thin majorities. Hey, they're still majorities, that's all that counts at the end of the day. But if the morons of MoveOn and the other left-wing loonies think that this election means the nation is moving massively to the left, they're hoping for a fantasy world that doesn't exist. The nation rejected Republican representation and have sent Democrats to represent them in the US system of government: the President has two years to work with them and we all have two years to judge them by their deeds. The Democrats now have the chance to walk the walk after the years of talking, and I venture to guess that history will judge them harshly if they start doing what their supporters desperately want them to do.

Makes the upcoming next two years even more interesting than they would have been otherwise. The Democrats will also be held to account now: given the appalling shape of their leadership, this will hurt them significantly more than they think in 2008. The Democrat dream team is probably Clinton/Obama: the Republican dream team might be Guiliani/McCain.

Second, the Stern report came out.

I haven't had the time to read it, so I won't comment on the content as such.

But I will comment on a) timing and b) political motivation.

The timing was well done, with the US election coming up and the current political infighting in the UK.

Which brings the political motivation, which Stern doesn't hide. His goal is to justify action. His motives may be pure - I'm willing to give him that benefit of a doubt - but I'm with Lombard here: given the limited resources, what do we do to have the greatest benefit for the greatest number of people? Stern et al argue that we **must** spend vast amounts NOW NOW NOW and that failing to do so will condemn humanity and destroy the world.

Sorry. Been there, done that, use the T-Shirt to polish the car nowadays.

In the words of Joshka Fischer: "Sorry, but I am not convinced."


Because of the same reasons that Fischer wasn't convinced. The step is too large to take without more evidence.

I forecast for a living and having been doing it for more than 20 years now. That's right, 20 years. I know what a forecast can bring and what it can't: what the activist and the kool-aide drinkers claim cannot be supported on the basis of forecasts. The margins of error are too large in and of themselves: add to that the large-scale specification problems that all published models have to deal with (cloud coverage, solar variance, etc), and it all adds up to something that is so vague and non-quantifiable that then to publish forecasts with a variance range that includes decimal points is nothing more than a huge display of hubris amongst the modelers.

If anyone - anyone - tells you a forecast that shows three-digit accuracy after the decimal, ignore it. A good forecaster will tell you that GDP, for instance, will grow between 2-3%; a bad forecaster will tell you it will grow 3.21%.

Sure, the numbers all forecasters store in their forecast database are detailed out to 15 digits after the decimal, but that is meaningless: the numbers are stored in that accuracy because the software demands it, not because the forecasts are that accurate.

That is why Kyoto is a farce: the proposed reduction in modelled temperatures is a small fraction of a degree of temperature. Sorry, that answer lies within the statistical error if the forecasters are being honest (which they are not: research into global warming is now a major source of money, and only a fool thinks that climate scientists are honest, independent, objective observers with no exterior motives: peer-reviewing becomes a joke when you stack the deck of peers...).

Stern's take is a tad more honest: from what I've seen of the summaries, it does show huge ranges of variance. This is in and of itself problematic: his deliberate use of only the most negative scenarios is, however, the key to understanding the significance of this report.

Which is to increase the number of kool-aid drinkers and defend the true believers from the apostasy of blasphemers.

More on anti-americanism in the wake of the elections coming up next...

Donnerstag, Oktober 12, 2006

Here We Go Again...

Well, it looks like the Germans are going to do the best possible thing with other people's monies: the German government is buying into Airbus.

This is, of course, to force a comittment to a continuing German stake in the manufacturing of Airbus planes. Closing down Hamburg is no longer in the works.

But this is a terrible move otherwise.


Because it just means that good money is being thrown after bad. Not satisfied with state guarantees - no, let me rephrase that: unable to operate profitably without state guarantees - Airbus will now have a major shareholder whose pockets are extremely deep.

Those of their taxpayers.

The German government has no business, as far as I am concerned, being involved in Airbus. If Airbus can't make it on its own - and don't tell me it can't in the face of competition: it did until the idiots in charge put the company at risk for their oh-so-proud plans to completely dominate the market, instead of merely being competitive - then it deserves to fail, as hard as that is on those involved.

Has anyone even thought about what this means in terms of the ongoing dispute between Airbus and Boeing, or rather between the EU and the US in terms of governments trying to manipulate market competitiveness?

We don't know all the details: all I know is from this that they are going to be buying a significant stock package.

But not because it's a good investment and will help widows and single moms with kids.

Instead, it's out of desperation.

War Crimes and Thought Crimes

So it's come to this.

If you don't agree with the "environmentalists", then you're guilty of genocide.

I thought that this couldn't be the case and that there was a misquote, perhaps. Give everyone the benefit of a doubt...


This is the key quote from David Roberts at Grist is found here:

When we've finally gotten serious about global warming, when the impacts are really hitting us and we're in a full worldwide scramble to minimize the damage, we should have war crimes trials for these bastards -- some sort of climate Nuremberg.

Maybe rhetoric that is simply over the top? That the author regrets those words?

Au contraire. He emphasizes them here and underscores that he means those words.

So it's come to this: if you don't drink the Global Warming Kool-Aid, you're guilty, guilty, guilty. Anyone who doesn't agree with the "consensus" (hah!) is a denier and should be brought before a tribunal for his crimes. And anyone who dares to disagree with us is an active agent of the coming apocalypse. Disagree that this is becoming mainstream "environmentalist" thought? Then take a look here .

And while you're at it, go here as well: if you don't become an activist according to our Gospel, then you are in denial. In this case, it's not merely a matter of disagreement: if you don't actively change your lifestyle, then you are guilty of a crime against humanity. Think I'm exaggerating? Here is the key quote from that source (George Marshall from Rising Tide):

In the case of climate change, then, we can intellectually accept the evidence of climate change, but we find it extremely hard to accept our responsibility for a crime of such enormity. Indeed, the most powerful evidence of our denial is the failure to even recognize that there is a moral dimension with identifiable perpetrators and victims. The language of 'climate change', 'global warming', 'human impacts', and 'adaptation' are themselves a form of denial familiar from other forms of human rights abuse; they are scientific euphemisms that suggest that climate change originates in immutable natural forces rather than in a direct causal relationship with moral implications for the perpetrator.

In other words, climate change can't be the result of natural forces: it is a crime that humanity is perpetrating against the environment. But not all of humanity, of course: just the industrialized West.

This is the most naked form of political power-grabbing I have seen in the West in 50 years: not merely demonize your opposition, but rather actively try to make their life styles, their very existence a criminal act.

Because then you can punish them. And you can see in both of these points how dearly both of these "environmentalists" want to punish those who dare to disagree with them, the vanguard of those who will save the planet!

Marshall goes further, along the line that David Roberts started:

Environmental campaign organizations are living relics of Enlightenment faith in the power of knowledge: 'If only people knew, they would act.' To this end they dedicate most of their resources to the production of reports or the placement of articles and opinions in the media. As a strategy it is not working.

To quote Lenin, What Is To Be Done?

Again, Roberts:

People will never spontaneously take action themselves unless they receive social support and the validation of others. Governments in turn will continue to procrastinate until sufficient numbers of people demand a response. To avert further climate change will require a degree of social consensus and collective determination normally only seen in war time, and that will require mobilization across all classes and sectors of society.

For all these reasons, the creation of a large and vocal movement against climate change must be an immediate and overarching campaign objective.

In other words, the masses must be led by a revolutionary vanguard.

That's why I quoted Lenin before: this is nothing more than that miserable, collapsed and thoroughly discredited religion of Marxism-Leninism in new clothes.

I'd call this a New Jesuit order, but that would be insulting to the Jesuits.

Here we have people who obstentiously want to do something good - yes, we all want to have nature and baby seals and cute little baby birds - but in reality are propagating nothing less than a complete takeover of society in order to remake it in their vision.

But what really is over the top is the equating of thought crime - of daring to be skeptical in the face of screaming activists who are trying to force their agenda down your throat - with crimes against humanity.

Thank you, but no thank you. Call me a denier if you will - sticks and stones etc - but this choice of "persuasion" means to me that the "environmentalists" aren't really interested in doing good: they just want to control.

Good going, guys: this kind of rhetoric must go over really well with the true believers, just as anti-semitism went over well with the true believers of both communism and fascism.

Mittwoch, Oktober 11, 2006

Two Nails In The Coffin...

I have never been a fan of the Kyoto pact. Nor am I a fan of "environmentalists" whose Idea is to force other people to live according to the dictates of the environmentalists.

But let me tell you first what I am a fan of: I am a fan of those conservancy organizations that put their money where their mouths are, such as the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. They don't try to force life-style changes, instead going out and buying land to ensure that the land is moved from commercial use to wilderness. The actions of such organizations is measurable, quantifiable and concrete. They help ensure that wildness is conserved: living as I do in Germany, where there is no such thing as wildness, I find that the best thing you can do for nature is to leave it well enough alone and simply let nature take its course. After all, it's nature, isn't it?

Not a bad deal for land owners, either: by taking land off the market, it helps land prices stay relatively high through the simple rules of supply and demand. What is there for an economist not to love?

But the point of this post is not that: it is to reiterate what a joke Kyoto has been, is, and will continue to be.

The Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change , as the damned thing is known as, is, as we all know by now, a comittment to reduce the output of certain kinds of gases that result from industrial output.

I will not debate whether these are a problem, nor global warming. This distracts from the real issue.

What I will say here is that the Kyoto Protocol as we know it was, plain and simple, bad policy. Not merely bad policy, but policy enacted in bad faith: by excluding a penalty clause, the protocol has no meaning. Any sort of committment to "action" that has no enforcement conditions means that the committment is nothing more than political bullshitting.

It is political white-washing of the worst kind: it is the moral equivalent of deploring war whilst selling guns to the warring parties indiscriminately.

Why? Here are two more nails for the coffin that the Kyoto Protocol should be buried in, preferabyl sooner than later.

This should give you an idea. As should this.

Fundamentally, the makers of the treaty wanted to do something "feel good" but without any sort of meaning. This is what I mean by political white-washing. All that this served was to take off the political pressure from "green" groups and give them something to be happy about: yay, the planet is going to be saved!

Why is it the moral equivalent of deploring war whilst selling guns?

Because the reductions achievable by Kyoto are basically background noise: a maximum modelled reduction in temperature rise of 0.28° C within a modelled temperature increase of between 1.4°C and 5.8°C. Of course, it sounds better to say a 20% reduction in the best case modelled temperature rise and a 4.83% decrease in the worst-case scenario.

But that's not the real story. The numbes 1.4°C and 5.8°C are the limits to the ranges that the models used deliver: a variance of 4.4°C. Now the middle value of those two is 3.6°C, and when I look at the modelled maximum effectiveness of the Kyoto Protocol, we get 0.28°C/3.6°C = 0.0778 or not even 8% change in a modelled result. Given the dire predictions of the "environmentalists," making the commitment to spend billions of dollars - which is, after all, a scarce resource in and of itself - to hope to affect a change that is well within the realm of statistical variance means that you are spending billions to achieve nothing. Kyoto, even if it were to be implemented 100% AND - a very big leap of faith - the most likely scenario - the middle point of the two extremes - were to come about, achieves at best a change that falls within a very narrow confidence level.

That is, as far as I am concerned - feel free to disabuse me of my notions here - meaningless.

Meaningless: that is the core of the Kyoto Protocol.

And who will profit? Well, that second link up above - to carbon trade - shows what happens when you let "environmentalists" set up systems designed to provide economic incentives to achieve political goals. Set things up and then do not fund. Open the door to corruption and deliberate malfeasance, negating the whole point of carbon trade to begin with.

And those who will be laughing all the way to the bank aren't the populations of the lesser developed countries, cashing in on the inability of developed countries to reduce their carbon footprint: instead, the beneficiaries are those who are more than willing to abuse the system, selling promises with no intention of keeping them, coupled with an oversight system that is rife with conflict of interests.

Within the financial community, any attempt to set up such a scheme, where contracts aren't enforced (or even enforceable!) and where the watchdogs are corrupted by their own actions, would end up with massive fraud and ultimately prison time for those who get caught and don't have political friends in high places.

Here there will be massive fraud and no one will care until everyone realizes that the Kyoto Protocol is terribly, terribly flawed.

By then, if the models are accurate and reality unfolds as they expect, the damage will be there, but rather than even try to address the problems then, the money will have been spent now.

But not to address the real problems of a possible future, but rather to assuage political pressure groups and bribe them into supporting corrupt politicians, those who are only interested in achieving power and maintaining their lifestyles without the danger of having to actually work for their money.

What we need instead is to spend the monies dedicated to Kyoto on building dikes in Bangladesh if rising sea levels is the result of global warming; on learning where climate change will occur and what it actually means; on ensuring that there is a minimum of loss of life and suffering.

Instead, Kyoto will come to be seen as the greatest mistake of the beginning of the 21st Century and historians will wonder why the obvious was so long ignored.

Donnerstag, September 28, 2006

What It's All About

I think that this underscores what I tried to point out yesterday, but expands on the point further.

We're seeing the developments in the Middle East much too much through the eyes of what we would be thinking if we were there: we need to listen less to the rhetoric - if there was ever a culture where deception is a fine art, then it is the Arabic culture - and look more to the realities on the ground.

It's not about religion: it's everything about power.

It's not about democracy: it's everything about starting a civil society.

It's not about us: it's all about them.

That last point is critical: it's not about us. It's all about letting Iraqis start becoming a civil society after the trauma of the last 40 years. It's all about starting a peace process, one that doesn't cover up the problems and misery with a Potemkin Village facade, as most governments in the Middle East do, but rather a process that leads to a civil society where violence is not an instrument of politics, where government doesn't mean corruption and exploitation, where people can start the business of making themselves a society where the good predominates and where the bad is addressed instead of being used by political power seekers who believe that it's easier to emulate Hitler than it is to emulate Ghandi.

And they're right: it is easier.

Doesn't make it right, though.

Mittwoch, September 27, 2006

Understanding What Drives An Enemy

Here's a simple thought: why do Islamists so desperately want the West to surrender, to submit to Sharia and make Islam ascendent?

It's because they cannot concieve, at all, of co-existence.

I was reading this when it dawned on me. This is the key:

In truth, Islam's actual meaning is submission and not peace, or to use Ms. Armstrong's own words, "the perfect surrender (in Arabic the word for 'surrender' is islam) that every human being should make to the divine." And it is to achieve this goal and subordinate the Arabian peninsula to his rule that Muhammad fought almost incessantly for the last 10 years of his life, having fled from his hometown of Mecca to Medina in 622 to become a political and military leader rather than a private preacher: not to bring peace to a war-torn country, let alone to eliminate "greed, injustice, and arrogance."

The key is understanding that the word for surrender is islam, and that in order to become a political and military leader, that is what must be demanded. We in the West are unwilling combatants in a war to establish not a religion, but rather the attempt of those exploiting religion to become political and military leaders in the footpath of Muhammad. The Islamists exploit the tenets of the religion to justify their war, beautified as a holy war, as jihad.

Their problem, of course, is that once they've taken this path, they themselves do not see any alternative for themselves as to defeat us or that they themselves must surrender. For them it is a zero-sum game; we ceased seeing zero-sum games of this kind by the end of the cold war at the latest, and generally well before that as well...

They do not understand surrender as we understand it: rather, they understand that their surrender must be that of submission, submission to the kind of vulgar capitalistic society that they percieve as being the West. Which they reject. But we don't care if they reject it, saying instead "to each his own," which for them is incomprehensible.

That makes it easier to understand them. Now we have perhaps a choice: either we kill them all as they throw themselves against us, or we persuade them that co-existence isn't merely possible, but really the best of all possible worlds. After all, even they see Christians and Jews as People of the Book: we can see them as People of the Book, so to speak, as well. But how do we get Islamists to understand that they don't have to surrender their own beliefs when we don't let the Islamists win?

Freitag, September 22, 2006

Understanding Why The UN Will Fail...

It should be fairly apparent now that Iran is playing the UN as Iraq once did, with the difference being that the leadership in Iran is even more duplicitous than Iraq dared to be.

But let's understand the thinking behind Iran's abusing of the UN.

Why would they do this?

I think that the speech of Hugo Chavez at the UN General Assembly can give us a good idea of how some countries - Cuba, Venezuala, Iran - percieve the UN. You'll have to scroll down a bit on the link, but here are the key passages:

I don't think anybody in this room could defend the system. Let's accept -- let's be honest. The U.N. system, born after the Second World War, collapsed. It's worthless.

Oh, yes, it's good to bring us together once a year, see each other, make statements and prepare all kinds of long documents, and listen to good speeches, like Abel's (ph) yesterday, or President Mullah's (ph). Yes, it's good for that.

And there are a lot of speeches, and we've heard lots from the president of Sri Lanka, for instance, and the president of Chile.

But we, the assembly, have been turned into a merely deliberative organ. We have no power, no power to make any impact on the terrible situation in the world. And that is why Venezuela once again proposes, here, today, 20 September, that we re-establish the United Nations.

The assembly of the UN has never been anything other than a "deliberative organ". That's how the UN Charter sees it: decisions are made in the Security Council and no where else. Otherwise the work of the UN comes to a screetching halt as every country tries to put through it's agenda, leading to the League Of Nations and it's inability too to anything meaningful.

So Venezuala proposes to re-establish the United Nations.

And this isn't mentioned in ANY of the MSM reports? We see instead his references to the smell of sulfer at the podium and calls Bush the devil, and that's all. No mention of the attempt to truly establish the Axis of Evil...

The key point here is that the UN will fail to discipline Iran (and Cuba and Venezuala and North Korea) because none of these countries feel obligated to listen to the UN. They don't see it as the last best hope to work out problems, but rather they see it as being a tool of the US.

Fine. It's not, but that's how they percieve it, and in politics that counts for around 95% of reality. The problem is that last 5%: the other 95% can't ignore that 5%, or, put more exactly, that 5%, reality, will always ultimately trump the other 95%.

And that is why the UN's attempts at persuading Iran to behave as it has pledged to do so (and continues to not do so) are in all likelihood doomed to failure. The UN can only work as long as all involved take it seriously and live up to their obligations: once countries start ignoring it and openly defy the UN, either the UN has to impose it's will or the UN becomes worthless.

That's one of the reasons that the UN almost became worthless when France, China and the Russians made it clear that they would veto an additional UN resolution on Iraq and why the US saved the UN by taking down Saddam Hussein despite the protests of those whom we now know were corrupted by Iraq's money. That's why it's important for the UN to be able to act now as well. The sad thing is, it's really in Iran's interest to work this out with the UN to avoid a war - they think they can do this by bluffing their way through - but instead they have fundamentally misunderstoof what the UN does: it isn't the world's forum where the bruised egos of psychopaths can rant and rave as they desire to try and demagogue their way through the institutions. Instead, it's where conflicts are addressed and worked on before push comes to shove.

And in a world without the UN, there wouldn't be discussions in the Security Council about sanctions and the like: once countries exhaust a bilateral approach, the only thing left is the resolution of conflicts via the military option.

And Chavez talks of what he wants:

Last year, Madam, we made four modest proposals that we felt to be crucially important. We have to assume the responsibility our heads of state, our ambassadors, our representatives, and we have to discuss it.

The first is expansion, and Mullah (ph) talked about this yesterday right here. The Security Council, both as it has permanent and non-permanent categories, (inaudible) developing countries and LDCs must be given access as new permanent members. That's step one.

CHAVEZ (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Second, effective methods to address and resolve world conflicts, transparent decisions.

Point three, the immediate suppression -- and that is something everyone's calling for -- of the anti-democratic mechanism known as the veto, the veto on decisions of the Security Council.

Let me give you a recent example. The immoral veto of the United States allowed the Israelis, with impunity, to destroy Lebanon. Right in front of all of us as we stood there watching, a resolution in the council was prevented.

Fourthly, we have to strengthen, as we've always said, the role and the powers of the secretary general of the United Nations.

Yesterday, the secretary general practically gave us his speech of farewell. And he recognized that over the last 10 years, things have just gotten more complicated; hunger, poverty, violence, human rights violations have just worsened. That is the tremendous consequence of the collapse of the United Nations system and American hegemonistic pretensions.

Chavez wants to weaken the Security Council by putting people on it who have no intention of following the requirements of full membership: that of enforcing the peace against those who would deliberately destabilize.

What he means by "effective methods" is unclear, most likely deliberately so.

No veto rights: the tyranny of the majority.

And he wants to turn the role of Secretary General away from its traditional role - of unifier and someone who tries to get everyone to work together - into someone who will tell people what is to be done.

In other words, to try and turn the UN into a "democracy" like the have in Iran, Venenzuala and Cuba.

This is why the UN will fail: not because the Great Powers fail to agree - China, Russia, the US, the European countries know all that it is in their interest that the UN function at least at a certain level of competence and efficiency, but because lesser countries see it as being in their interest that the UN no longer interfere in what they see as they rights to do what they see as being necessary. Iran knows that, politically speaking, it cannot attack Israel directly and Venezuala knows that it cannot try and take over, say, Columbia via political subversion as it has done in Bolivia if there is a forum where those countries can bring up such problems and where the Security Council can decide that this is behavior that the UN cannot accept.

That is why the UN will fail: because the intentions of good people can achieve little or nothing against the machinations of those who want to subvert and compell others to do as they wish.

Chavez is now sayin this directly, but no one seems to be noticing...

Donnerstag, September 21, 2006

Drinking the Kool-Aid or Why Can't We Have Journalists Worth The Name?


Even though he actually knows better, Nigel Andrews, the Film Critic of the Financial Times, gets it wrong factually on the following counts:

I f I were an opinionated madman licensed to be oracular – and I ignore retorts of "why say 'if'?" – I would aver this: the greatest disaster in the western world in the 21st century to date has been the victory of George W. Bush over Al Gore. Greater than 9/11? Yes, because it incorporated 9/11. It engendered it. Would terrorists have struck a Gore-led US? Since al-Qaeda's stated aim was to avenge the desecration of Saudi Arabian soil by foreign troops in the first Gulf war, wasn't Bush paying for Bush, the son for the father?

I remove my madman's hat: this is all speculation. Yet An Inconvenient Truth, Davis Guggenheim's documentary featuring the roadshow lecture about global warming that Al Gore has taken around the world, is a Tantalus glimpse of what America might have been with a president who cared about the planet, its people and its peace.

Now, first of all: he really shouldn't ignore those retorts, the voices are trying to tell him something.

Second of all: this kind of "reporting" is part and parcel of the problem that journalists have. They think, smugly, that they are so smart and so much cleverer than The Common Man and can entertain this sort of silly sophomoric writing. And don't realize that this is the tone that leads to Chavez stating that Bush is the Devil and waving a book by Chomsky at the UN.

Nigel, grow up. You're bad attempt at ingratiating yourself to your red-hipped readership shows how simplistic and ignorant your thinking is. What makes you, first of all, so certain that President Bush doesn't care about the planet, its (sic) people and its (sic) peace? Can't even punctuate properly these days, eh?

But these are mere opinions: Nigel is entitled to them.

What he is not entitled to are his own facts.

It is romantic to suppose we would all now have hydrogen cars and solar-powered homes. As surely as the screening I saw was preceded by ads for gas- guzzling roadsters, a Gore White House would still drive limos and fly executive jets. It would still need to placate the oil lobby and control the individual delinquencies of 53 states. But at least Kyoto would have been signed. At least lip-service would be paid to eco-crisis. At least we wouldn't have Anthropithecus Dubya incanting: "What problem? What pollution?"

Idiot. Complete and total idiot. Nigel Andrews, that is.

Bill Clinton signed Kyoto. Even before he did that, the Senate voted 99-0 that they though Kyoto was a Really Bad Idea and that if he signed it, it would not be ratified .

But he signed it anyway.

Know why?

Because Clinton didn't care whether the Kyoto Accord would actually become the law: all he cared about was being able to say "I signed the Kyoto Accord". He didn't care that the Senate, who under the US Constitution is there to make sure that dick-brained politicians - and Clinton is certainly by far the best example of this probably since the beginning of the 20th century - don't sign something that they don't understand and are too stupid to realize is a Really Bad Idea.

But hey, Nigel says that lip service would be paid to eco-crisis.

In other words, don't actually do anything: let's jsut say we do and pretend that it's not a problem.

In other words, Nigel and his red-hipped friends are doing exactly what they claim Bush is doing.


The good lines come quick and thick. In the despair column of the ledger: "Within the decade there will be no more snows of Kilimanjaro." In the hope column: "Political will is a renew-able resource." We can all do something if we try. Away from the lecture halls the folksiness is laid on with a pitchfork. Gore recalls his childhood, repines over the parental tobacco business – given up when Gore's cigarette smoking sister died of lung cancer – and sighs away the pain of that lost election. He now seems fitter, if fatter. There is always 2008. And An Inconvenient Truth, full of wit and wisdom, is a good campaigning ad. I hope it was meant as something more, although in politics scepticism is a renewable resource.

Nigel, the reason that there won't be snow on Kilimanjaro is not because of "global warming", but rather because deforestation around Kilimanjaro means that there is no water vapor rising from the jungle (which isn't there anymore) and because the missing water vapor doesn't form clouds that move upwards when they approach Kilimanjaro there is no snow that falls from them.

That's why the snow is disappearing on Kilimanjaro.

Idiot. Nigel Andrews, that is.

Gore also didn't give up the tobacco business when his sister died, but rather first when he realized that he was going to be lambasted as a hypocrite for pulling out the story of his sister dying AND continue to have a working tobacco farm (leased out) in the family.

Unfortunately, in journalism stupidity is also a renewable resource.

Even at the FT. Sad.

Donnerstag, September 14, 2006

Culture of Deception Interlude...

"It is pretty obvious that the debasement of the human mind caused by a constant flow of fraudulent advertising is no trivial thing. There is more than one way to conquer a country."

Raymond Chandler on Advertising.

The man has a point. But he lived in a period of relative civil society, corrupt and problematic as it was (institutionalized racism, to name just one thing). Today he'd have to right this:

"It is pretty obvious that the debasement of political culture caused by a constant flow of fraudulent conspiracy theories is no trivial thing. There is more than one way to conquer a country."

Films like Fahrenheit 9-11 and Loose Change serve only one purpose, ultimately: to muddy the waters, to make clarity more difficult in the pursuit of the inane. By debasing knowledge and reducing it to opinion they remove the essential difference between the two. As the saying goes, you can have your own opinion, but you can't have your own facts.

But if your goal is to undermine and destroy political culture, then by all means present your opinions as facts. By removing and eliminating the difference between the two you've accomplished a lot: you've removed reason and argumentation, debate from the political arena and replace it with activism and the cultural meme of whoever shouts the longest and loudest gets his way.

Jerry Springer political culture.

Rethinking the Unthinkable and A Lack Of Imagination...

This article should be a must-read. It's from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, by Graham Allison, who is Director of the Bellfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard.

With the benefit of glorious hind-sight, 9/11 should have been preventable.

A nuclear 9/11 should be preventable, but the likelihood that the solutions mentioned in the article above will be implemented is rather slim.

But I think the article above - please do read it - is too US-centric: if there is a nuclear terrorist event, it may well not be New York or San Diego, but rather Tel Aviv. Or even Delhi. Why? If terrorists want to create absolute chaos, absolute anarchy, then an attack on the US will not create it: the US is too decentral, with what amounts to a shadow infrastructure of the Federal government in each and every state. Destroy New York and the US will survive; destroy Washington, DC and the US will survive.

But destroy Tel Aviv and you have eviscerated Israel. Destroy Delhi and India may well collapse. Not today, not tomorrow, but these are countries heavily centralized or, in the case of Israel, simply too small geographically for the to be any meaningful decentralization. This is also true for France, but not, for instance, for Japan; it is true for England, but not, for instance, for China.

Further, nuclear weapons are traceable by analyzing the chemical composition of the fissile parts of the warhead, which are available even after detonation in the shape of fallout. Hence each and every weapon has its own unique "thumbprint" of where it was built, and can hence be identified even after detonation.

But what happens when the material is home-grown in Iran or North Korea, since their weapons have never been tested anywhere and there are no fallout samples from their tests to identify the plant and process?

Why, then we know that there is at least one new member of the nuclear club.

The real danger, of course, is one that is not explored in the article above completely, is that there be collusion between rogue states and terrorists. This exists already for "normal weapons", as can be seen with Iran and Hezbollah.

This is a deliberate usage of a grey zone in international affairs: a non-state acting as if it were a state but without identifiable assets and infrastructure, using instead that of other states, either in a deniable form (like Iran with Hezbollah) or covertly (like Hezbollah in Lebanon).

In other words, they can avoid becoming a target.

What if Hezbollah detonates a bomb in Tel Aviv that we find was built in downtown Teheran in facilities that do not officially exist? Do you destroy those facilities as well, killing millions as "collateral damage"?

The dangers of asymmetric warfare are greater than we think, and the key question will be how to deal with an enemy that deliberately uses civilians to hide behind. The only real answer is that you have to ensure that the civilians do not accept that this can be allowed to happen. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done...

The dismal thing is that this here is not my nightmare scenario: that's the one I don't want even to be discussed. Thinking the Unthinkable is all very fine for rational actors, but add irrationality to the equation, and all bets are off.

Montag, September 11, 2006

Bring it on...

This post - hat tip to TigerHawk - shows how the kind of activism that has kept the Democrats energized and not cowering will backfire on them, and severely so.

It was bad enough that the Democrats tried to censor ABC (and it was an attempt to censor: the Republicans did not try to censor Fahrenheit 9/11, Bush merely mentioned that he wouldn't be seeing it...), but going after Disney?

Now that's just plain stupid.

But sure, bring it on. Alienate mainstream voters, alienate Joe Sixpack who has fond memories of going to DisneyWorld with his kids. You're not going to get him angry that Disney showed this: you're going to get him to watch the show and you're going to get him thinking what the heck is wrong with showing that.

Are there any adults in the Democratic Party?

Freitag, September 08, 2006

Can't Take The Heat, Stay Out Of The Kitchen...

Well, well, well.

The Democrats have their knickers in a twist because St. Clinton and the holy court of Democratazia are being portrayed in a "docudrama" from ABC. The Alphabet has apparently got itself a huge amount of publicity (duh) and as well vicious attacks from what are probably under normal circumstances their best friends in the whole world.

Their behavior - of calling for the miniseries to be yanked entirely - is indicative of how panicked they are.

The fundamentals of the miniseries are known: it is based on the 9/11 report, which did, more or less, say what the miniseries says. Dramatization, sure.

But let's put this in perspective: did the White House and the Republican Party call for films like "Fahrenheit 911" to be pulled from the market?


What they did was to point out the inaccuracies and condemned it as being inaccurate and misleading while presenting itself as a documentary, as about a classic piece of agitprop as ever has come out of the US.

But no one called for the film not to be released.


Because that is censorship.

Democrats: let us see the damn thing.

You can rebut it all you want, you can bring out your own versions, you can bad mouth and condemn it and see that nobody involved ever works in Hollywood again. You probably will.

But to call for it never to be shown?

What arrogance, what complete and total lack of character and backbone. This is one of the reasons I cannot take Democrats seriously: sycophants and sophists dominate the party, with the spinmeisters in control. All that matters is perception and polls: there is no substance to the Democrats, and there hasn't been since the days of the Reagan White House.

To ABC: don't yank this miniseries.

And to those who want to compare it to "The Reagans": that was a hatchet job, designed to take down the Reagan legacy. There is a huge difference here: it was shown, albeit on Showtime and not on the regular channels.

Here the Democrats want to censor a miniseries. There is already talk of portrayals as being "defamatory," setting up the specter of lawsuits and penalties.

My, aren't the Democrats thin-skinned on this one? From what one can gather, both the Clinton and the Bush Administrations don't come away smelling of roses: but do you see any, any Republicans getting so upset as to call for censorship? For calling that no one ever see the miniseries without it being changed to show people who made mistakes as if they hadn't made any?

If you can't take the heat, stay out of the kitchen. This absurd reaction from the Democrats shows that they do not deserve to be let anywhere near a kitchen until they learn how to take responsibility for their actions.

Donnerstag, September 07, 2006

French contradictions...

The French want power without commitment and truly believe that they will be able to master the challenge of terrorism.

This deserves not so much a fisking as critiquing and expansion.

France issued an implicit criticism of U.S. foreign policy on Thursday, rejecting talk of a "war on terror".

Well, that's nothing new: the French still believe that terrorism must only be fought by police tactics, despite the fact that terrorism of the 21st century is rather different than that of the 20th.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, speaking in parliament, expressed these views on global terrorism, while President Jacques Chirac backed France's claims to the international front rank with a fresh defense of his country's nuclear arsenal.

Here it's appropriate to try and understand French security thinking over the last 50 years. Remember, France left the military part of NATO over the fact that the US would not accede to have a French general in charge, coupled with a continuing severe disappointment that the US directly embarrased the French (and the Brits, but they got over that) over Suez. The French realized that they can't afford another war like WW1 and made nuclear weapons to be the guarantor of their national existence in the face of Soviet ambition; their conventional military was more often a tool for industrial policy than a military force that could have stood up to a general Soviet attack with OMGs breaking into the French hinterland. The Force de Frappe was the core of the strategic philosophy of dissuasion, which is falsely translated as deterrence (it fulfills the function, but the difference is in the national understanding of what is meant. The meaning is more one of creating a mental state and is the antonym, in French, of persuasion. Deterrence means more of an objective analysis of terms of force that lead to a rational decision.

Villepin noted Chirac's strong opposition to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and said the Arab state had now sunk into violence and was feeding new regional crises.

Like Villepin didn't have anything to do with the fiasco of the UN in regards to Iraq. And not like the French didn't try their damndest to avoid dealing with the crisis: not avoiding the crisis, since the crisis came regardless of what the French did. The French wanted to avoid dealing with the problem. Big difference.

"Let us not forget that these crises play into the hands of all extremists," the prime minister said in a debate on the Middle East. "We can see this with terrorism, whether it tries to strike inside or outside our frontiers," he added.

But the extremists are the ones creating the crises.

"Against terrorism, what's needed is not a war. It is, as France has done for many years, a determined fight based on vigilance at all times and effective cooperation with our partners.

And what does this really mean? It means the reversion to fighting-terrorism-with-the-police, which has been shown not to work, especially when the terrorists can use co-option and corruption as non-government actors.

"But we will only end this curse if we also fight against injustice, violence and these crises," he said.

Villepin's remarks, which came a day after U.S. President George Bush admitted that the CIA had interrogated dozens of terrorism suspects in secret foreign locations, did not explicitly mention the United States.

But his rejection of language employed by Bush, who often uses the expression "war on terror" underlined the longstanding differences between Paris and Washington.

In separate remarks, Chirac stressed that France was committed to maintaining a nuclear arsenal of its own.

Blah blah blah, first causes, etc. Meaningless rhetoric aimed at the gullible...and here is why this starts to become interesting:

"In an uncertain world, facing constantly evolving threats, nuclear dissuasion guarantees our vital interests," Chirac said on a visit to France's Atomic Energy Commission nuclear simulation facility at Bruyeres-le-Chatel near Paris.

That is the core of French politico-military strategy: dissuasion. But why bring this to the foreground? Why now? Of course it has to do with Iran.

In the arguments and discussions during the Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons, the Iranian government will also have to develop a nuclear strategy to go along with it: at least this seems to be what the French are contemplating. Why talk otherwise of your national nuclear strategy at this point in time: the Iranians, so the French hope, must be dissuaded - again, the opposite of persuasion - from thinking of using their nuclear weapons against France.

But only that: dissuasion guarantees vital French interests, not the interests of the international community.

He stressed that France was committed to funding continuing research and development into nuclear weapons technology.

In other words, in terms of nuclear weapons, walking the walk and not merely the talk, shoring up the believability of the Force de Frappe.

"There can be no great ambition without adequate means, that's clear," he said. "The position of countries is never guaranteed. In the 21st century, only those which make science a genuine priority will stay ahead."

What is the meaning of this? A put-down for the Iranians, who without a doubt have great ambitions but whose means are not adequate? The curious stating of what must be for the French painfully obvious - that the position of countries in never guaranteed - aimed at the Iranians? Or more exactly at the US?

Both France and the United States have played down splits opened by the Iraq war, pointing especially to cooperation on attempts by the West to contain Iran's nuclear ambitions.

But differences in tone and style have often resurfaced, notably during the Lebanon crisis, where France initially offered to send just 400 peacekeepers to Lebanon despite vigorously backing calls for an international force.

Ah, the classic problem of the French and one of the key problems for any country wanting to acquiesce to the nuclear club: the necessity of believable conventional capabilities as alternative to having one's bluff called when in conflict if the enemy thinks that you have abandoned conventional capabilities in exchange for the chimeric hope that the mere threat of using nuclear weapons is adequate.

Villepin's speech in parliament made much of France's leading role in securing a peace agreement in Lebanon backed by the United Nations, which he said had shown the virtues of "listening and dialogue."

"It is the duty of France and Europe to show that the clash of civilizations is not inevitable," he said. "No one retains this wisdom, inherited from our history, as we, French and Europeans, do," he said.

The problem is that while we - collectively as the West - don't want, need or otherwise desire the clash of civilizations, the Iranians and the Shi'ite do.