Thoughts on U.S. policy and its rationale

Opinions of Ken Wear, posted 7-24-04
For comment since, see index (blue, below)

Living creates opinions. If you are alert they are based on observation and reason, such as shipping our manufacturing jobs overseas reduces our capacity for defense.

This page is policy in general, mostly foreign policy;
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Or religious extremism, click here.
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Search Nameby geography
United Nations Click 12-10
Afghanistan 1-17
Africa 7-17
ChinaClick 2-07
Indonesia 2/05
Iran 4-14
IraqClick 8-18 jn,ag,nv mr,ag
Israel 8-15 1-12 10-14
Japan Mar
Korea N&SClick 2-19
Lebanon 8-19
PakistanClick 8-02
Palestine 8-15 jan,oct 8-01
Russia 8-13
SudanClick 2-17
by topic
Al KaedaClick
atom bomb 1-29
atmosphere link 6-9 2-19 page 3-10
cartoons 2-17
disaster Dec Feb page
foreign aid link
free speech 2-17
immigration 8-15
intelligence 8-22
Islamlink 8-18 4-14 page
petroleum & oilpage 9-11
population 6-9 12-24 5-07
securityClick 4-05 2-12
tradeClick 12-10 10-29 link
war on terror 1-27 page
Search NameInitial-2004-2005-2006-2007-2008-2009

Appeasement works -- But to whose advantage?
"Tough love" is the only philosophy that has produced well-behaved youngsters; it is the only philosophy than can possibly produce well-behaved nations or blocs of nations. The first duty of the United States government is protection of the homeland and its citizens, after which the international environment -- as it affects us -- is of concern. Other countries pursue goals compatible with their populations; we should be involved only as it impacts us.

I watch videos while on my treadmill and I have recently reviewed part of the history leading to World War II; look at the cost in money and lives an early flexing of muscle would have saved. The wind that passed across the conference tables at the League of Nations -- "there will be no penalty for the transgressions already committed if only you will promise to behave" -- worked fine, didn't it. But: Would intervention by the U.S. have been warranted? Foreign policy becomes a balance between isolationism and internationalism.

United Nations Human Rights Commission
Some agencies of the United Nations have actually done some good. (World Bank is not part of the U.N.) The World Health Organization has made progress in combatting nutritional and bacterial problems, although I suspect Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have accomplished much more with much greater efficiency. But, on balance, it is extremely wasteful and ineffective. The Oil-for-Food program growing from U.N. sanctions against Iraq -- a humane concept, to be sure -- allowed corruption to consume over half the oil revenue. The Human Rights Commission is a travesty, with its membership consisting of the world's worst offenders while the U.S. is barred from membership. The AIDS conference just concluded -- and there has been enormous progress against this scourge -- complained that the United States is not doing enough -- in spite of the fact that the United States contributes more than all the rest of the world combined.

Iraq and the United Nations
The U.N. response to Iraq's intransigence leading to and after the First Gulf War -- more wind across the conference table -- was predictably useless in its power of persuasion. Israel had taken care of Iraq's earlier efforts at nuclear weapons; the U.S. put together a coalition for the First Gulf War when the rest of the world was apparently willing to let Saddam do as he wished and overrun the Arabian peninsula. And resolution after resolution -- more wind -- was blithely ignored by Saddam. Granted it is easier to talk, talk, talk, but the conference table is a poor excuse for failing to step up and be decisive. Talk alone doesn't make real progress.

The Balkans: That is the neighborhood of Germany, Greece, Russia, . . ., but they were unwilling to take action against an apparently developing genocide. (Incidentally, Albania was a nation of mostly Moslems; American manpower and firepower prevented their destruction, but I don't see any plaudits from Moslems for that.) But, if the nations in the region are unwilling to step up to maintain peace, the U.S. should withdraw: It is their neighborhood; if they don't care, why should we? I have heard the statement we are the only nation in a position to take on aggressors, but that is so much poppycock. Nations in the neighborhood were unwilling to spend their own resources to protect their fellow citizens. It may be a carry-over from feudal days; tribal loyalties persist; but feudalism should have ended centuries ago. You'd think a millennium is time enough for tribes to merge into nations.

Philippines: How many hundred troops do we have there to help them fight their insurgency? Primarily Moslem, as I recall. Pulled their 51 troops from Iraq when a truck driver was threatened. Boy, that is a real sense of balance! We should gather up our machines and men and leave them to fight terrorism their way unless they immediately put 300 or more troops on the ground in Iraq. They want our help? Insist they contribute. I don't see terrorism as an American obsession; the Filipinos (and neighboring Indonesians) should know from their own experiences.

South Korea: Riot in the streets because an American soldier commits a crime of the same sort they do to their own every day? "Americans, go home!" They apparently haven't looked around at the prosperity the American presence has allowed them to create. Have they looked north across the border to see what kind of government they would have without us? We should give them at the most five years to create their own military to take up their own defense. Our 50,000 troops should leave at the rate of 10,000 per year commencing at once. The North, with its two million troops, stands ready to end their war, and I don't think the South would like the result. But that ought to be their "little red wagon."

India and Pakistan
Pakistan and India both have nuclear bombs and want to spend them over landlocked Kashmir. Let them; there would be some radioactive fall-out in other countries, but it couldn't begin to approach the magnitude of Chernobyl. Pakistan's cooperation in the Afghan war was bought and paid for (see below), but we now have air bases in Afghanistan and don't need Pakistan as a point of entry so long as someone will let us fly over.. A Pakistani was peddling nuclear bomb know-how; they still operate schools teaching hatred. Maybe if India were preoccupied with Pakistan it would have less attention available to train its people to import jobs from America. See apology by
clicking here.

Human rights: India still practices its caste system, which is enforced by death to anyone who tries to cross the line to a higher caste -- unpunished, justifiable homicide.

China covers a huge swath of land in Asia and is an old, industrious, venerable civilization. Chinese leaders obviously have aspirations to become one of the world's prime powers, including military as well as economic. Until the Chinese are willing to give substantial recognition to ownership of intellectual property, as in copyrights and patents, we are damaging our own interests in assisting them to develop their economic machine. They have huge manpower resources as well as natural resources such as petroleum and metals. We need to have in place an intelligence apparatus to monitor their development, especially military. Nuclear weapons are supposedly right next door and the Chinese have active programs to develop delivery systems.

al Kaeda
Apparently bin Laden initially wanted to unseat the Saud family in Saudi Arabia, but he couldn't because of American protection. The Saudi form of Islam is the most virulent of all recognized sects, but I am not sure the Saud family has yet dealt with their own schools for religious instruction in their teachings of death to the infidels.

Europe: Germany and France French leaders apparently want France to be an international powerhouse -- personal glory, I guess, but on Iraq maybe it was initially the lure of such things as the $200 billion dollars in oil contracts Saddam had promised for their aid in keeping him in power. And now, with the Second Gulf War ended, the pre-existing debts have not been satisfied. Money! Follow the money! Don't they have a sense of history? Sat on their hands while Hitler built a war machine: "If we don't look maybe it won't be real." The French people, so far as I know, are still our friends, but their leaders have delusions of grandeur based on a pretty weak foundation.

I sometimes wonder if the Germans don't secretly resent their defeat in World War II and are using their budding power to express it. They allowed Hitler and I suppose shared some of his dreams of world domination and the personal wealth that would have produced. But that crumbled, and the nation that produced their defeat must somehow be brought down. Without the element of revenge it is difficult for me to justify German attitudes. It is easy to forget that today's citizens had parents and grandparents lost in that war and the survivors were spared the economic impact of defeat; while they think of lost progenitors there is not a very strong recollection of the pain of the temporary dislocations in the aftermath of the war.

Perhaps Germany and France both need to reflect on the security umbrella provided and look at the benefit to themselves of the American presence there in contributions to their economy and to the lasting peace. And perhaps the U.S. should look at the possibility of substantially reducing its military presence since the primary justification for NATO has dissipated. In retrospect, NATO didn't mean much in Milosevich's war and the newly- expanded version will likely mean even less in future situations.

Sudan is clearly a Moslem-controlled government disrupting the lives of non-Moslems. If there is any truth to the assertion Moslems are essentially peace-loving and not dedicated to the overthrow of other religions or death of their practitioners, then the Moslem nations in North Africa should step forward and assert pressure -- of whatever kinds they can -- to put an end to the genocide in Sudan. Or, do they secretly applaud since it advances their faith? Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Ethiopia, Somalia, . . .

Moslems and U.S. national security
Which brings up the question of Moslem loyalty. I was curious about the allegiance of Moslems in this country, who enjoy the advantages of citizenship here, when our government faced a Moslem regime, Iraq. Did their young men volunteer in substantial numbers for military service? If their alleginace be with their adopted country, they should step forward to demonstrate rather than pursue business-as-usual hate-America-first in their mosques. My personal reaction is one of suspicion that their loyalty is to their faith -- and that is as it should be -- but their exercise of the extreme version, which calls for converting the world to their faith by whatever force is necessary, flies in the face of the secular nature of this country's government. I favor the extreme measure of requiring that our citizens of Moslem origin profess openly their allegiance to the U.S.; otherwise they can return to whatever homeland they can identify. Unless loyalty can be established, they represent a potential danger. Non-citizen Moslems in this country should be required to register and our national data base should track every single individual. Students, business people and legitimate tourists are welcome, but people veering off their announced travel plans need to be detected and tracked.

Trade, Petroleum and a North American Confederation
It may be true that the U.S. has so vigorously exploited its minerals as to be dependent on other nations for supplies. But the nations with known resources other than petroleum have not been so much in the news as our detractors. Viet Nam, yes -- the power vacuum left by departure of the French. Somalia also (the effort to avert a humanitarian tragedy where we miscalculated the influence of the warlords and their willingness to assist their competitors against the common threat). Beyond that, petroleum seems to be the subject of interest.

Petroleum is undoubtedly important and our unbridled pursuit of its consumption is a fact of national and international importance. Europe has made great strides in the use of various vegetable oils -- pound for pound 85% of the energy content of petroleum products. It should become a national research priority for the U.S. to develop vegetable oils to be competitive with petroleum At $2.50 a gallon today for vegetable oils, we can surely develop strains of flora to materially improve oil yield. A budding domestic industry is already in place so it's a matter of expanding the infrastructure and not inventing it. I think it a matter of national survival -- Oh, we will live, but at a much impoverished standard of living -- to make vegetable oils competitive with petroleum fuel. With a serious effort we should have this alternative within a decade or so. This we know we can do, but deep petroleum to flow under its own pressure to replenish spent oil wells is questionable; and ultimately we'll have to develop alternates anyway.

What I would hope to see develop is a cooperative effort, first by the U.S. and Canada, to develop programs to actively pursue vegetable oils as an energy alternative to petroleum, and to control immigration and track non- citizens -- all three as security measures. If that produces a super-state -- a North American Confederation -- in these specialized areas, then so be it; and Mexico should become eligible to join once certain enumerated requirements are met. North America can stand as an entity just as Europe is pushing itself together as an entity.

Pakistan apology added 8-02-04
My initial statement about Pakistan (above) was intemperate and based on a narrow view of Realpolitik -- the Politics of Reality. The War on Terror is not traditional warfare of one nation united in pursuit of an aggressive objective, but a continuation of the cultural and religious division within the global society. (I have separately attempted to outline the Realpolitik; to view that,
click here; your BACK button should return you here.) In the effort to strike the instigators of the War our national leaders felt a necessity to unseat the government of Afghanistan and pursue there the followers of a certain bin Laden. Entry into this landlocked nation needed the support of the government of Pakistan and the assistance of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, and our government acted accordingly. Pakistan became an ally in the War, possibly in defiance of popular support by its people. The Realpolitik of that decision is being played out within Pakistan and in the poppy fields of Afghanistan.

Israel and Palestine. Added 8-15-04
I have long endorsed the nation of Israel building a fence along its troubled borders. The exact route may be subject to debate. I have never felt kindly toward the Israelis for pushing the Palestinians from their homeland; but the Arab countries (except Jordan) turned their backs on even being charitable toward the Palestinians and refused aid. I have supposed their hope at the time was just the sort of atmosphere that has existed in recent decades. The buzzard came home to roost with the Six Days War and the acrimony has not ceased since. While I did not approve the Israeli settlements Palestinian land, the Realpolitik is that national boundaries have historically been determined by force. I couldn't applaud the take-over and now, these many years later, there must be some sort of partition although few Palestinians have any emotional connection with any specific parcel of land. And lands surrendered to the Palestinians should be with no destruction whatever -- a peace offering, for lack of a better term.

Speaking of fences, the United States should construct one along the border with Mexico. The invasion must be stopped. We are a nation of immigrants; much of our strength results from assimilating peoples from diverse cultures. But, note the word "assimilating." The simple truth is that the influx of illegals is overwhelming our ability to absorb as well as their motivation to assimilate; they are entering much too fast. It would ease my objections to these aliens if the Mexican government paid medical and other expenses for their citizens who came here uninvited. The ranchers and others along the border who are attempting to protect their lands should have the support of our government, not only legal tools but sophisticated intrusion detectors and fire arms with live ammunition. Of course, I am one who feels that a person shouldn't be allowed to vote simply because he presents his ugly face at the door. It is a mistake to encourage aliens to retain their native language when they enter this country with the hope of living here. It is producing a fragmented culture. Americans should learn foreign languages, yes, but not because we are being invaded by Spanish-speaking peoples. (Recent newscasts indicate Mid-Easterners, including Iraqis, are entering the country illegally over the Mexican border, and doing so by the hundreds. This presents intolerable security concerns; that border must be sealed.)

Intelligence: added 8-22-04
You can never know what takes place in someone's mind. We have seen duplicity as national leaders emerge, and we have seen duplicity on the part of national leaders. So, should we believe words -- oratory, no matter how effectively presented -- or do we rely on our on-the-ground intelligence by human operatives? Can electronic eavesdropping be defeated? Satellite surveillance? Even human intelligence -- direct observation by loyal operatives -- can be thwarted, especially if events are staged for their benefit. Who knew what Adolph Hitler had in mind, or even when he veered in certain directions, such as extinction of Jewry? Intelligence operatives should have detected the build-up of war-waging potential and alarm bells should have gone off before 1937 that Hitler's intentions were not revealed in his public pronouncements. How much is legitimate need for national defense, and where is the line crossed into aggressive potential?

A downside of announcing preemption as a national policy -- which, behind the scenes, is and always has been national policy (not only here but throughout the world) -- is that every national leader is thereby advised that he must make haste -- and in secret -- with his own plans. It is a near-impossibility to keep track of all manufacturing facilities -- the machine shops, the chemical production -- and transportation. What weapons, what ammunition, what chemical agents or viral agents. Intelligence agents, some with personal agendas, do what they can to funnel information up the line and others, some with personal agendas, undertake to put it all together to develop a picture of what the national leaders have in mind and how they are implementing their aspirations.

United Nations: comment added 12-10-04
On the United Nations' reluctance to act against member states: Consequences of the lack of display of muscle are evident in recent history as in the 1930s Italy invaded Ethiopia, Japan invaded Manchuria and Germany participated in Spain; after an aggressor has consolidated his power it is a little late to speculate on his intentions. More recently economic interests in Russia, France and others sought to protect the government of Iraq; now economic interests protect the government of the Sudan. The scandals of the Iraqi Oil-for-Food program are becoming known. The international response seems to be: "Turn your head; today's money is paramount."

Southeast Asia's tsunami: comment added late December 2004
The tsunami, causing over 150,000 deaths and devastating homes and livelihoods around the Indian Ocean, has altered much. I am amazed at the number and depth of charitable activities that have been on-going for decades. But now there are efforts to coordinate their efforts so that no aspect of need in the 14 affected nations goes unnoticed. I note that as of January 2 news casts mention that these nations are "awash" in both money and people attempting to help.

Of course people in other nations having grievances against their home governments there will take advantage of the attention to the tsunami and resultant lack of attention in their home country. Moreover, I expect there will be those who see this as their personal route to riches. Beyond water, food and medical relief NOW on an emergency basis, and clean-up during the next few weeks, there will be continuing needs to help rebuild the businesses and infrastructure destroyed.

The pictures on TV of destruction are overwhelming. I note the earth-movers in action; I also note the layers of waste from buildings destroyed spreading as far as the eye can see. Where many see junk to be got rid of, I see possible mounds of building materials that will be vital to rebuilding. It ought to be a priority during clean-up to salvage whatever can be reused, plank by plank, kettle by kettle. Whole forests can be spared; man-hours in manufacture can be saved; time for rebuilding can be shortened.

Israel and Palestine: comment added January 12, 2005
Palestinian-Israeli conflict: The election of a Palestinian government to follow the late Yasser Arafat has a new leader, former Premier Abbas. What I hear is that the terrorist organizations have vowed to continue their efforts. News reports Abbas is at best a weak leader and it seems questionable if he will have enough influence over the leaders to rein in their activities. The people of Palestine surely recognize that if they want peace it will be necessary to discontinue their support for the extreme elements.

Israel must continue with its security fence and removal of Jewish settlers from lands that will be ceded to the State of Palestine. It is understandable that settlers, who were encouraged by their government to settle there, don't wish to leave their homes, but in the larger Israeli interest the State must assist them to relocate and set a time certain when Israeli security forces will no longer guarantee their safety.

There have been reports of tunnels from Egypt under the border to allow smuggling of arms. Israel's wish to shut down their use by digging a trench to disrupt the tunnels raises the question: How deep? Egypt should have no objection so long as it is far enough from the border their own land is not undermined.

It is difficult to understand how an enmity between Arabs and Jews can be sustained. Originally Jews were descendants of the tribe of Judah, and I would suppose had typical racial features similar to other peoples originating in that sector of the world. But Israel is a nation of immigrants and now includes racial elements from many backgrounds, so profiling to determine who is a Jew must be nearly impossible. It must be that the Palestinians have been taught to hate anyone dissimilar to them in racial features.

In Earth's past, might has consistently made right and, while I did not agree with dispossessing the Palestinians to carve out a State of Israel, in the interest of their own future the Palestinians must accept the fact that immigrants to Israel and their offspring now also have vested interests in their adopted homeland. And grandchildren of the dispossessed Palestinians have no roots in Israel.

Tsunami relief and corruption: comment added Feb 05
It seems counter-productive to deny people, who have in the past aligned themselves with terrorists, an opportunity to participate in relief efforts following the Indian Ocean's tsunami. However, there are already suggestions that the leaders recognize opportunities to strengthen their cause through solicitations of funds ostensibly for relief and rebuilding efforts. There is, of course, no way for a donor to monitor the use to which his contribution is put, and it is an imposition on people with charitable instincts to suggest they ought to withhold their contribution or even be diligent in selecting recipients. But it is an unfortunate aspect of our kind that people with an agenda will exploit every opportunity to further their cause without regard for the effects on others; it puts a chill and damper on charity.

Today's news includes mention of rampant corruption in Indonesia, where their army's generals enrich themselves. A deadline of March 31 for assisting the peoples of the State of Aceh, which was the hardest hit of all by the tsunami. How such restrictions on assistance can thwart the separatists (Indonesia's version of terrorists) in Aceh is uncertain.

Korea: comment added 2-19-05
The world can ill afford regimes like Hitler's, Mussolini's and Hirohito's to come to power. Even so, there are today a number of controlling and ambitious men in power in their countries. The question I would pose is not how to keep them out of power, but how to prevent their imposition of that power outside the boundaries of the country that allowed their authority to prevail.

I am merely an observer, privy to very little knowledge of events within his own country, much less the huge world beyond. And I have no access whatever, except for media reports, to intelligence of what transpires on the world stage. But I shudder at the potential consequences of a madman, in control of a powerful military organization with the ability to devastate large regions of Earth, reaching for control of other lands in defiance of the peoples there.

I awoke this morning with the vision of a mushroom cloud over a major city in the U.S. Of course there was a background of activities expressing frictions or resentments. But what response would be appropriate? Obviously the aggressor cannot be allowed to exert authority here, so a forceful responsible is demanded. Naturally the aggressor anticipated a response rather than capitulation -- unless it was a last gasp in desperation with nothing else to lose and no concern for his own countrymen. Nothing short of the aggressor (and the officers following his orders) dangling from a tree can be accepted as a consequence, but that will require counter-action.

A nuclear attack; a nuclear response seems appropriate. In that twilight before being fully awake I saw a series of strikes by smaller devices designed for battlefield use taking out, one by one, major industries and troop concentrations, escalating if necessary to a major "poof" of his capital city. What leader could possibly entertain such a result?

I don't have an answer, but I insist it is incumbent on each member of each national society, individually, to remain abreast of developments in neighboring nations and consistently re-assess such possibilities. No one nation can or should have Earth's sole responsibility for keeping the peace.

8-18-05: Iraq and the war on terror
The war on terror was not commenced at our initiative. I agree that it started in 1979 with the take-over of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, which was by international accord a piece of U.S. territory. The hapless effort to free those hostages demonstrated American impotence in such situations. If you followed the events since then, the terrorists have struck again and again, increasing in audacity. Time and again we went back to business-as-usual, even after the USS Cole was attacked. There is no point speculating what may have taken place had serious pressure been brought to bear in the incident in Tehran. I personally endorse the approach Theodore Roosevelt took: war machines at the gates with the certainty the government would be held responsible for consequences to American citizens. Say it to Ronald Reagan's credit he found a way to secure the release of the hostages, although there was controversy at the time whether he had simply paid ransom.

But the remaining truth is that the war has been engaged and must be prosecuted until either victory is secured or the civilized world tires of the fight and surrenders. And the consequences of surrender, depending in part on who you feel lies behind the acts of destruction, is likely forced conversion of the planet to Islam and horrors resembling Afghanistan under the Taliban.

No matter how distasteful it becomes, we have no reasonable option but to stay the course; even those who oppose the war in Iraq must surely recognize that. It is, for bin Laden and his followers, a religious war waged by Islamic fundamentalists; the longer it takes for more moderate Muslims to recognize the truth and accept the need for re-evaluation of the timeliness of the Prophet's example, the greater the damage to Islam and, indeed, civilization. It is my belief that the Iraqi insurgency is fueled, ultimately, by Islamic fundamentalists who recognize the impact of democracy on practice of their version of the faith. I am puzzled, in fact, by the difficulties of the constitution-writers in deciding on a secular state, what with fierce competition within between two warring Islamic ideologies and the third, even more fundamental Wahhabism, next door in Saudi Arabia.

While I did not favor the war in the first place, I have to recognize that Iraq had consistently thumbed its nose at the world as represented by the U.N. You may feel that is satisfactory; I happen to feel it is behavior that leads to ever more flagrant actions (as in the case of Hitler) if it is found acceptable. We can only guess what may have followed had Iraq's intransigence continued to be ignored. Whether President Bush selected the most propitious time and approach to undertake redress, there was a necessity to act. Unfortunately, it has become a struggle to retain sectarian values that civilization can no longer countenance.

October 7, 2005: Religious tolerance We in the U.S. pride ourselves on our sense of religious tolerance, and I think we are justified; there is acceptance of any and all who proclaim a different set of religious principles. But Islamic extremists who insist that the teachings of their Prophet must be the absolute basis for society demand that their sect of Islam become the only accepted religion. There are in fact several sects in the Muslim world, each regarding the others as infidels and therefore candidates for the same sword as Christians, Jews and others. It becomes apparent that there are only two options:
(1) The extremists must renounce force (and terrorism) as a means of advancing their faith, else they must be removed from society (converted, killed or isolated; it matters not to the larger community).
(2) Muslims of more moderate persuasion must recognize the poison represented by their extremists and join the effort toward secularist governments even if it means aligning themselves with Christians, Jews and others.

In the face of animosity between factions of the Muslim world, it is apparent that a new Iraqi constitution should require a secular government. Considering the frictions that are evident in various regions of Iraq -- frictions based on sect -- I have difficulty understanding how practical politicians can expect to tool sectarian provisions that will be acceptable to all.

Israeli-Palestinian conflict: added 10-14-05 While the Arab world gloats at what they see as gains in their displeasure with the nation of Israel, they are apparently turning a blind eye to the consequences that will surely follow Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and the saber rattling by the Palestinians. Israeli withdrawal sets the stage for self-rule by the Palestinians so they are now responsible for their own future. Anyone who thinks the nation of Israel will accept a continuing bombardment from the newly-free state of Palestine is being blinded by his false interpretation that today's individual Palestinian has an emotional connection with the former home site of his forefathers. Increased preparation for war by the Palestinians is setting the stage for an Israeli onslaught that must of necessity result in the utter destruction of Palestine and dispersal of its peoples.

International trade: added 12-10-05 I am, frankly, puzzled. At an international trade meeting there were protesters complaining of farm price supports in the U.S. I can think of three reasons: 1) that farmers in other countries are being undercut in marketing their own products locally because of our farm price supports, or 2) they are unable to market in the U.S. because of their higher costs of production, or 3) it is just another element of the "Hate America" campaign.

I will grant that American farmers are efficient, and the Mississippi River provides an economical way to get relatively non-perishable products to the shipping docks. If our price supports are so high that, for instance, American grain in Peking or Caracas or Khartoum is cheaper than grain grown domestically within a few hundred miles, then there are indeed distortions in production and marketing and perhaps we should rethink our price support system. If complaints arise from low farm productivity, then foreign governments need to address the productivity of their citizens; if they arise from costs of marketing domestically, then foreign governments need to address inefficiencies and infrastructure. If complaints arise from inability to compete in the U. S. against products grown in the U.S., then there may be need to diversify or seek niche crops that can attract customers in the U.S. since they must of necessity support costs of transportation and distribution. In the final analysis I see no need for the taxpayers in the U.S. to support filling of Chinese or Venezuelan or Sudanese stomachs except as charity in the face of Nature's caprice.

If the clamor is simply more Hate America then we should be realistic in assessing what we can do here in the U.S. to keep our own wheels turning since no effort to placate economically can be successful in reducing political turmoil.

War on terrorism; posted 1-27-06 This was part of an unsuccessful attempt at starting an opinion exchange Jan. '02.
America was attacked Sept. 11, 2001, in an act of war by assailants thought to be of an organization claiming protection from various sovereign states. Our nation's response was, first, to seek an international coalition to bring such organizations under control, and I think that was an entirely proper approach to what is actually a world-wide problem. The nation of Afghanistan has been duly invaded and certain elements removed from power. But there is left (1) a huge developmental hole that must be filled if the Afghan people are to be persuaded life in an international consortium is worthwhile and (2) a war-torn anarchic society segmented into clans, each dominated by local persons, and a portion of society who knows no life other than barbarity, fighting, stealing, corruption, . . ., who make America's Wild West look tame. Extending the effort on a world-wide basis, I see costs that far exceed the capacity of the developed world to underwrite.

In the struggle with remnants of the fallen government(s) of Afghanistan, it seems likely they will merge with the general population and from time to time take up arms. When armed and acting in groups, they will (predictably) use their systems of caves to hide when pursued. It seems to me preferable to render the caves temporarily uninhabitable rather than destroy them. And radioactivity is likely our best tool. It would not take many deaths from radiation poisoning to convince the brigands to avoid their hiding places, the caves, altogether.

Defining terrorism We have always had with us depraved people, lawless people, insane people. There have always been somewhere in the world people who so keenly felt their oppression or poverty that they were willing to take military action against their government or whoever chances to fall within their sphere. Is it possible to somehow draw a line between, on the one hand, rational reaction to real grievances (which we would likely applaud so long as no atrocities were committed), and banditry, piracy, or roving bands of the disenchanted on the other hand?

There can be little doubt that the attacks of 9-11 were acts of war and demand a response as such. But what of the Indians of southern Mexico who feel their government has failed them (or worse)? Or the Indonesians of a generation ago or the Filipinos of today who want to establish their own government and thus fragment their country? Or private groups acting without government sanction as in the dispute over Kashmir? Or a population who feel the majority group has acted in concert and methodically to their disadvantage? All result in acts of violence but some seem a legitimate response to legitimate grievances.

China, comment added 2-07-06: I awoke this morning thinking about peace in the world, especially the Chinese policy restricting children to one per couple. The Chinese practice of infanticide and the preference for boys of necessity must result in an unbalanced population with a shortage of marriageable girls. Within another generation the Chinese must embrace polyandry or homosexual marriage, else they will face large-scale emigration of their men or large scale immigration of women The specter of AIDS wonít allow prostitution to be their solution. While their population growth was a real problem requiring stern measures, this policy will result in either a tremendous increase in domestic violence or conquest; I donít think sexual appetites can be suppressed on the necessary scale even in a harsh totalitarian state.

Muslims riot on a massive scale; comment added 2-17-06
Cartoons published in Denmark in September. Massive world-wide rioting in February. Additional photographs of Abu Graib, which had incited rioting before, in the midst of the rioting. Have you heard of deliberation? incubation?

Who can doubt the deliberate aspect? The stage was carefully set. The transport of those cartoon in late January to another country was the signal: Now is the time. Now add the timeliness of those Abu Graib photographs in an already inflamed situation. The only real question is that of personalities: Who on the international stage enjoys sufficient prestige or authority to encourage Muslim leaders everywhere to preach moral outrage at this indignity? Apparently moderate leaders have been duped; they may not have wished to be dragged into this turmoil, but they cannot stand idly by while a fundamental teaching is ignored by those not of the faith. What I see is a deliberate effort to set Islam on a crash course with the rest of the world.

Think!! Freedom of expression is the essence of democracy; without it there can be no democracy. Of course there are practical limits on that freedom, such as yelling "fire" in a crowded theater or preaching sedition, treason or rebellion. But democracy's underpinning is freedom of expression.

The prophet Mohammad taught that church and state were one in that all law should be based on religious principles. (But -- whose?) But he also taught by example that the nation was the family (ummah) and should supersede tribe. So modern Muslims selectively follow one doctrine and not the other in most of the world, just like the example of other faiths that practice what seems necessary to survival.

Adapt or perish! That is the price of prosperity. If we commit effort and resources to bickering and warfare, what is left to produce the basis for prosperity? Throughout recorded history there have been many religions; they come and go. The ones that have survived have adapted as conditions changed. Call it the 'evolution of society' if you will. One price for prosperity in the U.S. has been a secular environment; we have chosen to share rather than try to demonstrate the superiority of one religion.

A house divided against itself cannot stand. As our communities, nation and world becomes increasingly interdependent, this maxim becomes increasingly imperative.

Continue on to the next topic

Islam and Sudan (Darfur). Comment added 2-17-06
Am I correct that the province of Darfur was largely Christian? The Sudanese government is certainly dominated by Muslims. And the Janjaweed (sp?) is certainly Muslim. Why is it that countries on the northern rim of Africa have not tried to exert influence to stop the genocide in Darfur? Is it perhaps that they are also Muslim and secretly wish the success of Islam in this region of Africa? Give them credit: There is no hypocrisy here.

I think the rest of the world had better take notice. Fundamentalist Muslims are bent on domination, by force if necessary. Moderate Muslims are faced with the choice: Islam above all else, or a world that still has the resources to allow prosperity for all. If moderate Muslims lack the back bone to clearly announce their disaffection with their fundamentalists, we can foresee massive destruction of resources and extended savage turmoil. My concern goes deeper: Each sect of the Muslim faith regards members of other sects as infidels and therefore worthy of the same conversion that is exacted from members of other religions: Fundamental Islam or death. For what? To demonstrate that their interpretation of the deity is superior to another interpretation? It's the same deity, isn't it?

Added 04-05-06: Doom I awoke this morning with that dreadful feeling of doom. Its source was reflection on simple demographics. Western Europe and the U.S. have been the cradles for the technology that has altered mankind's habits, and since World War II the European contribution has lagged as their societies have become more inclined to guarantee benefits to their citizens. (After all, under the Marshall Plan, why work when the U.S. will provide?)

Birth rates in Europe and in the U.S. have declined so that the work force has been augmented by immigration. (I won't decry here the effects of our welfare system on American work habits.) In the U.S. it has largely been Latinos, but in Europe it has largely been Muslims.

The combination of free trade, immigration and social benefits may well result in the U.S. descending to Third World status, but the prevailing religion there will likely continue to be a benign (although ambitious) Christianity. But any reasonable projection of European population suggests a Muslim majority within a generation. If moderate Muslims continue to allow their militant fundamentalists to dominate -- or even intimidate -- it seems a reasonable projection that Europe will be forcibly converted -- not simply to the Muslim faith but -- to a fundamentalist version of that faith. Since the prevailing animosities between sects requires destruction of competing sects, Europe can expect to descend into another Dark Age, this time under Muslim control.

My suspicion is that Muslim fundamentalists need not force the issue at this time. If Western birth rates continue and Muslim birth rates continue at their present pace, within a generation or two they will prevail without any need for military action.

Added 6-3-06 Islam and Iraqi constitution: Politics is said to be the art of the do-able, not imposition of what is ideologically correct. Of course we would like to see every nation on Earth ruled by incorruptible democratically elected governments. But it is questionable if the climate is ripe country by country; unfortunately there are few countries prepared for democracy, much less a democracy lacking in government corruption.

Look at Mexico: Supposedly democracy -- at least a president elected by some sort of majority. But corruption is endemic at all levels, even down to the police patrolling the highways. I am not sure I know what conditions are necessary for democracy to flourish, but I have heard commentators insist the most common condition is a large middle class. It will take a benign government and a couple generations to accomplish that.

The situation in Iraq: It was part of the Ottoman Empire ruled by Turkey until its defeat in World War I because it sided with Germany. Much of the Middle East was part of the British Empire until it was partitioned after that war. Iraq elected a president, who was promptly unseated. Eventually a semblance of democracy was restored, and then Saddam came along.

The Saud family was elevated to command Saudi Arabia; their dominant religion is the Wahhabi sect of Islam, the most fundamentalist sect of all in trying to follow the Koran. (The Prophet was unable to read or write, so the Koran is an accumulation of his "recitations" of revelations received while in his cave; only his example is sure.) The Saud family is most assuredly opposed to democracy, not only in prinicple but especially on its northern flank.

Afghanistan has been at war so long government by the king is long forgotten; tribal loyalties -- allegiance to the head man of that tribe -- prevails pretty much throughout the nation. There is almost no middle class and certainly no tradition of democracy.

Iran held elections and they have an elected president, but their constitution requires the government be subservient to Sharia, so the government is actually controlled by the clergy (who determine what is compatible with Sharia). Who would think they want a true democracy, since that would mean rule by elected officials and the clergy is not prepared to allow that?

Syria, on the western border of Iraq, is a dictatorship; Jordan to its south has a king. Turkey is undergoing transformation to democracy, but that is over the mountains and the Turks are wary of the large Kurd population on their side of the mountain. I am not familiar with Kurdistan, on the north, although that was part of the Soviet Union. The Kurds in northern Iraq seem to be the closest of any group of people to having an incipient democratic tradition and they are divided into factions.

Can Iraq become a democracy? That remains to be seen. Democratic traditions are lacking; their neighbors have little sympathy with democratic ideals and, in fact, are more inclined to undermine than assist. And tribes within Iraq still hold the allegiance of most of the Iraqi people. The odds don't appear favorable.

Added 6-9-06: Atmospheric warming and world population I have read a report on Al Gore's film and book "An Inconvenient Truth;" it leaves me unimpressed. I have no doubt that Earth's atmosphere is causing a general warm up on a global scale and the temperature will temporarily continue to rise. The nature and extent of man's influence on that warming remains a question. Is it carbon dioxide resulting from energy production? Is it methane released by natural processes? Is it loss of sinks (forests and kelp beds) that capture and retain carbon dioxide?

I don't hear numbers relating to atmospheric methane, but I fear that much more than I fear carbon dioxide because of its vastly greater effect on the atmosphere and the potential for release from thawing permafrost. And, should temperature rise, even locally, enough for sulfur to become a significant atmospheric constituent, the resulting acidic atmosphere will most assuredly aggravate the destruction caused by temperature rise. (It has been suggested that Venus was at one time the solar system's garden spot and that civilization flourished there. Venus' atmosphere contains a high percentage of sulfuric acid, which in much smaller concentration as acid rain had caused in our Northeast severe damage to forests. We will likely be unable to explore Venus to seek their fossils or remains of civilization's structures, but we should be wary of high surface temperatures here.) Why would you suppose sulfur is not mined in Earth's warmer regions unless, over the eons, it sublimed due to the higher temperatures there?

In my view Earth's population has already exceeded Earth's carrying capacity. Bringing only half of that population to the comfort level of this country will burden the supply of natural resources -- copper, iron, uranium -- beyond availability, even with universal recycling. The wastefulness of a holy war would certainly hasten resource depletion and the resultant universal poverty: "If they can't bring us up we can certainly bring them down."

The pressure for more living space has already destroyed a great deal of the planet's natural carbon sinks. Not to mention the utter wastefulness of bulldozing fallen structures into landfills while whole forests are decimated for rebuilding following tsunamis, earthquakes and hurricanes. (Wouldn't it be more sensible to hire the temporarily jobless to salvage what could be re-used in the aftermath of such a catastrophe? Much of the rubble that could not be salvaged could be used for shoreline reconstruction to help break the fury of future events.)

But how do we tackle world population, which is the cumulative result of individual choices? Encouraging homosexuality since homosexuals don't reproduce? Allowing HIV/AIDS to run its course? Accept the consequences of avian flu pandemic? Legislate family size? Quit underwriting those who can't or won't support themselves? Back off on the degree of medical intervention to preserve the mentally or physically compromised? Allow the indolent to perish? Allow Muslim fundamentalists to continue genocides of infidel populations? Cease succoring our enemies in times of calamity? (Another massive war would result in such plunder of natural resources as to reduce civilization to a much more primitive state; general war is not a sound alternative.)

Constructively, what can we do? Increase use of biomass (the sinks for carbon) for energy production, notably biodiesel? Revive research on breeder reactors? Research further reprocessing of and uses for radioactive wastes? (Hydrogen as a fuel is very costly in terms of atmospheric carbon dioxide because of the energy required in production of hydrogen.) Foster development of the gifted to encourage their contributions to solutions? Redirect religious fundamentalists to productive pursuits. Replace tribal organization of society with homogeneous populations? Universal education on world problems and potential solutions?

Gaza, Palestinians, West Bank, Negev and Arabs; added Aug. 01, 2006
The Middle East is a land where force is the only recognized currency. The Palestinian street has spoken by electing politicians more concerned for the conquest of Israel than the needs of its citizens -- hardly a government worthy of the name. Because of the implacability of Hamas leadership, I see no hope for peace unless and until Hamas is removed from leadership. And I see no hope for that unless and until the Palestinian street decides against continuing to support Hamas. I have, sadly, reached the conclusion that Israel's only recourse at this point is the incremental razing of Gaza until the rain of rockets ceases, and only the street can see to that.

I was an advocate of the wall on the Israeli border with Gaza but it is becoming apparent that is an inadequate solution. I have looked at a map of the Middle East and see much vacant land, much of it likely inhospitable. But diaspora of Gazans appears to be the only viable solution to the implacability of the Arabs of Palestine. So, let us explore how Israel may unilaterally and humanely proceed in that direction.

I have no doubt many residents of Gaza simply wish for peace and the opportunity to pursue their private dreams, work for and with Israel, intermingle peaceably and go about their personal affairs. And Israelis need many of these people to work alongside them. Forget "returning the West Bank." You can't unwind the emigrations that have populated Israel and thereby undo half a century of history. Instead, set aside portions of the West Bank plus lands to the south that were initially part of the Israel recognized by the U.N. Devise the rules by which resettlement of Palestinians known to be friendly and willing to forego travel to and from Gaza (some of whom Israelis would comfortably accept into their homes, some of whom would wish to become Israeli citizens and some of whom would wish to eventually have their own Palestinian state) can be accepted. It should be understood that participating in or allowing unfriendly acts would result in repatriation of families (or whole communities) back to what is left of Gaza.

The diaspora begins here. Announce a date certain when a strip of land -- it need not be more than a few hundred feet for demonstration of intent -- alongside that security wall will be flattened and bulldozed smoothe. People remaining on date certain would be physically removed and deposited to the west in Gaza; the intervening time would presumably be used to resettle those who qualify as friends in Israel and allow others to move west. That having been accomplished, announce another date certain when another specific strip would be similarly leveled should hostilities continue. Ultimately, should the Palestinian street be unable to wrest political control from Hamas or other parties hostile to Israel, the incremental conversion of strip after strip of Gaza into no man's land should result in a modern diaspora. If Gaza cannot contain, and no Arab land is willing to receive, the evictees, then the Arab insistence that force is the only recognizable currency must result in the Palestinians being driven into the sea to perish.

August 03, 2006. Enough!! When the Palestinians were forced to the sea during Israel's military conquest of their homeland -- late 1940s -- the Arab world (except Jordan) turned its back on them. The West provided food and tents in Gaza and the West has since charitably provided for their needs. But idle hands do not a productive society make. Few in Gaza have any recollection of their former homeland but the entire population professes to seek return, and I must concede it would be an impossible task to fairly allocate to the heirs properties in what is now Israel. It is time to move on.

The West cannot forever support their offspring, whether peaceful or not. It may require some massive sea-to-fresh-water installations, but there are huge swaths of coastal desert that could become productive with an adequate water supply. People of Gaza must be offered an opportunity to resettle and become self-supporting. Areas of Africa have been decimated by warfare; Egyptian Sinai, Saudi Arabia, the coastal principalities, Sudan, Somalia, . . ., should be able to make room without upsetting their own fragile societies. But the continued charitable support of Gaza has become unthinkable. It is time to move on.

Tribal vendettas, Shia vs Sunni, entered 8-01-06
In Iraq the tribal arrangement of society is so ingrained that loyalty to your family's ("ummah's") leader represents your only hope for safety; thus tribal militias dominate the military scene. And the eye-for-an-eye ethic has led to vendetta after vendetta in pursuit of revenge for perceived wrongs. Add to this that in Shiite eyes all Sunnis are infidels and in Sunni eyes all Shiites are infidels, and you have a recipe for mayhem. It is clear why dictatorship has been the only effective government in Iraq and why encouraging democracy seems so difficult.

The news as I hear it presents militias operating to avenge wrongs committed against members of their tribes and the national security forces unable to become cohesive because of tribal loyalties. Neither the coalition forces nor the national security forces have proved able to disarm the militias and, until that happens, there is little hope for a central government. I have reached the conclusion that the best we can do is stand aside and let the militias spend themselves until tribe after tribe recognizes the futility of constant warfare and one by one decides to forego further vendettas. Continuing to stand between Sunnis and Shiites only exposes us to attack by both. So, let us be content to seal the borders with Syria and Iran and let them have at each other.

Since I don't know the differences in Sharia accepted by the two sects, I cannot speculate on the need for a secular government although I suspect neither will accept the form of Sharia practiced by the other. However, with a constitution guaranteeing a secular government, and with the Kurds remaining out of the fray during their civil war, the Kurds will have enough remaining military strength -- hence, authority -- to impose an all-Iraqi government and extend their form of democracy to all of Iraq.

The French strike again. Entered 8-19-06
If I hear correctly, the French government participated in drafting a U.N. resolution to end the fighting in Lebanon with the expectation on our part that they would lead a U.N. force. But, once the Israelis agreed to a cease-fire and the Lebanese agreed to send an army into southern Lebanon, they withdrew and will now send only a medical team of some 200. The weakness of the Lebanese army -- in fact, the government -- is well known. I don't think anyone doubts that the only thing Hezbollah will honor is force. There is already agreement their fighters in southern Lebanon may keep their weapons, i.e., not disarm. Moreover, the Israeli insistence that only friendly governments participate in a U.N. force, which is wholly reasonable, raises the specter that an adequate U.N. force cannot be put together. The French, by their duplicity, have set the stage for another round of violence.

I note that rockets are cheap; the Israeli bombs and the airplanes to deliver them are expensive. I only hope the Israeli intelligence services are adequate to keep abreast of the movement of rockets into both Lebanon and the Syrian Golan Heights, although I have no idea what they can do to effectively prevent massive fortifications from being arrayed against them yet again.

What I truly fear is that the only way to peace in the Middle East is an Israeli nuclear strike against Iran, Hezbollah's sponsor, before Iran can deploy a nuclear force. (I question that Israeli commandos can operate freely enough in Iran, as they did in Iraq years ago, to do the job.)

Petroleum, OPEC, and the U.S. response (9-11-06) I have concluded, since the announcement of extensive oil reserves under the Gulf of Mexico has resulted in rapid decline in oil prices, the entire run-up of oil prices in recent times has been an expression of OPEC's success. Oil shortages are a myth. The need for prices three and four times a year ago is also a myth since the costs of production at existing facilities has not changed materially. The U.S. needs to forever release the grip of OPEC by developing known reserves within its territorial control. I have outlined a proposal under domestic policy, which may be viewed by clicking here.

11-29-06 Iraqi mayhem: Let me be more pointed: The Iraqi constitution, as voted in, guarantees that their government cannot function. The requirement that all laws must be compatible with Sharia ignores the fact that, since the second century of Islam (when Islam split into Sunni and Shia) Sharia has evolved separately by the two sects; it may be similar, but it is certainly not identical. Painful as it may be to Sunni and Shia alike, the only form of government that can be accepted by all must be secular. The Iraqi constitution must be revised to require a secular government, else there can be no peace.

I have tried to remind our government officials of this fact, but my e-mails have been rejected since our government, apparently, wishes not to be informed by its citizens. (2-13-07),The stupidity or bullheadedness of American leaders (or either the religious intolerance of the present Shia-led Iraqi government or political power of Shia clerics in Iraq) results in continued frictions; until all agree to a secular government and put one into place, there is no prospect for either peace or a unified government in Iraq. The best the U.S. can do is cease being a target for both sides.

2-12-07: American firepower: NATO was organized to allow neighbors to keep watch on each other as well as provide a framework for keeping American garrisons on European soil after World War II. The time has long passed that American armor is needed to prevent the emergence of another national military power, and the threat from the Soviet Union has been transformed to a Russian ally. I have difficulty justifying a continued large scale American military presence in Europe.

In truth, if Europe is willing to stand by and watch genocide in the Balkans, we have to say that is their neighborhood; if they are willing to sit idly by, it is certainly not a greater strategic interest for us than it is for them.

That large contingent of American forces on the Korean border between North and South is an extravagance. North Korea doesn't need a 50,000 strong American force to keep them aware that nuclear power lies behind enforcement of that barrier. It is time for the South Koreans to step up and police their own border.

I still chafe at the Philippines withdrawing their military contingent from Iraq because one truck driver was kidnapped while our forces are battling their insurgents on their soil. If they don't have a stake in the unity of their own country to the extent they cooperate with us, it is foolhardy for American power to keep their insurgents at bay.

I have no idea how many American troops are stationed in Japan. But trade alone should guarantee the Japanese will not attempt to destroy their best customer.

I have no idea how many American troops are committed to the "war on drugs" in foreign countries, but execution on sight of a few drug smugglers (anyone caught with a commercial quantity) would end that need. No need to hit the 'kingpins;' just the mid-level troops.

We can't impose a constitution on the Iraqis but sectarian violence will continue as long as their constitution is a sectarian document since neither Sunni nor Shia trust the other. If the Iraqis can't agree on a secular constitution, then we have no business trying to keep them apart and thereby becoming the target of both. I am fearful of the new strategy of billeting American and Iraqi armed forces together; one massacre will destroy any thought of mutual trust.

Those caves along the Afghan-Pakistani border should be made radioactively hot enough they cannot be used as hiding places for a decade or more. That should end the incursions across that border and be a long step toward ending the Afghan war.

I think it is time we re-assessed assignments of the American military.

Atmospheric contribution to global warming (2-19-07): I have reviewed some data on global warming and the contribution of our atmosphere. We should be aware that, without natural greenhouse gases, Earth's temperature would be some 30oC cooler (based on heat balance of energy from the sun and energy radiated to space), and that atmospheric composition has changed significantly over geologic time.

Of the greenhouse gases, water is dominant (as humidity, not as clouds), accounting (with significant variation) for about half of the total effect, while carbon dioxide accounts for about 18%, methane about 5% and a number of other gases accounting for the balance. To review: The greenhouse effect results from spectral characteristics of the gases where nearly all are transparent to ultraviolet and higher frequencies, but in the infrared there are absorption lines and bands. Sunlight incident on the upper atmosphere is at the higher frequencies so the atmosphere absorbs little energy (except ozone intercepts ultraviolet); what is not reflected back into space heats Earth, which in turn emits radiant energy at infrared frequencies (because of its lower temperature). The atmosphere does not retain energy but re-emits it, partly back to Earth. Water vapor is some 1.0-4.0% of the air, while carbon dioxide represents some 400 parts per million. It is difficult, considering this disparity, to feel that carbon dioxide can be dominant in determining Earth's temperature despite the correlation of gradual increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide since the beginning of the industrial revolution.

Many of us will recall that, in the first decades after World War II, there was concern that Earth was cooling. Moreover, Europe suffered a "little ice age" some four centuries ago -- presumably due to a massive volcanic eruption on another continent -- and a "medieval warm period" about 1000-1300 A.D. While recorded data from the past may not be as complete as today's record keeping, heating and cooling seems cyclical in the mid term and definitely cyclical in the long term. (If I recall correctly, glaciers have advanced and retreated nearly twenty times in the past million years? There has been research, based on glacial ice cores, to determine atmospheric composition variations over geologic time; there are hints a record of the last million years may be deduced; I am presently trying to track down information. One find I feel important is that atmospheric dust 25000 years ago was some 1/8 of present value and this was the height of the last ice age, which suggests that atmospheric dust may have a significant impact.)

Accepting the current idea that atmospheric carbon dioxide drives atmospheric warming, I note that greenhouse gases result 21% from power stations, 17% from industrial processes, 14% from transportation, 13% from agriculture, 11% from fossil fuel processing (oil, coal, methane) and lesser proportions from other sources.

Additional discussion of global warming is found by clicking here.

4-14-07: Islamic intransigence: I have exchanged e-mails with a Muslim in this country, apparently a man of peace who wishes to improve relations between Muslims and others. I pointed out to him that any religion must remain relevant if it is to survive; religions must adapt or perish. His response was that Islam, as the dictate of Allah, cannot adapt; the rest of the world must accept Muslim teachings if the world is to survive. (To read the exchangeclick here.)

There you have it. What more must be said?

I did not ask this gentleman which sect of his faith he follows. But, when I reflect on the number of Muslim sects* and their bellicose attitude toward each other, I cannot see an effort by the world to adapt to Islam as bringing peace; it would merely shift the battleground to which version of Islam must be supreme (as we presently see in Iraq).

As a footnote: The president of Iran (a country under the dominance of Shiite clergy) has called upon his peoples to increase their birth rate. I ask: To what purpose, lest it be to either (1) overrun the world with followers of the Shiite sect or (2) provide cannon fodder.

* There is a surprising number of Muslim sects, far ounumbering the number of Christian sects and denominations, as a check on the World Wide Web will confirm.

Dec. '07: The practice of responsible sex is the most compelling need of mankind today. If that requires universal sex education, then let us be about it. Throughout pre-history the survival and progress of mankind required promotion of sexual activity and the proliferation of successors. Conflict and warfare have resulted primarily from population pressure and the quest for wealth. But, despite war, our total population has inexorably increased at an exponential rate, and we now face the reality that subjugation of Nature is proceeding at a pace well beyond the ability of natural phenomena and evolution to respond beneficially. Increasingly, our hope for the future lies in the application of intelligence in cooperation with Nature to harmonize our egos, ambitions and sex drives to exploit Nature for the good of ourselves and our descendants.

Total world population is, as it should be, the summation of unfettered individual decisions made by persons the world over. Sexual intercourse being instinctive, it will be practiced; with knowledge of physiology, timing, barriers, etc., choices can be intelligently made that answer the need for producing and maintaining a stable population. Only education offers hope for broadcasting the requisite knowledge.

A decade ago it was postulated that Earth's population would become stable at ten billion; during this past decade that estimate has been increased to twelve billion. There is unquestionably an upper limit. (Some decades ago a physicist calculated that, at the rate of world population increase then being experienced, in 500 years the total weight of humanity would equal the weight of Earth itself.) My opinion is that the population pressure of today is pushing the exploitation of land and sea beyond what our wisdom tells us is an upper limit. Inevitably that will lead to conflict over who will be privileged to consume what is available -- who will live and who will die -- in whatever environment results from our exploitation.

1-29-08 Efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation have not prevented spread of weapons based on the technology; they have only retarded it. The technology has become a matter of commerce; only the cost of its practice has limited acquisition. We know Russia, North Korea, Pakistan, India and Israel possess nuclear weapons; Iran reportedly is actively seeking the capability; we don't know who else, and I suspect the nuclear non-proliferation treaty has developed holes.

In a separate essay: 3-29-08 I have transferred another essay to the opinion section. For comment on Iraqi tribal loyalties in Anbar province, click here.

AFRICA, posted 7-17-08
Democracy, to be workable, requires both an educated and alert public and a charitable attitude toward others. There should be a lesson in our involvement in Iraq (with its educated population), where two religious sects are hostile to each other, which likely cannot become democratic until that hostility ceases. Many African countries have both largely uneducated populations and tribal alliances hostile to each other; neither is a recipe for democracy. Mugabe is one of many tyrants in Africa; his backlash against whites has wrecked the prosperity they created and resulted in an impoverished population with no voice in their future and throttled by the military. Other nations fare little better since the colonial powers withdrew. The best we can do is stand by and learn what we can from the rigidness there, which seems a model for what we can expect here should we descend into third world status. And I fear free trade is leading us toward national suicide.

Iraqi Sunni vs Shia, posted 8-10-08
Sunni vs Shia? Is this the kind of world we want? I don 't understand a split within a religion that is so powerful that members of both sescts seem willing to commit genocide in order to become supreme. But it is a fact that must be recognized.

It is not the 'surge' that has reduced violence in Baghdad; it is the walls that separate Sunni neighborhood from Shia neighborhood.

The Iraqi government must be secular if there is to be peace, but it is doubtful if a secular constitution could win in an election. It becomes increasingly obvious that the viciousness of Saddam's dictatorship kept the peace. A Shiite government is not the answer; I doubt a Sunni government would be any more successful. So we are left with the question if a powerful central government has hope for governing. The only solution I see is autonomous regions populated by adherents of one sect or the other -- essentially breaking Iraq into several sovereign nations who must share petroleum revenues under a U.N.-enforced revenue-sharing arrangement.

What a dim prospect! Is this what we can expect should Islam gain religious supremacy in the world?

Russia, posted 8-13-08
We should not mistake signs from Putin's Russia. It has become evident from the recent presidential election there (when his annointed created for him the post of prime minister) that Putin intends to retain political power as long as he can. He has used his power to cut off delivery of petroleum and natural gas to punish his adversaries, and it is apparent that he wishes to annex into Russia parts of the former USSR, notably today a portion of the nation Georgia. I recall that the USSR was unable to compete with the West when oil prices, on which the USSR depended for its foreign exchange in order to support its armies, were deregulated by our President Reagan. And Putin is using today's oil prices to support his effort to reestablish Russia to the greatness of the Soviet Union. Moreover, when the USSR broke apart, enterprises that had been nationalized were sold to oligarachs, and Putin has jailed one of the more powerful oligarchs to regain control of oil. Once again oil is the centerpiece of Russia's bid for international power and prestige. If we wish to prevent a return to a Russian dictatorship without war (and we have no idea how fervently the Russian people truly support Putin), then we must first accept the discipline to curtail our appetite for foreign oil in particular and oil in general.

October 29, 2008 There is much talk about 'free' trade, by which I think people mean utterly unrestricted traffic without regard for national boundaries. It sounds idealistic and over the centuries it will become real as each region produces what it produces best and markets where needs exist for that product. In the short term in the 'real' world it is an ideal gone astray.

Of course there are dislocations as industries move and must train a local work force while workers left behind must find some new means of support. But in today's international trading some areas are left to chance or, worse, to unjustifiable greed. I cite four, although I am sure there are others:

1) Security and national defense: Costs of examination of incoming cargo are just as much part of the cost of international trade as transportation. These costs should be borne by the goods crossing national boundaries. So long as the prospect remains that contraband goods that are detrimental to our national defense may be included in those containers or cargo holds, inspection will be needed. To ask general taxes to support costs of inspection is to subsidize buyers of cheaper foreign-made goods to the detriment of users of domestic manufacture. (As I have pointed out elsewhere, whenever a manufacturer relocates outside the U.S., we lose both the skills and the manufacturing capacity; if the products have defense usage, we reduce our capacity for self-defense. But that argument is apart from present considerations.)

2) Product safety: Presumably we have FDA and OSHA to guarantee to the public that products are safe for the purpose intended so buyers need not test for themselves. But we have had a rash of products not meeting the standards imposed on domestic manufacture -- mostly from China. Moreover, we have imported ingredients used in foods and medications that did not meet the standards imposed on domestic manufacture, to the detriment of consumers. When I buy a loaf of bread, it is unreasonable to ask me to check the ingredients for possible foreign-made products that may be unferior or harmful. (And we have had inferior products incorporated in domestic products that have made U.S. citizens sick.) If standards are to be imposed on domestic producers, then at the least comparable standards must be imposed on imported goods and ingredients.

NAFTA was wrong-headed at the time of its passage. The ideal is correct, that trade should be unrestricted. But NAFTA failed to recognize that we have laws for the primary purpose of protecting our public. When foreign producers export to us manufactured goods and agricultural products, the buying public has the expectation -- and rightly so -- that imports will meet the same safety standards they have become accustomed to accepting in domestic products. Trade agreements must respect the expectation of the American consumer on whom the success of free trade depends. The other side of the coin is that laws passed at the behest of lobbyists that create artificial or unrealistic or unneeded requirements must be reexamined to remove standards that are unduly restrictive of competition. I understand, for instance, that Brazilian farmers are faced with a pest peculiar to their agriculture and have developed controls that cause peculiarities in their products that Brazilian immune systems accommodate but which make Americans sick; we cannot and should not attempt to dictate what pesticides Brazilians use but it must be demanded of importers that the Brazilian products meet American standards. Inspection of products must be part of the cost of importing. NAFTA should have been phased in over a period of years to allow time to learn the peculiarities of products from various regions and allow foreign producers to adjust their practices if they want to sell in our markets.

3) Child labor and slavery: We cannot and should not undertake correction on foreign lands of practices that are illegal here. However, all goods should be labelled as to their origin and American consumers offered information on production conditions so they can exercise their own consciences in choosing products that serve a particular need.

4) Patents and intellectual property: Inventors must have incentive to invent and writers must have incentive to write. What insanity allows ignoring the incentives on which progress depends! Of course reason must prevail even here, and I am thinking of the injustice of requiring farmers to destroy crops or seeds where wind-blown pollen from nearby genetically modified plants may fertilize plantings of similar crops in their fields. Wind blows where it will, just as rain falls where it will, and pollen borne on the wind is one of Nature's tools.

April 10, 2009 Cap and Trade (of carbon dioxide) -- the ultimate folly -- will predictably accelerate the race for the bottom. That third world building boom will be triggered by the flight of manufacturing to low-wage areas with no control over quality. What follows?

Those empty factories and office towers might be converted to housing for the homeless. Left over space will, I suppose, gather dust and eventually be demolished. Stilling the world's engines of growth cannot result in prosperity; rather, misery will become more universally spread.

Can you imagine the result when the United States has lost its sources of revenue and must default on its obligations? If you enjoy today's financial dilemmas you will delight in the ensuing panic -- the race for the bottom.

I don't fancy the owners of the wealth that drives our economies suffering any hardship or disadvantage. They will continue to compete with each other from their palatial homes and yachts and luxurious vacation spots. Will their sense of patriotism or charity influence their quest for more wealth or power?: Draw your own conclusion.

Since Malthus it has been fashionable to deride warnings of impending peril. Yes, I am pessimistic, but I am an old man and won't have to live in the world produced by today's madnesses. I can only hope the deteriorating situation in the "first world" doesn't foster an international harshness that leads to self-destructive competition and a world-wide holocaust. I fear it is already too late to commence building enclaves (those Mountain Meadows I have endorsed) to assure the survival and continued advance of our civilization.

Population trends May 07, 2009 Population experts use a ratio of the number of children per family in discussing trends. At a ratio of 2.1, should every person become a parent, population can be stable, but since many people do not have children a ratio more like 3.4 is necessary for a stable population. It is considered that a ratio of 1.6 is the boundary between the possibility to recover a culture and its loss, while at 1.2 there is no possibility of recovery and that culture will be lost. Current ratios are disturbing: 1.6 in Germany and the U.S., 1.4 in England, 1.1 in Italy, averaging 1.38 in Europe. This can be compared with a ratio of 6.1 in Muslim countries; ratios in the balance of Africa and Asia were not given in my source document. There can be no question of the effect of such birth rates on world population and its distribution.

If it is true that the optimum world population is half a billion, we have already exceeded the optimum by a fa ctor of more than ten, and that population continues o grow. There is an obvious imbalance between Muslim population growth and Christian shrinkage, and the next generation or two will see a world dominated by Muslims. If Muslim adherents could be persuaded that all sects should be equally respected, domination by Muslims presents no threat to world peace and the continued progress of mankind. But, unless their current animosity and propensity to destroy competing sects is curbed, there will be no world peace and there is the real possibility that sources of raw materials will be depleted to the extent that the amenities of civilization cannot become universal. More, there is the prospect of mutual obliteration, sending the remnants of society back to hunter-gatherer days.

I don't expect your comments to change my opinion, but I will read them so long as they seem rational; I have in the past allowed reason to inform my opinions. Should you care to send an e-mail, use as subject -- I read your post about U.S. policy -- exactly as you see it here, and click here. If you change my mind, I'll gladly edit my comments here.
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