Monday, January 25, 2010

To Fight the War on Terror, We Really Need To Know Our Enemy

Identifying terrorists has gotten harder, since they're no longer all middle eastern ethnicity anymore. However, so far, they are all still Muslims between age 17 and 40, mostly males. In my opinion, it is way past time to profile on that description. "Clear and present danger" overrides all other considerations.

In the long term, a seemingly-infinite supply of terrorist recruits must be dried up. They come from a region of the world dominated by a perversion of Islam, one that tells people to kill for God, and to blame the West for all troubles. This perversion has been taught as Islam for decades now throughout the "Muslim World", a belt of over a billion folks stretching from Africa around southern Asia, and on to the Philippines.

This same evil creed is now spreading into the West with immigrants who refuse to assimilate. There is something appealing to undereducated poor folks about a harsh, black-or-white view of things, and a ready scapegoat to blame. The same sort of effect was appealing enough in 1933 Germany to allow the Nazis to take over.

Now, the "Muslim World" is pretty much synonymous with the "Third World". Most countries in it are too poor to have secular school systems, and their populations are completely illiterate and desperately poor. They are very susceptible to that evil creed masquerading as Islam.

The only schools over there are the "madrassas", which teach only the evil creed (not the traditional Islam in my textbook from 50 years ago), and not reading or writing. Graduates are functionally illiterate, and cannot read their Koran for themselves to see the deception. Our "friends" the Saudis have financed this with oil revenues, since the mid-1950's. They invented the evil creed to appear "holier-than-thou", meaning more extremely fundamentalist, so that their neighbors would not invade them.

This mis-education has been going on since the 50's or 60's throughout the Muslim World. As early as they breed and die over there, that's 4-6 generations. All the oldsters who knew the truth about Islam are long dead. So, that is why there are almost a billion willing recruits screaming to join the jihad against the West, and the US in particular.

Long term, it would be far cheaper and more effective than waging war to create secular schools over there to teach the truth, and the literacy skills to find it!

In the mid term, this stuff is funded mostly by oil revenues, and to a lesser extent (primarily the Taliban) illegal drug revenue. Without money, their evil enterprise grinds to a halt, because payrolls, training, weapons, and travel are expensive.

The best things we could do are (1) cease needing their damned oil, and (2) legalize the drugs they grow to knock the price down to nothing.

I've been doing my bit with the ethanol car experiments for item (1). At a national level, implementation of alternative fuels and electricity should be an effort resembling the Manhattan Project. We are already decades late getting started. Item (2) is self-explanatory, and should be obvious to the casual observer: legalize it, regulate it, and tax it, but not too much. We want that stuff dirt cheap, to deny the enemy his money.

In the short term, we have to respond to attacks. Preferably by killing off the leaders before they can attack, but killing somebody in any event. I have to ask the question: why, after all these years, is Osama bin Laden (and several others) still alive? The answer (or lack thereof) clearly shows that we have been doing the wrong things with our military.

I have not yet seen a thing, in 8-1/2 years of war, that I think would actually lead to anything resembling victory.

Invasions and occupations clearly did not work to build effective democracies, but did kill thousands of our sons and daughters, and waste our treasure and our time. What we should do is get in lightning fast, kill the bad guys, and get out. Never stay.

It also means we need spies on the ground speaking the local language and blending in, to find the targets, because the remote sensing clearly doesn't do that job the way we need it done. We don't have these spies, and with the corruption and bureaucratic infighting among our intelligence agencies, we will not have them any time soon, if ever.

We will have to change out the intelligence agencies in order to massively change their culture. The one we want resembles the WW2-era OSS more than anything else I can point to today. We the people do not get to vote for that, directly. Congress does.

To change out bureaucratic agencies requires that we change out the Congress that creates and funds them.

Party politics is irrelevant to this. In point of fact, I think the agendas of both parties are useless extremized crap. Both GOP extremized laissez-faire economic policies, and Democrat extremized big-government spending policies, are worse than useless by themselves. I'd be more favorable to the "tea parties" if they didn't so clearly overlap the far right wing of the GOP.

Now, Obama is no socialist, and I am tired of seeing that lie circulated about him, among a plethora of other lies. He is a centrist politician, more so than most of his party. But, the problem is that his party is the big-government party. And that's quite clearly a problem, or the "tea parties" wouldn't be so popular.

"W" on the other hand was part of the far right wing of the GOP, that recently finished purging itself of "moderates" (really "centrists" who think more like the common folk). To them, most of us "centrists" are "liberals". To this bunch, "free market" means "market free of rules", which is what let all the Wall Street tycoons and investment bankers misbehave. They misbehaved long and greedily and egregiously, and finally burst the "bubbles" that now so vex all of us. What a load of crap to let that happen!

On the other hand, I'll give "W" credit - he (reluctantly) started the spending surge so necessary to arrest the free-falling economy when the crash came. Remember, the first $700B of the $1.2 trillion bailout was spent by Bush and the GOP, not Obama and the Democrats. It was and still is the right thing to do, although I'd much rather it had been targeted upon people and small businesses, instead of the greedy, guilty giants.

The problem with the Democrats is that, generally speaking, they never know when to quit spending. You have to stop spending before inflation explodes, but not too soon before the economy restarts (that's a typical GOP failing). It's very hard to judge. Carter misjudged it, and spent too much for too long a time. That's (in part) why we had stagflation into Reagan's second term.

On the other hand, Reagan/GOP "trickle-down economics" is (and always was) a fiction, too. Sounds good at election time, but it just doesn't work. Without strings, the rich just pocket the money we give them (rules on the marketplace and all that nonsense!). Turns out, Reagan/GOP policy had very little to do with the economic recovery in the late 80's. But low energy prices did!

In point of fact, when you look at gasoline price history expressed in constant 2009 dollars, you can see that every recession is preceded by a fuel price spike. The longer and higher the spike, the worse the recession. The really bad one we are having now should be no surprise, seeing as to how it was preceded by 2-3 years of $3-4/gallon gasoline (even higher for diesel).

I can also correlate these fuel price spikes to things we did that pissed off the middle eastern OPEC nations. They understand how to wreck our economy with high oil prices, and they have been using that weapon, for decades now. And "our" oil companies profit mightily every time OPEC makes things miserable for our people.

Further, one should remember that terrorism is fueled mostly by oil revenues. The key phrase "aid and comfort to the enemy" comes to my mind, whenever I see an oil company commercial or ad. It should come to yours, too. (That key phrase is in the legal definition of treason.) The major oil companies make huge profits every time OPEC wrecks our economy with high oil prices. I have never seen them do anything to restrain OPEC price hikes.

The key to fixing all of this is a Congress that works for the people, not the special interests. We so very clearly don't have one!

So, what I recommend is "vote for no incumbent unless you can personally verify that he did more good than harm while in office". Very few qualify: out of about a hundred of names on the typical ballot, I know of 3 worth keeping here in McLennan County, Texas.

Cleaning out that rat's nest and putting new, as-yet uncorrupted blood in those offices, is the only way I know to clean up the cesspit that is our Congress, short of armed revolution in the streets. (I'd rather keep it civil at the ballot box: less mess to clean up afterward.)

Do not vote for a party! Vote for "new blood", almost always. Parties, policies, and politics almost don't matter, in comparison. Corruption and lobbyist/special interest connections do matter, and we don't want that anymore! We have to clean up the mess, or we never will get an honest, even modestly-effective, government.

It's up to you. I'm already doing my bits.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Kip Averitt Departs

I am sorry to see Kip Averitt end his tenure as our state senator.

As those who know me understand, I generally vote against incumbents. The very few exceptions are those who have done more good than harm while in office.

My "theory" on this says that it takes time for a newly-elected office holder to "put down roots" into the good-old-boy corruption system. Therefore, if we "weed that garden" at every possible opportunity, we will get more honest, responsive government.

My general assessment is that politicians are a sorry, greedy, self-serving lot, completely owned by whoever gave them the most money. I am extremely dismayed at how many of these evil parasites keep getting re-elected for decades.

There are very, very few exceptions to my assessment, but Kip was one of them. Like our federal representative Chet Edwards (another one on my "re-electables list"), he did lots of good things for his constituency, and from his voting patterns, obviously felt far less bound to party agendas.

The political agendas of both parties are quite offensive to me, placing the good of the party above the good of the people, as they so clearly do. This has been going on for decades, and is now worse than I have ever seen, constituting in my view a "clear and present danger" to our Republic.

My list of re-electable incumbents is very short. The only other one on it is state representative Doc Anderson, who voted against his party's agenda when he helped defeat a huge swarm of dirty coal power plants, to be built in and around McLennan county.

These were being "pushed" very hard by the governor and a bunch of rich special interests. They would have been a pollution disaster for almost the entire state of Texas.

About 3/4 of the year, these plants would have pushed the DFW nonattainment area beyond any hope of avoiding direct (and very intrusive) federal intervention to clean up the mess. The other 1/4, it would have been Houston.

When you add in the recent foreign-owned toll road and eminent domain-abuse debacle, you can see why my re-electables list clearly does not include our current governor.

Some I don't really know about, but if I don't know, I vote "no". You all should, too.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

On Global Warming

Update 4-15-17:  A newer article dated 4-15-17 and titled "Do We Fight Global Warming Or Not?" updates and replaces this one.  They share the same search keywords that you can use for search filtering on this site.

This is the text of my response 1-12-10 to a friend's forwarded article, concerning the debate over global warming. ----  (updated 2-27-14 in red,  and with illustrations)

Myself, I put more faith in observed ice behavior than actual or proxy temperature records. The actuals don't go back far enough. It is really hard to calibrate proxies adequately.

The empirical observation is that Milankovitch orbital cycles match glaciations and deglaciations very well (but not perfectly) over the last 3-4 million years of geologic record. There is really no adequate causality to explain this match-up fully, it is not a full theory or an established fact, just a empirical observation. However it holds up, in spite of a periodicity change from 100 kyr dominance to 40 kyr dominance during the last ice age.

(And you notice that I did not say a word about CO2 or its relative timing.)

Milankovitch cycles says that the big glaciers should already be forming in Eastern Canada, but they are not. The Arctic ice cap has instead been shrinking for at least the last 50 years. With the caveat that the match isn't "perfect", something appears to be different this orbital parameter cycle. The model is failing to match what is really happening.

Depending greatly upon whose data you believe, the divergence started 50 years ago, 2-300 years ago, or even 8-10,000 years ago. But there is a divergence. For whatever reason.

The volume of ice at risk of melting that is located above current sea level is enormous. Depending upon what you assume could melt, the rise could be anywhere from 1 to 100-something meters. There are roughly half a billion people living within 1 meter of current sea level, and nearly all of us live within 100-some meters of sea level.  Some sea level rise estimates are given in Figure 1,  added below as part of the update.  These are for "near-term" (century-scale) expectations.  Longer term,  more ice melts and the sea level rise is higher.  

Billions could soon be on the move from flooded homes, and we demonstrably cannot handle the temporary evacuation of one flooded city of less than a million folks. I see a total disaster looming here, do you? You should. So should us all.

Now (and only now) does CO2 and CH4 get into it. Lab experiments with bell jars and bottled gases easily confirm the "greenhouse" effect of these gases. If their budgets rise in the atmosphere, there could well be some sort of warming effect, simply because it does happen on a small scale in the lab. It is therefore likely that there would be greenhouse warming, if enough gets added.

How likely, who knows? How much is enough? Who knows? The Keeling curve of measured data shows CO2 went from 280 ppm in 1958 to about 387 ppm today (400 ppm as of Feb 2014,  but I don't think that's been seasonally adjusted to an annual average yet). That's almost a doubling in about half a century. The trend is not linear, but concave upward (accelerating). That's real data at a single location (Hawaii).

In view of the looming potential flooding disaster, it makes sense to buy time by reducing those activities we know would make the problem worse: i.e., greenhouse gas additions to the atmosphere. This may or may not actually have the desired effect, but it surely seems a prudent thing to try. We need to buy that time to figure out how to deal with the migration of billions. We clearly do not know how to handle such a migration right now.

The global warming debate as currently framed is entirely foolish and pointless. It should be focused primarily on how to cope with the coming migrations, and secondarily on how to buy the needed time. Here's the rub: time looks to be short. Greenland is beginning to deglaciate (worst case 6 meter rise, perhaps within a century), and the mountain glaciers are almost certainly disappearing within a decade or so (1 meter rise). As for the rest, who yet knows?  West Antarctica is showing some signs of instability in 2013 and 2014.  East Antarctica,  not so much,  but changes in ice flow speed there have been noticed recently.  

I will admit to this human failing: I get really pissed off by the current "debate". Condemning billions to starvation and death as civilization crashes, for the sake of profit or political advantage now, is a crime against all of humanity that makes the WW2 Holocaust pale in comparison.

Now,  instead of an emotional,  rhetorical appeal,  try logic.  

Figure 2 below,  added as part of the update,  shows an oversimplified form of a standard trade study tool:  the decision matrix.  There are,  in this oversimplified example,  two choices available to us,  arranged here as column headings:  do we attempt to do something,  or do we do nothing?  The choices not available to us are Mother Nature's "decisions",  shown here as row headings:  either human-caused warming is real or it is not.  In the four cells are very brief descriptions of the consequences appropriate to the corresponding combinations of column and row headings.  The contrast is easiest to see,  if you overstate them a little,  and that hurts nothing.

You have to do this right:  you cannot choose a row (in this example),  because that is a matter of what nature does,  not a matter available for human choice.  We humans must choose (in this example) either one column or the other,  and then let the chips fall where they may,  regardless of the "choice" nature makes.  You do that by eliminating the column with the outcome in it that you cannot tolerate,  no matter what the other cells in that column offer as outcomes.  That's the proven strategy that is part of this method.

There is simply no other rational way to make the decision.  

In this example,  there is only one cell with a good outcome,  that corresponding to "we do nothing" and to "nature says humans do not cause warming".  The cell with the worst outcome (civilization crashes and most of us die) is in the same "we do nothing" column,  for the case where nature says we humans really do cause climate warming.  The other two cells also have very bad outcomes (our global economy gets wrecked),  but those do not appear to be as bad as "civilization crashes and most of us die".  

So the only rational choice available to us is try to do something to mitigate our greenhouse gas emissions,  as being the choice that kills the fewest of us.  

The  belief that we cause,  or do not cause (take your pick,  it doesn't matter),  climate warming is quite properly discounted in the decision-making process,  precisely because it is a matter of belief,  not a decision under our control at all.  (Politicians hate that,  by the way.)  

The beauty of this is that we do not even need to know the answer to nature's "decision":  we do not need to know "for sure" whether human activity causes,  or does not cause,  climate warming.  We can still make a good decision.

 Figure 1 -- Figures for Ice Melt Effects on Sea Level Rise

Figure 2 -- Simplified Version of Decision Matrix for Climate Change