Backtalk July 21, 2004

Dereliction of Duty

Outstanding article! Needed to be written.

On that paragraph:

“By mid-1998, the UN Special Commission had verified that the ‘intelligence’ provided UNSCOM, IAEA, CIA and MI6 in 1995 by Iraqi defector – General Hussein Kamel – was correct. Kamel had been in charge of all Iraqi WMD programs, and his orders – in the immediate aftermath of the Gulf War – that all WMD programs be discontinued and all WMD and associated materials be destroyed, had been obeyed.”

The question this raises is: Where was Clinton? Where were the Democrats? Clinton (don’t get me wrong, I’m a Clinton supporter) actually misled us about Hussein Kamel – perhaps as part of a bluff against Saddam and a wider policy of keeping Iraq contained – but why didn’t he set Congress straight when it really counted?

The founding fathers (well, all except Jefferson) feared that mob-ocracy might one day replace democracy. I think that happened in 2003 as war hysteria, paranoia crested. The Dems were so intimidated by what they deemed to be majority public opinion that they caved.

In the spirit of the founding fathers, I propose that Congress establish a new rule: in the event that war appears on the horizon, but the US does not face imminent threat, intelligence hearings should be triggered AUTOMATICALLY to review the intelligence underlying the case for war.

If we can’t rely on Congress’s conscience and intestinal fortitude, then there should be a law to fall back on.

~ Deborah Diamond-Kim

Role Reversal: A Response to Readers

I think if people would pay a little more attention when they read instead of reading with preconceived notions (having all the answers) they would do themselves a justice. Nancy Pelosi recently stated something to the effect that is wrong for the government to scare the people so that it can have more power over them. That’s right, Nancy Pelosi.

Does Mr. Robert’s article mean he is giving a blanket endorsement to all the words and actions of people like Gore, Byrd etc.? Of course not. What he pointed out is we as employers of the most dangerous government in all history due to the power it has, must treat our employees as guilty until they prove their innocence. We must scrutinize them as never before, before we give them control over our lives, liberties and properties.

What is happening is the “Republicans” have learned the secret to power the socialists posing as democrats have known for some time. What American in the traditional sense, wouldn’t vote for the democrat Andrew Jackson today? The people posing as Republicans are nothing more than another command class (group of socialists) hiding behind that label. Ron Paul is an enigma.

If I call myself a giraffe, does that make me one? People seem to think that way when someone cloaks himself in a label, which is done for self-gain nowadays more than to be taking a stand for something that is right. The “Republicans” have mastered the ways of the socialists/ Democrats and are making gains toward the common goal of taking control of the American society. Their “efficiency” makes the socialists/ Democrats look like dropouts.

Study the value system we inherited. How many of you have ever read the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, President Washington’s farewell address etc.? It is not good enough to say I support this guy because he “says” he is for the Second Amendment. Maybe he is saying it knowing you will blindly follow if he does. Forget the party and study the man. Zell Miller is more “Republican” than 95% of those calling themselves by that label.

Keep preaching Mr. Roberts. It took a long time for us to degenerate to this point and it is going to take a long time for the awakening which, hopefully, will come before it is too late

~ Wildey Moore

Paul Craig Roberts replies:

An intelligent reader is the reward for writing.

The New Energy ‘Crisis’ and Iraq

There is a problem with this post.

It assumes that depletion doesn’t happen. Depletion does happen – from the gold fields of California and the Yukon, the silver mines of the Incas to the diamonds of Kimberley, with any uncontrolled exploitation of any resource it is only a matter of time.

Just like in the story of the boy who cried “wolf,” there is a tendency to ignore the cries after too many false alarms. But it would be worthwhile to remember that the wolf did eventually come. And when he came they weren’t ready.

The continued oil output of Al-Ghawar is looking distinctly dodgy right now. In fact I personally had no idea just how bad it was. See “Surprised in October? A New World of Oil.” …

By the way, there is a good technical reason for why reserves keep growing without any new discovery. Campbell explains this very well – it’s because they are getting a better idea of what’s down there after all the years of exploration. Early on they could say between 3 and 9 billion barrels – so to be safe they say “3.” Later when then can say between 5 and 7 billion barrels, they say “5.” It is really that simple.

Oil producing countries have a much worse habit. Their OPEC quota depends on their stated reserves. They can also borrow money from the World Bank on the basis of those reserves – so, guess what? they grow magically with time without almost no regard for reality. No impartial reliable third party is ever allowed to audit these figures.

Now THAT is scary.

~ Joseph O’Ruanaidh

Sam Koritz replies:

I did not assume that depletion doesn’t happen, I argued that we’re not in an energy shortage crisis.

The crisis-alleging article that you’ve referenced is unconvincing. The author, Marshall Auerback, is a portfolio strategist for a money management firm famed for short-selling (not that there’s anything wrong with that); his company profits from investors’ fear of crisis. But even Auerback’s article refers to the fact that the energy market can adjust: “Without the unconventional oil from tar sands, liquefied natural gas and other deposits, world production would have peaked several years ago…”

If petroleum production were declining or if the sources of easily exploited oil were running out, prices would rise (given steady or rising demand and a free market). The rising prices would increase investors’ incentives for funding conservation and non-petroleum fuel technologies. The increased funding would accelerate the rate of fuel efficiency innovation, which would lower the price of fuel; hence, no crisis.

Switching among technologies and fuels is nothing new and should not be a cause for crisis. According to the Worldwatch Institute:

“Over the last 50 years, while consumption of fossil fuels grew substantially, the world undertook a transition in its usage of fossil fuels, from solids (coal), to liquids (oil) to gases (natural gas). While coal accounted for 62% of all fossil fuel consumption in 1950, this share dropped to 28% in 1998…. The share of oil substantially increased between 1950 and 1980, where it peaked at 45% of fossil fuel use, then declined to 43%.”

Let’s look at some charts. First, here’s a chart of solar power energy costs over time:

And here’s a chart of US vehicle fuel efficiency over time:

We can see a clear trend of falling solar energy prices. There’s also a pretty clear trend of rising vehicle fuel efficiency, with the up-trend starting shortly after the early ’70s “energy crisis” and continuing until just after Gulf War I (when oil prices fell by more than 50% and stayed relatively low throughout the rest of the ’90s). Now let’s look at the price of oil (inflation-adjusted) over time:

Unlike the first two charts, the oil price chart does not show a clear trend. Oil consumption (demand) has been in a clear up-trend so if supplies of easily harvested oil really were declining prices should also have tended to trend higher.

A Biologist: Isn’t the coming dearth of affordable oil backed up by a lot of exploration? In estimating the number of insect species, you can fog an area and see how many previously unknown species you find. You know how many species have been described, and with repetition of this exercise you can expand that number using the derived ratios of known/ unknown. Or in the case of estimating fish in a stream, if you don’t want to do mark-recapture techniques (which require random mixing and random recapture), you can use removal and see how quickly the standing stock is depleted. It seems to me that you can’t make an estimate for remaining oil without ongoing exploration. It’s not the amount of exploration that’s important; it’s the rate of success of that exploration. (By the way, shouldn’t we be getting better at exploration? We catch more fish now with less effort because we are better now at catching them than we used to be.)

Sam Koritz: Oil supply estimates vary greatly: from the fringe, but not disproved, peak oil theory which estimates only decades (at extrapolated rates of consumption) of remaining oil, to the the fringe, but not disproved, abiotic origin theory that suggests an abundance of oil for centuries. For a discussion of both, see “The Oilman’s Revenge.”

AB: Malthus predicted a mass starvation that didn’t happen. Or did it? I don’t know much about his economics, but I have heard of ecological footprinting studies which demonstrate that Britain, for example, requires much more land than it has to support its economy (including agricultural needs). If Britain was unable to appropriate resources from other countries, would there have been horrible starvation? Is starvation in the third world relevant to this discussion?

SK: The developed world, including Europe, has a glut of food, despite government programs that discourage food production (by funding relatively inefficient farms and by directly paying farmers to refrain from growing crops). The rich countries’ main trading partners and investment targets are other rich countries. The main exceptions to this rule (Japan decades ago, then Taiwan and Korea, and now China) have experienced rising living standards. Britain’s (alleged) reliance on foreign food isn’t expropriation, it’s wealth creation through division of labor. See David Ricardo’s theory (or “law”) of comparative advantage.

AB: If the human brain was truly the greatest resource (as Julian Simon is said to have said regarding population size), shouldn’t terribly overpopulated cities with healthy underground economies (e.g., Cairo) have no problem feeding their citizenry?

SK: Hernando de Soto writes about this subject and Cairo in particular in The Mystery of Capital.

AB: And on to Ehrlich and Simon. What if Ehrlich (or some less egomaniacal ecologist) had chosen a living resource like bluefin tuna, for example (between $100,000 and $200,000 per)? I know that Simon wrote the essay, “Are the Earth’s resources truly infinite? Yes!” [Actually, “Can the Supply of Natural Resources – Especially Energy – Really be Infinite? Yes!“] But I find his to be an untenable conclusion in at least the case of species extinction. I mean, people liked to eat passenger pigeons and there was a market for them. Then, poof! And now I would still pay money if they could be returned to our skies. Alas, I will die disappointed. The same will likely be true for those who seek a return to Beluga caviar.

SK: People have repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to consume to extinction unowned resources and many libertarians argue that extending private property relations to the entire natural world would either end most extinction or do a better job than the current system is doing of protecting species. But this isn’t relevant to my argument. I wasn’t arguing that humans would never consume all of the planet’s petroleum, just that a shortage of petroleum is unlikely to be the economic cause of a catastrophic crisis (barring war, trade war or other shock to the system) because the price mechanism will regulate its consumption and substitution.

AB: is my source for navigating all the crap out there about this war and many other things in the world. I identify with the viewpoints presented. But I am interested in the differences in my background and how it makes me see what I see, and the perspectives of those I read regularly. Thanks for comments.

I just had to laugh when I read Sam Koritz using the nonoccurrence of Thomas Malthus’s predicted mass starvation in Europe as an example of the nonexistence of linear resource depletion. Why did I laugh? Because you can get carbohydrates from photosynthesis or you can get them from petroleum-derived fertilizers. The mass starvation is being held back by the so-called “green revolution” which in fact is nothing more than the trading of petroleum calories for edible carbohydrates.

~ Kenneth Stailey

Sam Koritz replies:

The fact that a once-useless substance, petroleum, was used to (essentially) end mankind’s age-old battle against starvation in much of the world is an example of the sort of wealth-generation that I’m arguing makes the catastrophe-through-oil-shortage scenario unlikely. Kenneth Stailey seems to be implying that the Green Revolution was a fluke and that once the oil runs out we’re done for. The Green Revolution is far from unique, however; to give just one food-related non-petroleum example, even the demoralizing anti-capitalist documentary The Corporation argues that there’s plenty of milk in America (so we shouldn’t bother to use bovine growth hormone). And, as I mentioned, Julian Simon won his bet with Paul Ehrlich regarding mineral commodities due (at least in part) to this same tendency to get more from less.

Manufactured Confusion?

The Libertarian Party’s positions on the War in Iraq are not as enigmatic as they seem or as much of the material I have read on this site has made them out to be.

See Badnarik’s position paper here: “Military Policy and the War in Iraq.”

Also see what Harry Browne was doing on the eve of the war here: “George Bush, Lying, & the Dogs of War.”

The language contained on either of those sites is neither weak nor unclear. Mr. Raimondo may nitpick because the Libertarian party has not formulated something to do against the people of Israel for accepting our foreign aid for so long, but he should not criticize the LP for not focusing on the importance of this issue. Badnarik only focuses on the Constitution because he wants to prove that not only is the war on terrorism unethical, it is also illegal. His opposition to the war, even though in his language when speaking to a group of Libertarians already sympathetic to his message, may appear to be based only on process it is most assuredly not. In ineffectiveness the Libertarian Party is only surpassed by those that sit on the sidelines claiming to know how to do it better even though they may write pointed revelations of the evils of neoconservatives. And it is exactly knowing how to do it better that I believe is the source of this confusion.

~ Frank Mazzolli

Eric Garris replies:

The record is meaningless if it just appears on a website but he doesn’t talk about it.

Badnarik just had a 2000-word interview in the SF Chronicle and the word “Iraq” didn’t appear once. I have heard him interviewed on TV and he doesn’t mention foreign policy. His campaign has been asked by us to submit an article that is foreign policy oriented with certain guidelines, but nothing.

I wish that Badnarik was interested in promoting an antiwar position as a priority, but he has left it as a footnote.

I can understand Justin’s disappointment that Aaron Russo did not win the Libertarian Party’s nomination for President. (I contributed to Russo’s campaign both financially and as a volunteer at the convention and voted for him through all three ballots.) However, I am now optimistic that Michael Badnarik is going to do well. Aaron Russo is fully supporting him (See his photo with Michael on the Badnarik blog). I know that Justin is a great critic. I hope that he will have a change of heart and endorse Michael Badnarik for President because Badnarik is clearly against the war in Iraq.

~ George Whitfield

Whom Did Martha Stewart Kill?

The media picked up where the government left off in chastising Martha Stewart. It isn’t just a government run amuck; it’s a set of values that goes with power mongering. Serve us or die. Martha wasn’t humble enough, the media said. She needs to be more repentant. Her crime is defiance of a power structure which sits on the problems of society and promotes the values of corruption. Chastising their victims is their brand of humbleness.

~ G. Novak

The Oilman’s Revenge

“The same is true of the ridiculous, fateful maneuver recently perpetrated in Iraq: it was cheaper to usurp, use up and waste that $200+ billion of money and manpower resources of the American people to steal oil reserves from Iraq at gunpoint on behalf of western oil concerns and their customers than it would be to pay me and a bunch of other people $35-$125 per hour to go out to the distant wilds and find more oil in a truly responsible manner, which oil is definitely out there.”

The statement above comes from someone who does not understand the politics of corporations insisting that taxpayers pay for certain costs. If the oil industry paid the price to find, extract and secure oil supplies, oil price in the marketplace would bear its true cost. But now part of the cost is born by taxpayers (war and guarding oil supply lanes), therefore oil price in the marketplace is deceptively cheaper.

The price of deception is paid through instability of prices and the world economy.

~ Xiomara Zelaya

Decision in the Balkans

As someone said, we’ll have to live our history all over again, unless we learn it. The recent cases of inter-ethnic ruffle in Vojvodina, Serbia’s northern province, proved that point in a strangely precise way. U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos, obviously encouraged by the “excellent outcome” of Kosovo-Metohija agony where he, as some of his colleagues among US officials, even high-ranking ones (remember Albright and Holbrooke), was advocating the Serb-free, Albanianized “Kosova,” took the next step in his pretty little nation-building tour in Europe’s forgotten corner. In his letter to Serbia’s Prime Minister Kostunica, written in an-offer-you-couldn’t-refuse-style, Lantos begins:

“I am deeply troubled by the alarming escalation of anti-Hungarian, anti-Semitic and anti-Roma violence that has taken place in Vojvodina recently. The enclosed chronology details incidents of harassment and physical violence against non-Serbs, threats against ethnic Hungarian and pro-autonomy advocates, desecration of cemeteries, and vandalism of historic symbols.” …

Last spring (early June, if memory serves me right), in Novi Sad, Vojvodina’s biggest town, the province’s political and administrative center, an extremely unusual party took place. A group of Honved (Hungarian army during Horty’s fascist regime in Hungary) veterans held a “memorial assembly.” Bizarre as it was, their meeting was held inside the offices of a Magyar Szo, a state-funded daily newspaper in the Hungarian language. Therefore, the Nazi veterans had their fun at the expense of the taxpayers, mostly Serbs, the vast majority of Vojvodina.

…[A]fter the Nazi invasion in April 1941, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was occupied either by German Nazis, or their puppet-states (Croatian Ustashes, Hungary, Mussolini’s Italy, Bulgaria and “Greater Albania”). A great part of Vojvodina was invaded by fascist Hungary. Its army, the notorious Honveds, killed thousands of Serbs, Jews and Roma. Novi Sad was a stage of an outrageous massacre; in late January, 1942.. About 1400 people (more than 800 Jews, more than 500 Serbs, a smaller number of Roma, and even some antifascist Hungarians and Germans) were killed. Their bodies were thrown into the Danube River, by breaking its icy surface. Total numbers of killed in Novi Sad and it’s wider area estimates to the number of four thousand people. The policy of “the Final Solution” for “inferior” Serbs, Jews and Roma was the common goal for all Nazi-installed regimes in Balkans. It took more than a million lives in Ustashes’ “Independent State of Croatia,” but Horty’s fascists also did “their share.” It should be remembered – but a merry gathering of a “nostalgic octogenarian,” as some Hungarian politicians and intellectuals in Vojvodina advocated the Honveds’ reunion at the crime scene, can hardly be considered as a best way to remember.

Yes, it caused a great disturbance among Serbs in Vojvodina. Can anyone even imagine such a thing happening in, let’s say, France? Norway? New Zealand? No way. …

The authorities (neither Serbia’s nor Serbia-Montenegro’s) did not show any sign of disapproval. Not to mention their duty to properly react to ANY provocation that can cause inter-ethnic turmoil. Of course, it takes a responsible, decision-making and patriotic government. Not an Empire’s toy. Anyway, the fact that Serbia remained THE ONLY “multicultural” piece of ethnically-divided former Yugoslavia, with one-third of non-Serbian population, doesn’t seem to mean a thing. Furthermore, no matter how eager, “cooperative” and infinitely compliant the local “government” is (even to members of Empire’s Congress!?), the everlasting pariah-status is the best they get.

As Mr. Malic well pointed: “After all, why would one be courteous to slaves, especially those who serve eagerly?”

~ B. Kozich, Serbia-Montenegro

Nebojsa Malic replies:

I remember seeing a report about the Honved reunion, and the appearance of pan-Hungarian fliers in May and June, but I didn’t know about this wider context. Given that claims of “oppression” and “human rights violations” often precede Imperial military intervention, I’m inclined to believe that these claims are being orchestrated from the outside. But while certainly more appealing to the Empire for its public-relations potential, I don’t think pan-Hungarian nationalism is the major threat to Serbia’s northern province. Much worse are the “social-democrat” separatists led by Nenad Canak, a crass, unscrupulous statist who could have had a great career in yellow journalism. These are the “pro-autonomy” advocates Lantos is talking about. I would like to add that Lantos failed to secure support for his letter among the Hungarian caucus in the Congress, and that this letter – while perhaps representing the agenda of the Imperial policy-making establishment – does not speak for American Hungarians. If that is any consolation.

Experts Dispute Bush Line on Zarqawi

You folks are more biased in your own way, than a state run news bureau. How about some “objective” reporting? The scary part, is that you probably think you are being objective. Go read Thomas Barnett’s The Pentagon’s New Map. Given the logic, or in this case the lack thereof, exhibited in many of the articles on your website, It might prove a bit intellectually challenging, but you might actually learn something.

~ Martin Ellrick

Matthew Barganier replies:

What state news bureau did you have in mind? Fox News? By the way, Karen Kwiatkowski already reviewed Barnett’s book for us. Next time, try our fabulous search page before you ‘cuse us.

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