Dienstag, Januar 31, 2006

The Fallacy of Recycling

In today's Nikkei Weekly - 30 Jan 2006, page 15 - there is an interview with Prof Kunihoko Takeda, of Nagoya University.

He has analyzed plastic recycling in Japan, specfically PET bottles.

And this is the key quote:

"In the case of PET bottles, the energy used to sort, transport and process them amounts to about 1.6 million tons of oil per year. This volume of oil can produce almost three times as many new PET bottles. In other words, it takes three times more oil to recycle PET bottles than to make new ones."

That's right: three times as much oil to recycle PET bottles as to make new ones.

He also makes the right call: if you want to reduce garbage, make products that are more durable and have consumers use them more wisely for as long as possible.

But what a concept that would be.

I wonder what the cost of the German Dual System is in recycling here as well?

Taken at face value, recycling is a good idea: it should lead to optimum utilization of resources.

Instead, it is wasting resources. And the only ones making money are the recycling companies, whose market is mandated for them.

Another example of waste and inefficiency as the result of government interferement in markets...

The Technocrat's $7 Trillion Scam

I ran across this as I was leaving work. I'm now at home and ready to fisk.

What a scam.

This is what is all about: power and control.

The most potent threats to life on earth - global warming, health pandemics, poverty and armed conflict - could be ended by moves that would unlock $7 trillion - $7,000,000,000,000 (£3.9trn) - of previously untapped wealth, the United Nations claims today.

Previously untapped wealth? Previously untapped wealth? This isn't about previously untapped wealth: this is about spending your money on what they think is the right thing to do, without you having any control over what the money is spent on.

The price? An admission that the nation-state is an old-fashioned concept that has no role to play in a modern globalised world where financial markets have to be harnessed rather than simply condemned.

Small price to pay, huh? Not the idea that the nation-state is old-fashioned, but rather the admission that it is: understand that the base postulate here is not something up for discussion, but rather a given fact. The idea is to harness financial markets: the reality is to create a parasitical body that lives off real commerce, taking profits from those who have earned them and, after skimming of an undisclosed portion, give them away.

But this is fundamental for the people behind this: the abandonment of the nation-state, of the abandonment of how humanity has been organized for the last 25 centuries or more, is not something that they are advocating, but rather they believe that this is the next necessary step: the withering away of the state.

In a groundbreaking move, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) has drawn up a visionary proposal that has been endorsed by a range of figures including Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Laureate.

This is by far the best argument for the elimination of the UN, at least the UNDP. And has this really, really been endorsed by Gordon Brown and Stiglitz?

It says an unprecedented outbreak of co-operation between countries, applied through six specific financial tools, would slice through the Gordian knot of problems that have bedevilled the world for most of the last century.

No shit, Sherlock: if everyone were to cooperate and we take all the money from the rich, then we have utopia! Hallelujah!

If its recommendations are accepted - and the authors acknowledge this could take years or even decades - it could finally force countries to face up to the fact that their public finance and growth figures conceal the vast damage their economies do to the environment.

Now we see the method behind the madness: it's not a question of solving problems: it's a question of how environmentalists want to gain power over the economies of the world in order to implement their agendas.

At the heart of the proposal, unveiled at a gathering of world business leaders at the Swiss ski resort of Davos, is a push to get countries to account for the cost of failed policies, and use the money saved "up front" to avert crises before they hit. Top of the list is a challenge to the United States to join an international pollution permit trading system which, the UN claims, could deliver $3.64trn of global wealth.

To get countries to account for the cost of failed policies? Using money saved up front to avert crises before they hit? And the US joining Kyoto generates wealth?

This is their first mistake. They do not understand what wealth and wealth creation is: they think that having money means you are wealthy, which is deluded: it's not a question of having wealth, but rather more fundamentally how do economies generate wealth? This is fundamental: the problem in the developing world is that they are bad at creating wealth. But the notion of creating wealth is foreign to these folks: they're not interested in that, but rather in distributing what isn't theirs.

Inge Kaul, a special adviser at the UNDP, said: "The way we run our economies today is vastly expensive and inefficient because we don't manage risk well and we don't prevent crises." She downplayed concerns over up-front costs and interest payments for the new-fangled financial devices. "The gains in terms of development would outweigh those costs. Money is wasted because we dribble aid, and the costs of not solving the problems are much, much higher than what we would have to pay for getting the financial markets to lend the money."

First things first: who is Inge Kaul ? She's a Frankfurt School sociologist, meaning that she's basically a neo-marxist of the so-called critical school, which marked the beginning of a current of "Marxism" divorced from the organised working class and Communist Parties. It's an academic thing, dropping the pretense of actually caring about the working poor and gets its name not from being critical, but rather of daring to criticize orthodox Marxism. But we're off on a tangent: the danger here is that we are dealing here with those who have decided to take over the institution from within.

But look at what she is saying: the way we run our economies today...

Stop right there: the way we run our economies? Nobody runs an economy: the more people try, the worse things get. The economy is a living thing, and like all living things it really dislikes being controlled.

And its vastly expensive and inefficient? How? Because we don't manage risk well and don't prevent crises?

Like Ms. Kaul would be able to recognize a crisis when it came up and smacked her upside her head? The road to hell - or the faceless dictate of the technocrat, basically the same thing - is paved with good intentions: this is the personification of the technocrat, not merely implying that she can do it better, but actually insisting that it must be so. What follows is the usual drivel: the gains aren't, however, in termns of development, but the gains in powers for the technocrats easily outweigh the costs. After all, the technocrats aren't going to be risking anything.

The UNDP is determined to ensure globalisation, which has generated vast wealth for multinational companies, benefits the poorest in society.

Earth to Kaul: those that benefit the most from globalization aren't the multis; they are consumers everywhere, who are getting increasingly better goods for less and less money. And that is benefitting the poorest in society more than anything the technocrats can ever do.

It urges politicians to embrace some groundbreaking schemes put in place in the past 12 months to tackle global warning, poverty and disease, based on working with the global markets to share out the risk.

Which of course translates from "working with" to "serve": the technocrats want global markets to carry the risk.

These include a pilot international finance facility (IFF) to "front load" $4bn of cash for vaccines by borrowing money against pledges of future government aid.

In other words, tie any sort of long-term government aid up right now, preventing government's abilities to change plans independently. They seriously want to have the money NOW to work on vaccinations: work that means that pharmaceutical companies won't have to work efficiently in order to recoup their costs. But more devestating is the fact that this means that these technocrats will, literally, hold the power of development funds for their favored clientle: I dare say that this means that when scientists say they don't have a cure for AIDS, this will only mean more money thrown at the problem, instead of aiming the money at prevention.

The scheme, which is backed by the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was born out of a proposal by Gordon Brown for a larger scheme to double the total aid budget to $100bn a year.

Nice name-dropping there: Bill and Melinda Gates now are elevated to the same status as countries. And the scheme isn't backed by the governments of these countries, but rather by technocrats in these countries.

In an endorsement of the report, Mr Brown said: "This shows how we can equip people and countries for a new global economy that combined greater prosperity and fairness both within and across nations."

Greater prosperity? Greater technocrat control is more bloody likely, with less fairness.

The UNDP says rich countries should build on this and go further. It proposes six schemes to harness the power of the markets:

* Reducing greenhouse gas emissions through pollution permit trading; net gain $3.64trn.

This is actually the only thing that makes sense. But, as usual, the devil is in the details...

* Cutting poor countries' borrowing costs by securing the debts against the income from stable parts of their economies; net gain $2.90trn.

Whoah, nelly: what does this mean? Securing debt against the income from stable parts of their economies? Securing debt against the income? In other words, the technocrats want to be able to take the income from "stable parts", whatever *that* means, of the economy. But stop right there.

You see, they are transferring sovereign risk to the commercial sector: they are taking the profits from the companies, local companies, who are actually out there making money - generating income - and use that income to ensure that any default on the government debt is born by the commercial sector of the economy. Hey, great deal if you can find any of those companies actually willing to sign up on this: sure, let's see... yep, I'll pledge my cash flow for the next ten years in order to allow the government to borrow money at reduced rates.

I don't think so. There is a reason why there is something called sovereign risk: we've seen too much government corruption and incompetence waste literally billions in aid in the developing world. This gives these governments carte blanche: they no longer carry the risk, since they're able to mortgage the future cash flows of any sector actually making money in order to transfer the risk. This, of course, reduces any incentive for these companies to actually show any cash flow whatsoever.

* Reducing government debt costs by linking payments to the country's economic output; net gain $600bn.

In other words, being able to weasel out of debt repayment by having a bad economy. That sounds really brilliant: sort of like a homeowner being able to say "sorry, lost my job, won't be able to pay the mortgage for the next couple of years". Again, there is a reason for soveregn risk: if you remove this, you also remove any incentive for countries to actually perform. And this sort of deal would only mean that governments would have massive incentives to avoid showing any economic output, since as long as growth remains below the threshhold for repayment, you don't have to repay.

* An enlarged version of the vaccine scheme; net gain (including benefits of lower mortality) $47bn.

Lower mortality? Sorry, we all have to die, mortality to date is always 100%. And that is, of course, assuming that the vaccines as per ut supra actually are developed at all....

* Using the vast flow of money from migrants back to their home country to guarantee; net gain $31bn.

Again we have the appropriation of private monies to guarantee government loans. Which you can safely translate as meaning the appropriation of private monies to guarantee government irresponsibility.

* Aid agencies underwriting loans to market investors to lower interest rates; net gain $22bn.

Subsidized interest rates: huh? Anyone look at what interest rates are lately? Interest rates are at historical low levels, not high levels. Oh, except for high-risk investments, of course. In other words, aid agencies are looking to underwrite projects that on a commercial basis are considered to be such high risk that investors have to be paid a lot to make it worth their while. Gee, aid agencies are such paragons of efficiency and such experts on risk analysis that I'm sure they will make really excellent decisions here. Not.

Professor Stiglitz, the former chief economist of the World Bank and a staunch critic of the way globalisation harms the poor, said: "Globalisation has meant the closer integration of countries, and that in turn has meant a greater need for collective action.

This is embarrasing for the economics profession: is Stiglitz really in on this? Collective action, of course, is a term tied closely to unions, implying that one of the goals would be increasing union importance, rather than the decline of union importance of the last several decades.

"One of the most important areas of failure is the environment. Without government intervention, firms and households have no incentive to limit their pollution." He said a global public finance system would force countries to acknowledge the external damage their policies had, "the most important being global climate change".

First: what they mean here is failure to listen to the technocrats. This is the naked attempt of the technocrats to take control of the means of production via the UN: this is the call for government intervention to control the economy.

Solving the environmental crisis tops the UN's $7trn wish-list. It calls for an international market to trade pollution permits that would encourage rich countries to cut pollution and hit their targets under the Kyoto protocol.

Ignoring of course the failure of Kyoto, which is a dead-end street. Kyoto doesn't help against global warming: it's about control.

But - and the UN admits it is a big "but" - the US would have to sign up to Kyoto and carbon trading to achieve the $3.64trn that it believes the system would deliver over time.

No shit Sherlock: the US isn't going to do this. There is a reason the US isn't part of Kyoto: the Senate of the US voted 99-0 to specifically reject the idea of giving faceless technocrats the power to funnel money to pet projects.

"We are dealing with a global problem as pollution can only be dealt with internationally," Ms Kaul said. Richard Sandor, the head of the Chicago Climate Exchange, added: "Many encouraging signs are emerging. When the business case is clear, private entrepreneurs step forward."

Translation: When the subsidies and other market-distorting mechanisms are apparent, then the profiteers arise to suck on the tit of government subsidies.

But, the proposal is unlikely to get support from some green groups who believe that action to curb consumption, rather than market incentives, are the way to reduce carbon emissions.

Ooooh, boogie man: some green groups aren't happy. But shucks, given the low growth rates that such policies would accord, carbon emissions would drop as the world enters a major depression, curbing consumption anyway...

Andrew Simms, director of the New Economics Foundation, said it left unanswered questions over how these markets would be managed and how the benefits and costs would be distributed. "We have nothing against markets so it would be missing the point to get into a pro- or anti-market stance. The point is how you distribute the benefits."


I'm surprised they left that one in: the technocrats don't care about where the money comes from, as long as they get to distribute the benefits. Naked grab for power: as long as they get to decide how to spend the profits, they don't care where the money comes from...

He said the Nineties, the zenith decade for globalisation, had seen just 60 cents out of every $100 worth of growth reach the poorest in society, compared with the $2.20 in the Eighties.

I'd really, really like to see a source for these numbers. But they well make the case: in the 80s, raw material prices were higher than they were in the 90s, reflecting relative poor efficiencies. In the 90s, raw material prices fell as demand fell in the face of increased materials productivity. Has nothing to do with globalization and everything to do with companies learning to be more efficient with raw materials.

He said a pollution trading regime had the potential to deliver "enormous" benefits to poor countries, but said the UN report failed to show a detailed plan.

I'll give them that: it gives poor countries enormous incentives not to invest, but rather keep their population unproductive, since if they start setting up factories, they'll have to use their pollution certificates instead of selling them. Making it more expensive to build up an industry, ensuring that the downtrodden of the third world stay where they are.

"Our view is that you have to cap pollution, allocate permits and then you can trade. But it depends on how it is set up. Because you are dealing with a global commons of the atmosphere, the danger is that you could be effectively dealing in stolen goods."

Capping pollution means capping not only industrial production, but more fundamentally life-style choices. I'm not talking SUVs here, but rather taking away the option to actually live in the suburbs and drive to work: it's off onto public transportation instead, for instance. And note the nice little boogieman of setting up anyone who pollutes as a thief, stealing from everyone else...

He said a system set up now to trade in pollution permits could end up permanently depriving poor countries that joined the system further down the road.

In other words, join up now or shut up when we shaft you later for being such stubborn bastards...

International problems - and solutions


Millions of people across the developing world have died from malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/Aids, as well as from other pandemics. Vaccines needed to avert them require much-needed investment.

SOLUTION: An advance commitment by rich countries to buy $3bn (£1.7bn) worth of vaccines would be enough to encourage pharmaceutical giants to invest in finding medicines that would eliminate these pandemics.

Again, faith in the ability of pharmaceutical companies to produce results on government contract work instead of profit motive. Right. Buying a promise that if the vaccine is developed, say, for AIDS, that the government will buy it. Like that wouldn't happen already?

Further, any company successful in developing an AIDS vaccine, right now, is doing so in order to make a huge amount of money. They invest to do so, spending money of their own or borrowed in one way or another, based on whether any given approach is correct. Money has a price and this is the incentive to killing lines of research that are unlikely to lead to any results: this removes the incentive to do so.

SAVING: $600bn

ALTERNATIVE SOLUTION: Vaccines are needed but more should be done in the meantime. Extra aid is needed for simple tools such as mosquito nets that would curb spread of malaria.

The alternative is more like use the tools you have now to stop the transmission vector of diseases you can't cure. Use DDT to kill malarial mosquitos and use nets, fine: but if you want a real success story, look at the reduction in AIDS deaths in Africa in the cohort of young people that have decided that sexual abstinence is really more attractive than dying of AIDS. AIDS can be brought under control by removing the disease vectors: unprotected sex, sharing drug needles and the like. But that means infuriating special interest groups.


Big business and global money ignore countries where they see the risk of conflict outweighing their potential profit margins.

Bulllllshit. They don't ignore countries like this: they just don't want to do business there. And for damned good reasons: there is little chance that the loans would be repaid or that the investments would show a profit. So instead:

SOLUTION: Guarantees by international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund to lower the cost of borrowing for poor nations by underwriting investors' loans to conflict-torn states.

SAVING: $22bn

Meaning that hey, don't worry: if your govenrment is repressing you to the point of open rebellion and conflict, we'll use the money of taxpayers elsewhere to make sure that this is a no-brainer, so go ahead, drive the villagers out from their fields and do your ethnic cleansing, we will see to it that it doesn't cost ya a cent.

ALTERNATIVE SOLUTION: Sometimes large volumes of cash are needed and this is one. Live8 showed there was huge support among taxpayers for higher aid to countries in distress.

Neat trick: shifting from conflict-torn states to countries in distress. Only they're not necessarily the same thing.

Hitting a commitment made in the 1960s of 0.7 per cent of GDP would unlock $140bn a year.

And we see enough waste and fraud already, thank you: NGOs don't need $140bn in additional funds, since this will only increase waste and fraud.


Once great nations such as Brazil and Argentina were reduced to the status of beggars after poor economic policy combined with debts with national and international lenders.

SOLUTION: A system to enable countries to take loans linked to their average economic growth rate to ensure that they do not have to cut public spending to raise the money to borrow needed funds during the hard times.

SAVING: $600bn

Oh. My. God. Hey, brilliant! Remove the risk of making stupid mistakes: Brazil and Argentina are poor because they made the mistakes and didn't correct them, but rather allowed populists to squander what took generations to build up. Enabling countries to take out loans linked to average growth rates? Hmmmm.

Could this mean that when growth stops, the countries don't have to pay back? Haven't we been here before?

ALTERNATIVE SOLUTION: A system to allow countries to seek protection from their creditors in the same way that US companies can take so-called Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Except that countries can't do this, any more than a city can garnish the profits of companies operating locally to pay for mistakes: the technocrats are mixing public and private monies again...


Poor countries suffer most from swings in investment tastes by the big global investors that means money can leave as soon as it arrives.

SOLUTION: Enable countries to buy "insurance policies" against big swings in growth that would ensure that they did not have to cut public spending every time. In 1997 it wreaked havoc across South-east Asia.

SAVING: $2,900bn

Um.... Buying insurance is quantifying risk, depreciating future cash flow alternatives to arrive at an affordable coverage. Interest rates are the cost of capital. And doesn't this really imply capital controls, preventing the fungability of cash? And this really isn't the problem: foreign direct investors, for instance, buy land, buy companies, build factories: this converts the cash into assets, locally. These assets can be sold, but their physical presence remains. What moves rapidly is cash: keeping cash means paying the cost of capital, interest rates...

ALTERNATIVE SOLUTION: Curb speculative investment by imposing a tax on foreign exchange transactions aimed at destabilising a currency. It could directly raise funds for development while preventing the worst excesses of the markets.

And who gets to decide when this happens? Nice tool to control currency fluctuations, but currency fluctuations are THE major control mechanism in the world economy, allowing equilibriums to exist.


Scientists believe human activity has led to climate change and disappearing Arctic ice. The world's poor also have to live with lethal storms and floods.

UN SOLUTION: A system of international trading in permits to allow pollution that would encourage countries to cut their emission of greenhouse gases so they can sell their "right to pollute" to other states. UNDP says it is more effective than just setting targets.

SAVING: $3,620bn

Replace "Scientists" with "Some climate scientists" and I'd still disagree. Anyone living where storms and floods are have to live with the results. And there's a contradiction in terms here in the solution: a system of international trading in permits implies a target, whereas the UNDP says setting targets isn't effective. It's just hiding behind another name. The name of the game here is control.

ALTERNATIVE SOLUTION: An international approach is needed but one that prevents people from causing harm by setting pollution targets rather than trying to bribe them not to. Also agree global airline tax.

This says it all: these people see trading in pollution permits to be nothing less than bribery, rather than letting markets work. Further, it clearly states that setting targets isn't effective, but fails to actually offer an alternative.


Millions of skilled workers leave their home countries every year in search of a better life in the West. In some states nine out 10 professionals have left.

SOLUTION: Enable countries to borrow on the open markets against the money workers send home. The capital would be used to invest in the country to build infrastructure that would discourage people from leaving.

SAVING: $31bn

Again, we have here the expropriation of private funds for government purposes. The goal is further explained in the next point...

ALTERNATIVE SOLUTION: An international code of ethical guidelines overseen by bodies such as the World Health Organisation (for doctors and nurses) to monitor the harm that migration of professionals causes.

In other words, certain kinds of people are to be enslaved. You can't let them out of your country, these folks don't know what's good for them.

Ye pagan gods of Lovecraft.

Where to start?

Let's start with a quote from the first UNDP conference on this nonsense, back in 1999: again, here's Inge...

I wish to congratulate all of you, and in particular, the originators of the GDN 'idea' on this meeting. The past three days have been exciting and encouraging. First of all, they have been extremely well organized. But most importantly, they allowed us to glimpse the beauty of a more just and equitable world:

  • A world of horizontal dialogue;
  • A world of listening to each other; and
  • A world that recognizes and tolerates differences - differences in circumstances and views.
The beauty of a more just and equitable world?

The beauty of a more just and equitable world?????

Words fail me. The world that these people imagine is anything but just, anything but equitable.

Here's a radical concept: let people choose for themselves what they want to do .

And the only way that this really works is by letting markets work out supply, demand and prices. Anything else is a waste of time and money.

And that is the critical point.

These people understand nothing, but nothing about economics. Sure, they might be able to talk about GDP, about some bizarre development scheme, but they understand nothing.

They do not understand that economics has everything to do with how to get maximum utility from scarce resources . Nothing more, nothing less. This is fundamental: if you are not getting maximum utility from your inputs, you are being wasteful. Don't want waste? Then listen to the markets, as imperfect as they are, they will tell you, if you bother to learn how to look and understand, how resources are allocated via price mechanisms.

But this isn't something that the technocrats want to even hear. Markets are imperfect for them because they don't deliver the desired results.

That's because people don't want "the desired results".

People want to live their lives as they choose, not to live their lives under the completely despotic thumb of some PhD sociologist whose dreams of a just and equitable world would necessarily lead to policies that are unjust and inequitable.

Don't get me wrong: I care, too, about poverty in the Third World. I directly support a school in India and one in Nepal, as well as foster kids in El Salvador. But this isn't the solution, but rather would lead to the institutionalization of poverty, of managed economies that misallocate resources and destroy value, all in the name of a distant utopian goal. That of course will never be met.

Hasn't the world seen enough of the damage that communism and its idiot nephew socialism have inflicted, the millions and millions of dead, the wars and gulags, the misery and suffering?

This is nothing but a naked attempt of technocrats to gain absolute power over the entire world, a naked power grab of those who have marched through the institutions and want to change the world by decree.

The best thing that could happen to the UNDP is it to be drastically cut. The best thing to happen to the Third World is for markets to work to allocate resources optimally. The best thing that could happen to the people of the Third World is for them to learn how to create value, to create wealth, instead of squandering it as their governments have done over the last 50 years.

The war on poverty has been fought. Poverty won.

Freitag, Januar 27, 2006

Hamas And Israel

I'm just going to make one comment on the election of Hamas.

is financed by Iran.

So is Hizbollah, Islamic Jihad, etc.

So the pathetic editorials you can now read in the press, how important it is to engage Hamas in constructive political dialogue, is a continuation of fundamental ignorance of the nature of the threat that Israel is facing: it's not about the Palestinians.

The Palestinians are, tragically, pawns in the greater game. The greater game is the destruction of Israel.

So Europe will push for Israel to work out some sort of settlement, a quid pro quo, for dealing with Hamas, Hamas will put in place a cease-fire that will be worthless, and the killing will resume, this time without the necessity of hiding anything from the PA.

Any commentary on Hamas and what it all means must be read with this thought in mind: Hamas, or "Zeal", is an organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel, financed largely by Iran and the Saudis, with its own brown-shirts and stormtroopers dedicated to the use of violence to achieve political aims.

The real tragedy of the whole situation is that there are so many in the West who think that one can persuade Hamas to be peaceful and accept the right of Israel to exist.

And leopards change their spots, too.

Gore Lies and Credibility Dies

Can anyone tell me why Al Gore is listened to any more?

This shows how disconnected from reality he is.

According to big Al, he of "no controlling legal authority" fame, now has the absolute gall to put spin on the election in Canada.

Of course, his ignorance of Canadian politics was no barrier to his drivel. Nor did apparently anyone in his office check a fact or two.

This is the man that almost became president. We should count our blessings each and every day that Al Gore isn't president: he is, bluntly, an unmitigated disaster.

He broke the law in soliciting campaign contributions from his office, and his only defense was that there hadn't been a court case for precedence.

Think of that for a moment: maybe the reason that there hadn't been a court case is that every holder of that office before him wouldn't have thought twice about using the offce to get campaign money.

What Gore's comments show is desperation: if the Canadians turn conservative, rejecting the corruption of the liberals and get back to the business of running the country efficiently, then Gore's cronies in Canada will have to go and find real jobs.

So unemployment in Canada will increase slightly this year.

What Gore loses here is the last shreds of his credibility. Critizing party contributions, intimating that big oil "bought" the election, while being completely ignorant of Canadian campaign financing laws, which cap donations by companies at $1000/year, while private citizens are allowed to donate $5000/year. In other words, Gore doesn't know what he is talking about.

If Gore were a Republican - shudder - then the left would call him a liar. I'll just say that he has lost all credibility.

But this comes as a surprise?

Donnerstag, Januar 26, 2006

Iran's Straw Man Tactics

One of the critical arguments that Iran apologists bring when discussing the Iran nuclear problem is that Iran has, under the tenets of the Nonproliferation Treaty, the "right" to the development of peaceful nuclear energy.

And indeed Iran has a history of nuclear research that goes back to the the Atoms For Peace program, where the US provided a small (5MW) research reactor.

But these research programs all but disappeared when Khomeini took over.

The problem is that the distinctions between peaceful and military nuclear research, even for experts, are sometimes not very simple.

But this shows why there is a problem.

The key is maraging steel.  Maraging what?

Maraging steel is a low-carbon martensite that is highly resistant to cracking under stress. It has only a few uses: thinner rocket and missiles skins; firing pins and breech blocks; high performance engine components; dies and high-wear assembly line components; fencing foils for competition (foil and epee); golf club shafts; centrifuges for uranium enrichment.


Why are the Iranians buying maraging steel?

The kind of centrifuges that you use for normal uranium enrichment, the kind that is allowed, don't use maraging steel. The kind that Iran uses are called the P1 centrifuges. The other kind, called P2, use maraging steel, and they enrich uranium far in excess of the requirements for reactor use.

When the Iranians broke the seals at Natanz, they broke the seals on a significant supply of maraging steel that it needs to continue work on the P2 centrifuges.

Smoking gun.

But it goes further: where did Iran get the blueprints for these centrifuges? They didn't design them on their own, but rather acquired them from the Pakistani Dr. Khan, part of an 18-year old plan of deception that Iran used to hide its nuclear technology development from the IAEA.

This documents how Iran has hidden its actual research. So does this.

Iran knows at this point how to build centrifuges and also knows the processing chain from yellowcake to weapons-grade uranium. Knowing what needs to be done puts them way ahead of the learning curve: the Iranians are not stupid and their scientists are competent. Buying the blueprints from Khan meant skipping years of tedious design work: they're not interested in learning how to build the processing on their own: they want to be able to process uranium up to and including weapons-grade quality.

That is why the Iranian argument that they have the right to process uranium for peacful purposes is a straw-man argument. A straw-man argument uses the rhetorical trick of refuting not the argument that the opponent is bringing, but rather an alternative that appears to be related. Iran is accused of trying to enrich uranium for weapons; they reply that they have a right to enrich for peaceful purposes. This isn't an answer: it's a misrepresentation that is set up to be easily defeated.

But Iran still hasn't answered the questions asked: what are they doing with a development program that leads to weapons-grade uranium, a program that they have been actively hiding and misrepresenting to the IAEA, a program that only has the goal of making weapons-grade uranium?

Smoking gun. The answer the Iranians are giving has nothing to do with the question asked.

Dienstag, Januar 24, 2006

Remind Me Why...

Answer me this:

The world has rules and regulations, right?

International law shapes international relationships, right?

NGOs, international and supranational organizations are all there to take care of the problems that arise when things fall between the cracks, right?

Then take a look at this and tell me how much I should respect any NGO, any international organization, any supranational organization.

I can't. And won't until the clamor from them about this is as great as the marches against the Iraq War.

You are all hypocritical bastards. Don't want to upset the Chinese and French, do you? Don't want to upset big oil interests, do you?

Bastards. Your reputation lies drowned in the blood of innocents murder for Chinese and French oil profits.

Chavez, Morales, and Are We Losing South America?

Recent news underscores how democracy is the worst form of government, but much better than the alternatives.

Morales' election to be the head of state in Bolivia is, of course, democratically legitimate and expresses the will of the Bolivian people. Previous governments were either incompetent or merely venal, usually a combination of both, and Bolivia really does need to pay attention to improving the lot of the poorest of the poor.

Unfortunately, Morales is heading clearly into his own morast: he gave Chavez a portrait of Bolivar made entirely of coca leaves. By moving into the Bolivarian scheme of things, he's joining the South American axis of evil, headed by Cuba, with Venezuala and the drug lords of Columbia (dressed up as revolutionaries) and this will probably mean that the fate of Bolivia will get worse before it can get better.

But this is an interesting comment: what will happen is that the attempt to create an alternative to Yanqui domination will, in fact, end up with even closer ties to the US.

Why? Because the US understands how to represent its interests, rather than to concentrate on global inequalities and inequities. Enlightened self-interest has always been the driving force behind US diplomacy. While I will be the first to agree that understanding what enlightened self-interest actually means, especially for those who do not understand the US, is not the simplest task, made worse by spin doctors and political speculators, it remains nonetheless the core of US diplomacy.

And the point of the editorial from José Antonio Ventura Sosa in the Salvadorian newspaper Diario Con Latino is that tweaking the nose of Yanquis may well be good fun and popular as well, but does it serve the national interests of these countries to do so?

Wouldn't it be better to concentrate Venezualan revenues on making life better for Venezualans instead of subsidizing Castro? Wouldn't it be better for Bolivia to concentrate on providing its people with the means to get out of poverty instead of rushing towards nationalization of the gas industry, a move that is fraught with opportunities for corruption and fraud?

In other words, a proper analysis of what is going on in Latin American politics would be to ask why so much time and energy is being invested in policies that do not actually serve the enlightened self-interest of these countries, but instead goes to the strange attempt to revitalize a thoroughly discredited form of economic development (socialism)?

Kudos to Sosa for even daring to ask the question. Regardless of what people in Latin America do, the US will always have ints national interests there: wishing the US away is only the basis for populistic demagogery and not the basis for policy that will reflect the interests of those in these countries.

Sonntag, Januar 22, 2006

The Escalation Has Begun...

Well, Iran has now made the first overt move of its power play.

It is removing its fungible assets from western markets.

Add to that the call for reducing oil production, which given the laws of supply and demand means nothing less than a call to increase the price of oil.

This is the start of the escalation process and Iran is positioning itself for a major non-military conflict.

Let's try and understand what psychological process is also going on here: the Iranian leadership is suffering from a superiority complex. They think they are smarter and morally superior to the decadent West. Military threats leave them cold, since they consider the use of military force to be an admission of weakness, not one of strength; their arguments will be moral ones, aimed at the Arab street and not the West. They are increasingly trying to maneouvre the West into attacking them, and "Shock and Awe" won't work here, since their belief in their own fundamental moral superiority over the West - the basis of Islamic fundamentalism is this belief - means that they can use any attack, no matter how devestating, as proof that the West is morally decadent.

This belief, of course, is fundamental to Islam: that it, as a religion, is fundamentally superior to all other religions, and that all other religions must be eliminated as a result. It's their right to insist on this: anyone who opposes this is per definition stupid, illogical and evil.

I remember a guy I studied with when I was starting my graduate studies. He was Iranian, but called himself Persian. He was a pleasant enough fellow, he studied philosophy and, like me, did phenomonological hermeneutics. But one summer he went back to Iran for the first time in years - his parents had been Shah supporters, this was 1982 or so - and came back a changed man. Literally.

We had one last conversation. He first said that he didn't understand me: he knew I was intelligent, since we had long discussions on rather arcane aspects of Heidegger's interpretation of Husserlian phenomenology. But he also knew that I was an American, and that he had problems with, massive problems: the only reason he was talking to me was to try to understand how I could be so appallingly stupid when I obviously wasn't. His problem: I had not converted to Islam.

He was dead serious. When he realized that I found his attitude bizarre and his assumption that any intelligent person must perforce become Islamic to be rather intolerant, he didn't say anything: he just walked away. Over the next several years, I tried talking to him on occasion: he was invariably polite, but also made it quite clear that he wasn't interested in talking to me at all. I tried to understand why: he had become an Islamist and had divided the world into Islam und Dar'Salem, into believers and infidels.

He no longer cared what happened to infidels. He was no longer interested in discussion and dialogue: the world was black and white, and if you weren't Muslim you were an infidel and therefore no longer worthy of consideration.

This is the sort of mind set we are dealing with.

Victor Hansen puts it well:

He has studied the recent Western postmodern mind, nursed on its holy trinity of multiculturalism, moral equivalence and relativism. As a third-world populist, Ahmadinejad expects that his own fascism will escape scrutiny if he just recites enough the past sins of the West. He also understands victimology. So he also knows that to destroy the Israelis, he--not they--must become the victim, and the Europeans the ones who forced his hand. Ahmadinejad also grasps that there are millions of highly educated but cynical Westerners who see nothing much exceptional about their own culture. So if democratic America has nuclear weapons, why not theocratic Iran? Moreover, he knows how Western relativism works. So who is to say what are "facts" or what is "true"--given the tendency of the powerful to "construct" their own narratives and call the result "history." Was not the Holocaust exaggerated, or perhaps even fabricated, as mere jails became "death camps" through a trick of language to take over Palestinian land?

We laugh at all this as absurd. We should not.

Money, oil and threats have brought the Iranian theocrats to the very threshold of a nuclear arsenal. Their uncanny diagnosis of Western malaise has now convinced them that they can carefully fabricate a Holocaust-free reality in which Muslims are the victims and Jews the aggressors deserving of punishment. And thus Ahmadinejad's righteously aggrieved (and nuclear) Iran can, after "hundreds of years of war," finally set things right in the Middle East.

And then a world that wishes to continue to make money and drive cars in peace won't much care how this divinely appointed holy man finally finishes a bothersome "war of destiny."

This is for the Iranians the end game: they plan on winning. Destroy Israel and humiliate the West will mean that Iran will be the dominant regional superpower of the region for the foreseeable future, they will be able to throw the US out of Iraq and help Shi'a to become the dominant thread of Islam. And believe me, humiliating the US is a major goal of the Iranians. Humiliating the West includes massive increases in oil prices to prostrate western societies, aided by the collusion between Iran and Venezuela.

To repeat: this is the end game for the Iranians. Talking about it further isn't going to work. The game is deadly serious and Iran can lose everything, as it already has started to: given the demographics and politics of Iran, the hard-liners are faced with losing their ability to make such a move, despite the continuing consolidation of power in Iran and continuing use of terror to stay in power.

Part of the problem is death-wish: part of the problem is that Iran has been lying about its plans for the last 20 years or so and continues to do so today, openly so. On the one hand you've got a state that glorifies death, on the other hand you've got a state that if it doesn't have a nuclear weapons plan, wants everyone to think it does.

This is not a recipe for success. Iran is gambling not only with its own future , but that of the West as well.

War options aren't pleasant: this is a different scenario than Iraq was. Not so much for the military but vastly more so for civilians. I think that a l egitimate case can be made for military force, yet we really don't know if Iran is bluffing. They may be: they might not be.

In any case, the game has begun. The problem is that no one knows the rules and that there are those who would really like to throw the game in order to be on the winning side at any cost. And then there are those who know how to end the game in 30 minutes . And there are those on the other side who don't even know who they are fighting.

And let me end with this:

Good people sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf: Evil people sleep peaceably in their beds at night because tenured wackademics and left-wing media sheep stand ready to make excuses on their behalf.

Good night and sleep well.

Samstag, Januar 21, 2006

Tipping Their Hand...

This shows what Islamists want to achieve: the ability to use their religion as a political tool to allow them to be above the law. Islamists want, in order to establish Sharia, to be able to have their own judiciary and their own legal concepts.

The argument, of course, is that the Qu'ran is the literal word of God and that you cannot fault someone for following the literal word of God.

This is a very dangerous move on the side of the defense, but also for the entire judicial system in the UK: if this were to be accepted, then the Islamists have the perfect alibi: God made me do it.

I cannot comprehend why the judge is allowing this defense: if anything, the only defense I can see in this is not guilty due to insanity.

Let us hope that jury selection gives him a jury of his peers: not Islamists, but rather ordinary British citizens.

Of course, if he is convicted, this will be the rallying cry of his followers, that he didn't get a fair trial, as he was judged by non-believers. Hence he'll probably end up being viewed by the left as a political prisoner, instead of the thug that he is.

Very, very dangerous development...

And let's look at what this man considers to be the six enemies of Islam:

1) Tyrants and apostates of Islam (the internal enemy)
2) Jews
3) Christians
4) Scholars critical of Islam
5) Hypocrites (within Islam)
6) Ignorance of the Muslim community (that not all Muslims are actively involved in Jihad)

This tells us first and foremost that Islamists are so intolerant of alternative thought that they see it as their god-given right, even their duty to call for the deaths of all those opposed.

Freitag, Januar 20, 2006

Chirac and Iran

Well, one line has now been drawn in the sand.

Chirac's change in French nuclear doctrine is not trivial.

First, a brief history.

When looking at deterence, not everyone used the same words, and this gave insight into national charachter and what sort of role that politics plays in national plans for using nuclear weapons.

In the US, we use the word "deterrence", meaning, fundamentally, defending one's self and limiting the options of others in attacking.

In SovSpeak, the word was, transliterated, "ustrashenie", of instigating terror in the other.

In French it was "dissuasion", of persuading the other to adopt a point of view.

While you can't strictly build nuclear policy based on philological hermeneutics, it does give you some insight into what people meant: the US meant deterrence as a defensive posture, not allowing others to use all their threat options; the Russians intended their opponents to be terrified of the idea that the Russians would strike; the French place value on persuasion that it simply wasn't a good idea to use nukes against the French.

So what does the change in French doctrine mean?

The gauntlet has been thrown down.

Demographics are now politics. The Islamists, the proponents of a radical Islam, have clearly stated that they believe that they are using demographics as a weapon: they simply plan to outbreed the West, giving them, in their twisted world view, a right to be in charge.

Chirac has now told them that demographics isn't the only game in town: if you try and hide behind demographics, i.e. become the Maoist fish in water, then we will empty the pool and dry out the stream beds.

Good for Chirac, good for France: they have added two and two to get four, after the car-burnings of last year, to understand what the threat is.

On the other hand, the incentive to get nuclear weapons has just increased for the Islamists.

The major problem here is that the NPT has a fatal flaw, a false understanding that has led to this impasse. In agreeing to foresake the development of nuclear weapons, the non-nuclear signatories demanded - and got - a clause in the NPT that say that the nuclear powers will take steps to achieve nuclear disarmament. Not that they will do so, but rather that they would take steps to do so: this means not disarmament, but rather an end to the development of massive overkill raised to the nth degree.

Given that the Cold War is now over, those non-nuclear signatories with the hidden desire to develop the weapons nonetheless, view the lack of complete nuclear disarmament of the West as an excuse to start their development. It's not: lack of disarmament doesn't serve as a ground for developing your own (if you are truly convinced that the things are evil - people, not things are evil - then adding to their number doesn't make the situation better: hence this is a specious argument at best.), it only serves as an excuse for those third-world apologists that want to justify the Islamic Bomb.

This false understanding gives the nuclear ambitions of Iran an excuse (not a ground, just an excuse) that they can hide behind.

Why can't we trust Iran with nuclear weapons?

Because we can't trust Iran with almost anything. It's that plain and simple.

The change in French nuclear doctrine isn't merely an extension of threat: it says, simply, that the French will use their nuclear weapons as a political tool to gain their goals. Nuclear weapons are first and foremost political weapons: the French have come to restate their own political goals.

That France, regardless of demographics and economic dependencies, will not bow to political pressures based on demographics and economic dependencies, but rather will, if need be, used its weapons to serve its national interests.

Big difference.

And about time.

The threat of the Islamists is that they will, throught demographic shifts and the accompanying shifts in political power, transform their opponents in way that are, for the West, completely unacceptable and repugnant.

The threat that France is facing - not only France, but they right now are the only ones talking about it - is not merely economic and/or political: it is an existential threat, one that goes to the heart of what the French understand it to mean to be French.

Chirac is now bluntly stating that France understands existentialism better than anyone else thinks.

And if Iran continues on its track, the likelihood of using nuclear weapons to remove Iranian ambitions to have the Islamic Bomb has just increased markedly.

PS: And while I've bashed France enough here, it's done because I believe that France should know better than to have behaved the way they have over the last several years. I don't hate the French: I've hated what they've done for short-term political gain that has helped lead the world to its current state. Big difference, in my eyes...

Dienstag, Januar 17, 2006

Misperceptions and deceit...

Sorry, been busy at work. And I apologize to those who don't like the following language: I'm being blunt because it needs to be said. And of course I'm use hyperbole (exaggeration-to-effect): after all, this is a blog.

The situation with Iran is going from bad to worse: effectively, everyone at this point is fucked.

The Iranians are fucked because they're being governed by religious fanatics who seem to really want armageddon, since this will, according to them, bring back the 12th Imam whose appearance will mean that Islam will dominate the world and there will be true justice before the final judgement.

The Israelis are fucked because the Iranian government wants to remove them from the map and finish what Hitler started, or, barring that, wants the Jews dispersed in a new diaspora, preferably somewhere really unpleasant, and appears to be hell-bent on acquiring The Bomb to help them do so.

The Chinese are fucked because if they one the one hand lose Iranian gas and oil their economy will collapse, but on the other hand if they are going to veto any UN move against Iran they will encure the wrath of the American public, who just happens to be their biggest customer (by far), and by alienating their biggest customer they lose their export markets and their economy will collapse.

The Europeans are fucked because they, too, need the oil and also need the export markets for investment goods. Add to that the fact that the collective continental European governments are behaving like the proverbial rabbit staring at the cobra, fascinated by its movements and not knowing that they are being set up for dinner.

The Venezulans are fucked because Hugo Chavez is apparently buddies with the Iranians and will probably play the oil weapon game when the Iranians do so, providing for a double whammy on the world economy and at the same time really pissing off the US.

The Bolivians are fucked because it's really just a matter of time before their newly elected leader locks pace with Chavez with the same catastrophic results.

The US is fucked because the only way we can really take out the Iranian weapons programs (and don't be so naive to claim there's no proof that there are any: you don't fucking build research facilities underground unless you are expecting someone to attack them, and if you aren't building bombs you don't need to spend that money) is to nuke them.

And we're all fucked because we're increasingly heading into a situation where leaders no longer think that they have alternatives but to go to war to prevent what they think are even worse things from happening.

The Iranian motive for going to war is to destroy the lesser Satan, Israel, and badly hurt the greater Satan, the US. It is driven by feelings, hysterical feelings for the westerner, of humiliation; of massive resentment that Iran doesn't enjoy a sterling world reputation as nice fellows and wise people; and the fact that the mullahs rule only by terror and intimidation and are facing long-term challenges that they know they can't master, meaning that they've got only a few years - 10 at most - before the demographics shift against them and they lose their ability to intimidate.

The Israeli motives for going to war are simple: survival. Iran is the main finanial backer of terror against Israel, and the Israelis know this.

The EU has no motives to go to war. They don't want to go to war. They want to work this all out amongst rational actors with plenty of hidden agendas so that everyone can cut a deal, keeping the corruption to an "acceptable" level and screwing the taxpayers (as usual). They really, really don't want to go to war, since Going To War Is Bad For Business (and it means that in the future no one will want to pay them bribes any more, since they were paid to keep out and haven't done so).

The US has more than a few motives to go to war. First and foremost the instability of the Middle East is really bad for business: in the pursuit of stability over the last 50 years, the West - and not exclusively the US - has drawn up policies that guaranteed stability in the short run, but now have resulted in massive instability in the region as a whole. The damn French should never have given asylum to Khomeini and never supported the Fall of the Shah, since instead of merely tweaking the nose of the US - their permanent policy goal - they've created a monster that is starting to devour them instead (radical Islam). Now is the time, for the US, to break up the old and ring in the new, and the tentative voices we hear in Iraq - the country is discovering what it wants for the very first time in its history - are scaring the hell out of countries like Syria and Iran. The whole damn place is so fucked up that it's gonna take another Marshall Plan to get things back up and running in a semblence of normality (which the area has never seen) and it's gonna take another decade to do. The Americans don't want the largest supporters of terrorism to get the Bomb because it's a given that if Iran has the Bomb it means that they're gonna start setting them off in the US (Israel might come first, but it also might come later...).

So we're all fucked. As the saying goes, it's a huge shit sandwich and we're all gonna have to take a bite.

It's time to make sure that shit sandwich is as small as possible.

The Iranians need to zap the mullahs and become the Germany of the Middle East (they have the potential), but in a good sense: the industrial heart of the region.

The Iraqis need to zap Reuters and the other defeatists, cut a deal with the Sunnis (drop your weapons and stop fighting or the Shi'ites will smack you upside your head so hard that you won't know Jack), and get on with the job of building a future.

The Lebanese need to zap the Syrians and throw the slime out on their ears and get back to becoming the Switzerland of the Middle East (which they were, minus watches and chocolate).

The Europeans need to grow a backbone, get their military together and stop acting liking the wusses we think they are.

And the US wants everyone to just fucking play fair, no backdoor dealing and we don't want you cutting off the clits of your daughters. Arab women are good looking if they'd just let them be.

But like I said, we're all fucked.

Let's look at the scenarios:

Probable scenario: Iran say to everyone fuck off, we're doing what we want to, the UN gets vetoed by China, and the EU wusses out entirely. Then the moment Iran has the Bomb - and it's less far off than you might think, given cascading centrifuges - and threatens to zap Tel Aviv if we all don't bow down 5 times a day, the US and the Brits (and at that point probably the Japanese) mobilize, Iran cuts oil to everyone except the Chinese, Venezuala stops as well (except to Cuba), and the world goes into a depression like we haven't seen for 80 years. Inflation, massive unemployment, government financial collapse, and that's just the upside: air warfare, massive terror (light up a supertanker in Amsterdam, for instance), and if the war doesn't go nuclear it's still gonna kill millions. Mostly civilians.

Unlikely scenario, but possible: Iran zaps Tel Aviv, the Israelis zap the top 20 cities in Iran, and Qom becomes very flat and glassy. Mecca goes boom as well. Lots and lots of really pissed off people, war galore. Multi-million deaths, including probably some European cities. Again, mostly civilians.

Hopeful scenario: see above.

Things have reached the point where it's no longer a question of who got us into this situation (everyone did over the last 50 years): it's a queston of getting out of the situation.

Without millions of dead, mostly civilians.

Misperceptions are perceptions that are colored by what people want to see rather than what is really there. It is more often than not non-thematic: it's not that people decide that they don't like what they see and deliberately decide to see only what they want, but rather it's a failure of perception, of not being able to understand what the Other is saying, thinking, doing.

The problem is severely, almost impossibly worsened when one side is actively deceiving the other as to its true intentions.

Intelligence services, if they are good, do two things. They tell you what the other side **can** do, and then they tell you what they *think* the other side is **going** to do if what they can do is that what they indeed can do.

If you don't want True Believers in the coming apocalypse and in the necessity of the entire world becoming Islamic before there can be peace having the Bomb and thinking that they can start dictating terms - after all, nuclear weapons are first and foremost political weapons, that's Cold War 101 - then you've got to do something to stop them.

The silence is deafening.

Donnerstag, Januar 12, 2006

End of an era...

I once earned my money as a wedding photographer (not much, but it beat working at a 7-11).

According to this, Nikon is largely abandoning film photographers for digital.

It makes commercial sense, of course. Konica-Minolta wouldn't even be around with their digital activities.

But it's the beginning of the end of an era. Film photography will be the realm of technological purists, much like high-end audophiles. Those with the money and the inclination will pursue their chimeric goals of quality and permanance, while those without the money will haunt eBay and used camera shops looking for deals.

But at some point the market dwindles and there really isn't any commercial point in making the raw materails anymore. High-end audio people know this already: non-recycled vinyl and electron tubes are becoming increasingly rare and hard to find and have increased in price significantly. There is also the problem of reduced product availability, where the market can only afford to support one or two manufacturers.

But it really does look like it's time for me to sell my Pentax 67. I've not used it in two years, mostly because I haven't been able to find a decent local lab...

Iran's Miscalculations...

Where has Iran miscalculated?

According to this, not only is the US critical of the breaking of the seals, but also China and Russia.

Iran is making the same kind of mistake that Iraq did: it thinks that a couple of sweet-heart deals and back-alley agreements have bought both a Russian and a Chinese veto in the UN security council.

Iraq thought it had done that with the French (under Schroeder, the Germans abdicated their foreign policy to the French) having been successfully bribed (Food for Oil connections there go into the highest levels of government) that the UN would never vote for going to war: they were formalistcally right, but didn't realize that you don't have to have approval of the UN to go to war. It's a diplomatic nicety, but it's not a necessity.

Now Iran is apparently convinced that either the Russians or the Chinese will stay bought and prevent any sort of UN sanctions, vetoing any sort of final warning.

Major miscalculation, just like Iraq.


Because of their intense desire to be taken seriously, pushing their agenda and their timing way up, well before they are really ready. They know that time really isn't on their side once their goals become clear: rather than slowing down their preparations and moving more secretly one slow step at a time - the North Korean way - they push and push and push out of political necessity: their own demographic problems point to a time in the not-so-far future when the grandchildren of the revolution enter their political majority and cannot be pushed around like the current generation.

So they make public mistakes and draw attention to their plans, just as the Iraqis did.

But in their perception of the world, where the Muslim is humiliated and downtrodden - regardless of whether this is true or not - and everyone is aligned against them - for increasignly legitimate reasons - and where the mere existence of the non-Muslim is an affront to their core beliefs - and don't believe for a second that this isn't one of the key issues here - and where the world is a zero-sum game, the leaders of Iran can't take the waiting and press on towards catastrophe.

The question is: what will the Butcher's Bill be now? The destruction of Tel Aviv-Yafo and the following destruction of Qom, Teheran, Mashad, Esfahan, Tabriz, Shiraz? Three mn Israelis and Palestinians and 16 mn Iranians?

Mittwoch, Januar 11, 2006

Marching into the Saar 2006

Ok, you think, now what?

After Hitler took power in 1933, one of his key platforms was the return of the demilitarized Saar, key industrial areas in Germany. The Allies were basically holding them to ensure that Germany met its reparation demands in full. The story of the occupation is not pleasant: French colonial troops were notorious, and both the British and the French commanders laid a heavy hand on the population.

But let's go back a moment. Germany, the German Reich, had agreed to a cease-fire that went into effect on 11 Nov 1918. In that sense, Germany didn't surrender like it did in WW2, unconditionally, but rather there was a cease fire and an agreed-upon retreat to national borders before the war. The country had, politically, collapsed: the Kaiser had abdicated, and if it wasn't for some of the classic virtues of the German - order and hierarchy - the country would've collapsed as a political entity as well. Remember, Germany didn't exist until the 1870s, and it was heavily dominated by the Prussians. Given a tad more chaos and a tad less stubbornness, and Germany might well have splintered back into petty kingdoms.

But I disgress.

Working out a peace treaty was expected, and Germans knew that it would be harsh: they knew they would lose territory and population, and that they would probably end up paying restaurations and losing the few colonies they had.

Instead, they were humiliated.

The problem lay less in the conditions that the Allies basically imposed and more in the fact that the Germans didn't anticipate being humiliated. Well, maybe not a few German politicians and diplomats: they knew how bad things were. But it was the average German didn't, nor did the vast majority of politicians. They didn't realize that Germany had been defeated, militarily, and that only the Armistace had prevented a ful-scale attack in the Spring of 1919 that would've taken the Allied armies deep into Germany.

They also mistestimated the expectations of the Allies: David Lloyd George wanted to hang the Kaiser, and Georges Clemenceau said: Le boche payera tous, the Germans will pay us. That the Germany that sat at the table in Versailles was no longer the Prussian authoritarian state, but rather a developing democracy, was something that didn't outweigh 4 long years of war and the literal destruction of an entire generation of youth.

The Allies had enough troubles agreeing among themselves what to do with the Germans that they didn't offer any room for any German counteroffers: the Germans were dictated to (and oh how Germans dislike that).

One of the many conditions dictated to the Germans was the removal of the Saar from German dominion and its exploitation by the French as part of the reparations package under control of the League of Nations. After commercial exploitation for 25 years (!) a plebescite was to be held to determine political affiliation. In addition, some fairly severe economic effects and loss of key areas - 50% of iron ore, 25% coal, 17% potato production & 13% wheat - coupled with an unknown amount of reparations (while the Brits went along, the French basically wanted the Germans to pay for the entire war) and confiscation of goods (60% coal production, 25% pharmaceuticals, all ships over 1600 tons, to start with) meant that the victors were indeed divying up the spoils (the US didn't: that's another post entirely).

But this economic humiliation wasn't enough: it was the political humiliation that alienated the German population. Key was the plan to charge the Kaiser and his generals in an international court for war crimes, and to forbid any unification between Germany and Austria.

But the Germans had no choice but to agree: the Allies had not lifted their blockade of Germany and the Germans were almost on the verge of starvation. And they, the Germans, knew that if they did not acquiesce, the plans of the Allied forces were to march into Germany and divide the country in two, northern and southern. The German army had demobilized and what little was left couldn't have prevented this from happening.

Looking back from our perspective, the Treaty of Versailles wasn't really all that bad, all things considered: however, at the time, it was seen as "Siegerjustiz" or the spoils of the victors. Germany remained united, souvereign and independent. Germany, after all, lost the war.

But the Germans had massive psychological problems with losing the war: they had high expectations of being the victors - the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71 wasn't all that long ago - and the Germans didn't realize that the terms that they now had to swallow were actually similiar to the terms that they dictated to France back then.

It's not merely a question of resentment: there was, rather, a continuous political demand that the terms be revised, and always from whatever party was in opposition.

During Weimar - and in many ways Weimar gives you the best glimpse into that tortured and complex thing called the German soul - the Allies slowly backed down and released those portions of Germany they had occupied to force reparations, leaving Zones I to III according to plan, with Zone III even being returned to German control in 1930, five years ahead of plan.

The US and Germany signed a completely separate peace, rejecting Versailles, while the French and the British insisted on the fullfillment of the treaty. This led to the final humiliation: while Germans thought 30 bn Goldmarks would be all that they could pay, the French and the Brits put their price on the war at 269 bn Goldmarks - the old Reichsmark, backed by the German gold reserves - payable over 42 years with 8% interest.

The Germans couldn't pay and the Allies occupied what became Zones I, II and III: after analysis the 269bn was dropped to 131bn. Still to large, this led to German hyperinflation and the collapse of the German economy.

Later, the Locarno Pact in 1926 and the entry of Germany into the League of Nations led to a commitment of preventing a new war, underscored by the Kellog-Briand Pact in 1928, where Germany demonstrated its will to peaceful settlement of international problems: war was to be outlawed.

Nice sentiments. As we all know, the Great Depression and German hyperinflation, coupled with ineffective politicians and parties, led to Hitler and the National Socialists. It's a very complex story and that is simplifying things enormously: suffice to say that the Nazis took over society, not merely political power. It's hard to understand how deep the Nazis took over Germany: suffice to say that there was now no aspect of poltical, economic and religious life in Germany that the Nazis did not at least have great influence on, if not control.

Keep that last point in mind: control over the society in all aspects.

Now why have I gone on for so long on this?

The populationn of the Saar voted in 1935 to remain German, but the Saar was demilitarized. On 7 March 1936 German troops marched into the Saar and (re-) occupied it, and the Allies merely protested. They were at peace; they didn't want a war; the stakes weren't that important; one just needed to understand Mr. Hitler to understand why he had to do this. Shortly thereafter: the incorporation of Austria, appeasement.

We now know that if the Allies had mobilized, if they had sent their troops back into the Saar, the German army would've turned tail and ran, because Hitler was bluffing. But by bluffing the Allies, he won major political victories that led to WW2 and megadeaths that the world has not seen since.

Remember what led to fascism in Germany: resentment, humiliation, collapse of the old order and incompetence of moderate politicians in the face of those whose sole goal is the seizure of power.

We are now once again at the same point.

The failure of the Allies to react to the remilitarization of the Saar? How about this analysis? The breaking of the UN Seals at Natanz is exactly the same political act: it is throwing down the gauntlet.

Appeasement? How about this analysis of how little Iran cares about what the West thinks. How about the collective gullability of the EU regarding Iranian nuclear plans and what they mean?

The breaking of the UN seals at Natanz is our version of German troops marching into the Saar.

And considering the similarities not only with the Ba'athists in Iraq and Syria, but also with the mullahs and the hard-wingers in Iran, we are facing the true begin of the next phase of WW3.

Do the Iranians want the destruction of their country? Of course not. But then again, that's assuming that they are rational: I'm not sure that this is the case. In any case: they are bluffing: they are, after all, fascists and think in terms of bluster and political coercion. Of removing the humiliation that they feel - rightly or not - and for revenging their feelings of resentment in political fantasies.

And just as the appeasers of the 1930s slunk away into the ash heap of history, their names forever sullied, so will it be with the current political leaders in Europe. The old order has collapsed: business as usual has led us to the current state of affairs and can't solve it. The incompetence of moderate politicians in the face of those whose sole goal is power is the current face of Europe.

How many deaths will it take for those lovely, well-meaning and gullible fools to realize, yes, once again, that the appeasement of the last 10 years has led us here? 100 mn this time? Or 200 mn? Or more?

If Iran gets away with breaking the seals at Natanz, it's merely a question of time.


Montag, Januar 09, 2006

So Who's A Terrorist?

Given the enormous difficulties that the UN has with defining terrorism, let's take a look at how the US defines it. There is, of course, the usual dictionary definition:

The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.

The key words here are unlawful: not only not legitimized by domestic law, but also under the chimera of international law, including the Geneva Conventions. Unlawful: not covered by law, not allowed by legal definitions.

But let's expand further and go to your friend and mine, WikiPedia:

Terrorism is an anxiety-inspiring method of repeated violent action, employed by (semi-) clandestine individual, group or state actors, for idiosyncratic, criminal or political reasons, whereby — in contrast to assassination — the direct targets of violence are not the main targets. The immediate human victims of violence are generally chosen randomly (targets of opportunity) or selectively (representative or symbolic targets) from a target population, and serve as message generators. Threat- and violence-based communication processes between terrorist (organization), (imperilled) victims, and main targets are used to manipulate the main target (audience(s)), turning it into a target of terror, a target of demands, or a target of attention, depending on whether intimidation, coercion, or propaganda is primarily sought,"

This is also a good starting point:

In order to cut through the Gordian definitional knot, terrorism expert A. Schmid suggested in 1992 in a report for the then UN Crime Branch that it might be a good idea to take the existing consensus on what constitutes a "war crime" as a point of departure. If the core of war crimes - deliberate attacks on civilians, hostage taking and the killing of prisoners - is extended to peacetime, we could simply define acts of terrorism as "peacetime equivalents of war crimes".

So why is this important?

Because we have the problem of terrorist support not being perceived as a crime, but instead we've got the bugaboo one side calling people terrorists and the other side calling them "freedom fighters" or other terms. I'd like to show that this is a false dichotomy and that the attempted interchangability of the two terms is a deliberate attempt to whitewash terrorist activities.

But first a connection that should be made.

This is a great post, but there is one point I'd like to expand on.

For me, this is the key quote:

...if you are a citizen you cash in your abovementioned rights by collaborating with terrorists? Yes you do. You have then become an "Agent of a foreign power" as defined under subsection (b)(2)(C). Such agents include anyone who "knowingly engages in sabotage or international terrorism, or activities that are in preparation therefor, for or on behalf of a foreign power," and even includes those who aid and abet or knowingly conspire with those engaged in such behavior.

Wait, that includes anyone, even citizens? Yes — subsection (b)(1) is the part that applies to foreigners; (b)(2) covers everybody. And the whole point of the act is to collect "foreign intelligence information," which is defined under section 1801 subsection (e)(1)(B) as "information that relates to, and if concerning a United States person is necessary to, the ability of the United States to protect against sabotage or international terrorism by a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power."

What does this mean?

That the definitional differences between those who are actively terrorists and  those who "merely" support terrorist activities doesn't really exist, except in the tortured legal arguments of those who support terrorists.

So who's a terrorist?

Anyone who thinks it's a grand idea to kill indiscriminately under cover of subterfuge, with no regard to the rules of warfare, with no regard to anything except furthering their political ambitions.

Not merely those who actually go and do the deeds: it's anyone who also supports them.

And there is a HUGE difference between freedom fighters and terrorists. It's just that those who claim there isn't are invariably on the side of the terrorists, aiding and abetting them.


None: there are so many fools out there who think it's grand when some idiot blows himself up and inflicts pain and suffering. The key point here is that no freedom fighter kills indiscriminately, unlawfully and without regard to the rules of warfare: the rules are clear on this case. I'l leave the exact work as an exercise for the reader, but suffice to say that terrorists, almost per definitio, do not play according to the rules of the game because if they do, they will lose.

And those who argue that the classic freedom fighters of the past (citizen soldiers during the War of Independence, of the Maquis during WW2) didn't play according to the rules is woefully ignorant of history.

But when did that stop the left and its apologists?

Let me expand further: terrorists are unlawful combatants.

Let's not get bogged down in the squabbling of what happens to an unlawful combatant: under the Geneva Convention, that's left to the government involved. The question is determining who is an unlawful combatant: the 1949 Geneva convention put up a four-part test.

To quote:

Article 1. The laws, rights, and duties of war apply not only to armies, but also to militia and volunteer
corps fulfilling the following conditions:
1. To be commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
2. To have a fixed distinctive emblem recognizable at a distance;
3. To carry arms openly; and
4. To conduct their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.
In countries where militia or volunteer corps constitute the army, or form part of it, they are included under the denomination "army."

There is as well Article 2, which expands on this:

Art. 2. The inhabitants of a territory which has not been occupied, who, on the approach of the enemy, spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading troops without having had time to organize themselves in accordance with Article 1, shall be regarded as belligerents if they carry arms openly and if they respect the laws and customs of war.

The key point here is that terrorists do not fulfill these tests, but "freedom fighters" in the past have done so: the Maquis in WW2 fulfilled these tests.

Terrorists do not.

Nor do their supporters.


Maybe the Chinese have now created their own worst nightmare...

This is what happens when you play escalatio with someone who is at least as technologically competent, and in this case more so.

Here we see a fairly typical case of short-sightedness and excessive belief in the status quo (i.e. that the scenarios that are postulated will come about and that the potential enemy is passive), rather than actually wargaming this out with intelligent people.

Mainland China is vastly more sensitive to infrastructure destruction than Taiwan is, simply because of the sheer size of the infrastructure needed to support over 1 bn people in comparison to that needed to support the 21 mn or so Taiwanese.

While China is threatening Taiwan with its 600 short- and medium range ballistic missiles, Taiwan is now setting up its own deterrent with several hundred indigenous cruise missiles. The difference is not merely numerical, but more fundamentally one of quality: ballistic missiles are in effect dumb bullets, since China lacks the kind of metallurgical and technical expertise needed to set up terminal guidance for ballistic missiles (the Russians can do this, and if they were to sell this technology, of course, to the Chinese, then the game is different) and hence these weapons are "only" area weapons. Cruise missiles, on the other hand, are a vastly more elegant solution and can achieve critical accuracies with marginal costs in comparison.

So what have the mainland Chinese done? They've created their own worst nightmare: if they were to attack Taiwan, then a Taiwanese counter strike is not limited to the Taiwanese air force, which would be fighting to prevent the mainland from achieving air superiority over Taiwan. Instead, the Taiwanese can target, legitimately so, mainland infrastructure supporting any attack: railheads, ports, POL and the utilitiy infrastructure. This means that the mainland has lost its relative invulnerablity: the mainland has always assumed that any counter attacks that Taiwan would undertake would be very limited and could be defended against using the literally hundreds of second-tier fighters tied into local command.

This relative sanctuary is now gone: any attack on Taiwan will require the PLA air force to dedicate as many of its first-rank fighters to anti-missile patrol, since only these fighters have a real chance of downing nap-of-the-earth cruise missile attacks. The second- and lower-rank fighters cannot win air superiority over Taiwan (the Taiwanese air force would decimate them at little cost of their own), and the use of massive ballistic attacks to eliminate the Taiwanese air force cannot, due to the nature of ballistic missiles (area weapons), be assumed to be easily achievable.

So here is an example of escalatio: Mainland China made the first move, of building up a large and threatening force of ballistic missiles, conventionally armed. Rather than acccepting the threat, Taiwan has now countered by creating its own counterforce capability that could devastate the economy of the mainland (I estimate no more than 50 successful strikes, with ca. 100 cruise missiles of the Tomahawk class, would severely impact the POL (petroleum, oil and lubricants) assets of the mainland, forcing the mainland economy to a halt. Add another 100 or so for key infrastucture (bridges and dams) and you can cripple the mainland economy to an unprecedented degree, ruining its ability to make war.

And that is what deterrence is all about.

Sonntag, Januar 08, 2006

Now This Hurts...

Not me, of course.

But this is a pretty good start of describing what is wrong with the Left these days... (tip of the hat to One Cosmos here)

At an international mental health conference today, leading authorities announced the classification of a common but heretofore unremarked, category of mental illness. The new disease is called Cognitive Disorder of Progressives- A dangerous, contagious psychiatric illness, (CDP) characterized by both emotional and cognitive dysfunction, sometimes with psychotic features.

The following information was released for mental health professionals confronted with these troublesome patients:


CDP is diagnosed by the presence of three or more of the following symptoms:

bullet utopian thinking - A delusional belief that the patient knows simple, side effect free solutions to all social problems. In some cases this is associated with psychotic delusions of grandeur.

bullet anthroplastic ideas - a delusion that behavioral conditioning, performed by the government, will cure all behavioral and social problems, i.e., will change all non-CDP people into CDP . Implicit in this delusional system is the idea that people can be "programmed" to be "perfect."

This symptom leads to a reflexive, vehement resistance by the patient to even the idea that people may have immalleable characteristics. The worst known example is that of Pol Pot, who attempted to remove all undesirable influences in the belief that the perfect socialist man would then emerge.

bullet anti-theistic rebellion - an emotional antagonism against Christianity... probably caused by an abnormal persistence of adolescent rebellion... may also be related to the need to avoid counter-arguments to desired policies (see utopiate thinking, above). This ranges from a mere antagonism to Christianity to a hatred of religions of all forms. Generally the more "western" a religion is, the more it is hated. Thus these patients may accept primitive and animalist belief systems.

bullet naturist delusion - a sincere belief that mankind is evil and nature is benign. The incidence of this symptom is inversely related to the practical experience that the patient has with nature. Self hatred is a feature in this area. Typical thinking includes a belief that mankind is a cancer on earth, and that earth (viewed as a feeling being) will retaliate with a deadly virus.

The utopian view of nature is remarkable in that most patients are also believers in evolution, which has resulted in vast amounts of suffering and cruelty in the natural arena.

bullet environmental spasm - the patient experiences episodes of manic activity on behalf of "the environment." The delusional nature of this is evidenced by the misanthropic attacks on all works of man, and also by the focus on visible or totemic objects... for example, the Mount Graham Red Squirrel or the Spotted Owl.

An example of the paradoxical nature of these delusions is given by the Red Squirrel and the Santa Barbara Sand Fly. The Squirrel, a subspecies of the very common Red Squirrel, is fought for aggressively, while the Sand Fly, equally at risk and a truly distinct species, inspires little passion.

The patient usually is obsessed only with cute or cuddly animals, which is probably a displacement of the nurturing urge, itself unfulfilled due to abortion.

bullet control obsession - this is the tendency of the patient to strive for excessive control over others, through government action. This is probably a projection of an unconscious fear of losing control over ones' self, even though the conscious manifestation is viewed as "compassion."

bullet racist/feminist hypocrisy - the patient passionately advocates discrimination based on sex or race, while loudly proclaiming opposition to policies which are "racist" or "sexist."

bullet overemotional perceptions - the patient is far more concerned with how a social action "looks" or "feels," and resists or denies objective evidence to the contrary, This also leads to very superficial cognition about matters of significant impact, as the patient merely gets the "feel" of the issue rather than truly understanding it.

bullet sexual dysfunction - the patient is highly anxious about sexual matters, and this is manifested as:
  1. Obsession with sexual and gender roles.
  2. Passionate embrace of most non-traditional sexual preferences.
  3. A need to define individuals by their gender or sexual preference, and make social policy as if everyone were equally obsessed.
  4. A need to constantly push the envelope of indecent art.

Like other disorders such as alcoholism, most suffering is experienced by those who have to live with the afflicted. Secondary suffering is incurred by a society damaged by policies advocated by these patients.

What more can you say? Accurate: I especially like the word Anthroplastic. :-)

But seriously: it's nice to see that Bush Derangement Syndrome is merely one aspect of this disorder...

And I just checked: this is from 1996 and predates BDS. Hence the CDP has been identified as a problem significantly earlier than BDS...