For the Social Animal, An Abyss of Uniqueness

It took a while, but I have finally found the original source behind Elissa Ely’s “Bridging the abyss – if only briefly” thoughtful contribution to the IHT.

It’s from Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik‘s “Confrontation“, and appeared in “Tradition: A Journal of Orthodox Thought“, 1964 volume 6, #2. Quote only very slightly modifed, from the Boston College’s website:

It is paradoxical yet nonetheless true that each human being lives both in an existential community, surrounded by friends, and in a state of existential loneliness and tension, confronted by strangers. In each to whom I relate as a human being, I find a friend, for we have many things in common, as well as a stranger, for each of us is unique and wholly other.

This otherness stands in the way of complete mutual understanding. The gap of uniqueness is too wide to be bridged. Indeed, it is not a gap, it is an abyss. Of course, there prevails, quite often, a harmony of interests, – economic, political, social – upon which two individuals focus their attention. However, two people glancing at the same object may continue to lead isolated, closed-in existences. Coordination of interest does not spell an existential union.

We frequently engage in common enterprise and we prudently pursue common goals, traveling temporarily along parallel roads, yet our destinations are not the same. We are, in the words of the Torah, a helpmeet to each other, yet at the same time, we experience the state of remaining different and opposed to each other. We think, feel and respond to events not in unison but singly, each one in his individual fashion.

Man is a social being, yearning for a together-existence in which services are exchanged and experiences shared, and a lonely creature, shy and reticent, fearful of the intruding cynical glance of his next-door neighbor. In spite of our sociability and outer-directed nature, we remain strangers to each other.

Our feelings of sympathy and love for our confronter are rooted in the surface personality and they do not reach into the inner recesses of our depth personality which never leaves its ontological seclusion and never becomes involved in a communal existence.

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.

Why Lehman’s Failure Was The Right Move

Millions of gallons of ink must have been consumed in the neverending discussions about the “disaster” represented by the US Government’s decision to let Lehman Brothers fail and disappear. Andrew Ross Sorkin on today’s IHT agrees:

With hindsight, many in the financial industry blame a deepening of the global financial crisis on the government’s decision to let Lehman crumble

I disagree with that analysis, for two very simple reasons. When Lehman was allowed to go bankrupt, a signal was sent to all, saying that not everybody will be rescued. This was in direct contrast with the Japanese Government’s decadal efforts to prop up every financial institution under its watch (that’s why those efforts lasted for a decade or even more).

More importantly, the failure of Lehman Brothers showed everybody what the failure of “just a bank” may mean, with innumerable, overwhelmingly negative consequences propping up even in unlikely places. And this was good: because it is in the human nature to seriously question people advising that something bad may be happening in the near future, and to need a direct experience of that “something bad” before properly reacting.

You can spend every last molecule of your breath explaining a child that eating too many sweets can be painful. But there is nothing like going through a “tummy ache” that will convince the child of changing their way.

And you could transfer yourself back to January 1939 and explain all the reasons for the upcoming Nazi continent-wide monstruosity, but I am sure nobody in the UK or France (or the USA) will agree to go to war until forced to by the pain of circumstance.

And so, had Lehman Brothers been rescued alongside the other relatively large institutions, we would still be discussing the pro’s and con’s of rescue packages. And we would have never known that it takes just a bank to fail, to see a run on money-market funds.

Hindsight will fuel further commentaries on now-defunct Lehman Brothers: and hindsight can be useful to make sense of the world, but only works when there is something to look back at…

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.

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

The Illusion of Foreign Policy Morality

It is disconcerting to read a knowledgeable and experienced person such as Thomas L Friedman fall in an old trap, claiming foreign policy morality for his own country (“Which world do you prefer?“, IHT, July 17).

Mr Friedman is apparently convinced that “America still has some moral backbone” because the USA “put forward a simple Security Council resolution” at the UN, calling for a series of sanctions against the quasi-dictatorial Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe. Such a move failed, however, due to “truly filthy” vetoes by Russia and China. For that matter, Mr Friedman throws in the “pure, rancid moral corruption” of South Africa’s president, Thabo Mbeki.

All hail the USA, then, because “there are travesties America will not tolerate“?

If only!

Doesn’t Mr Friedman know a thing about the US-backed regimes of Egypt and Pakistan, for example? Doesn’t he remember the scores of murderous dictatorships financed by successive US Administrations, on the horrendously immoral belief that it is ok to support a “bastard” as long as he was “our bastard“?

It is telling that a good response to Mr Friedman’s argument has been published in the very pages of the IHT, in the “Letter from China” by Howard W French of July 4, 2008 (“Behind the reluctance to criticize Mugabe“): where we learn for example how a mere twenty years ago, Washington (and London) were “running diplomatic interference for apartheid rule in Pretoria“, going as far as “backing South African guerrilla proxies in places like Angola, prolonging devastating wars there and elsewhere, and staving off independence for South African-occupied Namibia in the name of fighting communism“.

At this very moment, the USA and its “Western” allies are supporting dictators in Equatorial Guinea, and Angola. Is there a need to repeat here what everybody thinks, i.e. that such “travesties” are tolerated, whilst Mugabe’s is not, because Zimbabwe doesn’t have huge oil deposits?

That said, at the end of the day there is little point in starting a USA-bashing rhetorical exercize, just as there is little meaning in Mr Friedman’s clutching at moral straws regarding a particular vote at the Security Council.
This is the world we live in, and if we care for its morality the first step surely is not to delude ourselves into thinking that our side is “of course” the “good side”.

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?

The End of Genetics’ Golden Age

Once upon a time people believed everything associated to living things was the combination of something called “nature” and something else called “nurture”: the former, as written in the “living thing”‘s genes, and the latter, the effect of everything that was external to the “living thing”.

Whole areas of research were based on that assumption: including lots of identical-but-separated-twin studies. Since identical twins have the same genetic code, it was argued, everything that would happen to both even if they had been separated shortly after birth would clearly be caused by “nature” (i.e., the genes).

Well, we now know for sure that the above is an incorrect simplification. It’s all clear from this picture:

Those are E.coli bacteria that are genetically identical. They have even been born and lived together in the same environment.”Classical” genetics would expect them to behave identically. But they do not: having each been given extra genes to glow when digesting lactose, their colony does not glow uniformly.

As absurd as it may sound at first glance, each bacterium is a clone but also a specific individual.

It turns out that one shouldn’t just look at what genes are present in an organism, but also at the way they are “expressed“, with some of them turned on or off randomly and/or by “external forces” (“nurture” again).

There is a short and clear article about clones and individuality, recently published on the New York Times. The end result is that the whole cloning industry may have been promising too much, and the exact duplication of human beings could result a truly impossible dream.

More seriously, the whole of the Science of Genetics needs a rethink, as way too much emphasis has been given on finding genes rather than on finding out which genes are activated and when and why.

In the future, the much-celebrated Human Genome Project will be seen only as a step in the right direction, not an achievement in itself. Because we are not all and simply written down in our DNA.

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.

Tibet and the Olympics: Remember Jin Jing

The author of EastWestSouthNorth asks: whose PR have been a disaster in these times of Olympic torch protests?

Well, the answer is easy: not the Chinese Government’s, steadily growing in self-confidence and basking in the reflected glory of Jin Jing, a wheelchair-bound smiling Chinese Paralympic girl athlete and cancer survivor, holding on to the torch “for dear life” against not just one, but two physical assaults in Paris.

Whatever the “cause” behind, I have felt uneasy from the beginning, seeing the Olympic torch relays become occasions for violent confrontations, even if in the form of “peacefully” crossing the path of the bearers. These pictures have convinced me further:

Protests may and will continue: but after the Jin Jing’s incident, they have become worse than pointless. For all intents and purposes, all future linkage of the Tibet problem with the Beijing Olympics will more likely than not simply further the cause of Chinese nationalism against the rest of the world, Tibetans included.

NOTE: There are people out there claiming to possess evidence demonstrating that the incidents have been staged. But 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. Anybody not believing in Ms. Jin’s ordeal, may as well try to stop a tsunami with a teaspoon.

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.

=========

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.

=========

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.

=========

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

Skeptics Society: How Broadcast Journalism Is Flawed

I have already exposed in the recent past the obvious bias in global warming reporting by publicly-funded BBC.

Around very similar notes, but with a much much wider outlook, the Skeptics Society has now published a very interesting essay by investigative and feature journalist Steve Salerno, titled

Journalist-Bites-Reality!
How broadcast journalism is flawed
in such a fundamental way that its utility as a tool for informing viewers is almost nil.
.

It exposes broadcast journalism as reporter-of-nothing, when not creating panic out of that same nothingness. And it is especially critical of “campaign journalism”.

A couple of quotes:

In truth, today’s system of news delivery is an enterprise whose procedures, protocols, and underlying assumptions all but guarantee that it cannot succeed at its self described mission. Broadcast journalism in particular is flawed in such a fundamental way that its utility as a tool for illuminating life, let alone interpreting it, is almost nil.

You’re in Pulitzer territory for writing about something that — essentially — never happens.

In upcoming blogs I will return to parts of this essay that may be used to explain pretty much all the Climate Change scares that have ever (not) happened.

For now I strongly recommend reading it in full.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Is a Christian…

…hence his words are cause of scandal and upheaval among “humans”.

You see, it’s all written in Paul’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians:

1, 23: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
1, 27: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
4, 10: We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised.
4, 12: And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:
4, 13: Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.

This means that for once we have solid evidence that a person high up in a Christian denomination’s hierarchy is actually a Christian in the fullest sense of the term.

A bit like with Pope John XXIII, “a real Christian” in the carefully camouflaged words of Hannah Arendt, that went on wondering “How could that be? And how could it happen that a true Christian would sit on St. Peter’s chair?” (“The Christian Pope“, The New York Review of Books, Volume 4, Number 10 · June 17, 1965).

For now: Monday 11 Dr Williams’ own Synod will meet with more than one participant asking for his resignation. Let’s check instead what Paul recommended to the Christians in Corinth:

5, 13: But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person

Reactions to Archbishop Williams’ Sharia Remarks Reveal Depth of Islamophobia

Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual Head of the Anglican (“Reformed Catholic”) Christian Community, has written an extremely insightful piece on “Islam and English Law“.

It is a lecture that everybody should read, as it is intelligent, thoughtful, humble, and single-handedly describes the basis for solving the Islamic Question in Western societies, once and for all.

It can also be seen as the inspiration for a re-writing of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, making it even more universal than it is at the moment.

Dr Williams goes at great lengths to analyse the possible drawbacks of allowing people to use Islamic (but not just Islamic) Law within the framework of English (secular) Law, and offers challenges and solutions to all circumstances. He even mentions the existing settings of Inuit Law, as an example.

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

I say, rarely I have seen a document more profoundly Christian, in the best possible sense of the word. And yet (or…of course!) reactions have been overwhelmingly negative!!!.

Having read those 8 pages, I can affirm without any doubt that the Office of the Prime Minister, Home Office Minister Tony McNulty, the Tories’ shadow Community Cohesion Minister Baroness Warsi, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, Trevor Phillips, Chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission and Mark Pritchard, Tory MP for the Wrekin, in Shropshire have not bothered to read Dr Williams’ lecture before opening their mouths to utter banalities.

Not to mention (of course!) the hundreds of people clamoring to repeat the same inanities. How ironic, the champions of the Rule of (Single) Law are behaving like enraged fundamentalists!

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

The underlying point is that anything that sounds related to Islam is nowadays seen as something to hate. Some will object that that is the consequence of 9/11, 7/7 and al-Qaeda. I do not think so. Jews have been isolated, hated, killed for centuries and then even exterminated, and they had no murderer called Osama on their side.

It’s the “advanced” Western nations that still cannot understand how to relate to the “others”. And so we are sowing again the seeds of hell

How to Be Right About the Climate: Always!

Vincenzo Ferrara, the scientist advising the Italian Environment Minister on Climate Changes, explains how to become a famous Climatologist in a 1982 article (“(”Rivista di Meteorologia Aeronautica”, Vol XLII n. 1, Jan-Mar 1982).

The following is an abridged translation:

If you are a climatologist and you want to survive as a climatologist, perhaps even increasing your reputation, all you have to do is provide the exact diagnosis and prognosis that people expect.

To the question “Is the climate changing?“, by all means, never, ever reply “No, everything’s normal“, or “It’s just fakery pumped up by newspapers and on television“: because people would unanimously conclude that you understand nothing about metereology, and nothing about climate.

It would be the end of your career.

The only sensible answer is: “Of course it is changing! It’s a well-known fact, scientifically confirmed and one that none cannot argue against“. You can then launch yourself in forecasting for the next hundred years a climate identical to the current one, amplifying the latest phenomena to extreme consequences.

If it is cold you’ll therefore predict “ice ages“, if it’s warm a “torrid period“, and if there are signs of strong variability “short-term climatic extremes” and more-or-less the same climate in the long term.

You may be wondering, how can a serious climatologist provide impossible, mutually-excluding forecasts without looking silly? Fear not: science will provide all the support needed.

Because climatology has already thought of everything and will supply the right solution in every circumstance, even in the most hopeless cases.

So if it is cold, here’s what you will have to say: “The climate is changing and we are approaching an Ice Age.

This fact has already been scientifically assessed because since 1940, the average temperature of the northern hemisphere has diminished by approximately 0,4°C, probably because of a decrease in atmospheric transparency due to air pollution.

The cooling of the air causes an increase in the extension of glaciers and of snow fields, furthering lowering temperatures with their highly reflecting (high albedo) surfaces. Glaciers therefore increase even more, in a positive feedback that will bring us to a new Ice Age in a hundred years or even less“.

What if it is warm? Then the discourse becomes: “The climate is changing and we are approaching a Torrid Age.

This fact has already been scientifically assessed because since 1850 the carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere has progressively increased and just in the last twenty years has gone from 315 to 334 parts for million. That means that in 2020 the accumulation of carbon dioxide will have more than doubled, taking into account the continuously increasing energy demands and consumption of fossil fuels.

The increase of carbon dioxide reduces the Earth’s long-wave emissions to space (greenhouse effect) so within half a century the average air temperature will increase by approximately 2 or 3°C; the polar ice will dissolve and a sizeable sea level increase will submerge several coastal cities“.

This can inspire a new version of an old joke:

An atmospheric physicist, a metereologist and a famous climatologist are interviewed for a position as climatologist. The atmospheric physicist is asked: “What do you predict for the climate next year?” and proceeds to answer: “I am not sure, but give me a supercomputer and I will set up the calculations for a rough forecast“. It’s now the metereologist’s turn, and the answer is: “I am not sure, but provide me with the seasonal charts and the observations from previous years, I will set up the calculations in order for a rough forecast“.

The famous climatologist is finally asked “What do you predict for the climate next year?“. To that, the answer is “Whatever you want me to predict…“.

Twenty Missing, Three Dead, No Space on the Front Page

Letter To the Editors of the International Herald Tribune

As a long-time subscriber of the IHT I write to complain about your absurd choice of playing down both the death of 3 sailors during the recent storms in the Black Sea, and the fact that 20 more are missing and likely dead themselves due to the cold.

In the front page of the IHT’s paper edition of Nov 13, there is a short unsigned article titled “Counting losses in Black Sea storm“. In 59 words there is not a single mention of the human losses, and the reader is left with the impression that the ships’ captains and owners will be sued only for “environmental damage“. Has human life become as cheap as to be free to be taken?

True, there is a larger article at page 2, by Andrew E Kramer, where finally we learn of the human tragedy in the title “Black Sea toll: 3 dead and 20 lost“. This appears to be similar to an article on the IHT web site, again by Mr Kramer, although over there it is titled “Environmental disaster unfolding in Russia“.

The paper version starts “Three dead sailor and dozen of birds slicked with oil…“. Just a few words later “Another 20 sailors were missing“. Roughly a little less than half of the piece is dedicated to environmental issues (but again, there is no mention of any ongoing prosecution for the loss of human life).

The online version starts with “An environmental disaster began to unfold” and only talks about humans in the second paragraph. But then, dead and missing people are literally forgotten about, and roughly more than three quarters of the article is about environmental problems. For the third time, the only mentioned prosecution is about “environmental damage“.

Interestingly, in the paper article a Greenpeace Russia campaigner, Vladimir Chuprov, is said to have “called the spill a catastrophe of local rather than international scale“. No such a thing is mentioned online.

=======

All in all the above indicates a very poor choice by front-page and online Editors to find an excuse to push the “right buttons” about the environment, for some unfathomable reason deciding to play down the human cost of the Black Sea storm.

Shall we worship the Environment to the point of forgetting the people? That is a false dichotomy. We can take care of the environment and take care of humans too.

Please try.

Overpopulation’s Roots

One day within the last three hundred thousand years, a human not yet Sapiens cried the loss of a child.

Humanity has been trying since not to survive its progeny.

I say, even if mortality rates vary a lot across the world, all in all as a species we have achieved such a goal.

Overpopulation should be a source of pride, not just of worries

Step Zero in Freeing Up Half of the Human Race

“There can be no safe future without safe motherhood”
Women Deliver global conference (London, 18-20 October)

The very, very first step we need to do to provide at least the possibility of freedom for the whole of humanity, and not just men, is actually made up of two actions:

Step 0.1: diminish the chances of death during pregnancy
Step 0.2: increase the survival rate for children 0-5

In fact, as long as would-be mothers die at the enormous rates of 1 in 6 in places like Sierra Leone and Afghanistan, no wonder the relative value of each of those human beings is not considered that much.

Cynically one would ask why would anybody emotionally attach himself to a person that is quite as likely to die within a year (obviously, in reality things do not work out so simplistic, but still…).

Furthermore, if children die in large numbers (especially in their most vulnerable years, from birth to 5), the only way to nurture some possibility of leaving descendants in this world, is to conceive as many babies as possible.

Having women wait out their entire reproductive lives doing only house chores, with no time for business or political activities whilst going from one pregnancy to the next, becomes then a perfectly logical, if horrendous choice.

Given the fact that death-during-pregnancy and the need of a large number of children just to hope for one’s family not to die have both accompanied humanity for much of its existence, no wonder women have been set aside as virtual slaves for millennia.

And so there is simply no opportunity for “emancipation” if we don’t get mortality rates lower for mother and for young children.

===========

Luckily but tragically, the solution is not that difficult.

It’s all very feasible stuff and so it is a real tragedy that we have not achieved yet that for all: just as abject poverty and “under-development” are still very widespread.

In truth, there is a precise correlation between those concepts, and the health of women and children is one of the best indicators of how truly “rich” a country is.

===========

And so: let’s provide education to all the girls, and provide them with all the drugs and all the resources needed to mantain their health and the health of their children.

Otherwise, all efforts may as well go to nothing.

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.

A Fred Fisher Moment for Climate Supremacists

The beginning of the end of Senator McCarthy’s 7 years in the spotlight was surely and improbably his mentioning of young Boston lawyer Frederick G. Fisher, Jr.: whose left-wing past the Senator unwarrantedly used to undermine US Army’s attorney Joseph Welch. On live TV, June 9, 1954, Welch famously retorted “Have you no sense of decency, sir?

Having seen what excesses the Senator could reach in his campaign to uncover Communists, public opinion turned against him.

Are we witnessing something similar about Climate Change? Have the catastrophists finally overreached, to the point of toppling themselves over? The indications are all there: because after Newsweek’s 9-page-tirade against anybody that dares to doubt anything about anthropogenic climate change (Aug 13, 2007), the tide is starting to turn.

In fact, no less commentators than Jeff Jacoby on the Boston Globe, and Robert J Samuelson in the next issue of the very same Newsweek magazine, have recently denounced the absurd attitudes of people apparently allergic to any form of dissent in matters of climate change.

For years, in the best of circumstances one has been labeled a “skeptic” (as if there were anything wrong with that!) at the first hint of not following the exact line behind the likes of Al Gore, James Hansen and the IPCC. Some of us had to repeatedly answer charges of “denialism”, a slur meant to create the impression of equivalence between those skeptical of a _possible_ FUTURE catastrophic change in the climate caused by human activities’ carbon dioxide emissions, and those still doubting the historical, PAST _fact_ of the Holocaust.

Note that I haven’t even mentioned the veiled and not-so-veiled threats of future trials ‘a-la-Nuremberg.

Between that and a complete picture of Climate Change Supremacism, only violence appeared to be missing in the actions of those carrying out a hard-headed campaign bent on stifling any hint of opposition to upcoming grand, poorly-thought-out lifestyle-changing plans such as carbon-emission-rationing.

Who knows, perhaps crosses will start burning on somebody’s lawn as soon as a zero-carbon-emission flame becomes readily available? But then, psychological violence has already started creeping in. How else to characterize President of the American Council on Renewable Energy, Michael Eckhart’s threat of career destruction against Marlo Lewis of the Competitive Enterprise Institute?

That must surely be the most egregious example of the poisonous atmosphere concocted up by climate totalitarians. But it is just the latest and the biggest in a series.

Martin Durkin, author of the Great Global Warming Swindle documentary found himself under an unduly heavy barrage of condemnations of various sorts, including highly-browed calls for censorship by esteemed Professors. Steve McIntyre, the blogger/statistician that has recently discovered a bug in the software used by NASA to incorrectly attribute the warmest of US years to 1998, has seen his website crushed by an apparent DOS attack just hours later.

My own views (a basic question: if the climate is changing, where is the change in weather, not just temperature?) have been abused at times to “demonstrate” I wasn’t worthy of engaging in a discussion in a completely different area.

We literally live in the middle of an escalation of tones. Even people genuinely worried about Global Warming must understand how dangerous and ultimately self-defeating the attitudes of climate totalitarians and climate supremacists are.

If there really is an upcoming disaster, shouldn’t efforts concentrate on getting the world prepared, rather tan on stamping out differences of opinion?

Jacoby is right when he specifies that good intentions are not an excuse. All revolutions are avowedly meant for the betterment of Humanity. But whilst the American one led to the Constitution, the French Revolution brought years of guillotined Terror.

There is no need to remind the horrors perpetrated by Italian Fascists, German Nazis and Russian Communists, believe it or not all in the name of great ideals of peace and prosperity.

Justice Louis Brandeis is quoted by Jacoby as saying “The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.

We are the children and grandchildren of the millions that either fought to contain and defeat dictatorships, or were misguidedly seduced into selling out their freedoms to monomaniacal, homicidal types with illusions of omnipotence.

History will not and cannot forgive us, if we let that happen again.

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.

No War Without the Draft

The droning on of the Iraq war is a tragedy of middle-class pacifism

The draft, the forced conscription especially of men in their late teens and early twenties forcefully sent off to learn how to behave in a war, has been as unpopular in Western Europe and the USA in the last 30 years as a fact of life since the days of the French Revolution.

But now, its end has paradoxically brought about a situation where wars can be fought without much care for the approval by the people, and hence without real concern for using military power and personnel wisely and efficiently.

The turning point may have been Vietnam, another war of wastefully managed people and equipment. At the time, relatively well-off college and university American students vehemently protested, and many youths got dispatched to premature deaths also because of their families’ lack of economic and political links to find a way around the “call to arms”

Earlier efforts had seen far fewer troubles. The minority today’s American political leaders served in Vietnam, whilst the majority of their fathers fought world-conquering Germany and Japan up, close and personal.

Fast forward to 2007. The draft is no longer, in America since 1973. All soldiers are volunteers. But whilst the Iraqi conflict is going nowhere, popular protests are insignificant, with no danger of a re-run of the killings at Kent State (1970) or the riots at the Chicago Democratic Convention of 1968.

In one sense, the droning on of the Iraq war is a tragedy of middle-class pacifism. Even if many people may be unsure, unhappy and/or against the war, they do not march down the streets: because the conflict does not impact the daily lives of most people “back home” (in the USA, but also in the UK),

On the other hand, all those that opted for a military career, perhaps during the Clinton years, have found themselves facing the prospect of multiple trips to Iraq, literally at great danger of loss of life and limb (and their mind, too).

Whatever their original “lifestyle choice” for the military, surely after the second tour of duty the Nation is unfairly taking advantage of them? Either the war is important and all resources should be poured into getting it won, (especially after years and years); or it is not, and so every life lost there, including those of volunteer soldiers, is a tragic waste.

Those volunteers have dedicated their lives to fight for the USA. This does not mean the USA have a right to treat them as consumables: just like even if policemen and medics, having voluntarily joined their professions, are ready to give their lives to patrol the street or fight infectious diseases, still the State does not have a right to misuse them.

And yet that is what is happening in the Iraq war, where 10 dead a week is treated as “good news”; pictures of returning body bags are forbidden; veterans are not given appropriate treatment; and now somebody is suggesting monthly group commemorations, instead of proper salutes to each of the fallen.

With the disappearance of the draft it’s as if wars, always too serious to be left to generals, have been abandoned to politicians.

After all, Presidents, Senators and Representatives live off votes. As so, if votes do not depend on the care reserved to military personnel including casualties, there is no democratic control on wars: the Republic may have its President, but the Armed Forces risk being at the mercy of a Tyrant King with the same title.

That is a tragedy in itself. With freely elected governments and parliaments, and fairly independent judiciary, modern democracies have been fantastically good at avoiding warring each other, whilst in the XX century tens of millions have died in armed conflict. Such a miraculous result has surely something to do with the checks-and-balances of the 1787 American Constitution, whence most others derive. Unpopular and/or incompetent leaders can be voted off the power chair, and delinquent ones can be brought in front of the Law.

The remedy, as in many cases, is in the middle. Don’t just reintroduce universal draft. Don’t just leave conflicts to “professionals” with the result that intolerable amounts of them will die fruitlessly whilst wars will drag on as long as money is still available.

Simply, reintroduce the draft temporarily and only _in case of_ war. And so ultimately empower the voters, that will have to face the real issues, and decide if the Nation has the stomach to start or join the fight.

If it has not, and the citizens refuse the draft, then there is no point in going to war anyway. If instead the Nation agrees it’s time to go to war then, the whole draft-risking electorate will have all the reasons to closely follow the conflict, and get their opinions fully heard: thereby re-establishing the full checks and balances of a healthy democracy.

And who knows, perhaps there will be no more escape clauses for former enthusiasts later to claim they never really believed in the war.