Sunday, October 12, 2014

There is No Global Warming

I keep reading articles about how various disasters have been caused by global warming. Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, deaths of birds, migration of vegetation poleward, etc. are all constantly blamed on global warming -- or climate change.  But what if there is no global warming?  What if the climate is basically stable?

Well, it is.

There has been no warming of the planet for the last 18 years and 1 month.  So anyone blaming anything on climate change, needs to be told that there is no climate change.

And that is even using the warmists own data, which is constantly being fiddled upward in a desperate attempt to prove their thesis.  In reality, the world has been cooling as the Atlantic enters the cold phase of its usual decades-long cycle.

Anyone who tells you otherwise is either in the pay of Big Green (such as various grant-dependent scientists), or they are simply ignorant.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Why Russia Needs Ukraine

Why is Russia so intent on taking over Ukraine? To most Americans, it simply doesn't make any sense.  If I ask people at work, the answer is, "Maybe Putin is trying to rebuild the old Soviet Union." If I ask why, they say, "He just wants power."

But that is rather vague, and it doesn't seem to justify why he is apparently willing to sacrifice so much.  He is destroying relationships with the entire western world, and causing sanctions to be imposed that are seriously degrading the Russian economy.  Even so, Putin and his Ukrainian adventure are very popular in Russia.

Irredentism as an excuse

On the surface, there is their stated desire to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine. This is known as "irredentism", which is defined by wikipedia as,
...any position of a state advocating annexation of territories administered by another state on the grounds of common ethnicity or prior historical possession, actual or alleged.
Irredentism has been the prima facie cause of many major wars, including the Mexican-American war (US citizens in Texas), WWI (Serbs in Austria-Hungary), and WWII (Germans in Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Austria).

While it is interesting (and rather concerning) that the largest wars in the history of the world have been apparently caused by the same thing Russia is claiming in attacking Ukraine, in most instances irredentism has been an excuse, not the real reason for war.  There is usually a larger compelling national interest.  This is also the case in Ukraine.

The compelling national interest

While Russia's desire to develop regional economic hegemony as a way to ensure security and power is well known, I don't think it can explain the intensity and sacrifice inherent in their Ukraine invasion.

As I show below, it has been apparent for some time that their real reason is to maintain political and military power.  Without Ukraine, Russia would have great difficulty remaining a world superpower to be reckoned with.  And most importantly, without Ukraine, Russia would be highly vulnerable in any future world war.  The recapture of Ukraine therefore becomes an existential imperative to Russia.

Crimea and the Sea of Azov

Clearly, Russia annexed Crimea to ensure their access to and control of the Black Sea.  Their ports at Sevastopol in Crimea, and Novorossiysk, also on the Black Sea, are particularly important since their only other year-round port is at Vladivostok, which is pretty much on the other side of the world.

To let another country (particularly a country now aligned with Europe and NATO) take over Sevastopol, would put the Black Sea in dispute, which would threaten Russia's entire naval force-projection capability, worldwide.

Russia could not remain a great power without Crimea.  After the overthrow of the pro-Russian government in Kiev, the annexation was a certainty.

So Crimea is now a part of Russia again, but it is cut off by Ukrainian territory to the north around the Sea of Azov. The Russian invasion of that area, starting last week, was probably a result of military analyses/simulations showing that Crimea would be indefensible without controlling the entire perimeter of the Sea of Azov.  So the invasion through Donetsk was also a certainty.

What of the rest of Ukraine?

The German Invasion of Russia in WWII
Back when all of this started a few months ago, I mentioned to some friends that Russia needs the Ukraine as a buffer to help prevent an invasion from Europe. They were totally dismissive, stating that such a thought was ludicrous. (One constant since about 1918 is a popular belief that a big war can never happen again, because we are all so progressive now...) But every past invasion of Russia has come across the steppes of Ukraine and Belarus. During the last such invasion, 20 million Russians were killed.

Yes, the last time it happened was indeed over 70 years ago, and a lot has changed since then.  But do we really think that Russia is going to allow NATO to have missiles, artillery, and troops in Ukraine, right on their border -- a 6-hour drive from Moscow? With Ukraine aligning more and more with the West, that was a likely end result.

Road Trip from Ukraine to Moscow
Back in the Cold War era, there would have been nukes falling long before NATO had gotten that far through Ukraine.

A natural barrier to separate an "east" and "west" Ukraine would be the Dnieper River.  But Kiev straddles it.  And really Russia would prefer all of Ukraine as a buffer.

Ukraine as Texas

Consider this scenario: Imagine if Texas were to break away from the US and declare itself a separate country, coincident with other states breaking away during a time of national crisis.  Suppose that as time goes on many of the Anglo residents move out of Texas back to the US, and the Hispanic ethnic group becomes a majority. After 10-15 years, with the US back on its feet, Texas begins to align itself with Mexico.

Even though Mexico has never invaded the US, wouldn't we want to secure the oil ports and production facilities along the Gulf coast, to provide for our strategic defense and global reach?  And wouldn't it be likely that we would invade Texas using the excuse that we were doing it "to protect the historically American people still living there"?  Wouldn't we have an even greater imperative to do so if there had been a past history of invasions across the Rio Grande that had resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of Americans?

Note that I am not trying to justify Russia's position, merely trying to understand how this situation will progress.

The bottom line

Russia has a clear strategic imperative to own Crimea, and all approaches to it.  They will secure Crimea and the area around the Azov Sea up to the Dnieper.  It is needed for them to remain a global power. They will be willing to sacrifice much for this, including relations with other countries, and they will absorb any economic sanctions that are imposed.  Russian control of these areas is non-negotiable.

Russia will work to have all of the Ukraine under their dominion.  They need a buffer between them and Europe/NATO.  They will not allow even the possibility of NATO forces 6 hours from Moscow.  They will likely conquer slowly, a piece at a time, in order to keep the West on a slow simmer.  They may stop at the Dnieper for now, but I suspect that long term they want all of it.

About the only thing that would stop Russia would be for Ukraine to rescind their ties with NATO, and go back to the Russian fold as an independent but Russia-aligned nation. Hard to see how this could happen at this point, even if Russia provides assurances about sovereignty.

A worst case scenario?

An important point was made by Putin at a youth camp today:

"Russia is far from being involved in any large-scale conflicts," he said at the camp on the banks of Lake Seliger. "We don't want that and don't plan on it. But naturally, we should always be ready to repel any aggression towards Russia.

"Russia's partners...should understand it's best not to mess with us," said Putin, dressed casually in a grey sweater and light blue jeans.

"Thank God, I think no one is thinking of unleashing a large-scale conflict with Russia. I want to remind you that Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers."
He then compared Ukraine's military operations to the Nazi siege of Leningrad in World War Two:
"Small villages and large cities surrounded by the Ukrainian army which is directly hitting residential areas with the aim of destroying the infrastructure... It sadly reminds me of the events of the Second World War, when German fascist... occupiers surrounded our cities."
Putin indeed has the invasion of WWII in his thoughts, and directly links the current situation to it.  Russia wants all of Ukraine, and probably Belarus too.

A final thought

It is odd to think that during the Cold War, it was the stated policy of the United States to use nuclear weapons to stop any invasion of Europe by the Soviet Union.  The allied conventional forces in Europe were no match for the Soviet conventional forces, so nukes were the only solution, and everyone knew that explicitly. This policy kept the Soviets in check, because it was clear that any incursion would quickly escalate beyond anyone's control.

Now, with the decline of the United States as a world power, the huge draw-down in our nuclear weapon stockpile, and the lack of any resolve whatsoever at our highest levels of power (yes, I am talking about Obama), Russia can pretty much do anything they want, including invading other countries.  And now they are threatening the use of nukes if anyone tries to stop them.

It's like a bad Russian reversal joke:

"In 1960s, if Russia invades, you nuke Russia.  Now, if Russia invades, Russia nukes you!"


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Ethical Thought

I am an employee of a very large company. It is surprising to me that we seem to require ethics officers, ethics training courses, and Code of Conduct agreements to keep us all ethical. For the first 20 years of my career, there were no such things.   I don't understand why it is necessary; I think we were all pretty ethical back then even without all this hoopla.

So what has changed? Have we become so craven and degenerate that we constantly need to be told what is right and wrong -- on an almost case-by-case basis?

Well, maybe. A civilization is based on shared but individually-held beliefs. I am not sure that "anything goes" can be considered a belief to build a civilization on.

Thinking back to the '70s and '80's, the whole concept of right and wrong seems like it was simpler then. And indeed it was. In the past, ethics was based on the concept of malum in se -- things that are inherently wrong or immoral in and of themselves.

But "ethics" today encompasses all of malum prohibitum -- things that are not inherently wrong, but are simply prohibited by rule or statute. And this latter category has grown by leaps and bounds since the 1970's, to the point where no one except an expert can navigate its torturous passages.

We have been told at work that if we don't follow proper procedures, it is an ethics violation, punishable by termination and by being banned from ever working in the industry.  And you can never know all the rules -- they are written in literally hundreds of thousands of pages of online processes and procedures, constantly being updated by an army of writers.

It is probably no coincidence that the number of malum prohibitum items is exploding at the same time that the very existence of malum in se is being questioned in our society. In the absence of malum in se, or without a distinction between the two, malum prohibitum takes on the full self-righteous power of malum in se, and punishments for what used to be small violations of rules or laws escalate accordingly.

I see people at work who used to be motivated to think up creative and efficient ways to get the job done, now saying, "Why bother?  I did my job. The widget may not work properly, but I followed the process, and I don't want to get into trouble."

I am reminded of Spanish explorers in the New World, who were subject to so many arcane and contradictory edicts that nearly all of them were eventually sent back to Spain in chains.

In the larger societal sense too, the explosion of new governmental laws and regulations is at least partially driven by the changes in individual behavior caused by the decline in internally-held malum in se beliefs.  And that is likely driven by a decline in religious beliefs.

Without an internal sense of right and wrong, people simply can't be trusted.   The response of governments and employers is to attempt to define exactly what we can and cannot do.  Everything becomes either prescribed or proscribed.  Motivation goes away.  Creativity goes away.  Freedom goes away.

And then there is this homily:

If the people are good, only a few laws are needed.  If they are bad, no number of laws will be enough.

Good luck out there.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Then and Now - A "Minute Particular"

This could also be seen as one of William Blake's "Minute Particulars".
What does it tell you?

 Policeman 1960

Policeman 2014


The Freedom Generation Gap, and William Blake

Today, I was walking across a quiet parking area that included a small circular driveway/roundabout.  A mother and her high-school-age daughter were in front of me.  The daughter was proceeding to walk along the circumferential sidewalk when the mother boldly stepped out to make a shortcut across the circle.  Eventually, the daughter course-corrected to meet her.

I was struck by this.  Back when I was in my teens, I would have been the one to freely step off the sidewalk, and the older folks would have been more likely to stay on it.

It reminded me of many other similar occurrences with my own children and their friends.  From prudishness in fitness clubs, to acceptance of searches of their belongings, the younger middle-class generation is very happily rule-bound.  They don't ever seem to think of breaking a rule or law, written or unwritten.

When I describe things that I and my generation used to do, the younger folks are typically aghast, saying things like, "Well that was a long time ago, and it is certainly not acceptable in modern times."  I suppose that many of the things that my generation did would put us in various offender registries, if done now.  Of course, ha ha, I didn't do any of that myself.  Sigh, we had some fun... 

Even tiny things like the fact that I used to go up skiing wearing blue jeans, are cause for the tut-tut-ing of youngsters.  "You just can't do that nowadays, Dad."

Looking further back, I am convinced that if Thomas Edison had been born in modern times, he would have been put in federal prison for terrorism, arson, and trespassing long before he could have invented anything.

When he was in his early teens, he appropriated a train car for use as a rolling laboratory.  Phosphorus, along with other now-disapproved substances, burned it to the ground.  And even before that, his involvement with fire, explosives, electric arcs, and chemicals would have brought him immediately to the attention of the authorities today.

The poet, artist, and engraver William Blake (1757-1827) believed that by observing the small things, you could understand the larger things.  He called these insights "Minute Particulars".

In "Auguries of Innocence" he wrote,
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour

And, more importantly to this discussion,

A dog starvd at his Masters Gate
Predicts the ruin of the State

By looking at small behaviors, such as how a man treats his dog, or how a teenager prefers to stay rooted to the sidewalk, you can chart the future course of the world.

To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour - See more at: