Monday, October 24, 2005
posted by @netwurker at 7:00 am
Sunday, October 16, 2005
posted by @netwurker at 7:51 am
From: G.H. [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: October 14, 2005 8:33 AM
To: Public Intelligence Group
Subject: [SPAM] [PubInt] George W. Bush's suicidal statecraft
George W. Bush's suicidal statecraft
By Zbigniew Brzezinski Tribune Media Services International
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2005
Sixty years ago, Arnold Toynbee concluded, in his monumental "A Study of History," that the ultimate cause of imperial collapse was "suicidal statecraft." Sadly for President George W. Bush's place in history but - much more important - ominously for America's future, it has lately seemed as if that adroit phrase might be applicable to the policies pursued by the United States since the cataclysm of 9/11.
Though there have been some hints lately that the administration may be beginning to reassess the goals, so far defined largely by slogans, of its unsuccessful military intervention in Iraq, Bush's speech of Oct. 6 was a throwback to the more demagogic formulations that he employed during the presidential campaign of 2004 to justify the war that he himself started.
That war, advocated by a narrow circle of decision makers for motives still not fully exposed, propagated publicly by demagogic rhetoric reliant on false assertions, has turned out to be much more costly in blood and money than anticipated.
It has precipitated worldwide criticism, while in the Middle East it has stamped the United States as the successor to British imperialism and as a partner of Israel in the military repression of the Arabs. Fair or not, that perception has become widespread in the world of Islam as a whole.
More than a reformulation of U.S. goals in Iraq is now needed, however. The persistent reluctance of the administration to confront the political background of the terrorist menace has reinforced public sympathy among Muslims for the terrorists.
It is a self-delusion for Americans to be told that the terrorists are motivated mainly by an abstract "hatred of freedom" and that their acts are a reflection of a profound cultural hostility. If that were so, Stockholm or Rio de Janeiro would be as much at risk as New York.
Yet in addition to New Yorkers, the principal victims of serious terrorist attacks have been Australians in Bali, Spaniards in Madrid, Israelis in Tel Aviv, Egyptians in the Sinai and Britons in London. There is an obvious political thread connecting these events: The targets are America's allies and client states in the deepening U.S. military intervention in the Middle East.
Terrorists are not born but shaped by events, experiences, impressions, hatreds, ethnic myths, historical memories, religious fanaticism and deliberate brainwashing. They are also shaped by images of what they see on television, and especially by their feelings of outrage at what they perceive to be a brutalizing denigration of their religious kin's dignity by heavily armed foreigners. An intense political hatred for America, Britain and Israel is drawing recruits for terrorism not only from the Middle East but from as far away as Ethiopia, Morocco, Pakistan, Indonesia and even the Caribbean.
America's ability to cope with nuclear nonproliferation has also suffered. The contrast between the attack on the militarily weak Iraq and America's forbearance of the nuclear-armed North Korea has strengthened the conviction of the Iranians that their security can only be enhanced by nuclear weapons.
Moreover, the recent U.S. decision to assist India's nuclear program, driven largely by the desire for India's support for the war in Iraq and as a hedge against China, has made the United States look like a selective promoter of nuclear weapons proliferation. This double standard will complicate the quest for a constructive resolution of the Iranian nuclear problem.
Compounding U.S. political dilemmas is the degradation of America's moral standing in the world. The country that has for decades stood tall in opposition to political repression, torture and other violations of human rights has been exposed as sanctioning practices that hardly qualify as respect for human dignity.
Even more reprehensible is the fact that the shameful abuse and/or torture in Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib was exposed not by an outraged administration but by the U.S. news media. In response, the administration confined itself to punishing a few low-level perpetrators; none of the top civilian and military decision-makers in the Department of Defense and the National Security Council who sanctioned "stress interrogations" (torture, in other words) was forced to resign, nor to face public disgrace and prosecution. The administration's opposition to the International Criminal Court retroactively now seems quite self-serving.
Finally, complicating the sorry foreign policy record are war-related economic trends, with spending on defense and security escalating dramatically. The budgets for the Department of Defense and for the Department of Homeland Security are now larger than the total budgets of most nations, and they are likely to continue escalating even as the growing budget and trade deficits are transforming America into the world's no. 1 debtor nation.
At the same time, the direct and indirect costs of the war in Iraq are mounting, even beyond the pessimistic prognoses of the war's early opponents, making a mockery of the administration's initial predictions. Every dollar so committed is a dollar not spent on investment, on scientific innovation or on education, all fundamentally relevant to America's long-term economic primacy in a highly competitive world.
It should be a source of special concern for thoughtful Americans that even nations known for their traditional affection for America have become openly critical of American policy. As a result, large swathes of the world - be it East Asia, or Europe, or Latin America - have been quietly exploring ways of shaping closer regional associations tied less to the notions of trans-Pacific, or trans-Atlantic, or hemispheric cooperation with the United States. Geopolitical alienation from America could become a lasting and menacing reality.
That trend would especially benefit America's historic ill-wishers or future rivals. Sitting on the sidelines and sneering at America's ineptitude are Russia and China: Russia, because it is delighted to see Muslim hostility diverted from itself toward America, despite its own crimes in Afghanistan and Chechnya, and is eager to entice America into an anti-Islamic alliance; China, because it patiently follows the advice of its ancient strategic guru, Sun Tzu, who taught that the best way to win is to let your rival defeat himself.
In a very real sense, during the last four years, the Bush team has thus been dangerously undercutting America's seemingly secure perch on top of the global totem pole by transforming a manageable, though serious, challenge largely of regional origin into an international debacle.
To be sure, since America is extraordinarily powerful and rich, it can afford, yet for a while, even a policy articulated with rhetorical excess and pursued with historical blindness. But in the process America is likely to become isolated in a hostile world, increasingly vulnerable to terrorist acts and less and less able to exercise a constructive global influence.
Flaying away with a stick at a hornets' nest while loudly proclaiming "I will stay the course" is an exercise in catastrophic leadership.
But it need not be so. A real course correction is still possible, and it could start soon with a modest and common-sense initiative by the president to engage the Democratic congressional leadership in a serious effort to shape a bipartisan foreign policy for an increasingly divided and troubled nation.
In a bipartisan setting, it would be easier not only to scale down the definition of success in Iraq but actually to get out - perhaps even as early as next year. And the sooner the United States leaves, the sooner the Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis will either reach a political arrangement on their own or some combination of them will forcibly prevail.
With a foreign policy based on bipartisanship and with Iraq behind us, it would also be easier to shape a wider regional policy that constructively focuses on Iran and on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process while restoring the legitimacy of America's global role.
(Zbigniew Brzezinski was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter. This Global Viewpoint article was distributed by Tribune Media Services International.)
Monday, October 10, 2005
posted by @netwurker at 8:18 pm
posted October 7, 2005
This essay is republished with permission from
The genesis of two category-five hurricanes (Katrina
and Rita) in a row over the Gulf of Mexico is an
unprecedented and troubling occurrence. But for most
tropical meteorologists the truly astonishing "storm of
the decade" took place in March 2004. Hurricane
Catarina--so named because it made landfall in the
southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina--was the
first recorded South Atlantic hurricane in history.
Textbook orthodoxy had long excluded the possibility of
such an event; sea temperatures, experts claimed, were
too low and wind shear too powerful to allow tropical
depressions to evolve into cyclones south of the
Atlantic equator. Indeed, forecasters rubbed their eyes
in disbelief as weather satellites downlinked the first
images of a classical whirling disc with a well-formed
eye in these forbidden latitudes.
In a series of recent meetings and publications,
researchers have debated the origin and significance of
Catarina. A crucial question is this: Was Catarina
simply a rare event at the outlying edge of the normal
bell curve of South Atlantic weather, just as, for
example, Joe DiMaggio's incredible fifty-six-game
hitting streak in 1941 represented an extreme
probability in baseball (an analogy made famous by
Stephen Jay Gould)? Or was Catarina a "threshold"
event, signaling some fundamental and abrupt change of
state in the planet's climate system?
Scientific discussions of environmental change and
global warming have long been haunted by the specter of
nonlinearity. Climate models, like econometric models,
are easiest to build and understand when they are
simple linear extrapolations of well-quantified past
behavior--that is, when causes maintain a consistent
proportionality to their effects.
But all the major components of global climate--air,
water, ice and vegetation--are actually nonlinear: At
certain thresholds they can switch from one state of
organization to another, with catastrophic consequences
for species too finely tuned to the old norms. Until
the early 1990s, however, it was generally believed
that these major climate transitions took centuries, if
not millennia, to accomplish. Now, thanks to the
decoding of subtle signatures in ice cores and sea-
bottom sediments, we know that global temperatures and
ocean circulation can, under the right circumstances,
change abruptly--in a decade or even less.
The paradigmatic example is the so-called "Younger
Dryas" event, 12,800 years ago, when an ice dam
collapsed, releasing an immense volume of meltwater
from the shrinking Laurentian ice sheet into the
Atlantic Ocean via the instantly created St. Lawrence
River. This "freshening" of the North Atlantic
suppressed the northward conveyance of warm water by
the Gulf Stream and plunged Europe back into a
thousand-year ice age. Abrupt switching mechanisms in
the climate system--such as relatively small changes in
ocean salinity--are augmented by causal loops that act
as amplifiers. Perhaps the most famous example is sea-
ice albedo: The vast expanses of white, frozen Arctic
Ocean ice reflect heat back into space, thus providing
positive feedback for cooling trends. Alternatively,
shrinking sea-ice levels increase heat absorption,
accelerating both further melting and planetary
Thresholds, switches, amplifiers, chaos--contemporary
geophysics assumes that earth history is inherently
revolutionary. This is why many prominent researchers--
especially those who study topics like ice-sheet
stability and North Atlantic circulation--have always
had qualms about the consensus projections of the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the
world authority on global warming.
In contrast to Bushite flat-earthers and shills for the
oil industry, these researchers base their skepticism
on fears that the IPCC models fail to adequately allow
for catastrophic nonlinearities like the Younger Dryas.
Where other researchers model the late-twenty-first-
century climate that our children will live with upon
the precedents of the Altithermal (the hottest phase of
the current Holocene period, 8,000 years ago) or the
Eemian (the previous, even warmer interglacial episode,
120,000 years ago), growing numbers of geophysicists
toy with the possibilities of runaway warming returning
the earth to the torrid chaos of the Paleocene-Eocene
Thermal Maximum (PETM: 55 million years ago), when the
extreme and rapid heating of the oceans led to massive
Dramatic new evidence has emerged recently that we may
be headed, if not back to the dread, almost
inconceivable PETM, then to a much harder landing than
envisioned by the IPCC. As I flew toward Louisiana and
the carnage of Katrina three weeks ago, I found myself
reading the August 23 issue of EOS, the newsletter of
the American Geophysical Union. I was pole-axed by an
article titled "Arctic System on Trajectory to New,
Seasonally Ice-Free State," co-authored by twenty-one
scientists from almost as many universities and
research institutes. Even two days later, walking among
the ruins of the Lower Ninth Ward, I found myself
worrying more about the EOS article than the disaster
The article begins with a recounting of trends familiar
to any reader of the Tuesday Science section of the New
York Times: For almost thirty years, Arctic sea ice has
been thinning and shrinking so dramatically that "a
summer ice-free Arctic Ocean within a century is a real
possibility." The scientists, however, add a new
observation--that this process is probably
irreversible. "Surprisingly, it is difficult to
identify a single feedback mechanism within the Arctic
that has the potency or speed to alter the system's
An ice-free Arctic Ocean has not existed for at least 1
million years; the authors warn that the earth is
inexorably headed toward a "super-interglacial" state
"outside the envelope of glacial-interglacial
fluctuations that prevailed during recent Earth
history." They emphasize that within a century, global
warming will probably exceed the maximum Eemian
temperature and thus obviate all the models that have
made this their essential scenario. They also suggest
that the total or partial collapse of the Greenland Ice
Sheet is a real possibility--an event that would
definitely throw a Younger Dryas wrench into the Gulf
If they are right, then we are living on the climate
equivalent of a runaway train that is picking up speed
as it passes the stations marked "Altithermal" and
"Eemian." "Outside the envelope," moreover, means that
we are not only leaving behind the serendipitous
climatic parameters of the Holocene--the last 10,000
years of mild, warm weather that have favored the
explosive growth of agriculture and urban
civilization--but also those of the late Pleistocene
that fostered the evolution of Homo sapiens in eastern
Other researchers undoubtedly will contest the
extraordinary conclusions of the EOS article and--we
must hope--suggest the existence of countervailing
forces to this scenario of an Arctic albedo
catastrophe. But for the time being, at least, research
on global change is pointing toward worst-case
All of this, of course, is a perverse tribute to
industrial capitalism and extractive imperialism as
geological forces so formidable that they have
succeeded in scarcely more than two centuries--indeed,
mainly in the last fifty years--in knocking the earth
off its climatic pedestal and propelling it toward the
The demon in me wants to say: Party and make merry. No
need now to worry about Kyoto, recycling your aluminum
cans or using too much toilet paper, when, soon enough,
we'll be debating how many hunter-gatherers can survive
in the scorching deserts of New England or the tropical
forests of the Yukon.
The good parent in me, however, screams: How is it
possible that we can now contemplate with scientific
seriousness whether our children's children will
themselves have children? Let ExxonMobil answer that in
one of its sanctimonious ads.
Mike Davis is the author of many books, including City
of Quartz, Dead Cities and Other Tales and the just-
published Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of
Avian Flu (The New Press), as well as the forthcoming
Planet of Slums (Verso).
Friday, October 07, 2005
posted by @netwurker at 4:13 pm
_Korea's High-Tech Utopia, Where Everything Is Observed_
IMAGINE public recycling bins that use radio-frequency identification technology to credit recyclers every time they toss in a bottle; pressure-sensitive floors in the homes of older people that can detect the impact of a fall and immediately contact help; cellphones that store health records and can be used to pay for prescriptions.
Satire in games is nothing new. Just take Grand Theft Auto, with all its outrageous talk radio, Ammu-Nation outlets and pop culture parodies. Yet social commentary in games is usually in the details, not fused into their central premise. Bad Day LA's satire isn't merely decorative, it's what the game is all about. - An Interview by Marek Bronstring
Thursday, October 06, 2005
posted by @netwurker at 7:13 am
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
posted by @netwurker at 7:06 am
The Times (UK)
Societies worse off 'when they have God on their side'
By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent
RELIGIOUS belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards
high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according
to research published today.
According to the study, belief in and worship of God are not only
unnecessary for a healthy society but may actually contribute to social
The study counters the view of believers that religion is necessary to
provide the moral and ethical foundations of a healthy society.
It compares the social peformance of relatively secular countries, such
as Britain, with the US, where the majority believes in a creator
rather than the theory of evolution. Many conservative evangelicals in
the US consider Darwinism to be a social evil, believing that it
inspires atheism and amorality.
Many liberal Christians and believers of other faiths hold that
religious belief is socially beneficial, believing that it helps to
lower rates of violent crime, murder, suicide, sexual promiscuity and
abortion. The benefits of religious belief to a society have been
described as its "spiritual capital". But the study claims that the
devotion of many in the US may actually contribute to its ills.
The paper, published in the Journal of Religion and Society, a US
academic journal, reports: "Many Americans agree that their churchgoing
nation is an exceptional, God-blessed, shining city on the hill that
stands as an impressive example for an increasingly sceptical world.
"In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator
correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult
mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the
"The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the
developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so."
Gregory Paul, the author of the study and a social scientist, used data
from the International Social Survey Programme, Gallup and other
research bodies to reach his conclusions.
He compared social indicators such as murder rates, abortion, suicide
and teenage pregnancy.
The study concluded that the US was the world's only prosperous
democracy where murder rates were still high, and that the least devout
nations were the least dysfunctional. Mr Paul said that rates of
gonorrhoea in adolescents in the US were up to 300 times higher than in
less devout democratic countries. The US also suffered from " uniquely
high" adolescent and adult syphilis infection rates, and adolescent
abortion rates, the study suggested.
Mr Paul said: "The study shows that England, despite the social ills it
has, is actually performing a good deal better than the USA in most
indicators, even though it is now a much less religious nation than
He said that the disparity was even greater when the US was compared
with other countries, including France, Japan and the Scandinavian
countries. These nations had been the most successful in reducing
murder rates, early mortality, sexually transmitted diseases and
abortion, he added.
Mr Paul delayed releasing the study until now because of Hurricane
Katrina. He said that the evidence accumulated by a number of different
studies suggested that religion might actually contribute to social
ills. "I suspect that Europeans are increasingly repelled by the poor
societal performance of the Christian states," he added.
He said that most Western nations would become more religious only if
the theory of evolution could be overturned and the existence of God
scientifically proven. Likewise, the theory of evolution would not
enjoy majority support in the US unless there was a marked decline in
religious belief, Mr Paul said.
"The non-religious, proevolution democracies contradict the dictum that
a society cannot enjoy good conditions unless most citizens ardently
believe in a moral creator.
"The widely held fear that a Godless citizenry must experience societal
disaster is therefore refuted."