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The definition of contempt

The American Enterprise Institute, a think tank largely funded by Exxon-Mobil is offering to pay climatologists $10,000 for articles that emphasise the shortcomings of a report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

This is not surprising: lacking any real defense, it's only logical for them to seek men of straw to argue the case for them. The surprise is that they expect climatologists to be willing to trash their professional reputations — in a manner that will come back to haunt them whenever they subsequently apply for a job — for a mere ten thousand dollars. For a professional lobbyist that's a couple of billable hours; yet they suppose it's the measure of a working scientist's life's work.

Seldom has it been so easy to put an exact price on contempt.

Addendum: I note with interest that the American Enterprise Institute are Ayaan Hirsi Ali's current employers. More on this rather creepy body of unelected would-be architects of your future here.

210 Comments

1:

Wikipedia also lists Charles Murray, author of the racist "Bell Curve" as one of their Scholars and Fellows.

2:

Well, in science normally you don`t have to bribe anyone to prove or disprove anything. So `contempt` is pure understatement. Anyway:

>racist "Bell Curve" as one of their Scholars and Fellows

That should tell us everything about those people. Still, many of our fanboy friends
seem to be very impressed by those guys.

Andreas Morlok

3:

It's not surprising that when science becomes politicized, political think tanks will attempt to hire scientists.

4:

To address Charlie's point about $10,000 being a small sum to ruin your career over for a scientist, that's probably true in much of the world but not in the US. There are a number of professional climatologists in the US that are global-warming skeptics. While writing an article just for the money is a risky thing for gradstudents or post doctoral fellows, there are people like Robert Balling, Patrick Michaels, John Christy who are all established scientists with a record of opposing global warming scaremongering.

And, knowing gradstudents, there are probably some here in the US who will jump at the chance to get $10k and spice up their names with a little controversy. If they're like the students I know, they're only making about $15k a year as it is...

5:

My gut feeling is that it's only in the US that there is any controversy any more, and it's largely fueled by Exxon-Mobil's slush fund.

EM are still sticking their collective head in the sand, rather than looking to diversify and re-jig their public image to fit the changing climate -- sorry. (See for example Shell and BPs attempts at spinning themselves as environmentally concerned, diversifying into other energy sources and renewables, and so on. Much of it is smoke and mirrors, but at least they know better than to back a losing horse.) Anyway, EM they've been playing the same game as the tobacco companies in the 1960s and 1970s ... and stories like this show that they're generating blowback.

Politics shouldn't play a role in the process of scientific inquiry, but it has done so blatantly over the past few years. And I expect there to be a backlash, as faculties everywhere try to reassert their reputation for objectivity in research. Being tarred with the brush of oil industry money is going to cause academic credentials to be interrogated fiercely for the next few years. The nearest analogy is: Would you trust an epidemiologist who continued to maintain into the 1980s that smoking didn't cause cancer? Especially if you discovered they'd been taking money from the tobacco industry?

6:

EM are one of the few "big oil" (and certainly the biggest) companies who have NOT seriously diversified in the last two decades.

You also have to remember, Charlie, about the tenure system in America. It's so very near to impossible to fire a tenure'd scientist that if you have tenure and you're allready a critic of global warming by stance, this is free money.

Did I mention I dislike the idea of tenure? (Long term stable contracts with no termination clause for the university in the normal term of events, but only by a maority vote of the trustees... sure).

7:

The tenure system is designed to prevent excalty this sort of thing -- requiring scientists and professors to pass some sort of ideological litmus test.

Professors must exhibit a great deal of strong research and teaching before they get tenure, it's a difficult and drawn out process. If tenured professors are critical of something, it's not because they're hacks. Now, private research scientists or those employed by various institutes and non-profits might be hacks. Tenure is a sort of quality assurance system.

Like it or not, climate change and politics are thoroughly interwined. I think it's a good thing that some people are critical of climate change, even if they're wrong they encourage other scientists to ensure that their arguments are strong.

8:

I think it's a good thing that some people are critical of climate change, even if they're wrong they encourage other scientists to ensure that their arguments are strong.

I agree completely, and that's why this sort of thing is so bad; it poisons the intellectual commons by bringing the motives and methods of one faction into disrepute.

9:

My gut feeling is that it's only in the US that there is any controversy any more, and it's largely fueled by Exxon-Mobil's slush fund.

I don't know about that. I'd say most Americans just don't really care. I'm of the opinion that climate change is happening, and is at least partially man-made, but that any attempts to stop it right now will be too costly.

Given an expanding world economy and improving technology, the human-caused element will likely cease in another couple decades anyway.

10:

Never mind about the cost of not stopping it, then.

11:

Andrew, IIRC Michaels has become a paid political propagandist--hasn't published a peer-reviewed climatology paper in years. Christy is a satellite researcher who turned out to be wrong in his interpretation of satellite data and, again, is a political these days, though he may also is also doing some science. Balling I haven't looked into.

Charlie, the AEI, IIRC, is nearly a fascist think-tank; I think Alterman covered them some in his book, *What Liberal Media?*

12:

Did anyone see Panorama last week? Big drug company lying their heads off, with the help of apparently reputable scientists, over a drug which was not only dangerous, but wasn't working any better than placebos.

Here's the webpage with details

What makes Exxon Mobil worse is that they don't seem to care about civilisation. They're too dumb to realise that what they're doing may leave them with a huge pile of money, and nothing to spend it on.

13:

As to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, given the contemptible, craven, I-am-a-humble-dhimmi-bend-over-for-it lack of protection she was given in the Netherlands, she has to seek refuge where she can.

What a bunch of gutless wonders; she has more of 'em than the whole sorry lot. Tromp and Jan Coen and the Sea Beggars must be spinning in their graves.

14:

Charlie: "I agree completely, and that's why this sort of thing is so bad; it poisons the intellectual commons by bringing the motives and methods of one faction into disrepute."

-- Charlie, considering the gross, politicized-hack attack-and-destroy response to any questioning of the "holy writ" on this an other environmental issues, the other side simply has no grounds for complaint when their methods come back at them, in spades and with good financing. My sympathy for their feelings of injury and persecution is underwhelming.

Sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander. What can you say about those who routinely attack the motives, honesty and intellect of their opponents, but then squeal like little girls when they get the same back? Apparently they feel entitled due to their subjective feelings of having good intentions.

Eg., look what happened to Bjorn Lomborg. Deliberate attempts at sabotage by what the attackers knew were lies, attempts to destroy his career, and so forth, and all for expressing honest dissent.

All because he challenged the bien-pensant consensus.

Pollution is a technical, technological problem, not a moral, religious or ethical one.

And in a world where China is burning more coal than the EU and the USA and Japan put together, and adding 8 megawatts of capacity EVERY DAY, those who think "Kyoto" is going to do anything at all are obviously living on another planet.

15:

Never mind about the cost of not stopping it, then.

For the US, at least, the cost of not doing anything about climate change will most likely be much lower than the cost of trying to do something about it (at present). And people in the US know this, in the back of their minds if they don't consciously think about it.

The us is the wealthiest nation in the world, the most advanced, and the least vulnerable. We have huge areas of underused land, a low population, and almost all the resources we need. Add Canada to the equation, and and North America can withstand a great deal of alternation to the Earth's climate, far more than the worst case scenarios.

16:

And I expect there to be a backlash, as faculties everywhere try to reassert their reputation for objectivity in research. Being tarred with the brush of oil industry money is going to cause academic credentials to be interrogated fiercely for the next few years.

For that little reward, yes. It'd probably take money on the order of that spent on drug and medical research to have the benefit be worth the lack of academic independence. It might be a little late to start spending on that scale, too.

17:

SMS- I think its pretty well established that Lomborg basically engaged in dishonest dissent. i.e. dissenting by leaving out all the stuff that would show that your position was mince.
I agree that the attempt to get him done for dishonesty or whatever the precise phrase was, was over the top, but essentially, what he was engaged in was cherry picking and ignoring the realities of what he was commenting on.

Andrew G, you might want to make your paen to the USA a littl emore qualified, given that you have mined many of your resources out, not to mention problems with aquifers and rainfall and soil loss. Of course, your still in a better condition than say SOmalia.

18:

SO basically, SM Stirling, we should not bother saving for retirement because it's futile? Nice attitude.

There are more than two sides to the debate. There have allways been people like me who want to work construtively ans find ways to make being green profit for companies, so they will USE those methods. And yes, I'm pro-nuclear because it's far better for the environment - and it's far safer for Humans as well.

Pollution IS an ethical problem when one side has staked its ethical grounds on "if you try and tell us to be green, you are trying to destroy our profits".

Nice conflation of the screaming greens with everyone who's environmentalist, though.


And yes, AndrewG, if America conquered Canada it would be reasonable well off in the face of massive climate change...for a while.

19:

I don't know what all the fuss is about - it's hardly the first time an unpopular industry or interest group has hired `experts' to refute its detractors' point of view, and it wouldn't be the first time that scientists were willing to take the cash to do it. Sucky, yes; big surprise, no. ExMo do seem to want to do it on the cheap, though. Ten grand doesn't seem a lot for basically making yourself a scientific laughing stock.

20:

RE Tenure: Yes, it was intended to make scholars (not just scientists) less susceptible to control by their own universities, and therefore more free to publish what they believed to be true. That's fine for those who already have tenure, but consider the politics of getting tenure. There's a set of people starting with your own department chairperson whom you have to satisfy as to your worthiness. The definition of worth is largely up to the the person doing the judging. You can imagine how that works out in terms of real-world institutional politics.

The granting or withholding of tenure can be used as a Damoclean sword for at least the two years of the candidate's second 3 year contract, the usual point at which tenure is offered in US universities. I've seen it used as part of a strategy for a new department head to clear out professors who antedated his reign, so they could be replaced by friends and cronies. In some ways university politics resembles medieval court intrigue.

One the flip side, some professors use it as a way to blow off their work without loss of income. Some just consider it early retirement, others use it as cover for a second career in consulting, or running startup companies developing technology licensed (or not) from the university.

So is it effective enough at preventing supression of academic freedom to be worth these occasional excesses? Well, maybe not. If a professor professes a position supported by his peers, not much will happen, even if the university administration wishes to supress those statements, as intended. But if the professor takes a position not supported, or actively opposed, by her peers, it's quite another story. Tenure affords no protection from attacks in the professional or public media, or political maneuvering within professional organizations. Sometimes the position is an incorrect or dishonest one, but does that make such attacks either ethical or acceptable as net-positive actions within the framework of academic freedom? Conversely, if the position is honest but misguided, or possibly correct, doesn't this openness to attack damage the structure of open discourse necessary for academic debate? In other words, is tenure even useful in protecting academic freedom in the face of current academic politics?

21:

Charlie, politics (and money) has always played a role in scientific inquiry. The hope was always that the political forces involved were sufficiently fragmented, and the amount of money involved for the individual scientist small enough, that the effect would not be great.

Neither of those conditions holds today. The political forces (in the US, fill this in with your own institutions for other countries) often include the Federal government, and often other governmental bodies, either in concert or opposition. The money may come from a pharmaceutical company with billions of $US at stake.

Scientific research has been seriously at risk since the first major influx of Federal money into shotgun biological research under Nixon in the 70's. The money is not aimed at specific research goals, it's aimed at general societal or political goals (cure cancer, design a missle defense system, etc.), so it becomes increasingly easy to divert money to unrelated research the scientist wants to do by adding the right buzzwords to the proposal, subverting accountability. And it becomes increasingly tempting to fake results, so you can get larger grants by preempting genuine research.

Add that university administrators will do almost anything for grant or endowment money, and research can be diverted or perverted in any number of ways.

For instance, and apropos of the discussion of tenure, one way for the administration to "persuade" an active researcher with tenure to take on work for a healthy gift to the university is to threaten to reduce facility support: move the researcher's lab to a broom closet, or have the instrument machinist become mysteriously busy when he needs something built. Yet another way money and politics affect science.

22:

SMS: As to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, given the contemptible, craven, I-am-a-humble-dhimmi-bend-over-for-it lack of protection she was given in the Netherlands, she has to seek refuge where she could ...

You are aware that she lied on her original asylum application, I take it?

A point you may or may not have internalized is that while the Germans have a reputation for following rules, they're nothing compared to the Dutch.

Despite which, you might also want to note, the business over withdrawing her citizenship and forcing her to re-apply for asylum brought down the government. And she was promptly re-granted asylum. But by that time she'd figured out which side of the bread the butter was spread thickest over ...

The Netherlands aren't a terribly fun place to be Moslem right now, I gather. The Dutch reputation for tolerance drives straight into a reinforced concrete wall when confronted with overt intolerance: they get kind of scary. (But of course, this wouldn't make a worldview-reinforcing item for the particular line that the more alarmist right-wing US media are pushing, so it gets quietly overlooked.)

And in a world where China is burning more coal than the EU and the USA and Japan put together, and adding 8 megawatts of capacity EVERY DAY, those who think "Kyoto" is going to do anything at all are obviously living on another planet.

Now you're trying to shift the discussion! Bad boy. Nobody here's discussing Kyoto, we're discussing a large oil company paying sock-puppet lobbyists to build an astroturf propaganda campaign.

(The only good thing I'll say for the Kyoto treaty is that it's a start, and a wholly inadequate one that needs to be replaced by something more effective in short order. A re-evaluation of the usefulness of the Non-Proliferation Treaty would help; anything to help the spread of cheap-ish nuclear reactors to replace those goddamn brown-coal-burning stoves.)

Andrew G: For the US, at least, the cost of not doing anything about climate change will most likely be much lower ...

Think again. A huge proportion of your population live within 200 miles of the coastline. The land that's underutilized is underutilized for a reason -- it's less useful. And you may think you've got a small population, but they tend to spread out, don't they? All that cheap gas encouraging suburban sprawl over the past half-century has eaten up a lot of space.

As for the price arguments, if you want an argument on whether remediation is worth the cost, you might like to see the position H. M. Treasury take on the issue. Hint: they're not into spending money for the sake of it. Little statistical nuggets like 1.8 million of the UK population living in areas threatened by rising sea levels -- based on more conservative, pre-IPCC estimates of likely rises -- are not terribly amusing once you convert that into roughly £1Tn in housing costs (at current prices) or 3-4% of the population being turned into home less refugees.

Dave Hutchinson: I don't know what all the fuss is about ... it's very simple: if you lose the ability to get indignant about the little insults, they can run the big ones past you without undue problems. Worked for Goebbels, works for just about any well-organized propaganda campaign that goes unopposed. Get indignant and stay indignant, is my advice.

23:

This letter was published in The Guardian today (http://www.guardian.co.uk/letters/story/0,,2005907,00.html):

"In relation to your article, we wish to make it clear that ExxonMobil had no knowledge of the allegations made in the article. We fund the American Enterprise Institute for the purpose of promoting active policy debate, but we do not control their views or actions.

We are taking action on many fronts to address the risks of climate change. These include partnerships with vehicle manufacturers to reduce emissions, research, energy efficiency in our own refineries and supporting Stanford University's research to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Kenneth P Cohen
Vice-president, ExxonMobil, Texas, USA"

I have no idea how much of that is true.

24:

Regarding the economics of AGW, there's an interesting discussion at (http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/01/stern-science/). I particularly like this comment:

"Question: If we could save the world from a 100% certain total destruction of the whole infrastructure in 2057 in a way that would cost 10% of it's total value, would it be profitable to do the investment and save the world?

If we use a moderate 5% interest rate in our calculation, the answer is clearly no! We should not save the world infrastructure 0f 2057, it costs too much today. The present day discounted value of the world infrastucture in 2057 (when I am 100 years old and probably in my grave), is only 8.72% of it's total value in 2057 and less than the calculated 10% (of the total value) required investment today. So we decide not to save the world infrastructure.

If the doom was about in 2107, using the same calculations, it would not be "profitable" to use even 1% of the total value of the future infrastructure to save it today. I hope you check my calculations, discounting is relatively easy and fundamental to profitability analysis the economists regularly use to give their expert opinions."

The ensuing discussion shows that the arguments can be more complicated than that (as one would expect). But this does give an insight into what sort of questions we should be asking if someone says that dealing with climate change now would be "too expensive".

25:

Sorry, Charlie, I phrased that poorly. I just meant to say that I didn't find it all that surprising if AEI, on ExMo's behalf, had started hiring their own greenhouse deniers - not that it didn't piss me off.
I'd never heard of AEI before; it does sound properly spooky, doesn't it?

26:

A huge proportion of your population live within 200 miles of the coastline. The land that's underutilized is underutilized for a reason -- it's less useful.

That's not true -- the US is a former colony, our population settlement patterns are a result of that. We essentially started out on the coasts, and spread inward from there. The legacy of that is that much of our cultural, financial, and industrial apparatus are on the coasts. That's changing though, there's a great deal of "insourcing" going on where businesses and industries move to the much cheaper interior states.

There's tons of good land in the middle of the country. And apart from the Southwest, enough resources to handle the population. California depends on water from Arizona and Nevada for instance, it would be much more environmentally sound if they all moved to Kansas and Oklahoma.

A sea level rise of 20 feet would be terrible, it's true, but the US could handle it much better than any other region, especially Europe or Asia. We'd have 100 million people or so that would likely need to move, but as long as it didn't all happen at once it would probably be an economic boost for us.

And yes, AndrewG, if America conquered Canada it would be reasonable well off in the face of massive climate change...for a while.

No one's talking about invading Canada. Our economies are so intertwined that it makes sense to view North America as a single unit in this case. Who else are they going to sell their resources to?

Andrew G, you might want to make your paen to the USA a littl emore qualified, given that you have mined many of your resources out, not to mention problems with aquifers and rainfall and soil loss.

I'm not sure where you get your information from. There are regions of the world that can produce certain resources more cheaply, or in higher quantity, but that hardly means we've mined ours out. And water problems are mainly regional, and tied to overpopulation in a few urban areas. Miami and LA are the big offenders. And it's possible that radical climate change could boost rainfall...

27:

Andrew: while some of what you say makes sense, the statement about mining resources is misleading. The US hasn't mined-out all its mineral resources, but it has mined-out most of the high-concentration sources, those that are extractable at relatively low cost. For instance, the one source of high-grade iron ore in the US, the Iron Range of Minnesota, probably still has gigatons of iron, but it's not as conveniently extractable as was the ore that's already been taken out. It's only now that China has created a huge new market for iron that mining has begun again; the domestic market (which hasn't shrunk) has not been large enough to warrant mining for more than 30 years.

28:

Thanks for the nice evaluation of Holland. Appreciate it...

29:

AndrewG,

You're assuming a resource abundant scenario on one hand (than Canada will continue to export) and a resource scarce situation on the other (that America's resources will be depleted). Um.

And climate change is ALLREADY boosting rainfall. It rains more than ever. It's just storms are increasingly, in many weather systems, staying at sea. Or only the more violent ones - and more of those - are reaching the land in others.

(Hence, rain failures in some countries and more big violent storms hitting America)

30:

AndrewG:

Sorry, seeing the forest past the trees doesn't generally happen for me until well after the second cup of coffee, and I tried to reply to your post after the first. So here's a more general comment than the last.

The cost for the US of ignoring climate change will be low only if the rest of the world makes no change in its trade position relative to the US. It's not likely there'll be no change; Europe, at least will enact sanctions to punish and/or persuade the US to go along with their climate change initiatives. I expect that the net result on the US will depend largely on what China does, since they're the US' largest trade partner, and this will only get more so over time, and to some extent what the Southern Hemisphere nations, especially Argentina and Chile do.

The Southerners matter because the cost of ignoring climate change is low only if this means little change in the lives and consumption habits of the majority of citizens of the US. For obvious example, when the price of gasoline spikes, there are cries for change. If Argentina refuses to sell us beef, or hikes the price with a punitive tariff, or if Chile does the same with winter fruit and vegetables, America's dinner table will notice.

Currently, raising beef in the US is a losing proposition, partly due to competition from Argentina and Australia, and partly due to the severe winter storms of the last three years. And many ranchers have had to sell off large parts of their stock at a loss to cover the sharp increase in hay prices recently. They won't recover from these effects for four or five years, assuming there are no more storms or increases in fodder prices (not likely).

So, if the US loses access to low-priced foreign beef, it will mean a sharp increase in beef prices that will last for several years until the US herds return to a size that can supply most of the country's demand.

Similarly for South American produce. The Pacific Northwest produces a large part of the world supply of apples, but there's no apple growing season in the winter, and people have become used to having apples (and lettuce, and pears, and grapes, and ...) in the off-seasons. They'll be pissed if they can't.

Of such disapproval is policy change made.

31:

And yes, AndrewG, if America conquered Canada it would be reasonable well off in the face of massive climate change...for a while.

Because the US is immune to the effects of, say, temperature changes in the Carribean? How's New Orleans doing?

32:

How's New Orleans doing?

A lot worse than it would be if it didn't have crooks & idiots running it.... New Orleans doesn't have problems caused by the environment, it problems are entirely man made.

33:

Charlie: "The Netherlands aren't a terribly fun place to be Moslem right now, I gather."

-- well, boo-hoo. Gee, I bet they can't so much as murder a film director (or their sisters) or cut up a little girl's genitals without some _faranji_ interfering with their sacred culture. That's no fun at all! And the wicked imperialist gunboats made them abolish slavery, too.

Words cannot _express_ my cold lack of sympathy.

Why is it that when some people come right out and say: WE ARE GOING TO DESTROY YOU, STINKING CHRISTIAN AND JEW DOGS -- OH, AND RAPE ALL YOUR WHORE-SLUT WOMEN TOO. HAVE A NICE DAY, INFIDEL SCUM, AND DEATH TO YOU ALL...

... other people refuse to do them the courtesy of taking them precisely at their word?

When someone says he's my enemy, I believe him. Then I kill him first.

In dealing with enemies, the only sensible attidue is that expressed in the Talmud, Tractate Sanheidrin: "If a man come up against thee, to kill thee, rise up and kill him first."

"The Dutch reputation for tolerance drives straight into a reinforced concrete wall when confronted with overt intolerance: they get kind of scary."

-- and so they should!

Tolerance only applies to those who accept it themselves, and as a principle, not as a tactic; just as democratic rules only apply to those who accept them, and as principles, not tactics.

It's not a suicide pact.

The intolerant have no basis for complaint when they get fed their own medicine. They don't get to try applying their rules and then appeal to ours when caught.

34:

Bruce Cohen: "The cost for the US of ignoring climate change will be low only if the rest of the world makes no change in its trade position relative to the US. It's not likely there'll be no change; Europe, at least will enact sanctions to punish and/or persuade the US to go along"

-- snigger, hoot, guffaw. The mice will get together and solemnly debate about how to bell the cat... chortle, chortle.

News flash: even the _Port of New York_ now does more business with Asia than Europe.

A bunch of aging, declining, increasingly irrelevant societies -- critically and increasingly dependent on exports for their very lives as their changing age-ratios freeze their ability to expand internal markets -- are going to trash their own staggering economies to try and force _us_ to do something we don't want? When we can hurt them infinitely more than they can hurt us anytime we decide to apply the pilers to the testicles?

Not.

"If Argentina refuses to sell us beef, or hikes the price with a punitive tariff, or if Chile does the same with winter fruit and vegetables, America's dinner table will notice."

-- uh... and who else are they going to sell to, precisely? The land of the Common Agricultural Policy, and home of the protectionist butter, veggie and beef mountains? The nannyist imbeciles who keep trying -- futilely, granted -- to control their use of genetically modified plants?

The Chinese (remember that 8 megawatts a day?) will probably buy some, though.

Again, they're far more vulnerable than we are.

35:

Bruce,

The EU seems to be having trouble dealing with the habit the Russian Federation has of playing games with the pipelines delivering oil and natural gas to Western Europe. When will the develop the political cohesion to enact the measures you describe against the USA?

I'm not trying to troll with this, The EU does seem to be gaining that type of unity. When do you think it will be ready to do something along the lines you descirbed?

36:

Steve,

A bunch of aging, declining, increasingly irrelevant societies -- critically and increasingly dependent on exports for their very lives as their changing age-ratios freeze their ability to expand internal markets -- are going to trash their own staggering economies to try and force _us_ to do something we don't want?

OK, if it's the case that Europe can't do anything to the US, and the US doesn't give a rip about anything that Europe does, why is the US ever willing to take trade disputes to the WTO, and accept rulings against it?

Sure, the US could do anything it wanted, but it's been doing less of that than you'd expect lately, especially since the administration's stated position on international cooperation is exactly what you described: "you cooperate with us, and we do what we please."


37:

Steven Rogers,

When will Europe develop the cohesion to work against the US as a unit, or against Russia for that matter?

Maybe they won't. But then again, maybe if they really start believing that they're all going to drown, maybe they will. Remember what Samuel Johnson said about the effect of knowing you're going to die soon.

The point I was making was that I don't think the cost of ignoring climate change is as small or as ignorable as Americans assume.

38:

SMS,

Sorry, I didn't notice that i had comments from 2 different Steves.

A bunch of aging, declining, increasingly irrelevant societies -- critically and increasingly dependent on exports for their very lives as their changing age-ratios freeze their ability to expand internal markets

I'm not convinced it's going to work out like that, but assume for a second that it does. What happens to the dynamic of international relations when China's population begins to gray? They've been sitting hard on population growth for 30 years now (and they're willing to be a lot more draconian about it than just about anyone else). Looks to me like in about 15 or 20 years they're going to be in the same spot that Europe is now, and up there where Japan is in less than 30 years.

It occurrs to me that the likely reaction China will have to a graying population is to start calling in the US debt they hold. That should result in some real fun and games!

39:

When we can hurt them infinitely more than they can hurt us anytime we decide to apply the pilers to the testicles?

What are you going to refuse to sell us, exactly? GM soybeans? Financial services? Premium content? Incontinence pads? Or will you attack us if we keep expressing cynicism about your abiding hegemonic urges and declining to participate in your catastrophically ill-advised plans for assaults on insubordinate middle-eastern countries?

40:

In dealing with enemies, the only sensible attidue is that expressed in the Talmud, Tractate Sanheidrin: "If a man come up against thee, to kill thee, rise up and kill him first."

Osama would happily say the same thing. Since the modern West has killed considerably more Muslims than the other way round, the Stirling Doctrine seems to justify Muslim atacks on the West...

41:

So far as Ayaan Hirsi Ali lying in order to gain asylum, according to wikipedia she came clean on that back in 2002. That's four years before the Dutch government made an issue out of the matter. Clearly, something was going on in Dutch internal politics that made her look like an attractive target for somebody.

42:

Words cannot _express_ my cold lack of sympathy.

I'd have more sympathy for Van Gogh if he hadn't refused police protection. There is such a thing as culpable negligence.

Why is it that when some people come right out and say: WE ARE GOING TO DESTROY YOU, STINKING CHRISTIAN AND JEW DOGS -- OH, AND RAPE ALL YOUR WHORE-SLUT WOMEN TOO. HAVE A NICE DAY, INFIDEL SCUM, AND DEATH TO YOU ALL...

... other people refuse to do them the courtesy of taking them precisely at their word?

Because some people just entertain colourful revenge fantasies. Ever hear of the Ghost Dance? Thirty feet of soil was going to bury all the white men. Sounds like a Caliphate to me.

When someone says he's my enemy, I believe him. Then I kill him first.

Or perhaps you just...vote for Bush.

43:

Bruce C: "OK, if it's the case that Europe can't do anything to the US, and the US doesn't give a rip about anything that Europe does, why is the US ever willing to take trade disputes to the WTO, and accept rulings against it?"

-- because it's more convenient in routine matters. Attempts to infringe on American sovereignty would not, to understate, be minor matters.

Infringing on sovereignty is grounds for _war_. A healthy society and people in a position to do so responds to such meddling with a nice loud roar of carnivore aggression, followed by violence if necessary.

Demands and interference are hobbies for the strong, not the weak.

44:

Adrian Smith: "I'd have more sympathy for Van Gogh if he hadn't refused police protection. There is such a thing as culpable negligence."

-- so... let me get this straight... he's supposed to live under house arrest for exercising his right to free speech in his own country?

Or he should censor himself?

And those careless women who go out in short skirts just deserved to get raped, eh? At least, that's what a 'prominent Muslim cleric" in Australia just said. (He referred to them as "uncovered meat", IIRC.)

Don't think so. Pity Van Gogh didn't have a gat on him, though; he certainly needed one, not a policeman arriving ten minutes later.

"Because some people just entertain colourful revenge fantasies."

-- blowing up skyscrapers in New York seems rather more than a fantasy to me. And the London Underground comes to mind for some reason.

"Ever hear of the Ghost Dance? Thirty feet of soil was going to bury all the white men."

-- yeah, and we responded to that with machine guns and Springfields until the point was driven home firmly.

The moral of the story is: don't make threats you can't carry out. And if you do, don't feel aggrieved when you're taken at your word and the full force of your enemy's iron fist smashes your skull and splatters your brains down ten yards of bad road.

It's an educational process. You make it very clear that threatening or attacking you results in Really Really Bad Things happening to those who do so.

"Or perhaps you just...vote for Bush."

-- actually I'm a registered Democrat and vote the straight party ticket; I intend to vote for Hillary Clinton next time.

But in fact, I practice what I preach. The last time someone threatened my life and tried to kill me, I killed him. Granted, that was 30-odd years ago and in another country.

I see no reason why this maxim should not be applied on both the personal and collective level.

45:

Bruce Cohen: "What happens to the dynamic of international relations when China's population begins to gray?"

-- the median age in China is already about 33, and rising very quickly. It'll pass the US (about 35) within the next couple of years and the number of Chinese turning 18 has already started to fall quickly, resulting in the first labor shortages (masked by the swift rural-urban migration).

TFR's in China dropped below the replacement level in the 1980's and kept right on falling. In urban areas they're down to Italian or Spanish levels, only they dropped much more quickly from much higher starting points. A demographic transition that took 150 years in Europe was compressed into about 30 in China.

For 20 years, this gives you a "sweet spot" as the dependency ratio goes down (fewer infants born, not many old people yet) and the percentage of people of working age goes up.

Then you hit the brick wall. The one with the long sharp spikes in it.

The Chinese are just finishing moving through the "sweet spot" and getting into the "brick wall" stage. 64% of their people are between 17 and 64. Now the number over 64 starts to rise inexorably, and then the huge generations born at high fertility levels in the 50's, 60's and 70's reaches retirement age.

With only the ever-smaller birth cohorts born since the 80's to support them.

Which shows you what all the "rise of China" stuff is worth. Soon China will have Japan's demographics... _without_ Japan's accumulated wealth.

"It occurrs to me that the likely reaction China will have to a graying population is to start calling in the US debt they hold."

-- no, precisely the opposite.

The economic symptom of a falling population is deflation.

Demand collapses -- that's a big reason why Japan has been sputtering every time it tries to rise from the mats the last 15 years, and increasingly Germany too.

Countries with falling populations have to _export_. And running a surplus on your current account is exactly equivalent to exporting capital; they're two sides of the same coin.

Conversely a country with a brisk rise in internal demand tends to _import_ capital (and goods). The US characteristically has had a negative net balance of trade throughout most of its history.

Higher demand, faster growth, high imports of capital and goods.

China has been trying to develop on an export-led model suited to small countries like Taiwan or South Korea, and it's going to screw them good and proper. Just when they need to ratchet up internal demand (because there's a limit to what you can export) the aging of the workforce will start putting structural downward pressure on demand.

Result? More Chinese goods (and money) going abroad, worldwide pressure on prices.

Not a good sign for countries in the same position... like, for example, most of Europe.

46:

I didn't really want to get into an arguement about how great or villainous the US is...

My point was to attempt to explain some if the US's attitudes on Climate Change and the environment in general. Basically, Americans are moderately concerned but not willing to go to any great expense to do anything about it at the moment. The simple reason being, that out of all of the peoples in the world, Americans will be hurt the least. They may be hurt quite a lot, but you can bet that everyone else will be hurting more.

The best the rest of the world can do is to persuade Americans to come around to their way of thinking, or else deal with climate change without the US and China. Attempts at extortion like France's recent suggestion that trade sanctions be put in place against non-Kyoto nations won't work. It's extortion for one thing, and it's the sort of foreign meddling an arrogance than Americans have a natural distaste for. Not to mention that the loosers in a trade war between the US and Europe would be mainly Germany and the UK, so it's not very nice of France to try and start one. The NAFTA block can supply most of what the US needs, and China supplies the rest plus a bunch of low cost consumer goods that we don't really need.

47:

If one is looking for discussions of the economics of global warming more reliable than Lomborg's, one might try Stern or Nordhaus; Brad Delong's discussion of Nordhaus's position provides an entry point into these quite extensive technical arguments. Generally, I lean towards Stern for two rather subtle reasons: (1) for historical reasons, the mathematics of economics does not model dramatic change well, and economists therefore have trouble thinking about it; and (2) economists assume that growth is "natural" and unending and that is unrealistic.

Lomborg treated the scientific data very poorly; as far as I can tell he's another political and, in fact, has a Poli Sci background rather than a background in the physical or biological sciences. He's still around, btw; being a propagandist means never having to say "I was wrong", I guess.
Scientific American critique, w. Lomborg's responses:
http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=00000B96-9517-1CDA-B4A8809EC588EEDF
Grist magazine articles:
http://www.grist.org/cgi-bin/search.pl?query=lomborg&submit.x=0&submit.y=0
(the ones from 12 Dec 2001 issue are most of the critical ones.)

48:

Conversely a country with a brisk rise in internal demand tends to _import_ capital (and goods). The US characteristically has had a negative net balance of trade throughout most of its history.

Higher demand, faster growth, high imports of capital and goods.

So that's alright then. The EU will be able to cruise along gracefully due to its investments in the US, and the US worker can carry the load.

49:

-- so... let me get this straight... he's supposed to live under house arrest for exercising his right to free speech in his own country?

I think the Dutch police actually *come with you* when you go out. Astounding, I know.

Or he should censor himself?

I was thinking more along the lines of not ignoring death threats. "No one would kill me - I'm just a clown", he's supposed to have said. Can't have studied the religion he was having a go at very carefully IMO.

-- blowing up skyscrapers in New York seems rather more than a fantasy to me.

Feh, that was just the low-hanging fruit. They're kind of stuck with a case of Second Album Syndrome now, at least as far as attacks in America go. But ObL sounds like he plays a long game.

And the London Underground comes to mind for some reason.

The British can take that sort of thing without going all New Paradigm about it. Though if I was a Muslim-looking guy wanting to carry a big rucksack on public transport now I think I'd be prepared to show my fellow passengers what was in it.

-- yeah, and we responded to that with machine guns and Springfields until the point was driven home firmly.

Bury my heart (and anything else you can find) at Wounded Knee, innit. That wasn't you, it was your ancestors/predecessors. A different and much harder bunch of people.

The moral of the story is: don't make threats you can't carry out. And if you do, don't feel aggrieved when you're taken at your word and the full force of your enemy's iron fist smashes your skull and splatters your brains down ten yards of bad road.

Hey, I thought I was in one of your books for a moment there.

It's an educational process. You make it very clear that threatening or attacking you results in Really Really Bad Things happening to those who do so.

So...when? You've attacked Afghanistan and got bored with it, and it's going to shit. You've attacked Iraq and messed around with it, and it's going to shit.

Is Iran going to be the beginning of the real "lesson"?

I intend to vote for Hillary Clinton next time.

Don't think she's quite electable myself.

Granted, that was 30-odd years ago and in another country.

Ooo.

50:

S.M. Stirling, I think you've missed something. Your internal market is modern and mature. Europe's is..not any longer. It's a vast free-trade zone with massive internal investment opportunities. Exporting for the European economies is now a LOT easier than even three years ago.

And sure, your thinking is why America banned gambling - it's going to bite when countries start ignoring American IP as a result. And yes, that probably IS when the fan hits. Of course, if you take your eye off Asia, China might just do somethiong nasty with Taiwan's trade routes. So...

Steven Rogers, which countries? Because the directly affected countries are not EU members, or even anything close to full candidate status.

Adrian Smith, so...point me to the countries ruled by Saddam or the Taliban recently. Thanks!

51:

The last time someone threatened my life and tried to kill me, I killed him. Granted, that was 30-odd years ago and in another country.

I see no reason why this maxim should not be applied on both the personal and collective level.

And you haven't stopped masturbating about it yet. Congratulations. I know people who did the Arctic convoys. None of them insist on behaving with your utter lack of dignity.

52:

By the way, if you want to talk economics and demography, perhaps it would be worth mentioning that US median age is not currently skyrocketing because of....immigration!

53:

Adrian Smith, so...point me to the countries ruled by Saddam or the Taliban recently

So what, if they're going to shit? Sounds like nostalgia for both is increasing. In any case, neither of them attacked you, even if with hindsight the Taliban would have been wise to be more enthusiastic about handing over someone who actually *had*. Mr Stirling's point was, if I do not misinterpret him, that you descend with the much-feared fist of iron upon those who "threaten or attack you". Humanitarian missions to save beleaguered peoples from tyranny are all very well if their quality of life shows signs of improvement, otherwise scepticism may creep in, alas.

54:

By the way, if you want to talk economics and demography, perhaps it would be worth mentioning that US median age is not currently skyrocketing because of....immigration!

America's immigrants mostly have the advantage of not being Muslim...

55:

So what, if those polities were a danger to themselves and to others? Oh, and Saddam WAS funding Palestian militants (directly and indirectly) who attacked my people (Frankly, Abbass would be in a shallow grave by now if Saddam had still been in power).

That the American troops were not trained to fight a peace...is quite beyond my control. British troops ARE, and they have not had anything like the issues. Perhaps that's an issue you might want to take up.

56:

So what, if those polities were a danger to themselves and to others?

Whatever, but that wasn't what I was discussing with Mr. Stirling.

Oh, and Saddam WAS funding Palestian militants (directly and indirectly) who attacked my people

The idea that American foreign policy should focus on Israel's interests is certainly an intriguing one.

British troops ARE, and they have not had anything like the issues. Perhaps that's an issue you might want to take up.

They'd have had a lot more problems if they'd been assigned Sunni areas, though they probably would have been less heavy-handed. But they want out now, on the grounds that they feel they're doing more harm than good by staying.

57:

Andrew Crystall,

What countries? Germany seems to be affected. At least, What little news about the pipeline problems that show up this side of the water mentioned that Germanys' natural gas supply was impacted.

58:

Adrian Smith, please provide a link to said assertion by a current British military strategist, and not an purely armchair one either. You are projecting your desires onto a situation, basically.

It's allways heartwarming to see the isolationists at work, I should add. Don't worry, they'll be taking over America shortly so they won't prod us so much.

And I'd point out that Israel as one on America's strategic allies IS a consideration in planning. Not to mention a there is a portion of the American electorate who are Jewish (and because of deomographics, quite a powerful one).


Steven Rogers, yes, Germany is having some issues mostly due to some very old agreements and equipment. There's a lot of political pressure to resolve that, and it likely will within a year. Russia is seen as being basically very heavy handed over this, and there's little patience for it in Europe anymore.

59:

Adrian Smith, please provide a link to said assertion by a current British military strategist, and not an purely armchair one either.

Ten seconds on Google later: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/6046332.stm (from 13 October 2006)

The presence of UK armed forces in Iraq "exacerbates the security problems" and they should "get out some time soon", the head of the British Army has said.

You are projecting your desires onto a situation, basically.

Projecting projection - is that metaprojection or just recursive projection?

60:

Gee do you think that S.M.Stirling posts are tongue in cheek?

61:

Adrian Smith, please provide a link to said assertion by a current British military strategist,

(thanks to FfY) But I dunno, the unelected head of the British Army isn't necessarily going to represent the views of the ordinary Brit squaddie, who may be behind Tony Blair 110% on this one.

It's allways heartwarming to see the isolationists at work, I should add.

Who's an isolationist? There are ways to relate to foreign countries other than by occupying them.

And I'd point out that Israel as one on America's strategic allies IS a consideration in planning.

A totally informal alliance, isn't it? But there comes a time when one has to admit that the tail might be wagging the dog.

Not to mention a there is a portion of the American electorate who are Jewish (and because of deomographics, quite a powerful one).

Only because of demographics?

62:

Keep in mind, the US is the largest Jewish country in the world. Nearly half of all the Jews in the world live here...

Still, they're only about 2% of the population and aren't unified in their level of support for Israel. Also, slightly more muslims live in the US.

In the US a large degree of support for Israel actually comes from conservative Christians, for reasons of their own.

63:

In the 70's we had global cooling and mass starvation, now we have global warming and mass evacuations, in another 20 years I think we will have global cooling again, since it seems the sun radiation pattern is changing again.
The Earth has more pressing problems like tyranny and corruption in quite a large part of the world, but as we all know that "noninterference in internal affairs" is the holy writ of international politics today, so it's better to howl at straw dangers that no one will do anything anyway about...

C.

64:

For those of you who think the US is the only big and powerful country that has a strong anti-warming crowd, look into what some of the Russian scientists are saying.

Apparently, they've taken insolation variability much more seriously than most of the Western climate zealots (a lot of the bigger global warming cheerleaders seem to believe that insolation is a constant - it's not).

Some very clever folks have looked at sunspot cycles, and are suggesting that the warming trend might reverse much sooner than expected... as soon as 2050, by some predictions.

This work has enough support in Russia that they're actually doing long-term planning in case we get another Little Ice Age, since it will affect Russia much more than any of the more powerful countries, and since global warming is almost certainly going to be a huge benefit for Russia (they get a thawed Siberia, a completely ice-free northern coast, and a host of other good things, with very few bad side effects).

Of course, one of the big Stupid Assumptions about global warming is that technology will stand still for most of the next century or so, and that we won't change to new and better power sources until forced to by some World Government bureaucrats.

Note also that the "bad" companies like Exxon are actually fairly "green" when compared to the "good" ones like BP (which keeps running some of the dirtiest refineries in the world), and that some of the others (like Shell) aren't going into alt-energy out of the goodness of their hearts, but because their oil-exploration contracts have fallen through and they can't get access to the more profitable new fields.

65:

Alex: And you haven't stopped masturbating about it yet. Congratulations. I know people who did the Arctic convoys. None of them insist on behaving with your utter lack of dignity.

-- thank you for the confession of intellectual bankruptcy and physical cowardice... 8-).

66:

Alex: By the way, if you want to talk economics and demography, perhaps it would be worth mentioning that US median age is not currently skyrocketing because of....immigration!

-- actually, no, for the most part it's not due to immigration. The main reason is the slow but steady increase in birth-rates here since the 1970's. The state (Vermont) with the lowest TFR today has about what the whole nation did in the late 1970's -- about 1.6-1.7

And no, that isn't due to immigration, either; or to be more precise, about 1/3 of it is due to immigration and about 1/3 to higher fertility among some groups of the native-born.

67:

"Still, they're only about 2% of the population and aren't unified in their level of support for Israel. Also, slightly more muslims live in the US."

-- actually, that's not true; you see it all over the place, but it's one of those self-perpetuating memes that once released spring up like bindweed.

The source is an Islamic group which evidently just picked the figure out of the air so they could say there were as many of them as of the Jews. Typical trouble with the reality principle.

It's rather like the Palestinian Authority figures for the West Bank and Gaza... which turned out to be too high by about 1.5 million and rising. (Figures in error because of double counting, unchecked assumptions that turned out to be wrong but weren't corrected, and plain lying.)

In truth there are probably about 2 million Muslims in the US, not 6 million.

68:

Keep in mind, the US is the largest Jewish country in the world. Nearly half of all the Jews in the world live here...

Indeed, but in view of the 2% of the population they represent this is kind of swerving around the question of how the lobby manages to punch so far above its weight.

In the US a large degree of support for Israel actually comes from conservative Christians, for reasons of their own.

Hey, we're back to the Rapture again. You might want to read the fine print in that eschatology, some of it isn't too respectful of the cultural/ethnic autonomy of certain people.

69:
Not to mention a there is a portion of the American electorate who are Jewish (and because of deomographics, quite a powerful one).

Only because of demographics?

Well, no, now that you mention it there is the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, too ...

70:
Alex: And you haven't stopped masturbating about it yet. Congratulations. I know people who did the Arctic convoys. None of them insist on behaving with your utter lack of dignity.

-- thank you for the confession of intellectual bankruptcy and physical cowardice... 8-).

And both of you sound like the last few seconds of recess in third grade as everyone tries to have the last insult. But don't stop on our account, it's highly entertaining.

71:

Bury my heart (and anything else you can find) at Wounded Knee, innit. That wasn't you, it was your ancestors/predecessors. A different and much harder bunch of people.

Oh, I dunno. When Custer bit the big one at Greasy Grass, didn't they collectively wet themselves, create a Dept of Homeland Security and sign away their civil rights in exchange for the illusion of more security?

Oh, no, wait - they didn't.

72:

This might be of interest - a short FT article on Heinsohn's theory of the youth bulge (demographic influence on a society's disposition to violence), which I found via rassef-w:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/652fa2f6-9d2a-11db-8ec6-0000779e2340.html

I think he's wrong about why the European democracies don't wage war against each other anymore (I think it's due to heaviness of weaponry), but the rest of it makes a lot of sense.

Cheers,

73:

Well, no, now that you mention it there is the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, too ...

That's the Elders of AIPAC to you, my lad. But really, I'd just never heard of demographics as a reason. Are they all supposed to be childfree boomers or something? That might make them weigh in at 3% or so, relatively speaking.

74:

Cirby, you mean like, oh, nuclear. Unless the government forces it, there WON'T be a switch.

Adrian Smith, depends what you mean by "informal". If there's a treaty explicitly stating America will defend Israel, no. But Israel gets lots of exceptions and free trade considerations.

And no, it's no secret why American Jews "punch above their weight" - demographics (key concentrations in certain cites) and campaign funding. And the Otherdox Jewish population has a LOT of children. (Although a lot drift away to the Conservatives, who have less, so it's not as-rapid as it might be)

75:

Tony Quirke,

I think they did collectively wet themselves, but Homeland Security? Signing away their rights? No, they took much more direct action than that. Take a good hard look at what happened to the Plains Indians in the the three years following Greasy Grass. I don't think the American people are currently capable of that kind of ruthlessness.

That could change. One of the dynamics of terrorism is, how do you top what the other terrorists did last year? When the day comes that somebody tops the destruction of the World Trde Center... well, we'll see.

76:

Adrian Smith, depends what you mean by "informal". If there's a treaty explicitly stating America will defend Israel, no.

That would be what I meant, yes. I find the exception interesting. It certainly makes things much more flexible.

And no, it's no secret why American Jews "punch above their weight" - demographics (key concentrations in certain cites)

Ah right, that's a broader definition of demographics than what I'm used to. I realise that that's given them a lot of influence over the Dems historically.

and campaign funding.

True, but it still doesn't seem like enough.

PR-wise, I've always thought that the Israelis have managed to present themselves as a version of America's "lost youth" - hardy, virile frontier spirits making the desert bloom (by draining aquifers) and clearing the land of swarthy native peoples who had been making pitifully inefficient use of it. On top of an unhealthy dose of survivor guilt this triggered a visceral identification with Israel which continues to this day. In fact, it's hard to imagine what would shift it, other than (say) Israel somehow dragging America into something a lot more unpleasant than sad little Iraq.

Fortunately, there are no such scenarios on the horizon.

77:

Adrian,

I think you are pretty much dead-on. Many Americans do project a lot of the Wild West motif on the Middle East - without allowing for the fact that the Arabs are a hell of a lot more resilient than the Siberian-Americans were.

Plus, I think open loud support of Israel is used to mask anti-semitism in the US. I have heard lots of people (inculding some of my relatives) trumpet their support of Israel as proof that they are not anti-Jew. In spite of observed behavior to the contrary.

78:

It's been said that the Khrushchev-era Soviet Union fell for Cuba as comprehensively as it did because it reminded the politburo of their revolutionary youth. In a sense, Israel may represent an analogous phenomenon for the US. Certainly it did for the Western left up to about 1970.

79:

Adrian, PR wise Israel does really really poorly. This is a mix of insisting on using young Isralies (whose understanding of Western culture is often somewhat limited) for PR, and neopotism in the selection of said PR officials.

The Palestian PR machine is a LOT more slick. Usually.

The image you've got is...er...biased. During the War of Independence, a lot of Palestians fled Jewish forces (Nearly 750,000 stayed, mind you, and they and their families are full citizens of Israel today),

That land has been improved, eys, some of it due to technology, but a lot simply due to land recovery from the sorry state the Ottomans left Israel in ~1900 (mass deforestation, etc.).

And the Isralie goverment has repeatedly offered as part of an overall peace deal payment to the refugees for that land - on the current usage value, even when it was desert.

The "right of return" is a red herring which cannot pass in Israel, and is a Palestian leadership tactic for derailing talks. Israel, by offering payment, is doing all international law requires, incidentally.

And no, there is no such scenario. Lebanon was a mess, American involvement was limited to logistics and orbital pictures, though.

(Jordan? The King is firmly in favour of the economic benefits of trade with Israel. Egypt? Likewise, although they do sometimes posture. Syria? Can't hope to take the Golan Heights. Lebanon? Think we saw that one. Iran? If they nuke Israel, they'd get a response in kind. I don't think the Iranian leaders are THAT mad)

80:

I think you are pretty much dead-on. Many Americans do project a lot of the Wild West motif on the Middle East - without allowing for the fact that the Arabs are a hell of a lot more resilient than the Siberian-Americans were.

Also, strength(Islam) > strength(Christianity) >> strength(American Indian religions)

81:

Cirby, you mean like, oh, nuclear. Unless the government forces it, there WON'T be a switch.

You do realize that most of the reason we don't have a lot of nuclear in the Western countries right now is because of badly-written government regulations holding it back, right?

Sure, there needs to be some solid and tough rules for something as potentially dangerous as nuclear power, but what we have now is pretty pathetic. With our current industrial base, we could have a hundred pebble-bed reactors up and running within five years if we wanted, not to mention the potential of the thorium reactor designs for less-dangerous byproducts.

But... there's all of these Byzantine rules and regs that all new nuke plants have to follow, even if they aren't vulnerable to the sorts of risks those rules are designed to address.

82:

Cirby, and those rules came about mostly because of scaremongering. If goverments *wanted*, those could be swept away. I agree on the potential of pebble-bed reactors, but thorium ones, well - when it comes to our future, I prefer not to reach at all.

83:

The image you've got is...er...biased.

Remember, I wasn't talking about the reality, I was describing my impression of how many Americans see Israel, and what I see as a big reason for their support. It's a memetic structure, almost like a brand. And I'd be the last to deny that they seem to have been losing their touch lately. Lebanon was sort of like a failed product launch. Oddly, I've heard more Americans making excuses for it than Israelis. Though I did think this was a bit sad.

If they nuke Israel, they'd get a response in kind. I don't think the Iranian leaders are THAT mad

You see, this is what I've been saying - if the Iranians do want nukes, it's for deterrence. But no, that President whose name I can never spell is hoping for the return of the Twelfth Imam and will stop at nothing, therefore how can I even *think* of objecting to an Israeli preemptive strike, or better yet an American one, not that the IDF aren't up to it you understand...

But as you say, there's no such scenario.

84:

Adrian,

Looks like "The Hellhound Project" - a cover story novella from Analog Magazine back in the early seventies -may be about to come to fruition. The story dealt with the development and deployment of hummingbird sized autonomous antipersonnel missles that could loiter and track their designaed targets.

85:
and those rules came about mostly because of scaremongering. If goverments *wanted*, those could be swept away. I agree on the potential of pebble-bed reactors, but thorium ones, well - when it comes to our future, I prefer not to reach at all.
The basic design for the pebble-bed was done in the 1950's; the biggest mistake of the US nuclear industry was not to use it, but to use variants of the US Navy light-water reactor, on the basis that it was "better-developed and more mature" since there already were a number of them in operation. They overlooked the fact that the Navy designs did not have safety as a primary requirement; performance under combat conditions was much more important. The civilian nuclear industry ended up using a less safe design, and convinced people that it was perfectly safe, so any malfunction was viewed as a catastrophe.

Then those raving idiots at Chernobyl decided to see how far they could push an obsolete reactor, and the official reaction to the resultant accident was to send in several thousand workers without any training or dosimeters to clean up the mess. When they started dying of radiation sickness, and the Lapps had to kill off a large part of the reindeer herds in Finland, the whole world blamed nuclear power in the abstract, and not human greed, short-sightedness and stupidity.

Even with inherently safe reactors, there are choke points in the distribution of nuclear fuel and the resultant waste that can prove dangerous if the people running them don't take their work seriously. So there's still significant effort to make the whole industry safe, but it mostly has to do with oversight, accountability, and not hiring the boss' idiot cousin to drive the truck carrying the fuel. Unfortunately, this is not an area where technical people do well, which is why, even though I agree completely that we need nuclear (fission) power as a primary energy source for at least the first half of this century, I am a little cynical about our ability to do it safely.

86:

I gotta ask, because it's such an astounding claim --- and let me reiterate that it would be a fairly astounding claim from anyone, considering no more than 1.4 percent of the male population of the U.S. has ever committed homicide. (That's a maximum bullshit estimate, of course. It assumes that all homicides are committed by men aged 15-50, with a uniform age distribution, and that all killers murder only one victim.)

So, Steve, who'd you kill, where, and what were the circumstances? This is the second time that you've mentioned it on Charlie's blog, so it doesn't seem to be a particular secret or trauma. Dinos, por favor.

87:

Adrian,

Israel had nukes in the Yom Kippur war, when they were at one point hours from losing it all. They didn't use them, and while not officially accnowledged, it's no real secret that they're there to make using non-conventional weapons on Israel by Arab countries a BAD idea.

Bruce,

Look at Japan's nuclear industry. Some workers get killed practically every year. THAT (critical flashes) is, frankly, what happens when you have a badly run nuclear power industry. It's bad, yes, but nobody not working in it has been affected.

Chernobyl was way WAY out of parameters. It was badly obselete even at the time, as you know. Modern PWG reactors themselves have a very good overall safety record.

88:

Israel had nukes in the Yom Kippur war, when they were at one point hours from losing it all. They didn't use them, and while not officially accnowledged, it's no real secret that they're there to make using non-conventional weapons on Israel by Arab countries a BAD idea.

Well sure, but kind of orthogonal to the point I was making, which is that Iran has been given considerable reason to believe that it's a potential object of Israeli and/or American military attention (possibly conventional, but possibly not), and it would be quite rational for them to go for the same kind of insurance as the Norks (appear to) have. It's a deterrent. But people go on about how their long-range missiles "could hit Europe", like they'd have some interest in gratuitously flattening Prague or something.

89:

Except the interest is largely BECAUSE they're developing those weapons. And you mean like they have a vested interest in things like avoiding sanctions? Um. While the current leadership is not THAT insane, there's allways a good chance that either one which is will arise, or certain people will look the other way and a terror group will get a nice big bomb.

Mutually assured destruction is not a good idea.

Besides, for some years to come they know Israel - if sufficiently motivated - could take their nuclear processing facilities out with missile strikes. It's after they HAVE a bomb that things get really scary.

90:

While the current leadership is not THAT insane, there's allways a good chance that either one which is will arise, or certain people will look the other way and a terror group will get a nice big bomb.

For that, you should be worrying about Pakistan. Or those missing Russian suitcase nukes - careless or what? But I can't imagine them trusting any terrorist group enough to go around handing the things out like party favours. You *really* wouldn't want one traced back to you.

Mutually assured destruction is not a good idea.

It's pretty stable, though. OK, for multiple players a few refinements might have to be introduced.

Besides, for some years to come they know Israel - if sufficiently motivated - could take their nuclear processing facilities out with missile strikes.

Natanz? Maybe nuclear missile strikes. I did read that the Israelis recently took delivery of a bunch of bunker-busters, but it's a long old way unless the Americans let them through Iraqi airspace, which would sacrifice a lot of deniability.

It's after they HAVE a bomb that things get really scary.

Only if you feel that Israel's continued existence depends on having an absolutely overwhelming full-spectrum military dominance of the ME, forever. Not everyone reckons that's a practical aspiration. The thing that *is* disturbing is the proliferation implications - once Iran has one, then Saudi and Turkey are likely to follow, then Greece...Egypt...Serbia...fortunately the Albanians couldn't afford it but in general you're looking at having to drag everybody's favourite singing mathematician out of retirement to add another twenty stanzas to his old classic. Nobody wants to go there, but that doesn't necessarily mean the genie's going back in the bottle.

91:

Adrian,

Pakistan is currently trying to cooperate in a military sense with another of Israel's strategic allies, Turkey. So, I'd doubt thwere will be trouble from there.

And no, MAD isn't in any sense "stable". Because it sorta-kinda managed to stop us killing each other in too-big quantities for a few decades isn't really much of a recomendation compared to not threatening to kill each other en-mass in the first place.

And, uh, Israel would deny it if they did it? No, they wouldn't. And their conventional missiles have the range. They have modern warheads too, yes.

And no, I feel that Israel's continued existance in the face of states which publically embrace language of their destruction requires security measures.

Unless and until making weapons-grade nuclear material becomes easy, the genie hasn't escaped the bottle. It requires years of work and massive facilities.

Proliferation is the natural end result of a reliance on MAD. And given one high yield a-bomb in the middle of Tel Aviv would wreck Israel as a state, MAD is a really bad idea.

I can perfectly well forsee something like a fundermentalist Islamic plot in the upper reaches of the Iranian goverment who decide sacrificing millions of Iranians "to paradise" is fine as long as they can destroy Israel.

92:

Andrew Crystall:

THAT (critical flashes) is, frankly, what happens when you have a badly run nuclear power industry. It's bad, yes, but nobody not working in it has been affected.

Quite true, but my point was at a tangent to this. I was trying not to write a monograph on the subject, so keeping it short probably made it a bit cryptic.

My point was that public opinion (aided and abetted by the scare tactics used by news media to attract and hold an audience) always magnifies the safety issues. Even when an accident is minor and is perfectly contained by existing procedures, the reaction is always "if this could happen, something else much worse could also happen." When the industry is riddled with management problems and slacking (remember the snap inspection that found not a single plant operator on one shift who had the requisite training to handle an emergency?) accidents are going to happen more often, and cause more bad PR than would happen in a well-run industry. And where there's bad PR, there are politicians; just can't exterminate 'em.

93:

Andrew Crystall:

And no, MAD isn't in any sense "stable".

It is metastable in the mathematical sense that it will remain stable under some set of conditions, but is susceptible to avalanche failures. In particular, even if the triggering failure is of low probability, the successive failures are often highly probable.

As an example, consider the incident in the '80s where the only thing that kept us all from dying was one Soviet commander who ignored doctrine (much harder in the Soviet military than in the West) and did not launch until he'd checked out the alarm and discovered it did not indicate an American pre-emptive strike. I've forgotten the details just now, but I think it came up here a couple of months ago. The initial trigger was a low probability failure of the CCCI system, giving a false positive indication of being under attack. Once that happened, successive failures (e.g., not checking to make sure) were highly probable, since it was in fact a violation of standard doctrine.

All this is why I'm actually much more concerned about accidental nuclear war than I am about madmen pushing the button, especially since the smaller nations and NGOs (and isn't Al Quaeda an NGO?) don't have good CCCI to start with.

94:

Bruce, for nuclear power it's a question of political capital on the line certainly. But it COULD be done.

As for WMD, quite. But, MAD also encourages stockpiling and thus the chance some will go "walkies". And the fanatics are not necessarily "mad"...they have a strong ideology, and can be smart and motivated about applying it. Keeping the amount of weapons grade (dirty bombs, you frankly just have to live with the risk of, since civilian grade nuclear material will suffice) nucleae material down is a GOOD thing, thus.

CCCI, well, we're talking bombs here not missiles, and use only in planned strikes on the offence. That makes things considerably easier.

95:

"Missing Russian suitcase nukes" aren't a problem. Ahem.

I've been doing a bit of intensive research on the topic, for reasons of fiction, and it turns out that small nukes are actually very hard to make, and need to be remanufactured every couple of years; they're not terribly storable. A compact H-bomb like an ICBM warhead that's a couple of years past its sell-by date will fizzle if you detonate it -- yielding a fraction of its full yield -- but something the size of the old W54 warhead (the "Davey Crockett" warhead, also used in the SADM man-portable demolition munition) is so marginal that it probably won't go supercritical at all -- you'll just get plutonium shrapnel over the immediate vicinity. Which makes for a nasty "dirty bomb", but a nuke it ain't.

If those suitcase nukes have been missing for >10 years, then their tritium initiators will have partially decayed (half life is 22 years or so), and the explosive lenses will be completely buggered by the low level radiation from the pit. And there's no way the suitcase nukes use a uranium gun design -- the critical mass for U235 is not something anyone in their right mind would describe as "man portable".

96:

Andrew Crystall: I find all arguments that rely on the basic assumption that a foreign government is, top to bottom, as mad as a fish to be extremely suspect. Because, you know, they may not rely on the same axiomatic assumptions as we do, but they tend to follow internally consistent logic once you get into their own mind-set. And while the Iranian government would probably order a national holiday if someone else nuked Israel, sticking a pointy object into that particular hornet's nest isn't actually on their agenda.

As witness, oh, the past twenty five years of history.

97:

Charlie, did I say that?

It dosn't need a whole government. It needs a few people in key positions. Those positions might even be relatively low-ranking as long as they make certain desisions. "Losing" nuclear material is easier the more countries have them, and MAD by its nature causes a build up of material.

And again, you're using the term "mad". As you yourself point out, they have their own logic train, and so does Al-Quaeda.

Further, given the Iranian leaders FREQUENT pronouncements involving poking that hornets nest, um.... (And actively funding Hamas fighters comes under that heading too!)

98:

It dosn't need a whole government. It needs a few people in key positions.

We have a technical term for this requirement: we call it a "conspiracy theory". And a conspiracy that would demand a serious crackdown by the authorities in any country if it came to light (think how the US government would react to a conspiracy by a few people in key positions to divert nuclear materials: what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander).

This just doesn't fly, except in wingnut-land (where the bad guys' conspiracies are so much more efficient than our own).

As for funding Hamas, that's in the same ball-park as the USA funding the Contras in Nicaragua during the 80s. Proxy wars don't generally get treated as casus belli unless the other side is explicitly searching for an excuse to get nasty.

99:

I know I'm going to regret this, but isn't there a case for saying that Iran has just as much right to go nuclear as anyone else? Or indeed as little? Are we going to allow only the nations we like to be nuclear powers?
Okay, I'd be happier if they didn't have the Bomb. I'd be happier if nobody had the Bomb. But what gives us the right to tell them whether or not they should have a nuclear programme? It strikes me as being defenders of Democracy, so long as the democratic process elects people we're in favour of.
Okay, you can start slapping me now...

100:

Charlie:

Oh good, you found the info on the SADM stuff. I was meaning to send you some links a year or so ago but got busy. If you ever happen to find yourself making a "left toin at Albuquerque", then budget a few hours of time to visit the National Atomic Museum there. It used to be on an Air Force base not far from the airport, where they had everything from a B-29 to a Nike launcher to a Snark.

BTW, people who say Westerners would never take part in a suicide bombing should read up on the deployment plans for SADM weapons. As I recall a key point was for part of the paratrooper team who deployed it to guard it until it detonated. Clearly the military thought Americans capable of taking part in a suicide mission.

101:

I've been doing a bit of intensive research on the topic, for reasons of fiction

Riiiiight. You socialist commie anarchist you.

I wonder how many writers have been picked up by the cops post-911 for wandering around and asking detailed questions about nuclear weapons, or the vulnerabilities of urban utility networks, or the finer points of poisoning people.

102:

Pakistan is currently trying to cooperate in a military sense with another of Israel's strategic allies, Turkey. So, I'd doubt thwere will be trouble from there.

Musharraf is trying to cooperate, I'm sure, but not all of his people are on the same page afaict.

And, uh, Israel would deny it if they did it? No, they wouldn't.

I meant the *Americans* might want to be able to deny that it was effectively a joint operation. Not that it would necessarily make any difference, but there's a school of thought that says carrier battle groups, though best left severely alone in the open ocean, could become all *kinds* of vulnerable in a closed space like the Persian Gulf. I mean, I'm as curious as the next man to see if these actually work, but some of the potential consequences of their not doing so could affect me where I live.

And their conventional missiles have the range. They have modern warheads too, yes.

Conventional missile warheads that can get through seventy-five feet of rock and reinforced concrete?

Jesus, I try, but it's so hard to stay up to date with this stuff.

Proliferation is the natural end result of a reliance on MAD.

I'd have said proliferation was the natural end result of nuclear states insisting on their right to push non-nuclear states around, but hey.

103:

I'd say proliferation ws the natural result of the existence of nuclear states.

104:

Charlie, see here you and I part company. Because Israel is the home of my people, and I tend to get a little upset when friends get blown up.

And sure, it's a conspiracy theory. Not all of them are, in the end, false in hindsight. Or that impractical in the future. And frankly, a crackdown after the fact would be of cold comfort.


Dave Hutchinson, international law. Sure, it's a mess, but it's also the only thing we can use. Unless you just want to invade.


"Conventional missile warheads that can get through seventy-five feet of rock and reinforced concrete?"

Dosn't sound insolveable for cruise missiles with modern warheads, frankly.

"proliferation was the natural end result of nuclear states insisting on their right to push non-nuclear states around"

Um, you don't need that many nukes for that. A few nukes and you're good. The only reason you'd need MORE nukes was to deter someone with an equivalent number of nukes from thinking "aw, that's not so bad" and going for it anyway.

Bruce, see above. MAD is about the only real driver - they're expensive and dangerous to make, they cost a fortune and they're a politial liability. But with MAD, you need to be able to destroy the enemy utterly. And that means a lot of nukes.

105:

That "radiation screws up the explosives" thing hasn't ever been proven, it's just a suggestion from some guys who are being really, really optimistic that nobody can use the things.

The radiation from plutonium is really low, in that sense, and wouldn't have that much impact on the lenses (especially since the fissionable material is surrounded by things like beryllium reflectors which keeps most of the more damaging radiation inside the sphere and away from the bomb components).

You have to assume (especially in the idea of a Soviet-era design) that they'd engineer the things for low maintenance and long shelf life, due to the probable scenarios for use of a man-portable nuke.

Another thing is that you don't need tritium for an initiator. One of the early initiator materials was polonium-210, which also needs frequent replacement.

Gee, where have we seen news about someone possibly smuggling Po-210 lately?

Then there's also the "who needs suitcase nukes as long as people have trucks" situation. Put a standard-issue 200 kiloton ICBM warhead in a road case, and you can wheel it all over any downtown area with no real problems (put a couple of rock-band bumper stickers on the outside, and the cops might even help you push).

I can, with no real effort, a few hundred dollars cash, and a couple of hours notice, get a vehicle that would be able to transport any nuclear weapon ever made. Any deliverable nuke ever built would easily fit into a standard-issue shipping container... and that includes the early thermonuclear monsters that weighted over ten tons.

Um, you don't need that many nukes for that. A few nukes and you're good.

The problem is that with nuclear weapons, almost the entire cost is infrastructure. Once you build a system that can create one, you already have a system that will make a hundred in not much more time, and for a whole lot less per bomb. That's part of the reason there were tens of thousands of nukes made during the Cold War - once they ramped up to produce those first hundred or so, the next ten thousand were a helluva lot easier to crank out.

...and if you build one, might as well crank out the next ten in case the first one fizzles...

106:

Andrew Crystall - nope, anything that avoids invasion is good for me, thanks.

107:

Andrew Crystall: I don't agree that MAD is the only driver. The problem with only one power having nukes is that everyone else will want them. Military technology always diffuses out rapidly. The proliferation of nerve gas is a perfect case in point. The only reason nuclear proliferation has been so slow is that it's a lot more expensive to refine fissionables and a lot harder to figure out how to trigger an explosion than it is to figure out how to manufacture Sarin or VX. And once you have a fission bomb, thermonukes are dead easy in comparison.

The problem with only two powers having nukes is, of course, MAD. The problem with a lot of countries having nukes is that MAD becomes less of a deterrent: "Honest, Uncle Sam, I was just nuking my neighbor over a border dispute, I knew you wouldn't get MAD over something that really doesn't affect you."

108:

Charlie: on the off-chance that wasn't a typo, let me offer a correction. The half-life of tritium is 12.3 years according to several sources I've used.

Somewhat more substantively, the "Davy Crocket" warhead was a fission-only device, built in the 1950's when they couldn't build a fusion bomb that fit in an artillery shell, so tritium's not an issue. These were crude things compared to the suitcase nuke, or the triggers used on ICBM fusion warheads, and I'm not convinced they would degrade as claimed.

The reason it's an issue is that there are a number of those shells unaccounted for. They went missing sometime between the late '50s and the '70s, when they began to remove the weapon from service (though I think a number of them were still in Europe as late as the 80's). The recoiless rifle shells that delivered these warheads were not very accurate, and the yield was low, sub-kiloton, so the design maximized radiation, perfect for a dirty bomb.

109:

cirby, not entirely true. There are no real scale benefits for centrifuges, and indeed storage of larger amounts of material is a problem which rapidly scales. It's a flow process - and a relatively low flow and fewer bombs could be perfectly sustainable.

Also, polonium-initiator bombs need a sligtly different design, and the initators have allways been the tricky (in the engineering sense) of making nuclear weapons. It's not something the average terror group would be capeable of (it takes governments years and large labs).

Dave Hutchinson, ANYTHING? Before I come up with examples, you might want to qualify that.

Bruce Cohen, I think you've misunderstood my argument. I'm not arguing that non-nuclear powers will want nukes. I'm arguing that the benefits of nuclear vs non-nuclear powers can be achieved with a few warheads only. However, other nuclear powers engaging in MAD require as massive as possible a buildup of warheads (and thus more chance one or more will go walkies).

As for sub-kiloton devices...frankly, you can do better with purely conventional weapons these days. More readily avaliable weapons. And improvising a big FAE using a tanker full of gas, well... (as for the enhanced radiation / neutron bombs, they DO require tritium. Lots of tritium...and the radiation they make does not persist beyond 48-72 hours!)

110:

Charlie, I assume you've read Nicholas Freeling's Gadget, right? Carefully researched on what it would take for a terrorist group to build an emplaceable Little Boy type bomb, and he claimed he left out just one critical design element. (I think there were actually two left out.) It's also a damn good read.

111:

It's a flow process - and a relatively low flow and fewer bombs could be perfectly sustainable.

It could be, for some types of programs, but with the "get it done fast" method that has been used in nearly all nuclear programs ends up with a system that can make just enough in a short period, and a whole lot more at n + a couple of years. Example: Iran, which is building a program with a bunch of centrifuges to get started, but which will end up making a lot more fissionables a couple of years after the first critical mass.

Also, polonium-initiator bombs need a sligtly different design, and the initators have allways been the tricky (in the engineering sense) of making nuclear weapons. It's not something the average terror group would be capeable of (it takes governments years and large labs).

Please note that pretty much all references to suitcase weapons suggests either a weapon smuggled out of Russia, or a weapon designed with the help of former USSR engineers. It gets a lot easier when someone walks in the front door with a set of working plans...

There's also the "tricky" issue, which is only really true when making cutting-edge weapons that use barely-critical masses with odd geometries, not bombs massing about the same as a large motorcycle. With even a little prodding from Russian techs (or help from Pakistan), it's not that hard to assume someone could build a "refrigerator bomb" that could be placed pretty much anywhere. The mystique of the "suitcase nuke" only works when you really, really need something that a main character in a movie can carry around while being chased by bad guys.

And, before we discount the gun-type weapons, there was a 3000 pound gun-type bomb in the 25 to 30 kiloton range in the US arsenal, as well a a sub-900 pound gun-type artillery shell in the 15 kiloton range.

Thee was also a sub-200 pound ADM gun-type weapon called the T-4, but it was apparently a fairly small yield device (you don't need a big heavy gun barrel for explosive forming, you know).

Andrew: but if you're looking to really screw someone up, a small nuke sitting on top of a pile of metallic cobalt (currenty about $26/pound) would really do the job. Enhanced radiation weapons are for people who want to retake the ground they're bombing.

112:

Andrew Crystall - the reason I mentioned it is that a couple of months ago Tony Blair made a speech about renewing Trident in which he said that Britain needs to maintain an independent nuclear deterrent in today's modern world, and it struck me that, while it's apparently okay for us to have one, it's also okay for us to deny it to Iran. If as you say international law gives us a pretext to do that - and I'm not even slightly versed in international law so I can't argue - fine, although it does seem mighty handy.
Don't get me wrong, I don't want Iran to have the Bomb - I'm not even comfortable with France having the Bomb - but it occurred to me that this kind of nuclear imperialism just plays into Ahmedinajad's hands. You can see how he's playing it. Here he is trying to turn his nation into a modern nuclear-powered state, and here's the West leaning on him to stop. But he's not going to stop, he's not going to bend, he's going to stand up for his nation and his people and he's going to damn well make them a nuclear state. He's going to make them proud. And they'll love him for it

You're right, I should qualify my last post. Anything that doesn't leave Iran a smoking hole in the ground for the next hundred years.

On a personal note, do you realise that you guys are really quite scary? We started out talking about global warming deniers and here we are now discussing enhanced radiation weapons and suitcase nukes... :)

113:

Dave:

Just think how bad it's going to be when Greenpeace gets some pocket-sized nukes, and starts using them on coal-fired power plants and automobile factories.

114:

Steve Rogers:

Plus, I think open loud support of Israel is used to mask anti-semitism in the US

I believe you're right. There seems to be a lot less overt prejudice against Jews, but the same amount or more covert prejudice, or at least complete lack of understanding and tolerance. On the other hand, there has been one good consequence: here in Portland we haven't heard much from our skinhead neo-Nazi neigbors in Idaho. A few years ago they were all over the area recruiting disaffected teenagers, and I haven't seen or heard of them in a long time.

115:
On a personal note, do you realise that you guys are really quite scary? We started out talking about global warming deniers and here we are now discussing enhanced radiation weapons and suitcase nukes... :)
Well, Dave you can look at it in a couple of different ways: a) we're Charlie's technology research team, and that includes military technology, or b) we're a bunch of technophiles who are as fascinated by weapons as any other kind of hardware, or c) we're trying to convince ourselves that the world really isn't going to hell in a handbasket (would it really fit?) by gaming worst case scenarios in the hope they're not as bad as we fear.

Personally, I think it's a combination of a), b), and d): nostalgia for all that neat Cold War technology that now will probably never be used :-)

116:

cirby: That "radiation screws up the explosives" thing hasn't ever been proven, it's just a suggestion from some guys who are being really, really optimistic that nobody can use the things.

My source was a conventional explosives guy who worked in the British nuclear weapons program. Your source is ...?

Oh yeah. On the subject of initiators compare the half life of polonium 210 with the half life of tritium. (Thanks for the correction, Bruce.) Hint: there's a reason the US and UK programs switched from polonium to tritium.

Andrew Crystall: I've got relatives in Israel too. You know what? "My country right or wrong" kind of went out of fashion in 1918.

cirby: Greenpeace is a multinational non-profit organization that likes to keep its profile high and its donations flowing in, thank you very much. Their headquarter staff and employees have every bit as solid an incentive for not being declared terrorists, having their assets seized, and being hunted down like rats as, say, the board of Exxon-Mobil. Look at their operations and what you see are publicity stunts used to drive fundraining drives -- very efficient viral marketing that gets their name in front of people. They're a corporate organization that functions much like any other, confusing them with Doctor Evil is not terribly useful.

Parenthetically speaking, one of the things that most fascinates me about this thread is the willingness of participants -- most of them American -- to assert that they are completely sane, while ascribing to foreigners motivations and goals that require them (the Americans) to adopt defensive postures which are barkingly insane. It suggests a fascinating disconnect with reality in the American mass media's portrayal of foreigners, in that they think that other folks are automatically irrational and weird and unpredictably dangerous simply by virtue of being foreign.

117:

Charlie: You know what? "My country right or wrong" kind of went out of fashion in 1918.

-Whilst not disagreeing with your point about mindless jingoism at all, wasn't the original quote:

"My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right."

Of course, this could be a later expansion as a riposte to the shorter version. But (no gentleman of breeding, I, alas) I like the longer version better.

Cheers,

Elethiomel

(Hoping they were telling the truth when they told me I was only here on vacation.)

118:

Elethiomel: I like the longer version too ... trouble is, most people have forgotten it, and it's the shorter version I take exception to.

119:

cirby,

Well, there are only 9 (and 4 former) countries with nuclear weapons. Not a huge sample. Of those, India, Pakistan and South Africa (one of the former, and the only one to make its own) used a slower flow. Iran plans to keep adding centrifuges, yes.

As to potentially missing Russian weapons, none are polonium designs. Ditto potentially missing tactical weapons, all are sub-kiloton yield.

Dave Hutchinson,

I don't believe I said I agreed with Tony Blair. Also, I believe Iran's been offered complete civilian nuclear power plants if they dismantle their nuclear program. They refused. Kinda clarrifies THAT one.


Charlie Stross, not "My nation, right or wrong", "My people, by birth". I didn't get to chose that side of things I'm afraid. (I was born in Britian, personally - and I have allways had a major issue with the Sharon goverment. I respected Yitzhak Rabin....)

Placing the future of half of my people in the hands of the rationality of a man who has called for "Israel to be wiped off the map" seems downright foolish, Charlie.

And Greenpeace..yes, they're a corperation whose business is making a fuss about the environment. Not fixing it, since that would in the end be bad for their bottom line.

120:

Andrew Crystall: not "My nation, right or wrong", "My people, by birth". Well, the "my people by birth" bit goes for me too, but it still doesn't mean they can do no wrong.

(Also, you seem to be confusing the President of Iran with their Head of State, and forgetting that the less real power a politician has, the louder they have to yell to get everyone's attention.)

Greenpeace: yes, they want to fix the environment, but I suspect that most of them haven't thought through precisely what they want that goal to mean in the long term. And are they necessarily wrong? There's a lot of good they can do right now by naming and shaming egregious polluters.

121:

Charlie, of course they can do wrong. And as I said, I had - have - strong issues with the Isralie government on many issues. But not when it comes to foreign security.

As for the Iranian president, "The Constitution defines the President as the highest state authority after the Supreme Leader". The President chairs the cabinet, for example.

Greenpeace: I am no fan of the Greens, although I am environmentalist. A lot of the green, and especially greenpeace strategies are highly counter-productive in terms of actual results. Key example: Nuclear power.

If Greenpeace were only naming and shaming actual major polouters, I'd have no problems with them..but for example they campaign against burning paper for power over recycling. When the paper (and over 99% of the paper in the UK *does*) comes from sustainable forrestry, recyling (except for rag and newspaper) is less environmentally friendly than burning it for power!

122:

Andrew Crystall - I don't believe I said you agreed with Tony Blair. That would be an awful thing to accuse someone of...
I didn't know Iran had been offered civilian nuclear reactors if they dismantled their nuclear programme, thanks for telling me that.
SpeakerToManagers - thanks for clearing that up. ;-)

123:

cirby - Just think how bad it's going to be when Greenpeace gets some pocket-sized nukes, and starts using them on coal-fired power plants and automobile factories.
It would be an interesting change in strategy, it is true.

124:

Who needs nukes anyway? I have considered a variety of methods for bringing much of this country to a standstill (And incidentally killing a few people) that require only JCB's, thermite and some explosives. And some metal bars.

125:

guthrie - you don't need all that stuff to bring the country to a standstill. You just have to wait for it to snow.

126:

Greenpeace is a multinational non-profit organization that likes to keep its profile high and its donations flowing in, thank you very much.

You left out the bit about "with very strong off-the-book ties to various nutcase organizations, which lets it take money from both mainstream and crazy people, because the mainstream folks don't know about the other stuff."

They have a more or less continual crossover of personel with Earth First (and ELF), PETA, the Ruckus Society (AKA "Greenpeace's Commandos"), and Sea Shepherd, all of which have a reasonably strong resume of really stupid violence in the pursuit of their causes. With deniability, of course (even though some of those organizations have top-level members who are also mid to high level Greenpeace activists).

127:

Hi, Charlie!

'Not "My nation, right or wrong", nor "My people, by birth."' I understand the sentiment being propagated here, but as a patriotic American, I hope you don't mind if I change the phrasing a bit. After all, my saintly departed madre was a very patriotic American, although the "my people, my birth" formulation would have produced a rather vociferous negatory response in an idiosyncratic mixture of Spanish grammar and Dutch vocabulary ... although she was a very patriotic American. (And Spaniard, Dutchman, and Mexican.)

And so, in her memory, let me propose the following. It isn't mine, but it is spot-on. "Nationalism is loyalty to the nation as you believe it to be. Patriotism is loyality to the nation as it is, regardless of how you are working to make it become."

In other words, goddamn but the U.S. of A. is a fucked-up country. It is, however, the one I got, and I'd be lying if I said I cared as much about the 6 billion other people on this planet as I do about the 300 million residents of the North American land mass between the Rio Bravo and the 49th parallel. Much as I prefer the policies regarding taxation and the expenditure of the receipts thereof of our neighbors to the north --- and most of the rest of their constitution, the universal conscription of Finland and Israel, the voting system of that incredibly bizarre large desert island in the antipodes, the musical culture and language of our neighbor to the south, and the food and multicultural tolerance of that wonderful island off the coast of Venezuela, the U.S. of A. is my country.

In other words, the U.S. of A. be the country that I and my children who will soon be born have fuckin' got --- along with the great Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Screwy as both might be.

In other words, I love democracies, because they are democracies, and I love my country, because it is my country. And if my country ain't a democracy? Puto, g�ey, then you gotta make it one ... or give your loyalty to other countries that can help make it one. And if you think that it can't become a democracy in the near future? Well, then your problem is to find whoever promotes both the least suffering in the near term with the greatest chance of democracy in the long one.

Sorry 'bout the length of the missive above. I'm just sayin' that it don't get more ... well, "blood and soil" sounds stupid in the American context, so let's just say "motor vehicles and music" ... more American than fuckin' me. Or my dearly departed santa madre. Or my Pops, living still in Miami Beach. Just sayin'.

128:

Yeah this is way off topic, but.
As far as MAD goes I think that most of the Middle East is aware that if Israel does retaliate for a nuclear attack, I'm assuming an effective one, Mecca will be a target.
No Muslim would consider that an acceptable trade off for turning Israel into glass.

Back to topic.
Everybody is saying, "but if I do it and they don't I'm at a disadvantage".

Do it and penalize the corporations that don't toe the line no matter what country they're in. As long as you provide clear guidelines as to what they need to do get into your markets they will comply eventually. Who cares if the country won't comply. If you can get the corporations moving in the right direction eventually they will drag others with them. Multi-Nationals are especially suseptable to this as you can insist on all their operations meeting specs.

The key is not to make impossible demands. The targets must be attainable and notice must be given of the targets well in advance. Then actually enforce them. Remember there is always a corporation willing to provide a product or service, you just have to be willing to pay the price.

People will say that this is against the rule of free trade. I agree. But this is no longer an issue of trade. We wish to get people to change their habits. More than half the time the people changing their habits find that it was profitable without the incentives.

Rant over.

129:
Ditto potentially missing tactical weapons, all are sub-kiloton yield.
Perhaps. I've been hearing rumors about Nike Hercules warheads missing in Germany since the 1960's (and the first time I heard it was from a guy who'd crewed on them there). The Herc could carry a moderately large warhead, 2 to 30 KT (or 40, I've seen different figures from different sources). And despite most sources that call it a ground-to-air interceptor missle, it was capable of ground-to-ground, so the warheads might not have been air-burst-optimized.
130:

Charlie:

I've got relatives in Israel too. You know what? "My country right or wrong" kind of went out of fashion in 1918.

I probably have relatives in Israel too, but they're likely sixth of seventh cousins; that distance in consanguinity doesn't change the fact that 99% of the people in the world assume that I'm a Zionist because my name is "Cohen" (which is hilarious because my grandfather took the name as he came in to America at Ellis Island, thinking it would get him some social status).

Well, I do wish the people of Israel well, and I sent my son there for summer on a kibbutz before the Intefadah got out of hand. I just don't think there's any real solution to their plight that doesn't involve a lot of people, probably both Palestinian and Jews alike getting hurt and/or killed. I want Israel to survive and prosper, but I emphatically do not wish Israel to survive by killing off all the Arabs who oppose it.

Andrew Crystall: I too respected Rabin. My despair at the high probability that a peaceful solution to the antagonism between Israel and its neighbors will not be allowed to occur comes from the fact that any leader in the region who actively works for and has a chance of attaining such a solution seems to get killed by his own countrymen. If Anwar Sadat had lived long enough to work with Yitzak Rabin, they might have been able to reduce tensions enough for a solution to be reached.

131:

I don't believe I said I agreed with Tony Blair. Also, I believe Iran's been offered complete civilian nuclear power plants if they dismantle their nuclear program. They refused. Kinda clarrifies THAT one.

Or they just might want to have control of the whole process, without various other countries claiming on dubious grounds to represent the grownups telling them what they can and can't do.

Placing the future of half of my people in the hands of the rationality of a man who has called for "Israel to be wiped off the map" seems downright foolish, Charlie.

There are those who reckon that that may not be exactly what he said, unless you feel that "regime" is the same as "people", which is kind of a stretch in my book.

132:

Dave, your not English are you?
;)

133:

I'll see your Nike Hercules and raise you a Genie - now, surface-to-air nukes are one thing, but air-to-air...and the F101 Voodoo it went with was pretty cool too.

I'm not particularly convinced that any Crocketts are particularly missing, as opposed to book-keeping errors. I suspect that it would have turned up by now - Germany certainly had some crazy, crazy people about in the 70s.

134:

Oh yes - Wikipedia knows Genie, with some cool photos and this wonderful snippet:

A live Genie was detonated only once, in Operation Plumbbob on 19 July 1957. It was fired by an F-89J over Yucca Flats Nuclear Test Site at an altitude of 4,500 m (15,000 ft). A group of USAF officers volunteered to stand underneath the blast to prove that the weapon was safe for use over populated areas. Whether this affected the health of the officers is unknown.

1.5 KT and a 162 kN rocket motor, all in one package.

135:

No Muslim would consider that an acceptable trade off for turning Israel into glass.

Feh, the Jews lost their temple, and they just sort of internalised it. Anyway, the Kaaba's rock afaik, you'd probably need a groundburst. Very antisocial.

136:

Brian Rempel,

"As long as you provide clear guidelines as to what they need to do get into your markets they will comply eventually"

As can be seen by what companies are doing to get into the Chinese market at the moment...


Bruce Cohen,

Interesting. I've never heard about missing Nike Hercules warheads, I admit. I'll have to do some reading :)


Adrian Smith,

Then they have to accept the consequences of their deliberate choices of their choice of dual-usage rather than purely civilian technologies. As for the Iranian President, he funds Hamas whose goal IS the elimination of Israel. That clarifies his intentions quite nicely.

137:

Then they have to accept the consequences of their deliberate choices of their choice of dual-usage rather than purely civilian technologies.

YM everyone else has to accept the consequences of Israel attacking them? That's so reassuring.

Say, Vladimir's talking about supplying air defence equipment - that's been in the pipeline for ages. I wonder if it's any good.

As for the Iranian President, he funds Hamas whose goal IS the elimination of Israel. That clarifies his intentions quite nicely.

Sounds like you've decided what you're going to believe, at any rate.

138:

Adrian, the Iranian air defences equipment is allready pretty good. That's why Israel would use special forces and missiles if they did attack.

And Adrian, yes, I believe the actions of the man show quite clearly his intentions. So sorry I actually take evidence into account.

139:

No Muslim would consider that an acceptable trade off for turning Israel into glass.

...except that some of the higher-ranking folks in Iran have already said that it is an acceptable tradeoff, since they're part of that crowd who thinks that Islam shouldn't have such a focus on holy sites - it's bordering on idolatry, apparently. Consider also the number of mosques attacked by differing sects of Islam, and the tendency to use "holy sites" for various non-holy purposes (like weapons storage).

You might note that the second-holiest site in Islam (along with several others down the list) is in the effective target zone if Iran attacks Israel with nukes.

140:

So I suppose we're talking mass holocaust as Israel is wiped out, and it wipes out its attackers, then probably internal muslim warfare as the side who think its ok to nuke holy sites fights those who think its wrong?

What a bad vision.

141:

It suggests a fascinating disconnect with reality in the American mass media's portrayal of foreigners, in that they think that other folks are automatically irrational and weird and unpredictably dangerous simply by virtue of being foreign.

Thus the traditional American saying "Wogs begin at Calais"...?

142:

guthrie - Dave, your not English are you?
LOL. I was watching the news footage at the weekend of the snowfall they've been having in upstate New York and trying to picture what would happen if we had that kind of weather here...

143:

Mass deaths and complete shut down for a week.

However, the key point is that they have that weather every year, like in Scandinavia. Our problem is that since it happens so rarely nowadays (Global warming ahoy) we do not get the practise in dealing with it, our infrastructure is not built to cope with it, and it's not worth buying snow chains or studded winter tyres because we would hardly use them.

But that doesnt excuse them for running round like a bunch of pansies. (But then I like winter mountaineering)

144:

Tony: despite that traditional saying, 80% of the British population own passports and use them for foreign travel. Compared to ...?

145:

Charlie,

There is a size factor involved. I can go 1000 km in any direction and I am either still in the USA, or on the water. We don't need passports the way the British do.

As an aside, one thing many people don't realize is that the largest international set in the USA is probably composed of current and former military personnel and their families. I'm an Army brat who had the great fortune of having a father who spent two three year tours in Germany. We went all over Western Europe. Never made it to Norway, Greece or Turkey but we spent at least a week in every other mainland western country. For the most part, I had a wonderful time.

For the most part. One of those years was in 1973, during the Arab-Israeli war. Interesting times, yessirreebob.

For that matter, for all our vaunted mobility most Americans don't move around the country as much as some people think. Again, the set that is probably most experienced with just how different various regions of the USA are from each other is current/former military types et familia

146:

Steven: I know about the distance factor. On the other hand, you go a thousand kilometres in any direction and the people you find there probably speak the same language as you do, or possibly Spanish. I reckon you cover much more cultural and national diversity in 1000km across Europe than in 1000km across the US -- and that's not to belittle the very real difference between states and their prevailing cultures.

147:

Charile,

I had no doubt that you did. National diversity at close range is the reason so many British have passports. A more reasonable comparison of passport holding percentages might be between the USA and Australia.

148:

Regarding passports, until this year US citizens didn't need them to travel between Canada, the US, various islands, and Mexico.

As of last month you need one for air travel, and next year you'll need them for land or sea travel. I expect this will cause the number of Americans holding passports to increase. Right now 70 million people have them, and 12 million got them last year alone.

149:

70 meg? That's well over 20 percent. I would have guessed around 15 percent.

150:

Well, many Europeans don't have passports because the continental border control inside the mainland EU dosn't require them. But, the UK and Ireland don't subscribe to the scheme and you do need one.

151:

A better index of xenophilia might be how many non-immigrant citizens of a country speak at least one language that is not their native tongue. This doesn't look like a simple google query (I tried for the US, and got census data on people with native languages other than English, not what I was after), but there ought to be statistics on it somewhere.

152:

"I know I'm going to regret this, but isn't there a case for saying that Iran has just as much right to go nuclear as anyone else?"

-- only in the wonderland where Iran is a legitimate state with a real, responsible government, like, say, Denmark. (Or Israel.)

Public pieties make it necessary to pretend to believe this sort of nonsense, and there are probably people who actually _do_ believe it; but then, there are people who believe in Santa Claus, too.

In point of fact Iran (or Haiti or the Sudan) aren't real countries, just bits of geography overrun with noxious wackjobs that through a concentration of unfortunate historical circumstances we have to (at times) _pretend_ are real countries.

So no, of course they don't have a "right" to nuclear weapons -- or anything else for that matter.

153:

Actually the quote comes from Stephen Decatur, in the early 19th century:

"Our Country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but right or wrong, our country!"

Later simplified to "My country right or wrong".

A sentiment with which, in Decatur's original usage, I heartily agree.

Conflicts aren't usually a matter of "right" or "wrong" anyway; they're a matter of "us" or "them".

I'm always for Us, and in a conflict situation against Them. And They are for Them and against Us; nothing personal, and the last man standing wins.

It's the natural order; straightforward healthy tribalism.

154:

But who'd you kill, S.M. Stirling?

Who'd you kill?

(Enquiring minds think you're full of it...)

155:

Support for Israel in the US is largely a matter of tribal identification.

Israel is a Western state, pretty much "like us". Not identical, of course, but the same basic kind of place and people, stemming from the same basic historical experience.

Part of the same story.

The Arabs are, rather obviously (and more obviously the more you're exposed to them) Not Like Us. They're a different culture with a different and often (from our p.o.v.) repugnant basic worldview and moral reflexes.

Therefore we side with Israel and against them. It's the cultural equivalent of an immune-system response.

This makes perfect sense to me; I generally side with those closer to me against outsiders. Me and my brothers against the neighbors; me and my neighbors against those people over there, and so on.

Show me hostile extraterrestrials or an invasion of malignant squid from the deeps and I'll identify with humanity as a whole.

For exactly the same reasons, non-Palestinian Arabs generally take the Palestinian side... even if they personally happen to loathe Palestinians, a not-uncommon situation in the Middle East. It would be illogical to expect them to do otherwise.

There's something -wrong- with a person who doesn't instinctively identify with and rally to 'his own'.

I'm not saying one should _always_ do that; merely that it's the proper default state.

A person who automatically tends to take the other side in a conflict (and I've met 'em) is... how shall I put it... rather warped in a highly disagreeable and contra-survival way.

Dickens had the syndrome nailed with Mrs. Jellyby and her "Borrioboola-Gha venture" in "Bleak House"... telescopic philanthropy, as he put it.

Concern for some exotic group of aliens is, more often than not, simply a way of distancing oneself from kin and neighbors and fellow-citizens, the ones who have a _real_ claim on your empathy, and of feeling righteous about considering oneself superior or hostile to them.

Some type of self-hatred is usually involved, too.

156:

Jane: (Enquiring minds think you're full of it...)

-- well, there's a contribution to rational discourse.

I'll give you a hint: in a discussion the argument ad hominem is generally a confession of failure. Ditto initiating personal insults, expressions of hostility, etc.

157:

People learn languages because they're useful, generally speaking. If not, not. Learning another language in adulthood is hard work and the 'least effort' principle applies.

Every fourth human being can speak English -- on current trends, it'll be one in every two by the middle of the century. And that 25% are disproportionately likely to be urban, affluent, or 'gatekeepers' otherwise useful to outsiders.

Conversely the 75% who don't are disproportionately likely to be poor, rural, remote, or something of that kind. There's hardly a city in the world where you can't order dinner or ask directions in English.

Hence learning other languages is less useful for Anglophones... and learning English is more useful for those who learn a second language.

Which is why, for example, Germans are more likely to speak English than French, by a rather large margin. And why English turns out to be increasingly the language of the EU as it enlarges, despite all the French foot-stamping and pouting.

Same-same elsewhere. The proportion of people (not just the absolute number) in India who speak English is vastly larger now than it was in 1947, and there are probably more people learning English in China than the total population of the US.

If a Chinese negotiates a business deal with a Hindi-speaker, the chances are they do it in English. About half the population of Singapore now speaks English as their primary home language.

There's a feedback cycle involved. The more people who learn English, the more useful English is, so the more people will chose to learn it. Obviously the wealth, power and numbers of the nations where English is the native language got the process started, but it takes on a life of its own.

158:

SMS: In point of fact Iran (or Haiti or the Sudan) aren't real countries, just bits of geography overrun with noxious wackjobs that through a concentration of unfortunate historical circumstances we have to (at times) _pretend_ are real countries.

Are you sure you're talking about IraN and not IraQ? I'd agree that Iraq (or any other Arab state except Egypt) isn't a real country, but Iran seems at least as real to me as China or Cuba.

Or are only Western countries "real countries" in your view?

159:

On nuclear weapons: it's not the weapons that are the basic problem, it's who has them.

Note that nobody in the US feels threatened by French nuclear weapons, despite fairly frequent disagreements between the French and US governments.

Likewise, the French don't feel threatened by British nuclear weapons, despite a long tradition of hostility between the countries -- British warships sank French ones as recently as 1940.

Likewise, the US probably wouldn't feel too threatened if Japan went nuclear (although some of her neighbors would probably feel otherwise).

And Europeans and Americans don't feel particularly threatened by Israeli nuclear weapons, either.

The reason this is so, and that it's emphatically _not_ so with Iranian or North Korean nuclear weapons, is obvious.

It's because we feel a certain basic degree of trust towards Britain, France, Israel, Japan, the US, etc. Not only trust that they won't attack us out of the blue, but trust that they'll behave in ways we regard as basically reasonable even if we disagree with them.

They're operating in the same universe of discourse.

While on the other hand -- for abundantly apparent and quite excellent reasons -- we don't trust Iran or North Korea in that sense. They _aren't_ operating in the same universe of discourse or from the same assumptions. Unfortunately, while in a metaphorical sense they're living on another planet, in the physical one they're here on Terra with the rest of us.

Russia is an intermediate case. We don't feel entirely at ease with their nuclear arsenal, but we don't feel nearly as threatened as we did when the CPSU was running the place. We don't love Putin but he's closer to being 'part of the same universe' than they were.

Likewise, Indian nuclear weapons provoke some unease, but not nearly as much unease as Pakistani ones.

You might say that Iran feels threatened by Israeli nuclear weapons; true, but that's only because Iran insists on adopting a policy of murderous hostility towards Israel.

If they simply ignored them, they'd be at no risk at all.

160:

"Are you sure you're talking about IraN and not IraQ? I'd agree that Iraq (or any other Arab state except Egypt) isn't a real country, but Iran seems at least as real to me as China or Cuba."

-- Iran, China and Cuba are "real" in the sense, obviously, that they're physically there.

And in those three cases you mention, they're "countries" in the sense that they have political and cultural histories which make them natural entitites which could justifiably be described as nations -- which is something you _can't_ say about Iraq, of course, though if our project there succeeds they might eventually come to be "real" in both senses.

But they're not "real countries" in the sense that say, Japan or Barbados or Britain or the US are.

That is, while they possess the _forms_ of a Western-style sovereign state, the _content_ is essentially different.

You might say they've gotten the words but haven't learned the tune yet, or deliberately sing off-key.

"Or are only Western countries "real countries" in your view?"

-- Western or thoroughly westernized in terms of political culture.

This was the traditional view -- and why it was generally considered odd that Ethiopia was admitted to the League of Nations, for example. And why Russia wasn't admitted to the European concert until after Peter the Great westernized them. And why the Ottomans never were, even when they were hammering at the gates of Vienna, but Attaturk's republic was, sorta-kinda.

(Not that the Sublime Porte would have been anything but horrified at the idea of being in the same club as the Franks, of course.)

Our systems of international relations were designed for a world of Western states, operating under our rules of sovereignty, concepts of citizensship, legitimacy, borders, rules for war and peace, etc.

They evolved among Europeans (_in essentio_, in "Christendom" as it was then called) and overseas European settlements, and were then generalized, rather imperfectly.

Trying to apply them other species of political entity based in the traditions of other civilizations makes the whole mechanism creak and leak steam from the joints, because we're tying to make it do things it wasn't designed to do.

We're pretending they're something they aren't, and pretending that they'll play the game our way -- which they don't.

(Although the Iranians are quite good at 'gaming' our system, they just don't have any internalized regard for its rules. They come from a different tradition and have different imperatives.)

The traditional view was that, say Chief Ja of Obopo or the Sultan of Oman (or the Emperor of China for that matter) weren't really members of the club, and until they learned the necessary memes and thoroughly internalized them, weren't to be dealt with under club rules.

They were dealt with under an entirely different, and much rougher, set. The one you used on 'outsiders'.

Mind you, membership in the club isn't strictly hereditary. Germany dropped out for a while, as did Russia (and the Russians aren't entirely back in yet). Conversely, Japan wasn't really a member until recently, but now is, and South Korea probably is too. India probably too, although it's a bit early to tell if it's really 'taken'.

161:

Usually I find SMS's statements provocative, but this time I find myself agreeing.

His statements qualify nothing as right or wrong, but as it is. They are not us, therefore we feel threatened. The more they become like us, the less we feel threatened.

My main difference of opinion is over the method of assimilation. I feel that Western culture is overwhelming the rest of the world, and I am not particularly sad over this fact. I do not feel it is necessary to invade other countries to speed up the process.

I appreciate certain differences in other cultures, but I am not distraught over their destruction. I think our culture offers more possibility of variation within it than most of the others in the world.

Selfish being that I am I do think our cultural values, particularly those of toleration are the best (I am so biased). I do not desire the destruction of my culture in order to ensure the survival of others.

Let the Culture grow (appologies to Ian Banks)


162:

I'll give you a hint: in a discussion the argument ad hominem is generally a confession of failure. Ditto initiating personal insults, expressions of hostility, etc.

Argumentum ad hominem has a specific meaning which doesn't normally cover simply expressing doubts about unusual claims floated into a discussion with no supporting evidence. Not even if the person adopts a cheekily disrespectful tone.

163:

-- only in the wonderland where Iran is a legitimate state with a real, responsible government, like, say, Denmark. (Or Israel.)

The idea that a democracy like America's, where you get to choose between pairs of candidates who disagree on practically nothing that an outsider would regard as substantial and who have all been pimped to the very gills by their corporate sponsors, is the proper global touchstone for legitimacy fairly makes my eyes water.

Before you decide to try to make a typically pointless issue of it, Britain isn't much better. And don't even get me started on Japan.

Public pieties make it necessary to pretend to believe this sort of nonsense, and there are probably people who actually _do_ believe it; but then, there are people who believe in Santa Claus, too.

And then you go on to say "...if our project there (Iraq) succeeds..."

Tell him I want a pony.

164:

I feel that Western culture is overwhelming the rest of the world, and I am not particularly sad over this fact.

I wouldn't be, if I was convinced that there was sufficient energy accessible and that the natural environment could take its expenditure without large chunks falling over. But the confidence that right-wing economists have MATHEMATICALLY PROVED that UNFETTERED HUMAN INGENUITY can enable us to solve ALL POSSIBLE PROBLEMS THAT MAY CONFRONT US tends to pass me by. This will probably be interpreted as "self-hatred" by certain parties who shall remain nameless. But will they have the wisdom to remain silent as well?

[cracks knuckles]

165:

Israel is a Western state, pretty much "like us". Not identical, of course, but the same basic kind of place and people, stemming from the same basic historical experience.

Particularly if you're an Armenian or a Tutsi.

The Arabs are, rather obviously (and more obviously the more you're exposed to them) Not Like Us. They're a different culture with a different and often (from our p.o.v.) repugnant basic worldview and moral reflexes.

How much have you been, er, "exposed to" Arabs, then? This isn't like that unfortunate incident with the Mexican waiter and the fish knife in Puerto Culo back in the seventies, you can tell us. Back in the UK I had Arab students, including female ones, and I never noticed such repugnance, though I have to confess some of your Amerika uber alles stuff qualifies.

166:

The idea that a democracy like America's, where you get to choose between pairs of candidates who disagree on practically nothing that an outsider would regard as substantial and who have all been pimped to the very gills by their corporate sponsors, is the proper global touchstone for legitimacy fairly makes my eyes water.

Indeed, this definition of legitimacy strikes me as very imperialistic. My definition of political legitimacy is "the regime has the genuine support of its own people (as opposed to ruling them by fear)".

Of course, this view of legitimacy has no moral meaning (Hitler's Germany would be as legitimate as any Western democracy by this criterion, whereas Stalinist Russia or Saddam's Iraq would not be legitimate).

167:

Israel is a Western state, pretty much "like us". Not identical, of course, but the same basic kind of place and people, stemming from the same basic historical experience.

Particularly if you're an Armenian or a Tutsi.

I'd actually suggest that Israel was more like Prussia. Both Prussia and Israel were/are considered to be part of the Western club (albeit rather aberrant members). Prussia's "Holocaust" was the Thirty Years' War.

168:

The irony being that Israel's society is highly people-centric and really quite unlike America's money-centric...

(Israel has far, far more in common with Europe, and even then...)

169:

One of the problems here is that many people seem to have bought straight into the them or us, black/ white view being promulgated by certain people, from Bin Laden to Bush, and dare I say it, our own Mr Stirling.
The problem with this view is that it polarises the debate, and leads to a self fulfilling prophecy.

Meanwhile all us normal boring people have multiple loyalties of various strengths that counteract the black and white worldview that the ideologues would press upon us. Look at Globalisation- to some extent it fosters multiple loyalties as well as a better appreciation of what we have in common, rather than our differences.

170:

...doubts about unusual claims floated into a discussion with no supporting evidence. Not even if the person adopts a cheekily disrespectful tone.

I heard the story years ago on usenet, but if he doesn't want to discuss the details here, then that's his business. It was self-defense, if that satisfies your curiousity.

171:

but if he doesn't want to discuss the details here, then that's his business.

And if I want to tease him about it, that would be mine, no? Really, I think you can let him stand up for himself here. He's a big lad.

It was self-defense, if that satisfies your curiousity.

He'd be a bit silly to be posturing about it otherwise, but I'm not particularly bothered - I was more concerned about his misuse of the term "ad hominem".

172:

guthrie - Our problem is that since it happens so rarely nowadays (Global warming ahoy) we do not get the practise in dealing with it, our infrastructure is not built to cope with it, and it's not worth buying snow chains or studded winter tyres because we would hardly use them.
You're right, but I don't think that lets them off the hook. We may not get fourteen-foot drifts but most years we get some snow, and I dimly remember our infrastructure being able to cope better with it than it does now. An industrialised nation in the 21st Century, karked up by a couple of inches of snow. It's just embarrassing.

173:

SM - So no, of course they don't have a "right" to nuclear weapons -- or anything else for that matter.
Oh, you old ray of sunshine, you...

174:

Does anyone entertain the notion that global warming is perfectly natural process having little to do with human activities?

IIIRC the IPCC and its famous hockey stick hand waved away the Medieval Warm Period (a world wide phenomenon acording to temperature analogues in South America, southern Africa) that resulting in the doubling of the population of imperial China due to good harvests, the establishment of a real wine industry (not just little hobby vineyards like today) as far north as Scotland and the growing of wheat by Vikings in Greenland. The IPPC also hand waved the Little Ice Age for reasons as politically motivated and Exxons are commercially motivated.

Both sides poison science and distort evidence for personal agendas. A pox on both their houses.

175:
The irony being that Israel's society is highly people-centric and really quite unlike America's money-centric...
The irony on top of that being that Israel up until very recently had a conservative government with a strong theocratic component that was supported by less than half the population. That's changed considerably in the political turmoil of the last year, including several high officials accused of corruption (sound familiar?), and most especially since the Hezbollah war in which a lot of Israels saw rockets exploding in their cities. Now the populace dislike the government for other reasons than before.
176:

Does anyone entertain the notion that global warming is perfectly natural process having little to do with human activities?

Absolutely! There's at least one weatherman who blames it on God - perhaps divine flatulence, I'm not sure. If you meant "credible scientists", even the IPCC reported only a 90% confidence. One chance in ten you're wrong is not inconsiderable, and no one denies there are lots of threads in the way.

As for the Medieval warm period, the IPCC may not have covered it because it's not a given that it happened. There's a paper, if you want to read it.

On a side note, I read an article in Analog (I think) that postulated human-centric climate change started with the development of agriculture, and fully one-half of human-caused climate change happened before the Industrial Revolution.

177:

Bruce Cohen, at least there is a meaningful difference in the stance of the various parties in front of Isralie voters.

And as for the IPCC, their base data shows a considerably higher trend in things like global warming and sea level rises than their analysis, when it's re-analysed...

178:

Yes, lots of people entertain the idea that global warming is entirely natural. Unfortunately they fail to provide any evidence to back up their idea.

As for the Hockey stick, the problem is that records get less exact the further we go back. The IPCC did not hand wave away the Medeival warm period, it looked at what data was available at the time and said it looked like it was as warm now as it was then, possibly a bit warmer.
If you want some hard evidence that something odd is going on, read this:
http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Study/wardhunt/

The Ward ice shelf break up revealed timber that was older than the medieval warm period.
All the other stuff from the medieval period has happened- we have vineyards in norther england, greenland is growing oats and other crops, and livestock. So, it is very likely as warm now as it was at the heights of the medieval warm period, and it is going to get warmer. By several degrees over the next century.
I know of no evidence for vineyards in Scotland, perhaps you have some? THe same goes for wheat planting in Greenland, although I believe they are now growing oats there.

Ultimately saying a pox on both their houses is not enough. You have to engage with the evidence, and decide what is really going on.

179:

Adrian, you commented that you were afraid our culture would abuse the world to disaster.

Consider how many cultures have concerned themselves about the destruction of their environment and done something about it. Almost none.

The ones that did tended to be hunter gatherer types that had very obvious lessons through starvation when they over used their environment. They remained static. The others used technology to compensate, or disappeared.

As a culture we are considering the issue, badly. Yes, speed is essential, but one does not transform a culture internally overnight. We can only hope that we do not have too much devastation before we turn the situation around.

Finally, I do not believe that climate change is a total disaster. It is harmful if you happen to be in the wrong place, but this is as an individual. I firmly believe that the human species will survive. I just hope that me and mine are not casualties of the change.

180:

Actually there is a great deal of historical evidence, guthrie (Viking agricultural colonies in Greenland for example). And not only does the IPCC hand wave the MWP it waves away the well documented Little Ice Age that followed (which wiped out said Viking colonies in Greenland):

From Brian Fagan?s 1999 book, Floods, Famines, and Emperors: El Nino the Fate of Civilizations. Chapter 10 is "The Little Ice Age":

Only 150 years ago, Europe came to the end of a 500 year cold snap so severe that thousands of peasants starved. The Little Ice Age changed the course of European history. Dutch canals froze over for months, shipping could not leave port, and glaciers in the Swiss Alps overwhelmed mountain villages. Five hundred years of much colder weather changed European agriculture, helped tip the balance of political power from the Mediterranean states to the north, and contributed to the social unrest that culminated in the French Revolution. The poor suffered most. They were least able to adjust to changing circumstances and most susceptible to disease and increased mortality. These five centuries of periodic economic and social crisis in a much less densely populated Europe are a haunting reminder of the drastic consequences of even a modest cooling of global temperatures.

Greenland ice sheets tell us there was a burst of warmer weather in the far north between A.D. 600 and 650, followed by a more pr longed warm period that began about 800 and climaxed between 1150 and 1300. Norwegian farmers grew wheat north of Trondheim at an unprecedented sixty-four degrees north. English vintners planted grapes as far north as Herefordshire in western England at altitude of 200 meters above sea level. Landowners in the Lammermuir Hills of southeastern Scotland grew crops at 425 meters above sea level, during a golden age of Scottish history when interclan warfare was virtually unheard of. A burst of cathedral building spread across Medieval Europe in the twelfth century. Chartres Cathedral, built in a mere quarter-century after 1195, is a miracle in glass and stone, where ten thousand worshipers from the surrounding countryside once gathered on festival days to pour out their love for God. Chartres and its contemporaries, were celebrations of the bounty of the soil, of generations of prosperity.

But the climate became more erratic during the thirteenth century. Alpine glaciers began to advance, and seasonal temperature changes became more extreme. As Arctic regions cooled, the thermal contrast between the Greenland‑Iceland region and middle Atlantic latitudes steepened, causing greater storminess. Great westerly gales conspired with the prevailing high sea levels to cause vast destruction. Powerful wind storms and surging sea floods inundated low-lying North Sea coasts, drowning hundreds of thousands of people in some of the worst weather disasters ever recorded. The floods of 1240 and 1362 saw over sixty parishes in southern Denmark's diocese of Slesvig swallowed by the salt sea. To add to the difficulties, tidal ranges increased after 1300, reaching a peak in 1400.

The IPCC and its friends try to explain awy the MWP and LIA a just local phenomenon, but the evidence is in that they were world wide, from tree rings in South Africa and South America, to foselized pollen in South America, to stalgmite build ups in Chinese caves to ice cores taken from Greenland and Antartcia, to Viking colonies in Greenland to the recorded increase in the population of imperial China. Physical evidence and record historical events all point to the fact that about 1,000 years ago the world was as warm or warmer than it is now - and not because Vikings drove SUVs.

181:

Let me follow up with a personal observation.

I was in the USAF in the 1980s when then SoD Cap Weinberger published a booklet on the Soviet military threat which painted the Russians as being armed to the teeth, ten foot tall and coming to get us. Nobody at the Pentagon or CIA saw the cracks in the Soviet edifice or the coming collapse less than a decade later. And there is a simple reason why: anyone who would have the temerity to point out that the Sovs weren't all powerful would have had their careers ruined. Nobody would have gotten a promotion, a choice assignemnt or a government contract by downplaying the threat. If anyone saw the truth, they kept their mouths shout for reasons of career promotion.

Since leaving the USAF I've had a career as an environmental engineer cleaning up nuke sites, brownfields, hazwaste, solid waste, industrial waste, poisoned wetlands, etc. And the same exagerated threat assessment often happens in the environmental field for the same reasons it happened in the Cold War.

Which brings me to the Iron Law of Government Studies:

"Nobody who has a chance to get paid by the governemnt to study or evaluate a problem will ever do anyting other than assess that problem in the bleakest possible terms, because without a problem (which is hopefully getting worse) they would get no money in the first place - or in the future."

So while it doesn't surprise me that oil companies fund contrary studies of global waring, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if climatologists and other scientists deliberately exaggerate the potential threat of global warming in hopes of getting a bigger hand out at the taxpayers expense.

So yes indeed, a pox on both their houses.

182:

Can anyone comment on the recent theory that cosmic rays are responsible for global cooling and solar variance is primarily responsible for global warming (the correlation between increased solar activity as evidenced by records of sunspot acitivty with global temperatures).

Also has global warming been shown on Mars as evidenced by the retreat of of polar glaciers? If so, does that suggest a non-terrestrial joint causal agent?

183:

You do realize that you're placing a popular book by an anthropologist ahead of more recent scientific papers, right? Just so we're clear. The part of the IPCC report that references this has more recent citations.

Scepticism is important, but at a certain point one strays into ranting at the IPCC for not considering the effect of phlogiston and ether. This does have SFnal implications as people get more long-lived: good luck having the populace discuss scientific directions when the voters learned science over the spread of a century or two.

No discussion of the horribly wrong perceptions of the USG in the late 70s and 80s would be complete without referencing Team B, who attacked the CIA for (as it turned out) not being wrong enough... any similarity of personnel or methods to the current situation is left as an exercise for the reader.

I have two corrolaries to your iron law:
Corollary 1: When decisions aren't made on a rational basis, arguments will get progressively hyperbolic and irration.
Corollary 2: You can always find someone who will tell you what you want to hear.

184:

daniel duffy, then explain away global dimming.

"Can anyone comment on the recent theory that cosmic rays are responsible for global cooling"

Quite apart from the fact the author of that theory is looking at a 15-20% difference in Human effect from the model of the day (the former IPPC study), it also can't explain why lowering particulate emissions raises temperatures.

Quite frankly, your view is NOT "pox on both their houses", because in *effect* you're taking a stance against the environmentalists.

Saying all government-sponsored research ever is biased is a nice touch though. Thing is, it dosn't all agree.

186:

Yes, speed is essential, but one does not transform a culture internally overnight. We can only hope that we do not have too much devastation before we turn the situation around.

But we're basically relying on market signals to tell us when to make substantial changes to our behaviour. For some things the market is peachy - I'm just not convinced this is one of them.

187:
Also has global warming been shown on Mars as evidenced by the retreat of of polar glaciers? If so, does that suggest a non-terrestrial joint causal agent?
That doesn't sound likely to me. The last I heard (some years ago, I admit) the consensus on Martian climatic cycles was that they were caused by the interaction of the (relatively) high eccentricity of Mars' orbit and the chaotic effects of Jupiter's gravity on it. On this view, the mean temperature of Mars is determined (to first order, ignoring Kepler's Law for simplicity) by the difference in insolation at aphelion and perihelion.
188:

SOS. You can't trust either side of the Climate Change argument (and they insist on making sides out of it, as if it were a political debate), and there's enough FUD being spread around like anti-radar chaff that it's damn near impossible to find the facts for yourself.

Of course the issue is important enough (if the world chooses wrong on average we might do serious damage to the world and many national economies, if not lose a bunch of cities) that we feel impelled to take a stand or some sort of action as soon as possible.

So you pays your money and you takes your chances. But please don't claim to have any certainty on this issue; it's just not credible. And it might be best not to invest too much emotional capital in believing in one side or the other. Myself, I plan to hedge my bets: I'm going to act as if the things I do make some (very small) difference, but not get too crazy about it. If technology can provide some solutions, I plan to use them, starting with using the most energy-efficient machines and appliances I can afford. If the Greenhouse Effect isn't going to cause global warming after all, I won't have lost anything.

189:

Actually, Daniel, I know there is a great deal of historical evidence for the climate being nearly as warm as today back in the medieval warm period.
However, I have not seen any evidence for the specific claim that the Vikings in greenland grew wheat. They had trouble growing wheat in Orkney and Shetland, let alone at such high lattitudes as Greenland. In fact it likely cant grow there at all. Hence my complete distrust of the statements about it. Given that they are once more farming sheep, growing barley and other plants in Greenland today, I hardly think that your lack of evidence for wheat shows that the MWP was warmer than now.

As for the Lammermuirs and farming there, you do know that things are so wet nowadays, and we have stripped off so much of the tree cover, that the soil is not in any state to be used for crops anyway. The last 700 years have seen a lot of damage to Scotlands ecosystem as we humans remodel it to suit ourselves, albeit with some losses.

What the IPCC says is that on the global scale the medieval warm period an dlittle ice age were not such big things. Moreover, if you look at the hockey stick graphs etc, you'll see how the error margins confuse the picture somewhat, leading some people to get really confused.

You see we already have more vineyards in England than we did in the medieval period, and I note you have not provided any evidence for any in Scotland. Scotland is not England.
The actual reasons for there being a lack of interclan warfare are to do with the politics of the period, not to mention the fact that the clan system was only in embryo at that period. I can go into much more detail if you like, but it may take up a lot of space on here. Let me know if your interested.

The real point here is that we are almost certainly already as warm if not warmer than things were in the medieval warm period, due to our actions.

190:

Anyway, nobody disputes that the world has been warmer, then colder, and is getting warmer again. Nobody really disputes that atmospheric CO2 reflects heat - you'd have to change the laws of physics - and nobody disputes that we're producing a shitload of it, during the warmer phase.

"This car has accelerated and braked successfully before. So obviously it must be safe to accelerate even more, whilst it is going downhill!"

The argument from the MWP would make sense if the industrial revolution had begun 150 years earlier, and atmospheric CO2 was now a countercyclical force. It's not, though - we're on the upslope, so it's like deficit spending in a boom.

Further, if you read - say - Eric le Roy-Ladurie's history of the climate, it's quite clear that although humanity got through changes all right, a lot of humans didn't.

191:

However, I have not seen any evidence for the specific claim that the Vikings in greenland grew wheat. They had trouble growing wheat in Orkney and Shetland, let alone at such high lattitudes as Greenland. In fact it likely cant grow there at all. Hence my complete distrust of the statements about it. Given that they are once more farming sheep, growing barley and other plants in Greenland today, I hardly think that your lack of evidence for wheat shows that the MWP was warmer than now.

How about:

From "The Last Viking: West by Northwest", by John N. Harris, M.A.(CMNS). For the first century or so of their Greenland colonization, the Vikings and their descendants enjoyed a reasonably prosperous and pleasant life there. Greenland's climate c. 1000 A.D. was in an extraordinarily warm phase, and the name Eric chose for his new land may not have been quite the real-estate promoter's con-job as has been assumed. Even 350 years later, after a general global cooling had altered Greenland's climate for the worse, Ivar Bardson wrote that " On the mountains and lower down grow the best of fruits, as big as apples and good to eat. There also grows the best wheat that exists." Life in Greenland was hardly the rough outpost existence we might expect.... However by 1200, climatic change allowed the arctic ice pack to creep farther southward, making navigation in Greenland waters increasingly hazardous -- even in summer. Ships came now only sporadically, and some years none called at all. In 1261, the Greenlanders felt obliged to accept union with Norway and subjection to the Norwegian crown, in return for which two ships would be sent per year. This effectively shut the Hansa markets off from Greenland trade, and sometimes even the promised Norwegian vessels didn't make it through the ice. The colonies' decline accelerated.

Other sources and references are availble via a quick google.

192:

You see we already have more vineyards in England than we did in the medieval period, and I note you have not provided any evidence for any in Scotland. Scotland is not England.

Actually (and I should have been more clear on this) vinyards existed up to Scotland, not in Scotland.

The claim that we have more vinyards in England than during the MWP is besides the point. We also have more people in England. We also have more developed land in england. And these are small hobby vinyards, not the wine industry recorded in the Doomsday book which caused French noblemen to complain that competition with English wine was cutting into their profits.

193:

You do realize that you're placing a popular book by an anthropologist ahead of more recent scientific papers, right?

Are you saying that secondary sources are apriori false?

Well if you like, here is a primary source listing evidence of a worldwide MWP from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (funded by NASA, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and - gasp! -the American Petroleum Institute):

Soon, Baliunas and colleagues analyzed numerous climate indicators including: borehole data; cultural data; glacier advances or retreats; geomorphology; isotopic analysis from lake sediments or ice cores, tree or peat celluloses (carbohydrates), corals, stalagmite or biological fossils; net ice accumulation rate, including dust or chemical counts; lake fossils and sediments; river sediments; melt layers in ice cores; phenological (recurring natural phenomena in relation to climate) and paleontological fossils; pollen; seafloor sediments; luminescent analysis; tree ring growth, including either ring width or maximum late-wood density; and shifting tree line positions plus tree stumps in lakes, marshes and streams.

"Like forensic detectives, we assembled these series of clues in order to answer a specific question about local and regional climate change: Is there evidence for notable climatic anomalies during particular time periods over the past 1000 years?" Soon says. "The cumulative evidence showed that such anomalies did exist."

The worldwide range of climate records confirmed two significant climate periods in the last thousand years, the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warm Period. The climatic notion of a Little Ice Age interval from 1300 to1900 A.D. and a Medieval Warm Period from 800 to 1300 A.D. appears to be rather well-confirmed and wide-spread, despite some differences from one region to another as measured by other climatic variables like precipitation, drought cycles, or glacier advances and retreats.

Here's a study showing a MWP in the Colorado plateau by the university of Arizona:http://www.springerlink.com/content/n2u84n01014125mw/

Here's one that shows MWP in China based on analysis of stalagmites in the Buddha caves:http://www.co2science.org/scripts/CO2ScienceB2C/articles/V6/N28/C3.jsp?Print=true

More are available it you want to look for them.

If the oil companies have a financial reason to skew their reports, the IPCC and other academic/beauracratic organizations have ideological/political reasons (bordering on religious fervor) to do so. Scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear, their work derided, and themselves libeled as industry stooges, scientific hacks or worse. Consequently, lies about climate change gain credence even when they fly in the face of the science that supposedly is their basis.

194:

Yes, we have more people. BUt I thought you were the one claiming that they were farming land at greater height than before or after?

Besides, your utterly wrong that the modern ones are hobby vineyards. Do you think this is:
http://www.chapeldownwines.co.uk/

http://www.englishwineproducers.com/

Moreover, a total of over 1.9 million bottles hardly sounds like a bunch of amateurs, does it?
http://www.englishwineproducers.com/stats.htm

Now, what figures does the Domesday book have for English wine production?

As for Ivor Bardson, thats interesting, given that in JAred Diamonds book "Collapse", quoting palynological evidence etc, there is hardly a trace of wheat to be found in Greenland at all. Methinks mr Bardson was indulging in some exageration again, rather like many people at that time. I suggest you read it, its very interesting. It seems that life on greenland was very marginal, and the Norse didn't do themselves any favours before they starved to death, due to their original ecological damage to the area.

195:

And of course, during the 16th century Scottish Noblemen in the central belt were growing apricots. Of course it needed a south facing wall and some TLC, but by that time the climate had deteriorated somewhat from the previous warmth.

196:

Steve, Jane thinks that you are lying about having killed someone because you continue to drop hints about it without providing any details. Therefore, she is entirely reasonable in thinking that you are lying about the incident.

In addition, as you know, saying that you have lied about something (e.g., "you're full of shit") is not the same as calling you a liar. In other words, it is not an ad hominem.

So tell us the details. It obviously isn't traumatic, and the details would indeed provide the credibility that you seek when you write about having seen death up close and personal and having personally killed. Without the details, it does indeed seem as though you are simply posturing.

197:

FungFromYuggoth
The 'agriculture stopped the glaciers' article in Analog for April of 2007 was actually a book review of 'Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum', by Ruddiman.
For that matter, the initial melting of the ice age glaciers might have been touched off by the Siberian Amreican hunter-gatherer habit of torching woods regularly to keep them more productive for hunter gatherer use, instead of the relatively useless climax forest that tends to form without humans. Agriculture, Sylviculture, and Pastoralism aren't the only way you can manage land to increase human accessible calories.
Stross
You may think that Europeans are less provincial than Americans. I beg to differ. Americans have always had more exposure to people of different cultures than Europeans do, because they come and live here in larger numbers than they do in Europe, and because we integrate them better so that we actually speak to them here.
I mean, do you really think that when you go to Norway or Greece you are going to another country? I mean, as compared to going to Texas from Vermont?
Guthrie
If Israel nukes the Palestinians capital of Jerusalem in revenge for the Palestinians nuking the Israelis capital of Jerusalem, that's one thing. If Mecca goes, so goes London, New York, etc. It's all the Anglophones and all the Arabs in such a war, not just six million Israelis and three hundred million Arabs and Iranians.
I doubt that other Christian and Muslim lands like Indonesia, Russia, Brazil, and Bangladesh will get involved. Perhaps Turkey and France? They have historical connections to the Israeli situation.
And lay off Stirling. There are all kinds of legal problems involved in killing people. No wonder he doesn't talk about it in detail.
Also, I agree with him that the Iranians are scary. It's not a double standard treating them differently than the Brazilians, who also have centrifuge isotope separation plants (opened more than a year ago) that they won't let other people inspect. Brazil isn't an undemocratic disintegrating empire with rapidly collapsing natural resource exports and a huge grudge against America for the way we treated them.

198:

I'd love to respond further but my comments are being blocked for some reason.

199:

I've had that problem myself Daniel, although not for a while.

WK Willis- I'm afraid I disagree about London and New York etc. Unless of course some of our esteemed leaders are correct and actually there are a myrida of fifth columnists waiting to stir up genocide, which I doubt. Or are you talking about Iran nuking London? Again, that would be a bit foolish. The middle east will likely see the biggest test of MAD as a rational approach to stupidity and hatred so far.

200:

While I have an apparent window of opportunity, I would like to provide some comparative figures for wine production. The most recent data I could find was for 1998 (though I doubt that relative rankings would have changes in the last 9 years):

http://www.swivel.com/graphs/show/5609117

Note that the UK produced about 300,000 gallons of vino, less than half that of tiny Malta and of course completely dwarfed by Italy, France, Spain, USA, and Germany. These countries have wine industries.

The UK has wine hobbyists.

Which wasn't the case in the MWP when English wine producers actually threatened the French wine trade. The WMP was warm period not caused by the driving SUVs or the burning of coal. This suggests two things:

Global warming and cooling are part of natural cycles that have nothing to do with human activities, and there are other causes of glabal warming besides human CO2 emissions.

201:

There were other markers of natural cycles which are noticeably absent in this one - and elements of this warming cycle which are NOT replicated in past ones (global dimming!)

So your conclusions are simply not supported by the data. Global dimming, in particular, is what trips up the "alternate" theories. And, ironically, if it wasn't for 9/11 we would not have some of the most convincing proof of it.

(The aircraft shutdown means less water vapour in the air, and the difference in temperatures was noticeable in DAYS)

202:

The WMP was warm period not caused by the driving SUVs or the burning of coal. This suggests two things:

Global warming and cooling are part of natural cycles that have nothing to do with human activities, and there are other causes of glabal warming besides human CO2 emissions.

Yes. So far, so obvious, so trivial. Neither of these exclude the hypothesis that human CO2 emissions cause global warming. That, in turn, opens the possibility that we will get both, i.e. a warm period plus anthropogenic global warming.

203:

Alex: thanks for pointing this out; you beat me to it. The fact that everyone seems to think that the question of climate change is a classic debate subject with only pro and con positions possible ia part and parcel of the Same Old Shit post I made upthread a ways. Even highly thoughtful and educated people fall for this notion of (dare I say it?) dialectic, because it's been pounded into us by our societies that there's a right way and a wrong way and that's it.

204:

Alex and Bruce,

Forget about a "warm period plus anthropogenic global warming". There is a third choice: the fact that we are way over due for another Ice Age, the world being very late into an interglacial period.

Even if human caused global warming is a fact, it could be the only thing keeping us from having mile thick glaciers over much of North America and Eurasia and with most of the rest of the planet covered with deserts as available moisture gets locked up in ice.

Think Global Warming is bad, try Global Cooling.

205:

I'm not worried about global warming as such, the real climate enemy is desertification.

206:

Daniel, and a fourth, that this was simply an unusually long warm hiatus in an ongoing ice age. Global cooling is a threat which, frankly, would be much easier to combat than warming.

Regional cooling caused by the shutoff of certain ocean currents? Trickier.

207:

What Andrew said. If there was any evidence of that beyond "hmmm, about time for an ice age now [^[^[ tell me more about this "not our fault" theory, I find it strangely fascinating", there are quite a few things we could do about it that wouldn't involve anything very weird. Also, they would be negative feedbacks, not positive ones.

Please tell me you understand the distinction.

208:

DAniel, you are missing several very important things here.
One is that the population of England pre-black death was around 5 million. Of whom not very many would have been drinking wine. This is compared to modern France and UK, which between them have well over 130 million inhabitants.

The point being that England would not have to produce a huge amount of wine to be threatening the French in the medieval period. Comparing current wine production with French wine production today says nothing much about production in that time.

Secondly, you have ignored the figures I posted in an earlier post.
Which are, for 1998, 1120200 litres of wine, equal to about 246thousand UK gallons. The same chart then shows output at 281 thousand gallons in 2005, compared to 419 thousand gallons in 2004.

Remember, France did not have a wine industry in the medieval period comparable to its current wine industry.
Moreover, if as you claim the original problem was English wine eating into French noblemans profits, that again has little to say about the volume produced. All that you need to be able to do is produce is cheaper than the French, whether by using cheap labour, having lower taxes, or better methods of transport.

So, again, your example shows nothing useful.
Plus, as far as I am aware, if we were heading into an ice age, the data so far suggests it would take thousands of years for us to do so. This is compared to the over 3 degrees rise predicted for the next century with doubling of CO2 levels. The circumstances are not comparable.

209:

HHmm, can't seem to find anything on medieval French wine production, and my library is not yet large enough to cover that.
So I'll leave you with some quotes from realclimate:
http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/07/medieval-warmth-and-english-wine/


The earliest documentation that is better than anecdotal is from the Domesday Book (1087) - an early census that the new Norman king commissioned to assess his new English dominions, including the size of farms, population etc. Being relatively 'frenchified', the Normans (who had originally come from Viking stock) were quite keen on wine drinking (rather than mead or ale) and so made special note of existing vineyards and where the many new vines were being planted. Sources differ a little on how many vineyards are included in the book: Selley quotes Unwin (J. Wine Research, 1990 (subscription)) who records 46 vineyards across Southern England (42 unambiguous sites, 4 less direct), but other claims (unsourced) range up to 52. Lamb's 1977 book has a few more from other various sources and anecdotally there are more still, and so clearly this is a minimum number.


Of the Domesday vineyards, all appear to lie below a line from Ely (Cambridgeshire) to Gloucestershire. Since the Book covers all of England up to the river Tees (north of Yorkshire), there is therefore reason to think that there weren't many vineyards north of that line. Lamb reports two vineyards to the north (Lincoln and Leeds, Yorkshire) at some point between 1000 and 1300 AD, and Selley even reports a Scottish vineyard operating in the 12th Century. However, it's probably not sensible to rely too much on these single reports since they don't necessarily come with evidence for successful or sustained wine production. Indeed, there is one lone vineyard reported in Derbyshire (further north than any Domesday vineyard) in the 16th Century when all other reports were restricted to the South-east of England.


Wine making never completely died out in England, there were always a few die-hard viticulturists willing to give it a go, but production clearly declined after the 13th Century, had a brief resurgence in the 17th and 18th Centuries, only to decline to historic lows in the 19th Century when only 8 vineyards are recorded. Contemporary popular sentiment towards English (and Welsh) wine can be well judged by a comment in 'Punch' (a satirical magazine) that the wine would require 4 people to drink it - one victim, two to hold him down, and one other to pour the wine down his throat.


Unremarked by most oenophiles though, English and Welsh wine production started to have a renaissance in the 1950s. By 1977, there were 124 reasonable-sized vineyards in production - more than at any other time over the previous millennium. This resurgence was also unremarked upon by Lamb, who wrote in that same year that the English climate (the average of 1921-1950 to be precise) remained about a degree too cold for wine production. Thus the myth of the non-existant English wine industry was born and thrust headlong into the climate change debate...

Since 1977, a further 200 or so vineyards have opened (currently 400 and counting) and they cover a much more extensive area than the recorded medieval vineyards, extending out to Cornwall, and up to Lancashire and Yorkshire where the (currently) most northerly commercial vineyard sits. So with the sole exception of one 'rather improbably' located 12th Century Scottish vineyard (and strictly speaking that doesn't count, it not being in England 'n' all...), English vineyards have almost certainly exceeded the extent of medieval cultivation. And I hear (from normally reliable sources) they are actually producing a pretty decent selection of white wines.

210:

Not to barge in on the conversation, but it seems rather obvious that the posts by 'S.M. Stirling' are nothing but trolls. He gets off on the attention he gathers by dropping hints about an incident (real or imagined) until he gets a bite, then refusing to provide satisfaction. He mixes seemingly well founded arguments with over the top, jump-the-shark assertions.

Maybe he has done it long enough that he really identifies with it, but that doesn't make it any less attention whoring.

I would think the best policy would be to ignore him altogether... in that vein this is the last post you'll see from me about or in response to him.

I hate that this is my first comment on a forum that looks as if it hosts a lot of interesting discussion, but I also hate to see people wasting time feeding the trolls.

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