Monday, April 30, 2007

Do We Still Hang Traitors?

Josh Marshall links to an appearance of former CIA Agent Ray McGovern on Tucker Carlson's show in which McGovern more less directly accuses Cheney of being behind the forged Niger uranium documents. McGovern claims to have evidence - Congress had better subpoena him quick.

Personally, I always suspected the Chalabi axis, but its obvious that the US government has pointedly avoided getting to the bottom of the matter. I think it maybe time.

Josh has reported on this story a lot, but hasn't seen any smoking guns. The trail always peters out somewhere in the Italian intelligence service.

Hammer of the Infidels

Eli continues to expose various denialist shenanigans. He has slogged through the hundreds of pages of deposition in Singer's SLAPP suit against Lancaster to dig up the incriminating evidence - the bloody fingered and oh-so-well fitting glove.

Masochists should study the complete deposition, linked here via Eli. It's a good lesson on how an unscruplous political operative like Singer, backed by wealthy corporate interests, can use the SLAPP lawsuit technique to waste the time and money of a conscientious individual and ultimately intimidate them. Such lawsuits are no longer so easy, which may be one reason Lancaster now abjures his apology and attacks Singer and friends.

E pur si muove!


God answers all prayers.

Her most common answers are: "No", "Buzz Off", and "Fill out the paperwork and submit it to my secretary."

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Who Was Running The Show?

An excerpt of George Tenet's new book is out in Time. Unsurprisingly, it paints Tenet and the CIA in a relatively favorable light.

Perhaps more surprisingly, George Bush doesn't come off as badly as I expected. The biggest villains of the piece are Cheney, Rumsfeld, and his inepticons from hell - Wolfowitz and Feith. While Cheney, Feith and probably Wolfowitz scheme relentlessly on behalf of Chalabi, Rumsfeld seems out of touch and clueless. The President's instincts (in Tenet's telling) are not too bad, but for some reason he can't bring himself to fire Rumsfeld and company or consign Cheney to an undisclosed location.

Bush, in this version, seems weak and distractable rather than clueless. I wouldn't be surprised if the evil poison of Rove played a role here too.

One thing that's clear is that Bush, the CEO president, had no clue as to how to run a Rotary Club.

Eli, George, John and Al

Every year Harvard and other elite schools turn away thousands of students with truly impressive credentials. The rejected might want to meditate on our current President (BA Yale, 1968; MBA Harvard, 1975) and his Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales (BA, Rice 1979; JD, Harvard Law, 1982).

Bush, of course, is a leading contender in each of the following categories: most incompetent President, most corrupt President, most dishonest President, and dumbest President. Gonzales is probably the most crooked AG ever despite the fact that at least one of his predecessors wound up in prison.

So what does this say about elite schools Harvard, Yale, and Rice? On the positive side, it seems that a Harvard (etc) education can lead to high office regardless of deficiencies in morals, intelligence and judgement. On the negative side, it can help you get in over your head.

So my advice is, that if you are a bit dumb, immoral, lazy, etc., don't even bother to apply. Consequences for all are likely to be bad. If, on the other hand, you are that gifted brilliant gem, screw Harvard - you don't need them.

On the third hand, it might be useful for the Al Gores and Barack Obamas of the world.

No More Mr. Nice Eli

Eli is tired of being nice to Richard Lindzen.

One prominent legend that climate denialists like to drag out is Roger Revelle's supposed co-authorship of a paper claiming that there was no urgency to deal with global warming. Revelle, you might want to recall, was Al Gore's mentor and the person who first demonstrated antropogenic CO2 increase in the atmosphere.

The paper in question was written by former scientist, former ozone skeptic, and long-time denialist hack Fred Singer and some other guy. Revelle, who was dying at the time, somehow agreed to let his name appear on the paper.

Eli has the incriminating details.

Revelle's student and last assistant has this to say:

Anyone perplexed by this Balling/Revelle/Gore story might want to examine the sworn testimony of one S. Fred Singer at the following site: didn't cherrypick Revelle's old views, because Revelle didn't write that Cosmos article to which Balling refers. And Balling knows that Revelle didn't write it, because Balling himself was a participant in S. Fred Singer's ploy to hoodwink Revelle shortly before Revelle's death. It was a nasty, disgusting and secret business. Its purpose was to undermine Gore. It has been incredibly effective, as Singer, Michaels and Balling have successfully fed this story to a plethora of secondary bloggers who are happy to add their echo to the rant.Crandall and Singer's chapter in the Hoover volume, published online is a mass of misinformation. I encourage anyone interested to examine the primary evidence and draw their own conclusions.

The moral Eli takes from the story is:

The moral of the story is when a Richard Lindzen or S. Fred show up, throw them out the door. They are only their own friends. They are users.

Lumo, Lindzen and other climate dolts have their own version of this story. It shows the familiar Lumonotic credulity about anything reinforcing his prejudices and cluelessness about deciphering anything contrary.

Do I seem cranky today?

Do you want to make something of it?

Blankety Blink!

Malcolm Gladwell's Blink is still in the Amazon top 100 some two plus years after publication. It's also a badly written, deeply dishonest piece of crap - crap of a type which seems to be highly popular with the public. Obviously, my opinion isn't precisely universal. From the Amazon website blurb:

Blink is about the first two seconds of looking--the decisive glance that knows in an instant. Gladwell, the best-selling author of The Tipping Point, campaigns for snap judgments and mind reading with a gift for translating research into splendid storytelling. Building his case with scenes from a marriage, heart attack triage, speed dating, choking on the golf course, selling cars, and military maneuvers, he persuades readers to think small and focus on the meaning of "thin slices" of behavior. The key is to rely on our "adaptive unconscious"--a 24/7 mental valet--that provides us with instant and sophisticated information to warn of danger, read a stranger, or react to a new idea.
Gladwell includes caveats about leaping to conclusions: marketers can manipulate our first impressions, high arousal moments make us "mind blind," focusing on the wrong cue leaves us vulnerable to "the Warren Harding Effect" (i.e., voting for a handsome but hapless president). In a provocative chapter that exposes the "dark side of blink," he illuminates the failure of rapid cognition in the tragic stakeout and murder of Amadou Diallo in the Bronx. He underlines studies about autism, facial reading and cardio uptick to urge training that enhances high-stakes decision-making. In this brilliant, cage-rattling book, one can only wish for a thicker slice of Gladwell's ideas about what Blink Camp might look like. --Barbara Mackoff

Gladwell opens with the story of a supposed Greek statue, of the type known as a Kouros was checked out for purchase by the Getty Museum. Some objective geological and documentary checks appeared to suggest authenticity. Several art historians were apparently unimpressed. One said that he felt an "instinctive repulsion" from it. At about that point I was already feeling a bit of instinctive revulsion for the book. Gladwell's point was that the experts saw in a glance that there seemed to be something wrong with the statue. He hints, but does not document, that they had trouble articulating exactly what they found wrong with it.

I had planned to review the book in detail, but instead I will refer the interested reader to Richard Pozner's review in The New Republic. It is much better written than anything I could manage and very trenchant. A few tidbits:

One of Gladwell's themes is that clear thinking can be overwhelmed by irrelevant information, but he revels in the irrelevant. An anecdote about food tasters begins: "One bright summer day, I had lunch with two women who run a company in New Jersey called Sensory Spectrum." The weather, the season, and the state are all irrelevant. And likewise that hospital chairman Brendan Reilly "is a tall man with a runner's slender build." Or that "inside, JFCOM [Joint Forces Command] looks like a very ordinary office building.... The business of JFCOM, however, is anything but ordinary." These are typical examples of Gladwell's style, which is bland and padded with clichés.

Without the padding Gladwell would have written a pamphlet.

As one moves from anecdote to anecdote, the reader of Blink quickly realizes, though its author does not, that a variety of interestingly different mental operations are being crammed unhelpfully into the "rapid cognition" pigeonhole....

Taken together, these literatures demonstrate the importance of unconscious cognition, but their findings are obscured rather than elucidated by Gladwell's parade of poorly understood yarns. He wants to tell stories rather than to analyze a phenomenon. He tells them well enough, if you can stand the style. (Blink is written like a book intended for people who do not read books.) And there are interesting and even illuminating facts scattered here and there, such as the blindfold "sip" test that led Coca-Cola into the disastrous error of changing the formula for Coke so that it would taste more like Pepsi. As Gladwell explains, people do not decide what food or beverage to buy solely on the basis of taste, let alone taste in the artificial setting of a blindfold test; the taste of a food or a drink is influenced by its visual properties. So that was a case in which less information really was less, and not more. And of course he is right that we may drown in information, so that to know less about a situation may sometimes be to know more about it. It is a lesson he should have taken to heart.


Evidently, the Republican Deputy Secretary of State Randall Tobias resignation due to involvement in the DC Madam scandal was only a preface to many shoes yet to drop.

Josh Marshall notes that:

Some people are downright giddy that the Bush Administration is about to be ensnared in another scandal. But I would remind them that nothing is more bipartisan than sexual indiscretion.

Perhaps most titillating is the hint that some "high profile women" may have been involved in a "professional" capacity. OK, so I'm having a little trouble imagining Lynn, Laura, Hillary, or Condi working tricks for walking around money, so whom are we talking about here? Media whores moonlighting as honest whores? Congressional mistresses who formerly freelanced? ??


One victim of the President's veto of the Congress's emergency spending bill is the Mine Resistant, Armor Protected vehicle, or MRAP. This V-bottom, armored vehicle has demonstrated a capability to protect our soldiers against IEDs and other threats, and is badly needed.

Congress should immediately send the president a bill to fund this one item (assuming that he vetoes the emergency spending bill). It should not be allowed to become a political football.

This message, in all probability, has been brought to you by the vehicle's manufacturer, but it is a version of what has been needed for years. There is no excuse for delay on this one.

Intelligent Television?

It sounds implausible, but it appears that there really is such a thing as an intelligent discussion on television. If you doubt it, watch Bill Moyers' interview with Josh Marshall here.

I almost remember a time when such was not a rarity or freak, but that was before television news drowned in the sea of dreck that was Crossfire and is all of Faux News and most of CNN.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Temper Tantrum

An elderly (which is to say, even older than I) friend of mine likes to email me all kinds of right-wing propaganda, which she completely believes. When I can find a quick refutation, I often send it back, but some stuff leaves me knashing my teeth in despair. Today's edition was a recycled feel good story about Iraq bragging about how many universites there were, how many schools had been repaired, and so on - all this stuff dating from 2004 or so, and accompanied by the obligatory condemnation of the press for not reporting the "good news."

It's essentially all crap, of course. Iraqi universities have largely ceased to exist, because so many professors have been murdered or fled the country. The schools rebuilt have been blown up or crumbled due to the shoddy work done by Cheney's corrupt contractors.

I want to scream, pound the table, and say: "Dozens of American soldiers die every month because idiots like you believe this shit and voted for the monster that did it. Hundreds of American soldiers are crippled every month because of your stupidity and credulousness. Tens of thousands of Iraqis die every month because of you. Any person with half a brain and an ounce of curiosity could see that this administration is all about lies, corruption, and incompetence, but you voted for them - twice - and for the crooked congressmen who continue to enable them."

But I don't.

Except here.

Mathematical Methods of Physics

There is a sort of mathematical minimum for all the quantitative sciences and engineering: multivariable calculus, linear algebra, probability and statistics, and differential equations. These subjects are now frequently taught in American high schools, but I never saw them before college. Physics requires more. For a long time, much of that has been taught in grab bag courses styled "Mathematical Methods of Physics." In the period just slightly before my grad student days such courses usually concentrated on methods for solving partial differential equations. The classics of that genre were the two volume sets by Courant and Hilbert and Morse and Feshbach. C&H, the original German edition of which dates back to 1930's, is still available in ludicrously overpriced (English language) paperbacks Methods of Mathematical Physics, volume I and Methods of Mathematical Physics, volume II from the blood sucking vampires of Wiley-Interscience. Morse and Feshbach's two volumes Methods of Theoretical Physics are no longer published by the blood sucking vampires of McGraw-Hill, but you can scarf them up for a mere $429 from something called Feshbach publishing - or you try to pry mine from my cold, dead hands.

A new generation of math methods books appeared when I was in school, mostly with a more elementary content and a more modest bulk. One of these was George Arfken's Mathematical Methods for Physicists. My first edition, at 650 pages, was not exactly lightweight, except by comparison with the previously mentioned C&H and M&F. Even though I never used this for a class, at some point I bought the fourth edition, which by then has acquired a squatier body and bulked up to 1000 pages. I notice that the current (sixth) edition has larded up to 1200 pages.

Even with the augmentation, the content is still mostly math dating back a century or two. Chapters on group theory and chaos have been added in a nod to twentieth century physics. Probability makes an appearance too, but mostly it's still about solving those differential equations that come up in Jackson's E&M and Quantum Mechanics courses. All in all, it's a kind of Joy of Cooking for early twentieth century physics - more cookbook than textbook, but I often find it useful.

PDE's are no longer enough math for the physicist, though. The mathematical horizons, especially for theoreticians and particle physicists, have expanded greatly. As a minimum, some topology, differential geometry, some functional analysis and some more algebra seem like mandatory additions for the modern physicist. String theorists and quantum gravitors of all stripes need to know much, much more. So where do you find that stuff?

There are some newer books. Sadri Hassani's Mathematical Physics is an ambitious attempt to address most of the additional new material. He also has an undergraduate version with more elementary content covering a lot of the ground in Arfken's early chapters. I haven't read any of the undergrad book, nor enough of the advanced book to have a solid opinion. Bernard Shutz's Geometrical Methods of Mathematical Physics is a very clear, short, and elementary introduction to manifolds, Lie derivatives and Lie groups, and differential forms. Geometry, Topology and Physics by M. Nakahara has more depth, and the second edition seems to have cooler cover art than my first edition.

There is also a trickle of yet newer books, of which I have no opinion: Peter Szekeres' A Course in Modern Mathematical Physics: Groups, Hilbert Space and Differential Geometry has an algebraic flavor, and PDEs have been banished. Walter Appel's Mathematics for Physics and Physicists is only a few months old. Mostly functional analysis with a bit of geometry and probability, based on the table of contents. Those things I used to call Green's functions are now Green Functions - ouch!

I would be interested in other's comments on these, other similar books , new and old, as well as relevant math methods war stories.

Harmonic Convergence

Josh Marshall sees an oncoming "Harmonic Convergence" in the Bushworld scandals. The "abstinence only" AIDS foreign policy czar resigns suddenly because he is implicated in the DC Madam scandal. Vote fraud scam mastermind promoter Bradley Scholtzman is among the Nazghul summoned urgently back to Mordor. Another couple of GOP Congressmen seem to have figured out yet another way to be a burden to taxpayers after they leave office - we are talking about federal prison here - but never mind, we can build more. Meanwhile, the master scandal that dwarfs and subsumes so many others, the corruption of the Department of Justice, grinds slowly along, inching ever closer to the Karl Rove, the personification of the unified field theory of Republican scandals.

The late term pardon rolls grow. Another good reason to impeach early, and often - or at least twice.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Impeachable Source

Intrade has a contract out on George Bush - on his impeachment, to be precise.

George W. Bush Impeachment
George W. Bush to be impeached by House of Representatives before end of his term in office M 6.0 10.0 9.0 284 -4.3 (Bid, Ask, Last, Vol, Chge)

His price dropped dramatically today, not sure why. Personally, I would guess that the odds increased with today's more or less direct evidence that Bush, Rove, and Gonzales did manipulate prosecutions for the benefit of Republicans Rienzi, et. al.

But I'm still not buying.

IQ Reduction Therapy

Via Brad DeLong, Kevin Drum argues that trying to refute the evidence impervious will reduce your IQ.

Surely every moment spent reacting to the increasingly feverish drivel from people like this reduces your IQ by some fraction of a point? And fractions add up. How long before Matt and Brad, Flowers for Algernon-like, end up behind the business end of a mop in an industrial bakery?...

Damn! Now where did I put that #$&@ing mop bucket?

And stop visiting Lumo's site! Is an occasional tidbit of knowledge really worth insanity and dementia?

Cap and Trade versus Tax

While the scientific debate over global warming has now pretty much been relegated to the status of illusion in the flat-Earther's minds, the question of what to do about it is profoundly unsettled. How do you regulate a ubiquitous and economically essential activity with global scope? Denialists don't have much logic or fact on their side but they do have a very legitimate concern. Any action capable of limiting global carbon emissions is certain to have important impacts on the freedom of action of individuals and nations.

Our first, largely symbolic attempt to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, the Kyoto accord, was an utter failure for many reasons, but above all because the most important players didn't sign on. Without broad international agreement, especially by the US, China, Europe and India, nothing important can happen. Moreover, in addition to agreement, any useful accord will need real teeth.

Two broad approaches are commonly discussed: so called "Cap and Trade" plans and a carbon Tax. The idea behind Cap and Trade is mandates on carbon emissions imposed by national and/or supranational authority, with strict limits on total emissions, with the right to emit being purchased or allocated. Presumably, an efficient market will allocate the required emission cuts in some nearly optimal way. A carbon tax, of course, is just a tax on the carbon content of material to be converted into CO2.

At some level the two amount to much the same thing, but Cap and Trade seems to offer more scope for corruption and associated profiteering. If governments start passing out "pollute-but-get-out-of-jail-for-free" cards, there seems certain to be plenty of scope for speculation and graft. An elaborate police apparatus would be needed to prevent cheating. Consequently, I prefer a tax, preferably as high up the food chain as possible - at the point of importation or extraction.

Transnationally, however, that would be hard to implement. Consequently, I would advocate a sort of hybrid system whereby nations are taxed by their total emissions, with the proceeds of the tax going to climate mitigation efforts, with at least a portion of the tax going to global mitigation efforts not confined to the nation itself, for example, for maintenance of the rain forests.

The transnational tax should possibly be slightly indexed to wealth.

If no such system can be implemented, then the business as usual scenarios unfold. When reality's bite becomes severe enough, the weak and vulnerable (like much of Africa) will collapse into war and famine. The strong and vulnerable, like the US and possibly China, may be forced to make war on the rest of the world to destroy its industry and oil and gas production.


I think Wolfgang's chart (see comment 3) is not inflation adjusted. Compare this chart.

Compare this chart of total production"

The dramatic increase of price in the mid 1970's preceeded, and arguably, caused a long term slow down in growth of oil usage.

You Silver-Tongued So and So, You

Reid: "I'm Not Going To Get Into A Name-Calling Match With Somebody Who Has A 9 Percent Approval Rating"

It might wisest not to try to get in a Number-Calling Match either: pollingreport

Political Figures: C Dick Cheney: favorability · job ratings

Time Poll conducted by Schulman, Ronca & Bucuvalas (SRBI) Public Affairs. March 23-26, 2007. N=1,264 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3.

"Do you approve or disapprove of the way Vice President Cheney is handling his job?"

Approve Disapprove Unsure
............................% % %
3/23-26/07........32 56 11
3/9-12/07.......... 28 58 14

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Yes, it's True, Dennis Overbye

Gliese 581c is indeed inhabited. Or at any rate it was before I left.

The most enticing property yet found outside our solar system is about 20 light-years away in the constellation Libra, a team of European astronomers said yesterday.

The astronomers have discovered a planet five times as massive as the Earth orbiting a dim red star known as Gliese 581.

It is the smallest of the 200 or so planets that are known to exist outside of our solar system, the extrasolar or exo-planets. It orbits its home star within the so-called habitable zone where surface water, the staff of life, could exist if other conditions are right, said Stephane Udry of the Geneva Observatory.

Yes, inhabited as well as habitable. And not just by me. There were indigenous life forms of the lower sort, mostly Republicans and Libertarians, but we saw no signs of intelligent life.

Unfortunately, the matter annihilating rocket needed to escape its oppressive gravity, not to mention accelerating to .98 of light speed to get here, has a rather nasty ecological footprint - a bit like an impact from a 40 km asteroid - so I worry a bit about what we left.

Oh, and by the way, Earthlings, don't worry about global warming. We are leaving here pretty soon now. Our tour only allows for a few of your decades at each stop.

PS - Thanks for the fish!

PPS - About string theory, LOL, the tales I could tell you. But I won't.


Alky & CIP

Monday, April 23, 2007

Shrillblog Nomination: Lee Iacocca

Lee Iacocca, who saved Chrysler from its first near death experience, voted for Bush in 2000, but now he's sorry. From his new book:

Had enough?

Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what's happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, "Stay the course."

Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic. I'll give you a sound bite: Throw the bums out!

You might think I'm getting senile, that I've gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore. The President of the United States is given a free pass to ignore the Constitution, tap our phones, and lead us to war on a pack of lies. Congress responds to record deficits by passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy (thanks, but I don't need it). The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we're fiddling in Iraq, the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving pom-poms instead of asking hard questions. That's not the promise of America my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for. I've had enough. How about you?

I'll go a step further. You can't call yourself a patriot if you're not outraged. This is a fight I'm ready and willing to have.

My friends tell me to calm down. They say, "Lee, you're eighty-two years old. Leave the rage to the young people." I'd love to -- as soon as I can pry them away from their iPods for five seconds and get them to pay attention. I'm going to speak up because it's my patriotic duty. I think people will listen to me. They say I have a reputation as a straight shooter. So I'll tell you how I see it, and it's not pretty, but at least it's real. I'm hoping to strike a nerve in those young folks who say they don't vote because they don't trust politicians to represent their interests. Hey, America, wake up. These guys work for us.


Why are we in this mess? How did we end up with this crowd in Washington? Well, we voted for them -- or at least some of us did. But I'll tell you what we didn't do. We didn't agree to suspend the Constitution. We didn't agree to stop asking questions or demanding answers. Some of us are sick and tired of people who call free speech treason. Where I come from that's a dictatorship, not a democracy.

And don't tell me it's all the fault of right-wing Republicans or liberal Democrats. That's an intellectually lazy argument, and it's part of the reason we're in this stew. We're not just a nation of factions. We're a people. We share common principles and ideals. And we rise and fall together.

Where are the voices of leaders who can inspire us to action and make us stand taller? What happened to the strong and resolute party of Lincoln? What happened to the courageous, populist party of FDR and Truman? There was a time in this country when the voices of great leaders lifted us up and made us want to do better. Where have all the leaders gone?


I've never been Commander in Chief, but I've been a CEO. I understand a few things about leadership at the top. I've figured out nine points -- not ten (I don't want people accusing me of thinking I'm Moses). I call them the "Nine Cs of Leadership." They're not fancy or complicated. Just clear, obvious qualities that every true leader should have. We should look at how the current administration stacks up. Like it or not, this crew is going to be around until January 2009. Maybe we can learn something before we go to the polls in 2008. Then let's be sure we use the leadership test to screen the candidates who say they want to run the country. It's up to us to choose wisely.

So, here's my C list:

A leader has to show CURIOSITY. He has to listen to people outside of the "Yes, sir" crowd in his inner circle. He has to read voraciously, because the world is a big, complicated place. George W. Bush brags about never reading a newspaper. "I just scan the headlines," he says. Am I hearing this right? He's the President of the United States and he never reads a newspaper? Thomas Jefferson once said, "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter." Bush disagrees. As long as he gets his daily hour in the gym, with Fox News piped through the sound system, he's ready to go.

If a leader never steps outside his comfort zone to hear different ideas, he grows stale. If he doesn't put his beliefs to the test, how does he know he's right? The inability to listen is a form of arrogance. It means either you think you already know it all, or you just don't care. Before the 2006 election, George Bush made a big point of saying he didn't listen to the polls. Yeah, that's what they all say when the polls stink. But maybe he should have listened, because 70 percent of the people were saying he was on the wrong track. It took a "thumping" on election day to wake him up, but even then you got the feeling he

wasn't listening so much as he was calculating how to do a better job of convincing everyone he was right.

A leader has to be CREATIVE, go out on a limb, be willing to try something different. You know, think outside the box. George Bush prides himself on never changing, even as the world around him is spinning out of control. God forbid someone should accuse him of flip-flopping. There's a disturbingly messianic fervor to his certainty. Senator Joe Biden recalled a conversation he had with Bush a few months after our troops marched into Baghdad. Joe was in the Oval Office outlining his concerns to the President -- the explosive mix of Shiite and Sunni, the disbanded Iraqi army, the problems securing the oil fields. "The President was serene," Joe recalled. "He told me he was sure that we were on the right course and that all would be well. 'Mr. President,' I finally said, 'how can you be so sure when you don't yet know all the facts?'" Bush then reached over and put a steadying hand on Joe's shoulder. "My instincts," he said. "My instincts." Joe was flabbergasted. He told Bush, "Mr. President, your instincts aren't good enough." Joe Biden sure didn't think the matter was settled. And, as we all know now, it wasn't.

Leadership is all about managing change -- whether you're leading a company or leading a country. Things change, and you get creative. You adapt. Maybe Bush was absent the day they covered that at Harvard Business School.

A leader has to COMMUNICATE. I'm not talking about running off at the mouth or spouting sound bites. I'm talking about facing reality and telling the truth. Nobody in the current administration seems to know how to talk straight anymore. Instead, they spend most of their time trying to convince us that things are not really as bad as they seem. I don't know if it's denial or dishonesty, but it can start to drive you crazy after a while. Communication has to start with telling the truth, even when it's painful. The war in Iraq has been, among other things, a grand failure of communication. Bush is like the boy who didn't cry wolf when the wolf was at the door. After years of being told that all is well, even as the casualties and chaos mount, we've stopped listening to him.

A leader has to be a person of CHARACTER. That means knowing the difference between right and wrong and having the guts to do the right thing. Abraham Lincoln once said, "If you want to test a man's character, give him power." George Bush has a lot of power. What does it say about his character? Bush has shown a willingness to take bold action on the world stage because he has the power, but he shows little regard for the grievous consequences. He has sent our troops (not to mention hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens) to their deaths -- for what? To build our oil reserves? To avenge his daddy because Saddam Hussein once tried to have him killed? To show his daddy he's tougher? The motivations behind the war in Iraq are questionable, and the execution of the war has been a disaster. A man of character does not ask a single soldier to die for a failed policy.

A leader must have COURAGE. I'm talking about balls. (That even goes for female leaders.) Swagger isn't courage. Tough talk isn't courage. George Bush comes from a blue-blooded Connecticut family, but he likes to talk like a cowboy. You know, My gun is bigger than your gun. Courage in the twenty-first century doesn't mean posturing and bravado. Courage is a commitment to sit down at the negotiating table and talk.

If you're a politician, courage means taking a position even when you know it will cost you votes. Bush can't even make a public appearance unless the audience has been handpicked and sanitized. He did a series of so-called town hall meetings last year, in auditoriums packed with his most devoted fans. The questions were all softballs.

To be a leader you've got to have CONVICTION -- a fire in your belly. You've got to have passion. You've got to really want to get something done. How do you measure fire in the belly? Bush has set the all-time record for number of vacation days taken by a U.S. President -- four hundred and counting. He'd rather clear brush on his ranch than immerse himself in the business of governing. He even told an interviewer that the high point of his presidency so far was catching a seven-and-a-half-pound perch in his hand-stocked lake.

It's no better on Capitol Hill. Congress was in session only ninety-seven days in 2006. That's eleven days less than the record set in 1948, when President Harry Truman ...

C+ Georgie seems to be C - 9 on the Iacocca scale.

Why Bush Liked Fredo's Performance

Despite Senate testimony proving the Attorney General to be a remarkable combination of dunce, incompetent, and a liar, President Bush applauded his performance and expressed renewed confidence in him.

Why so? Because Gonzales was willing to abase, humiliate, and degrade himself to take a bullet for Rove - and probably George too. Of course he might wind up with a perjury conviction, but I imagine that the old pardon power will intervene before that happens.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Woodsman, Woodsman, Spare That Tree...

... if it happens to be in a tropical rainforest. Otherwise, ummm, maybe nevermind.

The Economist, in this subscription required story reports that a new model shows that trees aren't unequivocally beneficial as a prophylactic against global warming. Dr. Govindasamy Bala and colleagues, of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have reported results of a new model which purportedly shows a double-edged role for trees in global climate.

On the positive side, they absorb CO2 and tuck it away in their roots, branches, and trunks for a few decades or centuries. On the negative side, they tend to decrease the planetary albedo, especially in the far North, where they absorb more radiation than the snow lying mostly under them. The model apparently shows a net negative effect for trees in the far North and indicates that planting trees in New York City is not so useful as planting them in the tropics.

There are a lot of questions I would like to see answered before I take this very seriously. In particular, one key role of forests is to produce and protect topsoil, which in Northern climes is a much bigger carbon sink than the trees themselves. Preserving tropical forests is a very good idea for lots of reasons, however, so it would be worthwhile to suggest that some of the "tree planting" environmental protection money that Gore and others pay go to that cause.

Sheryl Crow Kicks Some Rove

Karl Rove apparently suffered a severe fright as a result of a close encounter with Sheryl Crow and Laurie David.

He is rumored to be recuperating at Bethesda Naval Medical Center.

First The Good News

Madonna has adopted all the children in Malawi under the age of four.

"I've always wanted a big family," she said as they boarded a fleet of chartered 747's for London.

Other African nations are looking nervously at Hollywood.

She has posted a help wanted ad for a nanny. We haven't heard whether she plans to breastfeed.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Review: Fiasco by Thomas E Ricks

Ricks finished his story of the Iraq war disaster in mid 2006. He had seen modestly encouraging signs in 2005. General Casey, the new man in charge, understood the problem and adopted some sensible strategic principles. In a few cases, like second Iraq tour of the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment, impressive local successes were achieved. On this tour, the Third ACR was commanded by one on the Army's best, Colonel H. R. McMaster, a warrior scholar with a PhD who had written a notable critique of the command of the Vietnam War (Dereliction of Duty). Alas, most of those gains too were subsequently lost.

Ricks' finale is a comparison of historical counterinsurgency counterparts and prospects for the future. The most unequivocal past success was in the Phillipines, which the US occupied for half a century, suppressing insurgency through massive carnage and ultimately wiser policy, producing the slightly democratic nation of todday. In the other "positive" examples, such as Algeria, the occupier lost, but managed to survive the experience.

The most dangerous scenario consequent on abject failure is that the Iraqi civil war becomes a regional conflagration. This is in fact highly plausible. In the wake of an unconditional US pullout, the Kurds are likely to move to sieze Kirkuk, plausibly triggering invasion by Turkey. Iran is likely to aid the Kurds as well as the Shiites of the south in their war against the Sunni. Saudi Arabia and Syria are likely to side with the Sunni.

In Ricks' "nightmare scenario" a new Saleh ed-Din Yusuf, (or Saladin) emerges from the chaos to unify the Arabs against the West. Other, perhaps more dangerous scenarios, are easy to imagine.

For anyone who wants to know how we got to where we are now in Iraq, Fiasco is an important book. Ricks has been on the story from the start, has read a vast pile of documents, and interviewed most of the principals. I have followed the story closely, and I learned a lot from Ricks that I hadn't known before. Fiasco has a clear and direct style that illuminates the pattern underlying all the complexities - something that is particularly needed in the case of Iraq, since our leaders give us only lies and obfuscation.

Bush is an offstage presence in this book, but his folly has driven the war and all its blunders. Many of the confusions and wrong directions of the war stem from Bush's failure to understand what he was trying to do or insist on a coherent plan for accomplishing it - his failure to perform the first strategic task of the leader referred to in the Clausewitz on Bush post linked below.

I have written nine previous posts related to Ricks and his book, most of which should be considered components of this review.

Fiasco ,

It Takes a Family ,

My Appearance on Meet The Press , (fluff and a tantrum)

Doctor Brainiac's War , (a post Fiasco look at the then new strategy of General Petraeus,

Impervious to Evidence , (the origin of the war and Wolfowitz),

A Genius for Incompetence , (Douglas Feith)

Jerry, Jerry, Jerry, Jerry , (The blunders of Paul Bremer, with some updates and commentary from Arun),

Clausewitz on Bush and

Reflections on Tom Ricks' Fiasco .

Friday, April 20, 2007

You are Probably an Idiot if...

You write a post implying that some or all of your readers might be too.

On the other hand, my wacko-meter has been going crazy ever since I watched Fredo testify.

A visit to the climate lumotic asylum didn't help my mood much either. It's like Jonestown with only one lousy flavor of Koolaid. All the inmates have banded together to convince each other that the people outside the bars are the crazy ones. Where's Nurse Ratchet when you really need her?

So let me take a different tack:

1) You are probably about as smart as an average (CI) Pig if you think the Bushies have made Nixon's criminal gang look like pikers.

2) You are probably an optimist if you think that the country will be unscathed by the actions of this gang.

3) If you think global warming is a hoax or conspiracy, you have probably been put under a spell by an evil witch or warlock.

4) You are probably *really* an optimist if you think this post is going anywhere interesting. Try to think of it as the ravings of one driven into shrill, unholy madness by the stupidity quotient of the universe and its inhabitants.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


I don't know about you, but I'm immensely relieved that in spite of setback and tragedy, the President and John McCain still support the right of unidentified lunatics to buy an arsenal at gun shows. I mean, like, our basic rights are at stake here.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Bush's Brain: Failure to Launch

No doubt looking for another scapegoat, the White House has been looking for a "War Czar." At least three retired four star generals seem to have said "no thanks."

From the WP:

"The very fundamental issue is, they don't know where the hell they're going," said retired Marine Gen. John J. "Jack" Sheehan, a former top NATO commander who was among those rejecting the job. Sheehan said he believes that Vice President Cheney and his hawkish allies remain more powerful within the administration than pragmatists looking for a way out of Iraq. "So rather than go over there, develop an ulcer and eventually leave, I said, 'No, thanks,' " he said.

That, of course, has been the problem all along. The President is the man without a clue, the man whose concept of strategy starts and ends with empty pieties.

Tommy Thompson on The Jews - But Do They Have Rhythm?

(Not that there is anything wrong with that)

Via Eric Kleefeld we learn that Tommy Thompson, GOP presidential candidate, is having a bit of a problem with (cloven) hoof in mouth disease.

"What I was referring to, ladies and gentlemen, is the accomplishments of the Jewish religion. You've been outstanding business people and I compliment you for that."

— GOP Presidential Candidate Tommy Thompson, quoted by Ha'aretz in an attempted apology for having earlier said that money-making is "sort of part of the Jewish tradition and I do not find anything wrong with that."

OK, the part I resent is that my branch of the tribe didn't seem to get that gene.

Or at least we didn't get the money.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Wolfie Baby

Ah, these guys never disappoint. As if cosmic incompetence weren't enough, the Bushies always manage to compound it with venality and corruption. Paul Wolfowitz, not content with his role as principal architect of the greatest US foreign policy debacle in a generation, or perhaps ever, manages to get a gig at the World Bank, pick up some bimbo there, and give her a $50,000 pay raise to work someplace else. Naturally, when asked about it, he lied. He's also doing a crappy job. For some reason, his board of directors is not best pleased.

Paul D. Wolfowitz’s struggle to remain as president of the World Bank was dealt a crippling setback on Sunday when its most powerful oversight committee delivered an unusually public rebuke of his leadership, expressing “great concern” about the institution’s future and the need to preserve its credibility and staff morale.

I personally don't care much about that stuff, but I am looking forward to his war crimes trial.

Bee Still, My Bleeping Cell

This sounds goofy. But could it be goofy enough to be true?

It seems like the plot of a particularly far-fetched horror film. But some scientists suggest that our love of the mobile phone could cause massive food shortages, as the world's harvests fail.

They are putting forward the theory that radiation given off by mobile phones and other hi-tech gadgets is a possible answer to one of the more bizarre mysteries ever to happen in the natural world - the abrupt disappearance of the bees that pollinate crops. Late last week, some bee-keepers claimed that the phenomenon - which started in the US, then spread to continental Europe - was beginning to hit Britain as well.

The theory is that radiation from mobile phones interferes with bees' navigation systems, preventing the famously homeloving species from finding their way back to their hives. Improbable as it may seem, there is now evidence to back this up.

I would like to know more about what that evidence is. This:

German research has long shown that bees' behaviour changes near power lines.

Now a limited study at Landau University has found that bees refuse to return to their hives when mobile phones are placed nearby. Dr Jochen Kuhn, who carried it out, said this could provide a "hint" to a possible cause.

Dr George Carlo, who headed a massive study by the US government and mobile phone industry of hazards from mobiles in the Nineties, said: "I am convinced the possibility is real."

So, you got nothing? Or something a whole lot like nothing?

Served Cold

I never expected to write a post on Don Imus. I've only listened to a few bits of his shows and didn't like what I heard, but the whole fascination with the issue seems rather absurd. I did catch the group discussion on MTP this morning, though, and watching Gwen Ifill was pretty interesting. Imus called her "the cleaning woman" ten years ago, and she's been seething since. It was a nasty, mean spirited comment - the worst kind of juvenile humor, making fun of someone's appearance.

Well Gwen got her revenge. She was probably the key person who brought down Imus (except for the man himself, of course). Forget Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson - they were just up there doing their ritual shtick.

Imus was and is an obnoxious, mean, and nasty jerk. I'm glad to see him go, but doubt that he will stay away long. They say he does good works. Well, good for him. With luck, he'll now have more time to concentrate on them.

Reflections on Tom Ricks' Fiasco

The US probably spends more on it's military that the rest of the world combined. For the price, we should expect a very good miltary indeed.

I had long been of the opinion that the fiasco in Iraq was produced almost entirely by "a few bad apples": Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Feith. Ricks has persuaded me that the rot went a lot deeper - not that this absolves the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld axis of evil of any of the blame.

There is no doubt that our training and tactics produced an elite professional army superbly qualified to fight a certain kind of war - essentially the war we won in Kuwait under Bush I. Our troops and commanders had thoroughly absorbed the lessons of Brigade scale combat operation against an enemy armored force, and despite Rumsfeld's boneheaded micromanagement of the second Iraq war, those skills were very much in evidence when the Army smashed it's way into Bagdad.

Once there, however, glaring weaknesses were quick to appear. "Information superiority" has been a mantra for the military in recent years. Generals and Pentagon planners convinced themselves that marvelous new tools like the unmanned aerial systems and networked communications gave them a huge information advantage - an advantage that would largely replace older concepts like mass, firepower, and maneuver. Unfortunately, they forgot the most crucial point - information is only useful when you possess the knowledge to use it wisely. They also forgot a lot of other things, including age-old principles of strategy and command.

The commanders sent to Iraq understood how to maneuver an armored brigade or division to smash through an enemy force, but they seemingly knew nothing of strategy, and, above all, they failed to appreciate what kind of war it was they were about to become engaged in - that particular failure can be laid at the BRW doorstep, but nobody should get two or three stars without understanding these matters.

Most calamitously of all, hardly anyone in the US command structure had any clue as to how to fight an insurgency. There were a few notable exceptions: General Petraeus with the 101st airborne, some small units, and the special forces, but their good work was largely undone by the incompetence of their colleagues and superiors.

Four key failures characterize the post-conquest US effort: failure to establish a unified command structure, failure to understand the nature of Iraq, its culture and language, failure to understand the nature of the enemy, and failure to understand how to combat an insurgency. As a result, US forces adopted harsh and counterproductive tactics that actively promoted an insurgency. Meanwhile, Bremer, in charge of the Coalition Provisional Authority, not only didn't talk to Sanchez, the military commander, but seemed to inhabit a Pollyannaesque lala land with no contact with reality. Sanchez, on the other hand, buried himself in minutia, but failed to articulate a common strategy for his troops.

Contrary to my previous impression, Wolfowitz, Bush, Rumsfeld, and Rice realized early that Bremer and Sanchez wereren't getting the job done, but with an election coming up, they didn't want to rock the boat and so fell back upon their one undeniable skill: lying.

Congress and the Army need to take a hard look at how the military has failed at key challenges since World War II. They also need to take a hard look at how General officers are trained and selected. It's more or less inevitable that every war will produce some incompetents like Westmoreland, Franks, Myers, and Sanchez, but absolutely unconscionable that they aren't quickly replaced.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Comment Policy

Inspired by the examples of Eli and Kevin Drum, and depressed by a few egregious examples of the past, I'm planning to take a somewhat harder nosed policy toward the truly mean spirited and nasty comment. Please refrain from calling each other stupid and some other personal assaults. By all means try to demostrate that your opponent is wrong, even egregiously so, but try to keep it polite. Imagine, if you will, that when you make a comment you are making it to somebody who can cut your salary, or beat you up, or something. I probably won't be on enough to be a good policeman, but if you find your comments disappearing, it's probably a sign that you crossed my line.

On the other hand, it might just indicate that I'm still having problems with the comment management software.

Previously, I tried to take the same sort of attitude toward commenters that I took toward my children when they were fighting - try to ignore it till blood was spilled or I was driven stark raving mad. I hope in the future to be slightly more proactive. My children, however, seem to be turning out pretty well.

Losing Another War

The United States War on Drugs costs many tens of billions of dollars every year, probably over $100 billion when all costs are included. This war increases crimes of many types, incarcerates more of our population than almost any other country, and disrupts law and governments around the world.

Is there a more rational way? I don't dispute that drug use, particularly some drug use (crack, crank, pcb...) is very harmful to the users, but our present policies are failing to deprive users of these drugs and generating lucrative and criminal enterprises from Asia to Europe to the Americas.

People take drugs to feel good. For the most part, if a middle class person feels bad, they can get drugs to relieve anxiety, promote mild euphoria, and relieve pain legally and relatively safely. Many of the worst effects of the major illegal drugs are accidental side effects of the drugs themselves. If modern pharmacology could produce drugs that gave some of the beneficial effects of illegal drugs without the extreme hazards and destructive side effects of heroin, crack, crystal meth, etc., wouldn't that be a net benefit to society? If drug addicts could access legal drugs without resorting to robbery, prostitution, and other destructive activities, wouldn't that also be beneficial?

Similarly if addicts had ready access to treatment programs and medications which would ameliorate their addictions, wouldn't that also be a social good? Despite the trillions that have been poured into the drug wars, very little has been spent on such efforts.

Some of that is because of the genuine fear of creating a society of non-functional druggies, but much more is motivated by a mean and unworthy desire to punish any unfortunate lucky enough to get some small measure of illicit pleasure.

What I'm proposing is a large scale research program to produce medications and programs that safely help addicts quit, coupled with the development of safer substitute drugs that could be sold legally. Meanwhile, the most dangerous drugs should be regulated rather than prohibited, so that if one really wanted to buy some crack, you could, from your pharmacist, but it would have an FDA seal of purity and a brochure offering free treatment programs and safer and cheaper substitutes.

Most of the vast apparatus of the war on drugs could be dispensed with, and a whole lot of jails closed. Drug dealing would no longer be a highly profitable criminal enterprise.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Abolish the Kiddie Korps

Josh Marshall has a piece on the politization of the Justice Department that sheds some light on the magical "Doofus Factor" that seems to characterize so many loyal Bushies. Bush's Justice placed heavy emphasis on recruiting ideologically correct employees, especially for the Civil Rights division. This emphasis came at the expense of qualifications. Previously, employees had been recruited mainly from elite law schools. Bush lawyers come mainly from right-wing diploma mills (60% of Monica Goodlings class at Regent's University flunked the bar exam on their first try.)

Evidently, Monica's Christian education didn't instill enough ethics for her to avoid the legal jeopardy that led to her invoking the fifth amendment.

The Democrats could take a giant step forward if they would propose legislation that would prevent this from happening again. Abolishing the vast majority of political appointees in the Justice Department and replace them with senior civil servants would do the trick. This should go all the way up to the Attorney General, who would become, in effect, a minister of justice, analogous to such positions in most parlimentary governments. I discussed Alan Dershowitz's suggestion in this regard in a previous post.

A first step would be converting the US Attorney post's to civil service status. This would be painful for Democrats, since this is a traditional element of political patronage that they are likely to gain control of in 2008 - but it would be good for the country and would show our good faith in rooting out corruption.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Don't Worry, Be Happy?

Richard S. Lindzen has a long piece in Newsweek International April 16, 2007 issue. I mostly disagree.

Judging from the media in recent months, the debate over global warming is now over. There has been a net warming of the earth over the last century and a half, and our greenhouse gas emissions are contributing at some level. Both of these statements are almost certainly true.

So far, this is firmly in the reality based mainstream. It's a useful starting point for a dialog, if there is one.

What of it? Recently many people have said that the earth is facing a crisis requiring urgent action. This statement has nothing to do with science. There is no compelling evidence that the warming trend we've seen will amount to anything close to catastrophe.

Lindzen says this has nothing to do with science, but I don't agree. The question is whether there is evidence that the warming trend produced by the greenhouse gases "will amount to something close to a catastrophe." That is a scientific question. If Lindzen is right, and the evidence for catastrophe is weak, then it's too early to take urgent and disruptive action. The question is, how strong is the evidence? It's completely disingenuous to claim that the question of the strength of the evidence is not "a scientific question."

What most commentators—and many scientists—seem to miss is that the only thing we can say with certainly about climate is that it changes.

This is pure BS. The fact is that the climate models have shown some skill, and that skill is increasing.

The earth is always warming or cooling by as much as a few tenths of a degree a year; periods of constant average temperatures are rare. Looking back on the earth's climate history, it's apparent that there's no such thing as an optimal temperature—a climate at which everything is just right.

This is an important point, but I think most scientists are well aware of it. Commentators, maybe not so much.

The current alarm rests on the false assumption not only that we live in a perfect world, temperaturewise, but also that our warming forecasts for the year 2040 are somehow more reliable than the weatherman's forecast for next week.

No, on both counts. The alarm rests on the prospect that a large and rapid change in average temperature could be profoundly disruptive to people, economies, and ecological systems. The reasons weather forecasts for next week are problematic are understood in a general sense, and are known to be related to the same causes that make detailed prediction of a turbulent system impossible even while statistical prediction can be quite good. The same considerations apply to climate models for 2040 - we certainly can't predict the detailed weather anywhere for that particular year, but there is reason to believe that statistical predictions can be made. That's probably the reason that Lindzen, and other skeptics, refuse to bet on future climates except for absurd odds.

Many of the most alarming studies rely on long-range predictions using inherently untrustworthy climate models, similar to those that cannot accurately forecast the weather a week from now. Interpretations of these studies rarely consider that the impact of carbon on temperature goes down—not up—the more carbon accumulates in the atmosphere. Even if emissions were the sole cause of the recent temperature rise—a dubious proposition—future increases wouldn't be as steep as the climb in emissions.

This is a blatant distortion. The models very explicitly take into account the dependence of the "impact of carbon on temperature" effect as a function of concentration. It also incorporates his other favorite distortion of implying that making detailed predictions about specific future dates is the same as making statistical predictions about a future with a very different thermal forcing. It's not true, and it's been demonstrated in a hundred contexts in fluid dynamics.

Indeed, one overlooked mystery is why temperatures are not already higher. Various models predict that a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere will raise the world's average temperature by as little as 1.5 degrees Celsius or as much as 4.5 degrees. The important thing about doubled CO2 (or any other greenhouse gas) is its "forcing"—its contribution to warming. At present, the greenhouse forcing is already about three-quarters of what one would get from a doubling of CO2. But average temperatures rose only about 0.6 degrees since the beginning of the industrial era, and the change hasn't been uniform—warming has largely occurred during the periods from 1919 to 1940 and from 1976 to 1998, with cooling in between. Researchers have been unable to explain this discrepancy.

Here he makes a reasonable point, which he will promptly undercut in his next paragraph. It's true that net warming to date seems to have been underpredicted, but it's also true that models predict that we are far from seeing the full effect of the warming to date. Moreover, everyone concedes that any anthropogenic effect is supperposed on a large natural variability.

Modelers claim to have simulated the warming and cooling that occurred before 1976 by choosing among various guesses as to what effect poorly observed volcanoes and unmeasured output from the sun have had. These factors, they claim, don't explain the warming of about 0.4 degrees C between 1976 and 1998. Climate modelers assume the cause must be greenhouse-gas emissions because they have no other explanation. This is a poor substitute for evidence, and simulation hardly constitutes explanation. Ten years ago climate modelers also couldn't account for the warming that occurred from about 1050 to 1300. They tried to expunge the medieval warm period from the observational record—an effort that is now generally discredited. The models have also severely underestimated short-term variability El Niño and the Intraseasonal Oscillation. Such phenomena illustrate the ability of the complex and turbulent climate system to vary significantly with no external cause whatever, and to do so over many years, even centuries.

Climate models are improving. In previous outings Lindzen claimed warming stoppen in 1986 - an error which was based on old and erroneous data. Eli Rabett has the story here and in other recent posts.

Is there any point in pretending that CO2 increases will be catastrophic? Or could they be modest and on balance beneficial? India has warmed during the second half of the 20th century, and agricultural output has increased greatly. Infectious diseases like malaria are a matter not so much of temperature as poverty and public-health policies (like eliminating DDT). Exposure to cold is generally found to be both more dangerous and less comfortable.

The pretense is that they won't be severe. This is not an impossible result, but it is becoming increasingly unlikely. It's likely that some may benefit from global warming, at least in the short run. Subequatorial Africa, the Western United States, and quite possibly much of Souther Asia could be big losers.

Moreover, actions taken thus far to reduce emissions have already had negative consequences without improving our ability to adapt to climate change. An emphasis on ethanol, for instance, has led to angry protests against corn-price increases in Mexico, and forest clearing and habitat destruction in Southeast Asia. Carbon caps are likely to lead to increased prices, as well as corruption associated with permit trading. (Enron was a leading lobbyist for Kyoto because it had hoped to capitalize on emissions trading.) The alleged solutions have more potential for catastrophe than the putative problem. The conclusion of the late climate scientist Roger Revelle—Al Gore's supposed mentor—is worth pondering: the evidence for global warming thus far doesn't warrant any action unless it is justifiable on grounds that have nothing to do with climate.

Roger Revelle has been dead for sixteen years. The evidence of 1991 is not the evidence of today. Blaming ethanol for forest clearing and habitat destruction is a stretch, but I'm no ethanol fan. Our situation is that action may be costly, but inaction seems likely to be very costly.

Lindzen is still a smart guy, but he seems to have lost touch with both the methodology and the data. His predictions about climate haven't proven out, and he's now retreated to ideology - and though it's not evident here - insults.

Lindzen is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research has always been funded exclusively by the U.S. government. He receives no funding from any energy companies.

© 2007 Newsweek, Inc.

Kiddie Korps

One signature of the Justice Department meltdown is the number of giant mistakes by young, inexperienced, and lightly credentialed senior officials. There clearly was a pattern of choosing these people - Kyle Sampson, Monica Goodling, etc - on the basis of ideological purity or, more precisely, personal loyalty to Bush, rather than on competence. This is absolutely no surprise - we saw the same catastrophic pattern in the response to Hurricane Katrina, and, most gravely, in the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.

At one level, the reason for this massive incompetence is obvious: George Bush. He is surely one of the dumbest and most dishonest inhabitants of the oval office ever. Somehow, though, that's not really quite enough of an explanation. How did he manage to attract, recruit, and appoint so many idiots to his cause? It's almost as if the man has some sort of "fifth force" attraction for stupidity and mendacity.

There are a lot of smart guys in the US Army. Most of them have been in Iraq. Somehow, though, those that rose to the top wound up being singularly unsuited to the job - especially Franks and Sanchez. Abazaid is no fool, but somehow he wound up having little useful control. Petraeus, the current US commander, is probably the best guy we've got, but there seems to be little chance that he can succeed.

Stupidity flows from the top. If the commander-in-chief is a fool who completely misunderstands the nature of the challenge that confronts him, and if in addition he is a lazy and unserious man who surrounds himself with sychophants, the best tactics on the ground are unlikely to save the situation.

The Prophet Speaks

Our fearless prognosticator puts his (nonexistent) prophetic credibility on the line to predict:


Republican presidential nominee will be Romney.

He will win Utah!

Maybe even Idaho.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

They Really All Are Crooks & Liars

It seems that regulations prohibit Wolfowitz's girlfriend from working under him at the World Bank, so he detailed her to the State Department, and raised her salary to $200k/yr, or more than Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice.

I've seen Wolfowitz and I've seen his comb, and she's earning every penny.

Captain Imperio Answers Your Climate Questions

Q: How does the current temperature compare with past temperatures?

A: It’s hot compared to the last five hundred years, and maybe even compared to the last several thousand years. It’s cold compared to most of the last 500 million years.

Q: How about CO2? How do current CO2 values compare with those in the past?

A: Current values are high compared to most of the last several hundred thousand years (see: here) but much higher concentrations of CO2 occurred in the past. Before life originated, much of the atmosphere may have been CO2. Values for most of the last 500 million years appear to have been much higher than at present, but considerable uncertainty exists here

Q: If it was hotter in the past, and there was a lot more CO2, why should we worry? Is mass extinction a threat?

A: Mass extinction is already happening, due to habitat destruction, mostly but not entirely independently of warming. Clearly life can adapt to many temperatures and CO2 concentrations, but we, and all our close relatives, evolved in conditions much like the present (cool, low CO2), and there is some evidence that primates almost disappeared in the last big CO2 spike.

Most don’t consider current global warming trends a threat to human existence though. What it does threaten is massive economic and ecological disruption, with large parts of the Earth, including some highly populous portions, likely to be come much less habitable.

Q: How do we know there is a greenhouse effect?

A: An object is heated when it absorbs energy. One of the ways this can happen is through absorption of solar radiation (light). In addition to absorbing radiant energy, all objects also radiate (lose energy by emitting radiation). The amount of radiation emitted increases rapidly with its temperature (as the fourth power of temperature). We are all pretty familiar with that phenomenon from our experience with hot objects (like glowing coals) and even warm objects, like a big stretch of asphalt just after dark.

The Captain lives in a very sunny part of the country, which is often hot. For this reason, he likes to buy white cars. While wandering through a dealership, he notices that while a black or dark red car will be hot enough to burn his hand, a silver car will be only fairly warm, and a white car might even be cool to the touch. This, he knows, is because while all the cars are about equally efficient at cooling themselves by infrared radiation or conduction into the air, the darker colored cars are much more efficient at absorbing sunlight. Thus it is with all sorts of objects left in the sunlight.

White car or black, though, there has to be an approximate balance between energy incoming and energy outgoing (otherwise the temperature would keep changing). This balance comes about by the temperature of the darker car increasing until the amount of energy it radiates and has conducted away is equal to the amount it absorbs.

The same principles apply to planets, in some what simplified form, since they need to shed nearly all their heat by radiation (conduction not working well in the near vacuum of space). We can measure rather accurately how much heat the planets absorb from the Sun. We can also measure the emissive efficiency of the Earth’s surface. Putting those numbers into equations of radiative balance, it’s fairly easy to compute (it’s a typical problem assigned in beginning physical climatology or atmospheric radiation courses) that the temperature of the Earth should average out to be -18 C (0 F). In fact, the planet is a lot warmer, about 15 C (59 F). The difference comes from what we left out – the atmosphere. It acts as an insulating blanket that makes the Earth less efficient at radiating its heat – and insulating blanket that accounts for the extra 33 C (59 F) that makes life possible on the planet.

Similar effects are at work on Mars and Venus, dramatically so in the case of Venus, which is about 500 C warmer than the simple calculation suggests. Mercury and the Moon, lacking atmospheres, don’t experience this effect.

Most of the greenhouse effect for Earth comes from water vapor, but CO2 also contributes 10 C or so, and a few other gases also contribute. On Venus, which has 300,000 times as much CO2 as Earth, CO2 is the big player, but other minor constituents play a key role in plugging some “leaks” in the CO2 blanket.

I would add that such denialists as Lindzen and Motl admit that there is a real greenhouse effect - they just claim that it's unimportant compared to other effects, and that global warming probably isn't really that bad for you anyway.

Fear Factor

Anyone who ever attempted to discuss anything with Luboš Motl is likely to have noticed that he doesn't like to address anything substantive or answer questions. Below are three that I asked on his blog. My questions were met with deletion. He prefers the uniformed adulation of his sychophants.


Bill Nye surely doesn't understand much about climate science, but how about you? It would certainly be easy for someone of your skills to learn the essentials of the radiative forcing problem but I've never seen evidence that you do - you often quote approvingly from those who don't. Why don't you tell us what you believe - or better, what you know, about the following questions:
1)Is human activity increasing the CO2 in the atmosphere?
2)In the first order approximation (no feedbacks), does more CO2 produce warming?
3)If so, do you believe that anthropogenic warming is occurring or will occur?

So why is he that way? I'm guessing that it's sort of a fear factor - if you say something substantive, you might be proved wrong. On the other hand, if you respond with insults and epithets, you are only just proved a jerk.

If he responds here (probably not likely), I predict insults but no answers. How about it Lumo? Prove me wrong!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Clausewitz on Bush

The first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgement that the statesman and commander have to make is to establish...the kind of war on which they are embarking; neither mistaking it for, not trying to turn it into, something that is alien to its nature. This is the first of all strategic questions and the most comprehensive.

..................Karl von Clausewitz On War

In this task, as in every other, Bush, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Franks and their minions failed utterly.

Via Fiasco, by Thomas E Ricks.

Jerry, Jerry, Jerry, Jerry

There is, of course, no shortage of moments of high idiocy in the Bush administration's conduct of the war, but Paul Bremer is probably more responsible than anyone else for the explosive growth of the insurgency. He had hardly hit the ground when he took three disastrous actions: Firing anyone (Dr, lawyer, indian chief) who was a "senior" Bathist, abolishing the Iraqi Army, and abolishing the Iraqi police force. In one stroke he put most of the most educated people, the best armed and militarily trained people, and the people who understood how the country worked into unemployment. They all instantly were provided with motive, means, and allies for an insurgency.

There is a mystery here, however. Were these actions Bremer's ideas? According to Thomas E Ricks in Fiasco, when his outraged subordinates protested, he said: "I have my orders." Rumsfeld, Feith, and perhaps even Wolfowitz were reputed to be out of the loop.

We know who wanted these actions: Ahmed Chalabi - so who was carrying his water and why? If the Pentagon gang really weren't in on it, there are only two plausible candidates: Bush and Cheney. Bush reputedly had signed on to a different plan, at least earlier.

On the other hand, there is the matter of some nine billion dollars that went missing on Bremer's watch.

Has anybody read Bremer's book? Has he shed any light on the question? (No way am I going to pay for that SOB's book.)

UPDATE:Arun has the read Bremer, and Bremer's account clearly diverges from Rick's. See here and here. Bremer blames Rumsfeld and Feith. But Feith worked for Rumsfeld and Rumsfeld worked for Bush, or the cabal, or somebody.

I'm Melting! Oh You Wicked Girl...

Eli has some nice posts on the state of the meltdown. A Jim Hansen quote:

Spatial and temporal fluctuations are normal, short-term expectations for Greenland glaciers are different from long-term expectations for West Antarctica. Integration via the gravity satellite measurements puts individual glacier fluctuations in proper perspective. The broader picture gives strong indication that ice sheets will, and are already beginning to, respond in a nonlinear fashion to global warming.There is enough information now, in my opinion, to make it a near certainty that IPCC BAU climate forcing scenarios would lead to disastrous multi-meter sea level rise on the century time scale"

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Study the Masters

Study the masters, not their pupils is one of those bits of pedagogical advice more honored in the breach than in the observance. Usually we have good excuses, of course: their notation is obsolete and obscure, or they wrote in Latin, or the literature is too scattered - all true and reasonable.

There are happy exceptions. The principal textbooks in string theory carry the names of some of it's greatest masters: Green, Schwarz, Witten, Polchinski. Rarely read, though, are older works by Newton, Maxwell, and Rayleigh.

A couple of groups of students have no excuse though. Charles Darwin's Origin of Species is almost entirely modern a century and a half later, and it's a model of lucidity of thought and expression. Equally remarkable is Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations two and a quarter centuries downstream in time. Each laid out the foundations of his science with great clarity and prescience. I'm sure that many undergraduate majors in biology and economics escape reading these books, though, and graduates too. They really shouldn't.


I used to admire Senator John McCain, but that was before he became a lying piece of s*** and sold his soul to the devil. Catch NBC revealing a bit of background about his stroll through a market minutes from the green zone.

His stroll, in an bulletproof vest, was guarded by 100 American soldiers and 5 Army helicopters.