Monday, November 28, 2005

Caveat Emptor

What if Europe gave a party and no one came? This from the New York Times:

Nov. 27 - In a summit meeting marked as much by who was not there as who was, the European Union opened a two-day conference here on Sunday aimed at renewing its commitment to developing and democratizing Muslim nations on the Mediterranean's southern rim ...with the goal of replicating in the Muslim world some of the European Union's procedures for integrating Central and Eastern European countries.

Many of the North African and Middle Eastern leaders who had agreed to come to the meeting announced last week that they could not attend. Their absence weakens European claims that their approach to the Muslim world - based on economic development, dialogue, strengthening the rule of law, and other forms of soft power - has greater credibility with the region's leaders than what they see as the Bush administration's more aggressive approach.

The lack of interest in the meeting was highlighted by Reuters: "while nearly all 25 EU leaders attended, only two of the 10 Mediterranean partners -- Turkey and the Palestinian Authority -- sent their top leaders to the two-day conference." The main items on the agenda were immigration and terrorism. The Financial Times says that the poorly attended conference "has shown the limits of the soft (political) power that Europe likes to vaunt and contrast with US hard (military) power."

All environmentally responsible countries signed up to the Kyoto climate agreement, right? The Toronto Globe and Mail reports that the UN Climate Change Secretariat shows that "Canada's emission record is far worse than even the United States, where the Bush administration has refused to ratify Kyoto. Mr. Bramley said the United States is 'actually ahead of Canada in just about every area' of environmental policies used to curb emissions. And he said the record of individual states 'is far ahead of any province in Canada.'"  In fact, if increases in greenhouses gases since 1990 are used as a measure, Canada performed nearly twice as badly as the United States. Interestingly enough, the one time world levels of greenhouses gases fell dramatically was when Ronald Reagan took a hand.

The report shows that a huge, one-time greenhouse gas reduction occurred after the economic collapse of the former Communist countries. The former East Bloc's emissions fell from 5.7 billion tonnes in 1990 to 3.4 billion tonnes in 2003, a stunning drop equivalent to eliminating three times Canada's total annual contribution to warming the planet.


One of the most important functions of labels is to summarize a large quantity of information in a single symbol. Because people don't have the time to comprehensively analyze the specific attributes of a product they often rely on labels or simply branding information to serve as a proxy indicator of the properties they wish to measure. Labels perform a similar function in politics. The term "soft power" sounds like it might be better than "hard power". Countries which don't sign up to the Kyoto climate agreement are presumably rogue states intent on polluting the planet. Greedy, money-grubbing capitalist countries are presumably less environmentally friendly than gentle Socialist countries.

People buy on the basis of labels; people vote on the basis of labels, and sometimes they are misled. The power of labels creates an opportunity for hucksters to substitute fiction for reality, as anyone who has ever bought a Rolex made in Pakistan knows. For years the United Nations presented itself as a saintly organization bent on saving the whales when it wasn't preserving world peace. Reality fell somewhat short of this ideal, and the process of disillusionment is always painful to watch. In a way, even those who didn't believe in the fake labels can feel a sense of loss at watching the hope, and then the belief fade from the faces of those who have been suckered. The truth will set you free; but first it will make you miserable.


Blogger Doug said...

Watching a child learn there is no Santa Claus would make me miserable.

Watching Kevin learn that taxes constrain freedom would set me free.

(And give me hope that the left really is capable of being influenced by reality.)

11/28/2005 04:17:00 AM  
Blogger erp said...

The truth finally about leftwing politics and their obsession with the environment. The only thing about the environment they care about, is the part where they can condemn the United States and capitalist greed for destroying the planet.

About 15 years ago, we took two months off and drove all over Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. What an eye opener. We knew the media weren't telling the truth about the environment, but we had no idea that Canada was burning coal with either inadequate or non-existent scrubbers and that, at that time at least, no auto emission controls were required in either Canada nor Mexico. When we crossed both borders, north and south, the air was visibly dirty, with Mexico far worse than Canada. For instance the air in Monterey was so polluted we could barely see a couple of cars ahead. (We found the same thing on an auto trip through France a couple of years ago, but don't get me started on that.)

So, anyone who wants to know the truth need only go see for themselves where the air and water are clean and the people prosper. Hint: Only in the Anglosphere which Canada opted out of many years ago.

11/28/2005 04:34:00 AM  
Blogger ShrinkWrapped said...

Whether you call them "labels" or "templates" or "transference derivatives", people organize their perceptions on the basis of relatively simple categories (starting with the first differentiation the infant must learn: self vs non-self or other). This is why it is so difficult to chnage people's minds by using rational argument; most people's "labels" have been incorporated as part of their sense of themselves; to question their preconceptions is to fundamentally question who they are. Few people have the kind of mental flexibility that allows for such re-examination in areas that are emotionally important to them; that is one reason therapy takes so long to bring about genuine change.

11/28/2005 04:47:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

OK, Doc.
Just don't try to tell me Kevin is anything other than my *non*-self.
That would be pure nonsense.

11/28/2005 05:26:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

"that is one reason therapy takes so long to bring about genuine change."
All this time I thought *Billing* was behind that.

11/28/2005 05:28:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

".. it will first make you miserable."
True. And I think that the various anti-war and anti-globalization demonstrations can be explained as temper tantrums by those who bought the promise - hook, line and sinker - and are mightily P.O.ed when they realize their own guillibility.
Or maybe they are just P.O.ed at not having a new false product to buy.

11/28/2005 05:54:00 AM  
Blogger Tony said...

Wretchard wrote: Interestingly enough, the one time world levels of greenhouses gases fell dramatically was when Ronald Reagan took a hand.

Hahaha! Thanks, I needed that!

However true this interesting post may be, I notice that my liberal correspondents these days refer to The TRUTH as "just your point of view." AHhahahaa!

11/28/2005 06:37:00 AM  
Blogger Karridine said...

Of course.

Billions think the sky is blue, but 'thats just YOUR point of view!' If leftists and others ACCEPT that maybe, just possibly, there is an ongoing phenomenon which is more-or-less perceivable by all humans, but only described with limited accuracy by ANY human, THEN they are bound to obey a higher Reality, Which alone, can comprehend the 'reality' of human existence; because It is far removed from egress or regress, ascent or descent.

"Reality! What a concept!"
Who said that?

(Anybody: please email instructions on including a GRAPHIC in my posts, to Thang Kyoo)

11/28/2005 07:04:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...


15 years is a long time. I find it very hard to believe that Canada had no emission controls on autos since cars sold here are essentially the same as those sold in the U.S. (California perhaps excepted). There has been complete free trade in autos for some time with all major manufacturers (including Honda and Toyota) shipping product back and forth.

I can't speak for all provinces but B.C. has had auto emissions testing for many years with Ontario introducing it in the late '90's. I've just had my car tested as a condition of renewing my licence. FWIW Ontario is thinking of relaxing the testing regime on cars less than 10 years old as emission controls are so effective, the vast majority of cars pass and it's viewed as a needless expense.

I can't comment much on coal fired plants other than to say coal is a relatively minor component in Canada's power mix (less than 20%). Ontario is the largest user in total (Alberta and Saskatchewa are higher as a percentage) but has committed to closing all coal fired plants. The Lakeview plant outside Toronto was closed this summer.

FWIW: "The Transboundary Air Pollution in Ontario Report confirms that much of the air pollution in Ontario comes from the United States. Airborne pollutants are carried into Ontario on the prevailing winds mainly from Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, Tennessee, Indiana and Kentucky."

11/28/2005 07:46:00 AM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

John B,

Canada may actually have a better environmental record than the UN Climate control secretariat will admit. Presumably the numbers they publish have a factual basis. But how do I really know? I guess the point of this post is that simply because something is printed in the newspaper doesn't necessarily mean that it is true.

11/28/2005 08:49:00 AM  
Blogger ShrinkWrapped said...

papa bear,
You are absolutely correct that people have, and need, a "foundational set" and that the first pass evaluation of the validity of a perception (or idea or theory) is via the foundational set. The problem arises when, either through deconstructionism (a form of intellectualization which can deny any reality via clever language) or denial, or paranoid delusion, facts are refuted because they do not fit into the foundational set. One can be a fundamentalist and believe the bible is literally true without damaging your ability to percieve reality. Certain aspects of evolution are inarguable, for example. A fundamentalist who attempts to fit local "natural selction" into a world view that requires an omniscient creator can do that without damaging his sense of reality (via ID, for example); another, who denies that natural selection ever occurs, even locally, would be damaging his sense of reality and would be much less able to deal with reality.
Too much of the left has taken the second route, which is why they keep repeating, in a mantra like fashion, that "Bush lied", despite having no evidence for such lies; it requires them to lie themselves or develop increasingly baroque paranoid fantasies; in either case, their sense of reality is impaired.

11/28/2005 08:57:00 AM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...


I could never see parents saving up to buy gifts for their children without thinking that Santa stood for something real at least, and in fairness Santa never took Oil for Food payments. I think the worst labels are those which are not only inaccurate, but applied in bad faith.

The "land of the free" originally excepted the slaves. Yet the label was not applied in bad faith, and eventually the contents tried to live up to the label. Sometimes I think there is no harm in imagining yourself better than you are if that's what you try to be.

But there is something destructive, I think, in using misleading labels to mask a reality that you have no intention of changing. So we live in a world where everyone has renounced landmines and everybody abides by the Geneva Convention except the United States. Or is that nearly the opposite of the truth? The saddest thing, I think, is that political correctness has a created an incentive to be dishonest; and as the coverage of the riots in France showed, to remain dishonest.

11/28/2005 09:15:00 AM  
Blogger Tony said...

One of the favorite ways to deny published reality is to denounce the source. For example, I recently shared something from the American Enterprise Institute with a few "Bush lied" libs, and of course they immediately denounced AEI as "right wing" blah blah blah. Now, the AEI piece was actually a list of citations and quotes from Hillary, the NYT, the UN, etc. So, were all those sources FALSE when they were originated, or did they become FALSE when quoted by AEI?

Likewise, when pundits decry the Swift Boat Vets for "smearing" Kerry, they have to ignore Kerry himself calling the entire military "war criminals."

The ancient Buddhists referred to this tendency as one of the debilitating vices: Willful Ignorance.

11/28/2005 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

I think the U.S. can be flexible enough to adjust its response to the Jihadists. It will be a long fight, because there are Billions of Muslims, and even though 99 percent may be tolerant, generous, and ready to live in peace with their neighbors, one percent of a Billion is still ten million surly rascals ready to kill anyone that refuses to surrender. The actual percentage of impatient ones is clearly greater than one percent. (What do you suppose was the percentage of the Aristocracy and Samurai class that managed to turn Japan from a feudal agronomy in the 1850’s to a world-class military power in just half a century?)

The greatest danger may be that which follows from raising several generations under the sorts of psychological and political conditions needed to prevail and survive the onslaught of suicidal zealots.

If that sounds like a United States terribly altered from its current state, consider the alternative of a country INCAPABLE of dealing with the extortion and intimidation of terrorism.

When Neville Chamberlain returned from his 1938 Munich meeting with Hitler, he shared a persistent delusion with today’s politicians trying to promote a “soft” solution to Jihadi Terrorism — the belief that bullies and tyrants will be somehow gentled by their victims’ acquiescence.

There were other lessons that can be teased out of that skein. Not the least is that faithless abandonment of people dependent upon you for their defense is as clear a sign of impotence as any aggressor could want.

As long as there has been life on the planet there have been predators that cull their sustenance from among the more placid grazers. But In modern human cultures we impose upon our spirits what used to be a species distinction. Predatory humans are differentiated from their victims by mindset, not physical features. But for them to be persistently successful in their predation requires also that their victims be mentally akin to prey animals.

The human prey-mindset might be described as the inability to accept that certain humans are ready to kill for what they want, and will resist all restraints.
Political and religious doctrines arise as people try to make sense of the world, and define patterns and guides for coping with recurring problems. In some conditions, even fundamental misunderstandings and errors within the belief system may be inconsequential. At other times, especially when new challenges arise, those fundamental misapprehensions of reality may determine who survives and who gets eaten by the wolves.

I believe we stand at a moment in history when a number of factors are converging that threaten at least vast upheaval, if not catastrophic destruction to civilization. The liberal hypothesis for decades has been shown wanting in its ability both to solve persistent problems within the Western nations, AND to respond to the external threat of Jihadi terrorism armed with modern technology. The intellectual bankruptcy of liberalism is hinted at in just the absurdity of the “neo-con” label used as a sneering dismissal of radically recast thinking of certain of their opponents. But new definitions, new hypotheses, and new solutions are consistently rejected, scorned, and derided by liberals who cling to a faith, a set of labels and arguments that are demonstrably useless for addressing the challenges we face.

11/28/2005 09:34:00 AM  
Blogger erp said...

john b. said:

The Transboundary Air Pollution in Ontario Report confirms that much of the air pollution in Ontario comes from the United States.

Well then. I guess that settles that!

And to prove wretchard's point about mindsets, the Canadian one is that pollution comes from the United States and they even have an official report confirming it, so smug Canadians can claim the high moral ground while Americans continue to do the heavy lifting.

11/28/2005 09:34:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...


I would like to see the numbers too. I suspect that the Alberta oil sands contribute quite a bit to any increase as the production of synthetic crude is energy intensive - one barrel of oil requires about two tonnes of oil sands. I expect deep in situ extraction is even more energy intensive but I haven't the data on hand. BTW - I expect most of this oil sands product is destined for the U.S.

It's interesting to note there is speculation that the natural gas expected to flow south from the Mackenzie River delta may be intercepted for use in the tar sands development. The Toronto Globe and Mail ran an article on the tar sands several months ago - it's now the world's largest concentration of capital investment. In the order of $85 billion dollars in investment is presently being planned over the next decade.

FWIW - Canadians tend to drive smaller cars than in the U.S., likely due to somewhat higher gas prices - gas in Toronto is presently about $2.75 U.S. per gallon (currently about $0.85 per litre). Quebec prices are somewhat over $3 per gallon

11/28/2005 09:37:00 AM  
Blogger John Aristides said...

A question:

If mental states and neurological states are found to be identical and coincident (which is likely), how should we approach the existence of detrimental qualia (an individual's malreception of labels and information)?

One might answer by proposing a regime of careful conditioning, a programmatic approach to public education. But the problem is deeper than education.

Thomas Sowell is an advocate of carefully constructed incentive structures to address the problems and maladies of large, free societies. Implicit in his argument is that all, or most, people will respond in the same way to the same incentive structure, the same information. A phenomenological approach to the mind argues differently; specifically, the unexplained (but perhaps not unexplainable) phenomena of qualia demands a nuanced--maybe even redundant--informational structure to address underlying social pathologies.

What makes one person look at America and feel gratitude, while another looks at this country and feels nothing but fear and loathing? Worse from an analytical standpoint, how to explain these disparate opinions when they come from two people who grew up right next door to each other?

One answer is to look at the word America and attempt to recreate the full quantity of data that has been compressed into that label. Perhaps one person's America simply encapsulates more data (or more accurate data), while another's has been systematically corroded by biased, incomplete, or inaccurate information. Perhaps one person is smarter and is able to hold several thoughts at once, bypassing some of the pitfalls of extreme lossy compression.

But all of this implies a rational, weighing approach to this information with the person as the pristine processor. But a person is not a pristine processor. A person, by the time he is adult, is suffused with qualia that were built and reinforced by his own separate and unique experiences (as they interact and interacted with his genetic propensities). Each new experience potentially alters how the next one is processed, and so on. By the time one is eighteen, one has layers of preprogramming governing how one receives and incorporates new or revarnished information.

All of this leads to a conclusion of sorts. It is not just how information is packaged that governs how it is received. Another factor, perhaps even the determinative one, is the qualia of the individual receiver. Qualia are in many ways irrational, subconscious proclivities and predilections that act on the receiver while he remains unaware or unappreciative. Sometimes they constitute impregnable fortresses where only allied and preapproved data may enter. Eric Hoffer implicitly recognized this in his book on mass movements, as did Paul Berman when he admonished his friends against presupposing rationalism in Radical Islam.

Tom Swift once said, "You can never argue someone out of a position he was never argued into in the first place." This maxim, at its core, anticipates the problem of qualia as it relates to persuasion.

Which leads me back to my original question. If mental states and neurological states are found to be identical and coincident, what will we allow ourselves to do to solve the problem of unhelpful and detrimental preprogramming?

An uneasy question, to be sure, that contains many answers--many of which are disconcerting. If the worst danger we face is losing whole generations to malreception, what do we do? More problematic: is the cure worse than the disease?

11/28/2005 09:37:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...


What part of Ontario closing all coal fired plants don't you understand?

11/28/2005 09:40:00 AM  
Blogger exhelodrvr1 said...

John B,
The report specfically refers to "emissions", not overall pollution. So it would seem to me that your comments about pollution coming from the States don't have any relevance here.

11/28/2005 10:44:00 AM  
Blogger erp said...

john b.

The part about their not closing all the coal burning plants.

11/28/2005 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger Eleanor © said...

That the Arab leaders didn't feel the need to attend this meeting is telling as events in Europe, an avalanche of Muslim immigrants, falling birthrates, the going forward of Eurabia, the riots of French "youths" have demonstrated that the process that began with the Euro-Arab Discussion in the mid 20th century can not be reversed and is now bearing fruit.

11/28/2005 11:40:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...


In this case I was referring to the comment posted by "erp" who was posting in the context of pollution. For Kyoto purposes, emissions refers mainly to carbon dioxide plus several other greenhouse gasses that are not pollutants themselves.


From my original post:

"I can't comment much on coal fired plants other than to say coal is a relatively minor component in Canada's power mix (less than 20%). Ontario is the largest user in total (Alberta and Saskatchewa are higher as a percentage) but has committed to closing all coal fired plants. The Lakeview plant outside Toronto was closed this summer.

What part of this post do you disagree with? It seems plain to me - they are committed to closing the coal fired plants. Your comment even supports my statement. Your point would be?

BTW - All three parties supported the closings but the Liberals in the heat of the last election made a stupid promise that couldn't hope to be kept - closing the coal fired plants by 2007. I don't necessarily agree with this proposal either since the alternatives aren't that great. Ontario has had a lousy experience with nuclear - Ontario Hydro (now OPG) couldn't bring a nuclear reactor onstream within budget and on time to save it's life. Natural gas prices are very high and likely to stay so - partly for the reason I mentioned in my post to Wretchard above. There are currently large investments being made in wind power but this won't even to begin to cover the shortfall in generating capacity if all the coal fired stations are taken off line.

I suggest you do some reading of The Ergosphere ( where the author has some very interseting ideas of co-generation and the efficiencies that are obtainable.

11/28/2005 11:43:00 AM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

For all intents and purposes the Kyoto treaty was an embodied accusation of Western industrial might as the sole source, or at least the most pervasive source, of world green house gas production. Then Vice President Al gore saw to it that the treaty, when endorsed by the US government, would serve as a de facto mea culpa for US industrial success. Al Gore failed to take in account the conservative nature of money markets while drinking from the cool-aid of his own making.

Meantime, acknowledging the concerns of green house gas, India and China managed to ensure that treaty provisions allowed them an increasing share of world green house gas production, i.e.; it expressedly allowed them to pollute more, so much so, that India’s and China’s green house gas production together would eclipse US production. Even Western democracies, such as Australia were allowed something like an 11% increase in green house gas production. The offshoot was, simply, that countries such as the US would have to ‘buy’ green house gas credits from industrial nations such as Zimbabwe or other less fortunate garden spots. A giant extortion scheme if anything, a vehicle to promote the redistribution of wealth that, as every one knows the US owes the world.

Western Germany hedged it’s bet on it credits allotted by a sharp fall in production in Eastern Germany, was assured that it could beat Kyoto emission standards, and the rest of the EU could bank ‘pollution credits’ based on the inclusion of the Eastern Bloc countries into the greater EU. The overall effect was a giant squeeze play, the world against the US. It is supremely ironic that the EU has failed to come close to meeting their Treaty commitments, whereas, the US, with action at the state and local level, has shown the innovation and commitment necessary to move towards an
un-ratified compliance.

As I have long suspected, it will be the US free-wheeling economy that will bring about a better, less polluting world. Hybrid vehicles are becoming the new ‘status’ symbol.

Standby for Kyoto II.


11/28/2005 12:42:00 PM  
Blogger Diogo said...

To substitute fiction for reality? here goes a good example.

And yes! The truth will set you free!

11/28/2005 12:52:00 PM  
Blogger exhelodrvr1 said...

John B,
Then you are agreeing with the U.N. report that Canada has less stringent pollution controls than the United States. Of course, that points out the problem with those who tout the Kyoto treaty, and the non-signing of it, as significant.

11/28/2005 02:22:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Speaking of "labels" - what about the meaning of "is"?

That was cutting it pretty fine right there. Making "words" fungible all the way back to the verb that first brought action to language. Now, that's the ultimate in re-labeling.

A lot of people who were on the edge of damaged thinking processes must have plunged off the rationality waterfall when faced with that conundrum. Whoa? The mean of "is"?

11/28/2005 03:09:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...


How did you get a UN report on climate change mixed up with pollution? As for pollution controls, I don't pretend to be an expert but I expect the U.S. is tougher in some areas and Canada in others with most controls being roughly the same. My original post had to do with the comment made by someone who drove through Canada 15 years ago and made sweeping statements without any seeming basis or reference - i.e. "no auto emission controls were required in either Canada" is simply idiotic since the former Auto Pact and current free trade guarantees the same standards apply. When the Canadian dollar was significantly lower, some dealers would change instrument panels (from metric) and simply take cars (new and used) across the border legally.

11/28/2005 04:57:00 PM  
Blogger John Aristides said...

Clinton lifted that straight out of Heidegger's writings on existentialism. Clinton had an excellent memory and formidable skills in persuasion and manipulation. As a politician, he was peerless.

The columns that supported his thinking were incredibly strong and ornate. Too bad they lacked a foundation.

11/28/2005 05:07:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...


The denial of the meaning of "is" breaks language. Even in generative grammars, you need verbs.

It's beyond existentialism, it's the supreme breakdown in human communications. It's called "lying."

Of course Groucho said it best: "Who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?"

All those years we accused Clinton of lying - hey, that set up a trend. The Opposition ALWAYS accuses the other party's President of lying... at least that's the way I imagine the Dems rationalize their accusations.

But for our side, Clinton was disbarred for perjury, and the Blue Dress even delivered the DNA to prove the case even to the most secular and scientific.

It seems the Libs have gotten the main message: Lying is Bad (but don't tell them it's covered in the Ten Commandments). However, declaring Truth as Lie just doesn't work, especially if you can't come up with the Blue Dress.

Still, "Bush Lied" has such a resonance for them, they miss your point of lacking basis or foundation.

It's just the words!

(As Wretchard points out, almost: America has done more to clean up industrial practices, improving the environment more, than any other nation in the Industrial Age. But since we unanimously rejected the "reparations" of Kyoto, we get painted as the bad guys. It's Bizzarro World. the opposite of This World.)

11/28/2005 05:48:00 PM  
Blogger Karridine said...

Wretchard, sooner or later, in one area of investigation or another, humans will be REQUIRED to 'be in his place', to 'be-lief'.

To be-in-his-place is to belief: to believe.

We have a rational faculty. We may or may not have informed that rational faculty with logic, reason and critical thought methodologies.

But sooner or later, we'll read or hear something ('Canada is more X than the US') that we cannot test for veracity, for fit-to-sense, or verisimilitude.

Will we be-lief? or dis-be lief?

To be, or not to be, in his place. That IS a question!

11/28/2005 05:49:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

If you do a simple Technorati search on Kyoto, climate and Montreal, practically every blog commentary will say that the US is "closing it's eyes" or "turning it's back" on the problem of Global Warming.

Buried in the back pages of the newspapers is a proposal by 10 developing countries to adopt an alternative approach. Basically the First World would pay or otherwise ensure that the rainforests are preserved. At present countries are compensated for reforestation -- that is planting substitutes for the natural forest. Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz thinks preserving rainforests is a good way to go.

But then Kyoto is about politics. Personally I don't think the environmental lobby cares a hoot about the environment. That's not to say that their foot soldiers don't. But in my own experience they have these little bees in their bonnets. I remember a long debate with a lawyer who had never been to the hills -- he was the rep of Friends of the Earth; he maintained that commercial forest plantations were bad because they "made money". I pointed out that the commercial production of wood in the lowlands would destroy the market for illegally logged hardwood. But he was made of harder wood than mahogany. He had these talking points memorized and you could push play, pause, fast forward or rewind.

Kyoto is a semiotic exercise. Almost everyone agrees it has done nothing to slow greenhouse gases, if you believe that it matters. Yet it must proceed as a sort of symbolic, sacramental act. I'm reminded of TS Eliot's lines:

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow

Funny that so many should be in love with the Shadow.

11/28/2005 06:57:00 PM  
Blogger sam said...

Climate talks begin amid warnings from scientists:

Atmospheric CO2 levels are now at the highest in 650,000 years, scientists say, and 2005 is likely to go into history books as the warmest year on record.

For post-2012 Kyoto to make serious inroads into this pollution, it would have to include the United States and big developing countries.

But finding a format that bridges this gulf of interests is a huge task. Negotiations are expected to last several years.

Climate Talks

11/28/2005 07:32:00 PM  
Blogger Engineer-Poet said...

John B:  Thanks for the plug.  Everyone:  destroying the economic foundation of radical Islam requires a strong and on-going shift away from oil.  I look at this from all kinds of angles at The Ergosphere.

Regarding Kyoto:  There are people who believe that global warming is a much bigger threat than terrorism, and there are people who think that Kyoto was built on a faulty foundation.  I'm a member of both groups.  Kyoto was all about rent-seeking by the third world; a workable system would use something like internationally levelled carbon taxes with no money crossing borders.  If you're paying carbon taxes in lieu of income, sales and property taxes, your standard of living changes little on average but your incentives shift radically.  The free market is an incredibly powerful thing; make it pay to eliminate or sequester carbon, and people will find better ways to do it so fast your head will spin.

FYI:  IGCC powerplants could easily sequester about half their carbon at possibly zero or negative cost, and their fuel gas could be simultaneously scrubbed of 99% of all mercury, cadmium and other toxic metals.  We'd get about 20% more energy out of each ton of coal, too.  This is just one of many ways to make things better in every way, not just one way.  We need to get building.

11/28/2005 08:43:00 PM  
Blogger ledger said...

I have always thought that Canada's green movement was a facade. Now, the Liberals in Canada have another pollution problem - polluted politicians. Too bad one can't attach a scrubber to politicians. This will be an interesting situation to watch.

...Canada's three opposition parties, which control a majority in Parliament, voted against Martin's government, claiming his Liberal Party no longer has the moral authority to lead the nation... [Martin's Liberal party's] loss means an election for all 308 seats in the lower House of Commons, likely on Jan. 23. Martin and his Cabinet would continue to govern until then.

Martin is expected to dissolve the House of Commons on Tuesday and set a firm date for the elections. Under Canadian law, elections must be held on a Monday — unless it falls on a holiday — and the campaign period is sharply restricted... Martin has had frosty relations with the White House, standing by the Liberal Party decision not to support the U.S. invasion of Iraq. He [Martin] also declined to join in Washington's continental ballistic missile shield, infuriating the Bush administration, has been called weak on terrorism.

See: Canadian Government Falls

[Captain Ed, on of the few to bring Ad scam to the forefront, notes]:

...I'm listening to the aftermath on CPAC, where the Liberal apologist wants to tell Canada that Adscam involved "a few Liberals", but that "no one believes that it involved the party as a whole". That apparently will be the line that the Liberals take ... If they want to offer up the notion that just a few Liberals involved themselves in the money-laundering and featherbedding that went on in Adscam, I expect that the Tories and BQ will quote extensively from the Gomery report to remind voters of the extent of the corruption, including all of the money that flowed back into the Liberal Party through the government contracts given to cronies of Jean Chretien.

'This Government Has Lost The Moral Authority To Govern'

11/28/2005 09:38:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

Wretchard here's a geographing tool that gives a visual map of where all your visitors are coming in from around the world. Might be interesting to show where everyone is coming from.

11/28/2005 09:56:00 PM  
Blogger BBridges said...

I am coincidentally working on a piece about political labels and the traps they lay, but thanks for this great example of that very issue. I'm always impressed with the thoughtful analysis here and today is no exception.

11/28/2005 10:12:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

There's a good environmental site called World Changing, which discusses among other things the data from ice cores and climate. One of the posters there says:

"Kyoto is a reframing exercise, a memetic engineering project. It forces us to respond and, by being transparent in its failings, forces us in turn to come up with something better."

This is a remarkably accurate and honest assessment of Kyoto, which is useless by itself and has value only insofar as it raises the issue of human impacts on climate change. In a way, Kyoto is the equivalent of the idea that even if one doesn't know how to win the War on Terror, it is best to begin learning. Very few on the Left would admit to the justice of that approach in the War on Terror, but may be more easily persuaded of its applicability to climate change, which is according to Lord May, worse than WMDs.

If you follow the Engineer Poet's links, you get the sense that he is actually trying to find an economic solution to a problem. I have less confidence in the Kyoto process, which reminds me somehow of shamanism, where the witch doctor puts on the green cape to call forth spring.

11/28/2005 11:11:00 PM  
Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

Wretchard, I’m afraid the shamanistic nature of the problem is even deeper. I think what we see in the left is the belief that all diseases and suffering result from a curse. The Cure is to find the person that brought about the curse, and KILL him. Of course, that view tends to work out very well for the believer, because you can always justify killing off someone you despised anyway.

Now for my real comment...

India’s National Railway retired its coal-powered steam locomotives by the mid-1990’s. Last I heard, China is about the only country building coal-fired steam locomotives in any appreciable numbers.

My nephew, who is a language teacher and administrator with a private secondary school with international ties, has traveled in the last few years to Europe, Africa, and China working out reciprocal programs with schools in those countries. [this isn’t to make him out to be an expert, just first-hand witness...] His descriptions of the pollution in China bring to mind the killer fogs of London of the mid 1950’s and the horrific industrial spewings of Eastern Europe before the fall of the Soviet Union.

Even if China is able to impose far greater efficiencies on its industrial processes, the sheer numbers of Chinese who will be expecting to share in the explosion of consumer choices beggar the imagination.

I recall a photograph I saw as a kid in LIFE magazine, showing Indian laborers in their loincloths climbing on vast bamboo scaffolding, carrying reed baskets of concrete to add to a structure so vast it dwarfed all the humans to insignificance. It may have been the growing shell of a nuclear power plant cooling tower, or it may have been a hydroelectric dam. I’ve done a little searching, and found that in fact, Canada’s nuclear power corporation (CANDU) sold India their first nuclear reactor in 1960, so the photo may have been from that construction. Either way, I recall being struck by the anachronism even as a ten-year-old.

That juxtaposition is not all bad, though. India and other countries have been able to make overnight leaps from stone-age conditions, to electric well pumps, refrigeration for medicines and modern communications and education powered by photovoltaic cells. Isolated villages have been able to bypass all the tedious and dirty coal-fired power plants and hundreds of miles of power lines, and skip directly to satellite broadcasts of I Love Lucy.

Yippee, maybe.

But my point is that it’s not entirely clear what the scope or even the nature of the problems will be a decade down the road.

Remember Paul Erlich’s book “Population Bomb”???

11/29/2005 12:46:00 AM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

The one unstated assumption cunningly hidden under Kyoto, but which doesn't underpin the US approach, is necessity of slowing down world growth. That's why Kyoto emission targets are not linked to efficiency, but are absolute goals. EU countries with flat growth are better able to meet the emission constraints than faster growing countries. The UK has managed to both grow and become cleaner by replacing coal plants with gas-fired ones; France has managed not to grow but reduce emissions, perhaps because they can build nuclear reactors without exciting protest. But what Kyoto really is, when India and China are finally included, as is being discussed now, is a cap on the aspirations of the Third World.

In the medium term, economic development of the Third World will mean more factories, more cars, more buildings. The dirty secret of the environmental movement is that they would rather people in poor countries remained at subsistence rather than countenance their attainment of the 'dubious' benefits of First World standards of living.

I spoke to a swidden farmer once on Mount Apo, which is the habitat of the endangered Philippine eagle (bigger than the American eagle). He said to me that a lot of environmentalists had come and gone for the purpose of keeping the summit of Mount Apo free from swidden. He took me aside and said that his first care was to feed his children; and if it was necessary that all the Philippine eagles in the world should die to let him feed his son, he would be for it. I saw the justice of his case, though I understood things were more complicated than that. Many environmentalists, were they honest, would admit that they would sacrifice that dirt farmer's children for the psychic satisfaction of knowing that the Philippine eagle flew free, even if they never saw it. But that's a rich man's choice. A Sierra Club choice. If they were that dirt farmer with nothing but a spade, a pick and some spuds to plant, they might take a different view.

In the end, we have to accept that man is part of nature. No less than the trees and stars, he has right to be here. For that reason I think that, while everyone should be worried about pollution, I cannot sign on to the vision of Kyoto. It's too covered in blood.

11/29/2005 02:24:00 AM  
Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

Dear Papa Bear,

I'm pretty certain that we entered a new Dark Age sometime shortly after the end of World War II.
I just don't have the mental discipline to define it.

But who cares, so what, what difference does it make, where's my benefits check?

11/29/2005 08:31:00 AM  
Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

Dear Wretchard,

Your comment on the Philippine farmer points to a general conflict between the aspirations of third world people and the more affluent generally. We’ve seen stark examples in Africa and southeast Asia of exotic species being hunted to the brink of extinction with appalling disregard for the sort of respect we’ve been told native peoples were supposed to have for the natural world.

For instance, the slaughter of African rhinos and elephants for their horns and tusks, leaving the entire carcass otherwise to rot. Ditto for asian bears and African mountain gorillas for their hands and paws and gallbladders. Ditto for Burmese and Vietnamese tigers for their penises and skins. I could go on, but you get the idea.

It is a profound violation of the picture painted by the LEFT of indigenous culture, I’ve never heard any leftist even address the behavior, only the issue of the rescue of the endangered species. Of course, it can be argued that in the instances I’ve cited, there are pernicious and irresistible external market, but even those seem to be founded in third-world traditions and beliefs that the liberal hypothesis would be obliged to defend as authentic.

We educated Westerners think it laughable that a man is somehow more masculine and indefinably ennobled by the possession of a dagger with a handle carved from a Rhino’s horn. But many tens of thousands of Rhinos have been sacrificed, each one to produce just a tiny number of such dagger handles, proudly worn by Arab males along the margins of the Persian Gulf, where these items are cherished as part of a thousand and more years of nomadic Arab culture.

We sophisticated ones scoff at the claimed healing powers of a tisane brewed from extract of bear’s gall, or a bowl of prepared bear’s paw soup. But tens of thousands of Koreans, Taiwanese, Japanese, Chinese and other asians buy the body parts of captive and poached wild bears, believing in curative powers as part of a profound legacy of traditional healing lore. Believe it or else, you can even buy for a fraction of the price of bear gall, a synthetic substitute made from COW GALL, termed UDCA. The effect of that product seems to have actually increased the size of the market for bear bile.

According to WildAid ( there are “farms” scattered through China, that held some 7,000 bears as of a few years ago, many with surgically implanted steel tubes to allow more convenient harvesting of the bear’s bile. Jeez. The tubes may be convenient for the human collectors, but the bears suffer.

So what’s my point?

I’m tring to sort through the problem of balancing legitimate needs of humans that presumably have as much right to live their lives as do I, with the impact those humans actually have on their own patch. In the West we’ve become aware (generally) of the amount of energy we consume, the waste we create, and have a growing sense that we can make choices and so retreat from heedless squandering of the world's legacy.

How can we fairly impose on any other country any sort of restraints? How can we keep African military units in countries torn by civil strife from machine-gunning herds of antelope, just for sport? Many folks would argue that the West is obliged to accept the constraints of a Kyoto Accord despite its unproven value, if we expect third world countries to reciprocate by slowing the sacrifice of their own heritage.

“If you’ll agree to shoot yourself in the foot, I’ll STOP cutting off my fingers.”

Somebody stop me.

Actually, it does seem like the most effective wildlife preservation programs involve getting committed and trained individuals to recruit assistance from locals. But that always depends on having some sort of stable government that recognizes the problem and is sufficiently free of corruption to at least allow such programs to proceed without actively disrupting them.

p.s. Thanks for bringing up the term “swidden” --- my brain almost always gets stretch marks from trying to absorb all the condensed wisdom in these comment streams.

11/29/2005 09:39:00 AM  
Blogger Evan said...

"While nearly all 25 EU leaders attended, only two of the 10 Mediterranean partners -- Turkey and the Palestinian Authority -- sent their top leaders to the two-day conference."

Interesting. Those are the only two Muslim Crescent governments, it appears, for whom the need to bow down to European norms is that compelling. Turkey, one supposes, because of the desire to get into the EU and the PA because of the addiction to EU money and the need to further the EU view on the "peace process" that is all process and no peace. All the other invited Muslim societies, OTOH, appear to have taken a pass on this front-row seat at the European Dream. Perhaps they sense that the terms of dialogue will soon be better.

11/29/2005 03:42:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

What other structures do you consider to be equal to or better than the "tradional family" for the perpetuation of the human race?

11/30/2005 01:18:00 PM  

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