It never seems to have dawned on the producers of Expelled that invoking Hitler can lose more than internet arguments. Blaming science for the holocaust , Ben Stein's neo-creationist 'documentary', styles Darwinism its 'necessary' cause, and commending the film, Intelligent Design advocate David Klinghoffer insists
"many...don't want to understand ...Darwinism inspired Mein Kampf ...The major Hitler biographers...all agree on Hitler's debt to Darwinism. "
Yet Mein Kampf never mentions 'Darwin' or 'Darwinism', or indeed The Origin Of Species. Why was the mild mannered Victorian biologist expelled from Hitler's infamous autobiography? The answer is antithetic to Expelled's equation of 'Godless materialism' 'with moral decay-- Hitler was a staunch advocate of " intelligent design."
Expelled repeats a common cultural mistake. Darwin never wrote such incendiary phrases as "Survival of the fittest" or "Nature red in tooth and claw."yet instead of crediting Herbert Spencer and Alfred Lord Tennyson with inventing and immortalizing ' Social Darwinism', Expelled instead ignores the genealogy of eugenics' moral descent from Nietsche's metaphysics and lays everything from the Gulag to the holocaust at science's door. Klinghoffer, invokes Hitler's "appeal to biology, which, as he argued, revealed certain iron laws of Nature – principally the struggle for supremacy pitting the superior races against the inferior."
But what kind of biology results from expelling evolution from the curriculum ? Though fictitious as Frankenstein, Stein's torch and pitchfork parade is less monstrous than fatuous. Deliberately confusing biology and astrophysics, it carps on evolution's failure to explain the origin of the universe. The reality is that Darwin wrote little about First Things. He had no desire wrangle with The Reverend William Paley's metaphysical views --what would become the 'intelligent design' movement was around before the science of biology was born.
Our world is always at risk of ideology driving the lethal apotheosis of politicized science, but there's nothing Darwinian about the way in which Karl Marx's scorn for Romantic beliefs like ' elan vital ' evolved into the Leninist dogma of 'Scientific Socialism'. To say it aimed at conquering nature and transforming man is rather like insisting Werner von Braun kepthis eyes on the stars over London. Put into practice from Russia to Cambodia, it gave National Socialism's program of un-natural selection some deadly serious competition.
But Klinghoffer's take on Expelled turns history on its head. It imputes to the Nazis a "philosophical outlook is based on respecting Nature's laws " in contrast to Hitler's bizarre belief that the core of Judaism is "that "Man's role is to overcome Nature!" " The reality is that the two Socialisms competed in creating an equal opportunity holocaust that rounded up , and killed , scientists they could not suborn.
Did fascination with the origin of life inspire Stalin to send geneticists to the Gulag, or lend intellectual frisson to Der Fuhrer's torchlight parades? Hitler's deservedly obscure Tischgespraeche holds the answer:
"Woher nehmen wir das Recht zu glauben, der Mensch sei nicht von Uranfaengen das gewesen , was er heute ist? Der Blick in die Natur zeigt uns, dass im Bereich der Pflanzen und Tiere Veraenderungen und Weiterbildungen vorkommen. Aber nirgends zeigt sich innherhalb einer Gattung eine Entwicklung von der Weite des Sprungs, den der Mensch gemacht haben muesste, sollte er sich aus einem affenartigen Zustand zu dem, was er ist, fortgebildet haben."
"From where do we get the right to believe that man was not from his very origin what he is today? Glancing at nature we see that in the plant and animal kingdoms changes and developments happen. But nowhere in that do we see a leap, a development of the magnitude man must have made, if he has as surmised, advanced from an ape-like state to what he is."
"Das, was der Mensch von dem Tier voraushat, der veilleicht wunderbarste Beweis fuer die Ueberlegenheit des Menschen ist, dass er begriffen hat, dass es eine Schoepferkraft geben muss."
"An advantage humans enjoy over animals, and what may be the best proof of their superiority is that they have grasped there must be the power of a creator."
This is no paean to 'godless materialism', but an endorsement of creationism
from a man who set an army goose-stepping off to war with 'Gott Mit Uns' blazoned on its belt
If Expelled has a prequel,it's not the Auschwitz
episode of the late great Jacob Bronowski's Ascent of Man, which
Expelled shamelessly apes. Islamic creationists will find more to applaud in Triumph Of The Will than Hitler's rejection of Darwin's big idea. Poor Ben has joined the ranks of populists from William Jennings
Bryan onward who have set out to bolster biblical literalism by blustering against science, only to inherit the wind.
GREETINGS NATIONAL REVIEW REFUGEES
I see John Derbyshire has warped you over by offering newly excavated wonders , but he gives me too much credit- the Hitler quote first appeared in a letter from an Intelligent Design enthusiast published by The American Spectator, but for some strange reason he did not offer a translation.
As to my digging things up, John, you have no idea >>
In 1983, I watched as the New York Yacht Club's 132 year winning streak was terminated by an invasion of gibbering australopithicines , who carried the America's Cup off in triumph from Newport to their antipodean lair. It was quickly recovered by Dennis Connor, who lost it but in 1988 , it became necessary to defend it on short notice against a New Zealand challenge. This precipitated a return to the original spirit of the race, ,perhaps best summed up as "Who can built the fastest yacht in the world?" ( within the rules,which we reserve the right to rewrite if we feel like it)
In the 1988 case this precipitated the design and deployment in under a year of a 60 foot catamaran , a Burt Rutan carbon fiber wingsail creation which , though of exhilarating performance, - - I spent some hair raising hours helping keep it from becoming fully airborne, I was obliged to describe as ' Resembling a pterodactyl on steroids.'
Now the landlocked Admiralty court that interprets the arcana of the 19th century Deed Of Gift ruling the racing rulemakers has decreed another catfight. Scuttlebut has it that 90 foot catamarans will determine if the cup stays in Geneva, home to the Alinghi syndicate that last won it off New Zealand , or ends up back here- the current victim of America's Cup fever being the head of Oracle, who seems to prefer power boats, since, well, he likes power.
Fortunately ,paleonology has been keeping up with radical yacht design, and an even weirder Big Bird has been dug up to contend for the mascot slot in a giant wingsail catamaran challenge. Clear the deck, ptereodactyl and Quetzalosaurus fans. I'm nominating an Azharkid as the flying marine dinosaur du jour for this Americas Cup: it sure looks the part , with strong bilateral symmetry , lotsa gnarly wing and the fashion sense of a Siberian Gulag Commodore's first wife. In short, like the boats, it's built for the job, which is scaring away the competition and affording a minimum of windage for a maximum of advertising area.
But fast-- this is going to be a lot more fun than watching the grass grow.
Oblivious to the sterile hybrid roses growing on the parliamentary parterre, and the seedless grapes and melons served in its dining rooms, the Philosophes in the Swiss bureaucracy have passed guidelines banning Federal funding of research that affronts the dignity of plants. The object is to stop such horrific affronts to the sovereign integrity of the plant kingdom as genetic engineering that deprives vegetables of their independence.
Three hundred years after Locke praised the Geneva Republic, it's bad enough plants don't have the vote ( although they are not subject to compulsory military service either). Nature news reports the Swiss government's ethics committee on non-human biotechnology has
"issued guidelines instructing researchers how to avoid offending the dignity of plants. If their projects are ruled as affronts to plants, their funding will be pulled.... The committee does not consider that genetic engineering of plants automatically falls into this category, but its majority view holds that it would if the genetic modification caused plants to 'lose their independence' - for example by interfering with their capacity to reproduce.
Reason biotech watcher Ron Bailey wonders about :
"such egregious violations of vegetal dignity as grafting cabernet sauvignon shoots to alien American grape rootstock? And might not hybridization be considered forced plant miscegenation? Also, what could be worse for plant "independence" than domestication? After all, domesticated plants can't thrive without human nurturing. We've turned such crops as corn, wheat, oats, potatoes, and tomatoes into photosynthetic slaves. Finally, what could be more outrageously disrespectful to chlorophyll-kind than being eaten by people? The horror, the horror! "
Kim Jung-Il's dictatorial taste in cinema, cuisine, and above all public sculpture remains deeply mysterious, witness the fusion of folk culture and socialist realism in the Lunar Rabbit Zodiac Memorial installed at Pyongyang's uninhabitable 105 story Pyramid Hotel. While a symphony orchestra can be sent to the DPRK in reasonable expectation of returning unscathed from a state banquet, rabbits are another matter
That's why Easter brings little joy to Karl Szmolinsky, bereft of his pride and joy, Robert der Grosse, the largest rabbit in recorded history. Last year, the 23 pound Prussian Giant Grey uberbunny, scarcely shorter than Kim Jung-Il, fell victim to his aberrant public diplomacy as Robert and 11 other Giant Greys were dispatched to Kim's establishment "with the aim of setting up a breeding program to alleviate famine" only to end up on the table at the diminutive Dear Leader's 2007 birthday banquet.
Der Spiegel reported the Meisterkaninchenzüchter of Brandenburg was due to be Kim Jung Il's guest in setting up a state of the art rabbit warren, but received a last minute call from a DPRK official canceling the trip. When pressed, North Korea's Berlin embassy issued a denial of any alleged lepicide, but declared the rabbits fate a secret of state.
The news leaked never the less- foreign guests invited to the banquet praised the extraordinary proportions of some of the dishes served -- Herr Smolinsky's better efforts yield upwards of seven kilograms of meat. Which is why, keen to alleviate hunger in the impoverished country, he gave the DPRK a thousand Euro discount on the breeding stock shipment. In 2006, Szmolinsky told Spiegel Online. "I've sent them 12 rabbits so far, they're in a petting zoo for now." but learning of their liquidation said "North Korea won't be getting any more rabbits from me, they needn't bother asking."
Absent the Hermit Kingdom Hasenpfepper fiend's orgy of lagomorphagy, the eight females and four bucks could have produced 60 bunnies a year. If fed properly: " I feed them everything-- grain, carrots, a lot of cabbages. At the moment they're getting kale," said Szmolinsky of the winter fare of his 50 surviving charges, adding philosophically: "You can't hang on to them...They cost a lot to feed." He has a point. An average-- there are no small familles of rabbits-- can devour pounds of fodder a month.
Is a demarche is in the offing? Some fear Hollywood animal rights militants may escalate the atrocity into a casus belli, by involving the dreaded Acme Products Corporation, whose retaliatory arsenal puts Kim's plutonium hobby to shame. There are other powers in the world, and Beijing, seeped in Manchu game cookery, and anxious to feed hungry Olympiansless fatty fare than roast duck, may have infiltrated Kim's kitchen, for Szmolinsky reports "China is sending a delegation to inspect my animals. "
Though Robert der Grosse has vanished, he left behind a kale-munching dynasty, including Robert II, who safe in his hutch in the March of Brandenburg, is growing rapidly as spring advances, already looking Eastward across the vast and edible swathe of steppe that extends unbroken from the Elbe to the Yalu.
Science is not alone when it comes to dumbing down by popularization. For those indisposed to read the Bible for its prose, kid's television has upchucked 'Veggie Tales , in which Jonah, born again as a stalk of talking asparagus , repeats his voyage of chastisement, and Daniel the articulate turnip ( or is he the walking rutabaga?) emerges still crunchy from the Fiery Furnace.
Nor are ideologies immune. Jonah Goldberg of National Review is all over the map hawking a book with a cover logo so far in advance of its contents as to make reading it moot-- it's vexiligous enough to serve as as the national flag of the People's Republic Of Liebensraumia in some dark Alternative Universe.
Its iconic novelty betrays Liberal Fascism's failure to acknowledge its pedigree. Goldberg is a prolific columnist at the magazine Bill Buckley founded, one that has drifted as far from its moorings as The American Mercury did in the decades after the acerbic H.L.Mencken's demise, witness NR's link to this self celebration of the book by its author-- Goldberg's blog is a review of his book's bad reviews by his admirers:
“The We Already Know This Canard”
From a reader:
Mr. Goldberg: I’ve finally figured out what I find so unsatisfying about the complaints.... the standard practice when reviewing a book that is allegedly derivative or unnecessary is to recommend the acknowledged authoritative book on the subject. Funny that in all the reviews I’ve read of LF I haven’t seen a single one that suggested an alternative book to read on the subject of Progressivism and fascism..."
This whitewash does not quite wash, for though the fan letter continues :
"This is a very good point. Since I can say with pretty much total certainty that there is no other single book that comes close to collecting all of these facts in one place," you would think some honest liberal reviewers would say “Goldberg’s all wrong on his interpretation of the facts, but these things are worth knowing.”
, a commenter at Taki's Magazine points out :
" Leftism Revisited by the late Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn. Doubtless young Jonah overlooked this book and its author. After all he [R. v.K-L] was just some PhD Austrian fellow employed as the European correspondent for the National Review for about thirty years! As Jonah might say, Who Knew? The book... is magisterial, well researched and footnoted with with original sources. It is in short, everything that Liberal Fascism is not. Of course, Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn had the advantage of both knowing what Fascism was and having met a lot of actual Fascists. "
That's putting it mildly, since Jonah relegates to an end-note Ritter von Kunelt -Leddihn, an astonishingly erudite D. Mult. who addresed my Institute of Politics seminar at Harvard in the 70's. He awoke one unfortunate morning to find his modest Tirolean castle impaled on the proverbial Axis, commandeered by Germans overrunning the Alps to join their Italian buddies following the Anchluss.
Conspicuously absent from next week's American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Boston will be Jerry E. Bishop, the last science editor of The Wall Street Journal, and past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Bishop, who died of lung cancer last fall. He joined the WSJ in 1955, and the intrepid Texan reporter covered Antarctic exploration and the rise of the Space Age.
I first met him at the Apollo 11 moon launch, and in 1989 we were on opposite sides of the Cold Fusion controversy, he having scooped the startling claim of two University of Utah chemists, one a Nobelist, to have created a bench top experiment apparatus that generated nuclear fusion reactions without benefit of a giant Tokomak or a hydrogen bomb. The newsletter of the National Association of Science Writers notes :
The claim of so-called "cold fusion" seemed so implausible that many media outlets at first refused to print the story. But Bishop was less inhibited...in the weeks immediately following that announcement he reported frequently on the claims emanating from Utah and from other laboratories. His reports came more often and were generally longer than those of most major newspapers, and he did not always write as a skeptic as did other science reporters covering the story.
Bishop was accused by skeptics in the physics community of compounding the cold fusion hype. "But the job of reporters is to report news," he would later say in an interview. "If some authority, like a scientist in the case of cold fusion, says it's not true, you don't kill the story you report the controversy."
Bishop was selected by the American Institute of Physics (AIP) as the winner of its annual science writing award for the year 1989. The announcement by the AIP... that its annual award for excellence in science writing would be given to Bishop raised more hackles. "Whatever one thinks of this particular series, one must recognize Jerry Bishop as one of the finest science writers in America," said Kenneth W. Ford, AIP executive director...
Bishop's memory for detail and penetrating questions at the briefings were inspiring. He was a role model to generations of reporters.
During his editorial tenure, weekly science coverage by the WSJ grew into a separate eight-page section, Science Journal . After his 1996 retirement, it imploded into a once a week column , as the WSJ dispensed with the office of Science Editor. This dismal example is reflected in The Washington Times, Human Events and virtually the entire constellation of conservative journals of fact and opinion upon which the Republican Beltway depends for its scientific intelligence.
If nowadays the think tank faithful feed less on science
than Intelligent Design, and other dark and dogmatic matter, it is because
nature abhors a news vacuum. A dim constellation of cranks in the
orbit of the Discovery Institute has been sucked into the one left in
The result is one of the scientific wonders of the age- obedient to Murphy's Law, a spin polarized vortex of talking heads , all facing backwards and to the right, has filled the No Spin Zone.
by the border, Mark Steyn, the noted Canadian National National (and New York) Post neocontent provider has responded to his fair and native land putting America on the Torture Watch list by going postal at The Newark Star Ledger for its politically incorrect complaint that Rudy Guiliani's neoconsigleri are mostly Canadian:
- They're Fencing the Wrong Border
"Forget Walt and Mearsheimer and the Israel lobby. That's just a front for the real thing. The cabal's cabal. What destroyed American conservatism? Not the neocons but the neo-Cans:
'Conservatism can indeed win again, but if it does it will triumph over the neoconservatism of Frum and his fellow Canadians, Charles Krauthammer and Mark Steyn. Until I read this book I hadn't really thought about how much American neoconservatism owes to these deep thinkers from Canada..."
Now that Time has told Krauthammer and Kristol to mush off, and humorless Canadian PC Mounties have begun chasing Steyn across the ice floes of the St.Lawrence for alleged maple leaf raghead remarks, beating the Frums along the Mohawk is a risky business.
Restive reservation republicans along the New Brunswick border might don Ron Paul warpaint and take up tomahawks, or Heaven save us, their light bulb, Newfoundlander, and extension cord jokes:
How many NeoCans does it take to change a regime?
Thirteen. One to screw in a dim bulb, and twelve to row the cabal to the mainland
Long before Trudeau embraced De Gaulle, NeoKnow-Nothings were at work persuading America's good and great PaleoWhig President Polk that the Canadian border was Politically Incorrect. ' Fifty Four Forty Or Fight ' , in his diplomatic phrase.
PalaeoCans, as NovoCons call Libereaux near the wildly gyrating North Semantic Pole , need not stand around in their snowshoes waiting to be sucked into the muskeg of ethnic politics. They can always invite NeoCans to follow in the footsteps of General Wolfe, Benedict Arnold and the Fenians by invading Canada. Little do innocent Canadians suspect the capacity of Vast Right Wing Conspirators, many evangelicals to begin with , to infiltrate Labrador disguised as Grenfell Mission volunteers. From there, the neoprohibitionist tendency within The Base could launch a wave of brewery raids calculated to bring the drier provinces to their knees.
Reviving The Polk Doctrine would give warlike American NeoCans a splendid opportunity to export democracy to Baffin Island and California's sister state, the Polar Bear Republic. Here, lest Weekly Standard subscribers worry about whether they should vote in the Ontopario, Quebasse or North North Dakota primaries is:
A Map Of The NeoCondominium Of PalaeoCanada and Nunavut
Upper Washington North North Dakota Ontopario Quebasse NewfoundHampshire
Once comfortably settled in the Big Cold, the NeoCans can ally with the Parti Quebequois to realize Canadian Maoists' ancestral dream. Mush on, comrades ! The East is Red Greenland.
But what about True North Canadian patriots? No worries- macroeconomics to the rescue ! Neocon democracy export guidelines guarantee the hegemonized a state of equal or greater GDP in exchange. Alaska, large in size .but small in industry, would be encouraged to swap its population with vast but backward Belarus, while vastly prosperous Canadians would naturally get Texas in exchange. It seems from this map published elsewhere that Jersey and Kremlin mafiosi have already made each other an offer they cannot refuse.
Nick Schulz's sobering interview with the author of A Shattered Peace: Versailles 1919 and the Price We Pay Today recalls how disastrous the multi- generational consequences of diplomatic incompetence can be.
Apart from turning the Wilsonian War To End All Wars into a prequel to the demise of the Weimar Republic ,and the honest to God Axis of Evil's rise, the peace of Versailles Andelman's book ably chronicles pleated new disaster areas together out of the unraveled fabric of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires.
Balkanizing the Balkans, and giving the world Iraq, it created a fertile Levantine playground for such then merely ominous alignments as al-Fatah and the Alawites, who were already playing on tribal rivalries when T.E. Lawrence shepherded Faisal ibn Hussein, the present king of Jurdan's great-grandfather, into the well named Hall Of Mirrors in 1919 to see young men of promise like John Foster Dulles, John Maynard Keynes and Harold Nicholson laboring at a treaty that could scarcely have gone worse had Paris Hilton been doyenne at Versailles.
With both the dollar and the Dow down, foreign investors are flocking to stock upon equity in our Gross Domestic Product . This has driven at least one editorial cartoonist -Mr. Toles to grab his protectionist pencil stub, but panic seems premature- no nation state has a GDP in the same league as the USA. The States themselves are another matter.
If it is economically plausible for a nation to leverage a buyout of something its own economic size, the desire to take over lobbying control of state houses might appeal to foreign investors eying industries in say, California , or New Jersey. If so, what might be termed proximity of scale could lead to a one nation, one state buy-in strategy, with forign investors focusing on states with GDP's matching their own, and possiblyoffering exchange of citizenshipto sweeten the swap. The SEC might be powerless to stopi t,for while disclosure of a 5% or larger stake is required, I am not aware that small stock purchases require disclosure of nationality, and the Monroe Doctrine has not been seen on most Op-ed pages since the last millennium.
So if fifty million Frenchman buy a few shares each of every publicly traded firm in Silicon Valley,and the Russian pension funds make offers that cannot be refused for the Jersey 500, the newly leveled playing field might look like this - The United Equities Of America. Canada and Texas' dealings with American illegals swarming across their respective northern and southern borders should keep Dallas and Montreal editorial cartoonists busy and out of the financial papers for a generation to come.
An acquaintance in Switzerland feels for the good old days of Mutually Assured Destruction ,when East was East, West was West, and the Fulda Gap was somewhere in the middle.
"Waged against the Russkies during the bad old days of the Cold War. All
for nought, I must say. We beat the evil system but lost the f-----
war. The bloody Russians are here, and they are one hundred times worse
than those nice guys who once upon a time gave us the Gulag...Russian oligarchs are like Gulag guards, but
unlike the latter, they are out of Siberia and among us. They're
fat, vulgar, coarse, loud, as physically
possible to be, uncouth, uncultivated, boorish, and brutal, and that’s
only from afar.
They make rich Saudis sound fun.
They’ve occupied and ruined Courchevel, St. Moritz, Val d’Isere, and are now laying siege to Verbier, which, in a way, might force out British oiks and improve the place. Gstaad is still holding out, a beautiful Byzantium surrounded by barbarians—and we all know how that one turned out....
Why oh why was I so dumb all these years. Cuddly commies tortured and shot their own kind. They never came to the Alps, never owned superyachts, football teams, or private jets, and their women were of age. Ah, for those good old days of fat Russian hookers with unshaved armpits."
A pistol wielding suicide bomber has killed Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi not three miles from where her father Zulfikar Ali was juridically assassinated 26 years ago.
I was at school with the striking and sharp tongued Pinky, who lived at former Ambassador to India John Kenneth Galbraith's house on Francis Avenue , but ate and was tutored in Harvard's Eliot House, where the security afforded Singapore PM Kew as a Visiting Scholar also assured her safety. Here's an old snap of her by the portrait of her then-still-living father she presented to her Radcliffe Common Room.
A Pakistan Peoples Party rep who was at Rawalpindi General Hospital, said she died at 6:16 local time, which was about three hours ago. The press says a crowd chanting "Dog, Musharraf, dog", broke the glass door at the main entrance to the emergency unit. Javed Cheema of the Interior Ministry says she was killed either by her assassin's bullets or shrapnel pellets packed into his suicide vest. At least a dozen others died, and cars are already being torched in Islamabad by riled PPP crowds. Tomorrow's funeral could be Homeric, with the whole government on the short list for Hades.
A few years after I last saw her-- by the time I got to Pakistan she was in exile -- her brother Murtaza was assassinated in front of her home in the Byzantine aftermath of the War In Afghanistan that precipitated the collapse of the Soviet Empire. Seeking strategic depth in her nation's wars with India, she sanctioned the ISS subsidy of the Taliban, and gave free rein to the nuclear ambitions of Abdul Qader Khan. What a family. What a life.
Even more important, in my opinion, than higher teaching loads and the increasingly fierce competition for grants, is the extreme growth of bureaucracy... universities have matched or exceeded the growth in bureaucrats seen in the civil service. This growth is only partly justified by need.
One issue that Brown might address is that the current number of central administrative staff is roughly equal to the number of faculty for four major UK universities
A rather different issue that has emerged during the Blair decade is the tendency to invite people from the world of business to advise on the management of universities... I think there is an important lesson to be learnt here.
Iraqis Joining Insurgency Less For Cause Than Cash
Could their cash flow problem morph into our exit strategy?
The IPCC cheering section of RealClimate is understandably chuffed about their team's Nobel Peace Prize, but just as Al is a bit conflicted about sharing his honor with Linus Pauling, who also won the gong on the left, this website comment suggests RC may feel oddly about it being shared with the star of An Inconvenient Truth:
Fair is fair. Shouldn’t Al Gore send a thank you note to all the right-wing nutjobs who have abandoned the scientific high ground and left him standing there alone. I mean after all, without climate change (which to be fair, he was among the first to embrace), he would just be another washed up politician. Now he has an Academy Award, a Nobel Peace Prize and bookies have cut the odds on his becoming President from 10:1 to 8:1. He couldn’t have done it without the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, Senator James Inhoff,[sic] Rush Limbaugh, The Cato Institute, Exx-Mob etc. Come on guys step up and take a bow! Comment by Ray Ladbury — 12 October 2007 @ 7:59 AMAn award for scientific polemicists who aim for the stars but shoot themselves in the foot is long overdue. With biofuel mania fermenting inside the Beltway, perhaps it should do honor to Paul Barbe Alfred Nobel's Business partner and French Minister of Agriculture, who having oversold his own ability to manipulate financial markets, committed suicide in 1890. Dynamite's inventor left him this cautionary epitaph: Avec d'excellentes capacités dans le travail mais dont la conscience était plus elastique que le caoutchouc.
In an actual display of military intelligence unmatched since the OSS sent Carleton Coon to the Atlas Mountains in 1942, the US Army is deploying honest-to-gosh anthropologists to places like Afghanistan's Shebak valley in Paktia province to explain to tacticians how and why locals are responding to both Allied and Taliban efforts to enlist them. On the other side of the Hindu Kush, OBL can't be happy about this development.
Three years ago, a White House photographer snapped Bush 43 welcoming fellow Yalie Louis Auchincloss to something of a family day celebrating the National Medal of the Arts awarded the doyen of American novelists and former naval intelligence officer , who told London's Financial Times :
' He has received an enormous amount of grief from friends over the picture. As befits a lawyer, his defence is a touch legalistic: “I didn’t accept a prize from George W Bush, I accepted a prize from the President of the United States. Who am I to turn that down? The grandchildren had a lovely time!”
Asked if the Bush family chronicle "at the very centre of American politics is the great dynastic... story of our time...the grist for a great society novel? " the man often compared to Edith Wharton said:
“I used to say to my father, ‘If my class at Yale ran this country, we would have no problems, and the irony of my life is that they did...
they all got behind that war in Vietnam and they pushed it as far as they could. And we lost a quarter of a million men. They were all idealistic, good, virtuous..the finest men you could find. It was the most disillusioning thing that happened in my life...The officers all sort of expected it; and they all went to private schools...One learns to be commanded by idiots in the private school system...
I just think the Bushes are a big family of sh***, they might have existed anywhere."
Auchincloss' bill of attainder , whose uncivil ecomium I think unfair to several generations may be read here. If his opposite number in the Death By Anecdote game is to be believed, Henry Kissinger told Arthur Schlesinger (over lunch at the Century Association in 1977) that, pursuing his own ambitions, Rumsfeld persuaded Ford to make 41 head of the CIA, in order to keep Bush off the vice presidential short list in 1976.That's public ordure of a higher order.
& Adamant being of a mutinous
Difposition, Ye Editor hath hoift Literary Piracy's true Colours to the Maft-Head, to get the weather .. ..Gage of ye accuftom'd ......... ..Jolly Roger
Unbelievable. Adnan Oktar, aka Harun Yahya, the Turkish crackpot creationist, didn't like the fact that his critics wrote mean things about him … so he applied to a Turkish court to have all Wordpress blogs blocked. And the court accepted his argument, and no one in Turkey has been able to access anything from Wordpress.com for a day or two now.
Low Hanging Fruit In Baghdad's Gardens Of Democracy
One of the architects of America's victorious alliance with the Kurds in the Gulf War, Ambassdor Peter Galbraith, reports that on May 30,General Benjamin Mixon, the US commander for northern Iraq, presided over the "benchmark" handover of security in the Kurdish provinces to the Iraqi government. Praising the government of Prime Minister Maliki, he said, Iraqis now control security in seven of the nation's eighteen provinces.
Really? The only Coalition force in Kurdistan is the Peshmerga, loyal only to the Kurdistan government in Erbil. It , not Baghdad , provided security before during and after the handover--the Iraqi army has not set foot in the Kurds territory since 1996, and the Iraqi flag , banned in Kurdistan did not fly at the ceremony. In a compromise that took Mixon's staff months to work out with Kurdistan's prime minister, Nechirvan Barzani, , not a single flag flew in the military parade that followed.
Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the Iraqi national security adviser, attended only to acknowledge the right of the six million Kurds— nearly 1 in 4 erstwhile Iraqis —to chart their own course.The nine southern Shiite provinces were not represented at the ceremony , nor were such Sunni strongholds as Anbar and Tikrit. This removed both the risk of Kurds revenging themselves and the stain on the powers of diplomacy of any Shiite government ministers attending.
National reconciliation in Iraq focuses on taking legislative and political steps to address the concerns of Iraq's Sunnis, who feel left out of the country they dominated until 2003. Central are an oil revenue–sharing law ensuring the oil-poor Sunni regions a share of revenue, and provincial elections to redress the parliamentary dispaity arising from the Sunni boycott of the January 2005 provincial and parliamentary elections. Not all Shia leaders favor another step both Congress and the administration have adduced- ending the ban on public service by ex-Baathists. A case in point is the head of SIIC ,Iraq's leading Shiite party ,a critical member of Prime Minister al-Maliki's ruling coalition.
SICK AND SCARY
Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC, previously known as SCIRI), head Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. is the sole survivor of eight brothers. Saddam executed six , and on August 29, 2003, a diehard Baath suicide bomber blew up the last, Abdul Aziz's predecessor as leader of SCIRI. Hakim's main rival, Moqtada al-Sadr ,comes from Iraq's other prominent family of Shiite clerics, both hostile to the US and closely tied to Iran.In 1999, Saddam murdered his father and two brothers. A decade earlier, Baath security men arrested Moqtada's father-in-law, the Grand Ayatollah Baqir al-Sadr, and raped and killed the ayatollah's sister before his eyes before setting fire to his beard and driving nails into his head.
Galbraith notes that Iraq's decentralized constitution gives the governorates enormous power and direct revenues . If elections are held , SIIC, whose members already govern seven of the nine southern provinces, would lose ground to Moqtada al-Sadr, whose political base could give his followers control of Baghdad Governorate and the quarter of Iraq's population surrounding the Green Zone. The Petraeus doctrine and deployment of UAV's have achieved welcome and remarkable progress on the ground and in the air, but how the Administration can serve American interests by surging to promote early elections is by no means clear.
Pogonophobia is fear of beards. Having one, Mark Steyn is agin it.
I'm with the neocon icon in supporting firemen forced to go goteeless, lest whiskers cause smoke masks to leak, but another cultural icon has a prior claim on this rare word's currency. Might it be more conservative to defer to the elder statesman of the Okefenokee Swamp, an impudent marsupial who did not suffer platitudes gladly?
If reluctance to face down peer group pressure on policy ideas isn't Pogonophobia, it ought to be.
America's improbable alliance with the larger half of the former Hitler-Stalin pact proved highly serviceable to defeating Germany in World War II. So to transform the war in Iraq. and put the Sunnis in cahoots with Al Qaeda in the hot seat for a change , Mr. Lind proposes a strategic alliance of convenience with Iran.
Got any better ideas? You have 50 shopping days until September 15.
Neo-Deobandis Are Getting Really Riled
Writes An Upper Indus Valley acquaintance in The Peshawar Frontier Post. He fears folks in Swat , Dir and the Northwest Frontier will take none too kindly to SWAT teams arriving in force :
"Just in case Islamabad-- or al Qaeda -- missed Frances Townsend's statement,repeated by Tony Snow, that the United States would be willing to send troops into Pakistan to root out al Qaeda, noting specifically that "no option is off the table if that is what is required." While the statements are hardly a declaration of war, one can be positive that Pakistani President Gen Pervez Musharraf is going to need a nightcap to get to sleep. It is not every day that the global superpower ruminates that invading your country is an option "not off the table."
Townsend and Snow are hinting at an operation that has been six years in the making. There has never really been any doubt that al Qaeda sought refuge in northwest Pakistan after fleeing the United States' November 2001 assault on Afghanistan. But the absolute necessity of maintaining Pakistan as an ally has stayed Washington's hand (aside from nearly continuous small-scale border raids against targets of opportunity). Rooting out al Qaeda from the tribes that shield it would require a thousands-strong force, ideally with Pakistani cooperation. Until now, the dominant belief in Washington has been that such an operation would lead to a Pakistani rebellion and the consequent overthrow of the Musharraf government. Ergo, the attack has not happened. But now two things have changed.
First, Islamic radicals of the Red Mosque -- whom Pakistani security forces raided July 12 -- have tripped public anger. Out of a mixture of necessity and opportunism, Musharraf is now moving in force against Pakistani's long-ignored jihadist circles. Until now, the jihadists have been quiet in Pakistan because that is where they recruit, train and fundraise. Now that the state is closing in on them, the suicide bombs have started going off in earnest, with more than 50 dead just on Thursday and more than 200 since the wave of explosions began. The conflict is going to be a bloody one no matter how it goes -- not only does Musharraf need to battle a desperate, experienced force with few places to retreat to, but many within his intelligence services actually are pro-jihadist. The purge and the fighting could well happen simultaneously.
This is the situation Musharraf could also use to impose state of emergency to prolong his rule and justify his plans to further impose secular western agenda in general on public and particularly on madrassas. The second big change is that Washington is becoming convinced Musharraf is on his last legs -- and that if his government is going to implode anyway, the United States might as well go in and get al Qaeda. From Washington's viewpoint, if statements alone are sufficient to get the good general to dispose of the jihadists on his own, fanbloodytastic. If not, then the United States has thousands of troops just across the border in Afghanistan available for the job.
Not that this would be easy, of course. As Snow noted, "You don't blithely go into another nation and conduct operations," and this is more than just an issue of politeness. NATO's Afghan operation, as it is now, would be flatly impossible without the supply lines that snake through Pakistan. And if the United States had reliable intelligence as to exactly where al-Qaeda's apex leadership was, a grossly excessive tonnage of GPS-guided ordnance would have been dropped on that location ages ago. That means the United States would have to go in with ground forces, and go in big -- and immediately upon arrival, they would be hit from all sides: the Afghan Taliban, and the Pakistani jihadists, the Pakistani public, and even the military"
By the turn of the 20th Century, American English had evolved so far beyond the common speech of Samuel Johnson and Thomas Jefferson that a document drafted by the latter had become largely unintelligible to many on both sides of the pond. Into the culture gap leaped the Sage of Baltimore, with this July 4th compromise:
The Declaration of Independence in American
by H. L. Mencken, Anno Domini MCMXXI
WHEN THINGS get so balled up that the people of a country got to cut loose from some other country, and go it on their own hook, without asking no permission from nobody, excepting maybe God Almighty, then they ought to let everybody know why they done it,...
Environmental Diplomacy Aims For A New Low
The not-so-pale blue dot at the bottom of this satellite image lies on an active geological fault , The Dead Sea Rift, which splits Sinai from Africa. Until 3 million years ago this Great Rift extension off the Red Sea was often filed with water beyond the Gulf of Aqaba ,and now plans are afoot for a canal to nowhere.
Why ? Because the Dead Sea is fast evaporating --all parties to the Arab-Israeli- Palestinian dispute are sucking the Jordan River dry below the sea Of Galilee. This has dropped the Dead Sea lower than ever, to 1386 feet below sea level, increasing the hydro-power potential of partially refilling it. What better way to cool the tempers of all parties to water disputes in the heartland of hydraulic despotism than desalinization plants powered by by a thousand foot salt waterfall in the desert, run through penstocks and turbines to generate gigawatts of cheap and CO2-free electricity?
Yesterday, Jordan's Ministry of Water and Irrigation formally invited 11 companies to tender for a feasibility study managed by the World Bank ,with France, the Netherlands, Japan and the US providing an initial $9 million
Proposals for a canal along the ancient dry river are scarcely new . The first man with a plan was Admiral William Allen , who suggested one in 1855 as an alternative to the Suez Canal Engineering spoilsports scuttled he notion by pointing out the Royal Navy could steam around Africa in the time it would take to queue for the 80-lock roller coaster required to get from Red Sea to Dead Sea and back up to the Mediterranean.
Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority all endorse the Dead-Red study -- a 25 year big dig might even allow enough time for peace to break out.
Gore In The Caribbee As Biofuel Crisis Saps Rum Stocks
Gasohol demand in the Corn Belt has already shrunk Mexican waistlines and now another Southern neighbor is feeling the pinch. Beer still flows freely in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, but the annual lime shortage induced by tourist girly drink demand has given way to a real supply crisis .
Outbid by gasohol plants, St. Vincent's overproof rum distillery has shut down for lack of molasses deliveries, and 169 proof Sunset Rum, and Jack Iron , the even more formidable firewater out-island moonshiners produce , have vanished from general stores throughout the Grenadines, leaving only the ever unpopular 80-proof brand, Captain Bligh.
Ordinarily , a shipload of Guyanan molasses is delivered for distillation in St.Vincent twice each year, but the boatload ordered in January failed to materialize. Though fuel-alcohol molasses shipping from Guyana has continued, as of last week, a source in Kingstown reports , Sunset's ship has not come in because the distillery's molasses factor in Demerara has been unable to find one.
Seeking to exploit this disaster, foreign agents are trying insinuate a watery liquid called Havana Club into the punch that is the
Grenadines most vital bodily fluid, though the concoction is grossly unfit for use as outboard
motor fuel and can barely sustain the metabolism of pirate film extras.
Worse, in a scene more ominous for regional diplomacy than Hugo Chavez sniffing for
brimstone at the UN, high-sulfur residual rum from
Venezuela has been offered yachtsmen on Petit Martinique ,causing them to flee upwind to the heavily fortified wine cellars of Mustique.
The scene of
Pirates Of The Caribbean
has run out of serious rum !
When Tony Blair came to power fewer than 5,000 CCTV cameras spied on public life in the UK. Today there are five million--one for every 12 citizens. As the Brave New Labourene gets set to turn 10 Downing Street over to Niel Kinnock's understudy, the average Londoner goes about his or her business monitored by over 300 CCTV cameras a day.
The implosion of privacy continues. Auto license plate recognition was followed by facial ID software , and suspicious behaviour recognition programs to scan CCTV pixel clusters for “behavioral oddities.”
Tony Blair's final Homage to George Orwell & Monty Python is a £500,000 research grant to develop gait recognition cameras to alert Big Brother if anyone gets out of step.
Trying to get Houston or Dallas reservoir experts to come clean on the record about the Seven Sisters future production prospects is , well , like trying to squeeze oil from blacktop on a cold day. So oil information analyst Richard Nehring organized an anonymous survey of 75 experts from 19 nations at a Hedberg Conference, under the auspices of American Association of Petroleum Geologists last November
Nehring showed the results at the annual meeting of the (AAPG) in Long Beach, California, earlier this month, "The peak in world oil production is not imminent," he declaredv, but it is "nevertheless foreseeable." What remains unforeseeable is whether technological change and the further opening of the Arctic Ocean will leave his high and low curves too close together or not far enough apart.
reaching to activate its Surrender Monkey sleeper cells ?
'Cultivating Terroir in American Artisanal Cheese Production'
, Anthropology Seminar , Harvard University April 18 2007
A company of Swiss Army regulars on night maneuvers near Lake Constance accidentally invaded the Principality of Liechtenstein Friday, but as none of the 34,000 Liechtensteiners appear to have noticed the arrival , or departure , of the 170 marauding Swiss , war is not expected to ensue , which is just as well , as Liechtenstein does not have an army and the invaders neglected to bring any ammunition for their automatic rifles.
Maulavi Mohammed Islam Mohammadi, former Taliban governor of Afghanistan's Bamiyan province, was blown away by an unnamed assailant while en route to Friday
prayers in Kabul, said Zulmai Khan, Kabul's deputy police chief. Mohammadi was the Taliban's governor of Bamiyan
province when the world's largest monolithic Buddha , dating to the 5th century, was blown up by dynamite and artillery fire in March 2001.
On being elected to represent Samangan province in Afghanistan's parliament in 2005 , Mohammadi said "It was foreigners like Chechens and Arabs with the Taliban who made the decision. They were crazy people,"
A generation before neocon happy warriors and hegemony buffs started hooting up faulty WMD ntelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq, George Kennan observed that if mistakes were grounds for dismissal, not an intel analyst would remain in the corridors of power. WMD’s and nuclear ambitions have never been easy to fathom. America began sharpening the tools to harvest technical intelligence before the birth of the atomic bomb, but some early gathers of nuclear secrets ended up cutting themselves in the process.
Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, General George Marshall ordered espionage covering all enemy "scientific military developments. “ In 1941,the OSS followed up with
The recent winter solstice witnessed a 'Carl Sagan Blog-a-thon' .
So in celebration of Al Gore's pal, the late author of The Cold And The Dark there follows The Wall Street Journal's warmly cautionary Cold War reminder of how a campaign for the Nobel Peace prize on the Nuclear Freeze ticket devolved into a joke played at the expense of climate modeling's street cred on the eve of the global warming debate :The Melting of 'Nuclear Winter'
All that remains of Sagan's Big Chill are curves such as this , but history is full of prophets of doom who fail to deliver, not all are without honor in their own land. The 1983 'Nuclear Winter " papers in Science were so politicized that even the eminently liberal President of The Council for a Liveable World called "The worst example ofthe misrepesentation of science to the public in my memory." Among the authors was Stanford President Donald Kennedy. Today he edits Science , the nation's major arbiter of climate science--and policy.
Below, a case illustrating the mid-range of the ~.7 to ~1.6 degree C maximum cooling the 2006 studies suggest is superimposed in color on the Blackly Apocalyptic predictions published in Science Vol. 222, 1983 . They're worth comparing, because the range of soot concentrations in the new models overlaps with cases assumed to have dire climatic
consequences in the widely publicized 1983 scenarios --
"Apocalyptic predictions require, to be taken seriously,higher standards of evidence than do assertions on other matters where the stakes are not as great." wrote Sagan in Foreign Affairs , Winter 1983 -84. But that "evidence" was never forthcoming.'Nuclear Winter' never existed outside of a computer except as air-brushed animation commissioned by the a PR firm - Porter Novelli Inc. Yet Sagan predicted "the extinction of the human species " as temperatures plummeted 35 degrees C and the world froze in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust. Last year, Sagan's cohort tried to reanimate the ghost in a machine anti-nuclear activists invoked in the depths of the Cold War, by re-running equally arbitrary scenarios on a modern interactive Global Circulation Model. But the Cold War is history in more ways than one. It is a credit to post-modern computer climate simulations that they do not reproduce the apocalyptic results of what Sagan oxymoronically termed "a sophisticated one dimensional model."
The subzero 'baseline case' has melted down into a tepid 1.3 degrees of average cooling- grey skies do not a Ragnarok make . What remains is just not the stuff that End of the World myths are made of.
It is hard to exaggerate how seriously " nuclear winter "was once
taken by policy analysts who ought to have known better. Many were
taken aback by the sheer force of Sagan's rhetoric
Remarkably, Science's news coverage of the new results fails to graphically compare them with the old ones Editor Kennedy and other recent executives of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, once proudly co-authored and helped to publicize.
Al Qaeda's second-string science (and media) talent search
Whatever happened to AlQaeda's A-Team of high tech hackers and Post-Doc's from Hell like Muhammad Atta, the literal architect of 9-11?
An official high on the list of Osama Bin Laden's surviving lieutenants is calling on wannabe weapons experts in the fields of "chemistry, physics, electronics, media and all other sciences - especially nuclear scientists" to come to Iraq to rectify the shocking lack of local talent and WMD's.
"We are in dire need of you," said Abu Hamza al-Muhajir - also known as Shiek al-Masri. "The field of jihad can satisfy your scientific ambitions, and the large American bases are good places to test your unconventional weapons, whether biological or dirty, as they call them." exhorted the hospitable Arab recruiting executive in an audio tape broadcast earlier this week, and aired on PBS evening news.
Shiek al-Masri called for new blood and next-generation Islamic ubergeeks after acknowledging Allied and Iraqi forces and authorities have thus far killed some 4,000 foreign jihadists in Iraq. Most estimates put Al Qeada's numbers below division strength .In 2004, Britain's Institute for Strategic Studies postulated that Al Qaeda had 18,000 committed combatants, and some Pentagon sources asserted fewer than 3,000 of the troops bin Laden trained in Afghanistan remained alive.
In 2004 I accordingly observed:
"After the failed 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, Mohammad Atta applied himself to calculating the energy ten tons of blazing jet fuel could deliver to the towers’ hearts. He chose the moment of his death as wisely as his target and his impact velocity, for the dead man Osama bin Laden now styles “Commander-General” made us forget what he was not: a weapons expert. His inspired effort at grand theft aero transcended the failure of al-Qaeda to acquire the weapons of mass destruction that have obsessed us ever since...
However tall bin Laden may loom... it is increasingly clear that his arsenal is as phony as his army is small—its shelves are bare of expertise and materiel alike.But the War on Terror is anything but phony, and al-Qaeda is under withering attack by every means a hyperpower and its allies can devise."
-- 'Weaker than we think" The American Conservative December 6 2004
Baghdad was last attacked with 'dirty weapons' in 1258 , when the Mongol horde of Hulugu the Horrible catapulted dead horses over the city walls.
BUNGLE IN THE JUNGLE
Once more , The New York Times and the Washington Post seem bent on elevating our man in Bujumbura ,Conakry, and the Bight of Biafra, The Hon. Joseph Wilson IV , to the status of Proconsul emeritus. But this time the man in the hot spot is not Mr. Rove, but happy cold warrior Dick Armitage, who did such great things when the problem with Afghanistan was Russians.
Ambassador Wilson spent a week half a decade ago downstream from Timbuktu sipping mint tea and listening to Francophone assurances that no respectable slave trader, gun runner, hashish merchant or blood diamond smuggler in the adjacent two million square miles of howling sandstorm would stoop to dealing in uranium?
And what of malefactors from Mali, Algeria,Burkina Faso Benin,Cameroon,Chad,Libya and Nigeria? Never fear--Niger's vigilant border patrol is second only to Al Gore in its passion for hanging Chads, and things can get pretty ugly when it catches Nigerians too.
Well satisfied, Wilson of the River,returned to Foggy Bottom, where Newsweek says his verbal trip report "vanished into the bureaucratic maw."
The New York Times Plameout has extinguished all recollection of what the President actually said. He repeated the UK charge , based on forged documents from Italy, that the Iraqis were trying to buy uranium from Africa, not Niger-- the Ambassador has another sixteen million square kilometers of bush to whack before he gets another shot at '43.
A continent is a terrible thing for a diplomat to misplace. Losing track of one with five major and dozens of minor uranium-mining operations in 11 nations could rouse a demarche from a dead IAEA Undersecretary. South Africa's fulfilled nuclear ambition drew on Namibia's economic geology , which rivals Niger's and The Congo, with 13 mines, has been a cornucopia of concentrated pitchblende since the days of Madame Curie. But Wilson is an old Gabon hand, and having drunk his share of the French Embassy in Libreville's Moet, he ought to know the story of SDEC's nightmarish run-in with disappearing African uranium.
For decades France shipped uranium home to Marseilles from Gabon for enrichment into reactor fuel and weapons grade uranium. It was easy to monitor this strategic trade, for the natural isotopic abundance of fissionable U-235 was the scientific equivalent of Holy Writ. It was exactly 0.7204%; so one tonne of mined uranium could be relied upon to yield 7,204 grams of U-235. And 992,960 of depleted uranium-238 -- an ultradense by-product we use for tank armor, and the French for racing yacht ballast.
For many uneventful years, the ore coming in was checked against the enrichment plant's output. The running total tallied exactly until one fateful day in 1971, when it fell hair-raisingly short. Somehow, enough U-235 to build a dozen A-bombs had gone missing. French security forces went into overdrive: not just the usual suspects, but the whole Marseillesunderworld was rounded up. The interrogations produced nothing, and a gimlet eyed review of all the paperwork in the plant found it flawless.
Cold fear displaced disbelief when the next inventory revealed an even greater loss. Around the world, yet more villains were hauled in by spooks of every ilk and nationality, but again no leads materialized. Things were looking very ugly indeed, because ample time had passed to turn the missing uranium into bombs, and true rumors were flying about Israel's clandestine efforts to acquire uranium. Into the growing panic stepped a junior French geochemist with a really dumb idea:
Could nature be the culprit? He was shown the door by a prefect of the Directorate of Internal Security, but managed to procure a few crumbs of old and new ore from Oklo. He ran them through a mass spectrometer, and sure enough, the most recent samples held less U235 than the older ones. Weirder still, all of the rare earth elements in the sample had equally un-natural isotope ratios. There was only one possible explanation -- when the Earth was younger, the heart of darkness had lit up as the Oklo deposit was host to natural nuclear reactions. If so, the missing U-235 was the fuel they had consumed.
Oklo was soon staked out by Legionnaires as a cadre of Ecole Polytechnique alumni excavated the 15 natural reactors within the mine that had gone critical and fissioned away the U-235 1.8 billion years before. Once they had been dug up, analyzed and entered into the annals of science, the last of the usual suspects were put back on the street, and the miners of Oklo returned to excavating the still rich ore.
The plutonium produced in nuclear reactions, natural or man made, is popularly regarded as the most dangerous substance in existence. It is an object of widespread faith that mere grams of it could kill millions. But what of the seven tons of plutonium created in the natural reactors? Its fate in the environment has done more than literally billions of dollars of research to illuminate the modern problem of high-level radioactive waste disposal.
Rocks being rocks, their behavioral repertoire is somewhat limited. With the coming of each ancient rainy season, neutron moderating water percolated into the ore, and the natural reactors rumbled to life. But beneath the surface of this radioactive Yellowstone, the resulting fission products and plutonium just did what comes naturally to heavy metals in a mud bath. They sank to the bottom and stayed put, diffusing outwards at a rate slower than continental drift.
ON THE LEFT:
Plutonium's 16,000 year half life is but a geological instant, and the last atom of it gave up the ghost a billion years ago literally a stone's throw from where it started. All that's left of it is the dead end of its chain of nuclear decay: lead. Most of the world's uranium mines now lie idle. Disarmament and a stagnant nuclear power industry have made uranium too cheap to merit the level of vigilance and security afforded more valuable commodities, like lamb chops or aspirin.
George Kennan remarked that error is so integral a part of evaluating intelligence that draconian intolerance would banish every analyst from the corridors of power. When certain knowledge of imports, exports, and inventories eludes a nation, humility should attend its estimates of what others may, or may not, have acquired. Or desired .
USUALLY UNRELIABLE SOURCES ON THE RIGHT
When will it dawn on the Neocon usual suspects that Michael Ledeen's collection of italiante Nigerienne diplomatic letterhead fogeries notwithstanding, Pakistan nuclear mogul A.Q. Khan's presence in Mauritania and that famous center of atomic research, Timbuktu in 1999 may relate not to uranium shopping , but his elevation to baronial status by Colonel Qaddafi, who sems to have paid for nefarious services rendered and the odd centrifuge part by deeding Khan enough Sahelian real estate for a game preserve( pretty good winter shooting by all accounts). There is also the matter of the 485 un-missing tons of yellowcake Iraq bought aboveboard from Niger and Portugal, between 1980 and 1982. Nobody has adduced a reason why , given that we trashed his enrichment program after the Gulf War m Saddam 's nuclear minions would crave more.
The ultimate lesson of l'affaire Niger may be that Director Negroponte , like DCI Tenet before him may find
consolation in the classics. While "There is always something new
coming out of Africa" what's new isn't necessarily true -- Pliny's
Natural History includes tales that are pretty tall, even by the standards of Imperial Roman Intelligence back when intel included analyzing the entrails of sheep and the overflight of eagles.
The eagle watchers and Sheep Int providers were compelled to wear uniforms funnier than the Surgeon General or Nixon's White House guards, and customarily laughed at their colleagues' mistakes whenever they met. Such was The Wisdom of the Ancients. Never in the history of the Republic was Augur or Haruspex hauled before the Senate Intelligence Committee.