Friday, July 28, 2006

An American Foreign Policy That Both Realists and Idealists Should Fall in Love With

Pilfered from the NYT's $ OpEd section.

Interesting take me thinks.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A Republican Party in Serious Trouble...

From today's Daily Kos:

A plugged-in political writer in DC told me today the NRSC has polled my name nationally to see if people know who I am. What a waste of money. Nobody knows who I am, and never will (I didn't register at all in the poll). But apparently they aren't getting enough traction with Michael Moore and Howard Dean, so they are desperate for another boogeyman they can use.

It's all about oil

Israel and Lebanon's lil shin-dig is keeping prices high, high, high and the oil chieftains in Riyahd and Washington are muy feliz.

"Why haven't those we laughably call the "leaders" of the US, Iran and Saudi Arabia called back their delinquent spawn, cut off their allowances and grounded them for six months?

Maybe because mayhem and murder in the Middle East are very, very profitable to the sponsors of these characters with bombs and rockets. America, Iran and Saudi Arabia have one thing in common: they are run by oil regimes. The higher the price of crude, the higher the profits; and the higher the profits, the happier the presidents and princelings of these petroleum republics."

Check it out!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Marxism of the Right

Here's a quirky little critique of libertarianism from The American Conservative.


Empirically, most people don’t actually want absolute freedom, which is why democracies don’t elect libertarian governments. Irony of ironies, people don’t choose absolute freedom. But this refutes libertarianism by its own premise, as libertarianism defines the good as the freely chosen, yet people do not choose it. Paradoxically, people exercise their freedom not to be libertarians.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Consensus Stands

Anyone see the WSJ OpEd?

Global Warming -- Signed, Sealed and Delivered
Scientists agree: The Earth is warming, and human activities are the principal cause.
By Naomi Oreskes, NAOMI ORESKES is a history of science professor at UC San Diego.July 24, 2006

AN OP-ED article in the Wall Street Journal a month ago claimed that a published study affirming the existence of a scientific consensus on the reality of global warming had been refuted. This charge was repeated again last week, in a hearing of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

I am the author of that study, which appeared two years ago in the journal Science, and I'm here to tell you that the consensus stands. The argument put forward in the Wall Street Journal was based on an Internet posting; it has not appeared in a peer-reviewed journal — the normal way to challenge an academic finding. (The Wall Street Journal didn't even get my name right!)

My study demonstrated that there is no significant disagreement within the scientific community that the Earth is warming and that human activities are the principal cause.

Papers that continue to rehash arguments that have already been addressed and questions that have already been answered will, of course, be rejected by scientific journals, and this explains my findings. Not a single paper in a large sample of peer-reviewed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003 refuted the consensus position, summarized by the National Academy of Sciences, that "most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations."

Since the 1950s, scientists have understood that greenhouse gases produced by burning fossil fuels could have serious effects on Earth's climate. When the 1980s proved to be the hottest decade on record, and as predictions of climate models started to come true, scientists increasingly saw global warming as cause for concern.

In 1988, the World Meteorological Assn. and the United Nations Environment Program joined forces to create the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to evaluate the state of climate science as a basis for informed policy action. The panel has issued three assessments (1990, 1995, 2001), representing the combined expertise of 2,000 scientists from more than 100 countries, and a fourth report is due out shortly. Its conclusions — global warming is occurring, humans have a major role in it — have been ratified by scientists around the world in published scientific papers, in statements issued by professional scientific societies and in reports of the National Academy of Sciences, the British Royal Society and many other national and royal academies of science worldwide. Even the Bush administration accepts the fundamental findings. As President Bush's science advisor, John Marburger III, said last year in a speech: "The climate is changing; the Earth is warming."

To be sure, there are a handful of scientists, including MIT professor Richard Lindzen, the author of the Wall Street Journal editorial, who disagree with the rest of the scientific community. To a historian of science like me, this is not surprising. In any scientific community, there are always some individuals who simply refuse to accept new ideas and evidence. This is especially true when the new evidence strikes at their core beliefs and values.

Earth scientists long believed that humans were insignificant in comparison with the vastness of geological time and the power of geophysical forces. For this reason, many were reluctant to accept that humans had become a force of nature, and it took decades for the present understanding to be achieved. Those few who refuse to accept it are not ignorant, but they are stubborn. They are not unintelligent, but they are stuck on details that cloud the larger issue. Scientific communities include tortoises and hares, mavericks and mules.

A historical example will help to make the point. In the 1920s, the distinguished Cambridge geophysicist Harold Jeffreys rejected the idea of continental drift on the grounds of physical impossibility. In the 1950s, geologists and geophysicists began to accumulate overwhelming evidence of the reality of continental motion, even though the physics of it was poorly understood. By the late 1960s, the theory of plate tectonics was on the road to near-universal acceptance.

Yet Jeffreys, by then Sir Harold, stubbornly refused to accept the new evidence, repeating his old arguments about the impossibility of the thing. He was a great man, but he had become a scientific mule. For a while, journals continued to publish Jeffreys' arguments, but after a while he had nothing new to say. He died denying plate tectonics. The scientific debate was over.

So it is with climate change today. As American geologist Harry Hess said in the 1960s about plate tectonics, one can quibble about the details, but the overall picture is clear.

Yet some climate-change deniers insist that the observed changes might be natural, perhaps caused by variations in solar irradiance or other forces we don't yet understand. Perhaps there are other explanations for the receding glaciers. But "perhaps" is not evidence.

The greatest scientist of all time, Isaac Newton, warned against this tendency more than three centuries ago. Writing in "Principia Mathematica" in 1687, he noted that once scientists had successfully drawn conclusions by "general induction from phenomena," then those conclusions had to be held as "accurately or very nearly true notwithstanding any contrary hypothesis that may be imagined…. "

Climate-change deniers can imagine all the hypotheses they like, but it will not change the facts nor "the general induction from the phenomena."

None of this is to say that there are no uncertainties left — there are always uncertainties in any live science. Agreeing about the reality and causes of current global warming is not the same as agreeing about what will happen in the future. There is continuing debate in the scientific community over the likely rate of future change: not "whether" but "how much" and "how soon." And this is precisely why we need to act today: because the longer we wait, the worse the problem will become, and the harder it will be to solve.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Next Meeting

I'm not sure when we decided on for the next meeting (August 21?), but would anyone be up for an additional get-together at my place (or elsewhere, maybe September 1) to watch the fantastic documentary, Arguing the World? Here's Amazon's editorial review:

Ideas are important. This century has seen a war--the Cold War--fought almost exclusively with ideas, and now we have the luxury of tracing them through all their twists and turns. Arguing the World follows four "New York intellectuals" from their radical socialist days in the 1930s through their successful careers and widely diverging political beliefs. Irving Howe, Daniel Bell, Nathan Glazer, and Irving Kristol were all strongly sympathetic with the international socialist struggle as young men, but by the time they arrived at City College they had lost faith in Stalin. Interviews and footage from 1930s protests, World War II, and the 1960s resurgence of radicalism show the intensity and the passion with which these men and their peers grappled with the ideas that would decide the fate of the world. From Howe's lifelong commitment to radical socialism to Kristol's neoconservatism that drove the Reagan-Thatcher revolution, we see brilliance and integrity in the face of anti-intellectualism, anti-Semitism, and generational differences. Arguing the World is a must for anyone who wants to understand the 20th century. --Rob Lightner

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Bad Man, Bad Science

From Think Progress:

Defending Bush’s Veto, Rove Grossly Distorts Stem Cell Science

Today, Bush is expected to veto a bill that would expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. It will be the first veto of his presidency. Last week, Karl Rove –- explaining why Bush planned on vetoing the bill — told the Denver Post that “recent studies” show researchers “have far more promise from adult stem cells than from embryonic stem cells.”

The Chicago Tribune contacted a dozen top stem cell experts about Rove’s claim. They all said it was inaccurate. So who wrote the “studies” that Rove was referring to?

White House spokesman Ken Lisaius on Tuesday could not provide the name of a stem cell researcher who shares Rove’s views on the superior promise of adult stem cells.

In a letter to President Bush last year, a group of 80 Nobel laureates wrote that “current evidence suggests that adult stem cells have markedly restricted differentiation potential.”

Question: Does President Bush believe that adult stem cell research has “far more promise” than embryonic stem cells? Is that a contributing factor in his decision to veto the bill?

(I'm not sure if the question at the end is meant to be ironic or not. Again, it's not really news when a Bush Administration official flagrantly lies to the nation.)

Interesting Analogy...

From my libertarian friends over at comes this perspicacious bit of analysis.

The Summer of 1914
by William S. Lind

With Hezbollah's entry into the war between Israel and Hamas, Fourth Generation war has taken another developmental step forward. For the first time, a non-state entity has gone to war with a state not by waging an insurgency against a state invader, but across an international boundary. Again we see how those who define 4GW simply as insurgency are looking at only a small part of the picture.

I think the stakes in the Israel-Hezbollah-Hamas war are significantly higher than most observers understand. If Hezbollah and Hamas win – and winning just means surviving, given that Israel's objective is to destroy both entities – a powerful state will have suffered a new kind of defeat, again, a defeat across at least one international boundary and maybe two, depending on how one defines Gaza's border. The balance between states and 4GW forces will be altered worldwide, and not to a trivial degree.

So far, Hezbollah is winning. As Arab states stood silent and helpless before Israel's assault on Hamas, another non-state entity, Hezbollah, intervened to relieve the siege of Gaza by opening a second front. Its initial move, a brilliantly conducted raid that killed eight Israeli soldiers and captured two for the loss of one Hezbollah fighter, showed once again that Hezbollah can take on state armed forces on even terms (the Chechens are the only other 4GW force to demonstrate that capability). In both respects, the contrast with Arab states will be clear on the street, pushing the Arab and larger Islamic worlds further away from the state.

Hezbollah then pulled off two more firsts. It responded effectively to terror bombing from the air, which states think is their monopoly, with rocket barrages that reached deep into Israel. One can only imagine how this resonated worldwide with people who are often bombed but can never bomb back. And, it attacked another state monopoly, navies, by hitting and disabling a blockading Israeli warship with something (I question Israel's claim that the weapon was a C-801 anti-ship missile, which should have sunk a small missile corvette). Hezbollah's leadership has promised more such surprises.

In response, Israel has had to hit not Hezbollah but the state of Lebanon. Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, referring to the initial Hezbollah raid, said, "I want to make clear that the event this morning is not a terror act but the act of a sovereign state that attacked Israel without reason." This is an obvious fiction, as the state of Lebanon had nothing to do with the raid and cannot control Hezbollah. But it is a necessary fiction for Israel, because otherwise who can it respond against? Again we see the power 4GW entities obtain by hiding within states but not being a state.

What comes next? In the short run, the question may be which runs out first, Hezbollah's supply of rockets or the world's patience with Israel bombing the helpless state of Lebanon. If the latter continues much longer, the Lebanese government may collapse, undoing one of America's few recent successes in the Islamic world.

The critical question is whether the current fighting spreads region-wide. It is possible that Hezbollah attacked Israel not only to relieve the siege of Hamas in Gaza but also to preempt an Israeli strike on Iran. The current Iranian government is not disposed to sit passively like Saddam and await an Israeli or American attack. It may have given Hezbollah a green light in order to bog Israel down locally to the point where it would not also want war with Iran.
However, Israel's response may be exactly the opposite. Olmert also said, "Nothing will deter us, whatever far-reaching ramifications regarding our relations on the northern border and in the region there may be." The phrase "in the region" could refer to Syria, Iran, or both.

If Israel does attack Iran, the "summer of 1914" analogy may play itself out, catastrophically for the United States. As I have warned many times, war with Iran (Iran has publicly stated it would regard an Israeli attack as an attack by the U.S. also) could easily cost America the army it now has deployed in Iraq. It would almost certainly send shock waves through an already fragile world economy, potentially bringing that house of cards down. A Bush administration that has sneered at "stability" could find out just how high the price of instability can be.

It is clear what Washington needs to do to try to prevent such an outcome: publicly distance the U.S. from Israel while privately informing Mr. Olmert that it will not tolerate an Israeli strike on Iran. Unfortunately, Israel is to America what Serbia was to Russia in 1914. That may be the most disturbing aspect of the "summer of 1914" analogy.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Civil War

Check out this Foreign Affairs series of responses to the big Iraq roundtable they recently did. The following statement is key:

"I don't think that Iraq is in a 'low-grade ... civil war,' as Kevin Drum writes. At the current rate of killings, the annual civilian death toll is now 20,000. This is no longer 'low intensity.'"

Do any of you continue to maintain that there isn't a civil war going on in Iraq right now? It seems to me that many war supporters object to the term because they're unwilling to cede any more polemic ground to the opposition than they've already been forced to cede, rather than on the basis of any real distinction they see between the current sectarian violence and an "actual civil war," whatever that is. For example, I doubt most people who know anything about it would object to the use of "civil war" to describe the conflict in El Salvador in the 80's. But if that was a civil war, why not Iraq?

Friday, July 14, 2006

I don't know...

...This Plame chick - in good lighting, with makeup, after her plastic surgery - is rather a tasty dish. I'm not saying I'd want to see the sex video, but as "heroes to the radical left" go, she's pretty easy on the eyes.

Whom do the heroes to the radical right - let's just go ahead and make that The Heroes To The Radical Right! - have to offer by way of eye candy? Ann Coulter? If there's a fortune to be made on the lecture circuit, "she" should seriously consider having an Adam's Apple job.

Worse Than Paris Hilton

In a desperate attempt to extend their 15 minutes of fame, Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson have filed a lawsuit against several administration officials for leaking her name in 2003. This midlevel CIA analyst and former ambassodor to nowhere have made themselves heroes to the radical left. I'm sure they have made a fortune on the lecture circuit from the mouth breathing Kossacks.

This suit has no merit on its face. Patrick Fitzgerald is fininshing up his investigation without finding any criminal activity (other than Scooter Libby being dumb enough to perjure himself). There is no evidence of a conspiracy. Novak has come out and said the leak was given to him in passing in the middle of a longer conversation. Novak followed up by calling Rove. Let me repeat, NOVAK CALLED ROVE. He then called the CIA. There is no conspiracy.

For the sake of aurgument, lets assume their is a 'conspiracy' for a moment. They still don't get to sue over this. This is politics in the major leagues. As distastful as this is, it would be nothing new. All I would say is welcome to the big city kid. Who does Karl Rove get to go after for all the people who have called him a criminal. Someone on this very blog called him turdblossom.

I know it won't happen, but a judge needs to through this case out and level punitive sanctions against the Wilson's for wasting everyones time.

I just hope we don't see a sex video in six months.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Rome Burns, Nero Fiddles

Make that "Holy Land Explodes, Bush Eats Pork"

STRALSUND, Germany (Reuters) - President Bush had more on his mind than Iran's nuclear program, Middle East tensions and Russian press freedoms during a visit to Germany Thursday.

He kept mentioning a wild boar, slaughtered and roasted according to local tradition, that he planned to share at a dinner with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in her home constituency at a Baltic resort.

"I'm looking forward to the feast you're going to have tonight. I understand I may have the honor of slicing the pig," Bush told Merkel at the outset of their joint news conference in Stralsund, north of Berlin.

A few minutes later -- after discussing Iran, the Middle East, the merits of press freedoms in Russia and progress on the Doha round of free trade talks -- Bush returned to the boar.

"Thank you for having me," he told Merkel. "Looking forward to that pig tonight."

Bush answered a few more questions before wandering back to the boar for a third time.

"I haven't seen that pig yet," Bush said out of the blue. Merkel laughed and said she had seen television pictures of the boar and could verify it was dead, adding she hoped it was on the spit and ready in time for dinner.

Near the end of the 30-minute briefing, Bush fielded a question about the Middle East with his fourth pig rejoinder.

"I thought you were going to ask about the pig," he told a reporter, who then said he was indeed curious about that too.

"The pig?" Bush said. "I'll tell you tomorrow after I eat it."

Israel is a Problem

"Dear Friends Everywhere, I live in al-Twam, between Beit Lahia and Jabalia Camp. The Israeli troops are moving towards the area where I live. They are 2km away. In the last two days, 35 persons were killed and 120 injured. The Israeli troops are shooting and shelling randomly the houses of the civilians ... Now, while writing this email, at 10pm, the tanks are about 500m from my home. In the coming hours, my home will be in the invaded and reoccupied areas. I do not know what might happen later. My children are hearing the shootings and explosions. They understand that they are exposed to a threat from which no one can protect them ... The only thing I thought I could do is to send this appeal - and hope. Safwat Diab."

More here from the Guardian.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Turdblossom Speaks

I think I have found our next book club selection:

...Rove, who helped the state party raise a total of $200,000, said the major issues in this fall's election would be the economy and Iraq. He criticized Democrats for wanting to pull troops out of Iraq, calling their strategy "cut and run".

He drew applause when he said the world was a better place without Saddam Hussein in power. He said anyone who doubts what the U.S. is fighting for should spend $13.95 to buy a collection of Osama Bin Laden's writings.

"We're in a war with Islamic facists... They want to reestablish and caliphate, an Islamic empire," he said.

Turns out that it's even cheaper than that, as Amazon has Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama Bin Laden available for $11.02. How can Rove can slam stem cell research, and then later in the same speech (
it amazes me people pay that guy to speak), plug a book of terrorist's writings? I doubt that bin Laden is getting royalties on that book, but doesn't plugging his book fan the flames of hatred?

Friday, July 07, 2006

It's Really, Really Bad In Iraq

I don't need to read any news reinforcing the fact that daily life is a terrifying ordeal for the average Iraqi - since I am a liberal Bush-hater, I assume this already. (Though I am always on the lookout for the latest Happy News.) But even I was shocked to read the shocking memo from the US Embassy in Baghdad, signed (typed? dictated? let's just say approved) by Ambassador Khalilzad himself. Among the lowlights of how crappy life is:

"Personal safety depends on good relations with the 'neighborhood' governments, who barricade streets and ward off outsiders. The central government, our staff says, is not relevant; even local mukhtars have been displaced or coopted by militias. People no longer trust most neighbors."

Embassy employees are held in such low esteem their work must remain a secret and they live with constant fear that their cover will be blown. Of nine staffers, only four have told their families where they work. They all plan for their possible abductions. No one takes home their cell phones as this gives them away. One employee said criticism of the U.S. had grown so severe that most of her family believes the U.S. "is punishing populations as Saddam did."

"For at least six months, we have not been able to use any local staff members for translation at on-camera press events....We cannot call employees in on weekends or holidays without blowing their 'cover.'"

Fuel lines have grown so long that one staffer spent 12 hours in line on his day off. "Employees all confirm that by the last week of May, they were getting one hour of power for every six hours without.

And this is for employees of the Embassy, who have probably some of the best jobs in the country.

I recall a few posts months ago wherein KKRB patriots posted links offering the "real story" good news that's going on in Free and Liberated Iraq. This interview pretty convincingly demonstrates that in fact things there are much, much worse than depicted. Excerpt:

FP: The Bush administration often complains that the reporting out of Iraq is too negative, yet you say they are managing the news. What’s the real story?

RN: You can only manage the news to a certain degree. It is certainly hard to hide the fact that in the third year of this war, Iraqis are only getting electricity for about 5 to 10 percent of the day. Living conditions have gotten so much worse, violence is at an even higher tempo, and the country is on the verge of civil war. The administration has been successful to the extent that most Americans are not aware of just how dire it is and how little progress has been made. They keep talking about how the Iraqi army is doing much better and taking over responsibilities, but for the most part that’s not true.

Maybe Saddam is right, and we should bring him back to help us out with this nightmare. Nothing else seems to be working.