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Japan leads us into a new future, taking the next step in the great monetary experiment

21 March 2014

Summary: A first step to understanding comes from appreciating the wonders before us. Recognition of extraordinary events that lie before us. Not unique events (those are seldom seen), but event of unusual magnitude. Old Faithful, not the usual steam kettle on the stove. Today we look at one such, one of the greatest experiments ever: sustain large-scale monetary stimulus.

In “Forbidden Planet” a great distant civilization — far away, long ago — built a planetary-scale machine to grant their every wish. It didn’t end well for them, but they deserve high marks for the boldness and scale of the project. Today economists are attempting something less ambitious, but still bold beyond any precedents.

ATLAS experiment

In the basement of the Federal Reserve

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Size of central bank balance sheets for the major nations (2014 IMF estimate):

  • China: $4.8 trillion, 49% of GDP
  • Japan: $2.0 trillion, 39% of GDP
  • UK: $0.7 trillion, 25% of GDP
  • US: $4.2 trillion, 24% of GDP
  • EU: $3.0 trillion, 23% of GDP

These are mind-blowing numbers, become familiar to us in the five years since the crash.

Combined with artificially low interest rates (near-zero in all of the above but China), the major nations have sought to restore growth using extreme and unconventional monetary policy measures. The first phase — first aid to stabilize their financial systems during the crash (2008-09) were a success. The results since then, using monetary policy for extended treatment, remain unknown until the experiment concludes and monetary policy returns to normal.

As with any bold experiment, economists will learn much from the results. If successful, it will be a new world. Economic policy of the 21st century will look nothing like that of the post-WW2 era, any more than the dark nighttime cities of Victorian London resemble its brightly lite 21st century version. Future downturns — and even more so with future crashes — will be met with tsunamis of newly printed cash. Perhaps we’ve built a monetary savior, like the discovery of antibiotics.

We’ll know when the experiment is concluded. So far the results are cloudy; we’ll have to ask again later.

Japan leads the way

Haruhiko Kuroda

Haruhiko Kuroda

Japan is the cutting edge of this experiment, going boldly to where no nation has gone before. While other nations look to slow the monetary engines, they’re revving them up even more.

Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said there were “no limits” to what the central bank can do if it saw the need to adjust monetary policy in the future, signaling readiness to expand stimulus further if risks threatened its price target {2% inflation}. … He also said it was “not as if there weren’t any steps left” for the BOJ to take if it were to ease again, countering views held by some market participants that having delivered a massive stimulus last year, the BOJ had no tools left to deploy.

— Interview on 13 March with Japan’s Jiji news agency, as reported by Reuters

Read more…

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Stand by for political realignment in America!

20 March 2014

Summary:  I’ve long believed that our political system has rapidly accumulating strains, soon to rip the system apart so that new coalitions emerge, centered on new issues — political realignments (see Wikipedia), as has happened before in American history. Not the widely anticipated move to the “middle” (a two-dimensional line), but political reshuffling in multiple dimensions.

Perhaps we now have the first signs of it happening. On the other hand, just as the first Robin doesn’t mean Spring has begun, rising stress does not mean the realignment has begun.

American Extremists

On the Right

The Right, and especially its vanguard — the Tea Party movement — have become servants of the 1%. They’re helping the 1% build the New America described in scores of posts on the FM website. They are one possible future for America.

  1. A belligerent foreign policy, supporting a mad unprofitable empire.
  2. Political divisions between hostile races and religions.
  3. Growing inequality and falling social mobility (e.g., defunding public schools and universities).
  4. Tax burden shifted, as the GOP is doing in the States, from the rich to the middle class.

It’s a common pattern in history. It’s a change from the America-that-once-was. It’s a slow-motion revolution. It might push some into defecting from the Right to a new movement closer to their conservative principles.

Looking to the future, neither the GOP nor its Tea Party faction are all grey-hairs. As shown by this Pew Poll, published 16 October 2013. The Republicans are slightly light on Millennials (born after 1980, so age 18 – 33) and slightly heavy on Boomers. The Tea Party movement is catastrophically light on Millennials and over-weight on Boomers. The cutting edge of society in terms of youth and energy is not with the extreme Right.

Pew Poll of Tea Party Movement

Pew Poll, 16 October 2013

On the Left

There is no equivalent of the Tea Party on the Left. After decades of decay, the Left’s too decrepit to have a broadly political movement; all that remains are single-issue groups. Like the unions and the environmentalists. With an aging membership, and a slow loss of public support.

From an article by Paul Voosen in E&E Publishing, 13 April 2012 (unrelated to this post, which I highly recommend):

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Americans begin to learn, and change our views about our mad empire.

19 March 2014

Summary:  We’ve built an empire, but like its British predecessor, it provides little benefit to the people who pay for it with blood and money. Recent polls suggest that we might be catching on to the con, but it’s too soon to speculation about the effects of this change on US foreign policy.

… it is a fact that Kipling’s “message” was one that the big {British} public did not want, and indeed, has never accepted. The mass of the people, in the 1890’s as now, were anti-militarist, bored by the Empire, and only unconsciously patriotic. Kipling’s official admirers are and were the “service” middle class …”

— “Thoughts on Rudyard Kipling” by George Orwell, Horizon, February 1942

Clear world

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America burst upon the world in the Spanish-American War (1898), with succeeding waves carrying us into broader and deeper involvements around the world. With each wave our military grew larger.  We have become the world’s hegemon, running a mad unprofitable empire.

The cost in money has been borne by American taxpayers.  The cost in blood by America’s young men (and some women).

Each wave has fought and overcome a deeply-rooted isolationist sentiment. But a new generation has arrived, whose views might mirror the disinterest of the British mass public during the late Empire era. Decades of futile and failed wars might finally have had an effect.  Especially on fresher minds, as shown in this interesting result from “Millennials in Adulthood“, Pew Research, 7 March 2014:

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Pew poll: patriotismPew poll: patriotism.

Polls show the effects of this evolution of pubic opinion, as in “America’s Place in the World 2013” by Pew Research, 3 December 2013:

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Pew:  Mind Our Own Business

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Our hawks screech, learning nothing by our expensive defeats since 9/11, but see that he public no longer follows. As in Condoleezza Rice’s (Secretary of State 2005-2009) op-ed in the Washington Post (7 March 2014): “Will America heed the wake-up call of Ukraine?” The always-insightful Ta-Nehisi Coates gives a rebuttal:  “As Though Iraq Never Happened – The short memory of Condoleezza Rice“, The Atlantic, 11 March 2014:

Condoleezza Rice was an important member of an administration that launched a war on false pretense and willingly embraced torture. … It takes a particular historical blindness to claim that such actions should have no effect on all our crowing over “democracy and human rights.”

War-mongering is self-justifying. If you bungle a war in Iraq, it does not mean you need to sit back and reflect on the bungling. It means you should make more war, lest Iraq become a base for your enemies. If Vladimir Putin violates Ukrainian sovereignty, it is evidence for a more muscular approach. If he doesn’t, than it is evidence that he fears American power.

If there are no terrorist attacks on American soil, then drones must be right and our security state must be effective. If there are attacks, then our security state must increase its surveillance, and more bombs should be dropped.

Violence begets violence. Peace begets violence. The circle continues.

David Brooks gives a more sophisticated analysis than Rice’s straightforward war mongering in “The Leaderless Doctrine“, David Brooks, op-ed in the New York Times, 10 March 2014. Conor Friedersdorf gives a powerful rebuttal in “The Decline of the American War Hawk“, The Atlantic, 11 March 2014 — “There’s been a backlash in the United States against foreign interventionism — but David Brooks and others just don’t get it.” He explains what’s happening.

What Americans are actually sensing, especially after Iraq and Afghanistan reminded them about the limits of military force, is that the law of diminishing marginal returns holds, even if, left to its own devices, the Pentagon would spend without limit.

… Americans who want the U.S. less engaged in world affairs are saying no more than what Brooks, for reasons I can’t fathom, finds “amazing”: that there are limits to the changes that American politicians and soldiers can bring about, and that those limits ought to be obvious to anyone looking at Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Ukraine.

This point is being made with increasing insistence by the American public because they perceive, correctly, that there is a cadre of Washington, D.C. insiders — bureaucrats, military contractors, think-tank fellows, editors like Bill Kristol, writers like Max Boot — so oblivious to America’s limits that they can’t even see the last military intervention that they successfully advocated as a mistake, even though, in that case, the catastrophic results have already played out.

It might be a new day in America — if we put to work our new, more-sophisticated view of the world. The funds squandered on foreign adventures can help rebuild our rotting infrastructure and better prepare America to compete in the 21st century.

Clear vision

Clear vision is power

For More Information

If you find this post useful, consider hitting the tip jar (in the right-side menu bar).

About our foreign policy:

  1. Mitt Romney and the Empire of Hubris. Setting America on a path to decline., 10 October 2011
  2. Advice from one of the British Empire’s greatest Foreign Ministers, 18 November 2011
  3. Continuity and dysfunctionality in US foreign policy (lessons for our conflict with Iran), 13 January 2012
  4. Look at America’s grand strategy. Why do we believe this nonsense?, 5 March 2013

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The best way to celebrate the 11-year anniversary of our Expedition to Iraq

18 March 2014

Summary: On the 11th anniversary of our invasion of Iraq, let’s remember who was right, who was wrong, and the consequences of our actions. Our amnesia about these things prevents us from learning. It keeps us weak and easily led. It’s unworthy of a free people, and makes effective self-government impossible. Let’s honor those who sacrificed their lives for this nation in Iraq by learning from that war.

“Sooner or later, everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences.”
— Robert Louis Stevenson, no known source (perhaps apocryphal)

Operation Iraqi Freedom

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That our actions were both wrong and unwise was quite obvious at the time. For evidence see these articles from the 19 March 2002 issue of The Republic, powerfully summarized by Katrina vanden Heuvel (Editor and Publisher) in “This Week in ‘Nation’ History: The Horrific Legacy of the Invasion of Iraq“, 14 March 2014. It deserves your attention.

We should regard those writers with respect for going against the belligerent madness that held both Right and Left in its grip during those days, a mental fire skillfully fed by the senior officials of the Bush Jr team. Their articles read today as prophetic, although they were mostly statements of the obvious overlaid on sound journalism.

Building on their accurate predictions — and coverage since then — they summarize the results of our invasion and occupation (too mildly, in my opinion): “Iraq: Revisiting the Pottery Barn Rule“, John Feffer, The Nation, 27 January 2014 — Excerpt:

You might remember Powell’s famous quip about Pottery Barn. In his advice to President George W. Bush before the Iraq invasion, Powell warned the president of the Pottery Barn rule: you break it, you own it. The United States would be responsible, Powell implied, for whatever wreckage the military incurred in its headlong dash to unseat Saddam Hussein.

Pottery Barn actually has no such a rule, and it was New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman who “made up the whole thing.” But Powell, who apologized to Pottery Barn, still embraces the message.

“We were essentially the new government until a government could be put in place,” he told David Samuels in The Atlantic. “And in the second phase of this conflict, which was beginning after the statue fell, we made serious mistakes in not acting like a government. One, maintaining order. Two, keeping people from destroying their own property. Three, not having in place security forces — either ours or theirs or a combination of the two to keep order.”

We did none of those things, and Iraq, as a result, is broken. Nor has the United States made much effort to own it—that is, to own up to our responsibility for breaking the country. We gave up trying to sweep up the pieces. At this stage, all we do is take photographs of the damage, putting them in the newspaper accompanied by descriptions of the carnage. We mull over the consequences. We hope that our chickens don’t come home to roost.

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This is what defeat looks like for the Left, and perhaps also for environmentalists

17 March 2014

Summary:  For over a quarter-century the Left has sought public policy changes to fight global warming and the resulting climate change, relying largely on alarmist forecasts. Increasingly wild forecasts, disconnected from the work of climate scientists, the IPCC, and the major climate agencies. What have they reaped from this massive commitment of resources? The answer might affect America’s broader political evolution and the balance of power between Left and Right.

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Typical Leftist claims, almost devoid of support from climate science

Earth doomed within 20 years due to climate change“, UK Metro, 10 October 2013 — “Life in parts of the planet will start to be wiped out by climate change within two decades – far sooner than previously predicted, research shows.” The article refers to “The projected timing of climate departure from recent variability” in Nature (10 October 2013), which says nothing remotely like that.

{Climate change is} “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.”
— Secretary of State John Kerry to 16 February 2014 at Jakarta, reported by the Washington Post

Kerry: world will end

Dean Scott: Bloomberg senior climate change reporter

Globe Aflame

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Contents

  1. This is what losing looks like for the Left
  2. Building bipartisan support
  3. Effects of alarmism on elections
  4. Losing the next generation of voters
  5. Conclusions
  6. For More Information

(1)  This is what losing looks like for the Left. For environmentalists

Since 1988 the Left, and its sub-community of environmentalists, have increasingly focused on fighting climate change as their primary issue. In a sense, they’ve wagered their credibility and political capital on this one issue. How’s that working for them? The polls show the answer. This is what losing looks like for the Left, and perhaps for environmentalists. See the results of a Gallup survey of Americans on 6 – 9 March 2014. Climate change is 14 of 15  (the rank order probably matters more than the specific numbers).

Next, I’m going to read a list of problems facing the country. For each one, please tell me if you personally worry about this problem a great deal, a fair amount, only a little, or not at all? First, how much do you personally worry about…

Gallup: list of worries

Gallup, 6 – 9 March 2014

Note that the answers to “do you worry about climate change” are quite different when asking only about various environmental problems (see this Gallup survey). People say they worry a lot less about the environment when these issues are placed in a larger context.

This might be part of a larger change in public opinion. See the results over time when asking “please tell me if you personally worry about the quality of the environment …”

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A key to understanding the climate wars (about one of our big weaknesses)

15 March 2014

Summary:  Debates about science occupy a central place in many public policy issues. To name a few: education, climate, public health, and medicine. In most of these the debate revolves around (silently, often ignorantly) questions of epistemology — the philosophy of knowing. Today we look at one example.

Knowledge: venn diagram

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Although the IPCC and major climate agencies give ample clear information, laypeople’s confident guessing dominates the public debate about climate change. Voices such as Al Gore and Bill Nye the Science Guy. Advocacy institutions, such as the folks at the Heartland Institute and Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT, running Climate Depot).

Together they fill the air with chaff, confusing the public and paralyzing the public policy process. The climate wars show with horrifying clarity America’s inability to clearly see and respond to our rapidly changing world.

There are, broadly speaking, three kinds of laypeople active in the climate wars (this typology does not apply well to scientists):

(a)  What’s becoming the consensus Left-wing position: doom approaches (or more extreme, we’re already doomed). This goes far beyond the consensus of climate scientists; seldom do these alarmists bother to even cite scientists to support their extreme claims. It’s terrorism of the mind to promote their policy agenda.

(b)  The large middle area of debate about the appropriate public policy response to climate science forecasts. The IPCC gives a wide range of forecasts, growing wider throughout the 21st century, driven by many kinds of uncertainties (e.g., many poorly understood aspects of climate dynamics, the size of Earth’s recoverable fossil fuel deposits, and the duration of the fossil fuel era). Against that are a range of public policy alternatives, with varying costs and possible effects.

(c)  The consensus Right-wing position: disagreement with basic elements of climate science. This takes many forms, such as

  1. skepticism about the ability of climate scientists to forecast climate,
  2. belief in the fraudulent nature of the IPCC and climate science,
  3. belief that CO2 does not increase temperature.  Just as with the Left, there is little scientific evidence for their beliefs.

Much of this debate is tribalism, Left vs Right. Much is motivated reasoning in the service of tribalism. But there are elements of logic, sometimes, in these debates. A common one, as in so many issues these days, is epistemology. How do we know things? What determines the shades of knowing? Who should we listen to with respect? Listen to as authorities?

There are no guaranteed answers to such questions, and few reliable guides. Today we look at one example of such a question, and one reply. Here is a comment posted on a post about our oceans.

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Do you know how DoD will spend a trillion dollars this year?

14 March 2014

Summary: America’s largest investment program is its military. Hundreds of bases around the world. Fighting dozens of small wars. Our advanced aerospace program is largely military. Much of America’s R&D is done by DARPA and other defense agencies. Meanwhile Congress quibbles about million-dollar programs while waving through multi-billion-dollar defense programs.

Today Winslow Wheeler explains how DoD will spend a trillion dollars in the next year.  It’s not what you think; it’s not what you’ve been told.
Origami Pentagon
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America’s $1 Trillion National Security Budget

By Winslow Wheeler
The Straus Military Reform Project
13 March 2014
Reposted with their generous permission

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The Pentagon’s current leadership and most on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees in Congress describe President Obama’s 2015 defense budget request as painfully austere, if not dangerously inadequate. The defense trade press is full of statements from generals, admirals and the other politicians from both political parties that there is not nearly enough money available to buy adequate amounts of new hardware, maintain current pay and benefits or provide even low amounts of training and equipment maintenance. As a result, they are looking for ways to relieve the Pentagon from its penury.

Scarcity of money is not their problem. Pentagon costs, taken together with other known national security expenses for 2015, will exceed $1 Trillion. How can that be? The trade press is full of statements about the Pentagon’s $495.6 billion budget and how low that is.

There is much more than $495.6 billion in the budget for the Pentagon, and there are piles of national security spending outside the Pentagon — all of it as elemental for national security as any new aircraft and ships and the morale and well-being of our troops.

The official version

The table below details what a careful observer will find in President Obama’s 2015 budget presentation materials. The amounts for the Pentagon are well above the advertised $495.6 billion, and there are several non-Pentagon accounts that are clearly relevant.

The relevant data for 2014 is also presented for comparison, and the notations in the “Comments” column help explain the data.

Total U.S. National Security Spending 2014-2015

All figures are $billions; Then-Year$
Sources: Table 28-1 from Analytical Perspectives and Homeland Security Appendix in 2015 OMB Budget

DoD Budget

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How much did we warm in February? How much has the world warmed since 1979?

13 March 2014

Summary: The world has been warming. Seldom mentioned is how much it has warmed. Magnitudes matter! The amount of warming so far provides context to claims of extreme weather.  For the answer we turn to the NASA-funded global temperature data from satellites.  They show the warming due to our actions is small (small so far; the future might be quite different). The truth is out there for people willing to see it. Only with it can we prepare for our future.

“It is extremely likely (95 – 100% certain) that human activities caused more than half of the observed increase in global mean surface temperature from 1951 to 2010.”
— conclusion of the IPCC’s AR5 Working Group I

Pure alarmist propaganda

Pure alarmist propaganda

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Contents

  1. Status report: what do satellites tell us about global warming?
  2. The long-term history of warming
  3. Who produces this satellite data & analysis?
  4. About The Elusive Absolute Surface Air Temperature (SAT)
  5. A few key things to remember about global warming!
  6. For More Information

To the right is a typical over-the-top image to arouse fear, about a world now less than one °F warmer than the 30-year average.

(1) Status report: what do satellites tell us about global warming in February 2014?

Satellites provide the most comprehensive and reliable record of the atmosphere’s warming since 1979.

The February 2014 Global Temperature Report
by the Earth System Science Center of the University of Alabama in Huntsville
(Blue is cold; red warm}. Click to enlarge.

February 2014 Global Temperature Report

Earth System Science Center of the University of Alabama in Huntsville

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See the equivalent graph from the surface temperature stations of the Climate Anomaly Monitoring System (CAMS) of the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) at the U.S. National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP).

Key points from the UAH report (prepared under contract for NASA), which show a world that has warmed since 1979, but only slightly (few alarmists know this; even fewer admit it):

  1. Global composite temperature in February: +0.17°C  (0.31°F) above the average for February during 1981-2010.
  2. Global climate trend of temperature starting in 16 November 1978: +0.14°C  (0.3°F) per decade.
  3. Compared to seasonal norms, in February the coolest area on the globe was over the southwestern corner of Canada’s Saskatchewan province near the town of Eston, where temperatures in the troposphere were about 4.7°C  (8.4°F) cooler than seasonal norms.
  4. The warmest area was over the Arctic Ocean northeast of Svalbard, a group of islands about halfway between Norway and the North Pole, where tropospheric temperatures were 6.2°C  (11.1°F) warmer than seasonal norms.
  5. Anomalies are computed per the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) recommended method, comparing the current temperatures vs. a 30 year base period ending with the latest decade.

For more detail see Global Temperature Update Through 2013, James Hansen, Makiko Sato and Reto Ruedy, 21 January 2014.

(2)  The vital context: a longer-term temperature history

Two decades of cool weather, followed by 15 years of warm weather. Wide swings in temperature; a relatively flat trend since 1998 – 2000. For more about the pause see links to climate research in Section 5.

(a)  From the UAH monthly report, the full record of satellite data (started in 1979). Click to enlarge.

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Droughts are coming. Are we ready for the past to repeat?

12 March 2014

Summary: This post by Prof Curry has something for everyone, at all levels of interest and knowledge. It discusses one of the more timely and serious subjects in the climate debates. If you would like more information after reading these selections (or are still confused, or more confused) see the links at the end of the post.  Bottom line: while we bicker about anthropogenic effects on climate, we remain unready for the return of past droughts.

California drought in context

by Judith Curry (Prof Atmosphere Science, GA Inst Tech)
From her website Climate Etc
10 March 2014

Posted here under her Creative Commons license

Texas Drought

Photo by AP

Contents

  1. The NYT gives a rebuttal to Obama
  2. Anthropogenic global warming and droughts
  3. Past California droughts
  4. The Dust Bowl Returns
  5. California’s drought is due to politics
  6. Judith Curry’s reflections
  7. For More Information

(1)  The NYT gives a rebuttal to Obama

A changing climate means that weather-related disasters like droughts, wildfires, storms [and] floods are potentially going to be costlier and they’re going to be harsher.
Speech by President Obama, 14 February 2014

Justin Gillis of the NY Times responded to the statements made by President Obama in his February 14 visit to California to discuss the drought: “Science linking drought to global warming in dispute“. Excerpt:

In delivering aid to drought-stricken California last week, President Obama and his aides cited the state as an example of what could be in store for much of the rest of the country as human-caused climate change intensifies.

But in doing so, they were pushing at the boundaries of scientific knowledge about the relationship between climate change and drought. While a trend of increasing drought that may be linked to global warming has been documented in some regions, including parts of the Mediterranean and in the Southwestern United States, there is no scientific consensus yet that it is a worldwide phenomenon. Nor is there definitive evidence that it is causing California’s problems.

(2)  Anthropogenic global warming and droughts

(a)  The main arguments being put forward regarding AGW making the drought worse seem to be put forward by John Holdren and Joe Romm. John Holdren has prepared a document entitled Drought and Climate Change:  A Critique of Statements Made by Roger Pielke Jr. The existence of this document is astonishing in itself (Holdren is Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy) – it was written in response to tweets and blog posts by Pielke Jr (Prof Environmental Studies, U CO-Boulder).

Pielke responds to Holden with “John Holdren’s Epic Fail“, 1 March 2014.

(b)  Joe Romm (Center for American Progress) has a follow on post “Climatologist who predicted drought 10 years ago says it may become even more dire“.  He lays out the arguments in support of global warming influencing the drought. The arguments aren’t  strong, an excerpt:

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We live in the crazy years, but can choose a different destiny for ourselves and our children

11 March 2014

Summary:  In 1939 the great science fiction writer Robert Heinlein created a timeline, the framework within which he wrote many of his greatest stories. On it is the period he called the “crazy years”. While he got the specifics wrong, that description aptly describes our time. We have made the crazy years. It’s our choice, not our destiny. We can change course and put America back on track. We need only choose to do so.

Scudder For President

We will have another chance in 2016

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The Crazy Years:

Considerable technical advance during this period, accompanied by a gradual deterioration of mores, orientation, and social institutions, terminating in mass psychoses in the sixth decade, and the interregnum.

— Created by Robert Heinlein in 1939; published in Astounding Science Fiction, May 1940

Crazy years are commonplace in human history. Such as …

  • (a) The 14th century were crazy years in Europe, brought about by a combination of  massive social and political changes, plus natural catastrophes (e.g., plague and the onset of the Little Ice Age). For a vivid account of this time ee Barbara Tuchman wrote A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century (1978).
  • (b)  The French called the 1920s the années folles (crazy years), the aftershock of WWI and massive social and political change.

Now we’re in the crazy years of the 21st century, whose exact starting point does not matter (but will become clear to future historians). That we’re in the crazy years is widely recognized, especially among conservatives. Such as this, from Nebuala-award winning nominated science fiction writer John C. Wright. He read this news story:

The criminal case against the first detainee transferred from Guantanamo Bay for trial in a U.S. civilian court should be thrown out because he was denied the right to a speedy trial, defense lawyers argued on Monday.” (Reuters, 11 January 2010)

… and said this:

May God have mercy on us, I am not making this up. … The state, the military, the court system, is treating an Gitmo terrorist like a criminal defendant rather than like a prisoner of war.

Few, if any, of the prisoners at Gitmo were captured on a battlefield; fewer still are agents of a State. So they are not obviously POWs. Fewest of all were captured committing acts of terrorism, so they are only “accused terrorists”. Hence the need for a trial of some sort. Wright’s comment shows confident ignorance (unaware of why the Judge acted as he did), but not this the judge’s rule is crazy. (Update: see his explanation in the comments. Pending further clarification, it makes this an even better example of my point He’s an attorney, considering his disagreement with a judge about a technical point of complex law as evidence we’re in the crazy years).

This is a commonplace vignette in America, where both Left and Right substitute mockery for analysis — blindness to the reasoning of their opponents. The equivalent on the Left is labeling as “deniers” all who disagree with their forecasts of climate doom (including those defending the work of the IPCC and major climate agencies). These fetters of the mind are a gift to their leaders, preventing communication which might result in compromise — or even new and larger alliances.

Neither Left or Right focuses on the greater madness affecting us all, to which most Americans assent. Together their confidence, blindness and amnesia (well documented in these posts) lead America into the crazy years.

Read more…

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