Donnerstag, Mai 31, 2007

Doom and gloom and how much they enjoy it...

Everytime there is a sustained period of economic development, those who tend not to fully partake of the benefits of same seek emotional compensation by choosing some aspect of the good times to blame for everything bad.

Hence now with global warming. It's become now the cause celebre, the enfant terrible of the dissatisfied, with those whose participation in the current huge global upswing is less than they think it is their due, and who want to make life miserable for so many.

This link underscores this: the whole global warming activist scene is one filled with drama queens and kings, screaming "The Sky Is Falling" so loudly that no one dares critique them. The animosity displayed towards anyone daring to challenge the orthodoxy is stifling and dangerous: these people don't merely want to take your money to spend on their pet projects, they really want to control your lives by either taxing certain behavior out of existence or via making it highly immoral and disgusting to, say, take a vacation in the Maledives.

This is, for me, one of the key points that Josie Appleton raises here:

We can see how social anxieties – a fear of change, a sense of the fragility of things – guide the questions that scientists ask, and the kinds of theories that ring true.

The world is, economically, going through rather significant changes, and it is indeed something people have to take into account. It's been a basic fact for my generation that you may have 3 or 4 completely different jobs during a lifetime, something my parent's generation would have seen as a sign of someone not knowing what they want to do in life. My children's generation is even more detached from the concept of career and doing one thing for your whole life: my daughters have no idea what they will be doing, nor do their friends. Contrast that with the certainty that others, less flexible, show and their horror at the idea that buggy whips won't always be in demand.

Consider what Al Gore wrote in his book An Inconvenient Truth:

The climate crisis also offers us the chance to experience what very few generations in history have had the privilege of knowing: a generational mission; the exhilaration of a compelling moral purpose; a shared and unifying cause; the thrill of being forced by circumstances to put aside the pettiness and conflict that so often stifle the restless human need for transcendence; the opportunity to rise…. When we do rise, it will fill out spirits and bind us together. Those who are now suffocating in cynicism and despair will be able to breathe freely. Those who are now suffering from a loss of meaning in their lives will find hope.'

Those are his italics, not mine: this is almost a textbook case of teleology. Put simply, this means that there is no such thing in and for itself, but rather that there is a final cause or purpose inherent in everything.

The global warming folks don't want you to listen: they want to own your soul. Their evangelical fervor is more similar to religious revivals than it is to dispassionate scientific discourse, as anyone who has dared to contradict them publicly has learned (me, I doubt the basis for their temperature reconstructions: there is too much manipulation of numbers by those who have been shown to use the wrong methodologies to reconstruct the past: see Mann et al. for the dangers of fine-tuning your reconstruction curves so that they always give you the same results, regardless of what numbers you put into them). As Josie aptly puts it:

Carbon dioxide becomes the nexus between individuals, the thing that connects us to other people and to the future of the planet. This infuses the most banal acts with a deep moral meaning. Choosing a particular brand of washing machine, or taking the train rather than the car, become acts laden with significance. Washing clothes contributes to the future of civilisation. Buying strawberries affects the fate of the planet. In the main, that effect is negative: by seeking to fulfil our own wants and pursue our own goals, we are condemning other people to death. The way we help the whole is by reining in our wants, for example by buying strawberries in summer only.

The carbon calculator involves an almost pathological indifference towards the significance of the things we do. Plane journeys to see sick relatives or to visit prostitutes are weighed the same, in parts per million. The ways in which human beings judge whether something was worthwhile – Did it have a useful result? Did it bring joy or pain? – are suspended. The planet doesn’t care either way. The planet’s indifference to the passions and trials of human life becomes the worldview we ourselves assume. Again, we see how global warming appears to provide the answer to a dilemma – how we live, and how we should structure and judge our lives – but that it does that by abolishing the question. It solves the dilemma of moral meaning by abolishing all meaning.

I'd modify this somewhat: it doesn't solve the dilemma of moral meaning by abolishing all meaning, but rather subjugating all meaning to be subservient to the higher moral meaning of ecological absolutism. It makes what is fundamentally an open sum game into a closed sum game, one where my mere existence means that others die.

The world is not a closed sum game. You cannot solve a closed-sum game: you can only redistribute the limited options. An open-sum game, on the other hand, means that you can solve problems by thinking outside of the box: the environmentalist extremists would want you to not even consider that. They don't want you to come up with a solution to the problem, because they are making their livelihood dependent on ensuring that it becomes a generational problem that cannot be solved.

In other words, it's a scam, one of the most degenerate and vile scams there are: selling salvation to the damned. Again Josie:

But the more that society defines itself in relation to global warming, the less willing it is to let go. Global warming is now not so much a problem to solve, as an issue around which to reorganise society. This is more Noah’s flood than Clean Air Act, and the lesson is in the sins of hubris and consumerism. Global warming is sent to show people that ... they are ‘wasting their lives commuting to work in cars’. (The) proposed solution – to ‘cut our need for energy by living less consumptive lifestyles’ – will apparently form the basis of a new and happier society.

In other words: it is nothing less than the attempt to build a Brave New World. One of complete and total control, since, as Josie points out, unless that happens, energy usage, flying, trade will all continue to increase.

And that is intolerable to these control freaks.

Dienstag, Mai 29, 2007

One man's myth and journalistic ignorance...

So, in today's FT we have this lovely start off line (behind the subscriber line, but you can see what is the problem from the teaser):

I really like the US. It is the American dream that I cannot stand.

Well, gee, Gideon Rachman, thanks for letting us know that you not only haven't understood what the American dream is all about, but even worse, aren't afraid to let the world know that you don't. This is virtually a textbook case of journalistic ignorance.

He goes on to call the American dream, defined by him as "you can be whatever you want to be", a self-evident untruth.

How sad. How sad that he first of all doesn't understand what that simple concept means. It's sad that he doesn't even have the imagination to understand what this very simple concept means, and it is sad that he really, really, really doesn't understand what makes America the most desirable place to live on this planet for the vast majority of humans.

It doesn't mean, as he apparently believes it to mean, that a dishwasher can become Miss Universe: after all, our imaginary dishwasher is male and Miss Universe contestants can't be surgically modified to *that* degree.

It's simpler than that: it means that in the US, no one is going to tell you not to pursue your dreams. If that dishwasher wants to be Miss Universe, there is no way for him to actually become Miss Universe, but there is nothing stopping him from dressing in drag and pretending that he is Miss Universe.

But that's not the fundamental either: the American dream is that the second youngest son of a Ukrainian farming family can leave the farm. His future would have been only a tad better than that of a serf, as his 8 brothers - no sisters - would almost always be ahead of him in the inheritance game. Three of his older brothers entered the military, joining the cavalry with their own set of horses, and his youngest brother entered the priesthood to get away from the drudgery of farming.

He left the Ukraine and emigrated to the US, working first as a day laborer. He could read and write, as well as being able to do his numbers, and went to classes in the evening to learn English. He worked and saved and after learning English started going to evening classes to learn how to be an engineer. He graduated with a BS in engineering from a small university, not particularly prestigious, but he was a good engineer: he left New York and went to Chicago, where a job was waiting for him. He married, set up his own company and became a millionaire.

Not because he wanted to become a millionaire: he just wanted to do what he was good at doing and make a good living. He met payrolls and employed dozens of people, and gave as much back to the community as he could. He had three kids, each of whom went to college.

He was my grandfather, and all he wanted to do was to live the American dream. Which he did: he became what he wanted to be, he became what he worked hard to be: a typical American.

Now, I could repeat this for almost all of my family: we all became what we wanted to be. I live in Germany, but I am also living the American dream. I set goals for myself and I've largely reached them. Where I haven't, it's either been circumstances or my own damn fault.

My wife just yesterday asked me why the US had so many creative and innovative people: did it depend on the school system, did it depend on seed money being available. I simply answered that it depended on the American system simply letting people do what they want to, with no guarantee of success but no shame in having failed.

But apparently Rachman would have preferred that my grandfather stay down on the farm, where he apparently belonged. Better that than taking the chance of falling down flat on your face.

Now that is a case of journalistic ignorance: I can't imagine the man's excuse, as he is the Chief Foreign Affairs columnist for the FT since July of 2006. What a shame the man hasn't even the most basic understanding of what makes the US tick.

Sonntag, Mai 27, 2007

Why talk when no one is listening...

There are those who call for a dialogue with Iran.

A dialogue requires, however, two parties that are actually talking to one another.

Iran has made it abundantly clear that it is not interested in a dialogue: as you can see here, in his own words, that, and let me quote, "security council resolutions have no influence" on Iran's actions.

But it goes further than that: his take on the issue, is, fundamentally, correct: the West is unable to act against Iran.

First of all , you have an aysmmetric relationship between the two. Iran is dependent on technology and gasoline (they lack the refining capability), the West is dependent on Iranian oil. Iran can do without the first two - if called upon for national sacrifice, the population will be willing to forego cheap gasoline in exchange for nuclear energy - but losing Iranian oil supplies would drive prices up on the world market significantly. The Iranians believe in themselves, the West, as usual, is dominated by pontificating idiots who haven't understood Iran since the fall of the Shah (if then).

Second, the Iranians have all their puzzle pieces in place: they have started enrichment, probably have the rest of the technological prerequisites in place, and already are working on their delivery systems. The West has no clue as what can be done to stop Iran, just as it had no clue as what could have been done to stop Nazi Germany. And I think we can all agree that while some aspects of the Iranian revolution have nothing to do with Nazi Germany, other aspects are chillingly similiar, largely in the official anti-semitism and the absolute control of all aspects of society (liberalizations are grudgingly permitted, but nothing may challenge the state/church of Iran).

Third, and this is the key problem: political will.

The Islamic Republic of Iran has made clear what its goals are: domination of the region politically, export of its revolution (and subservience thereto: the Iranians learned well from the Soviets) and the elimination of Israel from the map of the world, with the consequences be damned.

The lack of response from the West has only given Iran incentives to continue this behavior: the sanctions don't work. Iran is correct in expecting the commercial interests of the West to override vague notions of any developing threat until the cost of meeting this threat becomes very costly indeed.

What the Iranians have forgotten is that the West does not live by capitalism alone: once the threat has developed to the point where it can no longer be ignored - and Iran's apparent belief that the West will do nothing when Israel is attacked with nuclear-tipped missiles is highly misplaced - and the threat starts to become existential, the West is very, very good at mass slaughter. It would take no more than 14 nuclear weapons to complete devastate Iran in response to a nuclear attack on Israel, one that, given the increasing Israeli/US cooperation in anti-missile systems, might fail.

These scenarios, however, are chilling: what could the West do now to avoid what would be a major setback for peaceful world development?

First of all, massive sanctions, including oil. This is where Iran is vulnerable: right now, it will still take longer to develop the bomb and militarize it than Iran can handle a complete and total trade embargo before the country starts to unravel (virtually no transportation, including the distribution of foodstuffs). Such a massive set of sanctions must run through the UN for any legitimacy, and should be a function of 100% solidarity, i.e. if the Russians and the Chinese fail to go along, this will lead to the deaths of millions of Iranians.

Second, concentrated support for the moderates in Iran, but through their brothers in belief in the Arab world. The US doesn't need to spend the money: those states are well-off enough. The goal? Elimination of the Iranian revolution.

Third, and this will be the most difficult, putting the nuclear genie back in the bottle. The non-proliferation treaty is full of too many dual-usage problems, a new one should be put together, one that also reflects on the massive reduction of the US and Russian stockpiles. Sanctions and penalties must be put into place that make it clear that once a country has been found in non-compliance and/or cheating and/or withdrawal, that this means the end of trade with the rest of the world and complete and total pariahdom.

Donnerstag, Mai 24, 2007

Another reason not to trust Congress...

As we know, tax revenues in the US are at an all-time high. The federal deficit is well on its way to disappearing, structurally, as the growth of tax revenues exceed federal outlays: despite - I will say because - the Bush tax cuts.

So what does Congress, in its oh so infinite wisdom, want to do?

Well, step back a moment. What drives incomes, what makes it possible for the government to increase its tax income without actually raising taxes?

Growth, economic growth. Without it, taxes become more onerous than they are: taxes become a zero-sum game, taking more away than you can hope to earn.

What has been a major, driving force in economic growth in the US? While I could have to write a PhD thesis to prove this, my fundamental take is that growth in the US, economic growth, the creation of wealth, has been in no small part driven by the easy and prolific use of the Internet to acquire and process information. I know that research that used to take me days in the library, tediously photocopying historical data, entering by hand into spreadsheets, can now be downloaded in a matter of seconds, making me significantly more productive.

So, what does wealth creation have to do with Congress being less intelligent than usual?

They want to tax the Internet.

We know that Congress is full of idiots: it's almost a definition. Their approval rating is even lower than the President's, and that really, really takes some doing.

Fundamentally, any sort of consumption tax, such as a sales tax or Value Added Tax (I pay 19% tax on virtually everything I buy in Germany!), is highly regressive, since those whose incomes go completely for consumption (i.e. lower income groups) are disproportionately taxed in comparison to higher income groups whose incomes allow them to save and/or invest.

The apparent goal of the introduced legislation is basically to level the playing field and force the collection of sales tax regardless of the distribution channel. Senator Enzi, from Wyoming and a Republican, apparently sincerely believes this is a good thing: he's, sorry to say, so wrong that it begs disbelief to think that he actually thought this thing through.

The Democratic Party is infamous as a tax-and-spend party: they may be able to actually bring this outside of committee.

Talk about killing the goose that lay the golden egg.

But this isn't bad enough: they also want to tax your access, basically as they now tax your basic phone service. These kinds of additional taxes are as large as over 17% of the basic service: not exactly peanuts.

But this indicates how completely clueless the Internet Tax people are:

Harley Duncan, the executive director of the Federation of Tax Administrators, said Wednesday that higher taxes will not discourage broadband adoption and his group "urges Congress not to extend the Act because it is disruptive of and poses long-term dangers for state and local fiscal systems."

Increasing the price of broadband Internet access by taxes won't discourage adoption? I guess he skipped his econ studies and never learned anything about elasticities of demand.

Any developed economy needs broadband reaching the greatest number of people to increase the utility of the Internet and its usage. Instead of supporting - and even subsidizing - inexpensive access, these folks want to tax it instead.

Remember, tax revenues are at an all-time high: taxing it would be regressive, not progressive.

This is another reason not to trust Congress...

The truth about progressives...

You need to scroll down a bit here, but it's about time someone realized that this is true:

... progressives are less educated, on average, than conservatives; most of the people on DailyKos don't have PhDs. And too many of those allegedly uberbrilliant liberals apparently enjoy whiling away the hours on websites that consist mostly of rants about Rethuglicans and homespun theories about implausibly vast conservative conspiracies.

Just had to point people to that one. Megan is right: the whole "progressive" thing is something that most people should grow out of when they realize that the revolution sold its soul a long, long time ago and that radical utopias almost invariably end up as Gulag.

And several of the commentators have noted the fundamental difference between right-wing and left-wing talk radio: Rush, the undisputed King of talk radio, is ultimately successful because he is good at it, entertaining, doesn't indulge in ad hominem attacks (he vastly prefers satire and ridicule instead, something that the progressives appear incapable of understanding that humor in a political context can be extraordinarily effective. Just think of Reagan's "There you go again" in the debate with Carter in 1980 and, when asked at the 1984 Presidential debate about the age issue (i.e. whether he was too old to be a candidate) replied "I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience." His opponent: Walter Mondale.

The truth about "progressives" and the left is that they have become reactionary, and reactionaries need punching bags and scapegoats to survive.

And conservatives have become the new progressives, wanting to improve the lot of the common man by letting him keep his money and do what he sees fit with it: this the absolute anathema of the left.

In other words, the ideological world has inverted, and that is what dooms the left to irrelevancy.

Dienstag, Mai 22, 2007

And the excuse this time is...

Here is an article from the Guardian.

Read it. Iran is planning to kill as many Iraqis and US soldiers as possible. Their goal? Local dominance, bread and circus for their restive masses. Pushing the entire Middle East into a war hysteria as well, bring on the apocalypse before their time runs out.

Than ask yourself: what is the excuse this time for ignoring the threat?

Iran is preparing to inflict as large a cost as possible to the continuing US presence in Iraq: can we say "Tet"?

Remember, the Tet offensive was, militarily, a failure: the Viet Cong was destroyed as a military and political force in South Vietnam thereafter.

But US journalists, manipulated by the communists in Vietnam and venably stupid, picked it as "proof" that the Viet Cong were still in business and that the war was no longer "winnable", as if that had mattered at all.

I'm not going to speculate on what could be done up front to avoid having Teheran try to run a Tet offensive in Iraq, as I don't know enough to do so.

But I can speculate on how it will be interpreted.

Regardless of the outcome - and I think that Teheran is vastly underestimating both the firepower of US forces and the will of the Iraqis to fight - the mere fact that such an offensive is possible will have, politically, exactly the same kind of effect that Tet had. The idiot class in the US will use this to point out that we've failed. They're already saying it: it will provide them with the excuse to cut and run and to hell with the world.

Odd, their expectations. At no point did the US ever say that this was going to be easy or short. They've always been the ones claiming it was going to be fast and easy (only ex post facto, of course).

What will the excuse be this time?

They are setting the US up to be the fall guy no matter what: that is the goal here.

If the US does its intelligence right and decimates the Iranian-backed forces when they appear, the mere fact that they appeared will be trumpeted. That they failed to achieve any meaningful goals and were decimated won't matter: the mere fact of the attack is all that is needed.

If the US takes serious causalties due to surprise attacks, then the war will be considered lost by the press, with both the press and leftie pundits spreading the gospel of a repeat of Vietnam.

Never mind that it isn't; never mind that they're wrong.

They will spread it anyway.

There's that saying that history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce.

And the excuse this time is...

Sonntag, Mai 20, 2007

France reborn...

Those who have read this blog for a while know that I've been rather down on the French.

My mistake: what I really should have been down on was the France of Chirac.

The new President, Sarkozy, is not a believer in politics as usual.

According to the Times, Bernard Kouchner, one of the founders of Médecins sans Frontières, will be the new Foreign Minister.

Let's try to put this in perspective: in terms of politics, it's a stunning, complete reversal of politics. Up to last week, French politics were nothing less than a sop to French commercial interests, i.e. they would be supportive of anyone buying from France, regardless of the actual politics involved. Chirac and his cronies were more than happy to do business with people whose hands were almost literally dripping with blood, merely pausing to wipe their hands off between courses of their diplomatic wooing of anyone who could be part of the French defi americaine. This meant that they besmirched France's own internal philosophies, those that have made France for most of its history a partner of the US: freedom, liberty, human rights.

The first thing that happened to Kouchner is that he was then excommunicated from the Socialist Party. Kouchener had been the Minister for Health and Humanitarian Action under the Socialists, and the fact that he has now been denounced as a traitor by that party underscores exactly how bankrupt the socialists have become.

Further changes: apparently Sarkozy will be selling the French government's shares in the parent company of Airbus, EADS, probably to Dubai, meaning that Airbus may actually have a chance of survival as a functioning commercial company, free of the pernicious meddling by the French - including forcing the decision to build that white elephant, the A.380 - and perhaps able now to compete without subsidies: if the sale does go to Dubai, expect an infusion of capital into Airbus to get the company back on its feet.

Further personnel changes: super-ministries for the economy and the environment and seven women in the cabinet.

But the real change is the rediscovery that Realpolitik, ruthlessly practiced by the French under Chirac, is being replaced by a foreign policy that will also have a moral aspect to it: Kouchner has already called for a potential boycott of the Chinese Olympics if China doesn't rethink its amoral foreign policy, which is pure Realpolitik.

Big changes abound here: as Austin Bay puts it, some may see it as too little too late, especially for Iraq, but it's a damn good start for actual cooperation in the future...

Stay tuned...

hat tip: Austin Bay.

Freitag, Mai 18, 2007

Well, He's Gone...

The Bank won. Wolfowitz is leaving as of the end of June.

As usual, the WSJ has the right take on it: Wolfowitz made the mistake of underestimating exactly how deadly politics apparently are at the World Bank. If he had refused to determine himself what was to happen to Raza, insisting instead that the Bank deal with it, his enemies wouldn't have had any ammunition to use against him, even though he followed instructions, crossed his t's and dotted his i's.

My prediction: the anti-corruption campaign will be effectively dismantled within a year. It will remain, but investigations will take decades to complete and will probably wait until everyone involved is retired or dead before coming to a conclusion that will be released in a press release at 5pm on the Friday before a long weekend.

This is where institutionalized corruption has now found a nice, secure home. How many billions will be siphoned off now?

My thinking right now is that the World Bank has outlived its usefulness. Countries once in deep poverty can now manage commercial loans quite nicely, thank you (think China, Vietnam), and countries with endemnic corruption - India, sadly - should pay a higher risk premium for not being able to reduce corruption, if not eliminate it. That's the price they should have to pay.

Alternatively, relocate the World Bank to one of the third-world countries. Sudan, perhaps, or the Congo; Paraguay might also be a good choice.

I'm sure that there are good people who work at the World Bank, people who really do want to help and make changes. But the institutionalized corruption is simply too deeply seated: the mandarins are in charge, and There Will Be No Change.

Mittwoch, Mai 16, 2007

He must be doing something right ...

Paul Wolfowitz, so much under fire for working according to the rules of the World Bank (he's done nothing less than to have done exactly what he was supposed to do after checking with the Bank's personnel department!), has apparently now become persona non grata with the German Minister for Development, that lady in red with the unspeakable name, a certain Ms. Wieczorek-Zeul.

He is no longer welcome at the World Bank's Africa Forum meeting in Berlin next week, according to her account in Der Spiegel (unfortunately only in German...).

You know what this really means?

That the powers-that-be at the World Bank - the entrenched bureaucracy - is deathly afraid of him.

And that Wieczorek-Zeul is supporting them.

He must be doing something right if he has managed to make so many enemies at such a place. He came to reform, and reform is the very, very last thing that these folks at the World Bank are interested in.

After all, they've managed to lose around $100bn since 1947 to corruption; a full 20% of their loans are based on corrupt practices; the prevalent picture is one of money being diverted by collusion, kickbacks, bribes and procurement fraud.

In other words, his creation of an anti-corruption group at the World Bank was long over-due, and he has upset the apple cart.

Good for him. He probably won't survive, given the concerted, aggressive attempts to drive him out of office.

If he leaves the World Bank, then hopefully his successor will have a mandate to really shake things up there: "Business As Usual!", the apparent battle cry of the World Bank, can only be the continuation of corrupt practices that need to be driven out.

What did Wolfowitz do wrong?

This summary is as good as any:

Supposedly, Wolfowitz used his position at the bank to promote his girlfriend and shower her with $60,000 in raises.

But according to e-mails and memos, Wolfowitz did the right thing at every step. Before Wolfowitz had one thing to do with the bank, his girlfriend had worked there for years earning a glowing reputation. Upon his nomination to head the World Bank, Wolfowitz had his lawyers inform high officials at the bank of the potential conflict. They said the problem could be taken care of.

When Wolfowitz got to the bank, he tried to recuse himself from any decision having to do with his companion. The bank's ethics committee said nope, you've got to transfer her out of the agency while making sure her career prospects and finances are not hurt. Wolfowitz said that was fine and suggested the ethics committee go ahead and do that. The ethics committee told Wolfowitz, in writing, that he needed to do it. So he did.

And then he submitted the proposal to the ethics committee for their approval. They approved. A year later, someone anonymously complained about the deal, so the ethics committee reopened the decisions and again ruled, in writing, that everything was done by the book.

Now, another year later everyone calls Wolfowtiz the bad guy. The ethics committee chief, Ad Melkert, now among the highest officials at the United Nations, says he never bothered to read the details of the job transfer when Wolfowitz proposed it. Melkert also says that when he said he investigated the situation a second time, he really didn't bother.

In this scandal, one official did his best to do the right thing while another didn't bother to do anything. It is clear who should be fired.

What this means is that Wolfowitz is being made the fall guy. I think it's because of the relative success of the anti-corruption group that puts the fear of God into the mid-to-upper level careerists at the World Bank, who are probably collectively guilty of failing to exercise due diligence in dealing with the billions lent by the World Bank, with at least a few profiting, directly or indirectly from the deals done.

Never riles up a bureaucrat like pointing out that what they were doing should have made them criminally liable. People at the World Bank are highly privileged, with tax-free salaries and not a few perks like their retirement benefits. Threaten those privileges at your own risk.

A rising tide...

So, Greenpeace is grandstanding out on Mt. Ararat, where they are building an ark to highlight ... something or other. They are screaming at the top of their lungs "the sky is falling, the sky is falling": unless we all kowtow to them, "human misery on a scale not experienced in modern times" will be the result.

Meanwhile, others are coming to their senses and have become skeptics. Not the one or the other kooks, but rather this includes those who were instrumental at the start of the scare, as can be seen here.

Let's drop some names: Dr. Claude Allegre, Bruno Wiskel (he of "Kyoto House" fame), Dr. Nir Shaviv, Dr. David Evans (who spent 6 years running carbon models for the Australian government), Dr. Tad Murty, Dr. David Bellamy, Dr. Chris de Freitas, Dr. Reid Bryson, Hans H.J. Labohm, Tim Patterson, Dr. Zbigniew Jaworowski, Dr. Ian D. Clark and Dr. Jan Veizer.

These folks are being honest: one says that he profited personally from the whole global warming movement, another says he has lost grant money by becoming a skeptic, at least one is politically a socialist, another has seen environmental groups end their association with him, another is the most cited climatologist, another documents the suppression of evidence and another found that empirical evidence contradicted the theories.

And the attacks aren't coming from the right, but now from the left as well, as can be seen here. The key quote is this:

As with the arms-spending spiral powered by the cold war fearmongers, vast sums of money will be uselessly spent on programs that won't work against an enemy that doesn't exist. Meanwhile, real and curbable environmental perils are scanted. Hysteria rules the day, drowning useful initiatives such as environmental cleanup, while smoothing the way for the
nuclear industry to reap its global rewards.

Of course, Cockburn - not one of my favorite fellows - believes that the Merchants of Fear (his term) are not much other than shills for the nuclear industry, which is a rather bizarre - but typical - conclusion.

Now over at this web site, it appears that the core weakness of the global warming arguments is becoming clearer: poor statistics. Not so much that the underlying data is poor - it is, but that is another story entirely, one that in many ways does allow for statistical interpretation - but rather that you have specialists in one field using statistics to interpret patchy and spotty data, to interpolate and to create proxies, yet failing, miserably, to allow others to reproduce their efforts, claiming instead that the data, the raw data, belongs to them (despite the language of their grants placing the data collected in the public domain!) and refusing to release their raw, unprocessed and unmanipulated data so that others can reproduce their results.

There's more: how about using proxies that are really bad at actually being connected to what is claimed, skewing the results? Tree ring size sounds like a good proxy, but turns out to be a function not only of warmth, but also of solar influx, biological diversity and rainfall patterns. In other words, it's not a proxy for warming as such, but is specifically and deliberately used as such.

Now that's a problem. Consider this:

If a practising scientist selected a 1987 data set over more recent versions, failed to cite it correctly, altered the appearance of the data without a clear explanation and didn’t include the data from the last 20 years then I think we’d all be asking serious questions about their professionalism.

I think that this is exactly the question that needs to be asked.

We know the Hockey Stick has become thoroughly suspect (at best: I'd be happier seeing Mann et al exposed to the greater public as having falsified their data for political purposes.), but it seems that this is just the start.

The key is understanding the problem is that what has happened is something that always happens when scientists, however well meaning, overstep their boundaries, usually in the name of some utopian greater good. Good, peer-reviewed work from professional climatologists is not the problem: the problem is when climatologists then enter the world of politics and policy-making, where they should be viewed with about as much glee as they would view a professional psychologist who starts to do climatology.

There is also a fundamental problem with peer-reviewing that is not adressed by most analyses: when an analysis of troubled data - and climatology is filled with troubled data, as proper data acquisition starts only in the last century, which is *why* they use proxies in the first place - is based on methodology that is not vetted by a professional statistician: climatologists review the work, and the errors that Mann et al. show that while at least some professional climatologists think that they have their statistical methods down pat, this is not necessarily the opinion of professional statisticians that have reviewed the methodology (as the problems with the Hockey Stick paradigm have shown).

This means that the peers reviewing the work, while fully capable of professionally reviewing the climatological aspects of the analyses being reviewed, are apparently not capable of professionally reviewing how the underlying data was put together and whether it was put together properly, using proper statistical analysis that can be duplicated by others based on the problematical data set.

This is where peer review fails: if the data is not checked and verified that it has been put together properly, then the validity of the conclusions cannot be reviewed, only the methodology of the analysis ex-post the data set.

So while the science is increasingly being called into question, Greenpeace pulls publicity stunts.

That's ok, that's about all that they are good for anyway.

Samstag, Mai 12, 2007

The Banality of Victory...

Think about this: what is more banal than a dentist? The guy takes care of people's teeth, tut-tuts them when they haven't flossed, straightens crooked teeth and does the occasional root canal when something goes bad. If he's in Germany, he might pull it instead, and dentists' techniques vary in many ways little. There are some new-fangled developments, like laser drills, better ways of dealing with problems, but ultimately being a dentist is a very banal job, helping his fellow and occasionally making a very decent living while doing so. I've known a few dentists, and not all make tons of money.

So why pay attention when a dentists writes an op-ed? Is it about some aspect of health care or health insurance?

Only indirectly.

This is an op-ed by a dentist (hat tip: Michael J. Totten).

It's one of the best I've seen on the fundamental topics of the Iraq war, written by an Iraqi dentist. He cuts to the core of the problem: wanting the US out means nothing less than abandoning Iraqis to whoever kills off his rivals first.

This is the greatest failure of the anti-war left, the Democratic Party and those whose BDS is so far advanced that they are willing to kill and fundamentally enslave Iraqis to ensure that Iraq turns into failure at the brink of success.

Let me quote:

The people of America need to understand this: the enemies of a stable Iraq are America's enemies, and they simply do not understand the language of civilization and reason.

They understand only power. It is with power they took over their countries and held their peoples hostage. Everything they accomplished was through absolute control over the assets of their nations through murder, torture, repression and intimidation.

Those who prefer to bury their heads in the dirt today, and withdraw from this difficult fight, will be cursed forever for abandoning their duty when they were most capable. I don't understand why someone who has all the tools for victory would refuse to fight an enemy that reminds us every day that it is evil - with all the daily beheadings, torture and violations of all humane laws and values.

With America's help - and only with its help - the decent people of Iraq can still prevail.

This is what is at stake: if the Democrats in Congress push through their solution to Iraq, then they are condemning the decent people of Iraq to a return to exactly "politics as usual."

And what the Democrats don't understand is that politics as usual - a "stable" Middle East that is about as stable as the Yellowstone caldera and just as potentially deadly - is one of the leading reasons why Al-Quaeda has been so successful. Sure, bin Laden and his cohort hate the Great Satan and the Little Satan, but their goal is to re-establish a caliphate, of muslims united. Their reason?

Because the existing states in the Middle East are almost invariably severely corrupt and repressive, and the existing states in the Middle East are a fundamental part of the problem: the exception, as always, is Israel, with some of the Emirates coming closer. The other states in the Middle East exist to serve the politicians in power, resulting in nominal democracies like Egypt having their leaders not elected fair and square, but via dynastic succession.

Mohammed Fahil, dentist in Baghdad, has a better understanding of the stakes than the entire Democratic Party summed up together, and then some.

And I, too, do not understand why the fight against evil is so incomprehensible to the Democratic Party and the anti-war left. You can't negotiate with evil: just think of the idiot in the first Die Hard movie who thought he could finess the bad guys and had absolutely no idea of who he was dealing with and ended up dead for his stupidity.

That's who the Democrats of today remind me of.

Donnerstag, Mai 10, 2007


Good lord, what is the world coming to?

Here I am, about to link to the Daily Kos.

Really, I am. But to this.

I just hope that the link survives. Basically, an Israeli progressive set up shop over at Kos and has realized that he's not only not amongst friends, but that he's among those who actively hate and want Israel to be subjugated to the will of the Palestinians (as if anyone knew what that is...), where some of the vilest anti-semitism belongs to the code of conduct to be a good member.

But you gotta read the commentary as well: indicative of the insanity that has befallen the left: one commenter over on Kos said "the issue ... is so hijacked that it's hard to see what the reality is". Another one snidely asks: "What does an expression of concern morph into once a progressive learns the facts?"

Progressives' aren't into facts: they're into ideological utopias.

That way lies madness, as the past clearly shows: National Socialists, Marxists of Stalinist and Maoist persuasion, the 2-bit thugs and psychopathic murderers of the left in the Third World.

You'd think that people would learn from history. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the COMECON countries, the vulgar capitalization of the Chinese Communists, the collapse into corruption and kleptocracy in the Third World of "progressive regimes" should have ensured that the Left becomes synonomous with failure and stupidity.

Instead, we have not found out how to keep it in its coffin. Too many misguided fools, too many frozen mindsets, too many that cannot face the abject failure of the past and continue to see it as the future.

It's dead, boys, it's pining for the fjords. It's a ex-parrot.

Hattip: LGF

Sonntag, Mai 06, 2007

Move On...

Yep, I'm back. Sortofkindof.

One of the dangers for any democracy are special interest groups who invariably cloak their special interests in the mantle of general political will, based on polls and questionnaires that can be manipulated and twisted to serve their own purposes.

Add to this the goals of some of the NGOs and special interest groups - of wielding political power vastly in excess of their constituency, which tends to be rich liberals with guilt complexes - that are, at the end of the day, fundamentally undemocratic, because they do not reflect the actual needs and political desires of the populace, but rather create the need and political desires within a populace that doesn't know that it is being misled.

Normally the usual political savvy and distrust of politicians for lobbyists, who always demand a quid pro quo that may cost the politician too much if such is revealed, will keep such groups at arms' length from the politicians, who rightfully are skeptical about what these groups claim and deliver.

Right now, though, we have an interesting situation. We all know that has developed from a small grass-roots anti-Clinton-impeachment web site into a political organization that is seeking to exert massive influence over the politics of the Democratic Party.

Fundamentally, MoveOn has become an electronic precinct machine, building on the fundamental political mode of the Democratic Party, which is the establishment of their political machinery to "capture" voting groups.

The danger here is that the Democratic Party has become the party of opportunists: Pelosi is an excellent example of this, a politician whose only principles are following polls and rewarding those who basically financed her election success, as well as those who paid for the political success of the Democratic Party in the last election.

What does this look like?

Look here: The last several sentences state the intent clearly.

MoveOn is now apparently interested in one thing and one thing only: that the US withdraw from Iraq, regardless of what that means. They are clearly gearing up to make this goal also the goal of the Democratic Party.

So who is MoveOn? That is both easy and hard to say: it is a political activism clearing house, with more than 3 mn members. That sounds impressive, and it largely is: but it is also only 1% of the US population. They call themselves "Democracy in action": they are, however, a fiercely partisan group, clearly far-left for the US. They consider it to be a great success when hundreds of thousands of people sign their petitions, such as proclaiming that Fox News is not a "neutral" source of information.

They are, right now, the premier organized leftist interest group in the US. Nothing less than that.

So let's go back to their goal: Withdrawal from Iraq.

How are they going to achieve this?

Read the NYT article and it is clear: not by argument, but rather by politically finessing the story and pressuring lawmakers to toe their party line.

I went to the MoveOn web site to see what I could find: you can sign petitions, you can read about their success stories, you can sign up.

But what you can't find is their real arguments. There are no discussion groups, no forums, nothing but a pure political organization.

Fine: I understand that they had problems with forums in the past, that they turned anti-semitic and abusive to those criticizing their position.

What I don't like about MoveOn is that they are first and foremost activists. Activism - of going out and flogging your message - is part and parcel of the democratic process, but this is activism gone wild: there is no there, there.

What they also forget is that the United States is not first and foremost a democracy, but rather a republic with democratic legitimation of the political process. Pure democracy - such as, say, Switzerland with its constant plebescite voting - is beholden to those who can mobilize the greatest number to go out and vote on individual issues, usually without any sort of quorum necessary to legitimize the decision process (i.e. the voting process does not require a minimum turnout to legitimize the popular vote). The danger here - which the founding fathers clearly saw, as documented in the Federalist papers - is pure populism, i.e. the winding up of emotional responses to achieve political gains, be it to go to war (Spanish-American War), be it to outlaw alcohol (prohibition), be it to demonize your political opponent (Bush '43).

And it is this latter that is disturbing: to repeat, there is no there, there, at MoveOn: it is rapidly becoming a precinct machine, turning out the loyal faithful who will do what the political machine demands it to do. This has been the fundamental mode of operation of the Democratic Party for most of this century: the political machines, for instance, of Daley in Chicago were formidable and continue to exist today.

But the danger here lies in the fact that precinct machine called MoveOn is not controlled by the Democratic Party: if anything, the reverse is true, and that is disturbing, as there is no transparency there. Where there is no transparency, there is no control: where there is no control, misuse and abuse are pre-programmed.

Me, I'm in favor of repealing any and all laws that govern political activism, but with one caveat: full transparency. Full disclosure of where the money comes from, what it is used for, and what happens with any sort of surplus.

You see, I don't trust them: the anti-war movement is full of neo-stalinists with shady finances and even more problematic links between those who would damage the US and those whose ideologies reject the role that the US has been forced to fill, that of the global policeman.