The IPCC Is Never Wrong -2- "Settled Science" Of Chinese Whispers

(for the first part, visit “The IPCC Is Never Wrong -1- Why Kevin Trenberth Is Right“)

Given that the scientifically-valid statements in the IPCC AR4 report are strictly capable to cover and include whatever outcome the Earth’s climate will compute for us, how can we find ourselves surrounded by people clamoring that, on the basis of the very same IPCC report, the “science is settled”?

“Chinese whispers”. That’s how.

The incoming strictly-orthodox and yet very open minded IPCC message is of an ongoing, complex, fascinating scientific analysis full of uncertainties that need to be investigated. Yet, at the other end of the “broken telephone” all channels are clogged by absurdist, simplistic claims of “the debate is over” (a statement that is, in a sense, the true denial).

(ironically, even RealClimate has recognized there might be a communication problem…)

Take a look for example at the magnitude of the solar forcing, again according to the IPCC. The “official value” everybody with even a remote interest keeps hearing about, is 0.12 and can be found in AR4-WG1-Chapter2 (*), page 193.

But then if you go to page 212, Table 2.11, it turns out that the “level of scientific understanding” for Solar Irradiance is “Low”, and for the component linked to cosmic UV rays is “Very low”.

And that’s not even remotely enough. All the known unknowns about the role of the Sun in shaping the Earth’s climate are clearly spelled out in Joanna D. Haigh’s “The Sun and the Earth’s climate” (**). True, that article might have been published after the official IPCC deadline. On the other hand, Dr Haig was well known at the time to the IPCC authors and reviewers, and appears four times among the References for that chapter alone.

What has happened then? Go back to page 193. The text actually reads:

The best estimate is +0.12 W m-2 (90% confidence interval: +0.06 to +0.30 W m-2)

That means that actual value can be half, or 2.5 times as much, and that’s just considering a confidence interval of 90% (“moderately confident” in statistical jargon) rather than the classic 95% (regarding which the spread between minimum and maximum possible value would have obviously been considerably wider).

And so we find the IPCC “moderately confident” about a forcing whose (1) known known components are “little to very little” understood, (2) known unknown components are not even considered despite being present in the Literature and (3) unknown unknown components… (well, “no comment” about those).

Add to that the fact that a “forcing”, like all “forcings“, is not a measurable quantity in the real world, and therefore exists strictly as an estimate. An estimate about which the IPCC is somewhat ‘schizophrenic’ to say the least.

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And yet, all that fun is not found anywhere: instead of “low to very low understanding” about an estimate done with “moderate confidence“, what we read is how small the Solar forcing “IS”: 0.12.

Onwards and upwards, as they used to say…

(*) Forster, P., V. Ramaswamy, P. Artaxo, T. Berntsen, R. Betts, D.W. Fahey, J. Haywood, J. Lean, D.C. Lowe, G. Myhre, J. Nganga, R. Prinn, G. Raga, M. Schulz and R. Van Dorland, 2007: Changes in Atmospheric Constituents and in Radiative Forcing. In: Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Solomon, S., D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K.B. Averyt, M.Tignor and H.L. Miller (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.

(**) Joanna D. Haigh, “The Sun and the Earth’s Climate”, Living Rev. Solar Phys. 4, (2007), 2. URL (cited on Oct 14, 2009): http://www.livingreviews.org/lrsp-2007-2

Tipping Points Revisited – The Impossibility Of Action Between Rare Examples And Complex Behavior

“American Scientist”, solidly warmist yet likely to be among the first publications to recognize the failure of AGW sometimes in the future, has a topical book review article (Runaway Change by John R. McNeill) of what appears to be a more-reasoned-than-most “tipping point” book, Marten Scheffer’s “Critical Transitions in Nature and Society“:

Runaway Change by John R. McNeill
November-December 2009, Volume 97, Number 6
Page: 506
DOI: 10.1511/2009.81.506

Scheffer defines “critical transitions” as “sharp shifts in systems driven by runaway change toward a contrasting alternative state once a threshold is exceeded.” His interest includes but also goes beyond doom and gloom, as the aim is to apply system dynamics to nature and of society so that we might in the future have  “the possibility of predicting, preventing, or catalyzing big shifts in nature and society.”

However, Sheffer’s ultimate goal (large-scale “predictability” e.g. in lake ecosystems as it is already possible in “petri dishes“) doesn’t appear easy to reconcile with all the examples he describes.

For one thing, transitions (critical or otherwise) do not necessarily include just one beginning state and one final state. And what a “state” actually is, gets less clear the more an example is studied

Scheffer begins with lakes, one of his areas of expertise. Lakes, especially small and shallow ones, can tip from one fairly stable state to another easily enough. But the more closely one looks, the less the behavior of lakes matches theory, because the theory is too simple. There are more than two possible states; indeed, there are infinite gradations. Moreover, as Scheffer notes, the notion of stability is fraught.

The situation is even more difficult about climate:

Scheffer turns next to climate systems. In contrast to lakes, the opportunities for controlled experiments on climate systems are nil, and our knowledge of critical shifts, positive feedback and runaway trends is all inferred from slim evidence.

Among possible example of climate-related critical tranistions, Scheffer lists “the oxidation of 2.4 billion years ago“, “snowball Earth”, “glaciation“, “Milankovitch cycles“, “Younger Dryas” and ENSO. Buf if McNeil is right in stating that “climate history (as currently understood) presents many examples of critical shifts on various timescales“, then doesn’t that also mean there is no such a thing as a stable climate?

Natural history doesn’t clarify much about tipping points either. The underlying theme is that “critical transitions are rare“:

A chapter on oceans shortens the timescale, discussing regime shifts in Pacific and Atlantic waters and focusing on sardine-anchovy cycles, the famous cod collapse of the North Atlantic, and, in coastal ecosystems, on coral reefs, kelp forests and estuarine oyster beds. These matters remain comparatively mysterious, and the role of human actions in them is uncertain, but the pattern of sudden dramatic shifts from one state to another is unmistakable. Scheffer follows with a chapter on terrestrial ecosystems that includes several more examples of transitions between alternative stable states on geographic scales ranging from the Sahara desert to peat bogs. Here he emphasizes that critical transitions are rare, which is true in other contexts as well, but which he does not emphasize elsewhere in the book.

The argument appears to collapse when human sciences are included, where Sheffer is mostly guided by his own preferences  (Jared Diamond, “the role of charismatic opinion makers“). That is a pity as obviously the most important aspect of being able to manage tipping points, is to be able to effectively inspire people in..managing tipping points.

Consider also the fact that

the existence of alternative states within a system and the nearness of tipping points often prove hard to figure out, especially with larger-scale systems

and, regarding climate change,

We do know that there are potential alternative states and probably tipping points. But we don’t know what those alternative states are; nor do we know where the tipping points lie.

The end result can only be that effective action, of the kind that might benefit all but only if everyone participates, would be next to impossible even if everybody suddenly became an AGW believer.

And so at the end of the day for all the efforts activists will ever put in the idea of AGW, the most likely way forward will be, as usual in the history of humanity, “to act blindly in the future, as we have in the past”.

Paul Ehrlich's Advice To Climate Modelers And Other Soothsayers

An important morsel of wisdom has surfaced in Tom Turner’s (June 2009?) interview-profile of mythical Paul Ehrlich (“The Vindication of a Public Scholar Forty Years After The Population Bomb Ignited Controversy – Paul Ehrlich Continues to Stir Debate“):

So does Ehrlich have any regrets? Things he’d have done differently? “I wish I’d taken more math in high school and college. That would have been useful.” And if he were writing The Population Bomb now, he’d be more careful about predictions

Stop Press: AGW Believer Stumbles, Accuses Briffa Of Unethical Behavior, Threatens AGW Edifice

Barrel-scraping (and worse: outright unintentional humor): this is what happens when one wants to defend an untenable position.

And this is what happened to wannabe Briffa Defender, Eli Rabett (apparently of some fame in the blogging circuit), trying his best Musketeer of the Guard impersonation in the “Hockey Stick Redux” comments at Ben Hale’s blog (more about that blog later).

Trouble is, Rabett ended up (unwittingly) accusing Briffa of dishonesty, and (one suspects, even more unwittingly) threatening single-handledly to destroy much of the AGW edifice.

Time wiil tell if Briffa and AGW can survive Eli Rabett’s friendly fire…

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Here’s how it started

Mr Rabett tried to defend Briffa with “a few basic questions, including “the “data” the tree ring samples, belongs to the Russians. True or false” and “If [the previous statement] is true, the Russians are the ones to approach for the “data”. True or false“.

Alas, and of course, Rabett forgot to ask an even more basic question, that is if Briffa had indeed refused for years to release the data related to his articles published in journals whose stated policy is that all data related to all published articles should be released. What was Briffa thinking when he submitted articles to those journals, one wonders.

Furthermore, as pointed out by another commenter, MrPete, if a data set cannot be shared, that pretty much invalidates all articles based on that data set and published in journals whose policy is for data to be shared. Given the popularity of Briffa’s work, one can only imagine what very public slaughter of AGW articles Rabett’s idea would entail.

Reminded of, but still in complete denial of such fundamental points, Eli Rabett came back with a vengeance: “It looks more and more that the data was the Russian tree ring information which belonged to the Russians and which they had published on previously. Data shared by it’s owners cannot be ethically given to a third party by the people it was given to.

(my emphasis)

How can one read the above but as an (unwitting) accusation by AGW believer Eli Rabett that Briffa’s sharing of the data has been…unethical?

If all other Briffa supporters are like Rabett (and, in some sense, Schmidt), then it’s going to be a long and hard way indeed for the CRU scientist

Coral Atolls and Sea Level Rise

Coral Atolls and Sea Level Rise
- a guest blog by Willis Eschenbach

Much has been written of late regarding the impending demise of the world’s coral atolls due to sea level rise. Recently, here in the Solomon Islands, the sea level rise has been blamed for salt water intrusion into the subsurface “lens” of fresh water under some atolls. Beneath the surface of most atolls, there is a lens shaped body of fresh water which floats on the seawater underneath. The claim is that the rising sea levels are contaminating the fresh-water lens with seawater.

These claims of blame ignore several facts. The first and most important fact, discovered by none other than Charles Darwin, is that coral atolls essentially “float” on the surface of the sea. When the sea rises, the atoll rises with it, and when the sea falls, they fall as well. Atolls exist in a delicate balance between new sand and coral rubble being added from the reef, and sand and rubble being eroded by wind and wave back into the sea.

When the sea falls, more sand tumbles from the high part, and more of the atoll is exposed to wind erosion. The atoll falls along with the sea level. When the sea level rises, wind erosion decreases. The coral grows up along with the sea level rise. The flow of sand and rubble onto the atoll continues, and the atoll rises. Since atolls go up and down with the sea level, the idea that they will be buried by sea level rises is totally unfounded. They have gone through sea level rises much larger and much faster than the current one.

Given that established scientific fact, why is there water incursion into the fresh water lenses? Several factors affect this. First and foremost, the fresh water lens is a limited supply. As island populations increase, more and more water is drawn from the lens. The inevitable end of this is the intrusion of sea water into the lens. This affects both wells and plants, which both draw from the same lens. It also leads to unfounded claims that sea level rise is to blame. It is not. Seawater is coming in because fresh water is going out.

The second reason for salt water intrusion into the lens is a reduction in the amount of sand and rubble coming onto the atoll from the reef. When the balance between sand added and sand lost is disturbed, the atoll shrinks. This has two main causes — coral mining and killing the wrong fish. The use of coral for construction in many atolls is quite common. At times this is done in a way that damages the reef as well as taking the coral. This is the visible part of the loss of reef, the part we can see.

What goes unremarked is the loss of the reef sand, which is essential for the continued existence of the atoll. The cause for the loss of sand is the indiscriminate, wholesale killing of parrotfish and other beaked reef-grazing fish. A single parrotfish, for example, creates about half a tonne of coral sand per year. Parrotfish and other beaked reef fish create the sand by grinding up the reef with their massive jaws, digesting the food, and excreting the ground coral.

In addition to making all that fine white sand that makes up the lovely island beaches, beaked grazing fish also increase overall coral health, growth, and production. This happens in the same way that pruning makes a tree send up lots of new shoots, and in the same way that lions keep a herd of zebras healthy and productive. The constant grazing by the beaked fish keeps the corals in full production mode.

Unfortunately, these fish sleep at night, and are easily wiped out by night divers. Their populations have plummeted in many areas in recent years. Result? Much less sand.

The third reason for salt water intrusion into the lens is the tidal cycle. We are currently in the high part of the 18 year tidal cycle. The maximum high tide in Honiara in 2008 was about 10 cm higher than the maximum tide in 1996, and the highs will now decrease until about 2014. People often mistake an unusually high tide for a rise in sea level, which it is not. There has been no increase in the recorded rate of sea level rise. In fact, the global sea level rise has flattened out in the last couple years.

What can be done to turn the situation around for the atolls? There are a number of essential practical steps that atoll residents can take to preserve and build up your atoll, and protect the fresh water lens:

1. Stop having so many kids. An atoll has a limited supply of water. It cannot support an unlimited population. Enough said.

2. Catch every drop that falls. On the ground, build small dams in any watercourses to encourage the water to soak in to the lens rather than run off to the ocean. Put water tanks under every roof. Dig “recharge wells”, which return filtered surface water to the lens in times of heavy rain. Catch the water off of the runways. In Majuro, they have put gutters on both sides of the airplane runway to catch all of the rainwater falling on the runway. It is collected and pumped into tanks. On other atolls, they let the rainwater just run off of the airstrip back into the ocean …

3. Conserve, conserve, conserve. Use seawater in place of fresh whenever possible. Use as little water as you can.

4. Make the killing of parrotfish and other beaked reef grazing fish tabu. Stop fishing them entirely. Make them protected species. The parrotfish should be the national bird of every atoll nation. I’m serious. If you call it the national bird, tourists will ask why a fish is the national bird, and you can explain to them how the parrotfish is the source of the beautiful beaches they are walking on, so they shouldn’t spear beaked reef fish or eat them. Stop killing the fish that make the very ground under your feet. The parrotfish and the other beaked reef-grazing fish are constantly building up your atoll. Every year they are providing tonnes and tonnes of fine white sand to keep your atoll afloat in turbulent times. You should be honoring and protecting them, not killing them. This is the single most important thing you can do.

5. Be very cautious regarding the use of coral as a building material. An atoll is not solid ground. It is is not a constant “thing” in the way a rock island is a thing. An atoll is an eddy, an ever-changing body constantly replenished by a (hopefully) unending river of coral sand and rubble. It is a process, wherein on one side healthy reef plus beaked coral-grazing fish plus storms provide a continuous stream of coral sand and rubble. This sand and rubble are constantly being added to the atoll, making it larger. At the same time, coral sand and rubble are constantly being eaten away, and blown away, and eroded away from the atoll. The shape of the atoll changes from season to season and from year to year. It builds up on this corner, and the sea washes away that corner.

And of course, if anything upsets that balance of sand added and sand lost, if the supply of coral sand and rubble per year starts dropping (say from reef damage or coral mining or killing parrotfish) or if the total sand and rubble loss goes up (say by heavy rains or strong winds or a change in currents) the atoll will be affected.

So if coral is necessary for building, take it sparingly, in spots. Take dead or dying coral in preference to live coral. Mine the deeps and not the shallows. Use hand tools. Leave enough healthy reef around to reseed the area with new coral. A healthy reef is the factory that annually produces the tonnes and tonnes of building material. You mess with it at your peril.

6. Reduce sand loss from the atoll in as many ways as possible. This can be done with plants to stop wind erosion. Don’t introduce plants for the purpose. Encourage and transplant the plants that already grow locally. Reducing water erosion also occurs with the small dams mentioned above, which will trap sand eroded by rainfall. Don’t overlook human erosion. Every step a person takes on an atoll pushes sand downhill, closer to returning to the sea. Lay leaf mats where this is evident, wherever the path is wearing away. People wear a path, and soon it is lower than the surrounding ground. When it rains, it becomes a small watercourse. Invisibly, the water washes your precious sand into the ocean. Invisibly, the wind blows the ground out from under your feet. Protect your island. Stop it from being washed and blown away.

7. Monitor and build up the health of the reef. You and you alone are responsible for the well-being of the amazing underwater fish-tended coral factory that year after year keeps your atoll from disappearing. Coral reseeding programs done by schools have been very successful. Get the kids involved in watching the reef. Educate the people that they are the guardians of the reef. Talk to the fishermen.

8. Expand the atoll. Modern coastal engineering has shown that it is quite possible to “grow” an atoll. The key is to slow down the water as it passes by. The slower the water, the more sand builds up. Slowing the water is accomplished by building low underwater walls perpendicular to the beach. These run out until the ends are a few metres underwater. Normally this is done with a geotextile fabric tubes which are pumped full of concrete. In the atolls the similar effect can be obtained with “gabbions”, wire cages filled with blocks of dead coral. Wire all of the wire cages securely together in a triangular shape, stake them down with rebar, wait for the sand to fill in. It might be possible to do it with old tires, fastened together, with chunks of coral piled on top of them. It will likely take a few years to fill in. Here’s a before and after picture of the system in use on a beach (not an atoll), taken three years apart. Note the low height and triangular shape of the wall extending out from the beach and continuing underwater (made of 3 concrete-filled geotextile fabric tubes). This triangular shape does not attempt to stop the water currents. It just slows them down and directs them toward the beach to deposit their load of sand. Eventually, the entire area fills in with sand.

Of course to do that, you absolutely have to have a constant source of sand … like for example a healthy reef … with lots of parrotfish. That’s why I said above that the single most important thing is to protect the fish and the reef. If you have beaked fish and a healthy reef, you’ll have plenty of sand and rubble forever. If you don’t, you’re in trouble.

Coral atolls have proven over thousands of years that, if left alone, they can go up and down with any sea level rise. And if we follow some simple conservation practices, they can continue to do so and to support atoll residents. But they cannot survive an unlimited population increase, or unrestricted fishing, or overpumping the water lens, or unrestrained coral mining.

FURTHER REFERENCES:

On sea level rise in Honiara: Pacific Country Report Sea Level & Climate: Their Present State Solomon Islands June 2006

On global sea level rise levelling off: University of Colorado at Boulder’s Sea Level Change

On Darwin’s discovery: Darwin, C., The Autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809-1882, 1887

No other work of mine was begun in so deductive a spirit as this; for the whole theory was thought out on the west coast of S. America before I had seen a true coral reef. I had therefore only to verify and extend my views by a careful examination of living reefs. But it should be observed that I had during the two previous years been incessantly attending to the effects on the shores of S. America of the intermittent elevation of the land, together with the denudation and deposition of sediment. This necessarily led me to reflect much on the effects of subsidence, and it was easy to replace in imagination the continued deposition of sediment by the upward growth of coral. To do this was to form my theory of the formation of barrier-reefs and atolls. (Darwin, 1887, p. 98, 99)

On the results of coral mining and changing the reef: Xue, C. (1996) Coastal Erosion And Management Of Amatuku Island, Funafuti Atoll, Tuvalu, 1996, South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC)

On the same topic: Xue, C., Malologa, F. (1995) Coastal sedimentation and coastal management of Fongafale, Funafuti, Tuvalu, SOPAC Technical Report 221

On parrotfish creating sand: this link

On the cause of erosion in Tuvalu: Tuvalu Not Experiencing Increased Sea Level Rise, Willis Eschenbach, Energy & Environment, Volume 15, Number 3, 1 July 2004 , pp. 527-543

On expanding island beaches: Holmberg Technologies

On the dangers of overpopulation: Just look around you …

President Of British Science Association Casually Strolls Towards Fascism

I am pretty sure Lord May has absolutely no idea of the most obvious consequence of his religion-without-faith approach towards solving the “climate change” issue. And that consequence is…fascism.

In fact, in the past, over and over again, well-meaning atheists have proposed to use religion for social engineering purposes. Invariably, all those doctrines have converged towards authoritarian nightmares. Worse: the whole catalogue of XX century horrors can be traced back to idealists-atheists thinking hard on how to improve societies by using religion.

For a reference, see Mark Lilla’s review of Michael Burleigh’s “Earthly Powers”, published in the New York Times on April 2, 2006:

[...] the Jacobins (in revolutionary France) [...] were convinced that a strong republic would need some sort of civil religion to establish a spirit of self-sacrifice and belonging, and so they tried to create one, organizing public festivals modeled on pagan cults and remaking the calendar. Burleigh, like so many historians today, sees in these Promethean efforts a premonition of the theatrical mass meetings of the 20th-century Bolsheviks, Fascists and Nazis.

[...] liberal Protestant theologian [...] Friedrich Schleiermacher [had the dream of a ] rationally purified biblical faith [that] would jettison old beliefs in miracles and the Bible’s literal truth, allowing it to become the civil faith of the bourgeois German state. This proved to be a powerful myth that turned many a Protestant minister into a blinkered German nationalist, contributing in no small measure to the catastrophe of World War I.

[Joseph de Maistre's] fundamental insights — that political life rests on a religious foundation, that human relations are shaped by ritual, that individualism is a disease — first found their echo among leftist French utopians like Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier and then Auguste Comte. The utopians did not believe in God but they very much believed in religion [...] or a surrogate one, a system of symbols and ceremonies bringing individuals together without reference to a revealing, transcendent God

[...] their daydreams about using religion instrumentally to foster social identification took a nightmarish turn at the end of the century when they fell into the hands of rabid nationalists like the French writer Charles Maurras and the German scholar Paul de Lagarde [...]

Now let’s see what happened to them.

All of that, because otherwise intelligent thinkers had the stupid idea of using religion without taking care of its Faith component.

Please Lord May would you stop inviting us to repeat that mistake.

How Much Wrong Can Joe Romm Be? That Moon Hoax Again…

I have already blogged some time ago about the flawed comparison between AGW skeptics and people believing in the Moon landing hoax. It takes just a sentence: the Apollo mission are historical events (i.e.: they belong to the past, they have already happened), global warming is a forecast projection (i.e.: it is about the future, it has not happened as yet).

Or to explain it the way of Donald Rumsfeld: arguing if an apple that is already on the ground, is on the ground, is absolutely different than arguing if apple that is still on the tree, will or will not eventually be on the ground.

With the usual bottom scraping and blatant headline-following that characterizes his blog, it is now Joe Romm’s turn to recycle the same logic-free pontificating, on the back of the 40th anniversary of the first Apollo lunar landing. Only this time, the point appears to be about an “overall conspiracy“.

According to Romm in fact, claims for a “large conspiracy” would be needed to keep AGW skeptical arguments alive, just as they are fundamental to all Moon-hoax accusations. Citing Harold Ambler by way of Anthony Watts, Romm writes:

Watts approvingly reprints denier manifestos that claim global warming “is the biggest whopper ever sold to the public in the history of humankind” — see here. As I’ve written, such a statement is anti-scientific and anti-science in the most extreme sense. It accuses the scientific community broadly defined of conspiring in deliberate fraud

But that is simply not true: it is just a form of reductio ad absurdum (as if one needed any more evidence of Romm’s inability to properly argue a point without infantile rhetorical attempts).

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In general, the fact that people sell a “whopper” does not necessarily mean they are knowingly participating in a conspiracy and/or committing fraud: otherwise, jails the world over would be full of astrologers, wizards, sorcerers, and most probably experts in homeopathy and chiropractic practitioners.

And very pertinent to the AGW skepticism case is that the history of Science is full of examples where quite large “whoppers” have been “sold to the public” by scientists building up and then defending a flawed consensus. Perfectly honest scientists, one can safely assume, with a deeply-held belief that their consensual understanding of the world was the right one.

We know now that such a “consensus” attitude has hindered the scientific careers of scientists, among them Galileo Galilei, Alfred L Wegener, J Harlan Bretz, Sir Gilbert WalkerJohann Ludwig Wilhelm Thudichum, Reg Sprigg. Recent Nobel Prize winners Barry Marshall and J. Robin Warren may have been just lucky to see their consensus-busting findings recognized whilst still alive.

Still, the fact that scientists fall repeatedly and across the centuries in the trap of “consensus” needs no conspiracy. It cannot be interpreted in any other way than as demonstration that scientists are human beings and that like all other human beings they introduce their subjective feelings, emotions, tribal drive, and who knows what else in the purportedly objective scientific process.

Nobody needs a “large conspiracy” to explain why it is so difficult to publish anything that does not include the customary “this may be caused by global warming” statement. All it takes is a large enough amount of scientists and science-related people convinced of the “truth” of Anthropogenic Global Warming, determined to read and to support only whatever confirms their prejudices.

The “consensus” behavior in AGW is exacerbated further by so many AGWers living under the impression that they are saving the planet. Under those circumstances, the esprit de corps is understandably as strong as it can be (this explains the existence of anti-skeptic rants such as Romm’s).

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All in all, it is deeply ironical to find that it is Romm’s statement the one “anti-scientific and anti-science in the most extreme sense“, deep in its core. Because if there is one thing everybody in the scientific community should be well aware of, it is that whatever they will tell the public, it is likely to be wrong one way or another. As per this Bertrand Russell quote:

Although this may seem a paradox, all exact science is dominated by the idea of approximation. When a man tells you that he knows the exact truth about anything, you are safe in inferring that he is an inexact man. Every careful measurement in science is always given with the probable error… every observer admits that he is likely wrong, and knows about how much wrong he is likely to be.

Another Example Of A Bankrupt Scientific Consensus

Scientific work, unless accurately done, had better not be done at all
Preconceived opinion is the pretended assumption by man of godly attributes which he does not possess
JLW Thudichum

As synchronicity has it…

Days ago, the BBC mentioned the controversy that prevented scientists from recognizing pre-Cambrian complex lifeforms for some 93 years.

Now it’s The Scientist dedicating an article to Oscar Liebrich and Johann Ludwig Wilhelm Thudichum and five lost decades in Science, on the basis of Theodore Sourkes’s book titled The Life and Work of J.L.W. Thudichum (click here for an alternative review).

Liebrich was the first to propose “that brain tissue was composed of a single giant molecule called ‘protagon’” (an idea destined quickly to become the “Protagon Consensus”). Thudichum was instead the brilliant scientist, “disenchanted with Liebrich’s theory“, able to “carefully [detail] the chemical constitution of the brain” decades ahead of his time, and of course victim of the consensus: dismissed by his colleagues as a “liar“.

The same concepts are reported by Daniel D. Christensen, M.D. in the Am J Psychiatry 160:459, March 2003:  (here another version of the same article):

[Thudichum's] attempts to understand the chemistry of the brain were often hotly debated and mocked. At times, even his personal character was attacked, as well as his honesty and motives. In the scientific press, he was called a “liar” and accused of “patent falsification.”

Thudichum’s main book on the topic dates 1884, some twenty years after the establishment of the Protagon Consensus and more or less the same span of time before its final demise. But Liebrich had started from a very strong position, being “a pupil of Hoppe-Seyler, one of the founders of biochemistry“. Dr. A Gamgee, Professor of Physiology in Manchester, didn’t waste much time to think about “protagon” before jumping in it with both his feet.

And so as late as 1909, somebody like W. Cramer could still be arguing for protagon, with M Steel and William J Geis spending twenty pages on the topic .

Another of Cramer’s Protagon Consensus articles shows characteristics that will not be unfamiliar to the AGW skeptic: interminable arguments deeply buried underneath layers of apparently scholarly reasoning (something we now know as utterly baseless); a pro-protagon explanation always at hand; and the wholesale dismissal of non-consensus ideas.

In an ironic twist, there is no space any longer for Liebrich in the history of biochemistry. And Thudichum is nowadays perhaps excessively celebrated, with a Medal Lecture in his honour. Still, his words are as true as ever: “Preconceived opinion is the pretended assumption by man of godly attributes which he does not possess“.

AGW Fascism Reaches European Union Elections

(thanks to Piero Vietti for pointing this out)

AGW Fascists have gone full-throttle for the upcoming elections for the European Union Parliament. Even the mildest of non-catastrophist objection is described as a terrible political sin, akin to racism and the denial of the Holocaust.

First example, the PES (European Socialist Party) publishing a list of “Twelve Terrible Candidates

This PES document presents a selection of terrible European election candidates of other European political parties. We criticize not the candidates but their views. We do so because voters have a right to see not only the candidates they can vote for directly, but also their European allies. The selection presented a difficult choice and there are certainly other candidates with even more absurd or offensive views.

Nonetheless, outside our social democratic family there are an unknown number of candidates who deny the holocaust, defend fascism, oppose Government action on climate change and hold other views that deserve to be condemned or laughed at. Whatever your reaction, we are pleased to present some candidates with views that will contribute nothing positive to the European Parliament.

One doesn’t need too good a memory to understand how profoundly Stalinist is what the PES has attempted.

Anyway, the list is moslty risible, including Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi just because European Socialists find him personally unpleasant, and former Romanian Minister of Justice Monica Macovel as guilty of denouncing her country’s notoriously sleazy politics.

Were it not for BNP’s Nick Griffin, the “Twelve Terrible Candidates” list would be a complete farce.

And who do we find among the “defenders of fascism” and “deniers of the Holocaust“? Why, Mr. Hynek Fajmon, Member of the European Parliament since 2004 for the Czech Republic. Included because “voted against the European Parliament’s report on EU future policy on climate change (e.g. [sic] the ‘Florenz report’).” (the shock! the horror!)

Hynek Fajmon? Who he? Perhaps a rabid AGW slayer, the owner of 200 SUVs and 15 Hummers, Exxon’s response to Al Gore? Of course not. Mr Fajmon’s unspeakable action deserving “to be condemned or laughed at” includes the following genocidal, baby-eating, wife-beating, kitten-torturing words anybody with two functioning neurons should be able to agree with as a matter of course:

The Florenz report asserts that the climate undertakings adopted by the EU in 2007 are insufficient and that they must be increased. I do not agree with this. As long as the EU is the only part of the world reducing its emissions then the target of reducing global emissions will never be achieved.

Sadly, the PES is not alone. Here’s what “lead Welsh Labour candidate Derek Vaughan” told the BBC on June 2:

the Tories have pledged to sit with racists and those who deny that global warming is a man-made problem

There you are, you (we) despicable climate skeptics! And you still call yourselves humans??? Tsk tsk. Wait until the PES and Derek Vaughan get their way, and the shame will befall upon you lot!!

In Case You Missed It…Going By Car To The North Pole

Russian motorists drive to North Pole

27.04.2009

Russian motorists have reached the North Pole for the first time in an Arctic expedition. The new record has been set by a team of seven Russians. They set out for the Pole from the Severnaya Zemlya archipelago on two experimental Russian-made YEMELYA cars on the 20th of March, covered over 1,100 kilometres on pack ice, and reached the earth’s northern pole on Sunday, the 26th of April. The jubilant team of seasoned travellers is now receiving congratulations from across Russia.

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not exactly your average SUV but still…the vehicles look quite heavy, therefore the underlying ice must have been quite solid…

Who knows why Richard Black or Roger Harrabin don’t appear interested in the effort?

Greenies As Modern-Day Hitlerites

And it’s not even my idea…

From the BBC’s Climate Change – The Blog of Bloom
Hitler: the green movement’s German shepherd?
by Shanta Barley

Ever wondered why it is that Germany [...] is so far ahead of the rest of the world in the race to be green?

According to Lord Anthony Giddens’ latest book, ‘The Politics of Climate Change‘ and a number of respected historians, Hitler may have given Germany a head-start. Not only did he pass the most stringent and comprehensive environmental protection law in the world at that time, but he also had a soft spot for vegetarianism, organic nibbles and animal welfare (up until the point when he poisoned his doting German Shepherd, Blondi, that is).

The Nazi “ecologists” [...] had the aim of preventing damage to the environment in undeveloped areas, protecting forests and animals and reducing air pollution.’

Incredibly, it gets even juicier than one could have ever dreamed

[...] the Nazis, [...] says Peter Staudenmaier, co-author of the book ‘Ecofascism’ were ‘conscious promoters and executors of a vile program explicitly dedicated to inhuman racist violence, massive political repression and worldwide military domination. Their “ecological” involvements, far from offsetting these fundamental commitments, deepened and radicalized them‘. [...]

Of Exceptional Climate Phenomena…In The XIX Century!

From Gustave Flaubert’s “Dictionary of Received Ideas“, “(in French, Le Dictionnaire des idées reçues) is a short satirical work collected and published in 1911-3 from notes compiled by Gustave Flaubert during the 1870s, lampooning the clichés endemic to French society” (text retrieved from this link):

SUMMER Always ‘unusual’. (See WINTER.)

WINTER Always ‘unusual’. (See SUMMER.)

(thanks to FM for pointing this out)

Kyoto and Sons of Kyoto: A Few Months Then The Truth

The text below has been published today on Benny Peiser’s CCNet. The original author is Col. Guido Guidi, well-known Italian TV metereologist, and main author of the Climate Monitor blog (in Italian).

Col. Guidi is a vocal advocate for a return of Climate Science to a proper scientific rather than mostly political debate and has kindly asked me to translate one of his blogs in English.

Kyoto and Sons of Kyoto: A Few Months, Then The Truth
By Guido Guidi, 13 Feb 2009

With minuscule if any expected practical effects, and a prohibitively expensive price tag, no wonder the Kyoto Protocol has elicited little enthusiasm left, right and centre of the climate debate. And at times, it has even looked simply too easy to hijack for many interests that have little to do with climate and/or the environment. For example, the whole European emission trading market scheme has been rather more successful as yet another chance for financial speculation, than as a beaconing example for sustainable development policies.

And yet, future “Sons of Kyoto” will likely be even more glorified, ever more ineffective version of the original Protocol. There is still a little ray of hope though, because in between one and the other International Conferences the Global Warming debate could be finally and definitively settled, with a return to the good old days when Earth’s climate could be analysed in a more objective manner. Here’s why.

In recent years, atmospheric carbon dioxide has been under round-the-clock watch, and global temperature too. Both have increased for a relatively long time, although with very different trends, with temperatures even showing a rather timid cooling during the last decade. Could this be enough to tip the balance of evidence against anthropogenic global warming? Maybe not, as the two factors might still be linked some other way within the vast, mostly unknown complexities of climate dynamics.

In any case, before even trying to understand how carbon dioxide may affect temperatures, we should perhaps investigate the anthropogenic and natural variabilities of this very common gas. The problem is not trivial: palaeoclimatic studies clearly show that high- and low-frequency past climatic changes have led to important changes in atmospheric CO2 concentration. And in all circumstances, temperatures have increased before carbon dioxide concentrations. Understand exactly how much our emissions actually contribute to measured CO2 increases could therefore be much harder than previously thought …unless that is, if something truly extraordinary were to provide us with a key to the solution.

Ironically, such an opportunity might be presenting itself due to the currently disastrous and apparently ever-worsening economic situation. For several months we have been hearing of drastic declines in industrial production. Percentages are nightmarish, with some sectors (especially among those that produce the most CO2 emissions) crashing by a minus 50%. With consumption going down as well, this crisis might drastically reduce emissions, more than any international agreement ever will.

The question is then: what will happen to the rate of growth of CO2 concentration into the atmosphere? Interesting scenarios may be unfurling before our eyes. Let’s make some hypotheses.

Imagine at first if CO2 will stop growing, or decrease significantly but without significant changes in temperature trends. That would mean Kyoto and its Sons deserve to be to trashed, as our activities would be shown as capable of changing carbon dioxide concentrations but not temperatures, and therefore not the climate.

Think instead if CO2 measurements keep growing, and temperatures continue to fluctuate following natural climate forcings. That too would mean Kyoto and its Sons deserve to be to trashed, as CO2 variations would demonstrably be primarily a response to natural temperature variations, starting from the current interglacial stage and the exit path from the temporary cooling known as the “Little Ice Age”.

Third and last option, if CO2 concentrations stop growing and temperatures keep falling or remain stable, even when the Sun and the oceans – largely responsible for the recent, slightly cooling phase – will have had time to run through one of their cycles, then and only then the real impact of anthropogenic global warming might finally become clear. It would mean that the post-Kyoto agreements have to be implemented rather seriously, that is with little or no political and financial speculation.

We could truly be on the verge of very interesting times for CO2 and the climate, and some hard facts could begin to show in the very next few months. I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds.

Morabito’s Turkish Defence on the LRB

The London Review of Books has kindly allocated some space in the Letters section of the latest issue to my letter on the (mis)treatment of Turkey by Perry Anderson, Professor at UCLA.

One important addendum, as my original text has been energetically and mercilessly shortened: at the end of the letter, when it says

“the left, the Kurds and the Alevis are precisely the factors impeding Turkey’s ‘accession process’”

it should actually read as

according to Anderson, the left, the Kurds and the Alevis are precisely the factors impeding Turkey’s ‘accession process’”

For reference, these are my original comments in full: on Turkey and on Cyprus.

and these Anderson’s articles I am referring to in my letter:

(a) On Cyprus
(b) On Kemal
(c) On Turkey after Kemal

Cyprus: Historical Analysis i.e. Fiction

(Addendum to “Thirty Thousand Attempts to Keep Turkey Out of the EU“, Sep 24, 2008)

Perry Anderson is not new to writing historical but relentlessy leftist pamphlets. In his 24 April 2008 article on the LRB, “The Divisions of Cyprus“, the “baddies” are colonialist Brits, whilst Turks are either depicted as semi-passive bystanders going from one fabricated outrage to another, or even beastly thugs.

Tellingly, Anderson describes Turkish Cypriots as “a community that felt itself entitled as of right to a disproportionate share of power on the island, yet continually lived on its nerves as if under imminent siege” but then spends no time dwelling on the reasons for that “siege” mentality.

Archbishop Makarios is portrayed somewhat sympathetically (perhaps due to his willingness to defy NATO). But it’s the Communist AKEL party that, as expected, is the hero of the story, always on the receiving end of violence and the only group capable to express a leader like current President Dimitris Christofias, seemingly on the verge of an historical settlement with the Northern, Turkish area of Cyprus.

Exaggerations abound, including comparisons to the West Bank, Guantanamo, and pro-Franco Italian and German forces in the 1930′s. The British intervention in the 1944-1949 Civil War in mainland Greece is depicted as bigger than the USSR’s in Hungary in 1956 (never mind there was no civil war in Hungary, in 1956). Greek leaders Papandreou and Karamanlis are weaklings in the extreme, with the latter a “sentry duty in the Cold War” retreating “to his bedroom as details of the [Zurich] agreement were fastened down“.

Successive British Governments are invariably scheming and evil, and Greek-Cypriot General George Grivas “a nervi of extreme wing of counter-revolution“.

Furthermore, Anderson’s essays describe eminently self-consistent stories, with little or no space for mistakes, random circumstances, and the revelation that some critical information may be missing and/or open to different, equally valid interpretations.

All in all, one is forced to classify Anderson’s historical efforts not as much as scholarly analysis, rather as documented fiction. And by trying to present it as some kind of unvarnished history, one risks cheapening both Literature, and History.

What Has President Nixon Ever Done To Us?

James Grant is right in pointing out that one root of today’s financial troubles lies in the Nixon administration’s decision, on Aug. 15, 1971, “that the dollar would henceforth be convertible into nothing except small change” (“The buck stopped then“, IHT, Sep 25).

Really, there’s lots of disasters that can be directly linked to the fewer-than-usual days of Richard M. Nixon as President.

Abroad: the bombing of neutral Cambodia and Laos, resulting in 4 students dead at Kent State in Ohio, and the establishment of the genocidal Pol Pot regime; the threat to India with nuclear-powered USS Enterprise in 1971, resulting in India’s and subsequently Pakistan’s nuclear (bomb) programs; the approval of Pinochet’s bloody coup in Chile in 1973, with a dwindling support for US interests by Latin American governments ever since.

Domestically: the end of all human voyages beyond Earth orbit; the ballooning-up of the Federal Government with the establishment of a long list of Government Agencies; the abuse of Presidential powers with their following corrosion for more than a quarter of a century; the “culture wars” between Republicans and Democrats, all trying to despise each other most; Donald Rumsfeld; and of course the original declaration of the “war on drugs” that surely must have been the most inefficient endeavor ever taken by humanity.

Nixon’s Presidency started a little less than forty years ago. Its legacy, who knows when it will end?

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.

Muslims vs the West: History Is Not As We Have Been Told

History is never pure chronicles, rather always an interpretation. And so with double skepticism we should confront all “Arguments from History” that elicit hatred and separation: because they are likely to be unmasked as simplistic manipulations.

Excerpts from Peter Brown’s “The Voice of the Stones“, The New York Review of Books, Volume 55, Number 6 · April 17, 2008 – reviewing G.W. Bowersock’s new book “Mosaics as History: The Near East from Late Antiquity to Islam“, Belknap Press/Harvard University Press, 146 pp., $22.95 (article on the web for subscribers only):

[...] The second-to-last chapter of Mosaics as History—entitled “Iconoclasms”—shows that [the] descendants [(Jews, Christians, and pagans in the Middle East] were still [commissioning figurative mosaics] after well over a century of Muslim rule. Only in the year 723 did the local Christians find themselves forced to remove some of the figures from the exuberant mosaics in their churches, at the bidding of the Umayyad Caliph Yazid II. They did so with care. As Bowersock shows, this first premonitory tremor of Muslim iconophobia was limited in its extent, and it was Christians themselves who undertook to respond to it.

Far from showing a Muslim fundamentalist state flexing its muscles against religious minorities, the decree of Yazid II arose from a surprising situation. Up to that time, Muslims had often worshiped in Christian churches. They did not like all that they saw there. Some found themselves increasingly disquieted by the exuberant animal and human life that they saw on the pavements. (Put briefly: to attempt to create living beings through art began to awake fears in them that were like those stirred up, in recent years, by experiments in cloning.)

But they did not descend upon the Christians from outside, to inflict random destruction on all Christian images. Rather, the Muslims who advised Yazid II seem to have acted like partners who had already been taken into a firm. They slowly bought out their colleagues and imposed their own policies, by tweaking the image that the company was supposed to project. Eventually (as we all know) the policy of avoiding images would win out. But it only did so (and only to a certain degree) in Muslim circles, and never among the large Christian populations of the Near East, many of whose images have survived (icons, frescoes, mosaics, and all) up to this day.

[...] Altogether, Mosaics as History offers little support to inert stereotypes. Here is no abrupt end of the ancient world, brought about by Arab invaders from the desert. Here are no Christians trembling under the shadow of an intolerant Muslim empire. It is not as we had been told. But then, we are seldom told as much as we should be told about the non-Western shores of the Mediterranean and even less about the complex strands that linked the world of late antiquity to that of early Islam. We need to listen to Bowersock:

Late antiquity and early Islam are full of challenges to old easy dichotomies, such as Orient oder Rom [East or Rome—with nothing in between], that have so long dominated historical interpretation.

[...] Only the sharp tang of scholarship like Bowersock’s, devoted to a seemingly distant past, can clean our eyes, a little, of the itch of modern pseudohistory, of modern stereotypes, and of modern hatreds, so that we can view the present, if not with comfort, then at least with clarity.

The Moral Equivalence of Hamas and Israel (and us)

Another day, another series of reports on tens of dead, dying and injured people in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

I’ll leave the sorting out of who’s to blame to anybody wishing to waste their time.

Sure, there are more victims on the Palestinian side than on the Israeli, indicating an overwhelmingly disproportionate response as if the value of human life really depended on nationality (a consideration unfathomably shared by the Palestinian leadership too: prisoners exchange usually involve a handful of Israelis to tens of Palestinians).

On the other hand what purpose can it be in the launching of aimless rockets by Hamas, randomly towards civilians? Apart, that is, from killing if not terrorizing them on purpose, because they are civilians: as if that has ever won anybody’s war.

The height of mutual stupidity is that people in charge on the two sides are determined to brutalize each other. At the same time, retaliation after retaliation, they have kind of abdicated all hopes of recovering their own humanity…to the sudden appearance of virtuous behavior in the other camp.

It’s fairly obvious that whatever the causes of their madness, they are all directly responsible for untold miseries that will befall on their own children.

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What should be done to bring peace to Israeli and Palestinians alike? It’s more than obvious, it’s actually boring. Stop wishing the others could go away. Realize the land is for the two of them, and for the rest of humanity as well. Decouple Israel from the messianic undertones, by getting it into the European Union.

But that doesn’t look like in anybody’s interest. The main hope is that the situation has worsened since the quasi-agreement with President Clinton in 2000, because when everybody knows peace is tantalizingly near, everybody rushes to settle the last scores.

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But that’s still too easy an analysis.  

Who else is brutalizing civilians in the futile attempt of getting a military and thus a political advantage in a never-ending war, worsened exactly because and by that brutalization?

It’s us from NATO.

The civilian victims are in Afghanistan, nowadays, and likely but less evidently in Iraq.

And it’s no novelty. Leaving aside the famously useless killings of tens of thousands in Dresden during World War II, just fifty years ago the French Government tried almost casually to defend the bloody bombing of a Tunisian border village, in the Algerian war.

Despite our illusions, things have not changed since. We are still eliminating fellow human beings without much of a thought. Here’s NATO proudly using American and European taxpayers’ money to kill road building workers. Never, or almost never, big news in our media.

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It is high time we leave aside idle discussions about other peoples’ business to mind about our own idiocy.

Where’s the Medal for the Woman Who Saved FDR?

75 years ago, on Feb 15, 1933, an Italian US citizen by the name of Giuseppe Zangara stood on a bench to aim at then-President-Elect Franklin D Roosevelt. Unfortunately for Zangara, and fortunately for much of the rest of humanity, at the other side of the bench there was a woman by the name of Lillian Cross standing already.

As Zangara’s movements made her risk to fall, Mrs Cross “turned around and said “Don’t to that”…Just then [she] saw the pistol“.

Determined to stop Zangara, Lillian Cross managed to “[force] the would-be assassin shooting arm upwards“.

The end result was a healthy FDR ready to take on the Presidency in 3 weeks’ time, to enable welfare reform if not its foundation, to get the USA on the path towards recovery from the 1929 crisis, to get re-elected for a record 3 times, and to push a reluctant nation towards supporting Britain against the Nazis and then to a full-scale victorious war on two faraway fronts.

Mrs Cross died in 1962 at the age of 78. Had she been heavier than her 100-pound body frame, perhaps she would not have noticed Zangara’s hand soon enough.

This is of course the stuff of sci-fi and alternative universes, and no less than Philip K Dick has visited this episode, twice in fact.

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A curious side story: among the wounded that day, Detective William Sinnott (on holiday in Florida), with a bullet in his head. Described as an “old friend” by FDR in a Feb 17, 1933 message, Sinnott was back at work in New York on April 8, that is only 52 days later, 4 days after leaving hospital.

Sinnott, who died in 1965, received a Congressional Gold Medal in 1940, although his exact role in saving the President is not clear.

Mrs Lillian Cross has received no Medal, as far as I know. She does not even have her own Wikipedia page…

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Zangara died on the electric chair on March 20, 1933 (33 days after the incident…as they say, the past really is a different country…), as Chicago mayor Anton Cermak died on March 6 due to complications having received one of Zangara’s bullets in his chest.

SOURCES FROM THE ARCHIVES OF THE NEW YORK TIMES

(1) Assassin shoots 5 times; police and bystanders leap for him and take him prisoner. Accomplice taken later cermak and new york officer, rushed to hospital — now in serious condition. Roosevelt delays trip had been warmly welcomed and intended to start for north at once. Shooting at miami causes profound sensation in the national capital
By james a. Hagerty.special to the New York Times.
February 16, 1933, thursday

(2) Woman diverted aim of assassin; 100-pound wife of miami doctor tells how she forced up. Man’s arm. Held on during shooting gun had been pointed “right at mr. Roosevelt” 15 feet away, she relates. Woman diverted aim of assassin
February 16, 1933, Thursday

(3) Messages sent to victims.
February 17, 1933, Friday

(4) Policeman, shot by Zangara, back.
April 8, 1933, Saturday

(5) Woman who saved Roosevelt from assassination is buried; incident is recalled
November 11, 1962, Sunday

What Did They Kill One Another For?

The Croatian Parliament on Saturday backed the new government of Prime Minister Ivo Sanader [...]. Serb official Slobodan Uzelac [of the Independent Democratic Serbian Party (SDSS)] was designated a deputy premier.”

During the wars that dissolved Yugoslavia in the 1990′s, more than 140,000 people died, and more than a million were displaced. And the Croatian War of Independence, fought mainly between Croatian and Serb ethnic nationals living in the present territory of Croatia, was “striking for its brutality and intensity“.

The Uncomparable Life and Death of the Most Famous Pakistani Leader

Whatever one could think of her and her many defects, there will undeniably be a time-before and a time-after the death of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

And that should be enough to establish that she wasn’t just “the daughter of <somebody>”.

Even her assassination has been a very special event. Gunshots followed by a bomb? Virtually unheard of. Al Qaeda it ain’t! As things stand now, it’s more likely that the bomb has been the tool used to “cancel the fingerprints” of whoever ordered the shooting.

Sadly, that means the Pakistani Government is the most likely culprit.

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One definitely wonders what has gone so wrong in the past 60 years, to make the inhabitants of the Land of the Pure so keen to kill each other.

History, a Murderous Farce

Napoleon, the Emperor of the French, destroyed the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, thereby establishing the basis for the ascent of the German Empire that was going to humiliate France in 1871.

Prussia and Austria fought hard to establish their leadership over Germany. The result was a militarized Prussian class that killed Germany once in the First World War, and then again with its support for Hitler.

“Of course” Adolf, from Austria of all places, dedicated his life to the nationalist cause, with the result that Germany was annihilate and Prussia airbrushed from history at the end of World War II.

Those are not the only ironies of history. The end result of the Christian Crusades was the undermining of the Byzantine Empire, and the opening up of Eastern Europe to the Ottoman Muslims. Nobody has killed as many Communists as Stalin, or as many Chinese as Chairman Mao, and since Tamerlane perhaps nobody has killed as many Muslims as Osama bin Laden and his loose “organization”.

I am sure there are many more examples of unbelievably unintended consequences. Hadn’t it been for the continuous slaughter, History would be a topic to laugh very hard about.

After Iraq – Six Points for a New Approach to International Military Interventions

-If President Bush had followed his “Mission Accomplished” message! He may have been celebrated to this day as an accomplished Statesman

The situation in Zimbabwe appears so dire, even Pius Ncube, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, is calling for an outside intervention to free the locals from the overpowering elite that has ruined the Nation.

Unfortunately, no outside intervention appears forthcoming.

For each Sierra Leone where foreign troops got rid of murderous rebels, there are innumerable counter-examples of places abandoned to the rule of unsavory characters: Afghanistan until 2001, the Kurdish villages in northern Iraq until 1991, Rwands in 1994 of course, and nowadays Darfur.

Despite the experience of the appeasers in the 1930’s, the temptation is always very high towards opting against direct intervention. Especially so now, with no end in sight for the military adventure in Iraq.

But think for a minute: if only President Bush had followed through the message bourne out of the “Mission Accomplished” May 1, 2003 banner on USS Abraham Lincon to its obvious consequence! He may have been celebrated to this day as an accomplished Statesman: having successfully completed the mission of toppling Saddam Hussein.

In other words: in case of a dire humanitarian crisis caused by egregiously unlawful behavior, there is a way to intervene: by setting ourselves to fight the criminals against humanity, and to accomplish the goal of defeating them: and then, to subsequently go back where we came from.

To understand how can this be done in practice, let’s imagine that there is a need to rapidly convince a State to change its tactics.

Sadly, that is not difficult: candidates abound, where humanitarian aid is not allowed to a wayward province, or wholesale killing is still considered an option, or otherwise part of the local population is criminally treated.

1-Start by establishing a clear measurable objective (eg “remove tyrant”…and that’s it!)

This is a basic principle of management so obvious, and yet betrayed at least as often as proven correct. How many targets can one hit with one shot? Hence the objective should be “Free the Zimbabweans from the rampant inflation”. Or “Remove the Iraqi individuals that will build a nuclear arms capability at the first occasion”. Vaporous stuff such as “exporting democracy”, etc should be forgotten altogether.

2- To avoid war, use a credible threat of war

If the counterpart is hell-bent in their devilish actions, scare them by showing seriously-ready-to-use violent means. Seriousness and readiness are imperative.
In truth, the actual start of the war is a sign of failure, because evidently the actions put in place were not scary or credible enough: just as good crowd control involves showing off truncheons to frighten, rather than actually beating people up.
On the other hand, if a war looms anyway, it has to be started. Otherwise, any threatening posturing will be even less effective next time around: and therefore the risk of future misbehaviors (and wars) much higher.

3-Get in quick, get out fast

Conduct the war by getting in, shocking, aweing and then leaving.
George HW Bush understood it in 1991. George W Bush declared just as much in that banner in 2003, but then carried on with the occupation regardless. And a never-ending occupation can only erode political support at home, while keeping the troops in danger of being attacked by ever-more-empowered insurgents.

4-Stand-by, ready to invade again very quickly

Once the enemy country has been left to its own devices, the usual cliques could simply regain power (see Iraq 1991). This can be prevented by keeping alive a credible, ready-to-strike threat.
Admittedly, that can evolve into a tragically ironic, revolving-door situation, with several rounds of invasions and retreats. But then, one hopes even the most recalcitrant political elite may opt for a different take, after suffering the umpteenth invasion.

5-Prevent civilian casualties

The death of any innocent “enemy” civilian is a fiasco akin to bombing one’s own cities.
Civilian deaths have boosted rather than weakened their Government since time immemorable (think the USA’s reaction on 9/12). This is contrary to the stated objective of changing a State’s criminal ways.
The absolute reduction of “collateral damage” to the utmost minimum is therefore not just an ethical goal, it makes good political and military strategy. And it will definitely help in preventing an organized insurgency to form.

6-Invade by land, avoid aerial bombings, and stay away from big equipment as much as possible

The threat and practice of repeated invasions is only feasible if the conflict can be carried out without the use of large, hard-to-position, hard-to-move, maintenance-hungry equipment, bombers included.
Apart from logistical considerations, in fact, if we want a quick conclusion with no “collateral damage”, i.e. precision and speed, bombing cannot be an option. In fact, whatever Air Force generals have been saying for the past hundred years, the effectiveness of bombing in preparation of a later invasion has been tragically debunked in the Flanders, in Normandy, and even in the first Iraq war.
After all, the objective is change the ways of a State, not to destroy it wantonly, the latter is the only thing bombing is good at in a modern war (if anybody believes in “precision targeting”, I’ve got a bridge to sell)

Will the above ever become reality? It is well known that we are always ready to fight the last war. And so there is some hope indeed, that will have to wait for the time when it will be possible to analyze the Iraq conflict with pragmatic-historical rather than political eyes.

90 Years After Killing Itself, Europe at the Crossroads

The umpteenth EU summit is taking place in Brussels from tonight.

The issue at stake is far heavier than in past meetings of Heads of State and Government. With the expansion to include countries formerly behind the Iron Curtain, the EU has to find a way to work despite its components living in different histories.

Call it “Constitution”, call it “Treaty”, call it “Donald Duck” but a new set of rules is needed for a future of prospects rather than implosion.

As I wrote yesterday, the best way to keep one’s life truly alive is to deal with the diverse times that cohabit in one’s soul: just as well for the European Union. Its old, Western core is several decades in front of the new Eastern members in matters of handling national interest in a multi-state Union.

It is not that the Poles or the Czechs are slow-witted: it is that by wrapping their national evolutions in ice under the Soviet domination, it is all too natural to them for history-heavy questions such as strategic defence and World War II considerations to be on the table right now.

Unfortunately, those are exactly the questions that cannot interest their Western counterparts. Because to them, history is at best a nuisance.

———

Europe and European culture committed suicide around 1917 and perhaps didn’t stop stabbing itself for another 30 years. All the Empires that boldly entered World War I in 1914 were irreparably damaged by three years of war, and in all the participating countries only the most rabid types were not appalled by the pointless carnage.

To compound the situation, millions had joined the fight inspired by enthusiastic nationalism, almost invariably spiced up by religious references. Ominously, they had done it in Britain, in France, in Germany, in Russia, in Italy, everywhere following similar patterns.

They literally marched on to kill one another, seemingly unaware of their extraordinary similarities. And obviously in hindsight, their war could not end, as they were able to perfectly match and outwit one another.

That’s why it was a mass suicide, of bodies and of culture. The U.S. officially joined the war on April 2, 1917. Their mere presence was enough to finally put it to a stop. Old Europe heard its bell tolling.

———

Fast-forward to 1947. Hell-bent on destroying themselves, Europeans had managed to complete the Great War with the even bigger World War II. A great chunk of them were taken out of history by falling into the hands of that failed experiment called Soviet Communism.

Another large chunk, to the West, decided to forego history altogether, laying its soul finally to rest. No more violent nationalism, no desire to stomp on one another, no talk of reparation of this or that historical tort, and since they were at it, steam ahead with a Union of nation states, but down with religion and all mores of old (from “Father knows best” to “A woman’s place is in the kitchen“). Some call it “modernity“.

Sixty years later, the process is almost complete. There is no aspect of contemporary (Western) European life that has not been affected by modernity. The artistic renovation s of the 1920′s have fathered an incredible variety of movements. Religion is on the wane, especially organized religion, and it has become perfectly normal to practice homosexuality and to raise single-parent children, things considered quite deviant as recently as 30 years ago.

Frankly, it is more than absurd to imagine the great-grandchildren of those knowingly sent to die at the Somme or Caporetto, accept any Government initiative without much skepticism.

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That’s not the experience elsewhere on the Continent and beyond. For example it is almost impossible to deny the impetus given to liberation of Western European women by the request to work during both wars in stead of their war front-bound men. That’s not exactly what has happened in Communist countries (where the desire to free men and women alike somehow became synonimous of morphing citizens into State servants).

And that’s not what has happened in the Middle East either. Who knows, without World War I there would still be little or no voting rights for female citizens of…liberal democracies! (The U.S.A., of course, is a whole different topic).

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And so the new bunch of countries cannot simply join the European Union without a lot of kicking and screaming: Poland especially, a former Empire in itself from the Baltic to the Black Sea, then put together, dismembered and forcibly moved westward by its neighbours.

Will the Brussels meeting be any fruitful? Usually, if a summit like that fails, it is simply forgotten. But let’s hope it does succeed, so it will leave a mark in history.

Imagine if Germany could finally accept Poland’s requests, recognizing each other’s completely different historical paths, and convince it to actually become a leader in the Union: putting to rest at least 13 centuries of enmity.

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If the EU will be able to rationally accommodate so many countries with such a variety of experience, cares and worries, then it will be ready to expand even further: Turkey, the Ukraine, Israel, Morocco, Tunisia…and why not?

As a sort of grass-root United Nations, the EU could then become the first gift to Humanity by a more peaceful, re-born Europe. 

Kosovo, Another EU Failure

The European Union is chugging along with its Ahtisaari Plan for the future of Kosovo, the quasi-independent province still nominally and legally part of Serbia albeit occupied by NATO and a UN protectorate since the end of the 1999 war.

In truth, that Plan seems more the result of a vision-free EU that is trying its might to get out of a region that has seen the Union’s reputation hit rock bottom several times for the past 15 years or so.

Of course, ultimately any failure and the blame for any violence lie with the Kosovo residents. It’s their lives that they themselves seem so apt to make more miserable than should be.

But the sudden push for making Kosovo independent does not look like the wisest of choices for the EU.

They are now claiming that they want to prevent development of local dependency on foreign aid, but foreign aid will surely continue flowing to Kosovo for the foreseeable future.

Also, the Ahtisaari Plan is highly-detailed: yet more evidence that there is no comprehensive vision for both communities. Expect further hardships for the Serbs.

What are the alternatives? For example, simple allow Serbian areas of Kosovo to rejoin Serbia, rather than remain a small minority in a brand-new State that Serbian will never be.

And what is this idea of attaching peoples one to the other with superglue even when they blatantly do not want to live together?

The EU itself is made up of nation-states that were established and are still run on the idea that people of the same nation (traditions, culture, but at the end of the day a matter of shared heritage with dubious genetic aspects) must be allowed to govern themselves free from the influence of other nations.

The Kosovo plan makes no sense in this respect. Why force them something we have no intention to do ourselves?

If Ahmadinejad were really smart…

…the President of Iran would conclude the Conference on the Holocaust by stating that: (a) it happened; (b) it was as big as it is said it was and (c) post-War reparations were woefully inadequate, with Europe finding the easy way out by shipping its Jewish population off to Palestine

In other words, Ahmadinejad would call for rich Europe to spend billions and billions to support the Palestinian nation (in Israel, in the Occupied Territories and elsewhere)

That would go down very well with the vast majority of people on the planet…

Some hope!

Six Billion Eichmanns

Not long ago I blogged about the gathering clouds of a holocaust of Muslims, especially in Europe: “A future Holocaust of Muslims? Letter to BBC’s ‘Any Questions’”  (11-Feb-06 1:56pm):

The Western reaction to the brouhaha about those idiotic Danish cartoons has been […] [about[ flaunting the "superiority" of Western culture […] making no distinction between millions and millions of peaceful Muslims and a handful of violent protesters

[…] “superior Western Culture” (especially European) cannot deal with the concept of properly respecting, or even letting exist an “alien” minority in their midst. Look at what happened to indigenous Americans in the North and the South, to the Aborigines in Australia. Think what happened to the Jews. […]

With the security services busily imprisoning people for the crime of “wrong religion” (or “wrong beard”, or even “wrong hydrogen peroxide”), the forecast remains uncertainly pessimistic.

This sounds preposterous: I have been told that Western civilisation has come a long way from the 1930s, that Law is definitely the Rule now, that human rights are enshrined in too many bills and constitutions.

Maybe. Would our forefathers have believed that they were going to become genocidal? Who could have thought about Auschwitz in the Germany of Bertold Brecht and Karl Valentin? Who was expecting the Sarajevo of the 1984 Winter Olympics become a territory of war and massacres barely 8 (eight) years later?

Of course, we are better than out ancestors. Of course we can learn from their experience. Too bad that’s exactly what they would have said of themselves.

Of course we are better than Germans in the 1930s-1940s, or Jugoslavians in 1992, or Rwandans in 1994. Too bad the very act of pretending that we are better than anybody else, is fundamentally anti-Christian, hence a betrayal of whatever good has been produced by “Western Civilisation”

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In truth, we have been killing our own citizens too many a century to seriously believe things are different this time around. What then can help us prevent any reversion to our old thirst for killing friends and foes?

(1) Acknowledging that things are not well: and that they are not well, with us as individuals.

No need to believe my words: here is what David Cesarani writes about the ordinary nature of evil (“Becoming Eichmann: Rethinking the Life, Crimes, and Trial of a ‘Desk Murderer’”, Capo Press; reviewed by Barry Gewen on the New York Times, May 12, 2006 in “A portrait of Eichmann as an ordinary man”)

Under the right circumstances, normal people will commit mass murder, [Cesarani] says, and the circumstances of our age – with its racism, ethnic cleansing, suicide bombers and genocidal killings – are ominous. “Eichmann appears more and more like a man of our time,” are his concluding words. “Everyman as génocidaire.”

It is important to note that Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi war criminal tried and hanged in Israel in 1961, was no rabid anti-semite

In Austria, Eichmann had Jewish friends, was employed by Jews […], had Jewish relatives by marriage. […] it wasn’t anti- Semitism that led Eichmann into the party. […] The turning point came after 1941, when forced emigration gave way to genocide. Under the pressure of his new duties, Eichmann changed.

(2) Keeping in mind that idealistic political goals are the more likely to ruin us, the more wonderful they look on paper (and in mind)

A poignant example is provided by French philosopher BHL (from an interview by Jan Tunku Varadarajan of the Wall Street Journal, Jan 23, 2006):

When the Hegel of modern times will write this history, he will say that the real crucial event was Cambodia…Because till Cambodia all the revolutionaries in the world believed that revolution had failed because it didn’t go far enough, because it wasn’t radical enough…The first revolution in history to be really radical…And what we discover, all of us? Instead of paradise, revolution gives absolute hell.

Tellingly, it took years for the Cambodian crimes to be fully recognised by leftist parties, just as the enormous numbers of dead Chinese peasants during the Great Leap Forward at the end of the 1950s did not impede cultured “progressive” intellectuals from supporting Chairman Mao to his death and beyond

(3) Refusing and repudiating any talk of us-vs-them, and all forms of political propaganda capitalizing on division and even the slightest hint of hate

Here again BHL in the same interview:

We are engaged in a war against terrorism, but the war is a political one, not a religious one, not a civilization one…It is suicide to say that this is a civilization war, because if it is such, it is an endless war, bloc against bloc. If you say “political” you make a bet on the outcome

(4) Keeping in check the societies and cultures each one of us belongs to, instead pontificating on what is wrong in other societies and other cultures

If, say, you believe it is your duty to “defend Western Civilization” then it is your duty to understand and put into practice the old saying about motes and beams. Otherwise, you are betraying the deep root of your very cause

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Gewen ends his commentary in hopeful despair, talking about Hanna Arendt, who wrote several reports for The New Yorker at the time of Eichmann’s trial, and a book, “Eichmann in Jerusalem

Arendt’s approach was unyieldingly universalistic. Her analysis of Eichmann was a demand for individual responsibility, an insistence on the need constantly to exercise personal choice, whatever society might dictate. This is a cold ethic, as severe as Kant’s, so difficult it has a quality of the inhuman about it. For who among us can maintain the unceasing moral awareness she calls for?

And yet, we ought to strive at least for that goal.

So please do keep vigilant.

It took just half a decade to get a failed minority party into an organization of thousands getting trained for mass murderers. In the age of the Internet it may take far shorter a time than that

Oil Prices are bound to fall soon

Oil Prices are bound to fall soon…and for reasons that will appear obvious in hindsight (so why not spell them out now?):

  • Behind the recent price hikes for crude oil there is a combination of transient causes such as the Iraq fiasco, and the herd mentality that has brought many people into the Commodities markets and convinced them to buy oil alongside everybody else. When those causes will deflate, so will the oil price
  • Higher prices stimulate more research into how to extract more oil. When the market will find again its sanity, higher supply will mean lower prices.
  • Higher prices stimulate also the construction of additional refineries. These take several years to come online, and will crash the price of oil when they’ll all do at the same time: just as those miles and miles of communications cable laid down during the Internet boom of the 1990′s are behind today’s cheap cybersurfing and free worldwide calls,
  • The possibility that oil is costlier because we have just reached a peak in production capabilities is remote. Why now? Why not 10 years ago, or 20 years in the future? Why would it happen so suspiciously close to 9/11 and the crises that have followed?

The real difference this time around is that all those predictions of future doom-and-gloom will be forever available on the Internet, perhaps for a good laugh when “experts” will try to recycle themselves in the future into the “oil is a practically inexhaustible resource” camp