English International Herald Tribune

2009 – Year in Review (by Patrick Chappatte)

Hopefully the link on the IHT website will still be working for centuries to come…otherwise I do have a copy of this great cartoon by the even greater Patrick Chappatte (website)

Chappatte - 2009 Year in Review
Chappatte - 2009 Year in Review

Hard to choose the best “vision from the future”. My favorite is about the first drug-free Tour de France ending…a month late!

Etica Italiano Liberta'

E Se La Fine della Omofobia Passasse Dal Far Cantare Povia?

Puo’ esserci niente di positivo nel lasciare cantare a Sanremo Povia e la sua “Luca era gay”? Ma certamente!

E’ (sarebbe?) una ghiotta occasione per parlare liberamente del tabu’ della sessualita’ della persona. E per liberarsi di tanti preconcetti.

Infatti: se Luca (e Povia) erano gay, e ora non lo sono piu’, che cosa vuol davvero dire?

Se la sessualita’ di una persona puo’ essere determinata dall’ambiente, e diciamo cosi’, dalle “frequentazioni”, allora non dobbiamo forse pensare che l’essere eterosessuale oppure omosessuale e’ una condizione transiente, che puo’ capitare a tutti e anzi ci accomuna tutti, etero e gay appunto?

Non si tratta di una curiosa immaginazione mia di fine anno: la “fluidita’ sessuale” femminile non dico che e’ dimostrata ma quasi

La…ricerca [di Lisa Diamond] ha…rivelato che [l’orientamento sessuale] “puo’ emergere piu’ tardi in eta’ adulta” e che le “sensazioni sessuali” possono cambiare “sia improvvisamente, sia gradualmente nel tempo”

“Cambiare nel tempo”…omosessuali ed eterosessuali, alcuni nascono, altri lo diventano. In tutte le direzioni. Alcuni anzi cambiano in un senso e poi nell’altro piu’ volte nella vita.

Luca era gay. Luca non e’ gay. Luca forse sara’ gay di nuovo.

L’importante e’ capire che e’ sempre Luca. E a meno che non vogliamo averlo come compagno di vita, che ce ne dovrebbe importare, se e’ stato, e’ o sara’ gay?

Economics English USA

Bleak Future for the SEC

President-elect Obama has selected Mary Schapiro as new Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. And that doesn’t appear to be the beginning of the much-indeed shaking of the financial industry.

Trouble is, in fact, that Mary Schapiro became in 2007 the Chair of the Financial Industry Services Authority, the new grandly-named self-regulatory body that…dropped the number of large fines just as the latest financial crisis was starting to brew, in 2006.

How can a 20-year-long-career regulator be trusted in remaking the whole regulatory “oversight playbook” is anybody’s guess. The only positive point is that with expectations very very low, Ms Schapiro can only succeed…

English Uncategorized

A Century Later, The Heroes of the Baltic Fleet To Be Remembered in Messina and Reggio Calabria

Two cities destroyed by Nature just after the holy days of Christmas; the wailing of the living, lost inside or outside the rubble; the waters of the Strait and their ripples in a light still confusing the sea with the horizon, full of a million pieces of what they had crushed in three waves of tsunami: that was the nightmare to which the Russian Baltic Fleet anchored in the early morning of 29 December 1908.

About twenty four hours had passed since one of the most devastating earthquakes in history, obliterating the cities of Messina and Reggio Calabria (and beyond) in Southern Italy, and with them around 100,000 people: and the Battleship Cesarevič was the first sign of any rescue from the outside world.

In an era where television serves death regularly at dinner time, it is hard to realize what horror is hidden behind the disappearance of one hundred thousand people in an area as small as that of the Strait of Messina. It’s as if somebody had killed three persons a day, on average, every single day for the past century.

And so the intervention of the Baltic Fleet is truly remarkable, and still remembered with all those indefatigable cadets, appearing strong beyond all imagination to the local population, true angels and saviours for thousands.

Who knows how many people would not be alive today, if their grandpa or great-grandma had not been rescued by the Russians? Perhaps extracted from underneath a collapsed building, or even “just” provided with a warm blanket, a place to sleep and warm food to survive especially in the first days after the tragedy.

The intervention of the Baltic Fleet will be remembered alongside the earthquake commemoration in a few days’ time, in the night of 27/28 December 2008, when the cities of Messina and Reggio Calabria will await that terrible hour of 5:21AM: because the sacrifice of hundreds, and the death of tens of Russian sailors should not be forgotten in the maelstroms of history.

Antiterrorism Christianity Christmas English Islam

For Christmas, A Little Respect

Merry Christmas to everybody.

With the full notion that there’s still a lot to do before Christmas becomes Christian enough to be Christmas…

A little respect by Abubakar N. Kasim Monday, December 22, 2008

If Santa Claus were ever to pay me a visit and grant me a wish, I would reply with one word: respect.

I would wish that society at large would show some respect toward me and my faith.

I am judged negatively whenever someone of my faith is accused of committing a crime.

I am viewed as an enemy within, a home-grown fanatic whom everyone should guard against.

I am harassed at the boarding gate when I leave the country, as if I was going to an Al Qaeda convention.

I am also bullied by the customs and immigration officers when I come back home, as if I don’t belong here.

I am pulled aside for extra inspections, as if I was carrying instructions on making weapons of mass destruction.

I am told repeatedly to tell the real truth about what I am bringing with me that I have not declared.

When a crime occurs where a Muslim is the primary suspect, I am asked to issue a statement in the strongest possible terms against terrorism and to dissociate myself from the crime. Whatever language I use in my denunciation, I am told is not enough and I must do more.

On the day after the crime, the headline reads: “Moderate Muslims Fail To Speak Up,” even though I have spoken and have condemned the crime.

When I try to access my own money, the bank teller reminds me of the seriousness of money laundering.

A bank supervisor recently alleged that my signature did not match the signature they had in my file. I emptied my wallet and showed all my identifications, to no avail.

Although I have lived in Canada for more than a decade and have been working hard to pay taxes and make ends meet, I am still viewed as a foreigner who belongs somewhere else.

A colleague at the airport where I work asked me recently, “Why did you choose Canada, a Christian country, and did not go to your own people instead?”

Another coworker said the other day that she cannot tolerate seeing Muslim women covering up. “I feel the urge to remove the piece of rag by force,” she said. “Why in the world would she hide her beauty?” she added.

Another airline employee suggested that we should stop Muslim women from entering the country if they choose to wear the hijab.

I cried like a child when a friend said that the only way the world can solve the problem of terrorism is to nuke the Muslim world. Only then will the planet live in real peace, he said.

It is deeply troubling to see how Muslims are treated in society. While I was having dinner at work, my colleagues next to me were discussing the shooting death right after the Sept. 11 tragedy of a Sikh man in the United States who was thought to be a Muslim. One of the people involved in the conversation blamed the murderer for not doing his homework in making sure that the person he was targeting was a real Muslim. The people in the cafeteria did not find the statement troubling and they all laughed approvingly.

We are reminded – again and again – that freedom of expression has limits. But when the same freedom involves the dehumanization of Muslims, it has no limit.

I don’t think I am asking too much if I expect some respect from my fellow countrymen.

I might have some lunatics in my midst but who doesn’t? If Christians are not held responsible for the death and destruction their co-religionist George W. Bush caused in Iraq, why should I be held responsible for the acts of a few mad men who might create mayhem in the name of my faith?

Abubakar N. Kasim is a freelance writer based in Toronto, working as a customer service representative for a major airline.

Antiterrorismo Etica Islam Italiano Uncategorized

Per Natale. Un Po’ di Rispetto.

Buon Natale a tutti.

Con la piena consapevolezza che c’è ancora molto da fare prima che il Natale diventi abbastanza Cristiano da meritarsi il nome di Natale …

Un po ‘di rispetto” di Abubakar N. Kasim Lunedi, 22 dicembre 2008

Se Babbo Natale mai mi visitera’ e mi concedera’ un desiderio, vorrei rispondere con una sola parola: rispetto.

Mi auguro che la società in generale che mostra alcuni rispetto verso me e la mia fede.

Io sono giudicato negativamente ogni volta che qualcuno della mia fede è accusato di aver commesso un reato.

Io sono considerato come un nemico interno, un fanatico contro cui tutti dovrebbero essere in guardia.

Io sono perseguitato al gate d’imbarco all’aereoporto quando lascio il Paese, come se stessi per andare a un raduno di Al Qaed.

Io sono anche vittima del bullismo da parte dei funzionari della dogana e dell’immigrazione ufficiali quando rientro a casa, come se non appartenessi qui.

Io sono messo da una parte per ispezioni supplementari, come se stessi portando istruzioni per costruire armi di distruzione di massa.

Mi è stato chiesto più volte di raccontare la vera verità riguardo quello che sto trasportando con me e non ho dichiarato.

Quando si verifica un crimine, se un musulmano è il sospettato principale, mi viene chiesto di rilasciare una dichiarazione di condanna del terrorismo con la massima fermezza, e di dissociarmi dal reato. Qualunque sia il linguaggio che uso nella mia denuncia, mi viene detto che non è sufficiente e devo fare di più.

Il giorno dopo il reato, i titoli recitano: “I musulmani moderati non ne parlano, e non condannano”, anche se ho parlato e ho condannato il crimine.

Quando provo ad accedere al mio stesso denaro, allo sportello della banca Bancomat mi viene ricordata la gravità del reato di riciclaggio di denaro sporco.

Un dirigente di banca di recente ha affermato che la mia firma non corrispondeva alla firma che conoscevano. Ho svuotato il mio portafoglio e ho mostrato tutte le mie tessere identificative, ma non e’ bastato.

Anche se ho vissuto in Canada per più di un decennio e ho lavorato sodo per pagare le tasse e far quadrare il bilancio, sono ancora considerato come uno straniero che appartiene da qualche altra parte.

Un collega all’aeroporto a dove lavoro mi ha chiesto di recente, “Perché hai scelto il Canada, un Paese cristiano, e non sei invece andato dal tuo popolo?”

Un altro collega ha detto l’altro giorno che lei non può tollerare vedere donne musulmane con il velo. “Mi viene voglia di rimuovere quel pezzo di straccio con la forza”, ha detto. “Perché mai al mondo dovrebbe lei nascondere la sua bellezza?” ha aggiunto.

Un altro impiegato di compagnia aerea ha suggerito che dovremmo smettere di permettere a donne musulmane di entrare nel Paese se scelgono di indossare l’hijab.

Ho pianto come un bambino quando un amico ha detto che l’unico modo in cui il mondo può risolvere il problema del terrorismo è di usare le bombe atomiche contro il mondo musulmano. Solo allora il Pianeta vivrebbed una pace reale, ha detto.

E ‘profondamente preoccupante vedere come vengono trattati i musulmani nella società. Mentre mangiavo al lavoro, i miei colleghi accanto a me sono state discutendo l’omicidio a colpi di pistola dopo l’11 settembre di un Sikh negli Stati Uniti che era stato scambiato per musulmano. Una delle persone coinvolte nella conversazione ha accusato l’assassino di non aver fatto il suo dovere, per sincerarsi che il target fosse stato un vero musulmano. La gente intorno non ha trovato niente di preoccupante nella dichiarazione, e tutti ridevano in approvazione.

Ci viene ricordato – molto spesso – che la libertà di espressione ha dei limiti. Ma quando la stessa libertà comporta la disumanizzazione dei musulmani, non c’e’ limite.

Non credo che sto chiedendo troppo, se mi aspetto rispetto da parte dei miei connazionali.

Posso avere qualche pazzo dalla mia “parte musulmana”, ma chi non ne ha? Se i cristiani non sono ritenuti responsabili per la morte e la distruzione che il cristiano George W. Bush ha causato in Iraq, perché dovrei essere ritenuto responsabile per gli atti di qualche pazzo che potrebbe [seminare morte e distruzione] in nome della mia fede?

Abubakar N. Kasim è uno scrittore freelance, che risisede a Toronto, e lavora come rappresentante del Servizio Clienti di una grande compagnia aerea.

Economia Italiano

2008: L’Anno In Cui Le Banche Hanno Perso

Niente da celebrare a fine anno in campo finanziario. Come commenta Floyd Norris sull’International Herald Tribune in “L’anno in cui il sistema si e’ rotto“:

I tassi di interesse a lungo termine sono ai loro livelli più bassi in mezzo secolo. I tassi di interesse a lungo termine sono ai livelli più elevati in quasi 20 anni. Quello passato si delinea come l’anno peggiore in sette decenni per il mercato azionario. Dei 10 giorni migliori per il mercato azionario durante questi ultimi 70 anni, sei sono accaduti nel 2008. Un eroe di Wall Street che ha costretto anni fa la Grande Finanza a trattare meglio gli investitori, ora ammette di aver frodato una generazione successiva di investitori per 50 miliardi di dollari. Un famoso avvocato ha detto di essersi appropriato di centinaia di milioni vendendo valori mobiliari fasulli a una serie di “hedge funds”. Gli economisti sono preoccupati per la deflazione. Gli economisti sono anche timorosi per l’inflazione. Il governo degli Stati Uniti presta denaro a imprese che prima non avrebbero mai potuto avere in prestito. Tutti temono un’ondata di fallimenti societari se le aziende non possono prendere in prestito denaro per risanare i prestiti in pagamento.

Questo è stato l’anno in cui il sistema finanziario ha smesso di funzionare. Quasi tutte le contraddittorie dichiarazioni sopra possono essere fatte risalire a questo fatto. […]

il settore bancario non era in grado di assumersi il proprio ruolo storico di finanziatore che pazientemente attende che i prestiti vengano rimborsati. Al contrario, le banche non hanno fiducia né nei propri bilanci, né in quelli di altre banche. Per una parte significativa dell’economia, il governo è diventato la prima e unica fonte di prestiti.

Per la maggior parte del 2008, la Federal Reserve e il Tesoro degli Stati Uniti non si sono resi conto che il sistema bancario si trovava di fronte a una crisi di solvibilità piuttosto che a una di liquidità. Gli sforzi volti a fornire liquidità si sono rivelati inefficaci perché nessuno aveva [o ha] fiducia nei valori delle enormi quantità di prodotti derivati e cartolarizzati che le banche possiedono.

È più o meno evidente che è l’intero sistema bancario che ha bisogno di essere rivisto. Non appena le cose si sono messe male, e’ praticamente scomparso alla vista, a parte poche eccezioni degne di nota (e nessuno scommetterebbe che quelle eccezioni non saranno a loro volta in difficoltà nei prossimi mesi, se non settimane …).

Forse dovremmo semplicemente accettare il fatto che cosi’ come stanno le cose, tutte le banche sono in ultima analisi di proprietà statale. E un po ‘come la maggior parte delle grandi compagnie aeree degli Stati Uniti, le banche saranno periodicamente capaci di fare un grande, grande pasticcio con i loro conti.

Il problema è che fanno il pasticcio con il denaro degli altri…

Economics English

2008: The Year We Lost (Financial) Contact

Sobering end-of-year commentary by Floyd Norris on the International Herald Tribune: “The year the system failed“:

Long-term interest rates are at their lowest levels in half a century. Long-term interest rates are at their highest levels in nearly 20 years. This is shaping up as the worst year in seven decades for the stock market. Of the 10 best days the stock market experienced during those 70 years, six came in 2008. A Wall Street legend who became a hero for forcing Wall Street to treat investors better now admits to defrauding a later generation of investors of $50 billion. A prominent lawyer is said to have embezzled hundreds of millions by selling phony securities to hedge funds. The economists are worried about deflation. They are also fearful of inflation. The U.S. government is lending money to businesses that never could have borrowed from it before. People fear a wave of corporate bankruptcies as companies find they cannot borrow money to repay loans that are due.

This was the year the financial system stopped working. Nearly all the contradictory but accurate statements above can be traced to that fact. […]

the banking industry was in no position to assume its historical role as a lender that patiently waited for loans to be repaid. To the contrary, banks trusted neither their own balance sheets nor those of other banks. For a significant part of the economy, the government became the lender of first and only resort.

For most of 2008, the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury failed to realize that the banking system faced a solvency crisis rather than a liquidity crisis. Efforts to provide liquidity proved ineffectual because no one had confidence in the values of enormous amounts of derivatives and securitizations that the banks owned.

It is more or less self-evident that it’s the whole banking system that needs to be reviewed. As soon as things turned sour, it kind of disappeared from view, apart from few notable exceptions (and nobody would bet they won’t get in trouble in the next few months if not weeks…).

Perhaps we should just accept that as things stand, all banks are ultimately owned by the state. And rather like most major US airlines, banks will periodically make a big, big mess with their accounts.

Trouble is, they make the mess with everybody else’s money too…

English Politics UK

What If The UK Were A Reflection Of Its Prime Minister?

Aimless with Heath, self-defeating with Callahan, self-centred with Thatcher, clueless-yet-advancing with Major, booming in its own bubble with Blair, and now unstoppably gloomy with Brown…does the UK follow the PM du jour, or is the PM always what the UK deserves (and wants)?

Etica Giustizia Italia Italiano Politica

Con Una Magistratura Cosi’ Perche’ Non Festeggiare?

Com’e’ possibile che per l’ennesima volta i destinatari degli avvisi di garanzia ne vengano a sapere dai giornali? E non c’e’ niente di strano nella concentrazione delle indagini, che misteriosamente vanno a stagioni, prima contro il Pentapartito, poi contro Berlusconi e adesso contro il PD, guarda caso proprio mentre Robespierre-Di Pietro e la sua armata di forcaioli allegri sente di essere molto popolare?

Come al solito, in Italia si finisce con l’avere una cura (magistrati d’assalto, “‘ndo cojo cojo”) che e’ peggio della malattia (corruzione, concussione, etc etc).

Climate Change Cooling Culture Data Global Warming Omniclimate Politics Skepticism

How To Link Record Cold And Snow To Global Warming…

…in a few easy steps!

  1. If a winter is warmer than the average, claim that as evidence that the globe is warming and the climate is changing, because winters are supposed to be cooler
  2. If the following winter is warmer than the average, go back to 1.
  3. If the following winter is average or colder, claim that as evidence that the globe is warming and the climate is changing, because even if winters were initially supposed to be as cold as the average, since recent winters have been warmer than that, then an average or cooler winter is a change in climate (and it is due to global warming because everything is)

Sadly, the above is not an example of sarcasm, but the unvarnished truth of some unbelievable debate currently at play in Italy. I may (or may not) translate the whole thing, but for now I’ll simply point to the record-breaking snowfalls in Piedmont and the Vallée d’Aoste, Northwestern Italy, where :

  • the village of Balme has seen 170cm, 5’7″ of snow in just 24h (previous record in that part of the Alps: 115cm, 3’9″, again in Balme in 1933)
  • Limone Piemonte has been buried in more than 200cm, 6’7″ of snow
  • Champoluc, Vallée d’Aoste, is likely to be evacuated because of too much snow

I’ll also post quite spectacular pictures when I find the time. Couple of videos may suffice for now:

AGW catastrophism Climate Change Culture Data Global Warming Omniclimate

Times of Desperation (If You're Hopeless)

Haven’t posted much of late…apart from being busy with my actual life, there is no much fun in pointing out the Emperor has no clothes, when the aforementioned Emperor keeps catching one cold after another…

Anyway, the dependable Richard Black is putting out some of his true soul in his blog at the BBC (or so it appears). He just got elegiacally desperate about “the wild Mekong“, wondering if

within a couple of human generations, Homo sapiens will be exercising its untrammelled dominance over most of the Greater Mekong, just as it does now over the Danube, Ganges and Colorado.

The species peering into forest camera traps today will then be only glimpsed in the cages of zoos and the pages of natural history books, and journalists and conservation groups will be telling their even more familiar feel-bad tale of “species in peril”.

Mr Black declared he “would love to be wrong”. I do not know if I have any argument about that. But I can make two quick points, related to each other.

First is that I can hear the lament but not much more than that. Europe itself was a forest long time ago, perhaps from Portugal to the Urals. Then people came in and changed their environment: some non-human species have lost out, others have prospered.

Despite what the WWF tries to depict, in this very day we simply do not live in sterile wastelands, and in all likelihood the Greater Mekong region won’t become one either.

Isn’t it a tad too convenient that as soon as a place like Laos gets a chance to prosper (and WITHOUT emitting CO2!!!) then we jump right in, tut-tutting and saying no-this and no-that? It’s like getting Bill Clinton lecturing against cheating on one’s wife.

Second point is that there’s lot of cultural issues behind our reasoning. One hundred years ago nature was red in tooth and claw, and extinctions seen as the way things are supposed to be. Nowadays nature is fragile in the extreme, and conservation seen as the way things are supposed to be. Who knows what will people think two generations in the future?

I have a feeling they won’t look in sympathy at anybody hoping the human race will be wiped out…and in the name of what?

Whatever angst we feel then, there’s always the chance that it will simply pass…just don’t despair. There is no point in doing that.

English Internet

Why Brands Fail on Facebook

Major brands try to make friends on Facebook“, claims the IHT. Well, they can keep trying.

Where is the “face” of the brand?

Down with “social advertising”…the future, at least on Facebook, is clearly in publishing the designer’s face in the book. People, not just stuff.

English Environment Ethics Overpopulation

Children as Enemies of the Environment? A Good Riposte

Joanna Benn ponders in the BBC web site if “baby decisions” are “adding to the world’s woes”.

Yeah, right.

Luckily among the general doom and gloom, there is at least one reader making a very important comment to Benn’s absurdist thinking:

Hearing Ms Benn wonder aloud “how green it is” to have a child is chilling. My parents lived in a time when certain people asked each other, in deadly earnest, how “Aryan” some personal choices might be. One might turn and ask Ms Benn “how green it is” for HER to continue to walk the earth. After all, Ms Benn, with a residence of her own, undoubtedly consumes more valuable resources than an infant who simply
lives with its parents. But that is what we come to when we start running life by the numbers.
Seajay, Seattle, Washington

What Ms Benn does not realize, and what many people concerned about overpopulation don’t realize, is that it is one thing to wish a more manageable number of people to roam the world; but it is another, wholly different thing to behave and to reason as if children were things to hate.

And the latter is, frankly, monstrous.

Ambiente Italiano Sovrappopolazione

Dedicato A Chi Non Vuole Bambini Perche’ Ambientalista…

Un articolo/editoriale oggi sulla BBC da parte di Joanna Benn, che scaldera’ il cuore di alcuni: “Decidere di avere bambini…un modo per aggiungere ai problemi del mondo?

Ottima invece la risposta di un lettore:

Sentire la Sig.ra Benn chiedere ad alta voce “quanto verde” sia avere un figlio mi fa provare la sensazione come di una lama di ghiaccio alla schiena. I miei genitori sono vissuti in un periodo storico in cui alcune persone si chiedevano l’un l’altra, in maniera mortalmente seria, “quanto ariano” potesse essere questa o quella scelta personale. Rigiriamo allora la domanda alla Benn e chiediamole “quanto verde” sia per persone come lei continuare a stare al mondo. Dopo tutto, la Sig.ra Benn, con una casa sua propria, indubbiamente consuma più preziose risorse di un bambino che semplicemente vive con i suoi genitori. Ma è a questo che arriveremo quando cominceremo a pensare le nostre vite in termini di numeri.
Seajay, Seattle, Washingto

English International Herald Tribune Italy Letters

In Italian University Education, A Crisis Being Wasted

(letter sent to the IHT)

Zoe Bray and Andrea Calderaro of the European University Institute in Fiesole, Italy, describe the Italian Government’s planned funding cuts as an “assault on an already fragile education system (Letters, IHT, Dec 12).

Perhaps so. But one wonders why “people [brought] together from all walks of Italian life” protesting against those cuts, have been (and still are!) so acquiescent to the one issue that hobbles every single University in Italy: namely, the incredible and totally unrestrained domination by the “Professori Ordinari”, the tenured professors that literally hold the power of academic life and death (and more).

For decades now, there have been plenty of Professori Ordinari in the Italian Parliament, and in successive Governments from all sides. Still, as Bray and Calderaro correctly point out, the education system has been based “in large part [on] the voluntary work of researchers“. Furthermore, nepotism abounds.

Funding cuts or not, the status quo is evidently untenable. Rather than sterile protests against a Government that is more or less obliged to restructure the infamous Italian public accounts, one would hope those working and studying in Universities could take advantage of the current crisis, and force the tenured professors to give an account of their flawed stewardship.

AGW Climate Change CO2 Emissions Global Warming Omniclimate Policy Politics

Double non-AGW Whammy on the International Herald Tribune

Interesting choice in the Dec 10 paper edition of the International Herald Tribune, with an Op-Ed by Jeff Jacoby (“Skepticism on climate change“) and a full-page article by James Kanter titled “EU carbon trading system brings windfalls for some, with little benefit to climate” (this one featured in part on the front page too).

Jacoby’s point is quite simple: “skepticism and inquiry go to the essence of scientific progress“, hence all the calls for skeptical voices to be silenced or singled out for insults or worse remind more of the Spanish Inquisition than of serious attempts at preventing AGW.

(By the way…could anybody – yawn – please tell Al Gore – yawn – that it is logically idiotic to state that “Climate deniers fall into the same camp as people who still don’t believe we landed on the moon“?, because – yawn – the Moon landings belong to the past and climate change belongs to the future? –  thanks!)

Kanter’s article goes at length to explain all that is wrong with the EU carbon emission trading system (“ETS”). No wonder its acceptance was suspiciously easy…:

After heavy lobbying by giant utilities and smokestack industries, who argued their competitiveness could be impaired, the EU all but scrapped the idea of selling permits. It gave them out for free, in such quantities that the market came close to collapsing because of a glut.

But in line with the original strategy, utilities in countries from Spain to Britain to Poland still put a “market value” on their books for the permits and added some of that putative cost to the prices they charged industrial customers for electricity. And they did not stop there. In one particularly contentious case, regulators in Germany accused utilities of charging customers for far more permits than they were entitled to

Rabid AGWers must be very wide-eyed people indeed, if they have allowed to happen under their watch absurdities such as the fact that the

“implementation [of the ETS] has been marked by maneuvers and adjustments to the original framework that have yielded significant cost benefits to many of the continent’s biggest polluting industries”

In other words, the first consequence of “environmental legislation on carbon emissions” has been rewarding the polluters, whole industries that frankly emit much more dangerous stuff than CO2.

Sadly, and paradoxically, little or no lesson has been learned. We are still hearing of “lofty goals”, that will be manipulated of course by the same polluters.

Looks even more lucrative than smuggling drugs, doesn’t it? And it doesn’t land you in jail…

Bomba Atomica Bonino Cina democrazia Diritti Umani Diritto Internazionale Emma Bonino Europa fainotizia Gandhi Giustizia Guerra Iran Italia Italiano Liberta' New York Review of Books New York Times Nonviolenza ONU Pace Pannella Politica Radicali Tibet UE USA

La Luce e lo Scontro – Lettera Aperta al Partito Radicale Transnazionale

Carissimi Cappato / Pannella / Perduca / Mecacci / Bonino / D’Elia / Stango / Mellano / Vecellio e compagni radicali tutti

Noto con dispiacere che ci sono vari punti in maniera di politica a livello globale, sui quali non vado assolutamente d’accordo con quanto espresso da vari esponenti Radicali.

Non essendomi possibile, per esigenze di lavoro, la partecipazione a Bruxelles al Consiglio Generale del Partito Radicale Nonviolento Transpartito Transnazionale (11-13 dicembre), mando quindi alcuni spunti su quanto avrei detto in quella occasione.

La mia preoccupazione principale e’ nel non capire ne’ il senso ne’ le motivazioni, da Radicali, di un certo generale irrigidimento su piu’ fronti, contro chi ci appare come “nemico”: un irrigidimento di cui non vedo lo scopo, anche perche’ non capisco in base a quale strategia si pensi che questo modo di atteggiarsi potrebbe portare ad alcun risultato, se non rendere i “nemici” ancora piu’ “nemici”.

Ci ritroviamo cosi’ ad avere cuori caldi e a portare teste alte, ma a coloro per i quali diciamo di lottare, che cosa potra’ mai loro importare del nostro stato d’animo se non otteniamo niente di concreto per loro?

Peggio: sembra che anche per i Radicali come un po’ per tutti, ci siano popoli oppressi di Serie A e altri popoli oppressi di Serie B, di cui non ci importa un classico fico secco. Che senso ha tutto questo?

Per chiarezza, nel seguito trattero’ di due esempi: la Russia e l’Iran. Comincio con una premessa ispirata dall’intervento di Matteo Mecacci alla Camera, nel Novembre scorso, in un dibattito sulla politica estera e la crisi in Georgia:

“È evidente che il Presidente del Consiglio italiano, Silvio Berlusconi, ha scelto un certo tipo di politica estera sicuramente diversa da quella degli anni precedenti nella scorsa legislatura”

A me sembra invece evidente che Berlusconi stia continuando la politica estera che fu di De Gasperi, di Andreotti, di Craxi, e anche di Prodi. Con uno stile fra il giullare e lo spregiudicato, ma “ovviamente” lungo le stesse linee guida.

Perche’? Perche’ l’Italia, chiunque sia al Governo, e’ e rimane una “Potenza di serie B” (sempreche’ il termine “Potenza” abbia ancora validita’). Cosa venga deciso a Roma e’ in generale di nessun interesse per la vasta maggioranza delle Nazioni e dei Popoli del Pianeta Terra.

Per tenere contenti gli Italiani e il loro Amor Patrio, a parte qualche insipido summit UE e un vacuo voto nelle decisioni NATO, l’unico modo per far finta che l’Italia abbia un considerevole peso internazionale sta nel dimostrare ogni tanto indipendenza e spregiudicatezza, rifuggendo dalla previdibilita’ almeno nelle decisioni non eccessivamente importanti.

C’e’ nessuno che ricordi quanto fece Craxi lasciando libero Abu Abbas a Sigonella nel 1985, o la capacita’ di Andreotti, nel 1991, di essere l’unico e solo Capo di Governo al mondo che ricevette telegrammi di ringraziamento sia da parte di Gorbachov, sia da parte dei “Dodici” golpisti sovietici?

Inutile quindi notare “una politica estera molto spericolata che cerca rapporti…anche con la Libia di Gheddafi”. I quali fra l’altro sono una scelta obbligata, visto che persino gli USA si avviano alla normalizzazione e non c’e’ vantaggio alcuno a tenersi a distanza.

Continua Mecacci:

“(in Russia) si è scelta la via militare anche per fare i conti con la Georgia, che è solo l’esempio di un Paese che vuole integrarsi nell’Unione europea, che ha una cultura profondamente europea, così come l’Ucraina”

Il consenso fra gli specialisti invece e’ che “Misha” Saakashvili abbia attaccato per primo, lo scorso agosto.

In generale, il comportamento della Georgia post-URSS non e’ mai stato ne’ democratico, ne’ conciliatorio, ne’ liberale nei confronti delle minoranze, a cominciare da Zviad Gamsakhurdia, che dopo aver proclamato l’indipendenza georgiana nel 1991 decise di eliminare ogni autonomia a Osseti e Abkhazi.

Ricordiamoci che Saakashvili stesso ha non troppo tempo fa organizzato la solenne traslazione della bara di Gamsakhurdia (giusto per sottolineare le prospettive di liberta’ di Osseti e Abkhazi sotto il nuovo Governo…). E dopo aver bastonato gli oppositori, si e’ preso tutte le stazioni televisive. Come scrivono in occasioni separate Robert English e George Friedman sulla New York Review of Books, la Georgia lungi dal dimostrare una “cultura profondamente europea”, si comporta nel Caucaso come una “Piccola Russia”.

O in alternativa: se e’ europea la Georgia, perche’ non e’ europea anche la Russia?

Riguardo l’Ucraina, e’ ormai democraticamente e ripetutamente appurato che meta’ del Paese e’ russo e si sente russo. Non sono parte dello Stato Ucraino pure essi? Che messaggio abbiamo da dir loro, se la nostra politica e’ caricare a testa bassa contro qualunque cosa faccia o dica la Russia? E’ questo un punto forse ancora piu’ importante da chiarire. Perche’ non dimostriamo alcun interesse nel destino di certi popoli, per esempio se hanno la buona o cattica sorte di essere appoggiati dalla Russia?

E infatti, sentiamo Mecacci di nuovo:

“Il Presidente del Consiglio ha dichiarato in questi giorni che occorre evitare il ritorno alla guerra fredda. Credo che occorra che qualcuno in quest’aula ricordi che la guerra fredda va rivendicata dal momento che è ciò che ha consentito all’europa decenni di pace”

Ma non e’ stata la Guerra Fredda a consentire la “pace”. E’ stata l’adesione di Stalin agli accordi di Yalta. Nessuna (neanche una) democrazia liberale e occidentale e’ stata fatta sviluppare se non laddove gia’ stabilito da Roosevelt, Churchill e Stalin, e nessuna rivoluzione comunista ha avuto successo se non dove gia’ deciso a priori.

Il destino di ogni Paese, Italia inclusa, e’ stato scritto nel 1945 e non e’ cambiato di una virgola, neanche laddove dopo la guerra l’insurrezione comunista fosse fu piu’ forte (Grecia), o la societa’ non-comunista piu’ solida (Ungheria).

La Guerra Fredda non ha impedito ai Sovietici di conquistare l’Europa (come se gli USA e il Regno Unito sarebbero rimasti a guardare) ma ha impedito ai polacchi, ai cecoslovacchi, ai rumeni, ai bulgari etc etc di sviluppare le loro democrazie liberali e occidentali. Anche il destino delle repubbliche baltiche (e in misura minore, della Finlandia a liberta’ limitata, vittoriosa contro l’URSS ma abbandonata a Stato satellite) lo dimostra chiaro e tondo.

Andiamo a chiedere a loro quanto c’e’ da rivendicare, della guerra fredda.

E sulla minaccia che si ritorni ai vecchi confronti a muso duro con i russi: non dimentichiamoci che la Russia contemporanea, anche quella di Yeltsin, e’ sempre stata trattata dai “nostri” come una minaccia, e l’allargamento della NATO e’ stato sempre sottinteso come una difesa contro la Russia, da quegli Stati dimenticati sessanta e piu’ anni fa oltre la cortina di ferro.

Non meravigliamoci quindi se si comporti come se si senta minacciata (diciamocelo chiaro e tondo: lo e’), e quindi ritenga opportuno cercare di aumentare la propria sfera d’influenza. E’ di dialogo e rispetto che c’e’ bisogno, non di minacce o indignazione. Dice Nicholas Kristof poche settimane fa sul New York Times: stuzzicare un orso irritabile non e’ un sostituto per della seria diplomazia.

Ci sono altri argomenti che mi vedono fuori dalla linea politica internazionale di parecchi dirigenti radicali.

Il piu’ eclatante e’ l’Iran, che alcuni fra noi vedono come la reincarnazione del male assoluto. Di nuovo, scegliendo il conflitto aperto (se non addirittura, auspicando quello armato, rendendo in tal modo inevitabili sia un ulteriore inasprimento della gia’ dura repressione interna, sia il completamento della costruzione di una o piu’ bombe atomiche), laddove niente e’ comprensibile se non si esplorano seriamente le ragioni di tutti.

C’e’ un unico motivo infatti per cui l’Iran cerca di costruire la bomba atomica: per garantire la sicurezza nazionale. Questa e’ un’opinione diffusa fra tutti gli esperti di strategia internazionale. Prova anche ne sia il fatto che il programma atomico e’ stato cominciato da ben prima della Rivoluzione Islamica di Khomeini, ai tempi dello Shah Reza Pahlavi.

L’Iran non e’ certo il solo o il primo Stato a proseguire su quella strada. Gia’ India e Pakistan hanno sviluppato la Bomba per difendersi l’una dall’altro. Non e’ poi un caso che le guerre convenzionali contro Israele siano cessate allorquando e’ stata resa nota l’esistenza di ordigni atomici sotto controllo del Governo di Tel Aviv/Gerusalemme.

Il fatto poi che la Corea del Nord, con la sua micro-atomica, non sia stata ne’ invasa ne’ attaccata dagli USA, sorte invece toccata al nuclearmente disarmato Iraq di Saddam Hussein, non puo’ che spronare le autorita’ di Teheran a premere l’acceleratore affinche’ anche una sola Bomba sia disponibile al piu’ presto: per salvare la propria vita, piu’ che per attaccare chicchessia.

E invece: cosa proponiamo noi? Antonio Stango su Notizie Radicali del 18 giugno 2008 invita a

“[non] concedere tempo agli ayatollah al potere [e pretendere] entro pochi mesi, un governo iraniano che tuteli le libertà e i diritti umani, fermi la corsa all’arma nucleare e rinunci alle manovre terroristiche all’estero“

A parte che mi sembra avessimo smesso di sognare di esportare la democrazia…possibile che non ci rendiamo conto che non c’e’ bisogno di essere amici degli Ayatollah per capire che una volta messi all’angolo con il rischio di essere eliminati da un momento all’altro, faranno quanto di piu’ logico e metteranno davvero insieme una bomba nucleare, magari rudimentale, magari “sporca” ma ovviamente pronta all’uso?

Dov’e’ la Noviolenza in tutto questo? Non e’ quasi banale dire che per uscire fuori da questo circolo vizioso, ed evitare un conflitto di qualsivoglia genere, bisogna andare alle radici del problema, che rimane la questione della sicurezza per l’Iran stesso, islamico o democratico che sia?

Chi lo dice? Lo dice il famoso Hans Blix. Lo dicono George Perkovich, Direttore del Programma di Nonproliferazione al Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, e Pierre Goldschmidt, gia’ vice Direttore della International Atomic Energy Agency. Lo dice Zbigniew Brzezinski, gia’ consigliere di Carter. Lo dice lo scrittore e giornalista Christopher de Bellaigue. Lo dice il New York Times, in un editoriale senza firma del 28 Maggio 2008.

L’unico modo per evitare la tragedia di una guerra e’ condurre dei negoziati seri con l’Iran: e l’unico modo per essere seri e’ garantire all’Iran che l’Europa, e gli USA smettano di appoggiare tentivi piu’ o meno segreti di colpo di Stato violento in Iran.

Ogni altro atteggiamento portera’ a morti e distruzione. Ovviamente, e logicamente. In barba alla nonviolenza.

E infine, riguardo la Cina. Non e’ stato possibile convincere nessun Radicale della necessita’ di non far finta di niente dopo il terribile terremoto del Maggio scorso.

Mi e’ stato detto che un terremoto e’ una tragedia non politica: al che rispondo che prima di tutto a uccidere le persone in caso di terremoto sono gli edifici che crollano, e non il tremore della terra. E cosa c’e’ di piu’ politico, e di piu’ colossale esempio di assenza dei piu’ minimi controlli democratici, che l’incuria da parte di Governi un po’ in tutto il mondo (Cina, e Italia incluse, ovviamente)? I quali Governi permettono l’edificazione fuori norma, magari proprio di quelle scuole dove ci sono i bambini e quindi il futuro di innumerevoli famiglie.

Se ne e’ accorto nessuno, fra una bandiera tibetana e l’altra, che il Primo Ministro cinese Wen Jiabao si e’ fatto fotografare piu’ volte seriamente impegnato a lavorare per aiutare i terremotati? Davvero tutto cio’ e’ stato fatto senza che avesse valenza politica?

Mentre di noi che impressione sara’ rimasta, se non di cinici, barbari e cattivi, tutti presi a difendere i tibetani calpestando i morti altrui (e adesso, impegnati a viso aperto nel fomentare movimenti nazionali di resistenza dentro lo Stato cinese, manco fossimo a un remake delle lotte russo-giapponesi riguardo la Manciuria).

Cosa vogliamo ottenere, dalla Cina? Una capitolazione ignominiosa? Tante scuse e il ritiro immediato dal Tibet? Chissa’: se cosi’ fosse, cio’ spiegherebbe il deserto assoluto nei nostri cuori, incapaci di manifestare alcuna solidarieta’ di fronte a migliaia di morti.

Ma se cosi’ fosse, qualcuno mi puo’ spiegare di che strategia si tratti? Qual’e’ l’idea di fondo, come vogliamo ottenere quanto vogliamo ottenere, dalla Cina, presentandoci noi stessi a muso duro, indifferenti, miopi e agitatori pronti a tirare nel mucchio?

In ultilma analisi, anche l’indignazione, come dice in risposta a una lettera il gia’ citato George Friedman riprendendo il noto giornalista e politico statunitense Strobe Talbott scrivendo su Time Magazine del 1979 non a caso dell’Iran, non e’ una politica estera.

Questo e’ il tema di fondo. E allora con l’essere Radicali cosa c’entra l’agire da nemici “giurati a prescindere” della Russia, il manifestare noncuranza contro Abkhazi e Osseti meridionali, il considerare l’Iran come il Male, lo sputare metaforicamente negli occhi di centinaia di milioni di cinesi di etnia Han, per non parlare del disprezzo palese contro la Serbia (e di nuovo l’assenza di considerazione per i serbi del Kosovo)?

Anche sul Libano, cosa abbiamo da dire se non le solite generiche accuse contro Hezbollah, come se quelli fossero alieni venuti dallo spazio e non una parte molto consistente della popolazione locale?

A chi giova lo scontro frontale e senza possibilita’ di compromesso? Cosa c’entra, con la Nonviolenza, con Gandhi, con il carattere Transnazionale di un Partito che aspirerebbe anche ad avere in se’ persone provenienti da Paesi in grave e perdurante conflitto fra loro, e tuttavia capaci di rimanere all’interno dello stesso gruppo politico, e di gestire gli inevitabili conflitti senza la evitabile violenza?

Ecco, e’ questo che non capisco. Continuero’ a sforzarmi. Speriamo pero’ che qualcuno mi dia una mano a chiarire cosa vogliamo per il nostro futuro.

AGW catastrophism Climate Change CO2 Emissions Global Warming greenhouse effect Humor Omniclimate Skepticism

Space Aliens May Have Destroyed Home Planet With CO2 Emissions

(an example of Do-It-Yourself climate alarmism)

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has discovered carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of a planet orbiting another star.

Translation: Powerful life-threatening gas is so abundant on that planet, it has been detected light-years away

This breakthrough is an important step toward finding chemical biotracers of extraterrestrial life.

Translation: We have no hopes but to find only the traces of whatever life might have been there before runaway global warming

The Jupiter-sized planet, called HD 189733b, is too hot for life.

Translation: QED

[…] Previous observations of HD 189733b by Hubble and the Spitzer Space Telescope found water vapor. Earlier this year, Hubble found methane in the planet’s atmosphere. […]

Translation: The planet’s atmosphere is made up almost 100% of greenhouse gases! Those space aliens must have been in the SUV business big time, poor them.

Is the above justified? I say yes, and why not? Of course it’s all possible, therefore on the basis of the precautionary principle, of course we ought to behave like it were true.

Please stop breathing.

Italia Italiano Meteorologia Metereologia

Rischio Alluvioni in Italia 10-11-12 Dicembre

Dal sito Meteoweb

Precipitazioni violente e abbondanti. Liguria, Toscana, Emilia e Friuli col fiato sospeso: si rischia l’alluvione

[…] Nei prossimi giorni sono in arrivo altre abbondanti precipitazioni proprio in queste aree.

Pioverà copiosamente per oltre 48-54 ore in modo persistente nelle stesse zone, nel nord/est e in modo particolare in Friuli.

E se nella giornata di mercoledì 10 la neve cadrà a quote collinari su tutto l’arco Alpino orientale, fino a 500 metri di quota, nelle 24 ore successive (giovedì 11) le temperature aumenteranno a causa dell’arrivo dello scirocco, e in contemporanea a una nuova eccezionale ondata d’acqua alta a Venezia, le persistenti, violente e abbondanti precipitazioni in atto nel Friuli saranno liquide, piovose, fino a oltre mille metri!

Si scioglierà quindi di colpo anche l’abbondante coltre nevosa caduta nelle 24 ore precedenti!

Situazione allarmante anche tra Liguria di levante, Emilia e Toscana.
Sulle Apuane e nell’Appennino Tosco/Emiliano cadranno oltre 350/400mm di pioggia in 48 ore.[…]

Chissa’ perche’ questi allerta giustificatissimi non trovano spazio sui giornali…

AGW catastrophism Climate Change Culture Dissent Freedom Global Warming Omniclimate Policy Politics Skepticism

Stansted Climate Protest, or Why AGW Must Be Challenged

Major PR debacle for AGWers, one hopes, in today’s break-in at London’s Stansted Airport with thousands unable to leave for their expected destinations.

And it’s not just a matter of going home and rebook online: imagine how many pre-booked vacations have been ruined, family reunions postponed, business meetings cancelled, money wasted in giant taxi fares and expensive car parking, that will have to be paid again shortly.

Who would have guessed, of all people the climate protesters have prevented from flying a BBC journalist with plenty of AGW articles in his CV and a long-planned trip to Poznan to attend the UN climate talks. Is there a long, long ferry journey to Denmark in Mr Black’s future, one wonders?

Promises of bringing to protesters in front of a court of justice already abounds. However, in the recent past the UK Government has approved of apparently law-breaking climate-change protests, so I would’t bet anybody will be punished…


Actually the Plane Stupid’s plain stupid initiative of today comes out handy to demonstrate why AGW has to be challenged by everybody with a sane mind: because it has been portrayed in so dire terms, that people of various critical ability will do who-knows-what excessive actions in its name.

If 80% or more of the living species are threatened by humans, surely a terrorist attack will appear fully justified in many not-even-too-deranged-minds? People have been bombing each other for decades for far less than the well-being of the biosphere. One wished nonviolence figured more prominently in the Plane Stupid declarations.

Nothing is safe from “the threat of runaway climate change”, and no rights can be considered too important for AGWers to leave it untouched: our rights to move freely, to choose how to earn and how to spend our money, to plan for a holiday, to visit parents and other relatives abroad or even on the other side of the country, not to mention the right to think if not express the opinion that AGW is a big castle made of nothing like sand, they will all disappear sooner or later, if nobody tries to insert some sense in the climate discussion.

The strange bit is that even such an authoritative AGW group like the IPCC, and avowed catastrophiliacs such as Lord Stern, do not believe overdramatic actions are needed today, or tomorrow. Rather, they all advocate something to be done in the scale of decades.

And that is even more worrying: because in spite of what is actually meant by Stern, or by Al Gore, or by James Hansen or the UK Government,  at the end of the day their choice of words will always inspire simpletons to do something very very silly at airports and elsewhere; and Governments to curtail civil liberties in the name of the Greater Good That Could Not Have Been Portrayed Greater.

Perhaps more people will wake up one day to the fact that he transformation of society into a “Moral Police State” is the only way AGW  can be stopped, or so it is implied by those that portray it as the biggest challenge to humanity, a threat bigger than the terrorism, the source of everything wrong with the world today, the thing that will burn up the world to cinder, etc etc.

All statements, by the way, that rest on very weak foundations, because extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence. And we don’t have it.

Cattolicesimo Clericalismo democrazia Diritti Umani Etica Italia Italiano ONU Politica Radicali UE Vaticano

Omosessualita’, ONU e Vaticano

Notizie non molto edificanti, ovviamente, dal fronte omosessualita’-ONU-Vaticano, dopo l’intervista a Mons. Celestino Migliore, Osservatore Permanente della Santa Sede presso le Nazioni Unite (disponibile qui in italiano e nell’originale francese), che ha detto che il Vaticano non firmera’ la proposta francese/UE di dichiarazione ONU contro la discriminazione degli omosessuali (qui nella versione “originale” in inglese).

Intanto inviterei Mons. Migliore a essere un portavoce migliore, che eviti pronunciamenti straordinariamente sibillini come il seguente

Dans une déclaration ayant une valeur politique et signée par un groupe de pays, il est demandé aux Etats et aux mécanismes internationaux d’application et de contrôle des droits de l’homme d’ajouter de nouvelles catégories devant être protégées contre la discrimination, sans tenir compte que, en cas d’adoption, elles créeront de nouvelles et terribles discriminations

Certe dichiarazioni e certe prese di posizione andrebbero spiegate MOLTO BENE e PRIMA e non lasciate a un affannoso gioco di contropiede come si vede in questi giorni. Ha seminato vento, povero Monsignore, che cosa si poteva aspettare, se non la cagnara che e’ scoppiata in Italia?

E pur tuttavia, neanche fra i vociferi antivaticanisti mi sembra di vedere granche’ di buono. Notiamo come il casino sia stato quasi tutto italiano, e notiamo anche quanti siano saltati immediatamente sulle quattro parole di Mons. Migliore…come se ci fosse un nervo scoperto (*). O come se ci fossero avvoltoi sempre in agguato, al minimo sentore di qualcosa che puzzi.

E perche’, viste come sono andate le cose ultimamente (Sapienza inclusa) gli antivaticanisti devono ri-cascarci e, buttandosi a capofitto contro il Vaticano, rimettersi in condizione di essere dipinto come “laicisti d’attacco”? Come si dice, se siedi al tavolo del poker e non sai chi e’ lo stupido…

Infine non puo’ il Vaticano dire come la pensa? Quando lavoravano per far passare la mozione sulla pena di morte, hanno forse i Radicali concentrato i loro sforzi nel denunciare chi non era d’accordo?

Che si trovino i voti per far passare la mozione francese, e del resto chi se ne importa…

L’impressione finale, che magari e’ sbagliata, e’ che tutto questo seguire cosa si dice in fondo a via della Conciliazione sia una forma di omaggio dei Radicali (e non solo) all’autorita’ del Papa e dei Vescovi.

(*) Niente links per, che a quanto dice ne sarebbe piena, visto che continua il mio sciopero della lettura

Astronautics Astronomy & Space English Moon Space Technology

Principles For A Mars Transport System

The following text, by Stephen Ashworth FBIS, has been presented at the British Interplanetary Society’s “Ways to Mars” symposium, held on 19 November 2008 at the Society’s London headquarters. Its main points:

Most of the mass needed for an Earth-Mars transport system consists of propellants and life support materials, and that is already in space, and already in orbits very close to the ones which we need;

— But this near-Earth asteroidal resource is completely invisible to the space agency paradigm of space exploration, because [the paradigm] excludes the construction of permanent human activity in space.

The text is published here with the consent of the author. More from Mr. Ashworth at his website.


Transport for Areopolis Or: “Implications of the Choice of Economic Paradigm for Strategies of Manned Access to the Moon and Mars”
by Stephen Ashworth

When considering human access to Mars, it seems to me that there are two key points which need to be taken into account, but which are often ignored. I shall offer you these two points very shortly.

Designs for manned missions to Mars typically involve assembling in low Earth orbit a spaceship weighing several hundred to over a thousand tonnes.

For example, each Troy spacecraft, which we shall be hearing more about this afternoon, weighs nearly 800 tonnes to carry 6 astronauts. The “space lego” nuclear powered Mars mission uses two ships of 240 tonnes each, thus a total of 480 tonnes in low Earth orbit. [I was wrong — this turns out to come to a total of 955 tonnes.] The “magic” Mars mission requires five Energiya launches, thus probably weighs 4 to 500 tonnes when ready to go.

Meanwhile the official European Space Agency design study for a Mars mission proposed a ship, again for 6 astronauts, which required 20 Energiya launches for every single Mars departure. These launches would build up a ship weighing 1357 tonnes at departure.

The Mars ship in low Earth orbit thus weighs between about 50 tonnes and about 200 tonnes per astronaut on board. Launching such large masses into orbit for the benefit of so few people is one reason why manned Mars exploration is hopelessly uneconomic.

At present-day cargo rates to low Earth orbit of $10 million per tonne, this is a billion dollars per astronaut, plus the cost of the Mars hardware itself. Even at spaceplane rates, which may fall to as low as $10 thousand per tonne, this is still a million dollars per astronaut, plus the cost of the hardware.

At these rates, there will not be many people going to Mars.

Let me show you an Earth-Mars transfer orbit.

Orbit of Earth, orbit of Mars, and an elliptical orbit which intersects both of them
Orbit of Earth, orbit of Mars, and an elliptical orbit which intersects both of them

Here is an orbit which reaches out from Earth to pass the orbit of Mars. It has about the same size and shape as the orbit of an Earth-Mars cycler, such as the ones being studied by Buzz Aldrin and his collaborators.

It might therefore be the orbit of a future manned Mars vehicle. But that’s not what I drew. What I’m showing you here is the orbit of minor planet 4660 Nereus.

The concept of an interplanetary cycler, which repeatedly encounters Earth and Mars, goes back to the early 1980s. Alan Friedlander and John Niehoff first proposed setting up long-lived space habitats which remain permanently in interplanetary space. These would periodically be used for transporting people between Earth and Mars. Relatively small ferry spacecraft would complete the transport chain between the cycler and a local parking orbit or planetary surface.

In 1985 Buzz Aldrin added the concept of a gravity assist at each planetary flyby. This technique allows a cycler to stay in phase with the relative motion of Earth and Mars. It enables it to offer passage between these planets once every 2.14 years, the Earth-Mars synodic period.

A great number of near-Earth asteroids, such as 4660 Nereus, resemble natural Earth-Mars cyclers. A proportion of them are believed to be carbonaceous chondrites, containing water and other volatiles. Water in space is of incalculable value as a feedstock for propellant manufacture, as a near ideal substance for radiation shielding, and for other life support functions.

I have checked the online listings of near-Earth asteroids published by the Minor Planet Center. Applying quite stringent orbital criteria, I found a total of 56 Amor and Apollo asteroids which behave like natural Earth-Mars cyclers. New ones are being discovered all the time — for example, of those 56, ten were only identified this year.

Now to my two key points.

Firstly: most of the mass needed for an Earth-Mars transport system consists of propellants and life support materials. That mass is already in space, and already in orbits very close to the ones which we will need to reach and return from Mars. It does not need to be launched from Earth. It can be mined in situ.

So why is hardly anybody getting excited about this? Why does it not form the basis of the Constellation programme, or of the recent ESA or Russian design studies, or even the magic, the trojan or the space lego Mars missions?

Because of my second point: the asteroidal resource is completely invisible to the space agency paradigm of space exploration. That mode of planning excludes the possibility of systematic use of natural in-space materials, and it excludes the construction of permanent infrastructure on Earth-Mars cycler orbits. It will not contemplate anything that suggests permanent human activity in space.

I think we can identify two broadly contrasting attitudes to transport infrastructure.

The heroic paradigm is only interested in special missions of heroic exploration. This is the space agency mode of thinking. Its prime goal is national presige, under a fig-leaf of science, spinoff and educational inspiration. Think of the Apollo programme. Further back in history, think of Zheng He’s epic voyage of exploration around 1421, from a China which was about to close in on itself.

In contrast with the heroic paradigm, we can identify the systemic paradigm of transport infrastructure. The prime goals here are permanence, growth, and economic profitability. Think of the Cunard and White Star steamers which connected Britain with the Americas and the Empire from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century.

Now obviously, since there is currently nobody on the Moon or Mars, the next people to travel there will of necessity be heroic government explorers. But the question we need to address is this: will their transport system be designed for cancellation, like Apollo, or will it be designed for growth, like Cunard?

What would a systemic manned space transport system look like?

I have identified four key features.

Firstly, it will employ reusable spacecraft — an obvious enough point.

Secondly, it will not be content with a single route — say, between Kennedy spaceport on Earth and a single base at Utopia Planitia on Mars. It will rather seek to foster a network of different routes among a number of different transport nodes. Those nodes may include an increasing number of space hotels, factories and laboratories, and lunar and martian bases.

Note particularly that the use of transport nodes allows in-space refuelling. This capability was regarded by early spaceflight theorists such as Hermann Oberth and Guido von Pirquet as essential if lunar and martian flights were to become achievable using chemical fuels.

Thirdly, a systemic space transport system will diversity its sources of propellants and life support materials, exploiting the transport nodes for in-space refuelling.

Fourthly, it will not be content with a pillar architecture, but will develop a pyramidal one. In a pillar architecture, one unique space station is succeeded by one unique Moon base, and that in turn by one unique Mars base. In a pyramid architecture, by contrast, it is growth in the use of space stations that supports the first Moon base, and growth in the use of Moon bases that supports the first Mars base.

Thus in impressionistic figures, if there are ten people on Mars, then we should expect to see at the same time at least a hundred people on the Moon, and at least a thousand on board stations in Earth orbit at any one time.

So we can now design a Mars transport system along the following principles:

— The long-haul journey is accomplished on modular interplanetary cycler stations, which are upgrades of stations in regular use as Earth-Moon cyclers, which are themselves upgrades of stations in regular use in low Earth orbit as hotels, factories and so on;

— The transport chain between Earth and the interplanetary cyclers is closed by short-range ferries, which are upgrades of ferries in regular use to connect with the Earth-Moon cyclers, which are themselves upgrades of ferries in regular use between Earth’s surface and low Earth orbit;

— The bulk of the development work that goes into the first Mars mission is carried out by commercial companies in pursuit of profitable business in space tourism, manufacturing and energy;

— As a result of growth in traffic in the Earth-Moon system, an in-space refuelling system based on near-Earth asteroidal water will become economically viable, vastly decreasing launch costs from Earth.

There may still be a heroic attempt to get to Mars in isolation from the development of such a space economy. If we are lucky, it will be like Apollo, and will be cancelled after the first few landings. If we are unlucky, it will be like the X-33 or Hermès spaceplanes, or like the Soviet Moon-landing programme, and be cancelled before its first landing.

Either way, it will not produce much progress towards sustainable human access to Mars. That can only be achieved by a systemic transport system, not a heroic one.

To conclude, I would remind you of my two key points:

— Most of the mass needed for an Earth-Mars transport system consists of propellants and life support materials, and that is already in space, and already in orbits very close to the ones which we need;

— But this near-Earth asteroidal resource is completely invisible to the space agency paradigm of space exploration, because it excludes the construction of permanent human activity in space.

Thank you.

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Financial Crisis to Climate Negotiators: DO NOT OVER-RELY ON MODELS!!!

The ongoing financial crisis can and will teach all of us many lessons, also in terms of climate and AGW. And no, I do not mean the rather naive made-up litany visible at ClimateProgress.

I refer to something much more profound, especially since there is now evidence that even the guys at RealClimate do not fully understand what they are dealing with, when they deal with climate models (even after loving models to death).

Consensus is in fact emerging about three advices that went missing during the build-up of the financial troubles:



I have prepared a couple of quick lists from three recent articles on the business pages of the International Herald Tribune (full attributed quotes at the bottom of the blog; and yes, do keep in mind those are from analysts that are experts in their field indeed).

First, what went wrong. It’s evident that plenty of it directly related to the climate debate:

  • Models gave a false sense of precision. They can now be seen as educated guess calculated to many decimal places. At the time, they appeared precise, and yet proceeded to ultimately demonstrate themselves as totally off base
  • Until the crisis, the field (of financial risk modeling) enjoyed a halo of academic credibility
  • In general, there was too much focus on quantitative issues and data and models. People did not know what to do with things that cannot generally modeled as a quantifiable risk
  • Risk managers were also too busy with models and bringing up data that could not be absorbed by senior management
  • Better modeling, more wisely applied, would have helped, but so would have common sense in senior management

Obviously, the danger lies in the fact that to confuse the model with the world is to embrace a future disaster, as humans (or the climate) do not just obey mathematical rules that can be modeled.

What should be done? I wish the negotiators in Poznan had the following list in mind:

  • Understand that risk is a function of behavior more than of models
  • Consider that risk management is about making big-picture choices, not just trying to prevent losses
  • Acknowledge that risk may mean different things, like hazard, threat, gamble, chance, possibility, or opportunity
  • Accept that models are useful as points of information. They shouldn’t drive risk tolerance and shouldn’t be used to tell anybody how to manage firms (or nations)

Models getting translated to the real world of company or national policy suffer indeed from a “chinese whispers syndrome”, with the original caveat-full expert statements awfully simplified and distorted for the benefit of the business directors (or national politicians).

At the end of the day, the problem is not the models. The models are tools, perhaps the devil’s but still just tools. The problem is putting all eggs in the models basket, in financial just as in AGW terms.


(original quotes)

(1) From In fallout from crisis, rethinking risk and human judgment, by Lynnley Browning; IHT, Wednesday, November 19, 2008

[…] to cope with uncertainty and “slippery slopes” […] “With this crisis, everybody is re-evaluating the concept of risk management,” said Richard Phillips, a professor of risk management and insurance at Georgia State University […]

The scrutiny goes beyond a dissection of the complex mathematical models created by financial engineering [and focuses] “on the overreliance on models,” said Carol Fox of the Risk and Insurance Management Society […]

Because nearly all risk-management models failed to predict or protect against the crisis, Fox said, insurers will increasingly view risk “more as a function of behavior than of models.”

Going forward, she said, insurers will use models “as a point of information, but it won’t drive risk tolerance” […].

“People have been managing the wrong risk […] ” said Peter Bernstein, a historian and the author of “Against the Odds: The Remarkable Story of Risk.” ”Risk management is about making choices, not preventing losses. […]

the financial crisis has made clear is that risk, and how one deals with it, can mean wildly different things to different companies, from gamble, hazard or chance to threat, possibility or opportunity. It can be a bucket of nasty things to be avoided, or a daring play. […]

It didn’t help matters that until the crisis, the field enjoyed a halo of academic credibility. “All these rocket scientists with Ph.D.s provided reassurance to decision makers and buyers,” said Paul Bracken, a professor of political science at Yale University.

[According to] Robert Merton, the Harvard Business School professor who received the Nobel in economic science in 1997 […] “A lot of it is straightforward things, like judgments made to accept ratings. We’ve got to get these financial engineers and quant types out of the banks and get sensible types in.” […]

“Our definition of risk became confused with obeying the law,” said Bill Sharon, chief executive of Sorms, a risk-management consulting firm. […]

Now, insurers are increasingly looking at risk management as a process applying […] to big-picture questions […].

After all, said Martin Grace, associate director of the Center for Risk Management and Insurance Research at Georgia State University, “you can have math models, but that doesn’t tell you how to manage the firm.”

(2) From When crisis hit, a global framework for limiting risk proved ineffective by Conrad de Aenlle, IHT, Wednesday, November 19, 2008

[…] Even if [The Basel II international accord on banking supervision] had been put into practice immediately, it might not have averted the crisis. Critics contend that the various models, formulas and equations used to determine asset quality provide a false sense of precision, leaving bankers and regulators with no clear idea of where they stand. The numbers that are derived amount to an educated guess calculated to umpteen decimal places.

“There has been too much focus on quantitative issues and data and models and a lack of understanding of what the main risks are in the business model,” said Peter Neu, a principal in Frankfurt for the Boston Consulting Group. “Risk managers are too busy with models and bringing up data that can’t be absorbed by senior management.”

A shortcoming of some models is that their risk projections come with a caveat that they are assumed to be accurate during normal market conditions. […]

(3) From Wall Street’s extreme sport: Financial engineering by Steve Lohr, IHT, November 5, 2008

“Complexity, transparency, liquidity and leverage have all played a huge role in this crisis,” said Leslie Rahl, president of Capital Market Risk Advisors, a risk-management consulting firm. “And these are things that are not generally modeled as a quantifiable risk.”

The miss by Wall Street analysts shows how models can be precise out to several decimal places, and yet be totally off base

The quantitative models typically have their origins in academia and often the physical sciences. In academia, the focus is on problems that can be solved, proved and published — not messy, intractable challenges. In science, the models derive from particle flows in a liquid or a gas, which conform to the neat, crisp laws of physics.

“To confuse the model with the world is to embrace a future disaster driven by the belief that humans obey mathematical rules.”

Better modeling, more wisely applied, would have helped, Lindsey said, but so would have common sense in senior management

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Pass The Handkerchief

According to Italian CO2 emission calculator “Ecodieta” (in Italian) I emit around 40kg of CO2 per day. That’s double my ideal quota, apparently, even if my larger than average body frame is not considered!

Funny thing is, around half of my sinful attitude comes from having the temerity of…heating my own house!

Will I qualify for an award were icicles to lend beauty to my living room? If only, to pay all those recurring bronchopneumonia treatments…

ps the other half involves using the oven. Perhaps I should switch to heating up the frozen pizzas with the icicles.