Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Origins of the AGW Hoax

Last December an online acquaintance in a discussion group on politics asked me, rather facetiously, if I thought the Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) agitation was a plot conceived by the head of R&D for the Italian Air Force. Of course, I didn't think any such thing then, nor do I now. But I did share some thoughts with the group on the general outlines of how I thought the current climate hoax started and gained such traction that even the massively embarrassing disclosures of the Hadley Centre emails have not entirely discredited it. Here (with only very minor edits) is what I wrote on December 27 - 

I would tend to the view that the origin of what is now an ongoing hoax was mere wish fulfillment of enemies of liberty when it began to take off back in the 1970s. This was the decade that saw the inauguration of Earth Day, the two big mideast oil shocks, and Nixon launching the EPA and the Federal Energy Agency. Systematic global measures of surface temperatures from satellites began to be acquired after 1967 for the ocean surface, and beginning in 1978 for atmospheric temperatures.  

If you will recall, the hot idea in climatology back then was the next turn towards ice age conditions.  Naturally, some, both within and outside that particular discipline, began to cast about for policy implications that could justify more government action. In one way or another, nearly all academics rely on government for much if not all their income - as employees or consultants to government regulatory agencies and research institutes, as employees of government funded colleges and universities, as recipients of government research grants, even as consultants to heavily-regulated big businesses.   So, both for the economic reasons just cited, and the general left political orientation of academics and bureaucrats, the obvious thing to look for was ways government could solve this great problem.  

Before the drumbeat could build to hysterical proportions, the evidence for any near term cooling failed to materialize and a renewal of the prior minor warming trend was discerned. Although the problem now shifted 180 degrees, the solution remained the same - more government regulation of businesses and consumers. This warming was a much better position from which to float all manner of policy initiatives. If warming was a problem caused by increased energy use that results from expanded economic activity, the clear solution was to throttle the economy, take more economic decision making out of the hands of business and consumers, and increase government control to ration whatever was left. This was the Marxist solution already on merely philosophical grounds, but Marxism claims to be scientific socialism and here was science fairly screaming about the need for more Marxist policies - a sort of perfect storm.  

A lot of academics began building their careers and reputation on this idea of impending catastrophic warming caused by human action. Many politicians and bureaucrats were quick to get on board for the justification it gave them to seize more power from the public; or, to be more charitable, to save the world and the people on it.  As the mechanism the science boffins proposed began to crumble under closer observation; and as the evidence for any significant warming trend itself faded, there was too much money and power at stake for anybody to willingly announce that the emperor's new clothes were a fraud. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

For Lovers of Film

Thank Heaven: A Memoir by Leslie Caron (2009)

Just a brief note in praise of a very entertaining story of the life of one of France's greatest actresses. Miss Caron pulls no punches, laying out her failures as well as her successes for all to see.

I only noticed one truly false note - in a mention of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, she cites the Andy Hardy movies as an example of their high energy together; but Judy Garland was only in a couple of those films and they weren't particularly energetic; I think Miss Caron would have made her point better by reference to their other films like Babes in Arms. But this is a single minor quibble out of a 270-page book.

For fans of Miss Caron and her films, this is a must. Those who merely want some insight into the pleasures and perils of Hollywood, may still find much of interest,

Friday, August 16, 2013

Collective Biography and Historical Vignettes

Two books for today's entry:

The King Whisperers: Power Behind the Throne, from Rasputin to Rove by Kerwin Swint (2011)

Swint's book is a bit of a mixed bag. Some persons he profiles are well-known (Cardinal Richelieu) and some obscure (Empress Theodora of Byzantium), some are quite far back in history (Haman from the Old Testament) and a few contemporary (James Carville). In all, more than 40 individuals are given brief profiles organized under ten chapter headings like "Kingmakers": and "Schemers." The one chapter that really seems out of place is the one devoted to "Spies."

For a book entitled The King Whisperers, the selection of personalities tilts to Americans rather unexpectedly. There is an entire chapter, "The Fixers," devoted solely to a half dozen US political consultants of the 20th century as well as an entry for "Big Jim" Farley under the heading of "Kingmakers." And, also an entry for Alexander Hamilton, described as "America's Founding Machiavellian."

There are four Romans, two Japanese, and a few Muslim figures profiled. The rest are Europeans from the renaissance to WW2. The absence of any mention of sub-Saharan Africa may be understandable, but mainland Asia gets only two entries (one each from India and Red China) and all of Latin America only one mention ("Che" Guevara). If you want an insight into the author's politics, read the generally laudatory and sympathetic portrayal of Guevara.

Not a great book, and largely drawing on secondary sources, but it is readable and suitable for taking in small doses of a dozen pages or so at a time. Political junkies may enjoy it.

Project President: Bad Hair and Botox on the Road to the White House by Ben Shapiro (2007)

Ben Shapiro has delivered a rather entertaining look at the history of American presidential elections viewed in an unconventional manner. Rather than discussing campaigns in terms of Eastern commercial interests vs. agricultural reions, free vs. slave states, tariffs, or other issues, Shapiro invites us to xamine such weighty matters as cowboy boots and facial hair.

Fans of American politics and history will likely find a few new tidbits to reward them for the slight effort of perusing  Project President.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A slightly muddled, but useful, view of terror

Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam by J.M. Berger (2011) is an interesting tale that explores the phenomenon of terrorist recruitment in the US. A few of the cases, most notably that of Anwar Awlaki, are known to even casual followers of the news, but the presence of an American citizen at the founding of Al Qaeda is one of the lesser known cases covered in Berger's book. Peshawar is a long way from Kansas City, but Mohammed Loay Bayazid, known to his colleagues in the Afghan War against the Soviets as Abu Rida Al Suri, made the journey and distinguished himself sufficiently in the fighting in Afghanistan to be an insider when Al Qaeda was funded in Pakistan in 1988.

Berger attempts a nuanced view of the phenomenon he is describing by drawing a line separating those who joined to fight a war in defense of fellow Muslims, whether in Afghanistan, Chechnya or Bosnia, from those who joined to participate in terrorist activities. However, Berger himself notes that, over the years, this distinction has tended to blur or even disappear. Where Berger is less nuanced, it seems to me, is in his casting a broad net that includes as American jihadists some with rather ambiguous ties to America. For example, the son of a Pakistani diplomat born in DC, but raised in Pakistan who only returns to the US to go to college is a very different case from that of someone born and raised in the US of American parents. More common are Somalis who may have come here as children who volunteered to go and fight in a homeland they barely remembered. Along the way, though, Berger cites some truly intriguing cases like Adam Gadahn, AKA Azzam the American, who was raised on a farm in California by a father of Jewish descent who had converted to Christianity and ran a halal goat meat business.

Berger has a blind spot when it comes to his last chapter on conclusions and recommendations. He falls too easily into the narrative that US foreign policy is responsible for terrorism directed at the US. As I have written elsewhere, this view takes a highly selective view of American foreign policy. It overlooks, for example, America's early support for Egypt before our skepticism about the wisdom of the Aswan Dam project created an opening for the Soviets; or our participation in NATO's war against Christian Serbia which benefitted Muslims in Bosnia and Albania. Moreover, Berger conveniently forgets some of the evidence he himself cites that many of these American jihadists have described their disgust with American popular culture and religious tolerance. Despite these shortcomings, this is still a very useful book.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Book Notes

Climategate: A Veteran Meteorologist Exposes the Global Warming Scam by Brian Sussman is a good introduction to the subject, presenting the scientific evidence which the Climate Change lobby tries to suppress in a not-too-technical way. Drawing on two decaddes as an award-winning TV meteorologist and science reporter and his subsequent career as a radio talk show host, Sussman presents the case put forward for anthropogenic global warming and points out flaws in the data and the logic, as well as the conspiracy of outright fraud unveiled in 2009 by the leak of emails from one of the leading centers of research in this field, the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anlia. The technical stuff like the limitations of global temperature monitoring by various methods, the composition of the atmosphere and the relative efficiency of thos components in trapping heat in the atmoshere are covered, as well as the coral, polar bears and other "evidence" cited by Al Gore and the other hystericl voices on the Left. The last third of the book veers into some more or less related topics like energy policy, the "Smart Grid" and sutainable deelopment and discusses how false science is used to promote a coordinated attack on liberty.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Independence Day!

Today marks the anniversary of the vote in Congress by which the colonies jointly asserted their status as independent states. Two days later Congress adopted a formal statement justifying that action - the Declaration of Independence. Here is how John Adams described the significance of July 2nd in a letter to his wife Abigail the next day:
"The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not."

Monday, July 01, 2013

Two Books: Threats from Religion or Terror

Strictly speaking, the two books I describe today are not about terror as a tactic or the so-called Global War on Terror (GWOT). Where they seem to me to intersect is in providing very different points of view on the subject from whence the terror threat to the West arises. Racing Toward Armageddon: The Three Great Religions and the Plot to End the World by Michael Baigent (2009) is about as strident and intemperate as the title suggests. I picked up a copy for a buck at our new Dollar Tree store recently as well as a scifi novel about nanotechnology, Leslie Caron’s autobiography, and a memoir about the 2009 Obama campaign. [Expect more on that last one in a subsequent post, but not too soon.] Conspiracy theorists will be disappointed that Baigent’s thesis doesn’t come close to living up to the promises of the sub-title. There is no plot by any of the three leading monotheist faiths and certainly no single plot uniting them – at least Baigent offers no evidence of any such plot. Rather, what Baigent describes are the apocalyptic visions of what he terms “fundamentalist” tendencies within each of three distinct religious traditions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam - and his conclusion that they are moving the world toward massive armed conflict. I do not claim to know nearly as much about Judaism and Islam, but I do know a bit about Christianity and here Baigent shows himself to be either ignorant or disingenuous on a few key points. Most strikingly, he lumps in with Tim LaHaye, and the nonsense peddled by LaHaye’s “Left Behind” fantasies, LaHaye’s most profound critics. Baigent also glosses over any distinction between signs of the end times and commands to believers. That is, not all signs of the end are things that believers are commanded to bring about. This is closely related to his failure to distinguish timing of events precedent to the end that are within the control of believers. For example, many Shia scholars teach that human actions can trigger the appearing of the Mahdi whereas most Christian commentators take seriously Jesus words that the timing of the end is entirely within the control of God. In his concluding chapter, Baigent offers what he seems to think is a way out, a way to avoid the coming catastrophe contemplated by the ascendant fundamentalists. What he offers, however, does not seem to me to be serious; but judge this for yourself: “Is it not time to accept that the Middle Eastern experiment with one God has failed, that it is leading us slowly but surely along a path to conflict and destruction?” Against this, he commends Sufi Islam, Jewish Kabbalah (and its Christian variant Cabala), as well as Catholic veneration of saints like Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross. So, not a book about terror, per se; but it does offer some insights into the nature of the religious and cultural milieu from which terror springs. Now we’ll turn to another of those books I picked up cheap from WND.com – United in Hate: The Left’s Romance with Tyranny and Terror (2009) by Jamie Glazov. Glazov leads his readers through nearly a hundred years of what, if the subject weren’t so serious, I would call tyrant tourism. Like the less strenuous eco-tourism, this is a leftist pastime that serves both to celebrate the tourist for his understanding of the problem and laud the object of his pilgrimage as a reproach to his own society. From praising Stalin amidst the starvation of the Kulaks and the Purge Trials through their adoration of Mao during his Great Leap Forward and Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, and on to the present, Glazov documents the parade of useful idiots, fellow travelers and party faithful who have journeyed far to see the beast close up and to praise it. This is an oft-told tale. What Glazov adds is that the enthusiasm for this sort of thing is in direct proportion to the brutality of the revolution on display at a given time and place. Glazov goes on to document how, as the steam ran out of the Soviet Union and the Chinese turned toward a sort of mixed economy, the opportunities for pilgrimages to communist regimes was limited and the internationalist Left turned more of its affections toward radical Muslim causes such as the Iranian revolution and the Palestinian struggle against Israel. Here, again, the bloodier the conflict, the more attractive to these tourists. I can’t do justice to Glazov’s arguments in a paragraph or two. Suffice it to say that he lays out a very persuasive case that communist and Islamist revolutions intersect at several points including murder and rape as matters of policy and their fans amount to participants in cults of violence. Highly recommended!