Mittwoch, Dezember 19, 2007

Now this is embarrassing...

This was in today's WSJ.

It's one of the more embarrassing articles I've ever seen: Pete du Pont is usually much better than this.

The gist of the article is that the developing world wants the industrialized world to grow slower so that the developing world gets a larger share of world growth, and is using Bali and the worthless pieces of paper signed there to force slower growth in the industrialized countries.

This is so obviously wrong that it is embarrassing.

First of all, growth is not a zero-sum game: world growth is NOT distributed automagically by the gnomes in Zürich, aided by the Bilderberg Secretariat and the Masons. It's simply the value added in production, in economic activities, and how it changes from year to year.

Second, what are the major markets for goods from the developing world?

That's right, the industrialized countries. They are, after all, the ones with the money.

So according to Pete, the developing countries want the industrialized countries to grow slower so that the developing countries can have a bigger slice of the pie, but that would mean that the developing countries would see demand from their key markets slow, making it harder for them to grow. Wait a second, how does that work...

This is embarrassing. Pete, what were you thinking???

The only reason that the conference in Bali led to the result it did is that it is the environmental movement and its hysteria that wants growth in the industrialized countries to slow. But this is first and foremost not a question of whether there is too much growth, but more fundamentally a question of control.

If the environmentalists gain control over investment decisions, over allocation decisions, over decisions that are best made in the market, they will gain control, indirectly, over the means of production, achieving via deception what communists and other leftists have been trying to do for the last 90 years.

The irony of this is that the environmentalists are truly, truly clueless when it comes to choosing the optimum for dealing with scarce resources. This is the field of economics, not environmentalists: placing an absolute value on "the fate of mother earth" means nothing less than subjugating all human activities to that goal, starting with economics, but scarcely ceasing there.

This is where the environmentalists simply do not understand what is meant by consumption, nor do they understand the role of innovation and technological development. Consumption doesn't destroy natural resources: it transforms them. Consumption is the purchase of goods and services by consumers: it is not the destruction of raw materials. Industrial metals are already heavily recycled, because it makes eminent economic sense to do so: when you buy copper pipes, the chance that these are made of virgin copper is small. Moreover, the copper isn't destroyed when it is transformed from scrap copper to copper pipes, but rather transformed: when they are replaced, they will also be recycled.

Faced with scarcity, humans have always found ways around a lack of raw materials, a lack of space, a lack of skills. Japan has virtually no raw materials, but is an industrialized society because its people were forced, as it were, to do more with less. Forbidding this, by making it impossible to innovate to meet consumer demands, is a path to stagnation. Stagnation, economically, is a catastrophe, as it is only by adding value that you can create capital. Stagnant economies are poor economies, with little chance for improvement.

The environmentalists want to keep you poor, under control and there are not a few who don't want to see you even live.

Sonntag, Dezember 16, 2007

Let's Not Forget This...

One of the persons who drove me to blog no longer does. Steve den Beste was, nomen est omen, one of the best out there, and here's a link to his best.

Most of his writing has to do with international politics until 2004, when he stopped blogging for health reasons.

To put it simply, the watermelons of our time (green on the outside, red on the inside) are trying, once again, desperately, to bind and control. As in my last post, I said I would talk of the GWB, Global Warming Business, but let me use this post to lead to that one.

Let's remember what "international law" actually means: it is in and of itself a chimera, it means exactly what the sayer intends it to mean, since there is in and of itself no such thing.

To repeat: "international law" is a crock. If there is anything even remotely approaching international law, it is the set of treaties that state that the signatories agree to behave in the way and manner described, with a set of conditions for entering, following and leaving said treaties. This isn't my definition alone: see here for more.

That is, bluntly, the entire meaning of "international law". Nothing is written in stone, nothing beyond what is stated in those treaties means anything.

Why is this?

Because there is no international law. International law doesn't imply international courts - that's the other way around - but rather international law implies international law-givers, those that make the laws.

The UN is not that body. There is a World Court attached to the UN, but it deals with UN-specific questions and problems and derives its authority from the UN: only states agreeing to bind themselves to the decisions of the court are subject to the authority of that court. The US withdrew its agreement to be bound in 1986 in the wake of increasing politicization of the court's decisions. The World Court is weak: it can only make judgements based on political willingness to obey the court's decisions. This doesn't happen much: the US, for instance, tried to use the court to condemn Iran for illegally seizing US diplomats in 1980, but this failed; the court is and remains, fundamentally, political, as it needs the UN Security Council to back up its decisions.

The EU is also not that body. Really, there is no body, no political group out there that has the mandate to be the international law-givers, the ones who develop and codify the laws.

What is law anyway?

According to Merriam-Webster Online, law is a binding custom or practice of a community, a rule of conduct or action prescribed or formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority .

That is the key word: controlling authority.

Let's go back, then to Kyoto. Kyoto has meaning only for those who signed up for it.

The follow-on, Bali, led to a non-binding commitment to reduce greenhouse gases, non-binding in the sense that there were no set goals to be met. Almost anything qualifies, which means that the agreement is nothing but smoke and mirrors.

My point right now is that within the realm of international law there is no controlling authority, no law-givers, no court system in place that has any sort of utility, legitimation or weight of law that has any existence beyond the voluntary agreement of all parties involved, and that the latter, the voluntary agreement, is only good as long as those involved actually live up to their agreements.

Let's simply not forget this as we talk about the GWB. It's critical to understanding how truly absurd the rhetoric is, how toothless the agreements are, and how other countries simply ignore what doesn't work, ignoring the spirit and letter of "international law" for their own national benefit.

Mittwoch, Dezember 12, 2007

Connecting the dots...

Following up on my previous post - where it is made clear that part of the GWB is to scare the public - here is some more evidence of the outright fraud that is the GWB.

First of all we have this: a senior reviewer of the IPCC points out how the process of "peer" review at the IPCC has become fundamentally corrupt and is driven by politics, and that it should be abolished in disgrace.

Next we have this: the IPCC reverses the usual peer-review method (criticisms must be answered before publication) by rejecting criticisms, rejecting between 10% and over 58% of the criticisms of individual sections, averaging 25% for the IPCC as a whole. The peer-review process was reduced to a travesty, resulting not in true peer-review - challenging the basic assumptions, methodology and results - but rather in a white-wash, allowing criticisms of style and prose, but not any challenges to the fundamental opinions that drove the report. That is not peer-review, that is political misuse of the peer-review process. Again, to make it clear: the peer-review of the IPCC served no other purpose than to create an illusion of scientific review. It did not allow any - repeat, any - criticism of the data, methods or conclusions of the IPCC.

Adding to at least my dismay, we also have this : the deliberate vilification of anyone in the climate sciences area that dares to challenge the dogma of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). This goes beyond the usual name-calling of academia to the use of "climate change deniers" in the same sense as one refers to "holocaust deniers" as part of a concerted attempt to suppress critics, as well as calls for treating critics as traitors and even criminals for daring to hold a different opinion. Add to that the official censoring not of the proponents of AGW - Hansen has never been censored, despite his claims - but of their critics, and a disturbing picture emerges.

The IPCC is an outright scientific fraud, put together by the GWB in order for them to gain as much control over decision-making as possible on a global basis.

According to this, the warming stopped eight years ago in contradiction to all expectations. The data is fundamentally in question (see here for many articles on the problems that face the data, not the least of which is the deliberate falsifications of Mann et al to create the hockey stick). The methodology is also fundamentally in question (as can be seen here), and the results are driven by a political agenda, as can be seen by the IPCC process.

Now, what is that political agenda?

First of all, it's all about politics. Kyoto has been and continues to be a farce: as you can see here, even those governments claiming to be meeting their Kyoto goals are lying about it. As the writer of that post puts it: carbon emissions are a proxy measure for economic growth.

So what is the political agenda: it is one of control.

Control of growth, which necessarily means the control of the means of production. Sound familiar? I thought so.

What we're looking at is a concerted effort to create a world government, not by popular vote or by acceding to some sort of world federation, but rather by achieving control over the world's economies through the creation of a global boogeyman called global warming.

More on the GWB to follow...

Mittwoch, Dezember 05, 2007

The Key To Understanding Global Warming...

Martin Wolf, of the FT, has this to say.

He says a good number of right and proper things in that column, not the least of which is this:

In short, if they are to tolerate radical change in energy use, people must first be frightened and then they must be offered a good way out.

This is the key to understanding the whole Global Warming Business, of GWB. Now, isn't that an ironic acronym?

I'd just change that thought a tad:

In short, if they are to tolerate radical change in the way they live, people must first be frightened and then they must be offered our way out.

Not that it's necessarily Wolf's way: by "our" I mean those in the Global Warming Business or GWB.

It's one thing to understand that there is climate change and that human activity may contribute to it: duh.

It's a completely different thing to understand that this has been hijacked by vested interests that have no compunctions about lying about the basic science and lying about the basic data.

Don't think they do?

Lying about basic science: Mann's hockey stick, based on statistical methods that leads to the results regardless of what numbers are input.

Lying about basic data: that none of the long-term models are based on actual data, but rather on proxies, and that the proxies used for temperature changes are inappropriate because they reflect not temperature change, but rather changes in rain patterns (tree-rings).

My real, real problem with the entire GWB is that it is designed to take the maximum amount of money out of your pockets and put in the pockets of those selling snake oil.

And don't think for a moment that there is anything we can do to stop climate change: people are talking of spending billions, if not trillions, of dollars to achive changes that lie within the statistical variance.

That, my readers, coming from someone with 20 years of forecasting experience, is a waste in effort.

But first, let's frighten everyone so that they start obeying us.

That alone is the core of the entire driving force behind the GWB.

Oh, and as a postscript: Germany reaches its goal because of an accident of history: by choosing the base year of 1990, Germany get the benefit of including the output of inefficient, polluting East German industries in its base. By simply closing those down, it cannot but help be the once country with the greatest reductions. And they were closed down not for ecological reasons, but for strictly commercial reasons.

Sonntag, Dezember 02, 2007

Around and Around and Around We Go...

Even the French have come to see what the Iranians are up to: they aren't going to be bothered listening to the West. Why should they? The sanctions are annoying, but do not threaten the power of the mullahs in that country. Iran is clearly, clearly without a doubt, planning on acquiring the entire spectrum of nuclear technology, with the veneer of civilian power generation, but in reality seeking the holy grail - if you'll pardon the term in use with an Islamic theocracy - of nuclear weapons.

Here's the key quote:

The French official described the meeting as "a disaster," adding "Jalili essentially said, 'Everything that Larijani has proposed is a dead letter and we have to start from zero.'"

The official also said that Mr. Jalili had declared, "There is no longer an Iranian nuclear problem," and had added that the only interlocutor recognized by Iran from now on would be the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The hard-line position from the Iranian side was clear confirmation that Iran would not compromise on this issue, the French official said, adding, "We have in front of us the real Iran."

We have in front of us the real Iran. Indeed. This is a classic way of buying time in political discussions: just when it appears that talks would actually start, stop them by starting over again by assigning someone new. We can only hope that the West recognizes this for what it is: a blatant attempt to buy time on the part of the Iranians in order to get the time they need. They now say that they will only talk with the IAEA, which is a shrewd move: calling the Iranian's bluff would mean that the UN will have to grow a pair, and that has been successfully bred out of the UN.

I've said this again and again: this is what they want, this is what they need, and it will cost lives to stop them. It boils down to the hard question: whose lives? If Iran does what it says it will do, it will destroy Israel, who will destroy Iran, killing dozens of millions. The core of the Israeli nation remembers מצדה. For those who don't know Hebrew, that is Masada.

So, here's the problem: I think it is reasonable to believe that Iran is building the infrastructure for nuclear weapons. It is also reasonable to believe that Iran will behave as its leaders say, that Iran intends to eliminate Israel from the world map. It is also reasonable to believe that Israel knows this. What do you do?

There are only three choices: you change Iran's drive to acquire nuclear weapons, you change Iran's intentions or you change Israel's existence.

There are diplomatic and military options. There is the option of genocide.

The diplomatic options are running out: we see as per ut supra that Iran has no intention of discussing their acquisition plans, nor have they shown any interest in changing their intentions.

That will leave military options. That will leave the option of genocide. To destroy Iran as a functioning country, all you need is between 14 and 20 20 kt warheads, which would reduce the nation of Iran from its current population of 71mn down to around 10mn. It would destroy all major cities in Iran, destroy the infrastructure of the country, and Iran after the strike would resemble Afghanistan after the Soviets withdrew.

Of course, if Iran were to use but one warhead against Israel, that destroy the Israeli state as well: a 15kt warhead exploded on the ground in Tel Aviv would rip the heart out of Gush Dan, the major population and administrative center of Israel, killing hundreds of thousands, and if accompanied by a major Iran-proxy attack from Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon, could seriously place the existence of Israel as a functioning state in question.

This is not speculation: this is reality. The Israelis can destroy Iran; Iran, when it gets the bomb, can destroy Israel. Only irrational people commit genocide.

But remember that Masada wasn't a Jewish victory. It was a bitter defeat by an enemy who made defense virtually impossible by using Jewish slaves to build a rampart up to the gates of the city, making it impossible for the devoutly religious defenders to kill them. Realizing that they would fall, they chose death instead.

The Middle East is being remade before our eyes: we have, fundamentally, won in Iraq, bringing hope to the downtrodden Arab masses. Will this be destroyed by Iran? If the spasm comes - and can anyone really think at this point that it isn't? - what will happen?

Obviously, oil prices will explode, since Iran will disappear as an oil supplier. It will be the end of the age of oil. Those countries with strong nuclear infrastructures - France, Russia - will do well. Those with moderate alternatives will not. It won't mean megadeath in the West - of millions dying of starvation - but it will mean impoverishment and the virtual collapse of world trade. The world lives on oil, it is the lubrication that keeps the machinery of the world working.

The real problem is that the Iranians don't care about that. They are deeply and fundamentally irresponsible and irrational, and for hat reason alone should have their hands kept off the nuclear option.

Will the West get its shit together and really do the last possible diplomatic move, of extreme sanctions and blockade of Iran? That could destroy the government of the mullahs and make it possible to defuse the situation. But it means extreme sacrifice of the public, as refusing to buy Iranian oil means that oil prices will boom even further, and the public will bear the burden. That is the greatest weakness of the West, that public opinion drives policy.

Will the public accept high oil prices, inflation, economic dislocation to prevent Iran from nuking Israel? Which opportunistic group of politicians would quickly kowtow to Iran to break the blockade?

Around and around and around we go...

Samstag, Dezember 01, 2007

Muhabbet means what he says...

Hi -

Well, taking a moment here off from reality - which intrudes a lot lately - to cover something in a recent OpEd in the FAZ. It can be found here. Of course, that's in German, so it won't help a lot of y'all.

Who is Muhabbet? He's the son of Turkish immigrants into Germany who was born in Cologne but now lives in Berlin. He's a musician. He basically does what passes for Rap in Germany. I'm no expert on this genre...

Well, first a bit of background.

The leading parties in Germany are desperately in search of something called "multi-culti" or multicultural society, which in Germany means one where immigrants and Germans live alongside each other in tolerance and acceptance.

Nice work if you can get it: it doesn't work, despite the at times desperate attempts to pay off the immigrant communities and try and get them out of their ghettos. There is an official Germany and an unofficial Germany. The former has everyone living in peace and harmony, the latter has extremely high levels of crime and ghettoed communities where immigrants, unable to "become" Germans, are now living in their 3rd generation, either working menial jobs or living off the dole. Usually the latter, as many have the attitude that they deserve high-paying jobs because they're a minority, rather than doing it the "German" way by schooling, education and hard work. While Germany itself is a largely homogeneous, well-off society, the fact that they've imported an increasing minority which is anything but homogeneous or well-off is something that has been an active lie in German politics for the last 4 decades.

Esther Schapira, who wrote the article in the FAZ, found that Muhabbet, after Theo van Gogh was murdered, said that he'd have done the same and would've tortured van Gogh if he had had the chance: two other witnesses corroborate the story.

Muhabbet recorded a song with the foreign ministers of Germany and France against violence, etc. Steinmeier, the German foreign minister - well, not for long, as he's becoming vice chancellor - has not disavowed him after this became public, but has instead dismissed this, pointing to Muhabbet's "good works" since then, largely centered on Muhabbet playing the role of token minority, singing and dancing to quiet the natives.

That sounds harsh, but that is exactly what he does: his role is to placate immigrant minorities so that the German political parties won't have to deal with the massive problem that Germany has with immigrant minorities. Nothing more, nothing less. His reward is publicity, record contracts, "making it" in German society.

Well, that last is probably not much of a real reward, perhaps more of a curse. But you get there general idea.

So, what does Esther Shapira write now?

Natürlich darf ein Politiker singen. Auch mit einem Rapper im Tonstudio. Warum das aber ein Beitrag zur sozialen Integration junger Deutscher sein soll, verstehe ich nicht. Entweder sind die Zuhörer so integriert, dass sie wissen, wer Herr Steinmeier ist: Dann brauchen sie diese Gesangsübung aber nicht, um sich als vollwertiges Mitglied der deutschen Gesellschaft zu fühlen. Oder das Land, in das einst ihre Eltern einwanderten und in dem sie geboren wurden, ist ihnen nie zur Heimat geworden: Dann aber werden sie sich eher ausgegrenzt fühlen, wenn der Außen- und eben nicht der Innenminister ihnen versichert, dass sie dazugehören. Jene aber, die vom Märtyrertod träumen, sind mit solchen Späßen ohnehin nicht zu erreichen.

In English:

Of course a politician may sing. Even with a rapper in a recording studio. I just don't understand how this can be part of socially integrating young Germans. Either the listeners are integrated and know who Steinmeier is, but then they don't need these vocal exercises in order to feel that they are a full member of German society. Or, alternatively, the country that their parents emigrated to and where they were born has never been their home. If that's the case, then they will feel even more alienated, since it should be the interior minister, and not the foriegn minister, telling them that they belong here. Anyone, however, who dreams of a martyr's death, can't be reached by such silliness in any case.

This is, of course, absolutely correct: the show being put on has nothing to do with integrating the children of immigrants, it has everything to do with whitewashing the failure of German politics to come to terms with the monster that their forefathers created by allowing immigration with absolutely no concept of integration. You can't integrate people into society by saying "Hi, welcome aboard, here's your job": that creates workers, but not citizens.

Wie groß die heimliche Armee dieser „heiligen Krieger" ist und wie viele unheimliche Sympathisanten es gibt, die das Grundgesetz durch die Scharia ersetzen möchten, weiß keiner. Vielleicht gehört der junge Mann dazu, der mir vor kurzem in Frankfurt begegnete: kurze Haare, kurzgeschnittener Vollbart. An der Hand hielt er seine Frau. Er musste sie durch das Gedränge führen, denn ihr selbst war unter der Burka die Sicht nahezu versperrt. Gern hätte ich sie gefragt, wie freiwillig sie ihr Gewand trug, aber da waren die beiden auch schon in der Menge verschwunden. Frankfurt am Main ist die multikulturellste Stadt Deutschlands. Vierzig Prozent ihrer Einwohner und sogar siebzig Prozent der Neugeborenen im vergangenen Jahr haben einen Migrationshintergrund. Die liberale Tradition meiner Heimatstadt will ich mir von Anhängern totalitärer Ideologien nicht kaputtmachen lassen - und mag weder den Anblick rechter Skins in Springerstiefeln wortlos hinnehmen noch den von Frauen, die im Stoffkäfig durch die Stadt geführt werden.

How large is this secret Army of "holy warriors, and how many disturbing supporters are there, those that want to replace the German Basic Law with the Sharia? No one knows. Maybe the young man who I saw in Frankfurt recently belongs to them: short hair, trimmed full beard. He was holding his wife by the hand. He had to, since he had to navigate through the crowd, while she was covered by a burka and couldn't see where to go. I wanted to ask her, was she wearing that of her own free will, but both had disappeared in the crowd. Frankfurt am Main is the multi-cultural capital of Germany. whith 40% of the population and no less than 70% of new births in the last year coming from an immigrant background. I will not let the liberal tradition of my home town be destroyed by devotees of a totalitarian ideology, and dislike the sight of right-wing skinheads in jump boots as little as I like the sight of women led around town in fabric cages by their captors.

Now, I don't live directly in Frankfurt, but not far, and Frankfurt is indeed a melting pot. Or rather, it could have been one, it should have been one. Instead, Frankfurt is a stratified society, with money living in the "good neighborhoods" and the unwanted masses living in substandard, run-down housing - apartments that haven't been redone since the 1950s - and whose daily lives are spent dodging the bullets of criminality, hopelessness and resignation. The average immigrant isn't the rapper that Steinmeier et al are playing with, but rather someone who works the shit jobs that Germans don't want to do. The Germans don't want to integrate these folks into their society: they want them to do the dirty work and stay invisible.

I say that as someone who is an immigrant into Germany. I've been in Germany as a foreign resident for almost 25 years now, and in two years will have spent half of my life here - something I never saw coming - and while I have the enormous fortune of not doing the dirty work, I know that my role is to stay invisible. I can live with that: I'm a guest here.

Es mangelt mir zunehmend an jener Gelassenheit, die der Außenminister einfordert, wenn er verlangt, „unaufgeregt" damit umzugehen, dass sein Gesangspartner Muhabbet den brutalen Mord am niederländischen Filmemacher Theo van Gogh gebilligt hat. Ich rege mich auf. Ich werde die Bilder dieser hinterhältigen Schlachtung einfach nicht los. Theo van Gogh wurde am helllichten Tag auf offener Straße massakriert. Er radelte ahnungslos in sein Büro, als der Täter aus nächster Nähe auf ihn schoss, ihm dann mit einer Machete die Kehle durchschnitt und ihm am Ende mit einem Filetiermesser einen Brief in die Brust rammte: eine Kriegserklärung an den Westen, den Geist der Aufklärung, an uns alle.

What I can't abide any more is the calm that the foreign minister demands when he insists that we don't get upset that his singing partner Muhabbet approved of the brutal murder of the Dutch Filmmaker Theo van Gogh. I'm upset. I can't forget the pictures of the ambush and the slaughter. Theo van Gogh was massacred in public in the middle of the day, in the middle of a street. He was just riding his bike to his office, as the murderer shot him at close range, then cut his throat with a machete and then used a filet knife to pin a note into his breast, ramming it to the hilt: that was a declaration of war, a declaration against the spirit of enlightenment, against all of us.

Amen. The call for calm is the desperate call to deny that the problems exist, to deny that there are problems that need to be resolved: you can't put problems off forever, as much as that appeals to the German character.

Ich nehme diese Kriegserklärung ernst. Ich rege mich auf über notorische Verharmloser, für die nicht wahr ist, was nicht wahr sein soll. Auch mir fällt es schwer einzugestehen, wie viel Intoleranz und welches Gewaltpotential sich aus vermeintlicher Toleranz munter entwickeln konnte. Politiker aber müssen sich der Realität stellen, nicht sie verleugnen. Ich rege mich auf, wenn Frauen und Schwule von muslimischen Machos bedroht werden, wenn Kritiker des politisch-militanten Islams Polizeischutz brauchen und einem unterwürfigen Leisetreterdialog das Wort geredet wird.

I take this declaration of war seriously. I am angry about those who routinely, notoriously, claim that it's all hamless, for whom nothing can be that shouldn't be. I find it hard to admit, how much intolerance and potential for violence apparently develops from supposed tolerance. Politicians have to face reality and not deny it. I am angry, when women and gays are threatened by macho muslims, when critics of politically militant Islam need police protection and when everyone talks of stepping lightly as a form of dialog.

Amen to that: there are far too many people in Germany who deny reality. They deny that Socialism doesn't work, can't work, will never work; they deny that the German schools are designed for the needs of the teachers, rather than the students; they deny that Germany is a stratified class society. They deny that anything can be wrong with inviting millions of people to come live and work in Germany, yet fail to integrate them in any meaningful way, and they deny that Germany continually and repeatedly fails to live up to its obligations in the international community. Germany could be a source of great positive force in world politics, but fails to do so because that would be taking risks...

Der Außenminister mahnte, keine Ursache dafür zu geben, „dass diejenigen Schaden nehmen, die sich eine Zusammenarbeit mit uns vorstellen können". Seither frage ich mich: Müssen wir dankbar sein, dass mit uns geredet wird, und wer bitte sind „die", und wer ist „uns"? Theo van Goghs Mörder war ein Niederländer: Mohammed Bouyeri, geboren und aufgewachsen in Amsterdam, Sohn marokkanischer Einwanderer, sechsundzwanzig Jahre alt. Auf welche Seite also gehört Bouyeri? „Sie" oder „wir"? Gehören er und Muhabbet demselben Kollektiv an? Muhabbet ist kein Extremist. Er ist Mainstream.

The foreign minister warns against assigning causes, which might lead to damaging those, who can imagine cooperating with us. Since hearing that, I ask: must we be thankful that anyone talks to us, and please, who is "anyone" and who is "us"? Theo van Goghs murderer was a Dutchman: Mohammed Bouyeri, born and raised in Amsterdam, the son of Moroccan immigrants, 26 years old. Which side did he belong to? "Them" or "us"? Does he and Muhabbet belong to the same collective? Muhabbet is not an extremist. He is the mainstream.

This is one of the key points she makes here: that we, the West, have lots of problems with a religion that makes no difference between politics and religion, or indeed religion and anything else.

Die klare Trennung zwischen Integrierten und Islamisten gibt es nicht. Unverbunden stehen bei vielen widersprüchliche Gefühle lange Zeit nebeneinander. Acht Jahre dauerte etwa die Entwicklung Mohammed Bouyeris von einem sympathischen Jugendlichen zum islamistischen Killer. Acht Jahre, in denen er sich nicht versteckte. Die Jeans ersetzte er durch eine Djellaba, trug Kopfbedeckung und einen Vollbart. Und seine Überzeugung schleuderte er seiner Umwelt immer wütender entgegen. Doch keiner nahm davon Notiz.

A clear differentiation between integrated and islamist muslim does not exist. A lack of distinction means that many contradictory feelings can exist next to each other for a long time. It took eight years for the development of Mohammed Bouyeris from a friendly kid to an islamist killer. Eight years during which he did not hide. He replaced his jeans with the djellaba, covered his head, grew a full beard. And he threw his conviction, his beliefs with increasing anger against his environment. Nobody noticed.

Here again she is completely right: I've also seen the transition from a peaceful, quite philosophy student to an intolerant, arrogant macho who despised anyone who did not convert to Islam. It's not something that is hidden, but it's just as insidious as the transformation of someone into a racist.

Auch deshalb halte ich es für falsch, Muhabbets Äußerungen als privates Tischgespräch zu verharmlosen. Der junge Mann weiß, was er sagt. Er ist volljährig und hat ein Anrecht darauf, ernst genommen zu werden. Alles andere ist Rassismus. Es gibt keinen Kulturbonus für Intoleranz und auch keine mildernden Umstände für leicht kränkbare Machos. Auch ich bin ständig mit Äußerungen konfrontiert, die ich unerträglich finde als Frau, als Demokratin - darunter übrigens auch Songtexte von Muhabbet und ignorante Ministeräußerungen.

This is another reason I think it is wrong to discount what Muhabbet has said as some sort of private discussion. The young man knew exactly what he said. He is an adult and has a right to be taken seriously. Anything else is racist. There is no cultural bonus for intolerance and no special circumstances for easily angered machos. I am also confronted with speech that I find intolerable as a woman - among other things, the song texts from Muhabbet and the sayings of ignorant government ministers.

Bingo! This is a classic denial syndrome, that someone's statements, someone's political posturing simply can't be, that the political other can't be taken seriously. That is insulting and demeaning, and is counter-productive.

Appeasement ist gefährliche Überheblichkeit. Weil es die Wut derer, auf die pädagogisch herablassend geschaut wird, nur steigert. Ängstliches Wegducken wird als Toleranz ausgegeben. Das ist nicht nur feige und unmoralisch, weil es unsolidarisch gegenüber mutigen Kritikern wie Ayaan Hirsi Ali ist, die die Errungenschaften der Aufklärung unter Lebensgefahr verteidigen - sondern auch dumm. Der radikale Islam nämlich bezieht seine Stärke aus unserer Schwäche. So wie jeder Amokläufer sich genüsslich ausmalt, selbst Richter über Leben und Tod zu werden, so berauschen sich junge muslimische Männer an der Vorstellung, wie die „Feinde des Islams" ihnen ausgeliefert sind, wie etwa Theo van Gogh im eigenen Keller gefoltert worden wäre vor seiner Ermordung. Nicht der Tod, die Erniedrigung steht im Vordergrund.

Appeasement is dangerous pride, hubris. Because it aggravates the anger of those who are looked down upon by the appeaser. Frightened ducking is sold as being tolerant. That is not only cowardly and amoral, because it lacks solidarity with courageous critics like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who defend the achievements of the Enlightenment under life-threatening circumstances, it is plain and simply dzumb. Radical islam draws its strength from our weakness. Just as anyone running amok takes pleasure in being the judge of life and death, young muslim men take pleasure in the fantasy that the "enemies of Islam" are delivered to them for judgement, such as the fantasy of torturing Theo van Gogh in his own basement before his murder. It is not death, but debasement that is of prime importance.

Again, bingo. Appeasement is a uniquely liberal attitude, a mixture of denial and refusal to believe that one can be confonted with such absurdity. Appeasement, of tossing things to the ravenous wolves in a pathetic attemt to make them happy, only increases appetites and feeds anger and resentment. It achieves the exact opposite of what the appeaser tries to achieve, and I am firmly convinced that appeasers are directly responsible for the deaths of millions in WW2. Pacificism in the face of fascism and aggression leads to slavery and death.

Der Weg von derartigen, äußerst populären Größenphantasien zur Mitgliedschaft im Terrornetzwerk der Al Qaida ist lang, aber am Anfang steht modisch kokettierendes Posing mit den Parolen und Insignien des radikalen Islams. Dessen Diktion ist eine befremdliche Mischung aus pathetischem Herrschaftsanspruch und Gemeinschaftsgedanke, also die Betonung der Überlegenheit des Islams als einzig wahrer Religion und der Solidarität der „Umma", der Gemeinschaft aller gläubigen Muslime. Wanderprediger reisen durch Europa und halten Ausschau nach jungen Muslimen, die sich für den Dschihad rekrutieren lassen. Die Kriegserklärung der Islamfaschisten richtet sich gegen uns alle. Die Front in diesem Krieg verläuft zwischen den Gegnern der Aufklärung und ihren Verteidigern - nicht zwischen dem Islam und dem Westen. Das definiert die Grenze zwischen „ihnen" und „uns".

The path from such extremely popular fantasies about ascendence and greatness to membership in the terror network of al Qaida is a long one, but the first step is the fashionable, playful posing with the solgans and insignia of radical Islam. That is an alienating mixture of pathetic demands for power and communal thinking, with the emphasis on the superiority of Islam as the one true religion and the solidarity of the "Umma", the community of all believing muslims. Wandering preachers travel through Europe and are on the look for young muslims that can be recruited for Johad. The declaration of war by the Islamofascists is against us all. The front in this war runs between the opponents of the enlightenment and its defenders, not between Islam and the West. That defines the border between "them" and "us".

It is dangerous for fashion designers and purveyors of popular culture to make the trappings of fascism and totalitarianism "fashionable", acceptable and even popular. It makes those things that represent evil to be harmless, and the perception of evil as something harmless is exactly what evil wants and needs in order to survive and flourish...

Wir dürfen kein Terrain preisgeben. Die Frage, ob jemand gekränkt wird, ob also eine Veröffentlichung den Straftatbestand der Beleidigung erfüllt, können getrost Gerichte klären. Die Angst vor der Gewalt eines aufgepeitschten Mobs darf jedenfalls kein Argument sein. Nur wenn wir unsere Freiheit verteidigen, werden wir andere dafür begeistern können. Nicht durch ängstliches Zurückweichen. Für die Errungenschaften der Aufklärung sind Menschen auf den Scheiterhaufen der Inquisition verbrannt worden. Doch warum sollte, was dem Christentum möglich war - die Aussöhnung von Glauben und Vernunft -, nicht auch dem Islam gelingen? Aufklärung aber muss erkämpft werden: durch heftige Debatten, mit zäher Geduld, mit Mut. Und jene, die bereit sind, diesen Kampf zu führen, brauchen zumindest ein Umfeld, das sie unterstützt und ihnen größtmöglichen Schutz gewährt. Mit Appeasement, mit einer Politik der Beschwichtigung und der Verdrängung dagegen stärken wir die Gegner unserer Freiheit.

We cannot afford to give up any terrain. The question whether someone is insulted, whether someone in their speech meets the legal definition of insult, is something that courts can easily deal with. The fear of the violence of a infuriated mob cannot be an argument. Only when we defend our freedom can we convince others for the same, and this cannot be done by slinking away, afraid. People were burned at the stake achieving the enlightenment. If the key developmen can be achieved by Christianity - the reconciliation between belief and reason - what can this not be reached by Islam? Enlightenment must be fought for: by intensive debate, by extreme patience, with courage. And each and every one, who is prepared to fight this fight, needs at the very least an environment which supports them and provides the best possible protection. With appeasement, with a policy of discounting and denial, we only strengthen the enemies of our freedom.

GIven the European commitment to enlightenment and true tolerance, the demand that Islam also make that commitment is legitimate and necessary. Denying the protection of the law to those who are standing up to fascism and its supporters is tantamount to the state saying that it does not care. That is the most dangerous of developments.

Wir haben schon lange nicht mehr die Wahl, ob wir diesen Kampf führen wollen oder nicht, denn wir sind mittendrin. Deutschland ist ein Einwanderungsland, und ein erheblicher Teil der Einwanderer waren und sind Muslime. Ihre Kinder sind Deutsche, deutsche Muslime. Sie werden nicht gnädig geduldet, sie gehören dazu. Mit allen Rechten und Pflichten. Aber wer zu Recht ernst genommen werden will, der kann sich aus dieser Debatte nicht heraushalten. Die Muslime in Europa müssen Stellung beziehen. Sie müssen klären, wer den Koran richtig zitiert, die Dschihadisten oder jene, die beteuern, Islam heiße Frieden.

It's no longer the case of choosing whether we want to fight this fight, that's been long decided. We are in the middle of the fight. Germany is a land of immigrants, and a significant number of immigrants are muslims. Their children are Germans, German muslims. They are not someone who has to be tolerated, they are a part of our society. With all rights and duties. However, if anyone wants to be taken serously, they cannot avoid this debate. The muslims in Europe have to show their true colors. They must make it clear who is quoting the Q'uran correctly: the jihadists or those who claim that Islam means peace.

That is a key point: people have to make the decision which side they are on. But that is not the key point here.

What is key is that most Germans deny that Germany has become a land of immigrants. And that their children are German. My children were born in Germany, but they are not German: for that to be the case, I would have to be married to a German, which I am not. That is the legal situation: the law, in this case, serves to perpetuate the mythology that Germany isn't a land of immigrants.

Germany is. People born here are effectively Germans. German politicians deny this, the law denies this, but this is reality. Germany has been a country of immigrants from the very beginning, importing Polish workers during industrialization, Italians and Yugoslavs during rebuilding, Turks and Eastern Europeans during the Wirtschaftswunder years, and today desperately trying to attract highly qualified workers to meet the shortfall in Germans. This is the reality of the situation, but Germans and Germany as a whole doesn't see itself as a land of immigrants.

And while some go out of their way to make immigrants comfortable, the vast majority can't abide the thought that Gemany not only is country that needs immigrants, but more importantly can't abide the thought that Germany can't operate without them. So they deny it, hide it, pretend that it isn't a problem.

Which, of course, makes the problem even worse. Ignoring problems, denying them, doesn't solve them. Never will.

In den nächsten Jahren werden die Kontroversen heftiger werden. Sowohl mit den Vertretern des Islams als auch innerhalb der Gemeinden selbst. Wenn es den europäischen Muslimen gelingt, Islam und Demokratie zu versöhnen, also die Aufklärung des Islams durchzusetzen, dann wird das gravierende Folgen für die gesamte islamische Welt haben. Nur eine Unterstützung der Befreiungsbewegungen gegen die totalitäre Unterjochung wird die Welt zu einem friedlicheren Ort machen. Wir haben hier in Europa eine enorme historische Chance. Wir müssen sie wahrnehmen.

In the coming years the controversy will get worse, not merely with the representatives of Islam, but within that community. If and when european Muslims can reconcile Islam and democracy, when Islam has its enlightenment, that will also have major repercussions with Islam world-wide. Only by supporting the liberation movements against the totalitarians attempting to subjugate can the world become more peaceful. We in Europe have an enormous historical chance. We have to see it.

This is my major problem with Germany: the failure of the German governments of the last decade to be a strong, positive force for good. Instead, German governments have done everything in their power to avoid having to take any position: they want to keep their options open to see which way the wind blows.

Germany is very, very poorly served by its political parties and its politicians. Germany deserves better and while German industry might lose a sale or two, Germany could grow up and take its place in the world by ceasing to be a fence-sitter.

It's about time. But there is no one in sight that is willing to make this an issue. Denial is simply too attractive an alternative.

Donnerstag, November 08, 2007

Again: Why Windpower Doesn't Work ...

There's another letter in the FAZ today, from Thomas Heinzow, whose work I've covered here before.

It's really rather simple, and the calculations are straight-forward, and to even make things simpler, let us use the numbers that are used by those arguing for the massive use of wind power.

The figure in question is the damage caused by each and every ton of excess CO2 produced now in the future: €70 per ton.

The current subsidy in Germany for wind power is €550 for each reduced ton of
CO2 after you count the cost of manufacturing the wind mills.

The cost of cleaning up coal, in terms of reducing
CO2 emissions, is €20.

So, let's work this one out: in order to save a future value of €70 (we won't get into the proper discount rate for that one...), German politicians, in their infinite wisdom, are going to spend €550 today for a technology that fails to fill the most basic energy infrastructure needs (availability and constancy), instead of spending €20 to clean up emissions from a dependable and local energy source (coal).

In other words, let's figure out what that really means. Let's set a goal of reducing 1 mn tons of
CO2 emissions: the future damage that these cause is €70mn. The expenditure to subsidize is €550 mn; cleaning up the coal emissions would cost €20mn.

But what the heck, it's only tax money. Given 80 mn Germans, that works out to be only €6.88 per head. Price of a lunch. Save the world while you're doing it! But the reality is that you could achieve the same effect by spending 25 cents.

The difference doesn't end there: wind mills ruin the landscape, kill birds, etc.

The wind energy proponents claim that this subsidy will be ultimately not needed as economies of scale and "technological improvements" will bring down the cost to levels similar to other energy sources. Of course, that is what they have been saying for the last 20 years, but heck, who cares about that.

This is, of course, indicative of the absolute folly of any sort of "Green" energy production that disallows reality and enforces waste. The Greens are just as morally culpable of corruption and incompetence as any other party, despite their claims of being the only ones who really care about the environment.

They care just as long as the subsidies finance those who finance them. And don't try to pretend that it is anything else.

Freitag, Oktober 26, 2007

What's Wrong and What's Right...and What Is Necessary

Reality has intruded quite a bit over the last several weeks, and I have been negligent in posting anything here.

Part of my sloth has been due to external factors, but my general disgust with the idiocies of modern life have also led me to be some recalcitrant in posting.

But today, whilst reading the FT, I came across this from Philip Stephens.


Time for a fisking...

George W. Bush warns that Iran's nuclear ambitions threaten world war three. Vice-president Dick Cheney speaks of "serious consequences" unless Tehran falls into line. Joe Lieberman, the independent Democrat, says we are already fighting world war four against Islamist radicalism. As someone in the Hollywood movie said, it is time for the rest of us to be afraid, very afraid.

Afraid, though, of what? Of Tehran's nuclear programme? Or of the possibility that Mr Bush, in the darkening twilight of his presidency, is preparing to launch a preventative military strike. The answer is both.

You see, this is where Mr. Stephens goes wrong from the beginning. What is not to be feared is the Iranian nuclear program: that in and of itself is merely a technical development. The nuclear genie is forever out of the bottle, and there is no way to put it back in.

What we should despair of - fear is the wrong word here, since that is exactly what Iran wants us to do: fear it - is not capabilities, but rather intentions. If Mr. Stephens were to have paid attention to the basic fundamentals of what he should have learned from his sources - intelligence analysis - then he would understand the fundamental difference between capabilities and intentions. Good Lord, the whole pre-invasion problem with Iraq were all about this problem: we knew that Saddam Hussein, a fundamentally flawed and evil human being, had proven his intentions in regards to weapons of mass destruction, having used them against the Iranians and against citizens of his own country. What drove people to distraction was what his capabilities were: he did his very, very best to ensure that the only logical conclusion was either to pretend that there was no intent or to acknowledge that his intent was so real that enormous efforts were undertaken to obfuscate the true state of capabilities.

If there is something to be afraid of, it is that Iran will finesse the international political scene in order to obtain and use nuclear weapons. The thing to be afraid of is terrorists with nukes; the thing to be afraid of is what the terrorists want.

The big story, you might think, should be the menace to regional and global security posed by Iran's development of the technology that would give it nuclear weapons. This, after all, is not a nice regime. You do not have to be an apologist for Washington to note that Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, the Iranian president, has spoken of wiping Israel from the face of the globe. Nor to notice Tehran's unapologetic sponsorship of terrorism. The regime's human rights record is the wrong side of appalling.

Now, why isn't this the big story? Because of the effing liberals and useful idiots - those who were useful idiots during the Cold War are those who are just as useful to the enemies of the West in the War On Terrorism - that dominate the media and who refuse to make it The Big Story. The lack of focus on the real problem - that the regime in Iran brutally represses its own, is dominated by religious fanatics who want us all to live as if we were in the 7th century, and whose attitude towards women is nothing less than abysmal - is deliberate and with malice aforethought: if the problem isn't on the other side - and it is! - then the problem must be on our side.

Which it isn't.

Yet the White House once again seems hell-bent on being outwitted in the court of global opinion; and, maybe, on making a strategic miscalculation that could make the war in Iraq look like a sideshow.

Oddly enough, here I am in partial agreement: the single largest failure of the Bush administration has been its inability to communicate.

On the other hand, it's not nearly that the White House is being outwitted: it's rather that it isn't bothering. This is a legitimate griping point, but not the one that Mr. Stephens is trying to make.

The real point is that only one side is making propaganda and trying to fight for the minds of its own opponents: that is, in this case, the other side. The problem is that the press is so blind to its own inadequacies and incompetence that it takes obvious, self-serving propaganda at face value and gives it the veneer of respectability that leads the uninformed reader to accept propaganda as being something other than it is.

Speculation about a US-backed Israeli or a direct American attack on Iran's nuclear installations has ebbed and flowed for several years. In the immediate aftermath of the toppling of Saddam Hussein, "Iran next" was the stock refrain of the Washington hawks. The bellicose rhetoric was stilled for a time by Iraq's descent into chaos. But it has never gone away, even as some of the most ardent advocates of another war in the Middle East have left the administration. Only the other day I heard John Bolton, the former US ambassador to the United Nations, say he was sure that Mr Bush would do "the right thing".

Of course it's not gone away: Iran was specifically - and quite correctly, too - on the "Axis of Evil" with its support of terrorism and its hidden programs for weapons of mass destruction. That's why "it has never gone away": Iran has not changed its tune.

The rising tempo of speculation is easily explained. The starting point is the political timetable. If Mr Bush does intend to act, he has to do so soon. The window of opportunity for an attack, the conventional wisdom has it, will close next summer. Even this president cannot take the nation into another war of choice once the 2008 election campaign is under way.

Conventional wisdom, dear Mr. Stephens, is, to put it bluntly, an ass. Conventional wisdom thinks that the War On Terrorism isn't really a war since it doesn't have a country to fight against, and "everyone" knows that you can only fight wars with another country. Oh how tiny and limited Conventional Wisdom is: it must be, to be conventional.

This ticking political clock coincides with a hardening view in Washington, and in one or two European capitals, that coercive diplomacy has done nothing to shake Iran's resolve to acquire the means to make the bomb.

Oh, and there are those who do not see reality, which is that there has been nothing that has shaken the Iranian government's resolve to acquire the means to make the bomb? It's not that coercive diplomacy hasn't worked, it's much more that NOTHING has worked: the Iranians smile and laugh to themselves about how dumb the West really is in not stopping Iran. There are things that can be done: no one has the stomach - except for the US - to actually do them.

What might they be? Things like what the US did today: declare the Revolutionary Guards to be a terrorist organization and treat them so, encouraging banks not to do business with them and isolating them. That is a clear and straight-forward start. Other things that can be done are trade embargoes: the Germans are so afraid of losing business that they won't go along with that, and the Russians apparently don't believe that the Iranian government has the intent that it so clearly lays out.

The apparent demotion of Ali Larijani as Iran's chief nuclear negotiator seems to speak to the same conclusion. Mr Larijani has been as firm as any in Tehran about Iran's right to pursue nuclear enrichment, but he has also been willing to talk. Mr Ahmadi-Nejad, we might conclude, means it when he says the nuclear dossier is closed.

And? What does that mean to Mr. Stephens?

It means nothing: instead of seeing it as what it is (a clear demonstration of the contempt that the Iranian government has for the mere idea that it should even talk with the West about the issue) the problem is simply ignored.

Russia's Vladimir Putin's objections to further UN sanctions has likewise strengthened the hand of those who say that diplomacy has run its course. Earlier this year Iran outflanked the so-called European Union 3 – Britain, France and Germany – by opening direct talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Now Mr Putin is blocking another UN resolution.

The role of the Russians here is more complex than you might think: first, they obviously do not believe the rhetoric; second, it is of great usefulness for the Russians that the US bear the brunt and burden of confrontation (the Russians truly believe in zero-sum gaming); third the Russians, based on their disbelief of the rhetoric and the intentions, see wonderful business opportunities. Right now, the Russians are playing the role that Lenin thought the capitalists would play, of selling to the revolutionaries the rope that would be used to hang them when the revolution comes. The alternative is rather less appealing: that Russia is more than pleased to allow Iran to gain the upper hand in the region as a regional power, including the deliberate destruction of Israel, in order to do business with the regime.

Nervousness about US intentions, meanwhile, has been heightened by speculation that Mr Bush could treat Iran's support for Shia militias in Iraq as a casus belli. A Senate motion, co-sponsored by Mr Lieberman, calls for the Revolutionary Guards to be designated a terrorist organisation. That could provide the president with the political cover to bomb training camps within Iran.

At what point, Mr. Stephens, do you recognize a casus belli? When it comes up to your house and slaps you in the face whilst molesting your wife?

The Revolutionary Guards' is a material accessory to terror acts that have killed thousands. The Revolutionary Guards does nothing without the direction of the Iranian government, hence there is a direct involvement of Iran in the internal affairs of Iraq that have led to the deaths of thousands.

Mr. Stephens, Iran's support for Shia militias in Iraq is a casus belli. It's what Iran wants. Otherwise they wouldn't be doing it.

The calculation, if you could call it that, would be that such attacks would destabilise Mr Ahmadi-Nejad and, in the best case, see him toppled. Logic suggests the reverse: an upsurge of nationalist sentiment would bolster support for the regime. For some people, though, logic does not count.

Now, Mr. Stephens, here is where you go terribly wrong: those that you see as not counting on logic is not President Bush, but rather the Iranians: they want the war. That is not logical, but is driven by a chiliastic religion that wants the apocalypse. Barring that, it wants to dominate the region.

The thing I find most striking in conversations with western officials is simply how little is known about Iran: about the power balance within the regime, the dynamics of the nuclear programme and, critically, how far that programme has progressed.

Again, we have a failure of intelligence, in all manners of what that word means...the question is why? The reason is that the intelligence communities, such that they are, are all running amok, with their own agendas and own goals: the failure here is two-fold. On the one hand you do have a failure of leadership, which, however, is understandable, give the difficulties in cleaning house at a time of war, when you need the intelligence the most; on the other hand, the institutions - first and foremost the CIA, but also the FBI and the NSA - were pushed to be this way by President Bush's predecessor, who wanted it that way...

A little while ago I heard one such official discuss the state of knowledge gleaned by various intelligence agencies. The Israelis thought Tehran was two years from acquiring the bomb; but they had been saying two years for as long as this official could remember. The Russians suggested that Iran was as much as a decade away from mastery of all the necessary technology. As for the US and the big European agencies, three to six years seemed to be a rough consensus. In other words, the spooks, once again, are being forced to make judgments while wearing blindfolds.

Welcome to the world of intelligence, where ten analysts have two dozen opinions. Why? Because HumInt continues to be very weak and underdeveloped. Again, this is not merely the fault of the intelligence communities, but also of the environment that they work in.

There is a similar lacuna of understanding of the political power balance. Take Mr Larijani's troubles. Do they signal that Mr Ahmadi-Nejad has won a struggle with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, over control of the nuclear dossier? Or has a visible backlash against the move – it now seems Mr Larijani will keep a place in the Iranian nuclear delegation – delineated the limits of Mr Ahmadi-Nejad's authority?

This is a corollary of the lack of intelligence on the technical side: understanding the Wiley Oriental Gentleman is an unpleasant task at best and trying to explain what the situation is to those profoundly uninterested - which are the usual decision makers - with all the nuances and distinctions is an academic exercise at best.

Diplomacy has not yet been exhausted. Russia's position is more subtle than it sounds. For all the pleasure he takes in discomfiting the US, Mr Putin has more to fear from a nuclear-armed Iran. In any event, the US decision to leave it to the EU3 to do all the talking with Tehran has ensured that real negotiations have never properly started.

I see: when the US acts unilaterally, it is condemned, but when the US requests that the EU3 talk, that means that the Iranian government doesn't need to take them seriously. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

The US has yet to play its highest card: an offer, comparable to that made to, and accepted by, North Korea, of a comprehensive refashioning of the strategic relationship between the US and Iran. Unless and until that bargain is explored, it will never be clear whether Tehran could be persuaded to eschew the nuclear course.

Sorry, that card has been played a number of times, both in private and in public: the US has never tired of saying that if Iran were to change its policies, then talks could start.

Iran is on the line here: the US has standing issues with Iran, starting with, but not ending there, the illegal and reprehensible hostage-taking of US diplomatic personnel. An apology from Tehran would work wonders here.

Mr Bush is not alone in framing a simple choice between Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons and war. Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, has said much the same. It is a false choice. Even putting aside the chaos that would ensue from Tehran's certain retaliation against any attack, the likely consequence of such thinking is war and a nuclear-armed Iran.

It's one possible consequence. If the US and France were to attack Iran seriously, Iran could be back in the 7th century as its leaders so dearly
desire. 100 days of unlimited air warfare aimed at minimizing civilian casualties with a maximum of infrastructure destruction would do the job, coupled with a concerted propaganda campaign to ensure that the Iranian population understands that this is done with great regret and that once the Religious government is deposed and put into jail/against the wall, that the US will be happy to help Iran rejoin the community of responsible nations and rebuild.

It's not that such actions are absolutely necessary or that they are even desirable: it's much more that they may become necessary to avoid a greater evil. We've seen that this has worked in Iraq: Saddam Hussein was, objectively, a greater evil than what the Iraqis have gone through since then, a fact that has been lost in merciless criticism that the occupation of Iraq has generated.

Last month, at a conference hosted by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation's Washington office, one of those present recalled being taught by Henry Kissinger at Harvard. China had just tested the bomb and a fellow student suggested that the answer was a pre-emptive strike against its nuclear installations. And just how frequently should the US repeat the exercise? Mr Kissinger asked in response. Mr Bush might ask himself the same question.

The proper answer to that question, sad to say, is "As often as is necessary". It was the proper answer back then and it is the proper answer now.

Before y'all jump on me as some sort of warmonger: the question regarding China was as legitimate now as it was back then. The difference was that you had people judging the intent as well as the capabilities, and they came to the historically verified conclusion that the Chinese were rational actors and that their intent could be analyzed and measured.

Mittwoch, September 19, 2007

The Real Story...

What is going on in Peru? From this we can gather that it is only the beginning, a harbinger of things to come.

Interesting that there has been no mention of the tripod machines, the death rays and the like...

Which points, of course, to a massive cover-up and conspiracy.

I suppose that the real reason that the story hasn't broken is that there is no one in Peru who can speak like Orson Welles...


Dienstag, September 11, 2007

My only comment on September 11th, 6 years later...

This was published by John Stuart Mill in Fraser's Magazine during the American Civil War and remains for me the core of why we, the US, are doing what we do. The key is the very last paragraph in this work:

For these reasons I cannot join with those who cry Peace, peace. I
cannot wish that this war should not have been engaged in by the
North, or that being engaged in, it should be terminated on any
conditions but such as would retain the whole of the Territories as
free soil. I am not blind to the possibility that it may require a
long war to lower the arrogance and tame the aggressive ambition of
the slave-owners, to the point of either returning to the Union, or
consenting to remain out of it with their present limits. But war, in
a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War
is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and
degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing
worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human
instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service
and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people.
A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice; a
war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is
their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free
choice--is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has
nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more
about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature,
who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the
exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice
have not terminated their ever renewing fight for ascendancy in the
affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do
battle for the one against the other. I am far from saying that the
present struggle, on the part of the Northern Americans, is wholly of
this exalted character; that it has arrived at the stage of being
altogether a war for justice, a war of principle. But there was from
the beginning, and now is, a large infusion of that element in it; and
this is increasing, will increase, and if the war lasts, will in the
end predominate. Should that time come, not only will the greatest
enormity which still exists among mankind as an institution, receive
far earlier its coups de grâce than there has ever, until now,
appeared any probability of; but in effecting this the Free States
will have raised themselves to that elevated position in the scale of
morality and dignity, which is derived from great sacrifices
consciously made in a virtuous cause, and the sense of an inestimable
benefit to all future ages, brought about by their own voluntary

Read and understand this, and you will understand how critical it is to fight the fight that the US is fighting, and how appalling the pacifists are. The common pacifist refrain is that we have been lied to, that we have been misled, that the common soldier is nothing more than a tool.

This is not the case. I won't go into the absurdity of that position - simply go and read what Bush has actually said, and you will see that there is no validity to that purpose - but suffice to say that those serving are anything but some sort of capitalist tool, exploited for venal profit and therefore pitiful.

My deepest respect to those serving to fight this fight, to those who have died doing so.

My greatest contempt for those who think it isn't worth it. May their children, living in slavery, curse the names of those who condemned them to ignorance and despair.

Montag, August 20, 2007

Someone whose eyes have opened...

Hat tip to Dr. Sanity.

Here are three links to read. They are a sweeping, damning indictment of political correctness and the sheer idiocy and futility of that particular breed of stupidity known as liberalism.

Oh, and the author is a leftist. In the Guardian as well.

For the leftist utopia to take place would require that people have the wisdom of the ages and the patience of saints: reality is a tad different. Were that the human costs be not so great and so devastating.

The corollary of being overly protective of "rights" is a glass bottle, broken and shoved into a 16-year old girl's face, disfiguring her for life. The corollary of "understanding" the problems of the poor means a 50% increase in crime, with 70% being unreported, with only 9% of robberies leading to a conviction and not even 5% of rapes.

Think of that for a moment: in the UK, not even 5% of the clearest crime against women are ever prosecuted to the point where the rapist is put behind bars.

This is worse than the worst of New York liberal's attempt to destroy the life of the average New Yorker by being soft on crime and oh-so-understanding, which led to apathy and indifference to crime, of withdrawal from society in order to avoid the deprivations of the lawless, of abandoning the commons to the most common criminal.

How can anyone seriously consider themselves a socialist when you can so clearly see how terribly, terribly things have gone wrong? How can anyone take the limousine liberals seriously?

The truly terrible thing is that things will have to get worse before they can get better: people will either start killing off the criminals themselves or they will give power to those who will do it for them.

This sort of social development leads not to the development of a better society, but to its destruction.

Read. The. Links.

Mittwoch, August 08, 2007

The Real Costs of Going Green...

There is a letter to the Editor in Today's FAZ - unfortunately behind their pay firewall - that covers the real costs of going Green in terms of what the Germans are doing with wind energy. It's from Thomas Heinzow, from the University of Hamburg, Research Department for Sustainable Ecological Development (Forschungsstelle Nachhaltige Umweltentwicklung).

I did find this, but it's only in German: I'll lay out the argument here, but won't do a translation.

Basically, energy policy in Germany, put into place by the Greens during their kingmaker role in their coalition with the SPD under Schröder, is a massive swindle that costs German consumers of electricity no less than around 90 billion Euros.

That's right, ninety billion Euros.

Germany is in the process of installing 45'000 MW of wind energy equipment, with 25'000 MW planned for the North Sea windfarms and 20'000 MW on land. The cost per KW - not MW - is €5'800 for land and €6'600 for sea; this is €58'000 and €66'000 per MW. Now, the real usage rate for land - empirical evidence, not guesswork - is that an average of 9'400 MW will be available at any given time from the North Sea, and around 3'000 MW from land installations, which is, what, an efficiency of 37,6% for sea and 15% for land.

Given the 20-year cycle of the machinery and necessary maintenance and repairs, the depreciation rate is between 6% and 9%.

All of this, calculated reflecting all appropriate parameters, you have a cost of avoiding carbon dioxide by using wind power of between €300 and €400/ton of carbon dioxide.

The same effect can be achieved by cleaning up coal and other fossil fuel energy users of around €40/ton.

Now, the windpark equipment has to be manufactured: given this, the construction needed, etc., and you get an additional carbon footprint of 30 mn tonnes over the life of the system - 20 years - and the need to subsidize the windpark operators with around €6mn/year.

All told, the installation of the windparks will cost around €90 bn. Who pays?

The German consumer of electricity pays, as the subsidies for wind energy are paid for by increasing the KWh price of electricity.

The only way that you get a break-even in comparison to coal, for instance, is if you make coal five times more expensive than it is today.

Now, this is not some back-of-the-envelope study: they got the data for windflows for the years 2000-2004 for the region where the windparks will be located in order to model the expected fluctuations in energy production; they were able to determine what sort of energy generation would be necessary to ensure that the base energy for the net would always be guaranteed (if you don't do this, you get blackouts when the wind power drops below what is needed for the net); they were able to calculate energy production from windparks to every 15 minutes (!) during each and every day of the year and so on. Serious study, in other words.

From their conclusion, my translation and summation:

The windparks can generate maximum of 26 GW, with extreme volatility of plus/minus 12GW/15 min and an average volatility of plus/minus 5GW/15 min. This volatility exceeds the technical limits for the existing electrical energy transportation system, and requires the acquisition of fast-reaction basis energy systems (must react within a 15 minute time period!), based either on gas turbines or pumped-reserviour water systems. This means that windpark energy generation, given the extreme costs and lack of real reduction of energy productions's carbon footprint, is not an appropriate energy policy, given that actual reduction via cleaning up current energy production mixes cost between €15 and €40/ton, instead of the price of between €300 and €420/ton for windparks. Energy from windparks can first become economically viable if other energy costs increase by 4 or 5 fold from current levels.

Investment in windparks would make sense only if current energy generation was running at maximum efficiency with optimum emission scrubbing equipment, as the ecological impact would then have greater effect. By failing to invest in this solution, the ecological impact of windfarms is severely reduced and makes little or no economic or ecological sense. The investment in windpower at the cost of increasing efficiencies means that the political goals of the project will not be adequately met and that the opportunity costs of the project are so great that any potential ecological benefits are largely lost.


That's why they call economics the dismal science. It pokes massive holes in pie-in-the-sky ideas.

The problem here is that the German consumers are paying for this ecological idiocy. I wonder how much money the windpark operators and machinery makers paid the Greens in Germany to get this on the table? The whole thing stinks to high heaven.

PS: this isn't a study done by an energy company, it's one that actually takes an objective look at how to realistically reduce the carbon footprint. They're right: putting up the windfarms is a massively bad idea. But hey, it's only taxpayer money, and we'll get the stupid consumers to pay in any case.


Dienstag, August 07, 2007

If you don't understand this, then there is no hope for you...

I've posted here on what I've called the Culture of Deception.

This is the WSJ online underscores my thesis, that Anti-Americanism is by far less the result of American policies as much more the result of concerted action aimed at isolating the US and making US foreign policy as difficult as possible.

It's not that the world hates us: it doesn't. The world is filed with countries who keep their citizens, by one way or another, under control (not necessarily police states: look at Brazilian overregulation of businesses, for example, or Italian taxation policies), while the US remains the land of opportunity.

Not guarantee, but opportunity. There are simply too many success stories to deny this: it's not the mythical dishwasher-to-millionaire story, but rather the ambitious immigrant who ends up with the two-car garage and kids in college. The American middle-class life style is the most subversive, the most dangerous life style in the world to those who seek to control and manipulate.

That's what drives Anti-Americanism today, after the collapse of the facade of communism and its inevitability of history. It's always been about control and manipulation, always: be it Chavez in Venezuala, Castro in Cuba, or Putin in Russia. The mindset of the old KGB and its modern-day successors and wanna-bes lives on.

The real tragedy is that you have an entire generation of politicians in the US who also subscribe to this, people who have betrayed their own history and see the world as something to be controlled and manipulated to prevent opportunity, preferring instead to inculcate ignorance and systematic denial of what makes America great.

They're called Democrats.

Here are two quotes from someone who knows what the story really is, from the link given above:

Sowing the seeds of anti-Americanism by discrediting the American president was one of the main tasks of the Soviet-bloc intelligence community during the years I worked at its top levels. This same strategy is at work today, but it is regarded as bad manners to point out the Soviet parallels. For communists, only the leader counted, no matter the country, friend or foe. At home, they deified their own ruler--as to a certain extent still holds true in Russia. Abroad, they asserted that a fish starts smelling from the head, and they did everything in their power to make the head of the Free World stink.


Unfortunately, partisans today have taken a page from the old Soviet playbook. At the 2004 Democratic National Convention, for example, Bush critics continued our mud-slinging at America's commander in chief. One speaker, Martin O'Malley, now governor of Maryland, had earlier in the summer stated he was more worried about the actions of the Bush administration than about al Qaeda. On another occasion, retired four-star general Wesley Clark gave Michael Moore a platform to denounce the American commander in chief as a "deserter." And visitors to the national chairman of the Democratic Party had to step across a doormat depicting the American president surrounded by the words, "Give Bush the Boot."

Now, the point is this: that the war in Iraq is America's war, not that of Bush or the "Neocons". Ignore this at your peril: if you do not understand that, then there is no hope for you.

Oh, and a PS: that the Left wants to inculcate ignorance is the only way to understand modern education, with its emphasis on feel-good issues and a lack of training in hard sciences and reasoning.

Freitag, August 03, 2007

Utter Stupidity, or German Politicians...

Sorry for the paucity of blogging, been back at work and have been furiously writing up a storm there, not much time left for this.

But this came up today in the Handelsblatt (roughly speaking, the German equivalent of the WSJ).

The Ministry of Finances is planning on introducing a new tax: for German companies investing overseas, they will be taxed on the profits that should result from moving operations out-of-country or should result from expanding operations out-of-country instead of in Germany.

You read that right: if a German company decides to open up operations elsewhere, they should be punitively taxed for doing that instead of doing it in Germany.

The mind boggles.

Not only that, but this is a deliberate thing: the goal is to prevent German companies from doing their R&D in Germany and then opening up operations in, say, Poland, in order to maximize their profits. The taxes are designed to make this unattractive: we're not talking any sort of punitive taxes as punishment, but rather to tax German companies so heavily that they will find it cheaper to produce elsewhere...

But they've forgotten something: that countries where German companies operate, say Poland, tax profits as well: the German proposition is that the companies involved pay their taxes in Germany instead and then use those tax liabilities to compensate for the local tax liabilities.


Me, I want some of what these folks are smoking.

First of all: the idea that the tax authorities in, say, the US will accept that a German company operating in the US will avoid paying US taxes because they pay German taxes is not merely fantasy, it can only be explained as a drug-induced hallucination.

Second of all: the reason that German companies produce out-of-country is not merely that you can hire productive labor elsewhere for less (indeed this is the case...), but more critically it's the way that being a player in global markets works successfully. If you want to be a big international player in your field, then you don't make widgets in Germany and then export them: rather you become the local widget maker that happens to be owned by Germans and that can produce the best damn widgets for that country.

Third of all: this is not a tax on current profits, but rather a tax on expected future profits. If they were to tax German companies on repatriated profits after local authorities taxed them, fine: that's what they do now. But noooooo, this is to punish companies for behaving like they actually want to make money and satsify their client's needs.

The best thing that could happen to Germany would be to fire half of the bureaucrats and to massively downsize government. No one can tell me that a country whose Bureau of Labor spends more money, time and employees on managing itself rather than finding unemployed people new jobs can't slim down.

This idiocy, this utter stupidity, can be clearly laid at the feet of the German socialists, by the way: the Finance Minister in charge is Peer Steinbrück from the SPD, the German socialist party.

This is the kind of stupidity that starts economic and financial crises, the modern-day equivalent of Smoot-Hawley or similar idiocies.

Of course the trade groups and associations are up in arms about this, and there is little chance that it will actually come to this.

But it does serve as a reminder of why Big Government - and oh boy do the Germans loooooove Big Government - is A Bad Thing.

Donnerstag, Juli 19, 2007

Ouch ...

Been in London the last week, hence the paucity of posting.

To tide everyone over until I get back into the swing of things, there is this.

Global warming is now the official equivalent of discussing your gall bladder operation, which group is better and what your mileage is: you can do it, but it's best not done in polite company.

Rather devastating take-down of the True Believers. But I won't bore you with discussing it...

Sonntag, Juli 08, 2007

Tetzel Function

As an economist, I am always trying to understand human behavior as it applies to dealing with a world of limited goods and hard choices to be made about using them, which is fundamentally what economics is all about.

I've come up with a new function, and thought I'd put it up here:

The Tetzel Function

The Tetzel Function is named after Johann Tetzel. He's the monk who basically came up with the idea of selling foregiveness and salvation in order to pay for the construction of St. Paul's Cathedral in Rome. The basis for this concept came from the recognition of some aspects of human nature, that sin must be compensated for, and what better way to ensure that, for instance, your dead father's soul would enter heaven if you, basically, paid for that to happen. This is what is called an indulgence, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia:

The word indulgence (Latin indulgentia, from indulgeo, to be kind or tender) originally meant kindness or favor; in post-classic Latin it came to mean the remission of a tax or debt. In Roman law and in the Vulgate of the Old Testament (Isaiah 61:1) it was used to express release from captivity or punishment. In theological language also the word is sometimes employed in its primary sense to signify the kindness and mercy of God. But in the special sense in which it is here considered, an indulgence is a remission of the temporal punishment due to sin, the guilt of which has been forgiven. Among the equivalent terms used in antiquity were pax, remissio, donatio, condonatio.

Tetzel got into the business of selling indulgences, not merely for the living, but also for the dead. Indulgences remain, but are no longer for sale: they remain part of Catholic theology (note: I'm not Catholic, but Protestant, but have no quarrels with Catholics) and there is a clear rejection of the idea of selling them. Now while the Catholic church sees the historical role of indulgencies with a bit of bias - it was one of the major reasons for Luther to call for the Reformation and was thesis #82, if I remember correctly (I do) - indulgencies remain.

Now, I'm interested not in indulgencies as such, but much more the role that Tetzel played.

He basically offered the rich the ability to use their financial abilities to avoid going through actual penance and spiritual compensation for their sins: while this may or may not have started as a kind of indulgence on his part - in the sense of choosing a way for a sinner to make true spiritual recompense for his or her sins - it rapidly became corrupted and venal. It became wide-spread and was a major, major source of dissatisfaction of those who did actual spiritual recompense for their personal sins, as they saw the wealthy not only believe that they were able to buy their way into heaven, but the church being corrupted in doing so.

Hence my Tetzel Function: it describes the mechanism that a group uses to avoid facing unpleasant truths about themselves, buying compensation/indulgences for their sins. Tetzel was, at the end of the day, merely the one who took the practice to its logical, mortal, sinful conclusion.

Now, modern society remains heavily based on many conflicts that have their sources in the Middle Ages: the contradiction between public duties and private desires, for instance, is one of the driving forces behind the controversy, for instance, about homosexual marriages. The state and the church have a public duty to support the family and ensure that it has a protected status, as the best possible way of ensuring the continuation of the state and society. The private desire of homosexual couples to exchange vows as if they were not homosexuals is in direct conflict with this public duty, as the natural function of a homosexual relation is that there are no children and they do not, in this sense, ensure the continuation of state and society. I am not making any argument, simply stating that the nature of the conflict between public and private is not new, but rather ancient.

That said, what is the Tetzel Function exactly?

The Tetzel Function says that when economic conditions develop such that hard decisions must be made that will place large numbers of the members of the economy in jeopardy, that someone will find a way to monetarize the nature of these decisions in such a way that wealthy members of that economic group will avoid having to make those choices.

In other words, if it is necessary to massively reduce the emission of carbon dioxide from industrial societies, then someone will find a way of monetarizing contradictory behavior in such a manner that it appears to be non-contradictory. The larger the desire to not change behavior, the greater the willingness to spend money to avoid the change in behavior.

If we all were to take the purposed problem with carbon dioxide seriously, then massive changes in behavior are neccessary: airline flights would need to be heavily restricted, mass transit necessary and private transportation heavily controlled, industrial activity curbed, non-renewable energy use also heavily curbed, and past emissions of carbon dioxide compensated for via carbon sequestering.

This would me for many a severe change in life style: no major trips, inflexible transportation, reduced economic compensation and a life with few of the current creature comforts, all enforced by the State. This would mean quite a bit of suffering, of penance, as it were, for the sins of the fathers (and mothers) and an acceptance that humans have sinned against nature. I dare say that there are few outside of the environmental movement that would be prepared to voluntarily impose such a regime, but that is exactly what the environmental movement is actually largely all about.

Now not everyone will be willing to go along with that, and that is where the Tetzel Function comes into play: those with the means to do so will be able to purchase indulgencies so that they do not have to change their behavior. This, of course, will be explained as something good and proper.

Hence the current systems of "carbon compensation" fulfill the Tetzel Function for the environmental movement.

Let's parameterize the function:

Let F equal the Tetzel Function, x the amount of necessary privation (determined by legislation!), y the monetary amount available to compensate and z is the non-monetary compensation (i.e. the acceptance of privation). We then get a function like this:

F= x - (z + y)

In other words, the privation can be minimized by throwing money at it. Let's do a simple check:

Person A has $1'000 for carbon offsets, Person B has $200 and Person C has $5'000.

If we set the F to be 0 (i.e. neutral), then if x is legislated at, say, 1500, then

A: 1500 - (1300+200) for a F of 0
B: 1500 - (500+1000 for a F of 0
C: 1500 - (-3500+5000) for a F of 0

which means that those with the least ability to pay will suffer the greatest deprivation, and as long as the ability to pay for carbon offsets is greater than the cost of the carbon offsets, the impact of being able to purchase indulgencies in the form of carbon offsets is actually positive, i.e. those with the ability to pay will not only not suffer any deprivation, but rather they will enjoy additional benefits, such as reduced congestion, smaller or non-existent lines for airplanes, etc.

In other words, this is a regressive tax.

That's how the Tetzel Function works. Of course, this is very simplistic, tossed together on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Anyone wanting to do real work on it is welcome to, with one caveat: I "discovered" it, and the name remains the same... :-)