Alas, woolly mammoths are no more!

May 21, 2014

muir

I don’t quite recall where that phrase comes from:  perhaps a tag line from my surrealist days in school.  But speaking of the Ice Age, there was an article in the NYTimes Science Section headlined The Big Melt Accelerates.  It provides more grist for my mill on the topic of the Times’ incredible bias and sloppiness in its supposedly “for the record” coverage of climate science.

The article covers the topic of glacial recession worldwide, i.e., the shrinking of glaciers.  Not the “melting” of glaciers:  glaciers are always melting.  Whether they grow or shrink depends on how much ice and snow are being dumped on their upland regions.  Mass-balance, that sort of thing.

Of course, the point of the article is that glaciers are shrinking everywhere (although they do note that some are not, and some are even growing.)  The two images shown above are featured prominently at the headline, and the message is clear.  In 1941, plenty of glacial ice; 2004, the glacier is visible only in the distance. Global warming, dumbbell!  Clear evidence to confound those anti-science deniers!

The images show the Muir Glacier in Alaska, and it has indeed been receding for many years.  In fact, it has been receding since it reached its maximum extent in…1780.  It’s quite well documented.  In the map below, you can see that in the late 18th century, long before the industrial revolution got going bigtime, it reached the end Glacier Bay (see the red circle at the bottom of the map.)  After 160 years, it retreated to where the red circle near the top of the map is.  And in the intervening sixty years, it has continued its retreat.  Clearly, the bulk of the recession was not caused by the industrial revolution and its discharge of C02 into the atmosphere – it was hardly a major force then.  It doesn’t seem to have accelerated its backward movement in the 20th century either.

Why did this glacier retreat?  The Little Ice Age, which saw glaciers growing all over the northern hemisphere – to the point that there are engravings showing European villages being engulfed and destroyed by ice! – ended in the very late 18th century.  Things started to get warmer after that…

New-1

This bit of scientific context doesn’t prove or disprove anything much other than that the NYTimes is extremely sloppy in its reporting.  The governing attitude seems to be, “We know the issue is settled.  Let’s get the message out.”  Fellow bloggers, e.g. Troutsky, who otherwise are sympathetic to my views expressed in this blog, seem to think my doubts are the result of clever indoctrination by the radical right-wing. But this sort of graphic legerdemain and purposeful misdirection is, to me, reminiscent of the GWB years, and the WMD buildup to the Iraq invasion, which the NYTimes swallowed whole.  Not nearly so serious and destructive, but structurally, the same sort of trash.

I wrote to the author of this piece, asking him if it wasn’t “a tad bit misleading” to use those photos.  His reply was, “Short unsatisfying answer:  I don’t choose the photos.”  I guess that’s life as a journalist.  But then he went on, “That being said…,” it’s part of a widespread and well documented trend over the “last several decades.”  Last several decades?  I know he understood my point, so is he just evading the entire question?

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Oh,let it be the end!

December 21, 2011

I stopped reading Thomas  Friedman several years ago, but I couldn’t resist his latest column commemorating the departure of the last U.S. soldiers from Iraq.  He called it, The End, For Now.  Oh, would that it was the end of his scribbling!!

A few morsels to choke on:

With the withdrawal of the last U.S. troops from Iraq, we’re finally going to get the answer to the core question about that country: Was Iraq the way Iraq was because Saddam was the way Saddam was, or was Saddam the way Saddam was because Iraq is the way Iraq is — a collection of sects and tribes unable to live together except under an iron fist.

I suppose this was the reason for the war:  just a big intellectual experiment.

Iraq was always a war of choice. As I never bought the argument that Saddam had nukes that had to be taken out, the decision to go to war stemmed, for me, from a different choice: Could we collaborate with the people of Iraq to change the political trajectory of this pivotal state in the heart of the Arab world and help tilt it and the region onto a democratizing track?

Is this the same guy who was jumping up and down shouting about WMDs in Iraq?  Perhaps he is drawing a fine distinction here:  “Oh, I said WMDs, but I never said “nukes

But was it a wise choice?  My answer is twofold: “No” and “Maybe, sort of, we’ll see.”

I say “no” because whatever happens in Iraq, even if it becomes Switzerland, we overpaid for it. And, for that, I have nothing but regrets. We overpaid in lives, in the wounded, in tarnished values, in dollars and in the lost focus on America’s development. Iraqis, of course, paid dearly as well.

Here, Tom follows the great American tradition of celebrating and mourning our losses, while those losses we caused to our ‘friends’ were so much larger:  2 million Vietnamese, half a million Iraqi civilians… of course, of course.

 So no matter the original reasons for the war, in the end, it came down to this: Were America and its Iraqi allies going to defeat Al Qaeda and its allies in the heart of the Arab world or were Al Qaeda and its allies going to defeat them?

Al Qaeda wasn’t in Iraq until we offered them an invitation there by reducing the country to primitive chaos.  With people like Friedman, no need for real enemies:  we’ll create them as we go along.

…the most important product of the Iraq war: the first ever voluntary social contract between Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites for how to share power and resources in an Arab country and to govern themselves in a democratic fashion. America helped to midwife that contract in Iraq, and now every other Arab democracy movement is trying to replicate it — without an American midwife. You see how hard it is.

So, the ‘Arab Spring’ arose in imitation of our war in Iraq?  That jerry-rigged “democracy”, which may be falling to bits as I write, is what they were striving for?  We are truly a beacon to the future!

The best-case scenario for Iraq is that it will be another Russia — an imperfect, corrupt, oil democracy that still holds together long enough so that the real agent of change — a new generation, which takes nine months and 21 years to develop — comes of age in a much more open, pluralistic society. . . I don’t know if Iraq will make it. The odds are really long, but creating this opportunity was an important endeavor, and I have nothing but respect for the Americans, Brits and Iraqis who paid the price to make it possible.

Wow!  So that’s what it all comes down to?  An “important endeavor,” a few hundred thousand dead civilians, lots of dead and maimed soldiers of our own, untold havoc to our federal budget, a gaping hole in the credibility of our government, and, oh yes, a lot of respect from Mr. Tom.  Not to mention the very real possibility that it will all unravel completely in the very near future into the fulfillment of the fiasco that began it.


Batting 500

May 2, 2011

I thought he would never be captured or killed – I was wrong.  Oh, well, I was right about those weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

The reasons for my relative sang froid regarding this event are illustrated by this quote from the journalistic blusterer, Ross Douthat:

They can strike us, they can wound us, they can kill us. They can goad us into tactical errors and strategic blunders. But they are not, and never will be, an existential threat.

This was not clear immediately after 9/11.

As with his fellow windbag, Thomas Friedman, as well as many, many, politicians and talking-head wannabee pundits, he takes far too long to learn his lessons.  The sense of those two sentences that are in bold was very evident to me in 2001, and to John Kerry in 2004, and to the writer of an op-ed piece that I recall from the NYTimes shortly after 9/11 (citations, please, if anyone can find it![Here it is.]) that stated that Osama bin Laden’s was a form of ‘politics’ doomed for the dustbin.  Yes, there were plenty of reasonable people who understood what was what, but the hysteria of people like Ross and his fellow scribblers, not to mention GWB, made it hard to understand what they were saying.


A matter of taste, again…

February 7, 2011

Victory Arch - Iran/Iraq War .

Disgusting, vulgar, obscenely kitsch – some of the comments that are heard about Saddam Hussein’s Victor Arch, which is now being restored in Baghdad.  One scholar wrote an entire book on the subject of Saddam’s artistic output. [Edward Said felt that the author, Kanan Makiya, an erstwhile booster of the GWB invasion, had tainted motives for his critical tirade.]

One man’s kitsch is another man’s living room. Tolstoy had the same opinion of Napoleon as we have of Saddam, but Boney is a “great man,” and his monuments are gawked at with admiration and reverence by millions of civilized westerners

Napoleon celebrates Austerlitz


The fruits of torture

July 4, 2009

From the NYTimes today, an article about Iran:

Top Reformers Admitted Plot, Iran Declares

The government has made it a practice to publicize confessions from political prisoners held without charge or legal representation, often subjected to pressure tactics like sleep deprivation, solitary confinement and torture, according to human rights groups and former political prisoners. Human rights groups estimate that hundreds of people have been detained.

Confessions!  What a surprise!  Yes, torture is a very effective instrument for uncovering the truth.  Ask Dick Cheney.

Happy 4th!  flagwave


Dick Cheney: Truthteller

April 23, 2009

evil_dick2

Vice-president Dick Cheney spent eight years acting as a black hole for information the public might want – stuff went in, but nothing ever came out.  Now, apparently without irony, he is calling for classified documents to be released to the public so we can have a “more honest debate” on the merits of his torture policies.  

Perhaps we should classify him, so we wouldn’t have to listen to his drivel any longer.  At least we can hope that Scooter Libbey, unable to earn a living by lawyering anymore, might seek a hefty advance for a mother-of-all tell-all memoirs about his life with Dick.

And you know, I would really like to ask Dick this:  “Just when did you stop beating your wife?”


He kept us safe…

January 18, 2009

bushbullhorn

In many letters to editors, I have heard this sentiment expressed in defense of GWB’s miserable record as president:  “No terrorists have attacked us…he kept us safe.”  Well, 9/11 did occur when he was president.  Here is a small gallery of momentos of our safety with W.

Our fearless leader keeps cool, and keeps reading “My Pet Goat” as the attack plays out.  What decisiveness!

safe1    bushreadingthepetgoat

Our great leader was brilliant during the phony energy crisis manufactured by Enron (remember them?) that nearly bankrupted California.

safe2

Once again, Numero Uno was on the ball when Katrina hit, and his valiant lieutenant, Brownie, did a “helluva job.”  Oh well, it was an act of God…

katrina-neworleanssuperdomesat3sept-moretrashstillwaiting2bevacd-reuters-shannonstapleton       _42130348_domebaby_getty416b

WMD?  WMD?  Did somebody say something about weapons of mass destruction..?  Well, he kept us all safe, right?

safe3

Well, Bush isn’t the only great leader and visionary we had to guide us these last years.  Now we see the results.  I bet he  and his friends kept their money really safe!

safe4