Sunday, August 26, 2007

UK Health Care gives you lowest cancer survival rates

The UK has national health care for everyone.

Apparently, though, it's not very good health care.

Europe’s survival rates are lower than in the US, where 66.3 per cent of men and 62.9 per cent of women survive for five years, compared with 47.3 per cent of European men and 55.8 per cent of women. These figures may represent earlier diagnosis.

Apparently their national health plan isn't that good for stroke victims, either.

Mugged by Reality

Here is a piece, in The Guardian of all places.

The writer Andrew Anthony was a committed member of the liberal left - until the attacks of 11 September, 2001. A veteran of CND and Nicaraguan solidarity campaigns, he was astonished at the liberal left's anti-American reaction. And so he began to question other basic assumptions about race, crime and terror - a political journey he charts here, in these exclusive extracts from his compelling new book.

Among the things he writes of:

On the afternoon of 11 September 2001 I was sitting in a Soho screening room watching a preview of a film called Greenfingers. At the end of the film, the credits were interrupted by a flickering image of a burning skyscraper.


Drinking in the devastation, numbed and intoxicated by the scale of what had taken place, I struggled, like everyone else, to make sense of it all. And in my case, as with many people from the liberal-left side of the political spectrum, that job was made more difficult by the fact that the United States was the victim. From where I came from, the United States was always the culprit. There was Vietnam, Chile and the dreadful support for repressive and often debauched regimes right across Latin America, Africa and Asia. I was a veteran of CND anti-cruise missile marches in the 1980s. I had gone to Nicaragua to defend the Sandinista cause against American imperialism. America was the bad guy, right? America was always the bad guy.

Clearly some basic moral calculations needed to be performed. Which vision of the world represented more closely my own liberal outlook? The cosmopolitan city of New York, a multi-racial city of opportunity, a town where anyone on earth could arrive and thrive, exuberant, cultured, diverse, a place I had visited and loved for its liberty and energy and excitement? Or the people who attacked it, those arid minds who wanted to remove women from sight, kill homosexuals, banish music, destroy art, the demolishers of the Bamiyan Buddhas who aimed to terrorise everyone they could into submission to the will of their vengeful God? It was, as they say, a no-brainer, or should have been.

But was there not also an obligation to ask if this heinous crime was more complex than it first appeared? That was the progressive instinct: don't be fooled by the mass media, which we all knew was a propaganda industry, look behind the scenes, examine the bigger picture, think about the context, study history. And so if you wanted to consider yourself a member of the thinking classes, it was not enough to recoil in horror, you also had to take into account America's own score sheet in matters of cold blood. 'It's terrible,' was the often heard formulation, 'but....' Did I think there was a but? And if there was a but, could it be any kind of justification for what had taken place? And if it wasn't a justification, what was the point of the but? Was it there to show one's even-handedness and sense of fair play? Or purely for decoration? I knew right from the first second where my emotional sympathies were located but what was my intellectual position?

What helped guide me to the answer was the alternative analysis, the 'It's terrible, but' in which the 'It's terrible' was the decorative part of the equation. A number of commentaries that articulated this response quickly began to appear in different newspapers. Perhaps the most indignant came, with impressive alacrity, on 13 September in my daily newspaper, the voice of liberal Britain, the Guardian. 'Nearly two days after the horrific suicide attacks on civilian workers in New York and Washington,' wrote Seumas Milne, 'it has become painfully clear that most Americans simply don't get it... Shock, rage and grief there has been aplenty. But any glimmer of recognition of why people might have been driven to carry out such atrocities, sacrificing their own lives in the process - or why the United States is hated with such bitterness, not only in Arab and Muslim countries, but across the developing world - seems almost entirely absent.'

One doesn't need to work for a newspaper - though it probably helps - to realise that Milne was underselling his own speed of analytical thought. To get his piece published on the 13th meant that he would have needed to have completed it by around 6pm or 7pm on the 12th. Allowing for its considered tone, which must have been the product of several hours of sober reflection, it would be fair to assume that he would have begun writing it, at the latest, at around 2pm. In other words, at about 9am New York time. That left the Americans a whole 24 hours to absorb the shock, deal with the grief and then move on to some cold, hard self-criticism. And they flunked it.

Milne's savaging of American self-absorption was the most conspicuous example of an attitude that could be heard in plenty of sophisticated conversations, or should I say conversations between sophisticated people, and read in a number of left or liberal publications.

What all these reactions had in common, I realised, was not complexity but simplicity. For all of them this was an issue of the powerless striking back at the powerful, the oppressed against the oppressor, the rebels against the imperialists. It was Han Solo and Luke Skywalker taking on the Death Star. There was no serious attempt to examine what kind of power the powerless wanted to assume, or over whom they wanted to exercise it, and no one thought to ask by what authority these suicidal killers had been designated the voice of the oppressed. It was enough that Palestinians had danced in the West Bank. The scale of the suffering, the innocence of the victims and the aims of the perpetrators barely seemed to register in many of the comments. Was this a sign of shock or complacency? Or was it something else, a kind of atrophying of moral faculties, brought on by prolonged use of fixed ideas, that prevented the sufferer from recognising a new paradigm when it arrived, no matter how spectacular its announcement?

In the end I reached the conclusion that 11 September had already brutally confirmed: there were other forces, far more malign than America, that lay in wait in the world. But having faced up to the basic issue of comparative international threats, could I stop the political reassessment there? If I had been wrong about the relative danger of America, could I be wrong about all the other things I previously held to be true? I tried hard to suppress this thought, to ring-fence the global situation, grant it exceptional status and keep it in a separate part of my mind. I had too much vested in my image of myself as a 'liberal'. I had bought into the idea, for instance, that all social ills stemmed from inequality and racism. I knew that crime was solely a function of poverty. That to be British was cause for shame, never pride. And to be white was to bear an unshakable burden of guilt. I held the view, or at least was unprepared to challenge it, that it was wrong to single out any culture for censure, except, of course, Western culture, which should be admonished at every opportunity. I was confident, too, that Israel was the source of most of the troubles in the Middle East. These were non-negotiables for any right-thinking decent person. I couldn't question these received wisdoms without questioning my own identity. And I had grown too comfortable with seeing myself as one of the good guys, the well-meaning people, to want to do anything that upset that image. I viewed myself as understanding, and to maintain that self-perception it was imperative that I didn't try to understand myself.

In a sense 11 September was the ultimate mugging, a murderous assertion of a new reality, or rather a reality that already existed but which we preferred not to see. Over the years I had absorbed a notion of liberalism that was passive, defeatist, guilt-ridden. Feelings of guilt governed my world view: post-colonial guilt, white guilt, middle-class guilt, British guilt. But if I was guilty, 9/11 shattered my innocence. More than anything it challenged us all to wake up and open our eyes to what was real. It took me far too long to meet that challenge. For while I realised almost straight away that 9/11 would change the world, it would be several years before I accepted that it had also changed me. I had been wrong. This was my story, after all.

And there's lots more.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Income inequality blues at the NYTimes

The New York Times has recently published a piece lamenting the fact that the top income earners saw the biggest gains in income, and the largest share of tax savings.

I smelled a rat when the raw numbers weren't made available in the piece.

Here's a piece from NewsBusters that looks at the numbers in some depth.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The history of Vietnam

This is a review of a book on the real history of the Vietnam war.  It presents a view other than the "conventional wisdom".
Moyar's history takes issue with all of these contentions. A brilliant young scholar with a Cambridge doctorate who is currently teaching at the Marine Corps University in Quantico, Moyar is representative of a small but increasingly influential revisionist school that rejects the fundamental orthodox premise that America's involvement in Vietnam was wrongheaded and unjust.

Iraq and Vietnam


THOSE WHO THINK that "no more Vietnams" means that cowardice is the better part of wisdom don't know their Vietnam history either. There are many important lies in circulation about Vietnam, like counterfeit $50 bills that keep resurfacing. Those who held these views during the war itself weren't liars; in most cases they were telling the truth as they understood it. But decades later, it requires an act of will to keep one's ignorance pristine.

Lie #1: We were wrong to fight the Vietnamese Communists in the first place; they only wanted what was best for their country. In Why We Were in Vietnam, Norman Podhoretz summarizes Vietnam after the Communist victory. He quotes the liberal New York Times columnist Tom Wicker, outspoken critic of the war, on its aftermath. "What Vietnam has given us instead of a bloodbath [is] a vast tide of human misery in southeast Asia." He quotes Truong Nhu Tang, minister of justice in the Provisional Revolutionary Government that ruled South Vietnam after the Americans were ordered by Congress to run away: "Never has any previous regime [previous to the Communists] brought such masses of people to such desperation. Not the military dictators, not the colonialists, not even the ancient Chinese overlords." Prominent South Vietnamese were thrown into prison and tortured with revoltingly inventive cruelty. Virtually the whole South Vietnamese army and government were herded into concentration camps. Tang fled Vietnam in 1979, one of untold thousands who put to sea in crowded, rickety boats. Anything to get free of Communist Vietnam, the workers' and peasants' paradise, Fonda-land by the Sea. In Vietnam, as everywhere else on earth, communism was another word for death.

Lie #2: The Vietnam war was unwinnable. We had no business sending our men to a war they were bound to lose. The Communist Vietcong launched their first major coordinated offensive in January 1968--the "Tet offensive." "Tet was a military disaster for Hanoi," writes the historian Derek Leebaert. "Intended to destroy South Vietnamese officialdom and spark a popular uprising, Tet ironically had more of an effect in turning South Vietnam's people against the North." But America had been fighting ineffectively. In May 1968, Creighton Abrams replaced William Westmoreland as supreme American commander in Vietnam and U.S. strategy snapped to, immediately. With Abrams in charge, the war "was being won on the ground," writes the historian Lewis Sorley, "even as it was being lost at the peace table and in the U.S. Congress." The British counterinsurgency expert Sir Robert Thompson commented on America's "Christmas bombing" campaign of 1972, which devastated the North: "You had won the war. It was over." American anti-warriors insisted on losing it anyway.

Lie #3: As the American people learned the facts, they turned against the war and forced America's withdrawal from Vietnam. Actually, Americans continued to support the war nearly until the end. The 1972 presidential election was a referendum on the war; "Come home, America!" said the antiwar Democrat George McGovern--and he lost to Richard Nixon in a landslide. Of all U.S. population segments, 18-to-24-year-old men--who were subject to the draft, who did the fighting--were consistently the war's strongest supporters. "It was not the American people which lost its stomach," writes historian Paul Johnson, "it was the American leadership."

Lie #4: The real heroes of Vietnam were the protesters and draft-resisters who forced America to give up a disastrously wrong policy. If this was heroism, it was dirt cheap heroism. While college students paraded and protested and whooped it up, America's working classes bore the brunt of the fighting, bleeding, and dying. Around 80 percent of the 2.5 million enlisted men who fought in Vietnam came from poor or working class families. They lacked the law-breaking and draft-evading skills that their better-educated countrymen could draw on. And they lacked the heart to say no when their country called. Reread Norman Mailer's gorgeously written yet (like the smell of marijuana) faintly disgusting Armies of the Night, about a massive antiwar march on the Pentagon. You will learn or relearn all about the passionate ingenuity of left-wing lawyers fighting for clients they admired--who were innately superior to the law but scared of the consequences when they broke it.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Chloramination in Sunland-Tujunga

I've just learned that the Department of Water and Power intends to test the chloramination equipment at the reservoir that serves Sunland-Tujunga next week.
That means the entire water system will be converted from chlorine to chloramine for a week, and then converted back.
Hospitals and dialysis centers have been notified, but I don't know about fish owners, aquarium supply stores, pet shops, or water-garden places.
Bottom line, if you raise fish or amphibians, assume you need to treat your water for choramines at all times.
Pass it along.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Texas to execute an innocent bystander?

Well, apparently not.

Steve Verdon at Outside the Beltway writes that:

Kenneth Foster is innocent of murder. Even the State acknowledges this fact, but in three weeks Foster will be executed for the murder of Michael LaHood. Consider this another installment of "Our Stupid Judicial System."

His source is The Nation, which maintains that the convict, one Kenneth Foster, has been sentenced to die for a murder which took place 100 yards away from him.

the controversial Texas state “law of parties,” under which the distinction between principal actor and accomplice in a crime is abolished. The law can impose the death penalty on anybody involved in a crime where a murder occurred. In Foster’s case he was driving a car with three passengers, one of whom, Brown, left the car, got into an altercation and shot LaHood dead. Texas is the only state that applies this statute in capital cases, making it the only place in the United States where a person can be factually innocent of murder and still face the death penalty.

Well, that sounds absolutely Gilbertian:

"Unfortunately, the code of the Mikado has no provision for 'not knowing', or 'having no idea', or 'not being there'."

Beldar thinks he sniffs some anti-death penalty bias in the story. First, there's a gratuitous reference to Foster's race – the only such reference in the cited article. Second: the last sentence of that quoted paragraph. What kind of statute could the "this statute" reference be to, such that it even potentially could be applicable nationwide in defining what is or isn't murder? Well, yes — Texas is the only state in the Union that applies the Texas felony murder statute. In Florida and Arizona and a bunch of other states that follow the traditional felony murder rule, they apply their own state statutes (some of which are very comparable, and others less so).

But of course, you spotted that, didn't you? Any crime show junkie knows that there are lots of ways you can wind up guilty of murder even if you never touched the victim, or even if you never intended there to be a victim in the first place.

Then Beldar (linked above) cheated.

He read the fifth circuit appellate decision.

During the guilt/innocence phase of Foster's trial, Steen testified he rode in the front seat, looking for potential victims, while Foster drove. Steen and Brown testified to robbing two different groups at gunpoint that night; the four men divided the stolen property equally.

Some people might have been clued in by this behavior that a crime was going on.

The Court also found that...

...Foster could not have helped but anticipate the possibility that a human life would be taken in the course of one or more of his co-conspirators' armed robberies. By transporting a pair of pot-smoking armed robbers to and from one robbery after another, Foster clearly displayed the type of "reckless disregard for human life" the Supreme Court had in mind when it employed that term in Tison. Foster knowingly engaged in criminal activities known to carry a grave risk of death ....

in summary, the court found that Foster:

(1) actively participated in the group's robberies; (2) knew members of the group were using a gun to commit them; (3) shared the proceeds from them; (4) was the getaway driver; and (5) expressed no remorse when Michael LaHood was murdered. [Additionally,] after Brown shot Michael LaHood, Foster "drove him away ..., all the while telling Brown to hide the gun"; further, when police pulled over the vehicle, Foster encouraged Brown to hide the gun in his underwear.

Beldar's comment on this is:

In the meantime, I wish the opponents of capital punishment like Mr. Rothberg would quit lying by omission, trying to make someone like Foster look like an innocent bystander randomly sentenced to death by those fiends down in Texas just because he's black. Your dishonesty does your cause a disservice, and thereby ultimately makes you into an enemy of those on death row.

Anonymous Wikipedia Editor Finder

Someone has built a tool that matches the IP address of anonymous edits to Wikipedia with known domain names.

Myths between the rivers

Christopher Hitchens looks at a belief system that is even more arcane and irrational than many religious beliefs:

the hair-splitting secularists who cannot accept that al-Qaida in Mesopotamia is a branch of al-Qaida itself.

Objections to this self-evident fact take one of two forms. It is argued, first, that there was no such organization before the coalition intervention in Iraq. It is argued, second, that the character of the gang itself is somewhat autonomous from, and even independent of, the original group proclaimed by Osama Bin Laden. These objections sometimes, but not always, amount to the suggestion that the "real" fight against al-Qaida is, or should be, not in Iraq but in Afghanistan.

His evidence?

The founder of al-Qaida in Mesopotamia was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who we can now gratefully describe as "the late." The first thing to notice about him is that he was in Iraq before we were. The second thing to notice is that he fled to Iraq only because he, and many others like him, had been driven out of Afghanistan. Thus, by the logic of those who say that Afghanistan is the "real" war, he would have been better left as he was. Without the overthrow of the Taliban, he and his collaborators would not have moved to take advantage of the next failed/rogue state. I hope you can spot the simple error of reasoning that is involved in this belief. It also involves the defeatist suggestion—which was very salient in the opposition to the intervention in Afghanistan—that it's pointless to try to crush such people because "others will spring up in their place." Those who take this view should have the courage to stand by it and not invent a straw-man argument.

As it happens, we also know that Zarqawi—who probably considered himself a rival to Bin Laden as well as an ally—wrote from Iraq to Bin Laden and to his henchman Ayman al-Zawahiri and asked for the local "franchise" to call himself the leader of AQM. This dubious honor he was duly awarded. We further know that he authored a plan for the wrecking of the new Iraq: a simple strategy to incite civil murder between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. The incredible evil of this proposal, which involved the blowing up of holy places and the assassination of pilgrims, was endorsed from whatever filthy cave these deliberations are conducted in. As a matter of fact, we even know that Zawahiri and his boss once or twice counseled Zarqawi to hold it down a bit, especially on the video-butchery and the excessive zeal in the murder of Shiites. Thus, if there is any distinction to be made between the apple and the tree, it would involve saying that AQM is, if anything, even more virulent and sadistic and nihilistic than its parent body.

And this very observation leads to a second one, which has been well-reported and observed by journalists who are highly skeptical about the invasion. In provinces like Anbar, and in areas of Baghdad, even Sunni militants have turned away in disgust and fear from the AQM forces. It's not difficult to imagine why this is: Try imagining life for a day under the village rule of such depraved and fanatical elements.

To say that the attempt to Talibanize Iraq would not be happening at all if coalition forces were not present is to make two unsafe assumptions and one possibly suicidal one. The first assumption is that the vultures would never have gathered to feast on the decaying cadaver of the Saddamist state, a state that was in a process of implosion well before 2003. All our experience of countries like Somalia and Sudan, and indeed of Afghanistan, argues that such an assumption is idiotic. It is in the absence of international attention that such nightmarish abnormalities flourish. The second assumption is that the harder we fight them, the more such cancers metastasize. This appears to be contradicted by all the experience of Iraq. Fallujah or Baqubah might already have become the centers of an ultra-Taliban ministate, as they at one time threatened to do, whereas now not only have thousands of AQM goons been killed but local opinion appears to have shifted decisively against them and their methods.

The third assumption, deriving from the first two, would be that if coalition forces withdrew, the AQM gangsters would lose their raison d'ĂȘtre and have nothing left to fight for. I think I shall just leave that assumption lying where it belongs: on the damp floor of whatever asylum it is where foolish and wishful opinions find their eventual home.

Can they be serious?

Sometimes, it seems people would rather throw a screaming fit than admit success.

A couple of weeks ago, I read a tirade based on an op-ed piece that appeared in the Washington Post. The authors of this post, Paul X. Kelley and Robert F. Turner, accuse the President of issuing an executive order that:

...has compromised our national honor and that may well promote the commission of war crimes by Americans and place at risk the welfare of captured American military forces for generations to come.

My goodness!

What evil lurks in this executive order?

Well, according to Kelley and Turner:

The order declares that the CIA program "fully complies with the obligations of the United States under Common Article 3," provided that its interrogation techniques do not violate existing federal statutes (prohibiting such things as torture, mutilation or maiming) and do not constitute "willful and outrageous acts of personal abuse done for the purpose of humiliating or degrading the individual in a manner so serious that any reasonable person, considering the circumstances, would deem the acts to be beyond the bounds of human decency."

OK, that sounds pretty reasonable to me, what's the downside?

In other words, as long as the intent of the abuse is to gather intelligence or to prevent future attacks, and the abuse is not "done for the purpose of humiliating or degrading the individual" -- even if that is an inevitable consequence -- the president has given the CIA carte blanche to engage in "willful and outrageous acts of personal abuse."

It is firmly established in international law that treaties are to be interpreted in "good faith" in accordance with the ordinary meaning of their words and in light of their purpose. It is clear to us that the language in the executive order cannot even arguably be reconciled with America's clear duty under Common Article 3 to treat all detainees humanely and to avoid any acts of violence against their person.



That's all I can say.

I'm not a lawyer, so I'm not sure if this is the sort of loophole that would actually work, even if the executive order were actually phrased the way it's presented in the op-ed piece.

The Post was kind enough to link to the executive order in question, so I went and read it.

It covers a couple of issues.


On February 7, 2002, I determined for the United States that members of al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces are unlawful enemy combatants who are not entitled to the protections that the Third Geneva Convention provides to prisoners of war. I hereby reaffirm that determination.

Nevertheless, the CIA Detention and Interrogation Program (DIP) will extend certain protections to detainees anyway.

The executive order states that detainees will not be subject to:

(A) torture, as defined in section 2340 of title 18, United States Code;

(B) any of the acts prohibited by section 2441(d) of title 18, United States Code, including murder, torture, cruel or inhuman treatment, mutilation or maiming, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, rape, sexual assault or abuse, taking of hostages, or performing of biological experiments;

(C) other acts of violence serious enough to be considered comparable to murder, torture, mutilation, and cruel or inhuman treatment, as defined in section 2441(d) of title 18, United States Code;

(D) any other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment prohibited by the Military Commissions Act (subsection 6(c) of Public Law 109 366) and the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 (section 1003 of Public Law 109 148 and section 1403 of Public Law 109 163);

(E) willful and outrageous acts of personal abuse done for the purpose of humiliating or degrading the individual in a manner so serious that any reasonable person, considering the circumstances, would deem the acts to be beyond the bounds of human decency, such as sexual or sexually indecent acts undertaken for the purpose of humiliation, forcing the individual to perform sexual acts or to pose sexually, threatening the individual with sexual mutilation, or using the individual as a human shield; or

(F) acts intended to denigrate the religion, religious practices, or religious objects of the individual

So, in context, we see the clause that Kelley and Turner object to is part of a list of forbidden practices. Indeed, it has the appearance of being a catch-all. It covers a number of acts, such as the abuses committed at Abu Ghraib, which may not have run afoul of parts (A) through (D). And then, for good measure, part (F) bans treatment that is normally not considered objectionable, but might be so for members of certain religions. (E.g., bacon for breakfast.)

So, my "good faith" reading of these clauses, "in accordance with the ordinary meaning of their words and in light of their purpose", is that the order is designed to make it as difficult as possible to mistreat detainees. Clauses (A) through (F) seem designed to rule out, as much as possible, ways of getting around the rules. I believe, in order to get from this order to Kelley and Turner's statement that: long as the intent of the abuse is to gather intelligence or to prevent future attacks, and the abuse is not "done for the purpose of humiliating or degrading the individual" -- even if that is an inevitable consequence -- the president has given the CIA carte blanche to engage in "willful and outrageous acts of personal abuse."

you have to torture and abuse the plain intent of the document.

(So why does section (E) not ban all personal abuse, even if the intent is not to humilate? Because there are lots of widely-accepted practices which can easily be held to be humiliating for a detainee.

Strip-searches and cavity searches take place in prisons all the time, and I imagine detainees are also subject to them. Medical exams, even fairly non-invasive ones like my physical last month, involve a certain amount of exposure and close contact that could be interpreted as humiliating. I read section (E) as keeping the burden of proof on the detainee to show that any alleged humiliation is indeed gratuitous and not the inevitable consequence of some legitimate procedure. Otherwise, a detainee could tie things in knots by simply declaring anything at all "outrageously humiliating".)

Just to make matters worse for Kelley and Turner's case, the executive order also provides that:

...I hereby determine that Common Article 3 [of the Geneva Conventions] shall apply to a program of detention and interrogation operated by the Central Intelligence Agency as set forth in this section. The requirements set forth in this section shall be applied with respect to detainees in such program without adverse distinction as to their race, color, religion or faith, sex, birth, or wealth.

In other words, if Kelley and Turner are serious in the charges they're leveling, they're stating that the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War provides inadequate protection for detainees at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. Not only is the Geneva Convention inadequate, it remains inadequate in conjunction with U.S. Code bans on torture, murder, cruel and inhuman treatment, outrageous acts of personal abuse, and religious denigration.

The way I read this, Kelley and Turner are relying on a tortured interpretation of this executive order as an excuse to throw a hysterical fit over the Evil Bush Administration. As with certain other people I've read, they are not motivated by opposition to torture, but by hatred George W. Bush. In this case, no amount of protection for detainees will ever be seen as sufficient because it's being administered by Bush.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

How The New Republic "fact checks"

Confederate Yankee decided to check up on the fact checking done by TNR in its "Shock Troops" piece. appears that one of the experts cited by The New Republic's editors was not fully appraised of what TNR was trying to justify in one claim in particular.

The New Republic stated:

...TNR contacted the manufacturer of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle System, where a spokesman confirmed that the vehicle is as maneuverable as Beauchamp described. Instructors who train soldiers to drive Bradleys told us the same thing. And a veteran war correspondent described the tendency of stray Iraqi dogs to flock toward noisy military convoys.

Once again, no sources were named. That TNR would not reveal who these sources are who was a decision many interpreted as an attempt by TNR to keep others from interviewing these same experts. In the paragraph above, TNR mentions that they spoke to a spokesman of the company of manufacturers the Bradley.

Guess what? I did, too.

Follow the link for the e-mail exchange involved. Bottom line:

In other words, BAE System's Head of Communications over the division than manufactures the Bradley IFV was never specifically asked to comment on the claims made in "Shock Troops" by TNR's legion of fact-checkers.

When he saw the claims made in "Shock Troops," he stated, by citing the physical properties of his company's vehicle, that it is highly unlikely, if not impossible, for the Bradley story told in "Shock Troops" to have been correct.

Once more, we have to question the accuracy and the integrity of The New Republic's editors, who ran an investigation apparently designed to provide merely cover instead of facts.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Food blog

The Washington Post has a food blog here

Blogging While Female

According to the Washington Post, female bloggers are routinely harassed
in cyberspace.

A panel called "Blogging While Female," held Saturday morning...

"How many of the women in the audience blog?" asked a panelist.

Nearly three-fourths of those present raised their hands.

"How many of you get harassed?"

The hands stayed up. They complain of being harassed online for their views on issues such as abortion rights.

I'm inclined to wonder just what "harassment" means in this context. Are we talking about death threats or other threats of violence? Or is it merely the fact that someone out there doesn't agree with the bloggers?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

A Global Warming Worksheet

One of the problems we run into is deciding which experts to trust.

Generally, whatever the topic at hand, you can rely on finding an expert who will say whatever you want to hear about it.

Global warming is one topic where you can build a collection of experts you agree with. Accordingly, Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. offers his "global warming worksheet" in the Wall Street Journal. (2/1/06)

As used by the media, "global warming" refers to the theory not only that the earth is warming, but doing so because of human industrial activity. How can a reasonably diligent citizen assess this claim? Measuring average global temperature is not an easy matter.


But even if a change is measured, how do we know it's manmade?

The answer is, really, we don't. But how can we evaluate the various claims?

Well, [we] could begin by evaluating the claim that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased from 0.028% to 0.036%...

This finding is so straightforward, it's reasonable to assume it would have been widely debunked if unreliable. Next, the claim that this should lead to higher temperatures because of the heat-absorbing qualities of the CO2 molecule. A reasonable person might be tempted to take this finding on faith, too, for a different reason: because even ardent believers in global warming accept that this fact alone wouldn't justify belief in manmade global warming.

That's because all things are not equal: The climate is a vast, complex and poorly understood system. Scientists must resort to elaborate computer models to address a multiplicity of variables and feedbacks before they can plausibly suggest (choice of verb is deliberate here) that the net effect of increased carbon dioxide is the observed increase in temperature. By now, a diligent layperson is equipped to doubt any confident assertion that manmade warming is taking place. Models are not the climate, and may not accurately reflect the workings of the climate, especially when claiming to detect changes that are small and hard to differentiate from natural changes.
Note this doesn't make our conscientious citizen a global warming "denier." It makes him a person who recognizes that the case isn't proved and probably can't be proved with current knowledge. He's also entitled to turn his attention now to the nonscientific factors affecting public professions of certainty about manmade global warming.


...The problems associated with climate change (whether manmade or natural) are the same old problems of poverty, disease, and natural hazards like floods, storms, and droughts. Money spent directly on these problems is a much surer bet than money spent trying to control a climate change process that we don't understand.

Not really a worksheet, but a list of things to consider. In order to evaluate the question of manmade global warming, we have to evaluate the following chain of inferences:

1) Humans have contributed a significant amount of CO2 to
the environment, increasing levels above where they would otherwise be.

2) The increase in CO2 is increasing the ability of the planet to trap and retain heat, driving the average temperatures above where they would otherwise be.

3) The increase in temperature, and/or the increase in CO2 levels, cause, on the margin, more harm than good.

Each of these inferences has a number of assumptions buried in them, and a number of ways they could go wrong. As long as the chain of reasoning has these possible gaps in it, is it worth spending trillions of dollars on the chance it might be true?