FM newswire for 2 December, hot articles for your morning reading

Today’s broadsheet from the FM website pressroom, with 5 sections of hot news.

  1. Links to interesting news and analysis
  2. Important Warnings
  3. Quote of the Day – best summary so far of the “climategate” scandal
  4. Feature article:  Good news!  More doomster tales disproven
  5. Update:  we’re in Afghanistan to protect its women!
  6. Plus an Afterword

Also — you can now subscribe, receiving posts by email — see the box on the upper right.

(1)  Today’s links

  1. Why they hate us (II): How many Muslims has the U.S. killed in the past 30 years?“, Stephen M. Walt, blog of Foreign Policy, 30 November 2009
  2. Overcapacity in China: Causes, Impacts and Recommendations“, European Chamber of Commerce, 26 November 2009 — An important piece of a major problem in the global economy.
  3. Climategate: Caught Green-Handed!“, Christopher Monckton, Science and Public Policy Institute, 30 November 2009 — Non-technical analysis of the information liberated from the UK Climate Research Unit.  Perhaps the most important news of the year.  43 pages.
  4.  “Entering the Superproject Void“, New York Times, 28 November 2009 — “For the first time in memory, the nation has no outsize public works project under way.”
  5. The above article is wrong; the US still does massive public works projects.  They’re just in Iraq and Afghanistan, not the USA.  See “Building at home and abroad“, Stephen M. Walt, blog of Foreign Policy, 1 December 2009
  6. China will take a generation to catch up with the West“, George Magnus, Financial Times, 30 November 2009

Today’s video:  “Utopia, Part 3: The World’s Largest Shopping Mall“, PBS, 18 August 2009 — It’s also the world’s largest empty shopping mall.

(2)  Important Warnings

(a)  Something in the Water Is Feminizing Male Fish. Are We Next?“, Popular Science, 30 November 2009 — Excerpt:

It’s one thing to worry about pollutants in our freshwater supply. It’s another to find out that all across the country, male fish swimming in some of that water are becoming “intersex,” their male sex organs producing immature female eggs. Although the condition occurs naturally in some species, it shouldn’t happen to black bass. But a new study shows that it is, and in numbers far greater than ever suspected. The phenomenon raises serious concerns about the pollution levels in our rivers and could threaten several species.

The nine-year study, conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey, provides the first nationwide count of intersex fish in American rivers. Overall, 44% of the largemouth and smallmouth bass dissected turned out to be intersex, but at some sites 91% of the male largemouth bass were affected.

This was briefly discussed in this post:

(b)  Double dip warning“, Paul Krugman, blog of the New York Times, 1 December 2009 — Excerpt (red emphasis added, a point widely misunderstood):

I’ve never been fully committed to the notion that we’re going to have a “double dip” — that the economy will slide back into recession. But it has been clear for a while that it’s a serious possibility, for two reasons. First, a large part of the growth we’ve had has been driven by the stimulus — but the stimulus has already had its maximum impact on the growth of GDP, will hit its maximum impact on the level of GDP in the middle of next year, and then will begin to fade out. Second, the rise in manufacturing production is to a large extent an inventory bounce — and this, too, will fade out in the quarters ahead.

(3)  Quote of the Day – best summary so far of the “climategate” scandal

Vital perspective to combat the pernicious strawman defenses from green extremists, from “What Do We Really Know About Climate Change?“, Basil Copeland, Watts Up with That, 30 November 2009:

While we need to continue to insist upon open access to the data and methods used to chronicle global and regional climate variation, and refine the process to remove the biases which may be present from trying to make the data fit the narrative of CO2 induced global warming, it would be wrong to conclude that the “CRUtape Letters” prove that global warming does not exist. That has never really been the issue. The issue has been

  • the extent of warming (have the data been distorted in a way that would overstate the degree of warming?),
  • the extent to which it is the result of natural climate variation (as opposed to human influences), and
  • the extent to which it owes to human influences other than the burning of fossil fuels (such as land use/land cover changes, urban heat islands, etc.).

And flowing from this, the issue has been whether we really know enough to justify the kind of massive government programs said to be necessary to forestall climate catastrophe.

(4)  Feature article:  Good news! More doomster tales disproven

Himalayan Glaciers: A State-of-Art Review of Glacial Studies, Glacial Retreat and Climate Change“, Vijay Kumar Raina, Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests, 12 November 2009.

For a brief review of this report see “No Sign Yet of Himalayan Meltdown, Indian Report Finds“, Pallava Bagla, Science, 13 November 2009 (subscription only; pirate copy here) — Excerpt:

The bottom line is that IPCC’s Himalaya assessment got it “horribly wrong,” asserts John “Jack” Shroder, a Himalayan glacier specialist at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. “They were too quick to jump to conclusions on too little data.” IPCC also erred in its forecast of the impact of glacier melting on water supply, claims Donald Alford, a Montana-based hydrologist who recently completed a water study for the World Bank. “Our data indicate the Ganges results primarily from monsoon rainfall, and until the monsoon fails completely, there will be a Ganges river, very similar to the present river.” Glacier melt contributes 3% to 4% of the Ganges’s annual flow, says Kireet Kumar.

Atmospheric scientist Murari Lal, chair of the Climate, Energy and Sustainable Development Analysis Centre in New Delhi and coordinating lead author of the 2007 IPCC report’s Asia chapter, rejects the notion that IPCC was off the mark on Himalayan glaciers. But he acknowledges that the report’s 10-author team relied on unpublished work when assessing the status of the glaciers. India’s U.N. delegation had objected to the wording, Lal recalls, but in the IPCC plenary session the analysis got wide support.

(5)  Update: we’re in Afghanistan to protect its women!

We’re in Afghanistan to protect its women.  At least that’s what some of the war’s advocates tell us.

Of course these folks know so much they need not actually ask Afghanistan’s women if they want our help, our bombs.  Still, one Afghanistan women has dared to speak and question her better’s opinion:  “A troop surge can only magnify the crime against Afghanistan, Malalai Joya, op-ed in The Guardian, 30 November 2009 — “If Barack Obama heralds an escalation of the war, he will betray his own message of hope and deepen my people’s pain.”  Excerpt:

I have said before that by installing warlords and drug traffickers in power in Kabul, the US and Nato have pushed us from the frying pan to the fire. Now Obama is pouring fuel on these flames, and this week’s announcement of upwards of 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan will have tragic consequences.

Already this year we have seen the impact of an increase in troops occupying Afghanistan: more violence, and more civilian deaths. My people, the poor of Afghanistan who have known only war and the domination of fundamentalism, are today squashed between two enemies: the US/Nato occupation forces on one hand and warlords and the Taliban on the other.

While we want the withdrawal of one enemy, we don’t believe it is a matter of choosing between two evils. There is an alternative: the democratic-minded parties and intellectuals are our hope for the future of Afghanistan.

It will not be easy, but if we have a little bit of peace we will be better able to fight our own internal enemies – Afghans know what to do with our destiny. We are not a backward people, and we are capable of fighting for democracy, human and women’s rights in Afghanistan. In fact the only way these values will be achieved is if we struggle for them and win them ourselves.

After 8 years of war, the situation is as bad as ever for ordinary Afghans, and women in particular. The reality is that only the drug traffickers and warlords have been helped under this corrupt and illegitimate Karzai government. Karzai’s promises of reform are laughable. His own vice-president is the notorious warlord Fahim, whom Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch describes as “one of the most notorious warlords in the country, with the blood of many Afghans on his hands”.

Transparency International reports that this regime is the second most corrupt in the world. The UN Development Programme reports Afghanistan is second last – 181st out of 182 countries – in terms of human development. That is why we no longer want this kind of “help” from the west.

Like many around the world, I am wondering what kind of “peace” prize can be awarded to a leader who continues the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and starts a new war in Pakistan, all while supporting Israel?

Of course, how could a women in Afghanistan know what’s best for her?  That’s what westerners are for, to determine such things for the betterment of primative peoples.

Previous posts about the preposterous notion:

 (6)  Afterword

Please share your comments by posting below. Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 word max), civil and relevant to this post. Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

Reference pages about other topics appear on the right side menu bar, including About the FM website page.

8 thoughts on “FM newswire for 2 December, hot articles for your morning reading

  1. So far as lack of public projects go, what is more to the point is lack of a public dream. There’s no grand thing to accomplish.

    I don’t know about you, but I think creating an actual Hogwarts would be kind of neat.
    .
    .
    FM reply: Space exploration and industrialization.

  2. Those interested in my Hogwarts idea might read, The Magic Circle of Rudolf II: Alchemy and Astrology in Renaissance Prague

    When Rudolf II was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1576, he quickly filled his castle with artistic and scientific treasures. Marshall returns repeatedly to Rudolf’s attempt to create a “theatre of the world” in Prague Castle and how it transformed the city into the last great cultural center of the Renaissance. Rudolf himself is relegated to the sidelines for much of the book’s middle section, as the focus turns to the brilliant minds attracted to Prague’s climate of intellectual openness. The emperor, says Marshall, had a sincere but undiscriminating thirst for knowledge, open to both “fact and fantasy”; thus the community deftly sketched includes alchemists and prophets like John Dee as well as scientists like Kepler and Brahe and artists like Arcimboldo. Marshall, a cultural historian (The Philosopher’s Stone), also explores Rudolf’s apparent madness, concluding the emperor suffered from manic-depression, and while “eccentric and insecure,” he was not insane. The final chapters depict the dwindling of Rudolf’s kingdom, as he sank further into melancholy; prolonged conflict with the Vatican over his tolerance of “heretics” (such as Protestants and Jews) led to political intrigues against him. Yet, Marshall argues convincingly, his intellectual legacy bridged the gap between the medieval and modern worlds. 25 b&w illus. (Aug.)

    As to where I get off proposing something like this for the 21st century, a casual survey of quantum mechanics, fractal geometry, black holes, fuzzy logic, and the like suggests we live in a world comparably strange and remarkable.

  3. Re2: Entrance exam questions for admission to the New Hogwarts:

    Physics: Consider the film “The Matrix”. What experiments might the inhabitants of that world designed to test the hypothesis they were living in an artificial reality? What implications does this have for our reality and behaviors we see at the sub-atomic level?

    Medicine: Outside Hogwarts, the prevailing doctrine seems to be that chronic diseases; Hypertension, COPD, asthma, Parkinson’s, etc. should be treated by equally sustained pharmaceutical interventions; steroids, beta blockers, and so on. Describe your alternative hypothesis for any specific chronic condition, supporting an alternate thesis as to it’s non-chronic origin and suggestions for how, if validated, this might lead to a cure.

    Engineering: A common theme in Science Fiction is the concept of a “living” construct, typified by space faring vessels which are highly organic in both appearance and function. Outside Hogwarts, such engineering capability is non-existent. Describe your recommendation for pedagogical reforms inside Hogwarts that will advance our engineering programs in this direction.
    .
    .
    FM reply: My answers…

    Physics: That’s easy. THere is not way to tell.

    Medicine: That’s easy. The government stops payments to payments for treatment of chronic conditions. The big drug companies, faced with bankruptcy, frantically work to discover cures.

    Engineering: That’s easy. Forbid engineering students to read science fiction. Tell them that instead they need to make science fiction into fact.

  4. More on endocrine disruptor: “Health, Hormonal, and Reproductive Effects of Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals in the Food Chain: Dioxins, PCBs, Other Organochlorine Chemicals,etc.- Summary of Health Effects, Incidence, Areas Affected, and Sources“, ed: Bernard Windham, Florida League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, no date.

    Pretty scary stuff, eh kids?
    .
    .
    FM reply: No, it’s not scary stuff. I checked the first footnote (“SCIENTIFIC FRONTIERS IN DEVELOPMENTAL TOXICOLOGY AND RISK ASSESSMENT“, National Academies of Science Press), and it says nothing like what he alleges it says. That’s not definitive, but not enough to encourage reading the rest.

  5. Re, Afghanistan

    President Obama as usual is trying to straddle a mythical middle ground by not sending all the troops requested and not withdrawing. His strategic rationale for staying was also lame (“disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan and to prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future.”) Why not intervene in Somalia, then?

    He missed a major opportunity last night to do the smart thing and be bold. He could have announced, a la Bill Lind, to an audience that would understand the terminology, that America is shifting to a Strategic Defensive and Tactical Offensive, and that we would reserve the right to strike Al Qaeda at any time or place of our choosing.
    .
    .
    FM reply: Agreed. I suspect he took the final step to destroying his political base. He’s toast. He’s a fool.

  6. Krugman knew what was coming all along, he just needed to play nice with everyone else in the spirit of “animal spirits” until the time was ripe to make the double-dip forecast.
    .
    .
    FM reply: That’s probably right, if a bit strongly expressed. He expressed his fears in February (aprox) that the simulus bill was too small, and that a second round might be politically difficult.

Leave a Reply