Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Climategate and the Self-Righteous Left

Confirming long held suspicions as to the validity of AGW, Climategate has redefined the debate and left environmentalists shaken. Researchers from the world-renowned East Anglia University lamentably chose to manipulate data to fit their own predictions of Armageddon. The plan backfired when e-mails documenting the fraudulent activity were made public, stripping environmentalists of their empirical support. Oddly, the assumed protectors of Gaia didn't seem to notice. They march on with their eyes closed and fingers firmly jammed in their ears. Environmentalists and any who refuse to reconsider their positions on climate change are as equally guilty of intellectual corruption as the scientists themselves.

Painfully exposed, environmentalists have responded with a united front against the devastating news: denial. Other investigations have proven that global warming is caused directly by humans, they claim. They also like to remind you that everyone agrees with them (it’s actually around 30%, according to the latest polls). And, naturally, they never mention the elephant in the room.

Simply put, had man’s effect on global warming been so apparent, fraud would have been completely unnecessary. The data would have showed it directly and had there been a mistake in this particular set, peer reviews would have determined why. Instead, researchers deleted their data and threatened to blacklist anyone who questioned their methods. Hiding evidence is a clear indication that these results were viewed as accurate, contradictory, valid, and therefore threatening by leading experts in the field, of all people. East Anglia researchers ignored their own data to avoid facing the hard truth that their doomsday predictions were scientifically baseless. Environmentalists are doing the same, and they’re not alone.

So if science can’t implicate man for climate change, what makes "believers” so sure they’re right? The answer is nothing, they just know. What’s most obnoxious about this particular group of would-be fascists is their unwavering sense of self-righteousness. It’s so acidic that protection of the Earth, home to hippies and capitalists alike, has become an extreme position without broad consensus. Demonstrating this arrogance with crystal clarity is the administrator of the EPA, Lisa P. Jackson, who recently blessed the public with these sagacious words on her newly proposed CO2 emission controls:

“These are reasonable, common-sense steps … without placing an undue burden on the businesses that make up the better part of our economy.”

She then said that she would still prefer if congress were to act before she did.

In case you missed it, that’s an unelected official of a government agency threatening the members of our representative Congress with an ultimatum. Either they impose tougher emissions standards or she will. Jackson knows what’s best for you, the United Sates of America, and most of all, Planet Earth. Based on what, you may ask? Scientific fraud, hot air. She just knows and you just have to trust her. The administrator has also taken the liberty of assuming she understands the entire breadth of our economy, determining what the better parts consist of, and evaluating all the possible impacts of her proposed strategy. Worse, the governing left fully embraces this attempt to coerce and re-balance gubernatorial powers. Senator John Kerry said that this was a clear indication to congress that it should get moving and Barrack Obama has again said nothing. His silence implies consent.

Hypocrisy has been hemorrhaging from liberals ever since Climategate. After criticizing Bush for never admitting he was wrong over the better part of a decade, Obama, climatology zealot Al Gore and media pundits have refused to acknowledge that AGW may be even a little over hyped. The former Vice President and fellow talking heads are making media rounds employing the denial strategy and Obama is in Copenhagen pushing for new restrictions based on old information. The President has the perfect opportunity to show he is the anti-Bush, made easy by the fact that his missteps yielded few consequences thus far. The majority of Americans, similarly misled, would not find it difficult to empathize with him. But instead of admitting to error, he continues unabashedly pushing national policy based on fraudulent scientific information, equally dishonest in and of itself.

The President’s sense of urgency is completely reversed. If it were ever prudent to slow down, extend deadlines, and conduct careful policy it would be now. Global warming is a slow, ambiguous process that won’t potentially nuke a neighbor next year. This is the situation that calls for continued negotiations, Ad-hoc committees, and cabinet-level security assessments that last 3 months. Conduct a full review of the data to determine the extent of corruption and the real scope and size of climate change. Make it transparent and reviewable, then base policy on the facts as they truly are. Curbing Escalade emissions may be pointless in our eventual efforts to mitigate man’s deleterious impact on the planet, and there’s no reason for Cadillac to bare that burden.

Common sense says that Earth cannot be infinitely exploited. We cannot continue our current pace of consumption and growth without inflicting damaging and potentially fatal changes to the planet that gave us life. Nevertheless, any steps that we take globally must be done in a deliberate and clearheaded manner, not just in response to the same shrill doomsayers that have been around for millennia. Scientists from East Anglia University deceived the entire world and did a huge disservice to the environmentalist movement. It can only be salvaged if proponents lift their heads and admit that the scientific landscape has changed. While extremists on the fringe probably never will, more moderate elements and particularly politicians at the helms of policy must respond with greater honesty. Simply denying fraud has occurred is as egregious as the fraud itself.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Who Cares if Nidal Hasan is a Terrorist?

Is Nidal Hasan a terrorist? We can continue the underlying national discussion on racial profiling endlessly, but who cares? The debate is completely irrelevant, and the argument that political correctness killed thirteen people in Fort Hood is reflexive, not discerning. What’s really important, and frankly unnerving, is how Hasan slipped through the fingers of our national intelligence services given the highly controlled environment in which this atrocity occurred.

A cold-blooded murderer connected to proponents of violence against the United States murdered thirteen servicemen in a shooting rampage. Any investigation, regardless of whether it is initially categorized as homicide or treason, will include a thorough analysis of the events, communications and decisions that preceded the massacre. With or without consensus on his terrorist label, correct steps will be taken.

Authorities will inevitably flush Hasan’s extremist and social networks, including a closer inspection of even more Muslims. This is not very PC. Columbine is an analogous case from the perspective that yearns to attribute Fort Hood to a disgruntled, isolated soldier. In response to the shootings, police increased their presence in schools and paid closer attention to students. Adolescents were profiled, yet there was little uproar because of the logic behind this response to an act where potential perpetrators were so clearly identifiable. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies will respond in the same way to Fort Hood despite predictable cries of prejudice. Whether Hasan is ultimately judged as a terrorist will not change this outcome.

Conservatives have a point when they say that Nadal is the terrorist that no one wants to acknowledge, but they're wrong to fret about it. Similarly misguided are the right's frivolous accusations that “the system” is to blame, bound and crippled by excessive political correctness.

Desperate attempts to spin the story by the left, lead by many in the media, have only lent credibility to these claims. The New York Times may never concede that Hasan is a terrorist unless he says it outright or it finds a way to blame Bush. Obama and his administration “don’t want to go there” either, despite his quick dives into the racial fray in the recent past. His personal interest in not labeling the Fort Hood incident as an act of terrorism is blatant and has little to do with cultural sensitivity. Jihad back on US soil, less than one year after Bush leaves office? If the public reaches this conclusion, his presidency is nuked. He's not alone under the microscope, either. Also on trial is the modern progressive platform that Obama has wholeheartedly embraced. Regardless of these political maneuverings, Hasan was not the result of a porous defense against terrorism, weakened by our own moral qualms as some may believe.

A component of “the system” is “society” as a whole, which has been criticized for taking political correctness too far. This was allegedly evidenced by the failure of Hasan’s peers at Walter Reed to report his extremist views for fear of being accused of racism. While probably true to a certain degree, whose responsibility is it to root out and thwart terrorist plots in the first place? We don’t live in Nazi Germany and the CIA is not the SS. Intelligence assessments should not be based on personal accusations, and thankfully they’re not. The public and its sensitivity to perceived offense are not to blame.

Only homeland security, the CIA and FBI policies are relevant, and there is little to implicate these institutions of PC extremism. Guantanamo is packed with Muslims, as are CIA and FBI wanted lists, so if any group is getting a free pass it’s certainly not the Islamic community. In any case, Hasan did make the lists and had been the topic of discussion amongst his superiors. Up until that point, domestic counterterrorism measures worked and a potential extremist was identified. What happened, insofar as we can see, is that there was never enough evidence to nail him. Either the intelligence was weak or Hasan planned Fort Hood on his own without leaving a trail. Senator Joe Lieberman’s investigation and Hasan’s eventual interrogation will reveal important details as hindsight shifts into focus.

What’s really important about the Fort Hood massacre is that it occurred within the tightly controlled military environment and what that implies.

All of this reflects extremely poorly on the military and intelligence agencies, particularly since similar incidents have recently occurred. While it is exceptionally difficult to catch a lone wolf would-be assassin, there is an entire counterespionage infrastructure to prevent this possibility. If Hasan can rise through the ranks of the military, what’s to stop him from ascending further and passing information instead of killing people directly? Consider if Hasan had waited until deployment. Thirteen may pale in comparison to the potential damage dealt from within bases in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Counterintelligence is facilitated within the ranks of the Armed Forces by the closer inspection permitted of its members; truncated civil liberties come with the job. Perhaps the most far-reaching consequence of Hasan’s attack is that the inability of more invasive government to prevent terrorist attacks undermines the basic premise of the Patriot Act.

Passed by a Republican congress then extended by a Democratic majority, the Patriot Act reflects the American population’s consensus to sacrifice personal liberties for security. So far, the decision has proven wise. While coming at a steep price, one difficult to reconcile with our national character and values, there’s just no better way to fight terrorism domestically. This may seem a bit cynical, but at least information-gathering methods today are minimally intrusive. Police still need warrants to search, and there have been no credible cases of abuse of the Patriot Act. What makes the law tolerable is its track record.

Incidents like Fort Hood will erode support for the Patriot Act. Individual human errors have the capacity to kill a general strategy that has proven successful and has no adequate substitute. For this reason it is of the utmost importance that the military, CIA, and FBI get their houses in order and keep the record clean. If military personnel who live under much greater scrutiny cannot be protected, then the American population cannot be expected to continue sacrificing its privacy.

Essentially, the protection we are paying for with liberty isn't what we expected it to be. Members of the armed services give up more than we do, but it's still not enough. So why pay in the first place?

Political correctness is just public relations. Terrorism or not, it’s a moot point as long as the appropriate authorities make meaningful improvements. Hasan is actually less effective as a terrorist if we don’t label him as such. The hypocrisy of this tragedy is that our free and open society is what protects attitudes like Nadir Hasan’s and allows them to foster. It’s that same society these men seek to destroy.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friendly Fire

The standard concession to Obama, squeezed through clenched teeth by conservative critics, is that the man is a gifted politician. Back-handed complement? You bet.

But politiquing really is a vital skill for any politician, lest he or she wants to be trampled by craftier peers. Little doubt remains after his spectacular campaign that the President is well-aware of this, as Hillary, McCain and a wake of fallen veterans can attest. While Obama uses his full war chest against domestic opposition, he appears unwilling to advance American foreign policy with equally shrewd vigor.

As an example of his domestic approach, take the recent row with Fox News who he claims via proxies is the research branch and voice box of the GOP. The President himself, smartly, has attempted to remain above the fray by making only oblique references on the matter. What Obama wants is to isolate and marginalize the opposition in order to undermine their message and, hence, erode support. All this while not appearing petty and partisan. Good politics all around.

Another of Obama’s domestic fronts is being waged against the surprisingly flexible Chamber of Commerce. These two were once on the same side; Obama received support for his stimulus package, which was unusual from the typically conservative body. Problems arose when the business federation fell out of step and opposed the proposed health care overhaul. In retaliation, the President circumvented its leadership by holding meetings directly with top business executives. Nike and Apple both left the Chamber soon after, at which point Obama’s aide Jarrett wryly observed that “it seems as though their members are disengaging”. Again, the President’s moves were deftly designed to literally dismantle dissenters.

Obama is not limited to overt coercion and has proven quite apt at forcing opponents’ hands with much more subtlety. By reframing the debate and generating a lose-lose conundrum for congressional Republicans, the so-called “Party of No” finds itself between acceptance of the most progressive legislation of their political careers and accusations of obstruction. Either take the bait and acquiesce, or accept the partisan label with its associated consequences. Olympia Snow and a handful of Republican senators complied on the stimulus package, and Obama passed his legislation.

The President was not the sole architect of this strategy nor can Miss Snow and company’s motives be reduced to a mere reaction to an implicit threat. Nancy Pelosi and fellow liberals deserve their due credit, and Republicans who broke with their party obviously had personal interests in the benefits bestowed upon the keystones of compromise. Regardless, results speak: Republicans have been unable to shed their reputation as knee-jerk nay-Sayers, and those who rebelled would not have risked their own political careers by supporting the stimulus had the public not been primed. Such is the price extolled for being outmaneuvered by Obama and his Democratic party.

In less than one short year in office, Obama’s accomplishments stem from political victories against domestic opponents earned playing “Chicago-style hardball”. His nose for blood and affinity for pressure points have yet to be displayed, however, on the international stage.

Nowhere can this be seen more clearly than with Iranian relations. In order to garner Russian support for implementing sanctions, the president removed the missile shield bargaining chip from the table. Reciprocation was implicitly sought by taking initiative, demonstrating good will and flexibility. The efficacy of such diplomacy is debatable, but it is undoubtedly passive. Pressure was not exerted, generated or implied, while the only consequences threatened were a heavy conscience and perhaps a reproachful Obama.

Towards the Iranian leadership, Obama implements the same strategy in his refusal to criticize its totalitarian crackdown. The exchange is silence, offered again preemptively, for greater cooperation in nuclear negotiations. No compromise, no discussion, only unilateral concessions made in good faith to a partner one would hardly describe as honest. Such actions are in no way politically astute, and the complete lack of progress thus far offers testament to that assessment.

Elsewhere, one sees more of the same.

Latin American support has been sought by easing trade limitations with Cuba, allying with Chavez on Honduras, and a stop on his immense apology tour. Obama may not have a clear idea of what he wants support for, but he does seem willing to offer payment in advance, just in case.

Diplomatic neutralization of terrorism has also included apologies, distancing from Israel, promises to exit Iraq and a general strategy of eliminating perceived sources of Islamist ire. None of these actions limit the options, change the cost/benefit equations, or qualify as a nudge for those with foreign policy goals in conflict with our own. Rather, they involve sitting and waiting for a response.

Obama simply doesn’t apply pressure in his foreign policy. He prefers, instead, over-reliance on the carrot without use of the stick. There is a perceivable fear of angering the opposition, which seems unfathomable domestically. Could you imagine Obama worried about angering Rush, Fox, or Republicans? How much success would he have had in passing the stimulus package had he sacrificed health care reform, the biggest sticking point between the GOP and Democrats? Bad analogy? Choose another: taxes, welfare, Medicare spending, gay rights, or climate change.

What Obama’s foreign policy strategy amounts to is the following: be nice and hope people are nice in return. Maybe naïveté pays off for him in the future, but so far the results are scant to none and historical precedent is none too favorable. Either way, the President doesn’t seem to think the policy is worth pursuing at home and in no way does it amount to politiquing. A simple trade, referred to as appeasement in many circumstances, works extremely rarely and only when mutual compliance is completely assured. Perhaps if Obama applied his political approach to Republicans abroad, he’d begin to garner the bipartisan respect he desires and shed his reputation as a doormat.