Monday, March 20, 2006

Faith-based security

From the "what the f***?" department, for your (in)digestion: Executive Order: Responsibilities of the Department of Homeland Security with Respect to Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. No, this is not a joke, at least not an intentional one. Some of the lowlights of this directive:
The Secretary of Homeland Security (Secretary) shall establish within the Department of Homeland Security (Department) a Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (Center).
The purpose of the Center shall be to coordinate agency efforts to eliminate regulatory, contracting, and other programmatic obstacles to the participation of faith-based and other community organizations in the provision of social and community services.
... coordinate a comprehensive departmental effort to incorporate faith-based and other community organizations in Department programs and initiatives to the greatest extent possible...
That's right - faith-based homeland security! Good for the entire family! If I were more cynical I'd take this as the administration finally admitting that prayer is about the only option left, in lieu of smart policies and fiscal decisions which could fund reasonable security recommendations.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Nuclear par

From George Monbiot's A Self-Vindicating Policy.
Israel, citing the threat from Iran, insists on retaining its nuclear missiles. Threatened by them (and prompted, among other reasons, by his anti-semitism), the Iranian president says he wants to wipe Israel off the map, and appears to be developing a means of doing so. Israel sees his response as vindicating its nuclear programme. It threatens an air strike, which grants retrospective validity to Ahmadinejad’s designs. And so it goes on. Everyone turns out to be right in the end.

Some leadership from the U.S. on this issue, some relatively trivial embrace of nonproliferation in practice (not just in words), could possibly help here, and at little real risk. But the banner of terrorism has given us, apparently, justification for redesign of the nuclear payload, as well as development of new weapons. How these would have prevented 9/11 or even helped defend the homeland is a matter for those with expansive imaginations.

The defence secretary [of the UK] explains that a new missile system is necessary because “some countries” have not been “complying with their obligations under the non-proliferation treaty”(5). In response, therefore, the UK will refuse to comply with its obligations under the non-proliferation treaty. This provides other countries with their justification for … well, you’ve got the general idea.

When Iran is referred to the UN Security Council, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will be able to turn every accusation it makes back on his accusers. He will insist that the council’s members are asserting a monopoly of ultimate violence; that while there is as yet no definitive evidence that he is in breach of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, no one can doubt that they are. He will point to America’s tacit endorsement of Israel’s nuclear status and its overt endorsement of India’s. He will assert that the enforcement of the global nuclear regime discriminates against Muslim states. And though he is wrong about many things, he will be right about all that.

While no one pretends all states are even remotely the same with regard to aggression, our schizophrenic policy supports only self-interest while waving the banner of diplomacy. Our

... the US Congress ... has bravely sought to block a new nuclear weapons programme. For two years in a row it has refused to approve the money for George Bush’s “robust nuclear earth penetrator”, a mini-nuke which could have reduced the threshold for first use. But now it seems to have been duped.

Last year it approved initial funding for something called the “reliable replacement warhead” programme. The administration maintained that this was nothing more than the refurbishment of existing nuclear weapons. The legislators chose to believe it.

They seemed naïve then and they seem more naïve today. The US has already spent about $60 billion maintaining and refurbishing its weapons under a separate programme, called “stockpile stewardship”. It wasn’t easy to see why it needed a new scheme. Even before the reliable replacement warhead programme had been approved, the outgoing deputy head of the Nuclear National Security Administration (NNSA) had let slip that a new generation of weapons was “not the primary objective, but [it] would be a fortuitous associated event.”

Not much to comment on here; this continues the current administration's behavioral pattern of secrecy and duplicity to implement its whims, regardless of the opinions of the pesky elected officials composing the legislative branch, the one which is only now gathering the chutzpah to check and balance as was its mandate. While such actions are hardly unique to this administration, their mastery of the domain certainly is.

This is not to say that the horripilation Iran’s nuclear programme inspires is unjustified. Nor is it to claim that no other state would seek to develop or maintain nuclear weapons if the official nuclear powers gave theirs up. But the refusal of the members of the security council to make any moves towards disarmament, their threats of pre-emptive bombing and their quiet development of new weapons systems guarantees the failure of both the UN and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Nothing could make us less secure than the billions we are spending in the name of security.

The only possible justification for such a stance is, of course, that we are Right and Just, and that They are not, and therefore cannot be trusted with such weapons. Whether this statement is true or not, and to what degree, is completely irrelevant - making the statement undercuts any legitimate moral authority we would otherwise have had. Actions, as always, speak louder than words.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Fossil fools

As true today as it was then - from The Fossil Fools by the inimitable George Monbiot:
There is a discussion about whether global warming is due to anthropogenic (manmade) effects. But it is not – or is only seldom – taking place among scientists. It is taking place in the media, and it seems to consist of a competition to establish the outer reaches of imbecility.

Science ... learns from its mistakes. A hypothesis is advanced and tested. If the evidence suggests it is wrong, it is discarded. If the evidence appears to support it, it is refined and subjected to further testing. That some climatologists predicted an ice age in the 1970s, and that the idea was dropped when others found that their predictions were flawed, is a cause for confidence in climatology.

But these dolts are rather less dangerous than the BBC, and its insistence on “balancing” its coverage of climate change. It appears to be incapable of running an item on the subject without inviting a sceptic to comment on it. Usually this is either someone from a corporate-funded thinktank (who is, of course, never introduced as such) or the professional anti-environmentalist Philip Stott. Professor Stott is a retired biogeographer. Like almost all the prominent sceptics he has never published a peer-reviewed paper on climate change. But he has made himself available to dismiss climatologists’ peer-reviewed work as the “lies” of eco-fundamentalists.

This wouldn’t be so objectionable, if the BBC made it clear that these people are not climatologists, and the overwhelming majority of qualified scientific opinion is against them. Instead, it leaves us with the impression that professional opinion is split down the middle. It’s a bit like continually bringing people onto the programme to suggest that there is no link between HIV and AIDS.

Sounds more than a little like our own Fox "News," and the other new organs which have shamefully attempted to emulate its innovations in truth. But since Monbiot's standards of reporting are higher than the American public's, I suspect the BBC leans much closer toward "fair and balanced."

In any event - just because you can find skeptic doesn't mean he or she should actually be listened to. See for information on how the earth is really flat. Really.

But hey, if you don't believe George, you could always listen to a slightly more conservative source: The Pentagon. See Now the Pentagon tells Bush: climate change will destroy us, and for more on the Pentagon's report, see links at, and MSNBC. Granted that this is a Pentagon visionary, but the current administration has certainly listened to him on ballistic missile defense...