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Archive for November, 2006

November 30th 2006

Lomborg: Money Spent On Global Is Detrimental

Without scooting my chair, I can pluck my well-worn copy of Bjorn Lomborg’s The Skeptical Environmentalist off my reference shelf. A lot of pages are dog-eared and on some pages highlighted lines outnumber regular lines.

When Lomborg, the Danish statistician who tests enviro-hysteria claims and finds them wrong, attacks environmentalists’ causes, it’s not because he hates the environment; it’s because he wants to protect it and knows our resources to do so are limited and should be properly prioritized.

Today on TCS, he spelled out my arguments against Warmie hysteria quite well, thank you. First, whether it’s true there’s no debate any more on the topic:

I think for a while [the debate on environmentalism] really was moving in the right direction and people were understanding the issues and the arguments better. But I think what is happening now is that we are increasingly seeing a tailspin into hysteria over the global warming discussion, where it is almost commonplace to say things are worse than we thought.

It’s at the stage where people are saying its even worse than we thought yesterday, and that it is going to be catastrophic, and chaotic and disruptive – all these kinds of words. This has actually led to one of the lead modellers in the UK to come out and say it’s bizarre that before we had the debate between the climate change skeptics and the scientists, and that now we have the debate between the scientists, who are now becoming the skeptics, and those who are saying it’s all going to end in chaos, when it is going to do nothing of the sort – and this is not what the UN panel is telling us.

Perhaps this is most clear when you look at the movie from Al Gore. Everything he says is technically true. He says for instance that if Greenland melts, sea levels will rise about 20 feet. This is technically true. But of course the very evocative imagery of seeing Holland disappear under the waves – or New York, or Shanghai – leaves the impression that this is all going to happen very soon. Where in fact the UN climate panel says that the sea level rise over the next 100 years is going to be 30 cm – about 20 times less than he talks about. So there is a dramatic difference between what we’re being told and what we’re actually seeing.

Because global hysteria tends to suck up global resources, the Warmies are taking money away from causes that could do much more to advance the health and wellbeing of mankind. This is what drives me craziest about the Warmies, and Lomborg agrees:

Global warming is an important issue and one which we should address. But there is no sense of proportion either in environmental terms, or indeed in terms of the other issues facing the world.

If you just take the environmental problem first, it’s very clear that what causes by far the majority of deaths is lack clean drinking water and lack of sanitation. Millions of people are dying each year from this. Also taking the new WHO estimates of what really kills people, these are the huge issues.

The second biggest problem is indoor air pollution, which probably kills somewhere between 1 and 3 million people each year, basically because people are too poor to use good fuels and end up using dung or cardboard or whatever they can find. Only a very distant third comes climate change, which the WHO puts at 150,000 to die right now.

Of course WHO’s figure on global warming deaths is totally bogus. If you accept that 150,000 people die annually because it’s gotten marginally hotter — not because there was a typical cyclical heat wave somewhere or a typical hurricane on the coast — I’ve got a bridge I want to sell you. But that’s not even the point, says Lomborg:

This of course ignores those people that are no longer dying from cold-related deaths. For some inexcusable reasons, I would argue, they have the idea that they will only look at things that are going to be bad and don’t have to look at will be good from climate change.

One of the top climate change economists has modelled – and several papers that came out a couple of weeks ago essentially point out – that climate change will probably mean fewer deaths, not more deaths. It is estimated that climate change by about 2050 will mean about 800,000 fewer deaths.

We’ve spent billions on climate change. Who even knows how much? And compliance with the Kyoto accord basically doesn’t exist, carbon dioxide emissions are increasing, and all we’re getting is hot air and money that could be treating malaria or providing clean water going to wealthy scientists and peevish regulators.

“And you’ve got to ask yourself,” Lomborg concludes, “couldn’t we have spent that amount of time and effort and consideration on addressing some of the issues in the world where we could have done an enormous amount of good?”

Lomborg’s now working on a book on global warming that will come out next year.

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November 30th 2006

The Few, The Proud, The Honest

AWB Ltd. is an Australian wheat company, and the single largest payer of kickbacks to Saddam Hussein — $221.7 million over four years in illigal “transporation” and “after-sales service” fees.

That money ended up not helping the people of Iran, but buying gold-plated toilets for Hussein’s palaces, and diabolic torture devices for use on his enemies. The money also ended up being fully found out by Sir Terence Cole and his team of Aussie investigators, who cranked out 2,065 pages leading to recommended indictments of 11 AWB employees and one other.

Kudos for Australia, one of the few honest countries when it comes to the Oil for Food scoundrel. In an editorial today (subscribers only) WSJ lets us know the honesty tally:

Meanwhile, most other countries have done little or nothing to come clean. France, which was given preferential oil allocations, has only a lone prosecutor moving ahead, with little support from the Elysée Palace. Russia, which facilitated the oil allocations and blocked moves on the Security Council to investigate kickbacks, refused to assist Mr. Volcker, much less prosecute anyone. Ditto for China, which received huge oil allocations, and Vietnam, whose state-owned food companies paid kickbacks in exchange for business contracts.

Regarding the U.N., Mr. Cole notes that “The United Nations knew that Iraq was breaching sanctions by requiring payment of inland transport fees and surcharges or after-sales-service fees. It knew this between 1999 and 2003. . . It took no steps to publicize or warn member states of the Iraqi practices, and it took no steps to stop the practices.” Mark it down as another coda to Kofi Annan’s disastrous legacy as Secretary General.

The thing about crime: If you get away with it, you do it again. Count on France, China, Vietnam and the U.N. to do it again. Count on Aussies to think twice.

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November 30th 2006

Hardly A "Stay The Course" Day For Iraq

Bush says, in so many words, he knows what he wants to do in Iraq.

The Baker-Hamilton report’s consensus begins to get out in what’s obviously a carefully planned commission leak strategy.

The Pentagon announces its next steps.

And Mah- I’m- in- the- moud for hypocrisy Ahmahdinijad (rhymes with “I sent you a five-page letter, aren’t you glad”) shares his thoughts on Iraq with us.

Quite a morning for news-sifting.

Let’s dismiss Ahmadinejad first. Two statements stood out:

With the presence of the US military in Iraq, nothing has been done to rebuild the ruins, to restore the infrastructure or to alleviate poverty.


What have the Zionists done for the American people that the US administration considers itself obliged to blindly support these infamous aggressors? Is it not because they have imposed themselves on a substantial portion of the banking, financial, cultural and media sectors?

The first statement is quite something, eh? As Iran funds and equips some of the militia that are killing so many and making it so difficult to focus on infrastructure instead of security, we continue to soldier on, rebuilding infrastructure with billions of dollars of investment — desite Iran’s wishes to the contrary. This guy’s huevos are clearly bigger than his brain.

And the latter comment? Let’s ask ourselves first what, other than getting rich on petrodollars, have the Islamists done for us lately? With “friends” like that, Israel looks very, very good, indeed. But what does that matter if you’re schooled in Old School Anti-Semitism? I don’t know; I’m just blinded because all my money, movies and news is Jew-controlled, I guess.

Signals on the future

It appears that some elements of Josh Manchester’s 6-point “Go Native” strategy may be taking route, with Baker-Hamilton apparently poised to announce a greater focus on training and staged, milestoned withdrawals. Manchester points out that if logistical support is moved to forward bases and Americans fight in intermixed Iraqi-American squads, troop drawdowns are quite feasible.

Staged, milestoned withdrawals are problematic, though, because if the enemy knows the milestones, they have the blueprint for messing up the plan and a list of targets — political, military, infrastructure — to attack. I’m counting on Baker-Hamilton to have a few good ideas but to be unimplementable as proposed, like much of the 9/11 Commission recommendations.

Meanwhile, General Peter Pace said troops will be moved from elsewhere in Iraq to Baghdad to help quell the violence there. This isn’t necessarily counter to Manchester’s six points, becuase he doesn’t have us shifting to forward bases until more training and integration happens.

It may, however, be in line Manchester’s strategy of putting more pressure on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to get control of Moqtada al-Sadr and the Mahdi Army. That’s a job that’s going to have to happen in Baghdad and Sadr City.

The quotes from Bush are appropriately tough, conciliatory and untelegraphic. Our president shouldn’t be spouting out future plans or sharing with the media what was said in privat to Maliki. While it’s hard to rally around Bush’s “He’s the right guy for Iraq” comment about Maliki, it’s tough to find someone else who’d do better — and my bet is that that comment followed a bit of tongue-lashing behind close doors.

“Take al-Sadr out to the woodshed and make a gelding out of him, Nouri, old buddy, or your future will be about as long as a Texas sunset,” or some such thing. Of course, Bush is the kind of guy who masks private punches and jabs by taking the blame himself in public:

“One of his frustrations with me is that he believes we’ve been slow about giving him the tools necessary to protect the Iraqi people,” Bush said before boarding Air Force One for the flight home. “And today we had a meeting that will accelerate the capacity for the Prime Minister to do the hard work necessary to help stop this violence.”

Is General Pace’s redeployment of more troops to Baghdad some of “the tools necessary?” If so, it means that Maliki is going to allow more direct conflict with al-Sadr’s forces.

Those who criticise the President of staying the course ignore days like yesterday and today, days that make it clear that he and his generals may well be ahead of Baker-Hamilton and everyone else.

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November 29th 2006

Hurricane Season Is Over. Al? Al??

Today marks the end of the hurricane season. Remember last year, when Warmies were saying the year’s monstrous hurricane season was caused by global warming? Remember when they said to batten down the hatches because 2006 would be another big year for big swirly things?

“For the 2006 north Atlantic hurricane season, NOAA is predicting 13 to 16 named storms, with eight to 10 becoming hurricanes, of which four to six could become ‘major’ hurricanes of Category 3 strength or higher,” added retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. (NOAA, May 22,2006)

Well, they’re making excuses this year, not brash predictions.

The mild 2006 Atlantic hurricane season draws to a close Thursday without a single hurricane striking the United States — a stark contrast to the record-breaking 2005 season that killed more than 1,500 people and left thousands homeless along the Gulf Coast. (AP)

Barring a last-second surprise from the tropics, the season will end Thursday with nine named storms, and only five of those hurricanes. This year is the first season since 1997 that only one storm nudged its way into the Gulf of Mexico. (Tampa Trib)

Goes to show what scientists and their fancy models know.

There is not a valid argument against global warming computer models in itself — models are supposed to predict general trends over time, not specific years — but it is solid proof that you can’t believe every dire prediction the Warmies throw your way.

Less solid but still worthy of your consideration is that predictions of rapid climate change are not worth much, either. If global warming is increasing at some sort of shattering rate, then there is less and less chance for normal to low hurricane seasons like this year’s.

Today, 308 blogs posted on this year’s hurricane season … a drop in the bucket compared to the hand-wringing posts that appeared last year, as the scientists launched their predictions that this year would be another big storm year.

While I’m glad that millions of people have now witnessed that you need to take Warmie predictions with a grain of salt, I’m much more glad that even more millions enjoyed a lovely summer and fall without screaming winds and surging storm flows. That’s a very good thing.

hat-tip Right Winged; photo: Storm Stock
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November 29th 2006

Is Abstinence Really To Blame For Uganda’s Jump In AIDS Cases?

Those critical of emphasizing abstinence in the battle against AIDS/HIV — and they are legion — could be accused of having a gleeful reaction to news that Uganda’s incidence of AIDS cases and HIV infections was increasing. After all, the increase showed that Uganda’s emphasis on abstinence, and the support for that position extended by the Bush administration and American evangelicals, was killing people.

How great is that?

Am I being too severe? Here’s Esther Kaplan of American Prospect writing last summer:

Even in an administration famous for its contempt for science, President Bush’s tortured case for abstinence stands out. He committed $1 billion to abstinence-only programs abroad without a shred of scientific evidence that they prevent disease. Casting about for justification, he and the virginity advocates who surround him latched on to one of the developing world’s rare success stories: Uganda.

In their fertile imaginations, the East African nation was a fairy-tale place where Christian morality had turned the epidemic around. But their castle in the sky came crashing down in May, on the eve of a United Nations meeting on AIDS, when Uganda’s AIDS commissioner announced that after years of decline, new HIV infections had almost doubled from 70,000 in 2003 to 130,000 in 2005. Devastating news.

It seems like she tacked on the last two words because she realized she had a broad grin across her face as she typed up these paragraphs.

But Kaplan and those like her, who refuse to accept abstinence for little reason other than their own personal sexual experience and their twisted feminist ideals that link promiscuity to liberation, is doing a cover-up.

First, her piece makes no reference whatsoever to the fact that the Global Fund, which allocates UN AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria funds, cut off all funding to Uganda in Aug., 2005. (Here are some C-SM posts on that cut: here, here, here, here.) Of course, that’s too late to have had much if any impact on the increase in cases reported, but because the Global Fund swears it made the cut due to corruption in the Ugandan health ministry, you have to wonder how efficiently it was working to get the funds out to the field in the preceding years.

I personally think the UN’s action was tied in part to Uganda’s suppoprt for abstinence, but they’ve circled the information wagons, and if it was, we’ll not find any smoking guns.

Second, there was this little problem with condoms in Uganda during this period. As in, they were defective and had to be recalled. That recall and subsequent mismanagement of the re-introduction of new condoms to the Ugandan market was not a Christian campaign; it was poor manufacturing and government incompetence in handling the crisis. Yet Kaplan does not attribute blame to the lack of condoms in Uganda. In fact, it’s just the opposite:

The Lancet, a British medical journal, recently attributed Uganda’s surge in new infections to the condom shortage and the … campaign to remove the “C” from ABC [abstinence, being faithful, condoms). “There is no question in my mind,” said Stephen Lewis, the U.N.’s Africa envoy, 10 months into the shortage, “that the condom crisis in Uganda is being driven and exacerbated by the extreme policies that the administration in the United States is now pursuing in the emphasis on abstinence.”

There ought to be a lot of doubt in his mind. The condom crisis was page-one news throughout sub-Saharan Africa and a great embarassment to the Ugandan government. Senior officials lost their jobs, and not a word about abstinence was raised as an excuse. It was corruption and incompetence that botched the Ugandan condoms, not the Christians.

Kaplan and the anti-abstinence crusaders also ignore two irrefutable facts: First, the significance of the fact that the infection rate among Uganda’s teenagers –those most receptive to the abstinence argument — is dropping. I frankly don’t know if abstinence is the reason for the drop, but I sure would like to before I go off placing any of the blame for this tragedy on Bush and Dobson.

And second, the most important point of all, they are focusing on the increase, not the comparable infection rate. Uganda remains a hallmark for AIDS/HIV success in sub-Saharan Africa. The top 12 infection rates are found in sub-Saharan nations, ranging from Botswana’s rate of 213.4 per thousand to Kenya’s 35.6. All these nations bought into the UN program of emphasizing the “C” in ABC.

In sharp contrast, Uganda, the only one of these nations that emphasized the “A,” is not in the top 15 or 20 or 25 nations. It has the 29th highest infection rate, about half that of #12 Kenya — 18.8 cases per thousand — not far from the weighted global average of 14.4 per thousand.

So tell me again, why is pushing abstinence such a bad idea?

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November 29th 2006

U.S. Decrees: Unhipness For Li’l Kim

We won’t be seeing Li’l Kim Jong -Il tooling around Pyongyang on his Sedgeway, iPod loaded and loud with the latest Christina Aguilara hits.

In a long-awaited piece of evidence of diplomatic brilliance by the Bush administration, Washington has decreed that Li’l Kim’s favorite capitalist excesses will be be subject to export bans.

No Rolexes, French cognac, plasma TVs, yachts or Harley Davidsons. The sanctions, which the US is actually coordinating through the UN, sure won’t harm the NoKo people much — their abject poverty and harsh repression will continue — but it’s gonna tick off Li’l Kim.

The very personal trade embargo shows the US is well aware of the nature of its enemy and is willing to think of creative ways, short of cruise missiles, to get his attention. Realists may say the bottles of good stuff and tiny electronics will get through anyway, but that won’t stop the symbolism from smacking the twerp upside the head.

Quite a contrast from the Clinton administration! Madeline Albrecht presented Li’l Kim with a basketball autographed by Michael Jordan when she visited Pyongyang — a warm, personal gesture that showed the Clintonistas were well aware of the 5’3″ Kim’s fondness for roundball.

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November 28th 2006

Will Baker Come Up With A Plan This Good?

The Baker Commission is probably still hunting for the “abracadabra” word that will give their efforts to chart a viable course for Iraq consensus, viability and a chance for success.

They might be well to cut and paste Josh Manchester’s “Go Native” approach from today’s TCS, slap a fancy cover on it, and call it a day. Manchester’s six-point plan is straightforward and makes more sense than any of the approaches I’ve read to date:

  1. Dramatically expand the training and advisory efforts. More people, more money.
  2. Teach 20,000+ American troops Arabic so they can “lead an attack, plan a patrol, or otherwise advise an Iraqi force.
  3. Give Maliki 60 days to strip the Shi’ite militias of power.
  4. If he can’t do it, “declare Iraq’s security forces to be in receivership. This is a great point: “It means that the security forces of Iraq no longer answer to the Iraqi government, they answer to the US military. The government will still exist. It will still be a democracy. But it will temporarily lose control of its military. After doing this, purge the Iraqi forces of those loyal to Shi’ite militias.”
  5. Create combined US-Iraqi forces. That’s why you need 20,000 Arabic-speaking troops, so they can “live, eat, sleep, fight and die with their Iraqi counterparts.”
  6. Move support and logistics to the front bases, freeing massive numbers of support troops to come home.

Points 3 and 4 are straightforward ways to deal with the mounting death toll and the existing Iraqi government’s unwillingness to rip out the root of the problem. Rip it out and the bombings decrease, satisfaction with the situation at home and in Iraq grows, and the government there will have the opportunity to solidify.

The electorate’s discontent with the current policy would be well answered by this approach, it would signal to the Islamofascists that they’re taking on an agile and committed enemy, and it would tell the people of Iraq we’re partners, not occupiers.

Read more of Manchester’s work at his blog, The Adventures of Manchester.

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November 28th 2006

Praying Or Probing?

As the Islamic groups try to make us feel guilty about feeling good that a bunch of weird-acting imams got kicked off a US Airlines flight last week, emerging facts make it evident they deserved the treatment they received.

As I look at these behaviors, the only thing I can conclude is either they were intent on bringing down the plane (apparently not; no weapons found), or were intent on probing security systems on behalf of someone who would later tray to bring down a plane. Here’s what they did, according to WashTimes:

Witnesses said three of the imams were praying loudly in the concourse and repeatedly shouted “Allah” when passengers were called for boarding US Airways Flight 300 to Phoenix.

“I was suspicious by the way they were praying very loud,” the gate agent told the Minneapolis Police Department.

Passengers and flight attendants told law-enforcement officials the imams switched from their assigned seats to a pattern associated with the September 11 terrorist attacks and also found in probes of U.S. security since the attacks — two in the front row first-class, two in the middle of the plane on the exit aisle and two in the rear of the cabin.

“That would alarm me,” said a federal air marshal who asked to remain anonymous. “They now control all of the entry and exit routes to the plane.”

A pilot from another airline said: “That behavior has been identified as a terrorist probe in the airline industry.”

The paper reports Mahdi Bray of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation called the imams’ removal an act of Islamophobia. It’s not; it’s just a phobia against crashing in a ball of fire into a building. And Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, the Texas whacko, said, “Understandably, the imams felt profiled,humiliated, and discriminated against by their treatment.”

I say good, great. Let them feel that way until they learn how to behave in a country that doesn’t much like what radical Islam is doing to us.

Photo: Jim Lowney
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November 28th 2006

Quote Of The Day: What Political Future? Edition

“Americans know who he is, and have pretty much decided they don’t like him.”
– Peter Brown, Quinnipiac University Polling Institute

The recipient of that assessment is none other than John Kerry — determined to be the least likeable of 20 prominent US politicians. That Kerry will almost certainly not be humbled by the assessment will no doubt drive him even lower.

If he is to have a national political career, Kerry has the formidable task of convincing people they’re wrong, that he really is likeable. He’s proved how hard that is, since the normal approach, humor, turns to scandal in his unlikeable hands.

Rudy Giuliani’s no doubt feeling good, as the most likeable in the Quinnipiac poll. He’s followed by Barack Obama (who’s likely to fall sharply as soon as people get to know him better) and John McCain, who proves that likeability and arrogance can indeed go together.

Full results are here.

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November 27th 2006

The Miraculous Henry Waxman

We’re told by no less a source than Time Magazine that Henry Waxman is a man to fear, and I believe it because Time tells us his powers are truly awesome:

The walls of his Washington office are covered with framed pens that Presidents from Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton used to sign the laws that Waxman helped make a reality: the Clean Air Act …

Wow. The Clean Air Act was passed in 1963, 11 years before Waxman even got to Congress! That’s power! (Time apparently is refering to the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1977.)

But seriously, Time is right: Waxman’s got power, subpoena power. As incoming chair of the House Government Reform Committee, he will be the only committee chair in DC who can issue subpoenas unilaterally; no committee vote needed, and it’s too late to change the rules.

Waxman’s viciously anti-business and pro over-regulation, so expect a lot of his subpoenas to be directed at companies that have committed the sin of winning too much market share or earning too much profit.

But the real hatred that burns in Henry’s heart is Bush, the war, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Halliburton. So how far will he stretch his subpoena powers to make these guys miserable? Oh, about this far:

Hat-tip: Real Clear Politics
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