Saturday, September 07, 2013

But What Do We Mean By Consensus?

Guest essay by Christopher Monckton of Brenchley
Politicians pay for science, but scientists should not be politicians. Consensus is a political concept. Unwisely deployed, it can be damagingly anti-scientific. A reply to Naomi Oreskes (Nature, 4 September 2013).

Subject terms: Philosophy of science, consensus, climate change

The celebrated mathematician, astronomer and philosopher of science Abu Ali Ibn al-Haytham, or Alhazen, is justly celebrated as the founder of the scientific method. His image appears on Iraqi banknotes and on the postage stamps of half a dozen nations of the ummah wahida.

Al-Haytham, unlike Naomi Oreskes,[1] did not consider that consensus had any role in science. He wrote that “the seeker after truth” does not put his trust in any mere consensus, however venerable: instead, he submits what he has learned from it to reason and demonstration. Science is not a fashion statement, a political party or a belief system.

The objective of science, as of religion, is truth. Religion attains to the truth by accepting the Words of Messiahs or of Prophets and pondering these things in its heart[2]. Science attains to the truth by accepting no word as revealed and no hypothesis as tenable until it has been subjected to falsification by observation, measurement and the application of previously-established theory to the results.

The Royal Society’s dog-Latin motto, Nullius in verba, roughly translates as “We take no one’s word for it”. The Society says, “It is an expression of the determination of Fellows to withstand the domination of authority and to verify all statements by an appeal to facts determined by experiment.”[3] No room for consensus there.


T.H. Huxley, FRS, who defeated Bishop Wilberforce in the debate over evolution at the Oxford Museum of Natural History in 1860, put it this way: “The improver of natural knowledge absolutely refuses to acknowledge authority, as such. For him, scepticism is the highest of duties: blind faith the one unpardonable sin.”[4] Richard Feynman agreed: “Science,” he said, “is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”[5]

Karl Popper[6] formalized the scientific method as an iterative algorithm starting with a general problem. To address it, a scientist proposes a falsifiable hypothesis. During the error-elimination phase that follows, others demonstrate it, disprove it or, more often do neither, whereupon it gains some credibility not because a consensus of experts endorses it but because it has survived falsification. Head-counts, however expert the heads, play no part in science.

The post-modernist notion that science proceeds by the barnacle-like accretion of expert consensus on the hulk of a hypothesis is a conflation of two of the dozen sophistical fallacies excoriated by Aristotle[7] 2350 years ago as the commonest in human discourse. The medieval schoolmen later labelled them the fallacies of argument ad populum (consensus) and ad verecundiam (appeal to reputation).

Science has become a monopsony. Only one paying customer – the State – calls the tune, and expects its suppliers to sing from the same hymn-sheet. Governments, by definition and temperament interventionist, are disinclined to pay for inconvenient truths. They want results justifying further intervention, so they buy consensus.

The Hamelin problem is compounded by a little-regarded consequence of nearly all academics’ dependency upon the public treasury. Those whom the State feeds and houses will tend to support the interventionist faction, and may thus give a spurious legitimacy to a political consensus by parading it as scientific when it is not.

Too often what is really a political consensus will be loosely defined with care, allowing its adherents to pretend that widespread scientific endorsement of an uncontentious version implies support for a stronger but unsupported version.

Consider climate change. The uncontentious version of the climate consensus is that greenhouse gases cause warming. Oft-replicated experiment establishes that the quantum resonance that interaction with near-infrared radiation induces in a greenhouse-gas molecule, such as carbon dioxide, emits heat directly, as though a tiny radiator had been turned on. Thus, adding greenhouse gases to the air will cause some warming. Where – as here – the experimental result is undisputed because it is indisputable, there is no need to plead consensus.

The standard version of climate consensus, however, is stronger. It is that at least half the global warming since 1950 was anthropogenic.[8],[9] Supporters of the uncontentions version need not necessarily support this stronger version.

Though IPCC (2013) has arbitrarily elevated its level of confidence in the stronger version of consensus from 90% to 95%, Cook et al. (2013),[10] analyzing the abstracts of 11,944 papers on global climate change published between 1991 and 2012, marked only 64 abstracts as having explicitly endorsed it. Further examination[11] shows just 43 abstracts, or 0.3% of the sample, endorsing it.

No survey has tested endorsement of the still stronger catastrophist version that unless most CO2 emissions stop by 2050 there is a 10% probability[12],[13] that the world will end by 2100. The number of scientists endorsing this version of consensus may well be vanishingly different from zero.

The two key questions in the climate debate are how much warming we shall cause and whether mitigating it today would cost less than adapting to its net-adverse consequences the day after tomorrow. There is no consensus answer to the first. The consensus answer to the second may surprise.

Answering the “how-much-warming” question is difficult. Models overemphasize radiative transports, undervalue non-radiative transports such as evaporation and tropical afternoon convection, and largely neglect the powerfully homoeostatic effect of the great heat-sinks – ocean and space – that bound the atmosphere.

Absolute global temperatures have varied by only ±1% in 420,000 years[14]. Will thermometers be able to detect the consequences of our altering 1/3000 of the atmospheric mix by 2100?

Uncontroversially, direct radiative warming at CO2 doubling will be the product of the instantaneous or Planck parameter[15] 0.31 K W–1 m2 and the CO2 radiative forcing[16] 5.35 ln 2: i.e., ~1.2 K. Models near-triple this value by temperature feedback amplification. Yet no feedback can be measured directly or determined theoretically. Feedbacks may even be net-negative.[17],[18]

Another uncertainty is introduced by the amplification equation in the models, which was designed for electronic circuits, where it has a physical meaning. In the climate, as the singularity at a loop gain of 1 approaches, it has none. In a circuit, feedbacks driving voltage to the positive rail flick it to the negative rail as the loop gain exceeds 1. In the climate there is no such physical mechanism.

The chaoticity of the climate object is an additional, insuperable uncertainty.[19],[20] The IPCC admits this: “In climate research and modeling, we should recognize that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system and, therefore, that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible.”[21]

The atmosphere, like any object that behaves chaotically, is highly sensitive to initial conditions. The available data will always be inadequate to allow reliable prediction – especially by probability distribution in model ensembles – of the chaos-driven bifurcations that make climate climate.

Given these real uncertainties, the IPCC’s claim of 95% consensus as to the relative contributions of Man and Nature to the 0.7 K global warming since 1950 is surely hubris. Nemesis is already at hand. Empirically, the models are not doing well. The first IPCC Assessment Report predicted global warming at 0.2-0.5 Cº/decade by now. Yet the observed trend on the HadCRUt4 data[22] since 1990, at little more than 0.1 Cº/decade, is below the IPCC’s least estimate.

Taking the mean of all five global-temperature datasets, there has been no global warming for almost 13 years, even though CO2 concentration increases should have caused at least 0.2 Cº warming since December 2000.

Given the Earth’s failure to warm as predicted, and the absence of support for the IPCC’s version of the climate consensus, its 95% confidence in the anthropogenic fraction of the 0.7 Cº warming since 1950 seems aprioristic.
No global warming for 12 years 8 months. Data sources: GISS, HadCRUt4, NCDC, RSS and UAH.
So to the economic question. Posit ad argumentum that the IPCC’s central estimate of 2.8 Cº warming from 2000-2100 is true, and that Stern[23] was right to say the cost of failing to prevent 2-3 Cº warming this century is ~1.5% of GDP. Then, even at a zero inter-temporal discount rate, the cost of abating this decade’s predicted warming of 0.17 Cº[24] by CO2-mitigation schemes whose unit mitigation cost is equivalent to that of, say, Australia’s carbon tax will be 50 times the cost of later adaptation.

How so? Australia emits just 1.2%[25],[26] of global anthropogenic CO2. No more than 5% of Australia’s emissions can now be cut this decade, so no more than 0.06% of global emissions will be abated by 2020. Then CO2 concentration will fall from the now-predicted 410 μatm[27] to 409.988 μatm. In turn, predicted temperature will fall, but only by 0.00005 Cº, or 1/1000 of the minimum detectable global temperature change. This is mainstream, consensus IPCC climatology.

The cost of this minuscule abatement over ten years will be $162 billion[28], equivalent to $3.2 quadrillion/Cº. Abating just the worldwide mean warming of 0.17 Cº predicted for this decade would cost $540 trillion, or $77,000/head worldwide, or 80% of ten years’ global GDP[29]. No surprise, then, that in the economic literature the near-unanimous consensus is that mitigation will cost more than adaptation[30],[31]. The premium vastly exceeds the cost of the risk insured. The cost of immediate mitigation typically exceeds by 1-2 orders of magnitude that of eventual adaptation.[32]

Accordingly, Oreskes’ statement that “Political leaders who deny the human role in climate change should be compared with the hierarchy of the Catholic church, who dismissed Galileo’s arguments for heliocentrism for fear of their social implications” is not only scientifically inappropriate but historically inapt: for no political leaders “deny the human role in climate change”, though some may legitimately doubt its magnitude or significance; and none impose any such opinion upon their citizens.

It is the true-believers in the New Religion of Thermageddon who have demanded that their opponents be put on trial for “treason” (Robert Kennedy), and for “high crimes against humanity” (James Hansen, NASA)[33]. The penalties for treason and for crimes against humanity are not the house arrest to which Galilei was sentenced, but death. Insistence upon consensus has often bred the most brutal kind of intolerance.

The true lesson of l’affaire Galilei, then, is that the governing class, then the high priests of Rome, now the acquiescent archdruids of academe and their paymaster the State, should not intolerantly abuse their power, then of theology, now of monopsony reinforcing peer-pressure rebranded as consensus, by interfering in scientists’ freedom to be what al-Haytham had beautifully called them: seekers after truth.

Reposted from What's Up With That. You can read the whole thing - including comments, footnotes, and illustrations - over there.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Fight Fire With Fire - David Horowitz

Last week this very important speech was given by David Horowitz at the Americans for Prosperity - Defending the American Dream Summit in Orlando, Florida. I reprint the transcript here in its entirety. Bolds are mine, italics and the original post can be read at the link to Front Page at the bottom of this post.
I’m pleased to be here. I want to thank Tim Phillips for inviting me to this gathering, and the Koch brothers for organizing it. Most of you probably know that I grew up in a Communist family and had a misspent youth as a Marxist leader of the New Left in the 1960s. In later years, when I reflected on the damage our “revolution” had inflicted on our country, I would ask myself “Where was the ruling class? Why didn’t they defend the System from these modern day Luddites and America haters? Why didn’t they expel us from the schools we tried to shut down? Why did they give us platforms to advance our agendas? What were they thinking?”

As the years progressed, and the radicals first infiltrated and then took over the Democrat Party, I found myself asking, “Where is the ruling class? Why don’t they see the threat this radicalized party is posing to their interests and the country’s? Why isn’t the ruling class mobilizing its resources to oppose an assault that is threatening the free market system and the very foundations of our democracy?

And then, last year, I was invited to this event, and here you are. Except that I no longer believe there is a ruling class or that you are one. America is — as it has always been — a pluralistic society with competing centers of power. Moreover, as Jacob Laksin and I have shown in our book The New Leviathan the preponderance of political wealth is on the left, and has been put in the service of parties and causes that are anti-capitalist. As Jacob and I showed, progressive foundations engaged in political activities are more than 10 times wealthier than their conservative counterparts, and are able to deploy resources for political ends that are greater by far than even that.

Historically the movers of radical transformations have always been drawn from the ranks of the upper classes. The French Revolution was initiated by French aristocrats; Karl Marx was funded and promoted by a capitalist factory owner. And the Obama socialists who today threaten our way of life are swimming in wealth up to their eyeballs. The purpose of these observations is first to underscore how important you as creators of wealth are to the battle facing us; and second, how much catching up you have to do in order for us to prevail.

If the last five unhappy years have should have taught us anything it is these two things:

First, elections have consequences. The left’s last two electoral triumphs have already had a devastating impact on our nation and its future. America is now a great power in steep decline, a by-stander in world events, where once it shaped them. Our president is set on a course that actively encourages our enemies, weakens our friends and diminishes our military strength. At home his policies have impelled us towards national bankruptcy and constitutional disorder. And worse. Until the IRS and NSA scandals and Obamacare revealed the power that the Obama radicals are acquiring, I myself did not realize how close we were to the prospect of losing our democracy and actually becoming a totalitarian state. If you control all that information about individual lives and you have all that power over their finances and health, you can destroy any opposition and you do not need a secret police to enforce your will.

The second thing we have learned is something that everyone knows but no one wants to admit: well-designed character attacks can have a crucial impact on electoral outcomes; well-designed character attacks overpower well-crafted messages.

In the last election, Romney had a good message and an obvious one: Obama’s economic recovery has been a sorry failure; 23 million people still are jobless; many more are underemployed; if you want jobs and economic opportunities, support the job creators and innovators and deregulators.

But a critical majority of the voting public never heard Romney’s message. The reason? A $200 million smear campaign successfully portrayed him as a heartless job destroyer, a mouthpiece for the selfish rich, someone whose words you can’t trust.

What was the answer of Obama’s opponents to this killer attack? They didn’t have one. There was no $200 million campaign dedicated to destroying Obama’s credibility and undermining his message. Obama’s opponents didn’t have a message discrediting his character and neutralizing his attacks.

Would it have been difficult to do this? Obama is arguably the most brazen and compulsive liar ever to occupy the White House. He is an absentee executive — invisible at the budget negotiations in Washington and the withdrawal negotiations in Iraq, missing in crisis after crisis. While Egypt and Syria burns, he golfs. His endless dithering and misguided interventions in support of the Muslim Brotherhood have set the entire region aflame. Meanwhile, he and his wife carry on like French royalty, lavishing tens of millions of taxpayer funds on their family and dog while tens of millions of Americans suffer historic levels of deprivation because of the policies Obama put in place.

How is it possible that his opponents have not buried him under his own disasters? How did two successive presidential candidates, McCain and Romney characterize this selfish, malicious, leader — selling hope while delivering misery — as a “good man,” and someone who only lacked experience for the job? How about a moral conscience?
The answer is obvious to everyone but no one will say it out loud.

No one will confront Obama the way he deserves to be confronted because he is black. Actually he is half black, raised by whites and one Indonesian but no matter, since racist liberals have made the color of one’s skin decisive. It is because Obama is a minority that no one will hold him to a common standard; or confront him with what he has actually done. Any political consultant will tell you that you can’t. This is how race conscious and race-prejudiced our country has become.

This is why Republicans lose elections. Because what is true of Obama is true of the Democratic Party and the socialists generally. They present themselves as the party of minorities, whom they use as human shields whenever they are attacked, portraying their critics as indecent and racist. If we can’t hold Obama accountable, how can we hold any Democrat, any liberal or any socialist accountable? Because this is how they fight, and will do so until a counter-strategy is put in place.

My purpose in coming here today is to outline such a strategy, one that will take down the socialists at election time, and between election times, and defend the market-based democracy we all hold dear. Defend it when we are attacked as racist, insensitive and unfair. Which is how they will always attack us.

Their campaign narrative goes like this: We are the defenders of the underdog, and the champions of equality and fairness. If you attack us you attack minorities, women, children, and the poor. If you oppose us you are racists; you are the people who supported segregation and lynching. Kathleen Sebelius, Obama’s Secretary of Health Education and Welfare, has actually said this about opponents of Obamacare, glossing over the fact that segregation, like slavery, was a Democratic Party platform.

To begin to devise a counter-strategy, to expose their hypocrisy and impugn their character and neutralize their attacks, you have to ask yourself this question: How is it that Democrats liberals and socialists can pose as defenders of the poor?

Obama has created more poor people than all the presidents since World War II put together. Today, forty-seven million Americans are on food stamps and 100 million on government handouts. In Democrat monopolies like Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Washingon DC and a dozen other major urban blight areas, liberal socialists have damaged and destroyed the lives of more African Americans than all the Republicans since the creation of the Republic. Yet every four years – and in between – they are able to persuade voters that they are defenders of minorities and the poor.

How do they do it? Not by actually helping minorities and the poor, but by attacking the rich. They portray rich people as the enemies of minorities and the poor who refuse to pay their fare share. They demonize wealth. That is what allows them to pretend they are friends of the poor.

Conservatives often fail to appreciate the cynical basis of the  attacks on them. Conservatives are earnest – too earnest. They aim their messages at the head instead of the heart. They appeal to reason instead of the emotions. That’s why they lose. Democrat socialists don’t actually hate rich people or believe they are oppressors of the poor. In fact Democrat socialists want to be rich. In fact they are rich. Just ask George Soros, Jon Corzine, Nancy Pelosi, Rahm Emmanuel, Terry McAuliffe, Bill Clinton and the White House couple. They want to be filthy rich. As far as socialists are concerned rich people are ok — if they support the socialist agendas. It’s cynicism on steroids. It’s all about power. It’s a strategy to win. Attack the rich to show you are friends of the poor. And politically it works.

How can we who believe in individual rights and free markets fight this? How can we neutralize the slanders and show that we are the real defenders of minorities, the poor, the little guy, working Americans, the middle class? How can we turn the tables on them?

It’s not rocket science. You can counter their attacks by turning their guns around. You can neutralize them by fighting fire with fire.

In the real world, Democrat socialists have made the lives of poor Americans worse, much worse. You need to shove this fact in their faces every time you speak. Here is the reality: In every inner city of size in America, the selfish exploiters of the poor are liberals – what I am calling democrat socialists; they are the ones who fatten themselves off the votes of minorities and the poor while blocking their opportunities for a better life, and throwing them crumbs in return.

Detroit is a city democrat socialists have run as a political monopoly for 52 years.  For twenty of those Detroit’s Democrat mayor, Coleman Young, was also a member of the Communist Party.

In 1961 when their rule began, Detroit had the highest per capita income in the United States; Today, it is the poorest large city in all fifty states.

In 1960 Detroit was the fourth largest city in America with nearly 2 million inhabitants. Today two-thirds of Detroit’s population is gone. This human flight was the direct result of the government’s attacks on wealth and private companies, and on white people. It was a direct result of the rampant corruption among its political rulers and their draconian restrictions on what private individuals and entrepreneurs could do.
The city currently owes $14 billion in long-term debt, primarily driven by unfunded government union pension and retirement healthcare obligations.

Today Detroit’s median household income is $28,000 – slightly more than half  the median income of the state of Michigan or the United States.

Nearly half of Detroit’s population is either unemployed or no longer looking for work. Its poverty level is 36 percent or more than twice that of the state level.  Over a third of its inhabitants are on food stamps. Three out of every four of its children are born out of wedlock. A third of its school children don’t graduate and nearly half of those who do are functionally illiterate.

In one generation the democrat socialists reduced America’s number one industrial city to the level of a third world nation.

Did I mention that eighty-two percent of Detroit’s population is African American.
This is a social atrocity committed by liberals and democrat socialists against African Americans. If we spoke like they do, we would have no compunction about calling this the most appalling racist atrocity against African Americans since the passage of the Civil Rights Acts.

Now consider this: This historic assault on Detroit’s African American population was absent from all the speeches and all the political ads of all the actors supporting free market solutions in the 2012 elections. The word “Detroit” wasn’t mentioned.
This atrocity is not just being committed in Detroit. The government of every major inner city in America has been 100% controlled by democrat socialists for the last fifty years. Everything that is wrong with America’s inner cities that policy can affect liberals, Democrats and socialists are responsible for. They have their boot heels on the necks of poor black and Hispanic families. But we are all too polite to mention it.

Some Republicans have complained that Democrats win because they hand out goodies to minorities and the poor. Yes, they do. But the goodies they hand out are chump change compared to what they’ve destroyed for all Americans and especially for the poor. Would you rather live on food stamps and handouts or be able to pay for what you need and want? I don’t think there are many Americans who would have trouble making that choice.

So here’s the strategy, remembering that the best defense is a good offense: Attack the Democrat socialists for their wars against minorities and the poor. Expose their empty promises and question their character and undermine their message by portraying them as hypocrites who cannot be trusted. In attacking them as enemies of minorities and the poor we show that we care what happens to minorities and the poor. We put them on the defensive, and we neutralize their malicious and unfair attacks.

There is one more lesson to be learned from the last election: By well-placed attacks, we can change the story line of the national debate to our advantage.

Republicans planned to make the 2012 election about Obamacare, because there was a Republican landslide in 2010 around that issue. But two things happened on the way to the election that changed the subject. First, Romney picked Paul Ryan as his running mate so the details of Ryan’s plan to fix everything – including Medicare – became targets that were used to neutralize and divert the Republican attack.

Second, and far more importantly, a movement called Occupy Wall Street went on a rampage in American cities attacking the so-called 1% and the allegedly unfair distribution of wealth. Occupy Wall Street was a criminal mob supported by Obama and Pelosi, orchestrated and financed by the socialist government unions. Overnight, this changed the national debate from Obamacare to “fairness.” It cast anyone opposing more taxes and a selfish defender of the rich, and put Republicans on the defensive.

We don’t have the presidency, and we don’t have the union network or the national media to shift the debate to subjects that will give us that advantage. But we do have independent expenditure campaigns, and we do have the Tea Party grassroots to promote the message. And this is what the message should be:

They say we’re anti-woman because we don’t want to finance contraceptives for upper middle class academic women. Our answer to this attack should not be to argue about contraceptives, which will lose us a lot of single women votes. Our answer should be:

After 5 years of Obama rule there are 16 million women on food stamps. Two out of every five single mothers are on food stamps. Under Obamacare family health care costs are about to skyrocket. This is Obama’s war on women.

They say we’re anti-Hispanic. After 5 years of Obama rule, there 8 million Hispanics on food stamps, and 20 million Hispanics who are unemployed or no longer looking for work. This is Obama’s war on minorities.

They say we don’t care about blacks. Look at America’s inner cities. They are run by Democrats and socialists and have been for fifty years. This is their war on African Americans and the poor.

And so on. As I said, it’s not rocket science. It’s about turning the guns around. It’s about having the moral fiber to do so.

Finally, I don’t want to leave you with the idea that campaigns are won on negatives alone. The negatives I have proposed are designed to blunt the opposition attacks and put them on the defensive. But people need hope, and are looking for change. These are basic elements of any campaign message. In crafting the message the positive elements should be designed so that they also dramatize the negative: how the opposition hurts minorities, working Americans and the poor. In opposing parties that oppress these underdog classes we demonstrate that we care about what happens to them. It’s a simple equation. But our side doesn’t get it yet.

Here’s one example of how it could be done:

Let’s take the education dollar that taxpayers now give to the bureaucrats who don’t care about their children, and give it back to the taxpayers. Let’s voucherize all the school systems in the country from kindergarten to college. Conservatives are always talking about abolishing the Department of Education. This is not the way to go about it. Voters will be told that conservatives are against education.

Instead of calling for the abolition of the Department of Education call for a fundamental change in its mission. Take its $50 billion or so budget and require that the money be spent on a voucher program for all Americans – from kindergarten through college. Let’s put the education dollars in the hands of every poor and middle class person in America. And let’s launch this effort with a $100 million TV ad campaign to tell Americans how the liberal socialists in every major urban school system have destroyed the lives of poor, mainly black and Hispanic children, who can’t afford the private schools that liberal legislators send their own kids to.

Let’s put hope in the hands of people who can’t afford to send their kids to schools that will teach them. Let’s change the way the educational economy works, so that individuals are empowered – not government – so that competition is restored and standards are raised. Let’s take the second biggest part of the government economy and return it to the people. Let’s create a model of the kind of society we want — a free market society, a society based on individual achievement, not government defined collectives.

This is just one possible campaign. Even if this particular campaign doesn’t win the first or second time around it will eventually change the perceptions of everyone in politics. We will no longer be seen as the defenders of the rich; we will be seen as the defenders of minorities and the poor; and our opponents will be seen as their oppressors. If campaigns like this are conducted in the right way they will change not only the way conservatives frame their message; they will change the political landscape of the country and the prospects for our nation’s future.

Fight Fire With Fire | FrontPage Magazine


You're about to be lied to when they say

a hand up
a new study shows
a poll by the highly respected
a positive step
are speaking out
at-risk communities
best practices
broader implications
climate change
commonsense solutions
comprehensive reform
cycle of poverty
cycle of violence
demand action
disparate impact
diverse backgrounds
economically disadvantaged
emerging consensus
experts agree
fair share
fiscal stimulus
fully funded
give back
giving voice to
greater diversity
growing support for
gun violence
have issues
high capacity magazine
history shows
impacted by
in denial
inclusive environment
investing in our future
linked to
making a difference
making bad choices
marriage equality
mean spirited
most vulnerable
mounting opposition to
non-partisan, non-profit
not value neutral
off our streets
on some level
oppressed minorities
our nation's children
people of color (sometimes, colour)
poised to
poor and minorities
positive outcome
public/private partnership
raising awareness
reaching out
reaffirm our commitment to
redouble our efforts
root cause
sends a message
shared values
social justice
solidarity with
speaking truth to power
statistics show
sustainable, sustainability
the American People
the bigger issue is
the failed ...
the larger question is
the more important question is
the reality is
the struggle for
too many
too often
touched by
underserved populations
undocumented immigrant
vibrant community
voicing concern
war on ...
working families

From The Woodpile Report

Monday, July 29, 2013

Don Lemon Takes A Stand

I have not been a fan of Don Lemon, but he is making a lot of sense here, speaking out for some improvement in the lot of his people. Making an awful lot of sense, sounding like a lot of Zero Base Thinkers everywhere. Watch:

And here is Don Lemon a couple of days later, with a couple of other guests, claiming for himself a nomination for the "Uncle Tom Award." Actually, as one who has actually read "Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Harriet Beecher Stowe, I believe that Uncle Tom is a stoic character, one who stands up for the other slaves the best he can. I never thought that the black community had Uncle Tom right, but Don Lemon seems to get it. I may just become a fan of his yet.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

A Thought on the Zimmerman Trial

I have been following the trial of George Zimmerman. I find the prosecution's case to be troubling. They are focusing really hard on the extent of Zimmerman's injuries, when they know that the defense will be making the case of his state of mind at the moment of the terminal fight. He needs to show that he felt that he was in great danger in order to succeed in proving self defense. The prosecution is also making a point of putting forth his law enforcement studies and training.

Implicit in the attempt by the prosecution to frame Zimmerman as "a wannabe cop" is the idea that LE has more leeway to shoot citizens than civilians do. It seems to me that they do not. The big difference is that when a law enforcement officer shoots his weapon, his actions are reviewed and judged by other police. They are qualified to make these judgements. What a civilian shoots his weapon his actions are judged by a political prosecutor and then by a jury of citizens who are entirely unfamiliar with the circumstances of a fight, and exactly how fast things happen in the real world of a dark rainy alley in the middle of the night.

Apparently this jury is about to be asked to judge Zimmerman's state of mind and his subjective feeling about the degree of danger he was in by studying the severity of the resulting injuries he received. It is amazing to me that such testimony is even allowed in. How can the severity of resulting injuries be relevant to Zimmerman's state of mind? What if he had been shot at and the bullet missed? The only thing that is relevant is what he thought was about to happen, not the end result. It is incumbent upon the judge to instruct the jury of this in her charge to them before they begin to deliberate, but it surprises me that she is allowing the prosecution to put these thoughts into the juror's minds in the first place.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Mitch McConnell at AEI

Mitch McConnell may not be the most inspired orator, but he sure nails the Obama administration in this speech, given at the American Enterprise Institute yesterday. This is the most powerful republican in the country today, calling out the democrat president for his administration's pattern of un-American and perhaps illegal behavior. McConnell not only smashes the tactics of the left but he also charts an action plan, and gives at least this independent voter another reason to vote GOP in these dark times. The democrats have no interest in freedom of speech anymore, and their respect for individual rights (except for designated victim groups) and the rule of law is absent as well.

We need to hear from more public servants who are able to say the words that McConnell says here. Unfortunately, there are no democrats left alive who can. As McConnell shows, their main tactic is to intimidate, shut up, and demonize their opponents.

The speech, embedded below runs 25 minutes.

The entire speech, including Q & A, almost an hour, is here.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Louie Gohmert at his Rhetorical Best

Here's a half hour of Rep. Louie Gohmert (Republican of Texas) speaking from the heart about what is wrong with the left/right divide in congress, and why it is so hard to make any progress passing meaningful legislation. Ostensibly he was speaking to the failure of the farm bill vote, but that is merely the substrate for the rhetorical edifice he builds.

Louie is not my favorite congressman, but he is my wife's, she knows him, and that is why I listened to this clip. It turns out that what one can glean about him from news reports is nowhere to be found when you listen to the man himself.

Take a half hour to listen to him. Have Kleenex at hand.

Elbert Guillory Sees the Light

Louisiana State Senator Elbert Guillory (R-Opelousas) eloquently explains why he recently switched from the Democrat Party to the Republican Party. He discusses the history of the Republican Party, founded as an Abolitionist Movement in 1854. Guillory talks about how the welfare state is only a mechanism for politicians to control the black community.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Rap It - Tap it

Rap music for the Surveillance State. I wish I found this to be as funny as some others have.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Push Button Tyranny

The bulk of the public debate on the Edward Snowden revelations is missing the point. We hear and read about the use of the Prism system in the hunt for Islamist terrorists, but we hear precious little of what a failure it has been in that application. We hear that it can only be used by authorization from the secret FISA court, but the court has only ruled on the collection of the data, not on the method used to make sense of it.

Snowden has not warned us about what has already been done with this appliance. It is all about what its abilities are, what it can be used to do - in the words of Snowdon, "Turnkey tyranny."

Snowden has revealed that our government is building a machine, a system that will make profiling any single one of us a trivial task. This is not about bugging every single one of us. This is about the government acquiring and retaining far more data on us that that. Simple conversations would tell something about us, but a data profile that shows where we have been, who we communicated with and how much money we have spent tell a far more detailed story about us than hundreds of hours of conversation might.

 Defenders of the status quo are on all sides of the political spectrum, from social conservatives and neo-cons to populists to members of the hard and institutional left. The only way that any American can support the creation and continued existence of such a system is by pretending that we can trust the executive. This, after all, something that comes strictly out of the executive branch. It was never authorized by specific legislation, never discussed in an open congressional committee meeting, no court has ruled on its constitutionality.

It seems to me that if we wish to have a debate on this, we should at least listen to Edward Snowden himself. He makes his own case pretty well, and to argue this on any side one at least should take a few minutes to hear him out.

Friday, June 07, 2013

USA Spying on ALL Citizens

I have heard and read the various official and unofficial apologies and explanations for the recently confirmed spying on electronic communications activities by our government. What surprises me is how sanguine are most accounts. It is as if a simple explanation and declaration that it is all about keeping us safe from our enemies is all that is required.

Now, many of us have believed for years that this sort of stuff has been going on, that government will do whatever it can to keep tabs on and to control its citizens, but the recent revelations have confirmed that belief, and fleshed the program out. Apparently Orwell shortchanged the breathtaking chutzpah of our minders in "1984," plus he failed to foresee the technologies that would be brought to bear.

What we know:
The government's intelligence agencies have, for some time, been collecting intelligence on each and every one of us. They have every phone call you have made, the content of all emails, and your browsing history. They even collect your credit card transactions. While we have been assured that this is all about terrorism, the facts are that they have the ability to assemble a pretty detailed dossier on each American. Consider the algorithms available to marketing companies, and figure that the government will have none of that squeamishness about anonymizing and aggregating the data. They have:

Telephone calls and location of phone when made.
Internet surfing activity
Content of all email communications
Social network interactions
Credit card transactions

A detailed dossier on each person, including who you know, what you do, and, perhaps most importantly, how you feel about THEM. They not only have a general profile on you, they have the ability to search your whereabouts at any point in time. James Clapper, director of DNI, claims that they restrain themselves from abusing this power.

All this without a warrant, any suspicion whatsoever, or any evidence of any kind that you were doing anything wrong. They collect everything on everyone. All they need to see the most detailed analysis of your life and activities, in this new redefinition of the government's power over us, is a bit of curiosity about you. Maybe you wrote a nasty email or blog post that some anonymous government employee took notice of, or you surfed over to a government website to look something up. (they have admitted that they place cookies on the computers of all visitors)

You must realize that the effort required to do the looking is trivial. The cost is in the collection and storage of the data. That cost is borne by the black budgets and appropriations already made for our protection.

But, is this for our protection, or theirs? Do we have any protection from them? Any 4th or 5th amendment protections at all? Or do we just have to trust that presidents like Bush and Obama will be all the protection from the government we need?

Today, in a news conference, president Obama said: 
If people can’t trust not only the executive branch but also don’t trust Congress, and don’t trust federal judges, to make sure that we’re abiding by the Constitution with due process and rule of law, then we’re going to have some problems here.

-Update 2-

Two whistleblowers in amazing interview on Fox News today.
“Aggregated metadata can be more revealing than content. It’s very important to realize that when an entity collects information about you that includes locations, bank transactions, credit card transactions, travel plans, EZPass on and off tollways; all of that that can be time-lined. To track you day to day to the point where people can get insight into your intentions and what you’re going to do next. It is difficult to get that from content unless you exploit every piece, and even then a lot of content is worthless,”

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Muslims Must Reject Islam

Pat Condell's latest. This time he makes even more sense than usual.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Bully, Badger, and Berate American Success

I may be less than a committed fan of senator Rand Paul, but he has this one issue exactly right. Here we have a body of senators who have created a monster of a tax code, and today they order before them one of America's best success stories, Apple Corp., for the crime of following those very same laws passed by this congress. This type of charade is, or at least it has been. standard operating procedure for the US government. But today, at least one senator, Rand Paul, calls them out on it. This video makes for four minutes well spent.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Landing on the Moon

I just experienced what may well be the best eighteen minutes you could spend online. This website puts you in the cockpit of Apollo 11, from lunar orbit to landing. All the telemetry has been duplicated, and you can see and hear most everything.

As a youngster, the thrill of the landing was experienced by me (and the rest of the world) with merely the voices of Walter Cronkite and Mission Control along with some really crummy graphics on a black and white TV. This presentation is as close as you can get to actually being there with Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong.

This is some great stuff, if you like this sort of stuff in the first place. As I do. If all you want to do is waste your time, this is the place to go. If you wish to spend some quality time with Neil Armstrong landing on the moon, go here.

 HT: Watts Up With That

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Is Thinking Obsolete?

Thomas Sowell is one of the finest philosophers alive today. I never miss one of his writings - own all his books, read all his columns. He is a member of the smallest and most reviled of minorities in America today - black conservatives. His column (up today) is here. I agree with him wholeheartedly.

I attended one of the finest (I believe THE finest) public high schools in the country and excelled on the debate team. One of the things that make organized debate a great preparation for organizing one's thoughts is that, after preparation, the teams are assigned sides. I found that the very best teams (my team won at state level almost every year) did better when they took the unpopular side. I am certain that I did better when I had to defend a side that I absolutely abhorred - won the state championship on the side of Hitler, and as a Jew that was a bit of a surprise. After that I attended three different universities.

This all happened in the 60s, and I can say with no doubt that the level of critical thinking at those 3 centers of "higher" learning was nowhere near what I saw in Stuyvesant. Groupthink has permeated our society, and I must agree, one more time, with Tom Sowell. Thinking has gone out of style. What we have now is tribalism, or what I call the baseball style of debate, as in, my team is better than your team, whatever your team does sucks and whatever mine does is the pinnacle of achievement. Assertion has won out over argument. I wonder if anything can be done about it.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Turnabout is Fair Play

I am always amused when we see the tools of the statist left turned against them. While this is a rare occurrence, it appears that the freedom loving right has learned to use some of the same tools. We can see this happening today.

Not so long age we saw the coverage of the horrific shooting in a school in Newtown Connecticut. In true Alinsky style the entire democrat elite went wide and loud with their effort to use the tragedy for their partisan political purposes, hoping to enact yet another part of their agenda - more onerous controls on firearm sales. When freedom loving Americans protested that the laws being proposed would have done nothing to stop the massacre, they cackled and wailed, calling names, pretending that the polls were on their side, lying about everything they could, and showing their complete ignorance of the rest of the issues they wished to control.

This was an emotional appeal, devoid of logic or fact. Not so long ago the right would have eschewed using such tactics themselves and fallen to the attack, or "compromised" (the fashionable term used by elite republicans when they fail to uphold their oath to preserve, protect, and defend constitutional rights.)

Today we are all still shocked that the Boston Marathon was bombed, and coincidentally congress is just about to take up an immigration "reform" package. The right is using that shock to say we need to slow the passage of a reform package down, we need to take our time before we produce more bombings through our immigration law changes. Lefties are out on the hustings crying like raped apes over this, using much the same language they had just used (to no avail) in the gun control debate.

The fact is, immigration has more to do with the Boston bombing than Newtown had to do with gun control. While no law was seriously proposed that might have deterred the Newtown shooter. the marathon bombers were immigrants. They were allowed, indeed welcomed into this country under political asylum provisions. But our asylum laws allowed these refugees to travel back and forth to the very place from which they had fled. Some members of that family even moved back there permanently. Our borders are porous, such that more terrorists can freely come into this country, yet the reform being proposed would, if anything, make it easier for unknown foreign citizens to take up permanent residence here, and asylum law reform is not even on the table.

When members of congress and the commentariat make pleas to go slow and consider these things the democrats cry foul, and deny our right to use the emotion of the bombing to sway the debate. I find it all very amusing. Political types tend to believe in the power of legislation to do most everything. They fail to realize that there are powers that are beyond their control, that laws only affect the already law abiding. Evil people will act in evil ways, and denying them their preferred tools will only make them switch to other tools, or other means of acquiring them.

Congress can no more control what lies in the hearts of men than they can legislate the weather, but it is futile to tell them that. Control over the lives of others is their raison d'etre.The only way to interfere with their penchant for control is using political tactics. Saul Alinsky codified some effective political tactics into thirteen rules, and Andrew Breitbart was the first prominent member of the right side of American politics to get traction in calling for members of the freedom loving right to use those tactics, especially rules 4, 5, 8, 11, and especially 13, his favorite.

So far it appears to be working for the immigration issue It may be that the rush to mint twelve million fresh new democrat voters may be stalled because of use of the crisis, in true democrat and Alinsky style, to sway the political zeitgeist. As a hero of the political left was fond of saying, (although Chairman Mao stole the quote from Lao-tzu) "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

From heaven, Andrew is looking down at this, and smiling.
The rules
  1. “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have."
  2. “Never go outside the expertise of your people.”
  3. “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.”
  4. “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”
  5. “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”
  6. “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”
  7. “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.”
  8. “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.”
  9. “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.”
  10. "The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition."
  11. “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.”
  12. “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.”
  13. “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Why the Boston Bombers Succeeded

Why the Boston Bombers Succeeded

April 23, 2013
By Scott Stewart
Vice President of Analysis, Stratfor

When seeking to place an attack like the April 15 Boston Marathon bombing into context, it is helpful to classify the actors responsible, if possible. Such a classification can help us understand how an attack fits into the analytical narrative of what is happening and what is likely to come. These classifications will consider factors such as ideology, state sponsorship and perhaps most important, the kind of operative involved.

In a case where we are dealing with an apparent jihadist operative, before we can classify him or her we must first have a clear taxonomy of the jihadist movement. At Stratfor, we generally consider the jihadist movement to be divided into three basic elements: the al Qaeda core organization, the regional jihadist franchises, such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and grassroots operatives who are radicalized, inspired and perhaps equipped by the other two tiers but who are not members of either.

Within the three-tier jihadist movement there exist two distinct types of operatives. One of these is the professional terrorist operative, a person who is a member of the al Qaeda core or of one of the regional franchises. These individuals swear loyalty to the leader and then follow orders from the organization's hierarchy. Second, there are amateur operatives who never join a group and whose actions are not guided by the specific orders of a hierarchical group. They follow a bottom-up or grassroots organizational model rather than a hierarchical or top-down approach.

There is a great deal of variety among professional terrorists, especially if we break them down according to the functions they perform within an organization, roles including that of planners, finance and logistics specialists, couriers, surveillance operatives, bombmakers, et cetera. There is also a great deal of variety within the ranks of grassroots operatives, although it is broken down more by their interaction with formal groups rather than their function. At one end of the grassroots spectrum are the lone wolf operatives, or phantom cells. These are individuals or small groups that become radicalized by jihadist ideology but that do not have any contact with the organization. In theory, the lone wolf/phantom cell model is very secure from an operational security standpoint, but as we've discussed, it takes a very disciplined and driven individual to be a true lone wolf or phantom cell leader, and consequently, we see very few of them.

At the other end of the grassroots spectrum are individuals who have had close interaction with a jihadist group but who never actually joined the organization. Many of them have even attended militant training camps, but they didn't become part of the hierarchical group to the point of swearing an oath of allegiance to the group's leaders and taking orders from the organization. They are not funded and directed by the group.

Indeed, al Qaeda trained tens of thousands of men in its training camps in Afghanistan, Sudan and Pakistan but very few of the men they trained actually ended up joining al Qaeda. Most of the men the group instructed received basic military training in things like using small arms, hand-to-hand combat and basic fire and maneuver. Only the very best from those basic combat training courses were selected to receive advanced training in terrorist tradecraft techniques, such as bombmaking, surveillance, clandestine communications and document forgery. But even of the students who received advanced training in terrorist tradecraft, only a few were ever invited to join the al Qaeda core, which remained a relatively small vanguard organization.

Many of the men who received basic training traveled to fight jihad in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Chechnya or returned home to join insurgent or militant groups. Others would eventually end up joining al Qaeda franchise groups in places like Yemen, Iraq, Libya and Algeria. Still others received some basic training but then returned home and never really put their new skills into practice.

Most grassroots jihadists fall along a continuum that stretches between the lone wolf and someone who received advanced terrorist training but never joined al Qaeda or another formal militant group.

Whether the two men suspected of carrying out the April 15 Boston Marathon attack knowingly followed al Qaeda's blueprint for simple attacks by grassroots actors, their actions were fairly consistent with what we have come to expect from such operatives. Certainly based upon what we have seen of this case so far, the Tsarnaev brothers did not appear to possess sophisticated terrorist tradecraft.

For example, regarding the bombs employed in the attack and during the police chase, everything we have seen still points to very simple devices, such as pipe bombs and pressure cooker devices. From a bombmaking tradecraft standpoint, we have yet to see anything that could not be fabricated by reading Inspire magazine, spending a little bit of time on YouTube and conducting some experimentation. As a comparison, consider the far larger and more complex improvised explosive device Anders Behring Breivik, the Oslo bomber, constructed. We know from Breivik's detailed journal that he was a self-taught bombmaker using directions he obtained on the Internet. He was also a lone wolf. And yet he was able to construct a very large improvised explosive device.
 Also, although the Tsarnaev brothers did not hold up a convenience store as initially reported, they did conduct an express kidnapping that caused them to have extended contact with their victim while they visited automatic teller machines. They told the victim that they were the bombers and then allowed the victim to live. Such behavior is hardly typical of professional terrorist operatives.

Grassroots Theory

As it has become more difficult for professional terrorists to travel to the United States and the West in general, it has become more difficult for jihadist organizations to conduct attacks in these places. Indeed, this difficulty prompted groups like al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to attempt to attack the United States by dispatching an operative with an underwear bomb and to use printer cartridge bombs to attack cargo aircraft. In response to this difficulty, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula began to adopt the grassroots into their operational doctrine. They first began promoting this approach in 2009 in their Arabic-language magazine Sada al-Malahim. The al Qaeda core organization embraced this approach in May 2010 in an English-language video featuring Adam Gadahn.

In July 2010, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula launched an English-language magazine called Inspire dedicated to radicalizing and equipping grassroots jihadists. Despite the losses that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has experienced on the battlefield, it has continued to devote a great deal of its limited resources toward propagating this concept. It has continued to publish Inspire even after the magazine's founder and editor, Samir Khan, was killed in an American missile strike in Yemen.

The grassroots strategy was perhaps most clearly articulated in the third edition of Inspire magazine, which was published in November 2010 following the failed October 29, 2010, printer bomb operation. In a letter from the editor in which Khan explained what he referred to as "Operation Hemorrhage," he wrote:
"However, to bring down America we do not need to strike big. In such an environment of security phobia that is sweeping America, it is more feasible to stage smaller attacks that involve fewer players and less time to launch and thus we may circumvent the security barriers America has worked so hard to erect. This strategy of attacking the enemy with smaller, but more frequent operations is what some may refer to the strategy of a thousand cuts. The aim is to bleed the enemy to death."
In Adam Gadahn's May 2010 message entitled "A Call to Arms," Gadahn counsels lone wolf jihadists to follow a three-pronged target selection process. They should choose a target with which they are well acquainted, a target that is feasible to hit and a target that, when struck, will have a major impact. The Tsarnaev brothers did all three in Boston.


Yet despite this clearly articulated theory, it has proved very difficult for jihadist ideologues to convince grassroots operatives to conduct simple attacks using readily available items like in the "build a bomb in the kitchen of your mom" approach, which they have advocated for so long.

This is because most grassroots jihadists have sought to conduct huge, spectacular attacks -- attacks that are outside of their capabilities. This has meant that they have had to search for help to conduct their plans. And that search for help has resulted in their arrest, just as Adam Gadahn warned they would be in his May 2010 message.
There were many plots disrupted in 2012 in which grassroots operatives tried to act beyond their capabilities. These include:
  • On Nov. 29, 2012, two brothers from Florida, Raees Alam Qazi and Sheheryar Alam Qazi, were arrested and charged with plotting attacks in New York.
  • On Oct. 17, 2012, Bangladeshi national Quazi Nafis was arrested as part of an FBI sting operation after he attempted to detonate a vehicle bomb outside New York's Federal Reserve Bank.
  • On Sept. 15, 2012, Adel Daoud was arrested after he parked a Jeep Cherokee outside a Chicago bar and attempted to detonate the bomb he thought it contained. This was also an FBI sting operation.
But the carnage and terrorist theater caused by the Boston attack have shown how following the simple attack model can be highly effective. This will certainly be pointed out in future editions of Inspire magazine, and grassroots operatives will be urged to follow the model established by the Tsarnaev brothers. Unlike operatives like Faisal Shahzad who attempted to go big themselves and failed, the brothers followed the blueprint for a simple attack and the model worked.

It is quite possible that the success of the Boston bombing will help jihadist ideologues finally convince grassroots operatives to get past their grandiose plans and begin to follow the simple attack model in earnest. If this happens, it will obviously have a big impact on law enforcement and intelligence officials who have developed very effective programs of identifying grassroots operatives and drawing them into sting operations. They will now have to adjust their operations.

While these grassroots actors do not have the capability of professional terrorist operatives and do not pose as severe a threat, they pose a much broader, amorphous threat. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies generally do not deal well with ambiguity.

There are simply too many soft targets to protect and some of these simple attacks will inevitably succeed. This means that this low-level broad threat will persist and perhaps even intensify in the immediate future.

As we've previously discussed, the best defense against the grassroots threat are grassroots defenders. These include the police and alert citizens who report suspicious activity -- like people testing bomb designs -- a frequent occurrence before actual bomb attacks. The slogan "If you see something, say something," has been mocked as overly simplistic, but it is nonetheless a necessity in an environment where the broad, ambiguous threat of grassroots terrorism far outstrips the ability of the authorities to see everything. Taking a proactive approach to personal and collective security also beats the alternative of living in terror and apprehensively waiting for the next simple attack.

It is also very important for people to maintain the proper perspective on terrorism. Like car crashes and cancer and natural disasters, terrorism is part of the human condition. People should take prudent, measured actions to prepare for such contingencies and avoid becoming victims (vicarious or otherwise). It is the resilience of the population and its perseverance that will ultimately determine how much a terrorist attack is allowed to terrorize. By separating terror from terrorism, citizens can deny the practitioners of terror the ability to magnify their reach and power.

Why the Boston Bombers Succeeded is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Monday, April 08, 2013

CA Tries Law to Force Insurance to Cover Homosexual 'Infertility'

In California even biology must take a back seat to political correctness. AB 460 would retain its current standard for infertility: either a “demonstrated condition” causing infertility or a year of sex without conception, including non-heterosexual vaginal intercourse.

No wonder California is going bankrupt. In the Land of Fruits and Nuts, even biology must take a back seat to lefty political insanity now.

Bretbart has the story

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Five Chistian children killed in Egypt

We don't always realize how great we have it here. We go nuts when a child is suspended for doing something like eating a Pop-Tart into the shape of something that some idiot believes to be somewhat similar to the outline of a gun, But yesterday in Cairo, 5 Christian children were killed in the street for drawing something similar to a cross.


Five die in Christian-Muslim clashes in Egypt | Reuters

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Defense contractor finds method for cheap, clean water

Defense contractor finds method for cheap, clean water

So the last commodity that was in world wide shortage may not be a problem after all.  Lockheed Martin's use of Graphene technology has apparently made unlimited fresh water available to all the peoples of the world within range of salt water. Now the only thing we need to address is the willful enslavement of the world's poor by artificial fuel exploitation policy by the anti-science "green" movement.
(Reuters) - A defense contractor better known for building jet fighters and lethal missiles says it has found a way to slash the amount of energy needed to remove salt from seawater, potentially making it vastly cheaper to produce clean water at a time when scarcity has become a global security issue.

The process, officials and engineers at Lockheed Martin Corp say, would enable filter manufacturers to produce thin carbon membranes with regular holes about a nanometer in size that are large enough to allow water to pass through but small enough to block the molecules of salt in seawater. A nanometer is a billionth of a meter.

Because the sheets of pure carbon known as graphene are so thin - just one atom in thickness - it takes much less energy to push the seawater through the filter with the force required to separate the salt from the water, they said.

The development could spare underdeveloped countries from having to build exotic, expensive pumping stations needed in plants that use a desalination process called reverse osmosis.

"It's 500 times thinner than the best filter on the market today and a thousand times stronger," said John Stetson, the engineer who has been working on the idea. "The energy that's required and the pressure that's required to filter salt is approximately 100 times less."
Kudos to Lockheed Martin. Graphene promises to revolutionize technology in other ways as well, and it is now that we are now seeing some of that promise fulfilled.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Hellfire, Morality and Strategy

Hellfire, Morality and Strategy

Guest Post by George Friedman, Founder and Chairman of Stratfor

Airstrikes by unmanned aerial vehicles have become a matter of serious dispute lately. The controversy focuses on the United States, which has the biggest fleet of these weapons and which employs them more frequently than any other country. On one side of this dispute are those who regard them simply as another weapon of war whose virtue is the precision with which they strike targets. On the other side are those who argue that in general, unmanned aerial vehicles are used to kill specific individuals, frequently civilians, thus denying the targeted individuals their basic right to some form of legal due process.

Let's begin with the weapons systems, the MQ-1 Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper. The media call them drones, but they are actually remotely piloted aircraft. Rather than being in the cockpit, the pilot is at a ground station, receiving flight data and visual images from the aircraft and sending command signals back to it via a satellite data link. Numerous advanced systems and technologies work together to make this possible, but it is important to remember that most of these technologies have been around in some form for decades, and the U.S. government first integrated them in the 1990s. The Predator carries two Hellfire missiles -- precision-guided munitions that, once locked onto the target by the pilot, guide themselves to the target with a high likelihood of striking it. The larger Reaper carries an even larger payload of ordnance -- up to 14 Hellfire missiles or four Hellfire missiles and two 500-pound bombs. Most airstrikes from these aircraft use Hellfire missiles, which cause less collateral damage.

Unlike a manned aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles can remain in the air for an extended period of time -- an important capability for engaging targets that may only present a very narrow target window. This ability to loiter, and then strike quickly when a target presents itself, is what has made these weapons systems preferable to fixed wing aircraft and cruise missiles.

The Argument Against Airstrikes

What makes unmanned aerial vehicle strikes controversial is that they are used to deliberately target specific individuals -- in other words, people who are known or suspected, frequently by name, of being actively hostile to the United States or allied governments. This distinguishes unmanned aerial vehicles from most weapons that have been used since the age of explosives began. The modern battlefield -- and the ancient as well -- has been marked by anonymity. The enemy was not a distinct individual but an army, and the killing of soldiers in an enemy army did not carry with it any sense of personal culpability. In general, no individual soldier was selected for special attention, and his death was not an act of punishment. He was killed because of his membership in an army and not because of any specific action he might have carried out.

Another facet of the controversy is that it is often not clear whether the individuals targeted by these weapons are members of an enemy force. U.S. military or intelligence services reach that conclusion about a target based on intelligence that convinces them of the individual's membership in a hostile group.

There are those who object to all war and all killing; we are not addressing those issues here. We are addressing the arguments of those who object to this particular sort of killing. The reasoning is that when you are targeting a particular individual based on his relationships, you are introducing the idea of culpability, and that that culpability makes the decision-maker -- whoever he is -- both judge and executioner, without due process. Those who argue this line also believe that the use of these weapons is a process that is not only given to error but also fundamentally violates principles of human rights and gives the state the power of life and death without oversight. Again excluding absolute pacifists from this discussion, the objection is that the use of unmanned aerial vehicles is not so much an act of war as an act of judgment and, as such, violates international law that requires due process for a soldier being judged and executed. To put it simply, the critics regard what they call drone strikes as summary executions, not acts of war.

The Argument for Airstrikes

The counterargument is that the United States is engaged in a unique sort of war. Al Qaeda and the allied groups and sympathetic individuals that comprise the international jihadist movement are global, dispersed and sparse. They are not a hierarchical military organization. Where conventional forces have divisions and battalions, the global jihadist movement consists primarily of individuals who at times group together into distinct regional franchises, small groups and cells, and frequently even these groups are scattered. Their mission is to survive and to carry out acts of violence designed to demoralize the enemy and increase their political influence among the populations they wish to control.

The primary unit is the individual, and the individuals -- particularly the commanders -- isolate themselves and make themselves as difficult to find as possible. Given their political intentions and resources, sparse forces dispersed without regard to national boundaries use their isolation as the equivalent of technological stealth to make them survivable and able to carefully mount military operations against the enemy at unpredictable times and in unpredictable ways.
The argument for using strikes from unmanned aerial vehicles is that it is not an attack on an individual any more than an artillery barrage that kills a hundred is an attack on each individual. Rather, the jihadist movement presents a unique case in which the individual jihadist is the military unit.

In war, the goal is to render the enemy incapable of resisting through the use of force. In all wars and all militaries, imperfect intelligence, carelessness and sometimes malice have caused military action to strike at innocent people. In World War II, not only did bombing raids designed to attack legitimate military targets kill civilians not engaged in activities supporting the military, mission planners knew that in some cases innocents would be killed. This is true in every military conflict and is accepted as one of the consequences of war.

The argument in favor of using unmanned aerial vehicle strikes is, therefore, that the act of killing the individual is a military necessity dictated by the enemy's strategy and that it is carried out with the understanding that both intelligence and precision might fail, no matter how much care is taken. This means not only that civilians might be killed in a particular strike but also that the strike might hit the wrong target. The fact that a specific known individual is being targeted does not change the issue from a military matter to a judicial one.

It would seem to me that these strikes do not violate the rules of war and that they require no more legal overview than was given in thousands of bomber raids in World War II. And we should be cautious in invoking international law. The Hague Convention of 1907 states that:
The laws, rights, and duties of war apply not only to armies, but also to militia and volunteer corps fulfilling the following conditions:
To be commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
To have a fixed distinctive emblem recognizable at a distance;
To carry arms openly; and
To conduct their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.
The 1949 Geneva Convention states that:
Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfill the following conditions:
(a) that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
(b) that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;
(c) that of carrying arms openly;
(d) that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.
Ignoring the question of whether jihadist operations are in accordance with the rules and customs of war, their failure to carry a "fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance" is a violation of both the Hague and Geneva conventions. This means that considerations given to soldiers under the rules of war do not apply to those waging war without insignia.

Open insignia is fundamental to the rules of war. It was instituted after the Franco-Prussian war, when French snipers dressed as civilians fired on Germans. It was viewed that the snipers had endangered civilians because it was a soldier's right to defend himself and that since they were dressed as civilians, the French snipers -- not the Germans -- were responsible for the civilian deaths. It follows from this that, to the extent that jihadist militants provide no sign of who they are, they are responsible under international law when civilians are killed because of uncertainty as to who is a soldier and who is not. Thus the onus on ascertaining the nature of the target rests with the United States, but if there is error, the responsibility for that error rests with jihadists for not distinguishing themselves from civilians.

There is of course a greater complexity to this: attacking targets in countries that are not in a state of war with the United States and that have not consented to these attacks. For better or worse, the declaration of war has not been in fashion since World War II. But the jihadist movement has complicated this problem substantially. The jihadists' strategy is to be dispersed. Part of its strategy is to move from areas where it is under military pressure to places that are more secure. Thus the al Qaeda core group moved its headquarters from Afghanistan to Pakistan. But in truth, jihadists operate wherever military and political advantages take them, from the Maghreb to Mumbai and beyond.

In a method of war where the individual is the prime unit and where lack of identification is a primary defensive method, the conduct of intelligence operations wherever the enemy might be, regardless of borders, follows. So do operations to destroy enemy units -- individuals. If a country harbors such individuals knowingly, it is an enemy. If it is incapable of destroying the enemy units, it forfeits its right to claim sovereignty since part of sovereignty is a responsibility to prevent attacks on other countries.

If we simply follow the logic we laid out here, then the critics of unmanned aerial vehicle strikes have a weak case. It is not illegitimate to target individuals in a military force like the jihadist movement, and international law holds them responsible for collateral damage, not the United States. Moreover, respecting national sovereignty requires that a country's sovereignty be used to halt attacks against countries with which they are not at war. When a country cannot or will not take those steps, and people within their border pose a threat to the United States, the country has no basis for objecting to intelligence operations and airstrikes. The question, of course, is where this ends. Yemen or Mali might be one case, but the logic here does not preclude any country. Indeed, since al Qaeda tried in the past to operate in the United States itself, and its operatives might be in the United States, it logically follows that the United States could use unmanned aerial vehicles domestically as well. Citizenship is likewise no protection from attacks against a force hostile to the United States.

But within the United States, or countries like the United Kingdom, there are many other preferable means to neutralize jihadist threats. When the police or internal security forces can arrest jihadists plotting attacks, there quite simply is no need for airstrikes from unmanned aerial vehicles. They are tools to be used when a government cannot or will not take action to mitigate the threat.

The Strategic Drawback

There are two points I have been driving toward. The first is that the outrage at targeted killing is not, in my view, justified on moral or legal grounds. The second is that in using these techniques, the United States is on a slippery slope because of the basis on which it has chosen to wage war.

The United States has engaged an enemy that is dispersed across the globe. If the strategy is to go wherever the enemy is, then the war is limitless. It is also endless. The power of the jihadist movement is that it is diffuse. It does not need vast armies to be successful. Therefore, the destruction of some of its units will always result in their replacement. Quality might decline for a while but eventually will recover.

The enemy strategy is to draw the United States into an extended conflict that validates its narrative that the United States is permanently at war with Islam. It wants to force the United States to engage in as many countries as possible. From the U.S. point of view, unmanned aerial vehicles are the perfect weapon because they can attack the jihadist command structure without risk to ground forces. From the jihadist point of view as well, unmanned aerial vehicles are the perfect weapon because their efficiency allows the jihadists to lure the United States into other countries and, with sufficient manipulation, can increase the number of innocents who are killed.

In this sort of war, the problem of killing innocents is practical. It undermines the strategic effort. The argument that it is illegal is dubious, and to my mind, so is the argument that it is immoral. The argument that it is ineffective in achieving U.S. strategic goals of eliminating the threat of terrorist actions by jihadists is my point.
Unmanned aerial vehicles provide a highly efficient way to destroy key enemy targets with very little risk to personnel. But they also allow the enemy to draw the United States into additional theaters of operation because the means is so efficient and low cost. However, in the jihadists' estimate, the political cost to the United States is substantial. The broader the engagement, the greater the perception of U.S. hostility to Islam, the easier the recruitment until the jihadist forces reach a size that can't be dealt with by isolated airstrikes.

In warfare, enemies will try to get you to strike at what they least mind losing. The case against strikes by unmanned aerial vehicles is not that they are ineffective against specific targets but that the targets are not as vital as the United States thinks. The United States believes that the destruction of the leadership is the most efficient way to destroy the threat of the jihadist movement. In fact it only mitigates the threat while new leadership emerges. The strength of the jihadist movement is that it is global, sparse and dispersed. It does not provide a target whose destruction weakens the movement. However, the jihadist movement's weakness derives from its strength: It is limited in what it can do and where.  

The problem of unmanned aerial vehicles is that they are so effective from the U.S. point of view that they have become the weapon of first resort. Thus, the United States is being drawn into operations in new areas with what appears to be little cost. In the long run, it is not clear that the cost is so little. A military strategy to defeat the jihadists is impossible. At its root, the real struggle against the jihadists is ideological, and that struggle simply cannot be won with Hellfire missiles. A strategy of mitigation using airstrikes is possible, but such a campaign must not become geographically limitless. Unmanned aerial vehicles lead to geographical limitlessness. That is their charm; that is their danger.

Hellfire, Morality and Strategy is republished with permission of Stratfor.