The Immoral Judgement behind Climate Activism

Judith Curry has a very concise summary of the latest Nature Climate Change shot-in-the-dark, called “Climate change and moral judgement” (by Ezra M. Markowitz and Azim F. Shariff, NCC, vol.2, April 2012).

The study is based on the usual wholesale vapidity of bombastic statements made meaningless by the absence of any quantification

The climate science community has arrived at a consensus regarding both the reality of rapid, anthropogenic climate change and the necessity of urgent and sustained action to avoid its worst environmental, economic and social consequences

Having switched off their brains to accept the ‘consensus’, the authors forgot to turn them back on before writing gems like

Unlike financial fraud or terrorist attacks, climate change does not register, emotionally, as a wrong that demands to be righted. As a result, many individuals, even those who believe that climate change is a problem, may feel complacent in delaying immediate — and costly — ameliorative action, such as investing in alternative-energy technologies or reducing one’s own energy use

Markowitz and Shariff clearly don’t understand that “climate change” belongs to the future, whilst financial fraud and terrorist attacks belong also to the past and present. They don’t even understand that “ameliorative action” has nothing to do with “reducing one’s own energy use” (a wishy-washy commitment for anybody bothering to do the maths), and that “investing in alternative-energy technologies” is pointless unless the cost is linked to some benefit, with the benefit being larger than the cost that is.

Another classic:

the more space there is for uncertainty the more wishful thinking we have

As if. Markowitz and Shariff are dangerously toying there with the idea of becoming totally anti-scientific. As per another of Curry’s posts, “Uncertainty is a necessary ingredient in the recipe for discovery. Certainty gets in the way of discovery because we are not inclined to investigate further the things we think we know for certain“. From this POV, “certainty” is the realm of the uninterested ignorant, the last type of people that is who could possibly do anything meaningful about climate change.

There are more signs of science having taken a leave of absence from Nature Climate Change in this case. The authors list “six psychological challenges posed by climate change to the human moral judgement system” (table 1) and “six psychological strategies that communicators can use to bolster the recognition of climate change as a moral imperative” (table 2). Perish the thought that having six items on both tables suggest there is not science behind, rather the style of self-help manuals (aware perhaps of the problem, the blog minimolecule recommended by Judith forgets to mention the 5th item of table 2, “Expand group identity“).

Anyway, the biggest flaw of the study lies elsewhere. It appears deeply contradictory. If the

in depth cognitive processing required to negotiate our way through these problems leads to poor activation of moral reasoning

the authors should have demonstrated first if and how their own moral reasoning hadn’t been properly “activated”. The same applies to all other points in table 1. Psychomagically, the authors believe themselves immune from something they claim is affecting a large part of humanity.

This sounds clearly and deeply immoral, just like the continuous underlying suggestion that people who don’t believe it’s time for unspecified “costly ameliorative action” are somehow anti-environment (this is a common anti-ethical thinking trait of climate activists, as demonstrated by its ugly head rearing again in the description of the upcoming Policy Exchange event “A Greener Shade of Blue” in London).

And as for the topic of the paper: IMNSHO the biggest obstacle in moving forward on climate change is that activist-communicators keep trying to reduce an issue that is “complex, abstract and cognitively challenging” to “It didn’t snow last January” or “March was weird”. And those are clear evidences of “poor activation of moral reasoning” on the part of those communicators.

Simon Singh’s Unfortunate Mistake

I do not think Simon Singh‘s loss in the libel case brought by the British Chiropractic Association can be reversed.

If Singh’s original sentence was the following (the article has been withdrawn)

[The BCA] is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments

then the implication that the BCA is knowingly promoting bogus treatment could hardly have been spelled out more clearly.

People may argue about the opportunity for the BCA to throw itself into what was obviously going to be a high-profile case.

But if they had left Singh’s words unchallenged, surely at the BCA itself they could have open the floodgates to legal actions by unhappy clients…and especially unhappy had they learned that the BCA did not believe in its treatments.

There is a general consensus that English libel laws are just unfair and can be used in lieu of censorship. But Singh wasn’t exactly born yesterday, and must have know those laws for a long time.

Speaking Out About (Over-)Population

There is a sizable number of people concerned about overpopulation. They are being drawn together by a new initiative, the Global Population Speak Out, aiming at undermining “a taboo of sorts against public discussion of overpopulation”:

GPSO was born of a simple idea: What if a large number of qualified voices worldwide, many of whom might not have emphasized the topic previously, were to speak out on overpopulation all at once? The strength of numbers might help weaken the taboo and bring population issues to a more prominent position in the global discussion.

You can see the efforts of the participants in this page. The main topics are the concern of overpopulation as a major driver in resource depletion (i.e. there are too many people consuming too much too quickly) and especially in ruining the environment.

Readers of this blog will not be surprised to hear that I do not believe in gloomy forecasts, and particularly so in the gloomiest of them. I am also not convinced that there is a present situation of overpopulation right now: some back-of-the-envelope calculation seems to suggest full capacity would be around 15 billion people, even allowing for everybody to become a well-fed American. And who can forget that the current size of human population is the consequence of a struggle that must have lasted for a good part of the last million years?

Still, I also believe GPSO has a good point to make.

Let’s start considering their sensible attitude to past abuses of the overpopulation issue. Simply too many people have married the cause in the past because afraid of having to deal with millions of poor, black or Asian people. And still to this day, it is not difficult to find pea-brained arguments pitting children against the environment.

I do not see any trace of that in the original GPSO letter.

What I can see among the unfortunate repetitive claims about upcoming disasters, is a concern for what perhaps should not be, but still can develop in a big issue. My model for human activity in general is that of the long-distance travelers putting their stuff into the car’s trunk. No matter how much they plan to take with them, still they will more likely than not occupy the full trunk.

In other words, it is not much a matter of the size of the car, or the volume of things they want to bring to their destination: as far as humans are concerned, the whole available space is always to be wholly used. For another example, just check how many 1-h business meetings amazingly last for a full hour; and how easy it is for thousands and thousands of newspaper editors to fill up exactly all their available print areas, day after day, down to the eighth of an inch.

This ability for making full use of all resources within reach is something we should be very proud of; and wary, as there is little indication for when limits are actually reached. It always looks like there is more space in the trunk, and by speaking just a little faster more topics can be crammed in a meeting. But there is a limit, and the wise traveler will make sure loading is stopped early enough as to avoid damaging the car (or the stuff already loaded).

That’s why population should not be a taboo subject. And besides, it is also a topic closely related to personal freedom. For reasons too long to deal with now, women the world over have always seen their worth measured in the number of children they could bear. In theory, there is no actual need for that to continue any longer, and yet it still happens in one form or another pretty much everywhere.

Population sizes, from this point of view, can be seen as a symptom of an underlying bigger social problem. And who would want to make a symptom a taboo subject?

Why Israel Is Not The Palestinian Problem

Many thanks to the Editorial Board at the International Herald Tribune for publishing a letter of mine on the Jan 9, 2009 printed paper, under the headline “When governments fail” (a modified version of yesterday’s blog “Are Palestinian Lives Truly Worthless?“):

David Brooks’s analysis (“The confidence war,” Views, Dec. 7) is missing the fact that the very strategies of successive Israeli governments, the Palestinian Authority and now Hamas have been based on the utter disregard of the value of the lives of individual Palestinians.

This has been true especially in the last decade or so. One side casually bombs crowded residential areas from afar only to release increasingly hypocritical apologetic press releases afterward. The other side sends youths on suicide missions or unleashes them armed with stones to throw at armored tanks – while proclaiming that thousands and thousands of dead women and children are a price worth paying for victory against “the Zionists.”

As shown repeatedly during the last century, it should be the job of international institutions to push hard for the safeguarding of lives, especially when the local governments are clearly unable or unwilling to do so. But I am afraid that with the way things are going, we can only expect a future made of innumerable deaths.

I’ll expand briefly upon that to argue why Israel is not the actual problem for the Palestinians, at the moment.

True, most of the actions undertaken during the latest conflict situation by the Jerusalem Government are at the edge or beyond the very limits of International Law and War Law. It also does look especially fishy how the Gaza invasion coincides with upcoming Israeli elections…one of the luckily few occasions where a democracy makes liberal use of somebody else’s blood for a few votes more.

But that’s less important to Palestinians than the gigantic failure of their leadership(s) to do anything positive on their behalf.

Like it or not, when there is a war one side usually shows little interest in protecting the other side’s civilian lives (it depends on the war, and on the propaganda, but the overall trend is alas towards more civilian deaths). However deplorable, if Azerbaijan declares war against Armenia (just an example) it goes without saying that Azerbaijanis will rather kill Armenians, and Armenians Azerbaijanis.

Usually, that is accompanied by each side trying as much as possible to protect its own: therefore Azerbaijan will do its best to defend Azerbaijanis, and Armenia Armenians. Sometimes that doesn’t actually work out as proclaimed (see Russian botched kidnap rescue attempts) but one can assume that at least the intention is always there.

That is not what happens for Palestinians. They must be the only people on Earth deliberately put in harm’s way by their own leaders. I am sure that even the incredibly locked-up Burmese junta, and the paranoid hermit North Korean state-wide prison, would try to lower casualties among their own citizens in case of war much, much better than Hamas (or Fatah for that matters) have ever managed even to imagine, let alone do.

In fact, just like in Communist states of old (USSR famine in the 1930′s, China famine in the 1950′s), in the world as seen by Hamas people are not people, but pawns to use for a higher ideological purpose (namely, the destruction of Israel). Horribly, a dead Palestinian child becomes more useful to them than a live Palestinian child, as it does make Israel look an abominable entity that doesn’t deserve to seat among Nations.

Whatever Israel has done or is doing, things don’t have to be the way they are. Resistance is a natural reaction to occupation, but suicide (or worse: making sure some of yours get killed for your political advantage) is not.

As suggested in the blog and the letter to the IHT, we would go a long way towards improving the Palestinians’ situation if only we could protect the people from Hamas (and from Fatah).

Now of course one would have to understand what brought Palestinians in the Occupied Territories to a situation that is perhaps worse than Somalia’s and definitely makes Haiti looks like Heaven on Earth. One would not do wrong by considering the issue of politicide by Israel, but that is as relevant to today’s situation as reconsidering the opportunity of wearing warm clothes in a snowstorm is to somebody that has already caught pneumonia.

Are Palestinian Lives Truly Worthless?

I am not saying that I disagree (and I don’t) with David Brooks’ definition of how to find a meaning in each Israeli-Palestinian act of terrorism or war (“The confidence war“, IHT, January 7, 2009). But what is missing from Mr Brooks’ analysis is the fact that the very strategies of successive Israeli Governments, the PLO and now Hamas have been based on the utter disregard of the value of the lives of individual Palestinians.

This has been true especially in the last decade or so, with one side casually bombing crowded residential areas from afar only to release increasingly hypocritical “sorry” press releases afterwards; and the other either sending youths to suicide missions or armed with stones against armored tanks, or proclaiming without a second thought that thousands and thousands of dead women and children are a price worth paying for victory against “the Zionists”.

As shown repeatedly during the last century, it should be the job of international institutions to push hard for the safeguarding of lives, especially when the local Government is clearly unable or unwilling to do so. But I am afraid that until negotiations get centered around politicking rather than the basic rights of individual human beings, Palestinians (and Somalis, and Darfuris, etc etc) can only expect a future made of innumerable deaths.

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.

About Berlusconi’s “Suntanned Obama” Remark

I am deeply amazed by and profoundly at unease with the reaction to yesterday’s remark (“joke”) by Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi, who has characterized US President-elect Barack Obama as “youthful, handsome and suntanned”.

Plenty of Italian people (presumably, not among Berlusconi’s core voters) have taken upon themselves to apologize for that phrase, for example commenting to this blog on the New York Times.

Now, Berlusconi is prone to gaffes of all sorts and he’s definitely way too much of a jester but…how can his words be interpreted as “racism” when Berlusconi himself has been trying for years to look more youthful, more handsome and definitely more suntanned than he is in reality?

To me, Berlusconi’s remarks display no racism at all, rather a deep feeling of envy.

ps some people have organized a demo in Rome to protest Berlusconi’s words. Ironically, apart from an uncertain command of the English language, all they have shown is their absolute ignorance of American culture, where blackface is considered a sign of racism indeed.

Blackface against racism???

Blackface against racism???

No Equivalence Between Nazism and Communism

From “The Most Evil Emperor” by Max Hastings, New York Review of Books, Volume 55, Number 16 · October 23, 2008, reviewing “Hitler’s Empire: How the Nazis Ruled Europe” by Mark Mazower, Penguin, 726 pp., $39.95

Mazower’s conclusion is that Hitler’s vision for Europe was doomed by the fact that it offered nothing save subjection to the nations beneath its sway [...] In truth, membership in the German empire promised benefits only to Germans. All successful empires in history have exploited the support of at least some of their subject peoples. Berlin did not offer even lip service to international cooperation or mutual benefit.

Hitler offered only servitude to the occupied nations, in most places on the most brutal terms. [...[ Hitler missed important opportunities to rouse the Arab world and India against the British, because such a notion clashed with his convictions of racial superiority. [...] Berlin made no serious attempt to exploit the aid of occupied peoples hostile to Stalin.

From this point of view, Hitler’s Nazism does look like occupying a special place in history, as having no concern whatsoever on anybody else but the Master Race.

And yet…isn’t that what Europeans did in many of their colonies?

Signs of Hope Among White Supremacists

who would have guessed…white supremacists (eg Neo-nazis) can be surprisingly self-aware…

There’s a real problem,” [Bill] White [head of the American National Socialist Workers Party] said in the interview last month, “in what’s called the ‘white movement.’ One, there’s a lot of people who are just mentally ill, and we deal with those a lot. No. 2, there are people who have serious sexual problems.

Debunking Sarah Palin’s “Device in the Right Ear” Claim

There’s quite a few websites claiming people have spotted some kind of device in Sarah Palin’s right ear, during the VP debate on Thursday night. A “willyloman” post “What Does Gov. Palin Have in Her Right Ear?“ signed “Scott Creighton” seems to be among the most popular ones.

You can also check out the “Palin Appears To Be Wearing an Earpiece During The Debate” thread in the Abovetopsecret forum.

Myself, I cannot see evidence of anything in Palin’s right ear, during the debate.

But that is not as important as the answer to the following question: what evidence would I need to change my opinion? Well, I would need to spot that device clearly in at least one picture. So far, all I have been able to see is perfectly explainable with Palin’s hair, glasses and shape of the ear.

And so my question to Creighton and all the others is: what evidence would you need, to change your opinion?

==============

Creighton writes:

What was that running down into Sarah Palin’s right ear during the debate? [...] This photo was never intended to stand alone as evidence, that is why I include the link to the CNN video itself… That is still below. From that video, and many others now, you can see something that looks like it is attached to the arm of her glasses on the right side. You can see it move with her head, and her glasses throughout the video. I have taken another shot of the straight on view of this object, but please, look at the photos, then watch the CNN video so you can see it isn’t just some fluke; it stays there and is attached to her glasses. [...]

Even without zooming, you can clearly see something attached to her glasses and running into her right ear. At first I thought this might be a hearing aid of some sort, so I looked up other pictures of her to see if I could find one of her wearing a hearing aid. I couldn’t. [...]

Let’s start with the consideration that the “hearing aid” claim sounds very disingenuous. If Palin really had been hard of hearing, we would have known that weeks ago for sure. Mr Creighton should have definitely tried to look more sincere, if only to help support his case for a “device in the right ear”.

Anyway…the only way to be sure is to check if the “device” can be seen in any picture.

Now, a paranoid mind will find lots of food for their thoughts, as there really aren’t too many photos of Sarah Palin clearly showing her right ear during the debate itself (there is the one with her youngest son, but it was taken after the end of the debate and the aforementioned paranoid mind will surely claim Palin’s removed the “device” just in time). Also, I am not going to argue with anybody believing that the “device” was invisible or very well hidden: that’s akin to claiming a giant white, invisible rabbit was jumping up and down in front of the camera for the whole debate (iow: it cannot be taken seriously).

In any case, the onus is on those claiming the “device” existed at all. So I have scoured around on YouTube, the Getty Images website and the web looking for any “right ear” shot. Results below.

Palin 01

Palin 01

Palin 02

Palin 02

Palin 03

Palin 03

Palin 04

Palin 04

Palin 05

Palin 05

Palin 06

Palin 06

Palin 07

Palin 07

Palin 08

Palin 08

Palin 09

Palin 09

Palin 10

Palin 10

Images are enlarged areas from sources described in each picture. Copyrights remain with the authors of course.

First of all, look at “Palin 05″: that one has been taken at the end of the debate, when Palin was holding her baby son, if I am not mistaken. I included it because it reveals Palin’s ear details in full, with all the “ridges” and “valleys”. Note in particular the rather peculiar “ridge” right underneath the “temple” (“sidepiece”) of her glasses.

Peculiarity in this case is not important. Every one of us has a “special” shape of the ear and I understand it’s the one thing people really have trouble with when disguising.

I believe that “ridge” is what people like Creighton are misinterpreting as a “device”.

UPDATE: a similar conclusion has been reported by “SkepticOverlord” in the Abovetopsecret forum.

UPDATE: an “enhanced image” showing no device can be seen at Plaidlemur. Just to avoid the usual conspiratorial comments, I actually chose not to enhance the pictures posted above.

In fact, I wonder if anybody could please tell me where in every other picture posted above, there is a “device” that is on top, or separate, or in any case definitely not the “ridge” mentioned above.

You may also want to note how in images Palin 08, 09 and 10, taken directly from the live TV pictures, Sarah Palin is showing her right ear to the cameras in ways that would be extremely dangerous were she wearing a “device” of any sort in her right ear.

==============

The above is more than enough to convince myself there was nothing at all in Palin’s right ear, during the debate. At this stage, the discussion can move forward only in two circumstances: either somebody comes out with a very clear picture of the “device”, or believers tell me what more evidence they need, to change their opinion.

UPDATE: blogger Ginandtacos reasons it would have been almost impossible for Palin to be able to talk the way she did, without breaking in apparently incoherent ways.

UPDATE: the claim appears to have moved to “Palin was reading her notes“. I don’t think that deserves any further analysis.

On Abortion, A Perfectly Reasonable Christian Stance

Personally I find the following statements bordering on the obvious. For some reason, many people think otherwise, in one sense or another…and unbelievably, abortion is still somehow an issue in US politics.

From the Methodist Church’s “Abortion and Contraception” web page:

  • abortion is always an evil
  • there will be circumstances where the termination of pregnancy may be the lesser of evils

And in particular:

  • the mother should be told clearly of the alternatives to termination
  • abortion should be avoided if at all possible by offering care to single mothers during pregnancy, and the adoption of their children if, at full term, the mother cannot offer a home
  • the result of the coming together of human sperm and ovum is obviously human
  • the right of the embryo to full respect [...] increases throughout a pregnancy
  • it would be strongly preferable that, through advances in medical science and social welfare, all abortions should become unnecessary
  • late abortions should be very rare exceptions
  • if abortion were made a criminal offence again, there would be increased risks of ill-health and death as a result of botched ‘back-street’ abortions
  • to refuse to countenance abortion in any circumstances is to condemn some women and their babies to gross suffering and a cruel death in the name of an absolutism which nature itself does not observe

Al Qaeda Kills Muslims

Just in case there was any doubt about it…given the history of al-Qaeda-inspired activities around the world, and leaving aside 9/11, it is obvious with the Marriott’s bomb of yesterday in Islamabad that that Osama bin Laden and all the people inspired by him have achieved one and only one goal.

Al Qaeda has become the biggest killer of Muslims worldwide.

History is a murderous farce indeed. And those idiots meeting up in Cologne for an anti-Islam rally, should seriously start considering Osama as one of their heroes.

Multi-decadal Single-Party President and Dictator Lectures the World on Human Rights

It may be good news to see that President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom of the Maldives preoccupies himself with human rights nowadays, just as global warming threatens the islands he has governed for 30 years (“With millions under threat, inaction is unethical“, IHT, Sep 9).

Some people will call his new worry a tad unethical and hypocritical, with him having won six elections as sole Presidential candidate and now trying to get re-elected for a seventh time.

But who knows? Perhaps President Gayoom will reconsider his priorities, and devote himself full time on solving the global warming issue: finally freeing up his people to choose their new, democratic leader. Ah, and to express their opinions unafraid of the State’s repressive policing.

Will Grandma Sarah Palin Change Some American Conservatism?

Palin’s status as upcoming grandmother is definitely her business but…is it too much to hope the “experience” will make mainstream American Conservatism less fixated on reproductive matters?

Does the world really need to think and think again about abortion and gay rights?

ps Palin’s decision to keep her baby after learning of his Down syndrome is commendable. All more so because it was her decision. How different it would have all been, had there been no choice

Corrupt Police in Heilongjiang Province, China

For evidence of corruption in Heilongjiang Province, China, look no further than the story of Gao Chuancai.

Obviously there is something at work at present in China that prevents the oppressive regime from imploding upon itself in an outburst of paranoia and red tape. I just wonder what that is.. 

Heilongjiang

Heilongjiang Province

An Olympic Doping Disaster In The Making?

There is something very fishy about doping at the Beijing Olympics this year.

As of now, 4 athletes have tested positives for banned substances. This may look like a positive result, a decisively downward trend after more than a dozen people tested positives at Athens 2004. But in reality, it’s the other way around.

No less than International Olympics chief Jacques Rogge had declared, at the end of July, that the massive anti-doping effort of 2008  was expected to net as much as 40 cheating athletes.

At the current rate, it will be an achievement if 10 doping cases were to be found by the end of the Olympics.

The alternative views, that the worldwide sports movement has finally decided to stop using banning substances, or that cheats are getting caught before going to the Olympics, are in practice beyond ridicule…also because already one of the 4 “Beijing positives” is a Vietnamese girl that everybody believes has taken a banned prescription drug by mistake.

Is nobody else making any mistake in Beijing? Nobody at all?

There are other well-known indicator of “doping fishiness”. Antidoping expert Dick Pound said before the start of the Olympics: “If a bunch of athletes no one has ever heard of show up at the Olympics and win gold medals, that’s going to be the worst thing for China’s reputation“.

And here there is one.

Look also at French swimmer Alain Bernard’s giant upper-body muscles, compared to his competitors. One can even see an oversize vein, like in the bodybuilding competitions of old.

Some experts are starting speaking out, worried that overall, Beijing 2008 will be a setback in the war against doping. But how likely is it that almost everybody has figured out how to avoid detection, and/or almost every testing lab has decided to opt for extreme caution before declaring any sample as “positive”?

——

So what’s possibly going on? Everybody knows that doping brings with it embarrassment, especially to the host Country, especially if the athletes getting caught come from the host Country.

On the other hand these are the Olympics where a 14-year-old Chinese girl’s age is “slightly nudged” to become 16 on her passport in order to compete. There would be little to be surprised of if, behind the scenes, “little” positive cases of doping were purposedly “slightly nudged” towards negativeness, especially when the blood samples came from Chinese athletes.

in order to preserve harmony, then, everybody’s “little” positive cases would be treated the same way, with a bunch of unlucky people singled out just to keep up appearances. The result? Widespread dishonesty and hypocrisy in a disaster of Olympic proportions indeed, with doping the one thing everybody knows about and nobody dares to talk of.

For the sake of honesty and fair competing, it certainly does look like the right time to accept clean, transparent, safe doping in sports: just as a few years ago, professionalism was finally allowed to surface, after its own long, suffered history of Olympic dishonesty and hypocrisy.

Ruining the Planet, One Toad At A Time

Cornelia Dean is right in pondering the risks inherent in experimenting with scientific fixes meant to save the planet from global warming but with “environmental effects impossible to predict and impossible to undo” (“Experts ponder the hazards of using technology to save the planet“, IHT, Aug 12, 2008).

Actually, that is not just an issue for the future. There are several examples from the past of enviromental cures that have turned out to be worse than the original problem. One of the biggest, and perhaps the best known, is the story of the introduction of Cane Toads to Australia.

Originary of South America, and imported to Australia in 1935 as a scientific way to control beetles that were destroying sugarcane crops, cane toads are still spreading to this day. They are harming native wildlife, poison household pets, and are unstoppably expanding their range at up to 50 kilometers (30mi) per year.

And of course the cane toads have failed to do anything to the beetles.

There is no need to repeat such a mistake on an even larger scale, by depositing sulphur in the upper atmosphere or dumping iron in the open oceans. It is high time we admit that natural systems are way beyond our control and our best bet is adaptation and the use of simple, clear technology.

Is America the First Culprit in the Death and Suffering of US Veterans?

Is America the first culprit in the Death and Suffering of US Veterans?

Has anybody caused the deaths of more Muslims than Osama bin Laden? Who’s killed a greater number of Russians and of Communists than Stalin? Who’s been directly and indirectly responsible for the massacre of millions of Germans but Hitler? When did a bigger mass of Chinese met their final destiny than under Chairman Mao?

Such examples are too many to mention. Wouldn’t it be a nice headstart towards global peace, say, if we would all stop killing our own let alone the purported enemies? Some hope! For now, history will continue its history as a murderous farce.

Back to Basics on Iran and the Bomb

Oceans of ink are being wasted without addressing the most basic issue regarding Iran and its nuclear weapons program. The latest example is Peter D. Zimmerman’s op-ed, “Nearer to the Bomb” (IHT, July 8), where we are treated to 674 words in order to state the most obvious of facts (“the real purpose of Iranian enrichment is to provide fuel for weapons, not reactors“).

However, not a comma is dedicated to the problem of Iran’s own security, regularly and openly threatened with talks of war and mentions of foreign-supported “regime change”.

Have we learned really nothing from years of negotiations going nowhere, of sanctions resulting in nothing, and of incentives regularly failing to persuade successive Iranian Presidents and negotiators? Does anybody seriously think that Iran can afford, at this stage, to remain nuclearly unarmed?

Mr Zimmermann rather tellingly is able to contemplate harsh sanctions but only “modest low-calorie sweeteners“. That is exactly the kind of attitude that has brought the “Iran Bomb” issue where it stands at the moment.

When and where will the EU or the USA find instead the courage to offer full security guarantees to the Islamic Republic, in order to achieve a less nuclear, more secure world?

Time to Indict George W Bush for War Crimes?

Requests periodically recur for the indictment of U.S. President George W Bush, perhaps in front of an International Court, for various charges of war crimes, from the making-up of the “evidence” against Saddam Hussein to the list of abuses by American soldiers in Iraq and at Guantanamo against their prisoners, to the use of torture to extract information and confessions from terrorist suspects.

What is the feasibility of all that? It depends. Of the fact that the build-up to the war in Iraq in 2003 was based on nothing, I do not think there can be any doubt. Furthermore, it was definitely not me the one in charge whilst abuses and torture were (are?) being practiced. If Bush were a private citizen, the whole thing would already be in the hands of prosecutors and defense lawyers, trying to establish the boundaries between law, crime and ineptitude.

But Bush is no private citizen. Instead, he has spent eight years at the top of the Superpower. What hope could then be in getting him indicted, let alone sentenced?

First thing to be clarified is, would there be any role for an International Court? I do not think so. What future U.S. Administration would take the responsibility of establishing a precedent, sending a former president abroad to answer for war crimes? The only possibility is via the American own justice system.

Even in that case, one would have to present shock-and-awe evidence of criminal intent. It is true that, however slowly, the Congress is publishing reports very critical of the choices and behaviour of members of the Bush Administration, such as the results of the Senate Intelligence Committee chaired by Senator John D. “Jay” Rockefeller IV (D, W Va.), published about a month ago. But first of all, behind all that it’s simple partisan struggle, Democrats against Republicans in a fight which little interest in finding the truth about the President: because the only thing they care about is of course, getting re-elected.

To leave everything in the hands of various parliamentary committees, from this point of view, only serves to hush-hush the whole thing, with potential defendants more likely to die of old age than of attending a single hearing in a court of law. Ah, and to polarize the electorate for no overall gain (another positive opportunity for the politicians, and a pernicious disaster for the electorate itself).

One should therefore more than welcome the latest proposal by Nicholas D Kristof, from the pages of International Herald Tribune: forget the parliamentary committees, the courts, the discussions on the legality of Presidential decisions, in favor of a “Truth Commission” (TC) modeled on the one that helped South Africa become a democratic nation without bloodshed.

The TC would be something coming out of the U.S. themselves, thereby dismissing suggestions of “international interference”; it would only establish a single precedent, namely the fact that Presidents are responsible for what they do, and for what they leave behind; many of the “crimes” would be out in the open, because perpetrators just as in South Africa would prefer sincerity in front of the TC, to the danger of being brought in front of a criminal court.

At the end of the day, what Justice is the one that never comes to conclusions? It is much better to “know the truth”, because it allows us to dream to be able to avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future.

“Everybody’s got too much of something”

A poignant advert campaign is circulating in France, thanks to employment agency ADIA, against all sorts of discriminations: “Urgent: let’s recruit humans“.

One of the messages really gets down to the point, and it is applicable also outside of work matters:

“Too black,
too old,
too educated,
too brown,
too atheist,
too young,
too female,
too gay,
too white,
too Muslim,
too political,
too disabled,
too heterosexual,
too Jewish,
Too this,
too that…
Really, looking hard enough, everybody’s got too much of something.
To discriminate, is to begin to dehumanize. [...]” [...]“

BBC Website Humiliating Dwarfs (Again)

UPDATE #2: Received e-mail from the BBC confirming they have changed the text as “an inanimate lump of rock cannot really be said to be humiliated”. On my part, I do not think there was any “bad” intention. Just a poor choice (mix) of words

UPDATE: No word from the BBC yet but the article has been retitled “‘Non-planet’ Pluto gets new class” and its overall tone much changed, addressing 95% of my concerns. There could still be the possibility to argue for more, but frankly it would be pointless and pedantic.
Thank you, whoever did the changes at the BBC

Complaint sent to the BBC website today:

In the article “Humiliated Pluto gets new classyou explicitly associate the word “dwarf” to “humiliation“, “demotion” and “relegation.

I am not saying we should all be “politically correct” all of the time, but the article’s author could have just said that Pluto had been reclassified as “dwarf planet“, with no reference to “humiliation“, “demotion” and “relegation“, WITHOUT losing ANY information.

Who would say that to be a dwarf is to have a lesser dignity?

Conversely, you could try answering this question: why did you feel compelled to use the words “humiliation“, “demotion” and “relegation“?

Imagine if cars were sorted by colour, and somebody wrote of them being “demoted to black” after being repainted!!

Cluster Bombs Convention – Update

What exactly has been achieved in Dublin about Cluster Bombs?

  1. Over 100 countries agreed to ban ”the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of all existing and future cluster bombs
  2. There is no exception, and no transition period. The ban covers all kinds of “submunitions
  3. Stockpiles must be destroyed within 8 years
  4. A new standard has been defined for humanitarian assistance for victims, families and communities
  5. A “Treaty” will be signed in Oslo in December 2008 (Nobel Peace Prize, anybody…)
  6. It will then take 30 countries to officially adopt the Treaty, for this to actually enter into force
  7. Afterwards it will be a matter of monitoring the situation
  8. Last but not least, the muribund UN talks on conventional weapons may be brought back to life

Countries such as the USA, Russia and China do not appear likely to join the ban on cluster bombs. Some say “submunitions” are essential to modern war and without them many of their soldiers may get killed.

The best reply to that, I have read it somewhere on the web: “Cluster bombs save soldiers’ lives? So would anthrax…

Censored! (by Anti-Censorship Website…)

Does the company of dogs inspire one to bark? That’s what looks like happening at anti-China, (allegedly) anti-censorship blog “Under the Jacaranda Tree“.

Months, years perhaps of fighting against the censorship perpetrated by what is after all still a dictatorship, have taught “Jacaranda”‘s authors “Ned Kelly” and “Catherine A Young” that the way to deal with criticism is by censoring the offending text, and by banning its author.

(that is…me!)

With friends like these, the Tibetan and journalist Hu Jia‘s plights are unlikely to get any better for the foreseeable future.

==========

What has happened then? While researching my “Tibet and the Olympics: Remember Jin Jing” blog on Apr 22, I have stumbled upon Jacaranda’s “Bart Simpson and Jin Jing’s spin-doctors” where Mr Kelly strongly suggests that the whole Jin Jing Olympic torch relay incident has been staged, and promises “further analysis of more evidence surrounding the incident”.

I then added to their blog this comment (visible at “Under the Jacaranda Tree: Bart Simpson and Jin Jing’s spin-doctors“) about such “further analysis”:

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter any longer. The pictures are out there. There are two assaults, not just one. Ms. Jin’s facial expression is that of a person in distress, or an unexpectedly great actress.

So obscure photographic analysis and talks about the behaviour of foreigners marching towards a demo in Paris, won’t do the trick. You may as well try to stop a tsunami with a teaspoon.

Evidently I am unable to read my own words, because they look like a straight and mild statement of personal opinion to me…yet either Mr Kelly or Ms Young took very and grave offence at them. And so despite claims of technical issues with their website, they posted a new blog on Apr 23: “Why we have banned a recent commenter“.

Don’t waste time in looking for that blog now, as it has been deleted: not early enough to disappear from my WordPress dashboard though, with the text

[...] MEANWHILE, we received a comment from this OBVIOUSLY MAINLAND CHINESE W*NK*R! [...]

(without the *’s) linking to my “Maurizio’s Testimonials” page. In the meanwhile, my comment did not pass their web site moderation. Still it has not been published on “Jacaranda”, despite a second attempt to submit it.

==========

Based on the above, this can be said about Ned Kelly and/or Catherine A Young, the authors of the blog “Under the Jacaranda Tree”:

(1) They are so full of anti-Chinese anger, they write blogs of hate with little or zero critical thinking (I mean…leaving aside accusations of autoeroticism 8-), who can even think that I am “obviously mainland Chinese” when my pictures are all over the place?)

(2) They are so full of themselves and of their redeeming crusade to save the world against evil Beijing, they cannot tolerate the mildest form of dissent, launching themselves in verbally violent, frankly unjustified fits against the dissenter, whose words are censored and whose very name is banned from their site (sadly, this is exactly the behaviour of the Chinese government)

(3) At some point, they must have realized the absolute idiocy of their “W*NK*R” blog, removing it in the hope no-one would notice (thus demonstrating little familiarity with the ways of blogging, backtracking and WordPress)

==========

Mr Kelly and Ms Young know that I know, because I added some reference in my second commenting attempt (remember, they have censored that one too). They also know how to contact me (all it takes is a comment to my website).

A word of apology, and removal of the censorship, will make a huge difference: I am a regular guy expressing his sometimes flawed, other times not-so-flawed thoughts. The “sin”, rather than Onan’s, seems to be my desire for independent thought (independent, that is, from Mr Kelly’s and Ms Young’s…)

Yet it is worrying that either or both of them could so quickly think of me as “obviously mainland Chinese”. In the absence of any reply, one will have to agree with those that believe that behind the pro-Tibet campaign, there lies the spectre of anti-Chinese “post-racist” sentiments.

Fitna: Anti-Koranic Freedom of Expression It Ain’t

What to say about Fitna, the anti-Koran movie by far-rightist Dutch MP Gert Wilders who’s enjoying his spot in the limelight in these days?

First of all, the fact that it has had a difficult time getting published is not a serious matter of censorship and/or an attack on freedom of expression. Freedom of expression doesn’t mean playing up polemic for the sake of polemic: I’ll defend Rushdie’s right to write literature that some may find offensive, but I won’t waste a second to defend the author of Fitna or anybody that publishes something with the one and only intent of causing offense.

On the other hand it is simple historical truth that Christians and Jews have been able to prosper in Islamic states: the opposite, unfortunately, is much harder to argue (just think at the Armenian genocide, that follows the de-islamization of the Ottoman State).

The Qu’ran is quite explicit about this:

2,62: Those who believe (in the Qur’an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.

5,69: Those who believe (in the Qur’an), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians and the Christians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness,- on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.

22,17: Those who believe (in the Qur’an), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians, Christians, Magians, and Polytheists,- Allah will judge between them on the Day of Judgment: for Allah is witness of all things.

One should compare that for example to Roman Catholic exclusivity: at least until the Second Vatican Council, there was no path to Heaven to anyone that was not a RC. All sort of Christians have managed to kill each other (and others) for centuries, on the basis of some sort exclusivity. Compared to that, the Qu’ranic text verges on the ecumenical:

2,135: They say: “Become Jews or Christians if ye would be guided (To salvation).” Say thou: “Nay! (I would rather) the Religion of Abraham the True, and he joined not gods with Allah.”
2,136: Say ye: “We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma’il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them: And we bow to Allah (in Islam).”
2,137: So if they believe as ye believe, they are indeed on the right path; but if they turn back, it is they who are in schism; but Allah will suffice thee as against them, and He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.
2,138: (Our religion is) the Baptism of Allah: And who can baptize better than Allah? And it is He Whom we worship.
2,139: Say: Will ye dispute with us about Allah, seeing that He is our Lord and your Lord; that we are responsible for our doings and ye for yours; and that We are sincere (in our faith) in Him?
2,140: Or do ye say that Abraham, Isma’il Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes were Jews or Christians? Say: Do ye know better than Allah? Ah! who is more unjust than those who conceal the testimony they have from Allah? but Allah is not unmindful of what ye do!

To anybody talking about Islam as “intrinsically fascist” I can then only answer that as far as I am concerned they can write that on the surface of the Moon, but all they’ll show is ignorance (and unwillingness to learn).

St. Paul Against the Christian Churches’ Secular Activities

2 Corinthians 9, 7: “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

It is a pity that so many Christian religious leaders, from Episcopalians to Roman Catholics, have decided to forget St. Paul’s message: one is saved by Grace, and not by (Divine) Law, let alone by human law. All their struggles to make politics follow their ethical rules, don’t really sound like something to be expected from people of Faith.