Archive for October, 2006

Bad guys and the bomb

October 9th, 2006 52 comments

The news that North Korea has exploded an atomic bomb is easily the worst we’ve had since the end of the Cold War. Any hostile power with atomic weapons is orders of magnitude more dangerous than anything Al Qaeda can throw at us, and of course increases the likelihood that AQ will end up getting access to bombs. It also seems very likely that Iran will soon have its own bomb.

There’s no easy way this could have been stopped, but a bit more attention from the Bush Administration might have helped.

The biggest problem though is the general acceptance, which has emerged in the past 10 to 15 that any major power that wants nuclear weapons is entitled to have them, unless it’s a ‘rogue state’ like North Korea. Of course, in these circumstances, everyone excluded from the club is more eager than ever to join. More importantly, getting a serious co-ordinated efforts to stop proliferation, since no one really takes the Non-proliferation Treaty seriously any more. We’re about to undermine it by exporting uranium to India, and in doing this, we’re only recognising the realities. India and Pakistan, among others, are less blameworthy than the existing nuclear powers, which have made it clear that they have no intention of fulfilling the commitments they made, under the Non-Proliferation treaty to eventual disarmament. Particularly for Britain and France, doing so would have no strategic consequences, but would entail an admission that they are, and have been for decades, middle-sized countries of no particular importance, and not Great Powers. How can represenatives of these countries keep a straight face while pointing to the dangers of proliferation?

All that said, there are some hopeful signs. The only way to bring any real pressure to bear on the North Korean government is through China and, for the moment, the rhetoric coming out of Beijing suggests that they might do something.

Categories: World Events Tags:

Monday message board

October 9th, 2006 23 comments

It’s time, once again for the Monday Message Board. As usual, civilised discussion and absolutely no coarse language, please.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

Giving war a chance

October 7th, 2006 37 comments

I missed this piece by Gene Healey at the time, but it’s well worth a read. Healey a libertarian points out that the neocons don’t merely support lots of particular wars, they are pro-war on principle. Tim Lambert made the same point a while back.

Along the same lines, Spencer Ackerman at The New Republic on the Right’s Vietnam syndrome

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Weekend reflections

October 6th, 2006 17 comments

Weekend Reflections is on again. Please comment on any topic of interest (civilised discussion and no coarse language, please). Feel free to put in contributions more lengthy than for the Monday Message Board or standard comments.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

Common sense on climate change

October 5th, 2006 70 comments

Public opinion isn’t always a reliable guide, but, given time, and a reasonable hearing of the issues, ordinary people get most things right in the end. The Lowy Institute survey released recently illustrates this with respect to climate change. Respondents were given three choices of viewpoint on climate change, as follows

There is a controversy over what the countries of the world, including Australia, should do about the problem of global warming. I’m going to read you three statements. Please tell me which statement comes closest to your own point of view.

Easily the most popular option, supported by more than two thirds (68%) of respondents, was that ‘global warming is a serious and pressing problem [and] we should begin taking steps now even if this involves significant costs’. A quarter (24%) of respondents agreed that ‘the problem of global warming should be addressed, but its effects will be gradual, so we can deal with the problem gradually by taking steps that are low in cost’. The least popular option, supported by only 7% of respondents, was that ‘until we are sure that global warming is really a problem we should not take any steps that would have economic costs’.

Not surprisingly, I agree with the majority, but I don’t have too much of a problem with the second position either. Kyoto is a low-cost first step, and gradualism is appropriate. The third position, which is pretty much that of John Howard, has even less support than I would have expected.

But where does this leave the denialists, who dominate the opinion pages of the Oz, and most of the rightwing blogosphere? Their view, that the whole thing is a hoax cooked up by greenies and scientists looking for grant money, wasn’t presented, but looking at the results it’s hard to believe it would attract more than 1 or 2 per cent of the population, on a par with theories that NASA faked the moon landings, or that the US government was behind 9/11.
Read more…

Categories: Environment Tags:

Concrete costs of inaction

October 5th, 2006 29 comments

I rarely agree with Jennifer Marohasy, but that’s all the more reason for noting our occasional points of agreement. This post points to an important policy failure, the replacement of timber sleepers by energy-intensive concrete throughout Australia’s rail network, with no apparent consideration of greenhouse costs.

Of course, you can’t expect an infrastructure company like he Australian Rail Track Corporation to do detailed climate auditing of all its input materials. As long as the greenhouse costs of concrete, and the benefits of timber, are not reflected in their prices, decisions like this will be made in construction projects of all kinds. So, we need to get a carbon tax or permits trading scheme in place as soon as possible.

Categories: Environment Tags:

October surprise in Austria

October 4th, 2006 9 comments

The Socialists won a surprise victory (or at least a plurality) in the recent Austrian elections. The outcome appears to promise a departure from power for Jorg Haider, although the combined vote of the far-right parties was still 15 per cent, which is disappointing.

For CT election-followers, the outcome is of interest in another respect. According to the reports I’ve read, all the polls and all the pundits got this one wrong. So, if betting markets got it right, that would be pretty strong support for claims about the wisdom of crowds. But my (admittedly desultory) scan hasn’t produced any info. Can anyone point to market odds for this outcome?
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New on the RSMG Web

October 4th, 2006 2 comments

There’s lots of interesting stuff up on the Risk and Sustainable Management Group website

In Branson’s Greenhouse Philanthropy? Mark Neal makes the point that Richard Branson’s recent moves to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are being driven by the approach of an emissions permits market, and make sound business sense.

Nanni Concu looks at Ethics of conservation versus ethics of development defends market-based instruments against recent criticism, and looks at Green choice. Also, Strategies for energy security links to the always-interesting Jeffrey Sachs.

On water, a central interest of the RSMG group, Mark covers the new Office of Water Resources, a BCA report urging action and the vexed question of recycling

Read, enjoy and comment

Categories: Environment, Metablogging Tags:

Academic blog wiki

October 4th, 2006 Comments off

Henry Farrell of Crooked Timber has set up a wiki directory for academic blogs. This sort of thing has been tried before, with varying degrees of success. For example, this Muisc blog wiki looks fairly lively. On the other hand Wikablog seems to pretty much moribund. The new one has the advantage of starting with the fairly extensive CT blogroll, supplemented by some discipline-specific lists.

Categories: Metablogging Tags:

Monday message board

October 2nd, 2006 35 comments

It’s time, once again for the Monday Message Board. As usual, civilised discussion and absolutely no coarse language, please.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

Dictatorial powers for Clinton ?

October 1st, 2006 68 comments

The passage by the US Congress of a bill that among other things abolishes habeas corpus for terrorism suspects, allows interrogation methods that would normally be classed as torture, and allows the President to declare legal residents of the United States to be enemy combatants has produced a predictably partisan divide. All but two Senate Republicans voted for the Bill (Lincoln Chafee opposed and Olympia Snowe did not vote), and most pro-Republican bloggers seem to have backed it with marginal qualifications.

Those of us who fear and distrust the Bush Administration naturally find it easy to see what harm could be done with powers like this. The Administration’s supporters, on the other hand, seem confident that only the likes of David Hicks and Jose Padilla have anything to fear.

So, for those who support the bill, it might be useful to consider the standard thought experiment recommended to all who support dictatorial powers for a leader on their own side. Think about what the other side might do with these powers.
Read more…

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