Saturday, August 27, 2011

Ugly Americans

Hard feelings continue in Wisconsin where Governor Scott Walker visited a private parochial school to read to the students, and protestors marched outside chanting superannuated slogans, bullying women and the school's headmaster, and acting like, well, like students in public schools too often act. All of this followed vandalism at the school the night before Walker's visit.

I don't know how many of these people are teachers themselves, but I sure hope for the sake of the profession that the number was zero. If this is how Wisconsin's public school teachers comport themselves it's no wonder parents opt for private schools for their children. Watching the video one can't help but be struck by the contrast between the behavior of the kids and the behavior of the adults in the street.
I wonder what would be said in the media if this sort of behavior occurred at a tea party rally. Since it was union members and their sympathizers behaving thuggishly it appears to have gone unnoticed. It is, after all, the sort of behavior the media apparently expects from such people.

HT: Hot Air

Blame the Sun for Climate Change

One of the arguments global warming folk employ is that man-caused (anthropogenic) greenhouse gas emissions are causing greater cloud cover in the atmosphere resulting in higher temperatures as those clouds trap more heat near the earth's surface. One counter-argument has been that anthropogenic greenhouse gasses are a relatively insignificant cause of cloud formation and that other factors such as volcanism and solar activity play a much greater role.

Andrew Orlowsky at The Register reports on a study conducted by CERN scientists and just published in the journal Nature which offers substantial support to the view that any global climate change presently occurring is the result of factors beyond our control and that the human contribution is relatively minor. Orlowsky writes:
CERN's 8,000 scientists may not be able to find the hypothetical Higgs boson, but they have made an important contribution to climate physics, prompting climate models to be revised.

The first results from the lab's CLOUD ("Cosmics Leaving OUtdoor Droplets") experiment published in Nature today confirm that cosmic rays spur the formation of clouds through ion-induced nucleation. Current thinking posits that half of the Earth's clouds are formed through nucleation.

This has significant implications for climate science because water vapour and clouds play a large role in determining global temperatures. Tiny changes in overall cloud cover can result in relatively large temperature changes.

Unsurprisingly, it's a politically sensitive topic, as it provides support for a "heliocentric" rather than "anthropogenic" approach to climate change: the sun plays a large role in modulating the quantity of cosmic rays reaching the upper atmosphere of the Earth.
CLOUD's lead physicist Jasper Kirkby is quoted in the accompanying CERN press release:
"We've found that cosmic rays significantly enhance the formation of aerosol particles in the mid troposphere and above. These aerosols can eventually grow into the seeds for clouds. However, we've found that the vapours previously thought to account for all aerosol formation in the lower atmosphere can only account for a small fraction of the observations – even with the enhancement of cosmic rays."

[Test] results confirm that cosmic rays increase the formation of cloud-nuclei by a factor of 10 in the troposphere, but additional trace gasses are needed nearer the surface.
CERN's supporting literature states that:
"[I]t is clear that the treatment of aerosol formation in climate models will need to be substantially revised, since all models assume that nucleation is caused by these vapours [sulphuric acid and ammonia] and water alone.
Orlowsky concludes:
[T]he father of the theory [of solar genesis of condensation nuclei] Henrik Svensmark says he believes the solar-cosmic ray factor is just one of four factors in climate. The other three are: volcanoes, a "regime shift" that took place in 1977, and residual anthropogenic components.

When Dr. Kirkby first described the theory in 1998, he suggested cosmic rays "will probably be able to account for somewhere between a half and the whole of the increase in the Earth's temperature that we have seen in the last century."
In short, if the findings of this research are accurate, by far the most significant factor in global warming is not the CO2 and other emissions we're pumping into the atmosphere but rather ionizing radiation produced by the sun and the rest of the galaxy. The earth may be warming, but, pace Al Gore, the extent to which humans are responsible is far from a settled matter.

There are lots of links at The Register.

The Tomasky Principle

So desperate are Mr. Obama's supporters to rescue his presidency from the ash heap of historical ignominy that they're writing pieces like Michael Tomasky's recent column in The Daily Beast. Mr. Tomasky concedes that Mr. Obama has been an unfortunate domestic-policy leader, but that he can still be a great foreign policy president. How? By standing aside and letting events run their course. If things work out well then it will redound to Mr. Obama's credit and history will judge him to be exceptional.

Perhaps in years to come those who teach leadership skills will call this the Tomasky Principle: Do nothing and hope you're lucky.

Let me quote to you from Tomasky's essay:
Barack Obama hasn’t been much of a domestic-policy president from nearly anyone’s point of view. And it’s a little hard to picture how he might ever be seen as such—that is to say, even if he’s reelected, he’ll probably have a Republican House or Senate (or both) that will thwart him at every turn, so the best he’ll be able to say is that he presided over a slow and very difficult economic recovery, which presumably will finally happen by January 2017. But foreign policy could be a completely different story. Here one can see how he might become not just a good but a great foreign-policy president.

Obama has been more in the mold of George H.W. Bush and his secretary of state, Jim Baker, when the Eastern bloc was throwing off Moscow’s shackles. Offer encouragement and stability, give a few speeches about freedom, but otherwise let them do their own work.

Obama took a lot of stick for not being more forceful on Egypt in February, but he was right to be cautious—there were lots of stakeholders involved, and sorry, but the president of the United States just can’t say every sweet thing romantics would like him to say. He then, as noted, took heat for moving too slowly on Libya, but here again he was correct. The nature of the Libyan regime is not a direct national-security issue, so there absolutely had to be a specific trigger to justify acting. That trigger was Gaddafi’s threatened assault on Benghazi.

That was completely the right thing to do. It was as textbook a fulfillment of “R2P,” or “responsibility to protect,” as one could imagine.One of the best things an American administration can do when big changes are afoot somewhere in the world is stay out of the way and not act as if we can will an outcome just because we’re America.

Next comes Syria. Conservatives are pushing Obama to take stronger steps. Maybe he should. I argued back in the spring, before Obama imposed sanctions on Assad, that he needed to be more forceful. But now he has imposed those sanctions and said Assad should step down. Doing much more seems dubious. Bashar al-Assad will go. It’s a matter of when. Better to let it play out. If a true R2P situation arises, then Obama will have to make some decisions. But it’s far better to let the Syrians do this themselves, if they can. We cannot prevent every casualty.

That’s starting to sound like a doctrine to me. Call it the doctrine of no doctrine: using our power and influence but doing so prudently and multilaterally, with the crucial recognition that Egypt is different from Libya is different from Syria is different from someplace else.

This does not yet greatness make. These dramatic changes have to work out for the better, and here the United States has a huge role to play. With respect to Libya, for example, we have control of about $37 billion in assets we can dole out to the transitional council. And yes, we probably are interested in its oil. But that doesn’t have to mean stealing it. All the Western countries that backed the rebels have to play a constructive and non- (forgive me for such a dated word) imperialist role in helping the country build its future.
Mr. Tomasky makes a virtue out of necessity. There's not much an American president can do in these situations so it's the mark of greatness to not do it. Historic presidents are those who stand aside and let events play out. If things go well then whoever is in the White House at the time will be seen as a foreign policy president of the highest accomplishment.

Thus, the time Mr. Obama spends on the golf course or on his numerous tax-payer subsidized vacations should be seen as his way of implementing the Tomasky Principle. He's not doing anything to shape events and is thereby proving his extraordinary talent and foreign policy skill.

Who would have thought that greatness could be achieved so easily?