Hunh

From the Financial Times:

The timetable to reach a global deal to tackle climate change lay in tatters on Wednesday after the United Nations waived the first deadline of the process laid out at last month’s fractious Copenhagen summit….

The next scheduled meeting is not until late May, in Germany, with another in late November, in Mexico but many officials say more will be needed.

India, China, Brazil and South Africa, which meet this weekend, are likely to insist on deep cuts from developed nations but offer few concessions of their own.

I think I said something like this last month.

Even a blind pig and a stopped watch and all that…

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Copenhagen

“What a wad of flavor…”

The point of the Copenhagen talks is to craft an agreement between nations that will allow government to inhibit industrial growth, while not harming their international competitveness. It has nothing–nothing–to do with environmental mitigation and everything to do with international gamesmanship. If the point were to reduce our “carbon footprint” or redice emissions, then each country could enact its own regulations and move forward. But knowing that whatever curbs they enact will simply cause industry (and jobs, and wealth) to flee to countries that haven’t enacted the crippling regulation, everyone is in Copenhagen (“You can see it in my smile”) to make sure that the penalties are imposed everywhere.

And, if possible, to make sure that the penalties are worse in other countries.

The point of the whole thing is–in the grand tradition of European Diplomacy–to screw your neighbor.  Everyone knows this.

Which is why whatever comes out of Copenhagen will be useless, fruitless, pointless, and counter-productive. Even by its own standards.

Whatever countries actually end up getting the shaft, will simply renounce the promise and forego the agreement. Which, I’m pretty sure, will mean that everyone else gets to opt-out too.

We simply shouldn’t waste time, money, or resources on such farces.

Bjorn Lomborg in the WSJ.

Afghanistan

I’ve been pretty critical of President Obama’s foreign policy, so I think it only fair that I comment publicly and say that I applaud him for making sort of the right decision in Afghanistan.

Obama has responded with much of what McChrystal requested. Good for him for listening to good advice.

I’m not particularly troubled by the obviously election-driven timetable that Obama set for troop draw-down. That was to be expected. Obama is bucking his base on this issue and he had to give them something. What happens in 2011 will be governed by political considerations that we can’t accurately forecast–and by the situation in Afghanistan. If things are going well, Obama will be able to begin a troop draw-down and claim (and justly so) massive credit for the accomplishment. I’ll give him credit for that victory–just as he honestly gives the previous administration credit… oh… wait… well, I’ll still give credit where credit is due.

If the situation in Afghanistan worsens, however… then Obama will likely be even harder pressed than he is now. If he begins a troop draw-down amid mounting losses and the American public perceives that as retreat, he’ll be pulverized for sacrificing national security on the altar of political expediency. If things are bad and he commits additional troops, he’ll be pulverized for sacrificing the interests of his political base. So, let’s hope things go well!

I do have to comment on the most appalling piece of political… ooze… in his speech. That’s where he speaks about costs and deficits,

All told, by the time I took office the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan approached a trillion dollars.  Going forward, I am committed to addressing these costs openly and honestly.  Our new approach in Afghanistan is likely to cost us roughly $30 billion for the military this year, and I’ll work closely with Congress to address these costs as we work to bring down our deficit.

His response? To add an additional $1 trillion in deficit spending. In six months he exceeded the cumulative cost both wars by pushing stimulus programs rife with graft, waste, and moral hazard. He’ll work with Congress to bring down our deficit? Bullshit. He’s pressing hard for a health-care bill which will increase the Federal deficit by yet another $1 trillion dollars.

His own words,

I make this decision [to send additional troops to Afghanistan] because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda.  It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak.  This is no idle danger; no hypothetical threat.  In the last few months alone, we have apprehended extremists within our borders who were sent here from the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan to commit new acts of terror. And this danger will only grow if the region slides backwards, and al Qaeda can operate with impunity.  We must keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and to do that, we must increase the stability and capacity of our partners in the region.

And then he dithers about $30 billion? That’s less than half of what he spent propping up GM and Chrysler for less than a year.

So, yes, I applaud his decision to send the troops. But I deplore the rediculous pretension that he is even the least bit interested in fiscal responsibility.  I am also deeply worried that he will use his own profligate spending as an excuse for why he cannot fully support the troops he has committed.

Dissent

I found this video by Penn Jillet very moving. He was clearly very hurt and very rattled by the experience. In the end, however, I don’t think he’ll allow himself to be intimidated by his idol. As he says, the antidote to bad speech is more speech.

I especially like the line about Hitler. Tommy Smothers aksed him, “If Hitler had a talk show, you’d go on that show?”

Penn responded, “Yes, Tommy. Yes I would. And I’d speak the truth.”

I’ve always been a fan of Penn & Teller, but in the last few years I have become ever more impressed with them.

In the Henhouse

Regarding the latest kerfuffle between the White House and Fox News….

First, the mission of Fox News–like every other television news agency in the known universe–is to attract viewers and sell advertising. Journalism is not a mystical calling.  Cable news programs do not provide either their hosts, guests, or viewers mystical enlightenment. CNN, MSNB, FOX, and Al Jazeira do not compete for TRUTH they compete for viewers. If Fox News leans to the right, it’s because that’s the market niche they’ve focused on. Rupert Murdoch is a businessman; if he could make more money by pandering to the left, he would. Why does Fox News lean to the right? Because that’s how they make money. Fox News is winning the competition for ratings. The White House is probably helping.

Second, the White House is behaving boorishly.

As ridiculous and offensive as some Fox “personalities” are, none of them wield a terrible swift sword. Barack Obama commands enormous actual power–he’s Commander in Chief of the U.S. Military. Fox News is a freaking television show. In his capacity as Chief Executive, the President exercises prosecutorial discretion over the entire federal legal apparatus. If you don’t like the President, tough. If you don’t like Fox News, change the channel.

Finally, so what if Fox News is partisan? Are we supposed to imagine that the White House isn’t partisan?

If democracy is ever to work (an open question) it requires vigorous debate. Not more toadying.

In praise of genocide

Interim White House Communications director, Anita Dunn,gave a high school commencement address in June of this year in which she praised Hitler, using him as an example to illustrate a point:

“You don’t have to accept the defintion of how to do things and you don’t have to follow other people’s choices and paths.

Okay? It is about your choices and your paths. You fight your own war.  You lay out your own paths. You figure out what’s right for you. You don’t let any external definition define how good you are internally.”

OK. She didn’t use Hitler as her example. That would have been absurd. Hitler’s government systematically and ruthlessly murdered millions of innocents.

She used Mao Zedong. Mao’s government systematically and ruthlessly murdered more than twice as many innocents as Nazi Germany. (Death by Government, R. J . Rummel)

Maybe the 50 million Chinese dead were just accidental by-products of Mao’s personal ethical journey? Maybe Dunn meant that the kids should follow their own Shining Path?

But wait! She also referenced Mother Theresa! Telling the kids to  “go find your own Calcutta.” Here’s Christopher Hitchens on the sainted lady.

I’ll ignore the Mother Theresa allusion; her name has become, however wrongly, synonymous with passionate service. The Mao Zedong allusion cannot be excused.

Freedom

So Rush Limbaugh has been dropped from the group interested in buying the St. Louis Rams. This has got a lot of people up in arms about supposed discrimination. For example,

Welcome to America circa 2009, where loyalty to the ruling class determines private ownership of assets. Sound more than a bit like Chavez’s Venezuela?

That criticism is misguided. Freedom–political liberty–is at heart, the right to associate with whomever you choose, without fear of retribution by the state, regardless of your reasons.

Whatever any of may think about their decision, Limbaugh’s business parters were free to drop him at any time–for political reasons, because he’s ugly, because they think  he smells, or because he doesn’t wear the right brand of pants.

It’s when the government steps in and dictates salary, compensation and the benefit structure for private employees, or when the government assumes ownership of private corporations, or when the government priviliges some creditors over others (in violation of the law) for purely political reasons that freedom is abridged.

There are many reasons to lament the loss of political freedom in America, but Rush Limbaugh’s failed bid to buy a losing sports franchise is not one of them.