A Comment

Posted June 26, 2007 by ERG
Categories: Iran

Because of the apparently short-winded standards at the HuffPost regarding comment length (and my own long-winded nature) I place below my full comment/response to HW’s recent post, “Engaging the Other Iran.”

Is American policy towards Iran aimed at regime change or behavior change? The Bush administration’s approach to Tehran has been hampered by an unwillingness or an inability to explicitly decide on one policy or the other. And yes, they are mutually exclusive.

Westbrook is admirably clear on this most important distinction between the various approaches being advocated. Perhaps chastened by Iraq, Westbrook is outright opposed to undertaking military action to topple the regime in Tehran. “We have already seen the disaster wrought by American-sponsored regime change,” Westbrook writes. “Better not to repeat the mistake.”

Yes, we better not. But the corollary to this position is a willingness to live with a nuclearized Iran. It has long seemed to me that many of the people who are four-square against military action (either by Israel or the USA) to divert the Iranian’s nuclear ambitions fudge the fact that this means they have decided that it would be less dangerous in the long-run to deal with a nuclear Iran than to deal with the ramifications of a (quite reasonably unsuccessful) military strike. It is not an unreasonable position, I just think intellectual honest demands clarity on this point. Too many, particularly on the left, want it both ways.

And yes, though I am not familiar with the Iranian scene, indications for a long time are that a large percentage of the young and urban have an insatiable hunger for American culture and some form of liberalized politics. But as Neil MacFarquhar explained in a harrowing front page story in the Sunday New York Times, these very same people are getting the crap beaten out of them by theocratic thugs doing the dirty work of the Mullahs and Ahmadinejad. But MacFarquhar also noted that this tide of repression “is occurring against the backdrop of an economy so stressed that although Iran is the world’s second-largest oil exporter, it is on the verge of rationing gasoline.”

And so self-interest and solidarity demands that America support these liberalizing forces. It is here that Westbrook’s analysis is so keen, and where it diverges from many on the interventionist right (i.e. hang out at The Corner on National Review Online and in the pages of The Weekly Standard and Commentary) who seem to think a public American embrace is something other than what it is: A Fatal Embrace. Laura Secor got it right in her contribution to a typically top-notch TNR symposium on Iran. And it is equally correct to call on America to greatly expand the number of student visas available to Iranian scholars, journalists and activists. But as The Chronicle of Higher Education has pointed out in a series of recent articles, intellectuals and scholars from a wide variety of countries – including Iran – are having a terrible time getting visas.

The security concerns are real, but the culture at INS and Homeland Security needs to shift from foot-dragging and ass-covering to doing everything possible to open up America to those who are coming for the right reasons, especially from countries like Iran. Because in the end, America itself is its most potent weapon against the forces of theocracy and intolerance.


Another Moment of Shameless Self-Promotion

Posted June 14, 2007 by HW
Categories: Shameless Self-Promotion

My first contribution to The Huffington Post can be read here.  Arianna – I fall at your feet a thousand times.

(Above: a sculpture of Paris Hilton naked and dead, with doggie)

Enough With the Obscenity Bullshit Already

Posted June 13, 2007 by HW
Categories: Shameless Self-Promotion

Or so I argue in my latest Guernica column.

Where Are the Animaniacs When You Need ‘Em?

Posted June 11, 2007 by HW
Categories: Free Speech

A new report suggests web censorship by governments around the world is on the rise. Certainly I myself couldn’t hop on Wikipedia when I was in China, which was a real bitch when it came to settling bar disputes. Troubling as the report’s findings are I can’t help but feel that the rise in internet repression must be tied to a greater rise in internet use by people who until recently had no way to reach the world or organize and opine so easily. The picture of internet freedom is not static. How much longer can tyrants keep the screws on such a dynamic form of expression?

Update: An interesting and rare case of Yahoo! speaking out against Chinese internet repression. Only one problem: it involves a case in which Yahoo! enabled that repression.

Further update: the lovely image I got off the internet has been whisked away to be replaced by this ruddy great copyright symbol. I’ve been censored!

Oh well, fuck it:

Getting Warmer

Posted June 11, 2007 by HW
Categories: Holy Flurking Shnit!

For those of you avidly following the slugging match between myself and bullying science blogger Kate of The Anterior Commissure on the topic of global warming, I highly recommend reading New Scientist‘s “Climate Change: A guide for the perplexed.” This feature is billed as a debunking of climate change myths (perpetrated mostly by its deniers) so some of its tone is a little testy, but overall this is the most comprehensive and fair-minded analysis of climate change and its attendant controversies I’ve read, a welcome change from the usual alarmist and poorly contextualized coverage. I will say that perhaps too many counterarguments are rejected by referring to the IPCC report as holy writ, side-stepping the accusations of critics that the reports themselves are a product of an over-hyped and politicized point of view. Then again, the IPCC reports do seem to represent the current consensus of climate scientists and I’ve seen no particularly compelling critique that suggests they should simply be dismissed.

Overall, the picture that emerges is of a broad consensus among climate scientists that a significant process of climate change is occurring, caused in great part by the release of extra CO2 into the atmosphere from man-made sources. This theory is based on CO2’s properties as a “greenhouse gas,” which means that CO2, along with various other gases in the atmosphere, absorbs radiation from the sun and so causes the atmosphere to get warmer. This, coupled with a strong correlation between CO2 levels and global temperature observed far back into the past (by tapping into air bubbles trapped in polar ice and the like), leads to the conclusion that the extra CO2 produced by us naughty humans is causing and will cause global temperatures to rise. While short-term weather conditions are too chaotic to predict with great accuracy, aggregate climate conditions over much longer periods of time – decades or centuries say – can in fact be predicted with some accuracy, as the parameters within which the climate oscillates – such as absorption of the sun’s radiation – are far more stable.

The extent to which temperatures will rise and what the effect of those changes will be are a lot more unclear, however, with climate modelers conceding that major factors such as cloud cover and the release of sulphate aerosols* into the atmosphere – and the assumptions that they make about them – create a good deal of uncertainty about what’s in store. It is, for instance, rather unclear whether warming oceans will create ever more ferocious hurricanes or instead produce cuddly little kitten storms. And many of the drastic changes reported in the newspapers with such alarm are in fact forecast to occur only over the next 100 years.

None of this is to suggest that action isn’t warranted. Let me put it this way: rather than basing pretty much our entire civilizational prosperity on carbon-based fuel, wouldn’t it be better to try and find an alternative to carbon-based, non-renewable energy sources, stores of which may run out in the course of our lifetimes and reliance on which puts us at the mercy of psychotic fundamentalists, grotesque dictators and delusional butchers while their emissions make our climate radically unpredictable at best and intensely damaging to life, liberty and the energy-intensive pursuit of happiness at worst?

How’s that for some anthropocentric thinking, AC? (The rest of you Yanks could take some convincing.)

*A product of heavy industry whose concentration in the atmosphere is thought to have actually had a cooling effect from 1940 to 1970, and which ironically was eliminated by clean air legislation. The heavy use of sulphates by newly industrializing nations such as China and India may have a similar effect, although some aerosols warm the atmosphere rather than cooling it.

Imus Protest

Posted June 6, 2007 by HW
Categories: Shameless Self-Promotion

That or start coming up with better titles. But it’s late in the day, so in lieu of that, read me bashing Bill O’Reilly for Guernica.

Porcine Pickle

Posted May 30, 2007 by HW
Categories: China

Turns out the Chinese have a strategic pork reserve salted away for a rainy, pig-poor day. As I can now attest from personal experience, the Chinese put pork in everything. Even the tickets I got to see the Terracotta Army smelt suspiciously like rashers of bacon. Now it seems they’ve gone one too many times to the trough like greedy, little … well, you get the idea. Fears are mounting that an apigalyptic doomsday is not far off. All this, ironically enough, taking place in the Chinese Year of the Pig (see above).

The good news for all those who fear imminent domination by the Chinese juggernaut is that we have now clearly located their Achilles’ trotter: if China gets too big for its britches, simply bomb the strategic pork reserve and squeal with delight as Hu Jintao surrenders to our will.