That Arab Arms Deal

July 31, 2007

The Bush administration’s plan to give arms to Arab nations isn’t entirely daft – with the right weapons they can reduce their exposure to Iran. The bad news is that this tells us the administration has decided not to take out the Mullahs’ nukes.

The deal (my ellipsis):

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced the formal launch of discussions over the package for Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, as well as 10-year military aid plans with Israel and Egypt, in a statement ahead of her departure for the Middle East on Monday afternoon. Israel is slated to get $30 billion and Egypt $13b.; the latter will also receive additional economic aid…

(Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns) added that the arms would be “for defensive purposes – most of it.”

But even if “most of it” is defensive, that just means the Egyptians and Saudis have to get their offensive equipment from Russia – which will be easier since the US is providing its own equipment for free.

Defenders of the plan say neither Egypt nor Saudi Arabia have committed themselves to wipe Israel of the map. But that’s most likely because these Islamic dictatorships lack the capability, not the intention. And anyway, intentions change much more quickly than capabilities – for example through Iran-style regimes taking over.

The big ray of hope is the corruption level of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which have CPI scores of 3.3, as bad as China. So much of the US aid will end up in Swiss bank accounts rather than weapons.

And what money does filter through to weapons won’t be much of a threat to Israel unless Iran manages to take out its nuclear shield with a first strike.

That brings us to the depressing conclusion. If the administration were seriously planning to take out the Mullahs’ nukes, it wouldn’t need this initiative at this time, since without nukes the crumbling Iranian economy threatens no one (except the Brit Navy).

If a strike were planned, this aid package would be deployed after the attack, to sooth Arab sensibilities.

Doing it now means no strike is intended and so the next war in the Mideast will be nuclear.


America Can’t Trust Gordon Brown

July 31, 2007

Some Americans believe Gordon Brown remains a sturdy ally of the US. But he’s not, and the US should now bracket the UK with Germany and France.

Here’s the NY Sun:

It was good to hear President Bush confirm yesterday what many of us have considered an abiding truth in a treacherous world, that Britain and America maintain a special relationship. Gordon Brown, the new prime minister, in Camp David for his first visit with Mr. Bush, leaned on the words of that warrior for democracy Winston Churchill in expressing that we have come to be this close because of our “joint inheritance of liberty, a belief in opportunity for all, a belief in the dignity of every human being.”

But Brown plans to cut and run:

Gordon Brown prepared the ground yesterday for the withdrawal of British troops from the frontline in Iraq.

The Prime Minister tried to redefine the relationship between Number 10 and the White House when he made clear that he would retain control of the timetable for British withdrawal regardless of America’s involvement…

Mr Brown made clear that the decision on when British troops would be pulled out of Basra – and security handed to their Iraqi counterparts – would be based purely on the advice of British military commanders on the ground.

Winston Churchill did not base national policy on the views of generals – if he had we might well have lost WW2.

In fact Brown is busily integrating the UK with the EU – hence his dropping his party’s commitment for a referendum on the revived EU Constitution, which he knows Brits would reject.

Brown backs the EU because he’s a micro-manager with lousy judgment – exampled by his selling the Brit gold reserves at the bottom of the market. The EU is infested with people sharing these character defects, so it’s Brown’s natural home.

Of course he may have duplicated our analysis and decided that if the US is going isolationist, he might as well cut the link first. But that’s dumb – the American people might well decide that staying engaged with the world is their least bad option. In that case they stay in control of a world in which the UK has assumed weasel status.

Without US help and submerged in Europe, the Brits will be helpless to prevent their nation becoming just another Russian satellite.

None of which is to suggest the US reciprocates and cuts its many business, intelligence, and procurement ties with the UK.

But Americans should not trust Gordon Brown.


Man Made Warming (1)

July 30, 2007

It’s quite possible that global warming is a man-made measurement artifact.

Our earlier post on poorly sited sensors turns out to be backed by an organization that’s working its way through each US monitering station. It’s audited 222, and has about 1,000 to go.

Here’s a sample:

Here is a well maintained and well sited USHCN station:

Here is a not-so-well maintained or well sited USHCN station:


This site in Marysville, CA has been around for about the same amount of time, but
has been encroached upon by growth in a most serious way by micro-site effects.

The GW skeptic John Daly made this suggestion 7 years ago:

The only way surface data can be used with any confidence is to exclude all town/city and airport data – no exceptions. Only rural sites should be used, and by `rural’ is meant strictly `greenfields’ sites where there is no urbanisation of any kind near the instrument. Even when greenfields stations are used, those which are technically supervised (eg. managed by scientists, marine authorities, the military etc.) should be treated with greater credibility than those from sheep stations, post offices and remote motels.

It’ll be interesting to see how many of the US stations pass this sensible test.

A later post will deal with the massaging this data is subjected to after it has been collected from these poorly managed sources.


Smart Terrorists

July 30, 2007

It’s wrong to sneer at the incompetence of Brit terrorists. – they’ve manipulated the Brit government into derailing London’s position as a global financial center.

The derailing:

There was a 1.8 per cent year-on-year fall in passenger traffic at Heathrow in June and a 1.2 per cent fall in the first half of this year, according to BAA.

Air traffic has been growing annually at over 10%, so Heathrow just lost over 1 in 10 of its customers in a year – quite an achievement.

That’s because it treats its passengers like dirt, and now the Brit government is worried:

London’s status as one of the world’s leading financial centres risks being undermined by excessive delays at Heathrow and the airport’s sprawling layout, the new City minister warns on Monday…

In frank criticism that reflects mounting government concern, she voiced fears that multinational companies could question the rationale for holding annual or other important meetings in London. “I want multinational companies to feel really confident about housing their annual general meetings here,” she said…

She said of the airport: “You spend so much time being processed. That’s the issue… passports, security, just the layout of the buildings which makes it more difficult.”

But her government has decided on a perimeter protection security policy that treats every traveler as an equal threat and reacts solely to past attacks rather than anticipating the future.

That approach leads to cumulative security measures – after each attack another hole has to be plugged, at the cost of more delay to travel. But terrorists adapt, and since there are many ways to bring down an airliner, and most are currently not screened for, travelers now know that they face ever-increasing delay and harassment.

There’s a much better way – summarized here by the President of the (US) Airline Pilots Security Alliance, hat tip Bruce Schneier:

…we should be starting with defending the smallest spaces — the cockpits and cargo compartments, and working outward to the limits of our resources; instead of starting with the airport perimeter and working inward, ignoring the actual defense of those spaces that are actually the terrorist targets.

Heathrow’s problem is that a reputation, once lost, takes many years to recover. That’s because people remember bad experiences much more vividly than good ones, and prioritize their own direct experiences and those of people close to them over inputs from third parties.

Now every business in London knows that Heathrow is a lousy business airport, and they’ve adapted to that.

Thus frequent travelers like us Gandalfs have made quite big changes to our life plans to avoid traveling to the UK by air – we expect our upcoming trip there will be our last one by air. After that it’s rail – if that gets intolerable too, we’ll just disinvest from the UK.

So those terrorists – with their match-ignited shoe bombs, non-functioning liquid bombs, and wrongly rigged detonators have successfully tricked the Brit government into undermining the Brit engine of growth.

They did this by learning from their predecessors. The IRA’s successful bombing of London’s financial center in April 1993 immediately brought the Brit government to the negotiating table.

Al Qaeda has avoided the need to smuggle huge truck bombs into the City of London.

That’s smart.


What Happens Next?

July 29, 2007

Two weeks off line helps clarify the issues we face – here’s a somewhat depressing laundry list

The US

The US is the engine of the world’s growth and its military guarantees the freedoms of Europe and Israel.

However it is now sliding to isolationism because its people, assiduously misinformed by their MSM, want to retreat from Iraq and Afghanistan. And the American democracy usually ends up doing what the people want.

Withdrawal will trigger the same horrors that followed the abandonment of South Vietnam – but this time the sufferers will include Americans.

That’s because the Vietnam war was a containment action against China and Russia, and US withdrawal just ceded the peoples of a few small and poor nations to Communist tyrannies.

But the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are against foes sworn to destroy the US, and fleeing the battlefield will embolden them to resume their attacks on the US, which with its open southern border is highly vulnerable.

If, as is probable, those enemies inflict mass casualties on American soil, the US, having abandoned offense will move to defense – finally building those border fences. And it can do that – it’s is quite capable of feeding and equipping itself, and gets almost all of its oil domestically, from Canada, and from Mexico.

So from a US viewpoint, isolationism is fine – Americans will be safer and get richer.

But China will lose its biggest customer, Europe and Israel their protector, and Africa its benefactor.

The EU

The EU is a confederation of nations which, with the sole exception of the Brits, have spent the last century losing wars. So, not surprisingly, their only diplomatic weapons are those of the defeated -subterfuge and appeasement.

Thus, instead of using force to recover their hostages from Libya, the EU used bribery:

During a meeting with Col Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, Mr Sarkozy agreed to help the country with a nuclear-powered project to desalinate seawater…

Mr Sarkozy’s visit to Libya and the nuclear deal both came immediately after the release of six Bulgarian medical personnel and one Palestinian, all of whom had been sentenced to death for allegedly infecting hundreds of children with HIV.

Desalination is commonly used here in the Southern Med, and the fuel used is, er, Libyan oil:

Libya is Africa’s major oil producer and one of Europe’s biggest North African oil suppliers…Libya has proven reserves of 29.5 billion barrels of oil and a production capacity of 1.4 million barrels per day. Italy, Germany, Spain and France account for 74% of Libya’s exports.

So this has nothing to do with desalination, and everything to do with nukes.

The Libyan dictator gets a package that will burn French enriched uranium to produce plutonium. Just add a nuclear waste treatment plant, and Voila! – he has nukes.

Ordinarily, this wouldn’t matter – he’ll just use them to bully the Southern EU. But it sets a precedent for the EU’s existential foes. Its fast-growing Islamic communities will be emboldened to extend their de-facto Sharia zones, and the Russians will leverage their oil and military to take control of the EU’s economy.

So the EU, like all weak empires, won’t make it.

The Brits

If Brits follow the precedent of the 1930s, they’ll eventually get fed up with appeasing the EU and the UK’s un-assimilated minorities.

But it’s hard to judge how the pampered kids one sees on London streets would deal with the privations their grandparents faced – bombing, rationing, mass death.

And if the Brit worm is to turn, it’ll need a shock – a big recession, high unemployment, a deeply unpopular government, and a decent alternative.

Still, all of those are quite likely now, so on balance the Brits seem likely to survive the wreck of Europe.

Israel

Israel faces an existential war sometime soon.

But it currently has very weak political leadership and is under massive pressure from the US (and constant whining from the EU) to cede the West Bank to Fatah’s kleptocratic killers. If that happens, all of Israel will be open to attack by the most ancient rocket, since said killers would be just 12 miles from Tel Aviv.

With the West Bank ceded Israel has zero defensive depth so the next war is bound to be nuclear.

If Israel gets better leadership, and its weapons industry delivers, and its kids decide to fight, then that war will be won.

But with fading US backing, it will be a close run thing.

****

Otherwise, things look great.


The Flash MSM

July 28, 2007

I just switched to Opera from Firefox, briefly experiencing the online MSM without Flash blocking. It was a horrible experience that illustrates why the MSM won’t make it online.

Firefox just started randomly consuming about 60% of my CPU – quite an achievement with a 2 GHz Core 2 Duo. It happens when more than 10 tabs are open, and the latest version doesn’t fix it. Since WinXP has a crappy scheduler, 60% CPU utilization locks the system up, so Firefox has been retired.

Raw Opera doesn’t have a Flashblock plugin, so for a few minutes I experienced the online MSM as the providers intend us to.

The Israelis are worst – YNet News and the Jerusalem Post each have no less than four very intrusive moving ads on their home pages. These, besides engendering a hatred for the advertisers, make it quite impossible to concentrate on reading the content. Mind you, dealing with this level of distraction must battle-harden Israelis.

So I switched to the sober Financial Times. It has just one Flash ad, but it’s large and twitchy, and that makes it very hard to concentrate on reading the text.

Fox News is the least bad of the 20 or so sites I reviewed. It had no moving ads on its home page, and no more than one small one on second tier pages.

Anyway, I quickly hacked Opera’s Cascading Style Sheet to suppress Flash.

I can’t imagine anyone finds moving ads anything less than unpleasant, and a lot of people won’t know how to suppress them.

Maybe this is a cunning ploy by the MSM to force people to pay for their content. If so, they’re doomed – harassing your customers makes them walk away, not do what you want.

Opera is quite fiddly to use with WordPress, so I hope Firefox fixes itself quickly.


The Heat!

July 28, 2007

We just returned to the Southern Med from Italy, and can report that the weather in both places is quite normally hot.

The Brit MSM reports otherwise:

While much of Britain is still under floodwater, raging fires across southern Europe burned out of control yesterday…

Thousands of people across southern Europe have been displaced by fires triggered by persistently high temperatures and, in some cases, possible arson. Some of the blazes are so huge they are visible from space…

In Italy there were suggestions that many of the fires in the past week were lit by arsonists and the Mafia.

We went all over Italy, and saw not a single out of control fire – just the odd singed field that’s normal at this time of year. And our Mafiosa friends will be deeply  wounded by these libellous claims that they would abandon their altruistic peacekeeping activities and stoop to burning fields.

Those Brit floods resemble those a few years back when Climate Change visciously focused on new housing developments with names like “Meadow Valley” and “The Lakes”. Thus, this time:

Towns vulnerable to floods

ABINGDON

Flooded by river: 570 properties so far, mainly in south-west of town. More expected.

Why: Abingdon sits on the confluence of the River Thames and River Ock. South-west Abingdon is built on the flood plain on a neck between the two rivers. Both rivers have severe flood warnings.

Defences: No man-made defences. 10,000 sandbags.

Peak flood: Late Wednesday. Similar capacity to January 2003 flood.

Peak flood: Late Wednesday evening, but will remain high for several days. Peak will be similar height to January 2003 floods.

Still, help is at hand (my ellipsis):

Water bills will have to rise to pay for flood-proofing towns and cities, the head of the Environment Agency says today, as forecasters warn of further flash floods over the weekend…

(She adds that) the country must act now to protect itself from the impact of climate change, which will make flooding a regular event.

So now all those folks can build in floodplains, secure in the knowledge that someone else will pick up the tab. Economists call this moral hazard.

Anyway, returning to the Southern Med, we found a flier from the local government waiting on the doormat. It asks us to save the planet by jogging to work and turning the central heating down 5 degrees.

It’s 98 degrees.