February 2004

From his latest newletter (subscribe by emailing [email]newsandviews@chuckmuth.com[/email]).

When it comes to gay marriage, it’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world.

On the one hand, social conservatives who for years have been lamenting the federalization of the abortion debate, maintaining the hot social issue should have been left to the states, are now all for federalizing marriage in order to establish a national prohibition against same-sex nuptials – in much the same way their ancestors amended the Constitution to prohibit alcohol.
And we all know how THAT turned out.

On the other hand – the left one, that is – we’re finding born-again states’ righters in the personages of John Kerry, Teddy Kennedy, et. al. Would that their politically convenient new-found support for states’ rights extend beyond the issue of marriage. Fat chance.

But it’s the right that’s driving this debate, so any reasonable compromise solution is going to have to come out of the right. In order to do that, though, one first needs to recognize that there are two polar opposite ends within the conservative movement, as well.

On one end you’ll find conservatives such as columnist Andrew Sullivan who outright favor gay marriage and nothing less than gay marriage. On the other end you have folks such as Gary Bauer who oppose even the ability of states to recognize civil unions, let alone gay marriages.

Let’s stipulate that those two extremes aren’t likely to find any common ground any time soon. So what’s needed is a common-ground position which the rational center-right coalition – that is, the rest of us – can embrace. And that will mean focusing not so much on defining marriage as addressing judicial activism as a whole and preserving the core conservative
principle of states’ rights.

Which brings me to The Federalist. The Federalist is an online publication which is decidedly social conservative in nature, but with a strong bias toward the Constitution. They are unabashedly opposed to gay marriage and have actively opposed the “homosexual agenda” in their publication for a long time. Their social conservative bona fides are genuine, well-established and unimpeachable.

So when THEY say the Musgrave federal marriage amendment is the WRONG way to go, conservatives who support it ought to sit up and take note.

“In the end, this proposed marriage amendment does little more than bandage a lesion on a body consumed with cancer,” editorialized The Federalist recently. “In addition, it lends a false sense of security. If the issue — as President Bush presented in no uncertain terms — is the imminent threat of judicial activism (and indeed it is), then the only constitutional amendment we should be considering is one that addresses JUDICIAL ACTIVISM.”

Hoo-hah! Praise the Lord and pass the peas!

But the Federalist is far from alone in seeing the bigger picture in this debate.

“The key flaw is that Mr. Bush’s (marriage) amendment – like the failed prayer amendment of two decades ago – doesn’t address the core problem, which is that an unelected judiciary is running roughshod over the plain meaning of the Constitution, substituting its views on socio-political issues for those of the framers and the majority of the American people,” writes conservative columnist Jack Kelly. “In the unlikely event that the marriage amendment were successful, judicial overreach would be blocked in this one area. But the fundamental problem would persist.”

Now, if you’re on a religious jihad and just want to stick it gays…then stick with the anti-gay Musgrave amendment. But if you’re a true constitutional conservative who recognizes that the problem isn’t just judicial activism in the marriage debate, but judicial activism PERIOD,
then stick with the Federalist and Kelly.

Of course, some conservatives are intent on specifically addressing the marriage issue. If so, they might at least consider the Taranto Amendment, offered by “Best of the Web’s” James Taranto, as a compromise:

“Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to require any state or the federal government to recognize any marriage except between a man and a woman.” In other words, protect states’ rights without establishing a national one-size-fits-all ban on same-sex marriage.

Of course, even Taranto’s marriage-specific language won’t please the Sullivans or the Bauers at the far edges of the conservative movement, but it’s certainly reasonable common ground for the rest of us in the rational middle.

I think a majority of Americans believe that committed gay couples should receive similar legal protections to those afforded committed straight couples. Not all of the latter category are legally married and none of the former category can make that claim, at least until very recently. But let us suppose that we go with the notion that gays can enter into a civil union that provides each partner with the same rights as a married couple enjoy. When John and Mark or Patricia and Millicent decide that they should enter into a civil union and legalize their relationship then they may well want to celebrate the event. If they choose to call the celebration a wedding and the relationship a marriage, then that’s what they are, at least in the eyes of their friends and family. As I see it, granting gays the right to enter civil unions with the same legal status as marriage is virtually the same as legalizing gay marriage. If they call their civil unions marriages, then that’s what they are. It comes down to a matter of labels.

Bush should not have touched the issue, just like he should not have touched immigration. All he did was energize his opponents, annoy important supporters, and distract from far more important issues.

Now, if Bush really was serious about protecting the traditional heterosexual institution of marriage, he should call for the repeal of the laws that take money from taxpayers and gives it to the mothers of illegitimate children. I’ve no moral objection to single mothers, but I sure don’t like my tax dollars funding programs that give single mothers incentives to have babies and reduce the incentive for fathers to assume their parental responsibilities.

Michael E. Mann, assistant professor of Climatology in the Department of Environmental Science at the University of Virginia is famous for the historical temperature graph published in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) draft report of Jan 2000 and the actual report of 2001. In contrast with the bulk of previous research on climate over the last 1000 years, Mann’s graph, as published by the IPCC, shows a very slight cooling trend for 900 years with minor variations, followed by a sharp up-tick in the 20th century. That distinctive shape led to his graph being described as a “hockey stick”.

The "Hockey Stick"

This new picture of climate over the last 1000 years stood in sharp contrast to the graph published by the IPCC in 1995. That graph clearly shows the Medieval Warming Period (MWP) that lasted from 1000 AD to 1450 AD followed by the Little Ice Age (LIA) that lasted from 1450 AD until 1900 AD.

Original IPCC Chart

Mann’s new graph also directly contradicted masses of historical and scientific evidence that documented both the MWP and the LIA. Mann claimed that:

Our results suggest that the latter 20th century is anomalous in the context of at least the past millennium. The 1990’s were the warmest decade, and 1998 the warmest year, at moderately high levels of confidence.

This claim has become received wisdom, even within the scientific community. Certainly, the environmental movement takes it as gospel and opinion makers and politicians have followed suit. The debate has moved from whether or not global warming is actually happening or even what is causing the observed changes (other than the assumption that it is CO2) to a discussion about what can be done to ameliorate the impact. Still, not everyone has bought into the “hockey stick”. Mann’s research has been criticized on a number of grounds. The 20th century temperatures were based on land based temperature records while the temperatures for earlier centuries were based on proxy measures of temperature, primarily tree ring cores. This is an apples-to-oranges comparison that should never have passed peer review. The 20th century ground based records do not correlate very well with satellite based readings of the upper atmosphere, which show far less warming. Moreover, the satellite readings are corroborated by readings from weather balloons. These show negligible warming over the last few decades. Had Mann appended these readings onto his tree-ring readings, his graph would have been known as the billiard cue. It is also amazing that Mann would have the effrontery to claim “moderately high levels of confidence”. In reality, Mann’s margins of error are so large they could accommodate any number of wild swings in temperature over the last 1000 years. Mann’s claim that 1998 was the warmest year on record ignored that fact that that was the year of an exceptional El Nino event and not even Mann can claim that slight increases in CO2 precipitated El Nino events. Here’s the hockey stick again with the error ranges shown in yellow.

"Hockey Stick" with error range

Longer term analyses of temperature based on ice cores, for example, show that temperatures frequently increased and decreased in very short time spans. The graph shows temperatures estimated from ice-core samples going back into the last ice-age. This graph really is scary.

Temperatures over the last 50,000 years

There are also problems with Mann’s reliance on tree ring cores, particularly when they are not geographically dispersed, as David Legates points out in his TCS column:

But do proxy records really represent air temperature fluctuations? Most of the analyses on which the “hockey stick” relies are taken from tree-ring cores. Trees, however, respond not only to temperature fluctuations but also to species competition, fire episodes, pest infestations, and droughts. For example, if rainfall is limited, as often is the case in western North America (where the preponderance of data for Mann’s pre-A.D. 1400 analysis is located), tree growth is severely restricted, regardless of the temperature conditions. It is impossible under such conditions to discriminate between a cold period and a dry period — which is why Soon and Baliunas correctly characterized their assessments as “climate anomalies” rather than boldly assert they reflect air temperature fluctuations, as Mann does. Moreover, Dr. Jan Esper of the Swiss Federal Research Institute and colleagues demonstrated that their careful analysis of tree-ring chronologies yields an annual temperature curve for a large portion of the Northern Hemisphere that, unlike the “hockey stick,” clearly shows the existence of the Medieval Warm Period and that temperatures during the early years of the millennium were commensurate with those of the 1900s.

Soon and Baliunas followed Mann’s limited quantitative study with a qualitative study that reviewed 240 recent research papers that analyzed climate over the past 1000 years. They looked for climate anomalies rather than attempt to assign a global average temperature to each period. Their research clearly showed that the MWP and LIA were real events; the scientific evidence corroborates the historical evidence. The reaction to their work has been hostile and ad hominem. Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick obtained Mann’s original data and tried to reproduce his work. According to the abstract of their paper CORRECTIONS TO THE MANN et. al. (1998)PROXY DATA BASE AND NORTHERN HEMISPHERIC AVERAGE TEMPERATURE SERIES:

The data set of proxies of past climate used in Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1998, “MBH98” hereafter) for the estimation of temperatures from 1400 to 1980 contains collation errors, unjustifiable truncation or extrapolation of source data, obsolete data, geographical location errors, incorrect calculation of principal components and other quality control defects. We detail these errors and defects. We then apply MBH98 methodology to the construction of a Northern Hemisphere average temperature index for the 1400-1980 period, using corrected and updated source data. The major finding is that the values in the early 15th century exceed any values in the 20th century. The particular “hockey stick” shape derived in the MBH98 proxy construction – a temperature index that decreases slightly between the early 15th century and early 20th century and then increases dramatically up to 1980 — is primarily an artefact of poor data handling, obsolete data and incorrect calculation of principal components.

Mann and company responded to McIntyre and McKitrick in a series of exchanges that suggest Mann was having trouble supplying his opponents with his original data files and then blasting them for using the wrong data. It also reveals that Mann’ evidence against the MWP rests on just three data series. That is very slight evidence to cite against the preponderance of scientific and historical evidence for the MWP. The graph shows Mann’s original graph on top and the revised version that McIntyre and McKitrick derived from Mann’s datasets. Note how many datapoints lie above the base line in the revised version.

Mann vs M&M

There are valid reasons to be concerned about adverse human impact on the environment. But the current hysteria about global warming is diverting attention and resources away from addressing real environmental problems. Poor research that fits the climate activists’ agenda makes headline news while good news is ignored. I recently read about a study that claimed global warming was going to destroy 95% of the coral in the Great Barrier Reef by 2050. The author’s of the study do not address how the coral made it through the Medieval Warming Period, presumably because they assume it never happened – it isn’t on Mann’s IPCC sanctioned graph. They are simply assuming global warming of the order of 2°C to 6°C will occur over this century. Such is the power of Mann’s hockey stick. There are threats to the reef that are under human control; man can cut the flow of sediment, fertilizers and pesticides on to the reef. But, as in the past, the climate will vary and there won’t be much humanity can do about it. This will become abundantly clear when the current interglacial vacation ends. Climate activists claim that human induced greenhouse gas emissions will lead to a catastrophic increase in global temperatures. In their view, recent warming trends over the last century are solely due to human influence and mans’ burning of fossil fuels has disturbed a natural equilibrium that goes back at least a thousand years. Mann’s hockey stick is their proof and they deny that there even was a MWP or LIA. Mann himself denies that there ever was a warmer period than the 1990s over the last 1000 years. But the weight of scientific evidence will eventually break Mann’s hockey stick and the consensus view based on it, just as scholars eventually demolished the work of Foster and Bellesiles.

Here’s the link.. I learned in my youth that Rugby Union was a game for thugs played by gentlemen, and Soccer was a game for gentlemen played by thugs. It seems that Rugby League is what happens when you let the thugs play Rugby.

The Washington Post (registration required) has an article by Steve Coll on CIA attempts to work with Ahmed Shah Massoud, the charismatic leader of the Northern Alliance, in the fight against bin Laden and his al Qaeda organization.

Massoud also told the CIA delegation that U.S. policy toward bin Laden and Afghanistan was doomed to fail. The Americans directed all of their efforts against bin Laden and a handful of his senior aides, but they failed to see the larger context in which al Qaeda thrived. What about the Taliban? What about the Taliban’s supporters in Pakistani intelligence? What about its financiers in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates?

“Even if we succeed in what you are asking for,” Massoud told the CIA delegation, his aide and interpreter Abdullah recalled, “that will not solve the bigger problem that is growing.”

The CIA officers told Massoud they agreed with his critique, but they had their orders. The U.S. government rejected a military confrontation with the Taliban or direct support for any armed factions in the broader Afghan war. Instead, U.S. policy focused on capturing bin Laden and his lieutenants for criminal trial or killing them in the course of an arrest attempt. If Massoud helped with this narrow mission, the CIA officers argued, perhaps it would lead to wider political support or development aid in the future.

Massoud sure was right about that bigger problem. He also tried to do his part in taking out bin Laden:

Massoud ordered a mission. He rounded up “a bunch of mules,” as a U.S. official who was involved later put it, and loaded them up with Soviet-designed Katyusha rockets. He dispatched this small commando team toward the hills above Derunta.

After the team was on its way, Massoud reported his plan to Langley: He was going to batter bin Laden’s camp with rocket fire.

The CIA’s lawyers convulsed in alarm. The White House legal rules for liaison with Massoud had not addressed such pure military operations against bin Laden. The Massoud partnership was supposed to be about intelligence collection. Now the CIA had, in effect, provided intelligence for a rocket attack on Derunta. The CIA was legally complicit in Massoud’s operation, the lawyers feared, and the agency had no authority to be involved.

Massoud’s merry band sure were resourceful:

The agency sent out a team of mechanics knowledgeable about Russian helicopters. When Massoud’s men opened up one of the Mi-17s, the mechanics were stunned: They had patched an engine originally made for a Hind attack helicopter into the bay of the Mi-17 transport. It was a flying miracle.

That sounds like taking the engine out a Blackhawk and plugging it into a Chinook! But the Northern Alliance’s position was growing more precarious:

Massoud told them that he thought he could defend his lines in the northeast of Afghanistan, but that was about all. The United States had to do something, Massoud told the CIA officers quietly, or eventually he was going to crumble.

“If President Bush doesn’t help us,” Massoud told reporters in Strasbourg a few days later, “then these terrorists will damage the United States and Europe very soon and it will be too late.”

The CIA and Clinton administration officials had developed plans to assist Massoud in his desperate battle against the Taliban and al Qaeda but these were rejected as the Clinton administration entered its final days. It took the Bush administration months to develop a policy to deal with al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Members of the Bush Cabinet met at the White House on Sept. 4 [2001]. Before them was a draft copy of a National Security Presidential Directive, a classified memo outlining a new U.S. policy toward al Qaeda, Afghanistan and Massoud.

It had been many months in the drafting. The Bush administration’s senior national security team had not begun to focus on al Qaeda until April, about three months after taking office. They did not forge a policy approach until July. Then they took still more weeks to schedule a meeting to ratify their plans.

Among other things, the draft document revived almost in its entirety the CIA plan to aid Massoud that had been forwarded to the lame-duck Clinton White House — and rejected — nine months earlier. The stated goal of the draft was to eliminate bin Laden and his organization. The plan called for the CIA to supply Massoud with a large but undetermined sum for covert action to support his war against the Taliban, as well as trucks, uniforms, ammunition, mortars, helicopters and other equipment. The Bush Cabinet approved this part of the draft document.

On September 10th, Massoud was assassinated by two al Qaeda operatives posing as journalists. We all know what happened the next day. Had Massoud’s warnings been heeded and preemptive action taken against al Qaeda 9/11 may have been prevented.

The Drudge Report has an exclusive preview of Rowan Scarborough’s book Rumsfield’s War. Drudge notes that:

The book reveals how one such unit, the secret Grey Fox, could turn on cell phones without the enemy knowing it, allowing the CIA Predator to use the phone signal for a missile strike.

So why on Earth is this sort of information getting into the public domain? Did nobody in the media learn from what happened when some moron leaked the news that NSA could listen to Bin Ladin on his satellite phone?

We need a return to the standards of World War II when the civilized world was again under dire threat: leak secrets, die a traitor.

Read his piece on Kerry versus Edwards in the Daily Telegraph ( I think there is a relatively innocuous registration required). These two paragraphs had me in stitches:

So the race has come down to a weak default candidate v a glamorous insurgent who is not quite glamorous to insurge sufficiently. Other than that, there is not much to choose between them. Both men are enormously wealthy. Kerry was a blueblood of relatively minor means who married a woman worth $300 million and then traded up to a woman worth $500 million. If I were Teresa Heinz Kerry I’d be worried, now Massachusetts is introducing gay marriage, that hubby may start giving the come-hither look to some of the state’s elderly bachelor billionaires.

By contrast, John Edwards had a dirt-poor hard-scrabble childhood but managed to sue his way out of poverty. He has made 25 million bucks just from suing tobacco companies. His is an inspirational message: If I can do it, the rest of you haven’t a hope in hell. But fortunately I’ve got a thousand new government programmes and micro-initiatives that will partially ameliorate your hopeless mediocrity. (I paraphrase.)

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