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Deconstructing the Climate Demagoguery of the Wine Country Wildfire Tragedies

By Jim Steele | Landscapes and Cycles | October 25, 2017

As sure as the winds will blow, climate demagogues hijack every human tragedy to amplify fears of rising CO2 concentrations. Despite that fact other critical factors were keys to understanding the devastation of the Wine Country fires, politicians like Hillary Clinton, Al Gore and Governor Jerry Brown were quick to proclaim climate change had made the fires worse than they would have been.

Climate researcher Kevin Trenberth has long tried to undermine the foundations of science by discarding the null hypothesis. Without formal testing whether a tornado, hurricane or wildfire event is within the expectations of natural variability, Trenberth simply asserts every tragedy is made worse by rising CO2. Accordingly, he is interviewed by climate change propagandists after every weather tragedy. In an interview with InsideClimateNews a few months before the Wine Country wildfires Trenberth continued to proselytize his views, “Whatever conditions exists, they’re always exacerbated by climate change. There’s always that heat variable, the increased risk.”

Indeed heat is always a variable, but usually it has nothing to do with CO2. Sadly, due to his extreme beliefs Trenberth often confuses climate with weather.

Similarly, Daniel Swain who authors a good California Weather Blog, unfortunately strays when he tries to interject CO2-climate change into an otherwise good weather analysis. Writing the fires should also be looked at from “the long-term climate context,” he argued the “record-hottest summer” dried out the vegetation exacerbating the fire conditions. But he too failed to separate natural climate and weather events from his hypothesized contributions from CO2. As will become clear from a more detailed analysis, climate change played no part in the wildfire devastation.

The Ignition Component

Fire danger rating systems analyze 1) an ignition component, 2) a fuel component and 3) a spread component to determine how to allocate fire-fighting resources and when to issue public alerts. Natural fires are caused by lightning, and so good weather models can forecast the short-term probability of lightning fires. Lightning fires are also more likely during warm and moist seasons enhancing their window of predictability. Unfortunately, Cal Fire reports 95% of California fires are unpredictably ignited by humans.

Climate alarmists like Dr. Trenberth have blithely suggested global warming is increasing the fire season stating, “In the West, they used to talk about a fire season, the fire season used to be 60 days, then 90 days, and now they think it’s year-round. There’s no pause.” Tragically that uncritical belief in a climate-related extended fire season has been parroted by lay person and scientists alike. But the facts show the observed extended fire season is due to human ignitions. Blaming climate change is fake news!

In a 2017 paper researchers reported that across the USA from 1992 to 2012, “human-caused fire season was three times longer than the lightning-caused fire season and added an average of 40,000 wildfires per year across the United States. Human-started wildfires disproportionally occurred where fuel moisture was higher.” Furthermore “Human-started wildfires were dominant (>80% of ignitions) in over 5.1 million km2, the vast majority of the United States, whereas lightning-started fires were dominant in only 0.7 million km2.”

We can reduce some human caused ignitions. The Wine Country fires were not ignited by lightning but all observations suggest they were started by downed power lines in high winds. A year ago, California legislators introduced a bipartisan bill aimed at reducing wildfire ignitions from powerlines. Although governor Brown hypes the unsubstantiated dangers of climate change, he vetoed the bill which would have promoted real action to prevent well-known human causes of wildfires. Preventing powerline ignition could have prevented the Wine Country tragedy.

The Fuel Component

Fire ecologists will estimate a fire’s potential intensity by calculating the Energy Release Component (ERC), a measure of the potential heat energy per square foot. ERC is a function of the biomass both dead and alive, and the biomass moisture content. As fuels increase and as fuels dry the ERC increases. Live fuels are modeled such that maximum moisture content coincides with the peak growing season, and declines thereafter as the plants go dormant. Moisture content of dead fuels are modeled according to their diameters.

Depending on their diameters, dead fuels will lose moisture as they equilibrate with their dry surroundings at rates that vary from 1 hour to 1000 hours or more. To aid in firefighting management decisions, fuels are categorized into 4 groups as described in Gaining an Understanding of the National Fire Danger Rating System published by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group

1-Hour Time-lag Fuels “consist of herbaceous plants or round wood less than one-quarter inch in diameter. Also included is the uppermost layer of litter on the forest floor.” The ERC of these fuels and thus the fire danger, can change throughout the day. Dead grass as well as twigs and small stems of chaparral shrubs are 1-hour fuels, and those fine fuels sustained the rapid spread of the Wine Country fires. Assertions that recent and past summer droughts or decades of climate change had dried the fuels and exacerbated the Wine Country fire danger have absolutely no scientific basis. The approach of the hot, bone-dry Diablo Winds would have extracted all the possible moisture from the dead grasses and chaparral twigs within hours, regardless of past temperatures. Trenberth and Swain simply confused rapid weather changes with climate change.

The critical “long-term context” they never discussed is that a century of fire suppression allowed destructive levels of fuel loads to develop, increasing the biomass component of the ERC estimate. As populations grew, so did the demand to suppress every small fire that could threaten a building. Natural small fires reduce the fuel load, whereas fire suppression allows fast drying fuels to accumulate. Unfortunately, fire suppression only delays the inevitable while stocking more fuel for a much more intense blaze. Local officials and preservationists have long been aware of this problem, and controlled burns to reduce those fuels were being increasingly prescribed. Tragically, it was too little too late.

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Figure 1: A prescribed control burn in Wine Country

10-Hour Time-lag Fuels are “dead fuels consisting of round wood in the size range of one quarter to one inch in diameter and, very roughly, the layer of litter extending from just below the surface to three-quarters of an inch below the surface.” The fuel moisture of these fuels vary from day to day and modeled moisture content is based on length of day, cloud cover or solar radiation, temperature and relative humidity.

100-Hour Time-lag Fuels are “dead fuels consisting of round wood in the size range of 1 to 3 inches in diameter and, very roughly, the forest floor from three quarters of an inch to four inches below the surface.” Moisture content of these fuels are also a function of length of day (as influenced by latitude and calendar date), maximum and minimum temperature and relative humidity, and precipitation duration in the previous 24 hours.

Much of the chaparral shrubs produce twigs and stems in size ranges of the 1-hr, 10-hr and 100-hr fuels. These fuels were most likely the source of burning embers that high winds propelled into the devastated residential areas. Again, these dried out fuels are the result of a natural California summer drought and short term weather conditions such as the bone-dry Diablo Winds that arrive every year.

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Figure 2 Moisture content of 3-8 inch diameter fuels from March to December

1000-Hour Time-lag Fuels are “dead fuels consisting of round wood 3 to 8 inches in diameter or the layer of the forest floor more than about four inches below the surface or both”. These larger fuels are more sensitive to drought conditions that existed months earlier, so it could be rightfully argued that a hotter drier July and August made these fuels more flammable in October and exacerbated the fires.

Fire ecologists planning prescribed burns to reduce fuel loads, wait until the 1000-Hr fuels’ moisture content is reduced to 12% or lower. If these larger fuels are dry, it is certain the smaller fuel categories are dry as well, so that all fuels will be highly flammable. As seen in the graph above (Figure 2) 1000-hr fuels reach that critical dryness threshold by July 1st and remain below that threshold until mid-October when the rains begin to return. Contrary to Trenberth’s blather, California’s fire season has always lasted 90+ days. Undoubtedly the unusually hot and dry 2017 summer would have lowered 1000-hr fuel moisture content even further. Nonetheless those fuels become naturally flammable every summer. Furthermore, these larger fuels were less often burned and thus insignificant factors in regard to the fires rapid spread. The rapid spread of the fires was due to consumption of the rapidly drying fuels.

Swain is fond of finding a “record setting” metric to bolster his climate change assertions. As such, he noted the “record-hot summer had dried out vegetation to record levels” and linked to a graph tweeted by John Badoglio showing October ERC values for the past 30 years were at a record high in 2017 (in part because of delayed rains). However, that “record” was also largely irrelevant. The ERC calculation is heavily biased by the greater biomass of the larger 1000-hr fuels that would indeed get drier as the autumn continued without rain. Still those larger fuels were insignificant contributors to the rapidly spreading fire. As seen below (Figure 3), the grasses have been entirely burnt while the larger shrubs and trees, as well as the woody debris near the base of the trees (in the upper left) have not been consumed. In fact many of the trees are still alive. The potential energy estimated by the “record ERC” was only partially realized. It was the fast-drying dead grass and chaparral shrubs that turned potential ERC into meaningful fiery heat.

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Figure 3

The Spread Component

“The spread component is defined as “the theoretical ideal rate of spread expressed in feet-per-minute.” Wind speed, slope and fine fuel moisture are key inputs in the calculation of the spread component, thus accounting for a high variability from day-to-day.” Thus, a combination of dry fuels and high winds typically result in fire-watch and red-flag warnings one day and no warnings days later as the winds subside. Forest rangers are well aware that September and October bring the powerful Diablo Winds of Santa Rosa as well as the Santa Anas of southern California, and with those winds comes the highest fire danger.

Cliff Mass is an atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington and author of the superb Cliff Mass Weather and Climate blogs. An October 16th post provides an excellent summary of the metorological conditions that created the fierce winds driving the Wine Country fires. In essence, a strong approaching wind flow (the Diablo Winds) coupled with a thermal inversion near the top of the mountains that border the Santa Rosa valley, accelerated winds into a 60 to 90 mile per hour downslope wind event, a phenomenon known as a mountain wave. Those high winds snapped power line poles and ignited fires. The regional topography also funneled the winds and fire down the valley, taking dead aim at the heart of Santa Rosa. The topography had guided a similar fire in 1964, the Hanley fire, which was started by a carelessly discarded cigarette. Unfortunately without much concern, most of the burnt homes in the Tubbs fire had been built on top of the burnt grounds of that previous Hanley fire, despite public protests.

Were those high winds perhaps exacerbated by climate change? Highly unlikely!

The Diablo Winds affecting Santa Rosa or the Santa Annas of southern California are driven by cooling seasonal temperatures in the high deserts to the east. The inner continent cools faster than the oceans, setting up a pressure gradient driving the winds toward the coast. The winds then heat adiabatically rising 5 degrees Celsius for every 1000 feet of elevation descent. An adiabatic rise in temperature means no added heat from any source and basic physics tells us temperatures can rise adiabatically simply due to compression. Thus an air mass that originated near Flagstaff Arizona at a 6,900 foot elevation, could adiabatically warm by 30 degrees as it reaches sea level.

The flow direction of winds are largely driven by unequal seasonal changes in temperatures. During the summer the interior heats faster than the oceans, such that a cooling onshore wind reduces interior temperatures. This pattern reverses in the autumn as the interior lands cool faster than the ocean creating an inland high pressure that drives the Diablo and Santa Anna winds toward the coast. Despite declining solar insolation, this autumn wind flow causes coastal California to experience some of its hottest days of the year in September and October, commonly referred to as Indian summer. Similarly a pressure system that inhibited the cooling onshore winds around San Francisco, resulted in a record hot summer temperature. By simultaneously opposing cooling sea breezes while bringing warm winds that were adiabatically 5 to 10 degrees warmer, temperatures rise and relative humidity falls. The result is bone-dry hot Diablo winds that suck the moisture from land and vegetation wherever the winds pass.

To restate the forces driving the winds, the Diablo winds are the result of a pressure gradient resulting from an interior that cools cooler faster than the ocean. If CO2 is warming the earth to any significant extent, then we would expect that warming to prevent the inner continent from cooling as quickly as it did decades ago. Thus CO2-global warming would predict a decline in that pressure gradient and a weakening of these winds.

To summarize, none of the fire components- ignition, fuels, or spread – had been affected by climate changes.

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Finally, keen observers will notice that entire blocks of houses, and entire neighborhoods were completely burnt to the ground, in contrast to neighborhood trees that often remained relatively unscathed. This suggests that the high winds rapidly carried burning embers from the grassland and chaparral into these developments. While the trees did not trap the embers, the buildings did. I would expect we will soon hear about investigations inquiring into why these residences were not required to erect more fire safe structures, especially when built in a known fire-prone habitat in a high wind corridor. The simple requirement of constructing eaves in such a manner that prevents the trapping of burning embers and fire-proof roofs may have saved many homes.

Indeed there are many lessons that will allow us to prevent such wildfire disasters in the future if we have accurately determined the causes of these fires. Cliff Mass notes that our short-term weather models had accurately predicted the time and place of the fiercest winds. That information could be used to temporarily shut down the electrical grid where power lines are likely to ignite fires. We can bury power lines below ground. We can remove the high fuels loads that accumulated during a century of misguided fire suppression. Insurance companies can demand higher rates unless proven precautions are undertaken. It is those lessons that Gore, Clinton, Brown should be promoting to inform the public. Trenberth and Swain should be informing the people of the natural weather dangers that are inevitable. There is no evidence that climate change, whether natural or anthropogenic, exacerbated the ignition, fuels or spread components of these deadly fires. And worse, their obsessed belief that rising CO2 concentrations worsen every tragedy only distracts our focus from real life-saving solutions.

Jim Steele is Director emeritus Sierra Nevada Field Campus, San Francisco State University and author of Landscapes & Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism

November 5, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Scientists and media continue to spread misinformation about polar bears & walrus

BY Susan Crockford | Polar Bear Science | November 5, 2017

“Lies” might be a better word to characterize the misinformation that scientists and the media have been busy spreading to the public over the last few weeks. The information is either known to be false (by scientists whose job it is to relay facts honestly) or is easily shown to be false (by journalists whose job it is to fact-check their stories).

Churchill polar bear and walrus 2017

Polar bear misinformation

Earlier this month, biologist Nick Lunn was interviewed by the CBC and for the news program The National. He stated outright, without qualification, that Western Hudson Bay polar bear numbers have dropped from about 1200 (in 1987) to about 800 now (a 33% decline).

However, it is not scientifically appropriate to compare these figures because they were based on different types of surveys conducted over different portions of the region (they are also statistically insignificant). Lunn should know better because the published reports (Dyck et al. 2017; Stapleton et al. 2014; Lunn et al. 2016) make it clear these numbers are not comparable.

The official Western Hudson Bay estimate accepted by the PBSG in 2014, and by the IUCN in 2015, is 1030 bears (range 754-1406), based on the survey conducted by Stapleton and colleagues in 2011. Environment Canada considered the subpopulation ‘likely stable’ in 2014, an assessment upheld by the 2016 survey.

Because even the 2011 and 2016 Western Hudson Bay aerial surveys used somewhat different methods, the only population size numbers (subsets of each total) that can be compared are these:

2011 (949, range 618-1280)

2016 (842, range 562-1121)

The slight apparent decline over 5 years (11%) was not statistically significant (Dyck et al. 2017, pg. 3, 37) and is therefore equivalent to no change.

Similarly, when differences in methodology and statistical significance are taken into account, the estimate for 2016 cannot be said to be different from the 2011 estimate of 1030 bears (Stapleton et al. 2014), which was not statistically different from the estimate of 935 (range 794-1076) calculated in 2004 (Regehr et al. 2007).

‘Likely stable’ is probably the best way to characterize this result.

However, biologist Andrew Derocher has also been guilty of misrepresenting the facts on the Western Hudson Bay population status over the last few weeks:

And…

— Andrew Derocher (@AEDerocher) September 14, 2017

And…

Bottom line: The 2011 estimate of 1030 cannot be compared to the 2016 estimate of 842 (or to the 1987 estimate of 1200) because these numbers were generated using different methods. Lunn and Derocher know this: it’s their job to know. But  it’s their job to honestly relay scientific facts to the public, not an interpretation of those facts they’d prefer to be true.

Ironically, all this hype is being promoted as Hudson Bay seems gearing up for the earliest freeze-up in decades (here, here, and here).

In the chart below, grey ice (dark purple) is thick enough for an adult male polar bear to walk on. The new ice could still get blown out into the bay if the wind is right (from the south) but that does not seem likely under conditions of freezing cold temperatures, snow, and west and northwest winds at Churchill (for 5-8 November).

Walrus misinformation

Walrus female Point Lay Alaska_Ryan Kingsbery USGS

Here is Christopher Booker (The Telegraph, 4 November 2017) on the walrus nonsense being told by the BBC via its news body and its documentary series, “Blue Planet II”.

“… the BBC yet again [claimed] that Arctic ice is rapidly vanishing, supported on BBC News by a clip from David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II series, intoning that, among species most “seriously affected” by global warming, are walruses, showing hundreds of them desperately squeezing on to a melting ice floe.

But there are one or two little problems with this BBC version of the facts. First, far from Arctic ice vanishing, there has been no further downward trend in the extent of its summer melting since 2006. Its lowest point this September was higher than in seven of the past 11 years.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has found that there are so many more of them than there were 30 years ago that last month that it decided not to list Pacific walruses on its endangered species list.

Secondly, far from walruses being “seriously affected”, an exhaustive survey by the US Fish and Wildlife Service has found that there are so many more of them than there were 30 years ago that last month that it decided not to list Pacific walruses on its endangered species list.

Thirdly, what produced that 2016 spike in CO2 and global temperatures was not “human activity” but the unusual warming of the Pacific Ocean by an abnormally strong El Niño. It is this warming that causes the oceans to “outgas” more CO2, not the CO2 that causes the warming: as even the BBC was told when, in July last year, its website quoted the Met Office under the heading “El Niño likely to boost CO2 in 2016”.

Since that El Niño ended, however, the latest Met Office data show that ocean temperatures have dropped sharply, with global surface temperatures back to where they were in 2002. Which is why the BBC’s reporting of all this last week could scarcely have been a better example of what it likes to scorn as “fake news”.

I couldn’t have said it better myself, except to add that Atlantic walrus, which the Blue Planet II folks filmed for their documentary, also show no evidence of being negatively impacted by climate change or sea ice loss so far.

Such disgraceful journalist practice is no better than the reaction of the CBC Radio here in Canada last month (4 October) to the news that the USFWS would not list walrus as ‘threatened.’

Instead of getting a scientist on to explain to listeners the science backing the decision, it had a spokesperson from the litigious Centre for Biological Diversity advocacy organization on the show to present a boring and quite predictable rant about why she disagreed with the decision. Of course she’s disappointed: she authored the document that forced the USFWS to consider the listing!

Bottom line: Have journalists forgotten how to do their jobs or do they really believe their opinions on certain subjects give them free license to ignore the ethics of their profession?

Actually, I could ask the same question about the polar bear specialists.

References

Dyck, M., Campbell, M., Lee, D., Boulanger, J. and Hedman, D. 2017. 2016 Aerial survey of the Western Hudson Bay polar bear subpopulation. Final report, Nunavut Department of Environment, Wildlife Research Section, Iglolik, NU. http://www.gov.nu.ca/environnement/information/wildlife-research-reports#polarbear

Lunn, N.J., Servanty, S., Regehr, E.V., Converse, S.J., Richardson, E. and Stirling, I. 2016. Demography of an apex predator at the edge of its range – impacts of changing sea ice on polar bears in Hudson Bay. Ecological Applications, in press. DOI: 10.1890/15-1256

Regehr, E.V., Lunn, N.J., Amstrup, S.C. and Stirling, I. 2007. Effects of earlier sea ice breakup on survival and population size of polar bears in Western Hudson Bay. Journal of Wildlife Management 71:2673-2683.

Stapleton S., Atkinson, S., Hedman, D., and Garshelis, D. 2014. Revisiting Western Hudson Bay: using aerial surveys to update polar bear abundance in a sentinel population. Biological Conservation 170:38-47. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320713004618#

November 5, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science | | Leave a comment

‘A Deceptive New Report on Climate’

By Judith Curry | Climate Etc. | November 3, 2017

Red-teaming the the U.S. government’s Climate Science Special Report on the topic of sea level rise.

Steve Koonin has a new op-ed in the WSJ : A Deceptive New Report on Climate,  that clarifies the need for a Climate Red Team. Excerpts:

One notable example of alarm-raising is the description of sea-level rise, one of the greatest climate concerns. The report ominously notes that while global sea level rose an average 0.05 inch a year during most of the 20th century, it has risen at about twice that rate since 1993. But it fails to mention that the rate fluctuated by comparable amounts several times during the 20th century. The same research papers the report cites show that recent rates are statistically indistinguishable from peak rates earlier in the 20th century, when human influences on the climate were much smaller. The report thus misleads by omission.

This isn’t the only example of highlighting a recent trend but failing to place it in complete historical context. The report’s executive summary declares that U.S. heat waves have become more common since the mid-1960s, although acknowledging the 1930s Dust Bowl as the peak period for extreme heat. Yet buried deep in the report is a figure showing that heat waves are no more frequent today than in 1900. This artifice also appeared in the government’s 2014 National Climate Assessment, which emphasized a post-1980 increase in hurricane power without discussing the longer term record. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently stated that it has been unable to detect any human impact on hurricanes.

Such data misrepresentations violate basic scientific norms. In his celebrated 1974 “Cargo Cult” lecture, the late Richard Feynman admonished scientists to discuss objectively all the relevant evidence, even that which does not support the narrative. That’s the difference between science and advocacy.

These deficiencies in the new climate report are typical of many others that set the report’s tone. Consider the different perception that results from “sea level is rising no more rapidly than it did in 1940” instead of “sea level rise has accelerated in recent decades,” or from “heat waves are no more common now than they were in 1900” versus “heat waves have become more frequent since 1960.” Both statements in each pair are true, but each alone fails to tell the full story.

Several actions are warranted. First, the report should be amended to describe the history of sea-level rise, heat waves and other trends fully and accurately. Second, the government should convene a “Red/Blue” adversarial review to stress-test the entire report, as I urged in April. Critics argue such an exercise would be superfluous given the conventional review processes, and others have questioned even the minimal time and expense that would be involved. But the report’s deficiencies demonstrate why such a review is necessary.

Finally, the institutions involved in the report should figure out how and why such shortcomings survived multiple rounds of review.

Mr. Koonin was undersecretary of energy for science during President Obama’s first term and is director of the Center for Urban Science and Progress at New York University.

Steve Koonin has written an essay Critique of the Draft of the CCSR discussion of post 1900 sea level rise [link CSSR on SLR]

Read the whole thing, it is very concise and packs a well-documented punch.

November 4, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science | | Leave a comment

Russia-China Tandem Changes the World

By Gilbert Doctorow | Consortium News | October 23, 2017

Much of what Western “experts” assert about Russia – especially its supposed economic and political fragility and its allegedly unsustainable partnership with China – is wrong, resulting not only from the limited knowledge of the real situation on the ground but from a prejudicial mindset that does not want to get at the facts, i.e. from wishful thinking.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (UN Photo)

Russia may not be experiencing dynamic growth, but over the past two years it has survived a crisis of circumstance in depressed oil prices and economic warfare against it by the West that would have felled less competently managed governments enjoying less robust popularity than is the case in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Moreover, as stagnant as Russia’s GNP has been, the numbers have been on a par with Western Europe’s very slow growth.

Meanwhile, Russian agriculture is booming, with the 2017 grain harvest the best in 100 years despite very adverse climatic conditions from early spring. In parallel, domestically produced farm machinery has been going from strength to strength. Other major Industrial sectors like civil aircraft production have revived with the launch of new and credible models for both domestic and export markets.

Major infrastructure projects representing phenomenal engineering feats like the bridge across the Kerch straits to Crimea are proceeding on schedule to successful termination in the full glare of regular television broadcasts. So where is this decrepit Russia that our Western commentators describe daily?

The chief reason for the many wrongheaded observations is not so hard to discover. The ongoing rampant conformism in American and Western thinking about Russia has taken control not only of our journalists and commentators but also of our academic specialists who serve up to their students and to the general public what is expected and demanded: proof of the viciousness of the “Putin regime” and celebration of the brave souls in Russia who go up against this regime, such as the blogger-turned-politician Alexander Navalny or Russia’s own Paris Hilton, the socialite-turned-political-activist Ksenia Sochak.

Although vast amounts of information are available about Russia in open sources, meaning the Russian press and commercial as well as state television, these are largely ignored. The sour grapes Russian opposition personalities who have settled in the United States are instead given the microphone to sound off about their former homeland. Meanwhile, anyone taking care to read, hear and analyze the words of Vladimir Putin becomes in these circles a “stooge.” All of this limits greatly the accuracy and usefulness of what passes for expertise about Russia.

In short, the field of Russia studies suffers, as it also did during the heyday of the Cold War, from a narrow ideological perspective and from the failure to put information about Russia in some factually anchored framework of how Russia fits in a comparative international setting.

Just what this means was brought into perspective last week by a rare moment of erudition regarding Russia when professor emeritus of the London School of Economics Dominic Lieven delivered a lecture in Sochi at the latest Valdai Club annual meeting summarizing his take on the Russian Revolution of 1917.

Lieven, arguably the greatest living historian of imperial Russia, is one of the very rare birds who brought to his Russian studies a profound knowledge of the rest of the world and in particular of the other imperial powers of the Nineteenth Century with which Russia was competing. This knowledge takes in both hard and soft power, meaning on the one hand, military and diplomatic prowess and, on the other, the intellectual processes which are used to justify imperial domination and constitute a world view if not a full-fledged ideology.

Self-blinded ‘Experts’

By contrast, today’s international relations “experts” lack the in-depth knowledge of Russia to say something serious and valuable for policy formulation. The whole field of area studies has atrophied in the United States over the past 20 years, with actual knowledge of history, languages, cultures being largely scuttled in favor of numerical skills that will provide sure employment in banks and NGOs upon graduation. The diplomas have been systematically depreciated.

The result of the foregoing is that there are very few academics who can put the emerging Russian-Chinese alliance into a comparative context. And those who do exist are systematically excluded from establishment publications and roundtable public discussions in the United States for not being sufficiently hostile to Russia.

If that were not the case, one could look at the Russian-Chinese partnership as it compares firstly with the American-Chinese partnership created by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, which is now being replaced by the emerging Russian-Chinese relationship. Kissinger was fully capable of doing this when he wrote his book On China in 2011, but Kissinger chose to ignore the Russian-Chinese partnership though its existence was perfectly clear when he was writing his text. Perhaps he did not want to face the reality of how his legacy from the 1970s had been squandered.

What we find in Kissinger’s description of his accomplishments in the 1970s is that the American-Chinese partnership was all done at arm’s length. There was no alliance properly speaking, no treaty, in keeping with China’s firm commitment not to accept entanglement in mutual obligations with other powers. The relationship was two sovereign states conferring regularly on international developments of mutual interest and pursuing policies that in practice proceeded in parallel to influence global affairs in a coherent manner.

This bare minimum of a relationship was overtaken and surpassed by Russia and China some time ago. The relationship has moved on to ever larger joint investments in major infrastructure projects having great importance to both parties, none more so than the gas pipelines that will bring very large volumes of Siberian gas to Chinese markets in a deal valued at $400 billion.

Meanwhile, in parallel, Russia has displaced Saudi Arabia as China’s biggest supplier of crude oil, and trading is now being done in yuan rather than petrodollars. There is also a good deal of joint investment in high technology civilian and military projects. And there are joint military exercises in areas ever farther from the home bases of both countries.

I think it is helpful to look at this partnership as resembling the French-German partnership that steered the creation and development of what is now the European Union. From the very beginning, Germany was the stronger partner economically with France’s economy experiencing relative stagnation. Indeed, one might well have wondered why the two countries remained in this partnership as nominal equals.

The answer was never hard to find: with its historical burden from the Nazi epoch, Germany was, and to this day remains, incapable of taking responsibility in its own name for the European Union. The French served as the smokescreen for German power. Since the 1990s, that role has largely been transferred to the E.U. central bodies in Brussels, where key decision-making positions are in fact appointed by Berlin. Yet, France remains an important junior partner in the German-driven process.

The Russian-Chinese Tandem

One may say much the same about the Russian-Chinese tandem. Russia is essential to China because of Moscow’s long experience managing global relations going back to the period of the Cold War and because of its willingness and ability today to stand up directly to the American hegemon, whereas China, with its heavy dependence on its vast exports to the U.S., cannot do so without endangering vital interests. Moreover, since the Western establishment sees China as the long-term challenge to its supremacy, it is best for Beijing to exercise its influence through another power, which today is Russia.

Of course, in light of the E.U.’s Brexit troubles and Trump’s abandonment of world leadership, it is undeniably possible that China will step out of the shadows and seek to assume direction of global governance. But that would be problematic. China faces major domestic challenges including the transition of its economy from being led by exports to relying more on domestic consumption. That will absorb the attention of its political leadership for some time.

Kissinger, who has been an adviser to Trump, whispers in Trump’s ear about the importance of separating Russia from China, but Kissinger’s limited and outdated knowledge of Russia has caused him to underestimate the powerful motives behind the Russian-Chinese relationship. America’s less gifted and informed pundits are even more clueless.

For one thing, given the sustained hostility directed at Russia from the West in general and from Washington in particular, it is inconceivable that Putin would be wooed away from Beijing by some flirtatious “come hither” gestures from the Trump administration even if that were politically possible for Trump to do. One of Putin’s outstanding features is his loyalty to his friends and his principles as well as to his nation’s interests.

As Putin revealed during his address and Q&A at the Valdai Club gathering this past week, he now bears a deep distrust of the West in light of its having taken crude advantage of Russia’s weakness in the 1990s and by its expansion of NATO to Russian borders and other threatening actions. Whatever hopes Putin once may have held for warmer relations with the West, those hopes have been dashed over the past several years.

Putting personalities aside, Russian foreign policy has a commonality that is rare to see on the world stage: actions first, diplomatic charters later. Russia’s political relations with China come on top of massive mutual investments that have taken many years to agree on and execute.

In the same way, Russia is proceeding with Japan to work towards a formal peace treaty by first putting in place massive trade and investment projects. It is entirely foreseeable that the first step to the treaty will be the start of construction in 2018 of a railway bridge in the Far East linking the Russian island of Sakhalin with the mainland. The general contractor and engineering team is also in place: Arkady Rotenberg and his SGM Group. That bridge is the prerequisite for Japan and Russia signing a $50 billion deal to build a railway bridge linking Sakhalin and Hokkaido. This bridge will draw the attention of the whole region to Russian-Japanese cooperation. It could be the foundation for a durable and not merely paper peace treaty resolving the territorial dispute over the Kurile Islands.

Lost Opportunities

In light of these realities, it is puerile to speak of detaching Russia from China with the promise of normalized relations with the West. The opportunity to do that existed in the 1990s, when President Boris Yeltsin and his “Mr. Yes” Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev did everything possible to win U.S. agreement to Russian accession to NATO immediately following accession by Poland. To no avail.

Then again early in Putin’s presidency, the Russians made a determined effort to win admission to the Western alliance. Again to no avail. Russia was excluded, and measures were taken to contain it, to place it in a small box as just another European regional power.

Finally, following the confrontation with the United States and Europe over their backing of the 2014 coup in Ukraine, followed by the Russian annexation/merger with Crimea, and Russian support for the insurgency in Ukraine’s Donbas region, Russia openly was cast as the enemy. It was compelled to mobilize all of its friendships internationally to stay afloat. No state was more helpful in this regard than China.  Such moments are not forgotten or betrayed.

The Kremlin understands full well that the West has nothing substantial to offer Russia as long as the U.S. elites insist on maintaining global hegemony at all costs. The only thing that could get the Kremlin’s attention would be consultations to revise the security architecture of Europe with a view to bringing Russia in from the cold. This was the proposal of then President Dmitry Medvedev in 2010, but his initiative was met by stony silence from the West. Bringing in Russia would mean according it influence proportionate to its military weight, and that is something NATO has opposed tooth and nail to this day.

It is for this reason, the failure to seek solutions to the big issue of Russia’s place in overall security, that the re-set initiative under Barack Obama failed. It is for this reason that Henry Kissinger’s advice to Donald Trump at the start of his presidency to offer relief from sanctions in return for progress on disarmament rather than implementation of the Minsk accords regarding the Ukraine crisis also failed, with Vladimir Putin giving a firm “nyet.”

Implicit in the few American “carrots” being extended to Russia these days is its acceptance of the anti-Russian regime in Ukraine and its authority over the heavily ethnic Russian areas of the Donbas and Crimea, concessions that would be politically devastating to Putin inside Russia. Yet, that “normalization” would still leave the much milder but still nasty “human rights” sanctions that the U.S. imposed in 2012 through the Magnitsky Act, driven by what the Kremlin regards as false propaganda surrounding the criminal case and death of accountant Sergei Magnitsky.

The sting of the Magnitsky Act was to discredit Russia and prepare the way for it being designated a pariah state. It came amidst an already longstanding campaign of demonization of the Russian president in the U.S. media. In fact, to begin to find a halfway normal period of bilateral relations, you would have to go back to before George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, which Russia denounced along with Germany and France. The latter two powers got a tap on the wrist from Washington. For Russia, it was the start of a period of reckoning for its uncooperativeness with American global domination.

Demonizing Russia

As for Europe and Russia, the question is very similar. To find mention of a strategic relationship, firstly from the German Foreign Ministry, you have to go back to before 2012. And what constituted normality then? At the time, renewal of the E.U.-Russia cooperation agreement was already being held up for years, nominally over a difference of views on the provisions of E.U. law governing gas deliveries through Russian-owned pipelines. Behind this difference was the total opposition of the Baltic States and Poland to anything resembling normal relations with Russia, for which they received full encouragement from the U.S.

The rallying cry was to put a stop to Russia’s status as “monopoly supplier” to Europe as regards gas, but also oil. Of course, no monopoly ever existed, nor does it exist today, but determined geopolitical actors never let such details stand in the way of policy formulation.

This hostility also played out in the contest of wills between the E.U. and Russia over introduction of a visa-free regime for travel by their respective citizens. Here the opposition of Germany’s Angela Merkel, justified by her vicious characterization of Russia as a mafia state, doomed the visa-free regime and by the same token doomed normal relations.

All of this unfinished business has to be addressed and put right for there to be any possibility of the U.S. and the E.U. ending their hostility toward Russia and for the Kremlin to regain any trust toward the West. Even then, however, Russia would not surrender its valued relationship with China.

In my view, the de facto Russian-Chinese alliance matches the de jure US-West European alliance. The net result of both is the partition of the world into two camps. We now have, in effect, a bipolar world that broadly resembles that of the Cold War, though still in a formative stage since many countries have not signed on definitively to one side or another.

Of course, more-or-less neutral states were also a feature of the Cold War, creating what was called the group of Nonaligned Nations, led back then by India and Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia no longer exists, but India has continued its tradition of let both poles court it, trying to eke out the greatest benefit to itself.

To be sure, a great many political scientists in the U.S., in Europe and in Russia as well, insist that we already have a multipolar world, saying that power is too diffuse in the world today, especially considering the rise of non-state actors after 1991. But the reality is that very few states or non-states can project power outside their own region. Only the two big blocs can do that.

The theoreticians defending multipolarity speak of a return to the balance of power of the Nineteenth Century, invoking the Congress of Vienna as a possible model for today’s world governance.  This is an approach that Henry Kissinger laid out in 1994 in his book Diplomacy.

Within Russia, this concept has found support in some influential think tanks and is most notably associated with Sergei Karaganov, head of the Council of Foreign and Defense Policy. Nonetheless, I maintain that everyday realities of power will decide this question. And is there anything inherently wrong with this de facto bipolar world, assuming the tensions can be managed and a major war averted?

In my view, two large blocs are more likely to keep global order because the scope of activities by proxies can be reined in – as often happened during the Cold War – by big powers not wanting their various clients to disrupt a functioning world order. The tails are less likely to wag the dog.

Moreover, as regards the Russia-China strategic partnership or alliance, Western observers should take comfort and not take alarm. The rise of China is a given whatever the constellation of great powers may wish. The close embrace of Russia and China also can serve as a moderating influence on China, given Russia’s greater experience in world leadership.

For all of the above positive and negative reasons, the Russia-China relationship should be viewed with equanimity in Western capitals.


Gilbert Doctorow is an independent political analyst based in Brussels. His latest book, Does the United States Have a Future? was just published.

October 23, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , , | Leave a comment

Man Bites Dog: NYT Does Journalism

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | October 19, 2017

I often criticize The New York Times, Washington Post and other major mainstream media outlets for a very simple reason: they deserve it – especially for their propagandistic, unprofessional and reckless coverage of foreign crises.

But there are occasional moments when some reporter at an MSM outlet behaves responsibly and those instances should be noted at least under the classic definition of “news” – something that is unexpected – or as the old saying goes, “dog bites man is not news; man bites dog is news.”

One such moment occurred earlier this month when a Times science editor assigned science reporter Carl Zimmer to look into the mysterious illnesses affecting U.S. diplomats in the recently reopened U.S. embassy in Cuba.

About two dozen U.S. diplomats supposedly were suffering hearing loss and cognitive difficulties due to what has been labeled a “sonic attack.” The Trump administration blamed the Cuban government even though the Cubans claimed to be mystified and would seem to have little motive for disrupting a long-sought détente with Washington along with the expected boon to their tourist industry. President Trump “retaliated” by expelling 15 Cuban diplomats.

Zimmer recounted the background to his story in a reporter’s notebook piece on Oct. 6: “On Tuesday, Michael Mason, my editor on the science desk, shot me an email. Would I consider writing an article about ‘this sonic “attack” business’? I knew exactly what he was talking about. I had been vaguely puzzled about this business for months.”

Checking Out the Story

Zimmer then did what professional journalists are supposed to do: he started contacting impartial experts to get their assessments of what was possible, what was likely, and what didn’t make sense.

“I decided to try to find something out — not as a political reporter but as a science writer,” Zimmer wrote in the sidebar that accompanied his news article. “I usually base my ideas on scientific research that has matured far enough that it is beginning to get published in peer-reviewed journals. … I knew that an article on sonic weapons would be very different from the ones I usually write. …

“I learned there was not even an official medical report. I decided to try to draw some boundary lines for all the speculation swirling around the story. Is the idea of a sonic attack plausible, based on what scientists know about sound and the human body? …

“So I hit the phone. I didn’t want to talk with just anyone — I looked for people with lots of experience in research that had direct bearing on this question. I started with Timothy Leighton, whose job title at Southampton University is, literally, professor of ultrasonics and underwater acoustics. Better yet, Dr. Leighton has published the only thorough recent scientific review of the effects of environmental ultrasound that I’m aware of.

“When I interviewed Dr. Leighton and others, I made clear I didn’t expect them to solve this mystery; I just wanted them to reconcile the question with what we know through science. …

“The consensus was that it was extremely unlikely the diplomats were the victims of a sonic weapon. It would be necessary to rule out less exotic possibilities before taking that one seriously.”

Yet, despite this skeptical scientific consensus among experts, Zimmer noted, “The notion [of a sonic attack] has ricocheted like mad around the press, making it possible for readers to assume that [the sonic attack explanation] has been generally accepted by experts. But it most certainly has not. I’ll be curious to see if articles like mine can put the brakes on the speculation.”

Suspecting Putin

Well, Zimmer could have read the Times editorial in the same day’s (Oct. 6) newspaper for a partial answer. While critical of the Trump administration for rushing to judgment in blaming the Cuban government and expelling 15 diplomats, the editorial concluded: “The sonic attacks on Americans are too serious to be used for cynical political ends.”

So much for the editorial writers reading their own newspaper, but clearly they were driven by a higher agenda. A New York Times editorial about some unpleasant topic anywhere in the world these days wouldn’t be complete without taking the opportunity to blame Russia or, in this case, at least suggest Russia as a possible villain in the mystery.

The Times wrote: “Other parties, most notably Russia, must also figure as suspects: President Vladimir Putin would probably welcome a setback to American-Cuban relations.”

Yes, every possible conspiracy theory must somehow circle back to Vladimir Putin, a real-life Dr. Evil. When he is not plotting how to flood Facebook with images of puppies or manipulate Americans in their pursuit of Pokemon Go characters, he is building secret sonic weapons to disorient U.S. diplomats in Havana and provoke President Trump to act rashly (when we all know how cool and collected Trump normally is).

But I thought the earlier conspiracy theory was that Putin had secret videos of Trump cavorting with prostitutes in a five-star Moscow hotel – knowing years ago that Trump would surely become the U.S. president – and thus all Putin would have needed to do was call Trump up and tell his Manchurian Candidate to ship home some Cuban diplomats.

Why would the evil Putin go to the trouble of inventing a sonic weapon when simply pulling Trump’s puppet strings would have done the trick? Perhaps it’s just that Putin is so evil that he delights in dastardly tricks for the sheer sadistic joy of hurting people. Yes, that must be the ticket!

Once again, the Times editors seem to be onto something – if only they could rein in their one journalist who still seems to think it’s necessary to report a story by seeking out genuine experts who don’t have some ax to grind or some lucrative government contract to audition for. It saves so much time and energy to just blame Putin.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.

October 20, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Single Payer and the Failure of Democrats in West Virginia

Morgan County USA | October 18, 2017

Congressman Alex Mooney is the former chair of the Republican Party in Maryland. But now he’s a congressman from the second Congressional district of West Virginia.

Talley Sergent

How did that happen? In 2014, Mooney saw that he wasn’t going to win anything in Maryland, so he crossed the bridge over the Potomac River and came on over to West Virginia.

Mooney should have been — and in 2018 should be — easily defeated. Mooney puts the interests of powerful out of state corporations over the interests of the people of his district. He is hardly ever seen in the district. (Instead, he does phone call town hall meetings.)

Aaron Scheinberg

 

Strike three and he should be out.

But he keeps winning.

Why?

Democrats in West Virginia are politically bankrupt.

Take for example the two declared Democratic candidates for the Mooney seat.

One is Talley Sergent. She’s a former public relations executive at Coca-Cola.

The other is Aaron Scheinberg. He has been endorsed by Congressman Seth Moulton of the New Democrat Coalition, a group that raises funds from Big Business and is seeking to move the Democratic Party to the right.

Both Sergent and Scheinberg refuse to take economic positions that would rile big business.

Both, for example, have refused to back the West Virginia Democratic Party platform’s call for a single payer, Medicare for All plan along the lines of HR 676.

HR 676 currently has 120 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives — none from West Virginia.

When asked about this, Scheinberg spokesperson Elizabeth Gale said that “Aaron believes that we have a duty to each other to ensure that all West Virginians have access to comprehensive health care.”

“As a veteran, Aaron is lucky to receive reliable, affordable health care through the VA,” Gale said. “He believes no one should to have to worry about losing or being denied health insurance. That will be a major focus of his agenda if he is elected. As far as commenting on specific bills, Aaron will wait until he can participate in the debate within Congress.”

But Margaret Flowers of Health Over Profit, said that the phrase “access to health care” is used by politicians across the spectrum to dodge the issue of single payer.

“Politicians will say that people have access to health care right now under the current system, it’s just that some people can’t afford it,” Flowers said. “Will Democrats say that a public option gives access to health care? The policies matter and candidates need to show that they understand what policies will solve the crises we face.”

“It is an unwillingness to take strong stances that is one of the reasons Democrats are doing so poorly. The majority of Democratic voters support single payer health care and it is a proven policy, so there is nothing controversial about supporting it. Voters are looking for candidates with the courage to take positions.”

While at Coca-Cola, Sergent worked to promote a Coca-Cola front group called the Global Energy Balance Network.

The message of the network? Exercise more and worry about calories less. Take the focus off of sugary drinks like Coke and put the focus on the couch potato behind the straw.

In August 2015, the New York Times exposed Coke’s front group in an article titled — Coca-Cola Funds Scientists Who Shift Blame for Obesity Away From Bad Diets.

The Times reported that Coca-Cola spent $1.5 million to start the organization.

“Health experts say this message [exercise more important than diet] is misleading and part of an effort by Coke to deflect criticism about the role sugary drinks have played in the spread of obesity and Type 2 diabetes,” the Times reported. “They contend that the company is using the new group to convince the public that physical activity can offset a bad diet despite evidence that exercise has only minimal impact on weight compared with what people consume.”

“This clash over the science of obesity comes in a period of rising efforts to tax sugary drinks, remove them from schools and stop companies from marketing them to children. In the last two decades, consumption of full-calorie sodas by the average American has dropped by 25 percent.”

“Coca-Cola’s sales are slipping, and there’s this huge political and public backlash against soda, with every major city trying to do something to curb consumption,” Michele Simon, a public health lawyer, told the Times. “This is a direct response to the ways that the company is losing. They’re desperate to stop the bleeding.”

One internal Coca-Cola email shows the head of Coke’s public relations department — Clyde Tuggle — reporting that “Talley has been leading some of our health and wellness work” and that “I’d like her to be my right hand and a core part of the team on this work going forward” — referring to the Global Energy Balance Network.

Gary Ruskin of the public interest group US Right to Know, which helped expose Global Energy Balance Network and make public the internal Coca-Cola emails, said that “Talley Sergent is perhaps the least qualified person in West Virginia to serve in Congress.”

“As a Coke public relations executive, Sergent helped perpetrate a deceit so egregious that it was exploded on the front page of the New York Times. She was a Coke handler for one of its front groups, the Global Energy Balance Network, and their efforts to snooker consumers and public health leaders, and to shield Coke from accountability for its role in helping to create the global obesity epidemic.”

“Now she wants to represent West Virginia in Congress. There is already enough deceit in Congress without her.”

“Coke’s role in West Virginia has been especially destructive of late. The state is suffering from some of the worst levels of obesity in the nation. In a notable insult to public health, the founding dean of the West Virginia University School of Public Health was a key Coke ally and a leader in Coke’s Global Energy Balance Network debacle. Gregory Hand left the deanship following the avalanche of negative news coverage about his role in the Coke deceit.  And now comes Talley Sergent.”

Sergent now says it was a mistake for Coca-Cola to fund the Global Energy Balance Network and that after the Times article ran, she helped move Coca Cola into a new, more transparent direction.

In response to an inquiry,  Sergent, a native of Huntington, West Virginia defended her work at Coca-Cola and took a barely veiled shot at Ruskin (based in Oakland, California), Scheinberg (who is originally from Cherry Hill, New Jersey) and Mooney (the former chair of the Republican Party in Maryland) as “outsiders.”

And Coca-Cola isn’t an outsider doing tremendous harm to the state?

“Isn’t West Virginia number one in obesity in the country?” Sergent was asked.

“We’re actually number two — behind Mississippi,” she said.

(Actually, according to a recent listing, West Virginia is number one — with a 37.7 percent obesity rate, with Mississippi coming in second with a 37.3 obesity rate.)

“Outsiders think they know voters here in West Virginia – shoot – we have folks from outside the state moving here just to run,” Sergent said. “But, like most West Virginians, I don’t take cues from special interests or outsiders, just the special people of my home state.”

“On my watch, the Coca-Cola Company transformed its approach to public health, owning up to its mistakes, becoming more transparent with its consumers and starting an open dialogue with the public health community. It wasn’t easy work but it was the right thing to do.”

“Now, I’m taking the same approach to Congress. We need a congresswoman who will take tough obstacles like health care head on, beginning with protecting and improving the Affordable Care Act, which will help break the cycle of opioid addiction, improve lives with preventive care and coverage for pre-existing conditions and encourage every West Virginian to live their best life. West Virginia needs a congresswoman who will stand up for the people and who welcomes an open dialogue with every West Virginian, no matter what. As congresswoman, I’ll do just that.”

But Sergent refused to commit to a public health campaign against sugary drinks or to a single payer, Medicare for All health program.

Some West Virginians aren’t giving up on Sergent or Scheinberg.

West Virginians Cathy Kunkel, Sally Roberts Wilson, and Lynn Moses Yellott, who are active members of grassroots organizations in the state advocating improved Medicare for All, have spoken with both Sergent and Scheinberg.

“We will continue to educate and push these candidates to support a single-payer Medicare for All system as the only real way to fix our broken healthcare system,” Kunkel, Wilson and Yellot said in a statement. “HR 676 is the only solution put forth that will enable the country to afford comprehensive care for everyone. We urge candidates to ask voters the question — ‘Since under expanded and improved Medicare for all, more than 95% of you will pay less through a fair tax than you now pay for premiums, co-pays, and deductibles, are you willing to convert the money you now pay for health insurance and out of pocket expenses to a fair tax so all in our country can have needed care?’ The grassroots will continue to educate and to push candidates to support National Improved Medicare for All.”

In addition to working for Coca-Cola, Sergent was the West Virginia director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign for President.

And unfortunately for the people of the second Congressional district, Sergent and Scheinberg appear to be playing by the same Clinton corporate playbook that brought us President Trump — and that will re-elect Congressman Mooney.

October 19, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science | , | Leave a comment

The Cardiff Bay Tidal Lagoon – can it power 1.3 million Welsh homes?

By Roger Andrews | Energy Matters | October 10, 2017

“Cardiff Tidal Lagoon is now being developed as the first full-scale lagoon in our programme. With a potential installed capacity of around 3GW, this project could provide enough green, clean home-grown power for every home in Wales.” Mark Shorrock, Chief Executive, Tidal Lagoon Power.

In this post we investigate this claim. The results, as usual, are predictable.

The Cardiff Bay tidal project sneaked in under my radar. In fact I didn’t even know about it until I came across the article recently featured in Blowout Week 196. It has yet to get the go-ahead from the government (and may never get it), but planning is obviously well along, with the project reportedly in its “twelfth design iteration”. In addition, a lengthy environmental impact scoping report has been completed and the project has just received approval to connect to the national grid. According to the schedule the project will generate its first power in 2022.

And Cardiff Bay is big. It will have a nominal capacity of around 3GW – the official number is 3.24GW – and is estimated to cost around £8 billion. Production will be approximately 5.5TWh per year (giving a capacity factor of around 20%). The lagoon covers 70 sq km and is enclosed by a sea wall 20.5 kilometers long. In short, it’s Swansea Bay times ten. Figure 1 shows the project layout. The lagoon takes up half the width of the Bristol Channel:

Figure 1: Cardiff Bay lagoon showing sea wall location and turbine inlets/outlets (red). From Tidal Power’s environmental scoping report

I’m not going into technical details here because these have already been dissected by Euan Mearns and myself in previous posts on the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project here and here. Instead I will concentrate on Mr. Shorrock’s claim that the project could “power … every home in Wales.”

The thing to remember about tidal power is that while it’s 100% predictable it’s also non-dispatchable, meaning that we can predict exactly when we won’t be able to dispatch it. And the reason it’s non-dispatchable is that the tide in the UK comes in and goes out twice a day and the lagoon generates power when the tide is ebbing or flowing, but no power at all when the tide turns. The result is four daily power spikes, separated by periods of zero generation, that bear no relation to fluctuations in demand. Figure 1 shows broadly what these spikes will look like. (No values are given on the Y-scale because the plot is purely illustrative. Values will come shortly):

Figure 2: Illustrative plot of daily tidal lagoon generation.

Another problem is the large difference in generation between spring and neap tides. Figure 3 shows Cardiff tide heights for October 2017. As discussed in the Swansea Bay post generation is a function of somewhere between the square and cube of the tide range, and as a result the Cardiff lagoon, were it in operation, would generate roughly ten times as much electricity per day during the spring tides around the 8th and 21st as it would during the neap tides around the 1st, 15th and 29th:

Figure 3: Cardiff tides, October 2017, data from Cardiff BSAC

Now we will turn to Welsh homes. According to the Census Bureau there are 1.3 million of them, and according to Energy UK the average UK household consumed 3,938 kWh of electricity in 2015, the last year for which I can find data. Assuming that Welsh households are average consumers then 1.3 million of them will consume 1.3 million times 3,938 kWh = 5.07Twh/year. This is less than the 5.5TWh Cardiff Bay is expected to generate. So far so good.

Now let us further assume that Cardiff Bay goes ahead and that its generation is evenly spread out between the 1.3 million Welsh households. Each household consumes 3,938kWh/year, representing an average load throughout the year of 0.45kW. But what does the household’s daily load curve look like? For want of better information I’ve assumed it’s the same as the total UK load curve, and after appropriate scaling I came up with the three load curves shown in Figure 4:

Figure 4: Daily load curves for the average Welsh household. Based on a graphic from energymag

Then I divided Cardiff tidal lagoon generation by 1.3 million households and superimposed it on the Figure 4 curves. The results for neap tides and spring tides are shown in Figures 5 and 6:

Figure 5: Comparison of Cardiff lagoon tidal generation (blue) with daily load curves for the average Welsh household, neap tides

Figure 5: Comparison of Cardiff lagoon tidal generation (blue) with daily load curves for the average Welsh household, spring tides. Tidal generation tops out around 2.3kW

What’s a Welsh homeowner to do about this? He or she has two options. Either fill a boxcar with storage batteries or believe Mr. Charles Hendry’s reassurance that National Grid can somehow smooth out these wild fluctuations:

There is an inevitable question about how the system could accommodate very significant volumes of power generation from tidal lagoons that may be predictable but not necessarily when demand is greatest. National Grid have been reassuring in their evidence to us that such power could be accommodated and managed, and as we move towards ‘smarter’ ways of managing energy demand, consumers will be more able to use power more cheaply when it is most plentiful.

Better get your washing done quickly, Mrs. Davies.

October 10, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Science and Pseudo-Science | | 1 Comment

The Slimy Business of Russia-gate

By Robert Parry | Consortium news | September 28, 2017

The “Field of Dreams” slogan for America’s NGOs should be: “If you pay for it, we will come.” And right now, tens of millions of dollars are flowing to non-governmental organizations if they will buttress the thesis of Russian “meddling” in the U.S. democratic process no matter how sloppy the “research” or how absurd the “findings.”

And, if you think the pillars of the U.S. mainstream media – The Washington Post, The New York Times, CNN and others – will apply some quality controls, you haven’t been paying attention for the past year or so. The MSM is just as unethical as the NGOs are.

So, we are now in a phase of Russia-gate in which NGO “scholars” produce deeply biased reports and their nonsense is treated as front-page news and items for serious discussion across the MSM.

Yet, there’s even an implicit confession about how pathetic some of this “scholarship” is in the hazy phrasing that gets applied to the “findings,” although the weasel words will slip past most unsuspecting Americans and will be dropped for more definitive language when the narrative is summarized in the next day’s newspaper or in a cable-news “crawl.”

For example, a Times front-page story on Thursday reported that “a network of Twitter accounts suspected of links to Russia seized on both sides of the [NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem] issue with hashtags, such as #boycottnfl, #standforouranthem and #takeaknee.”

The story, which fits neatly into the current U.S. propaganda meme that the Russian government somehow is undermining American democracy by stirring up dissent inside the U.S., quickly spread to other news outlets and became the latest “proof” of a Russian “war” against America.

However, before we empty the nuclear silos and exterminate life on the planet, we might take a second to look at the Times phrasing: “a network of Twitter accounts suspected of links to Russia.”

The vague wording doesn’t even say the Russian government was involved but rather presents an unsupported claim that some Twitter accounts are “suspected” of being part of some “network” and that this “network” may have some ill-defined connection – or “links” – to “Russia,” a country of 144 million people.

‘Six Degrees from Kevin Bacon’

It’s like the old game of “six degrees of separation” from Kevin Bacon. Yes, perhaps we are all “linked” to Kevin Bacon somehow but that doesn’t prove that we know Kevin Bacon or are part of a Kevin Bacon “network” that is executing a grand conspiracy to sow discontent by taking opposite sides of issues and then tweeting.

Yet that is the underlying absurdity of the Times article by Daisuke Wakabayashi and Scott Shane. Still, as silly as the article may be that doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous. The Times’ high-profile treatment of these gauzy allegations represents a grave danger to the world by fueling a growing hysteria inside the United States about being “at war” with nuclear-armed Russia. At some point, someone might begin to take this alarmist rhetoric seriously.

Yes, I understand that lots of people hate President Trump and see Russia-gate as the golden ticket to his impeachment. But that doesn’t justify making serious allegations with next to no proof, especially when the outcome could be thermonuclear war.

However, with all those millions of dollars sloshing around the NGO world and Western academia – all looking for some “study” to fund that makes Russia look bad – you are sure to get plenty of takers. And, we should now expect that new “findings” like these will fill in for the so-far evidence-free suspicions about Russia and Trump colluding to steal the presidency from Hillary Clinton.

If you read more deeply into the Times story, you get a taste of where Russia-gate is headed next and a clue as to who is behind it:

“Since last month, researchers at the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a bipartisan initiative of the German Marshall Fund, a public policy research group in Washington, have been publicly tracking 600 Twitter accounts — human users and suspected bots alike — they have linked to Russian influence operations. Those were the accounts pushing the opposing messages on the N.F.L. and the national anthem.

“Of 80 news stories promoted last week by those accounts, more than 25 percent ‘had a primary theme of anti-Americanism,’ the researchers found. About 15 percent were critical of Hillary Clinton, falsely accusing her of funding left-wing antifa — short for anti-fascist — protesters, tying her to the lethal terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012 and discussing her daughter Chelsea’s use of Twitter. Eleven percent focused on wiretapping in the federal investigation into Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, with most of them treated the news as a vindication for President Trump’s earlier wiretapping claims.”

The Neocons, Again!

So, let’s stop and unpack this Times’ reporting. First, this Alliance for Securing Democracy is not some neutral truth-seeking organization but a neoconservative-dominated outfit that includes on its advisory board such neocon luminaries as Mike Chertoff, Bill Kristol and former Freedom House president David Kramer along with other anti-Russia hardliners such as former deputy CIA director Michael Morell and former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers.

How many of these guys, do you think, were assuring us that Iraq was hiding WMDs back in 2003?

This group clearly has an ax to grind, a record of deception, and plenty of patrons in the Military-Industrial Complex who stand to make billions of dollars from the New Cold War.

The neocons also have been targeting Russia for regime change for years because they see Russian President Vladimir Putin as the chief obstacle to their goal of helping Israel achieve its desire for “regime change” in Syria and a chance to bomb-bomb-bomb Iran. Russia-gate has served the neocons well as a very convenient way to pull Democrats, liberals and even progressives into the neocon agenda because Russia-gate is sold as a powerful weapon for the anti-Trump Resistance.

The Times article also might have mentioned that Twitter has 974 million accounts. So, this alarm over 600 accounts is a bit disproportionate for a front-page story in the Times, don’t you think?

And, there’s the definitional problem of what constitutes “anti-Americanism” in a news article. And what does it mean to be “linked to Russian influence operations”? Does that include Americans who may not march in lockstep to the one-sided State Department narratives on the crises in Ukraine and Syria? Any deviation from Official Washington’s groupthink makes you a “Moscow stooge.”

And, is it a crime to be “critical” of Hillary Clinton or to note that the U.S. mainstream media was dismissive of Trump’s claims about being wiretapped only for us to find out later that the FBI apparently was wiretapping his campaign manager?

However, such questions aren’t going to be asked amid what has become a massive Russia-gate groupthink, dominating not just Official Washington, but across much of America’s political landscape and throughout the European Union.

Why the Bias?

Beyond the obvious political motivations for this bias, we also have had the introduction of vast sums of money pouring in from the U.S. government, NATO and European institutions to support the business of “combatting Russian propaganda.”

For example, last December, President Obama signed into law a $160 million funding mechanism entitled the “Combating Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act.” But that amounts to only a drop in the bucket considering already existing Western propaganda projects targeting Russia.

So, a scramble is on to develop seemingly academic models to “prove” what Western authorities want proven: that Russia is at fault for pretty much every bad thing that happens in the world, particularly the alienation of many working-class people from the Washington-Brussels elites.

The truth cannot be that establishment policies have led to massive income inequality and left the working class struggling to survive and thus are to blame for ugly political manifestations – from Trump to Brexit to the surprising support for Germany’s far-right AfD party. No, it must be Russia! Russia! Russia! And there’s a lot of money on the bed to prove that point.

There’s also the fact that the major Western news media is deeply invested in bashing Russia as well as in the related contempt for Trump and his followers. Those twin prejudices have annihilated all professional standards that would normally be applied to news judgments regarding these flawed “studies.”

On Thursday, The Washington Post ran its own banner-headlined story drawn from the same loose accusations made by that neocon-led Alliance for Securing Democracy, but instead the Post sourced the claims to Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma. The headline read: “Russian trolls are stoking NFL controversy, senator says.”

The “evidence” cited by Lankford’s office was one “Twitter account calling itself Boston Antifa that gives its geolocation as Vladivostok, Russia,” the Post reported.

By Thursday, Twitter had suspended the Boston Antifa account, so I couldn’t send it a question, but earlier this month, Dan Glaun, a reporter for Masslive.com, reported that the people behind Boston Antifa were “a pair of anti-leftist pranksters from Oregon who started Boston Antifa as a parody of actual anti-fascist groups.”

In an email to me on Thursday, Glaun cited an interview that the Boston Antifa pranksters had done with right-wing radio talk show host Gavin McInnes last April.

And, by the way, there are apps that let you manipulate your geolocation data on Twitter. Or, you can choose to believe that the highly professional Russian intelligence agencies didn’t notice that they were telegraphing their location as Vladivostok.

Mindless Russia Bashing

Another example of this mindless Russia bashing appeared just below the Post’s story on Lankford’s remarks. The Post sidebar cited a “study” from researchers at Oxford University’s Project on Computational Propaganda asserting that “junk news” on Twitter “flowed more heavily in a dozen [U.S.] battleground states than in the nation overall in the days immediately before and after the 2016 presidential election, suggesting that a coordinated effort targeted the most pivotal voters.” Cue the spooky Boris and Natasha music!

Of course, any Americans living in “battleground states” could tell you that they are inundated with all kinds of election-related “junk,” including negative TV advertising, nasty radio messages, alarmist emails and annoying robo-calls at dinner time. That’s why they’re called “battleground states,” Sherlock.

But what’s particularly offensive about this “study” is that it implies that the powers-that-be must do more to eliminate what these “experts” deem “propaganda” and “junk news.” If you read deeper into the story, you discover that the researchers applied a very subjective definition of what constitutes “junk news,” i.e., information that the researchers don’t like even if it is truthful and newsworthy.

The Post article by Craig Timberg, who apparently is using Russia-gate to work himself off the business pages and onto the national staff, states that “The researchers defined junk news as ‘propaganda and ideologically extreme, hyperpartisan, or conspiratorial political news and information.’

“The researchers also categorized reports from Russia and ones from WikiLeaks – which published embarrassing posts about Democrat Hillary Clinton based on a hack of her campaign chairman’s emails – as ‘polarizing political content’ for the purpose of the analysis.”

So, this “study” lumped together “junk news” with accurate and newsworthy information, i.e., WikiLeaks’ disclosure of genuine emails that contained such valid news as the contents of Clinton’s speeches to Wall Street banks (which she was trying to hide from voters) as well as evidence of the unethical tactics used by the Democratic National Committee to sabotage Sen. Bernie Sanders’s campaign.

Also dumped into the researchers’ bin of vile “disinformation” were “reports from Russia,” as if everything that comes out of Russia is, ipso facto, “junk news.”

And, what, pray tell, is “conspiratorial political news”? I would argue that the past year of evidence-lite allegations about “Russian meddling” in the U.S. election accompanied by unsupported suspicions about “collusion” with the Trump campaign would constitute “conspiratorial political news.” Indeed, I would say that this Oxford “research” constitutes “conspiratorial political news” and that Timberg’s article qualifies as “junk news.”

Predictable Outcome

Given the built-in ideological bias of this “research,” it probably won’t surprise you that the report’s author, Philip N. Howard, concludes that “junk news originates from three main sources that the Oxford group has been tracking: Russian operatives, Trump supporters and activists part of the alt-right,” according to the Post.

I suppose that since part of the “methodology” was to define “reports from Russia” as “junk news,” the appearance of “Russian operatives” shouldn’t be much of a surprise, but the whole process reeks of political bias.

Further skewing the results, the report separated out information from “professional news organizations [and] political parties” from “some ‘junk news’ source,” according to the Post. In other words, the “researchers” believe that “professional news organizations” are inherently reliable and that outside-the-mainstream news is “junk” – despite the MSM’s long record of getting major stories wrong.

The real “junk” is this sort of academic or NGO research that starts with a conclusion and packs a “study” in such a way as to guarantee the preordained conclusion. Or as the old saying goes, “garbage in, garbage out.”

Yet, it’s also clear that if you generate “research” that feeds the hungry beast of Russia-gate, you will find eager patrons doling out dollars and a very receptive audience in the mainstream media.

In a place like Washington, there are scores if not hundreds of reports generated every day and only a tiny fraction get the attention of the Times, Post, CNN, etc., let alone result in published articles. But “studies” that reinforce today’s anti-Russia narrative are sure winners.

So, if you’re setting up a new NGO or you’re an obscure academic angling for a lucrative government grant as well as some flattering coverage in the MSM, the smart play is to join the new gold rush in decrying “Russian propaganda.”

[For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’sThe Rise of the New McCarthyism”; “WPost Pushes More Dubious Russia-Bashing”; “The Crazy Imbalance of Russia-gate”; and “More Holes in Russia-gate Narrative.”]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.

September 28, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , | 3 Comments

How the Democratic Party Has Incurred Major Electoral Losses by Its Mistaken Support for Climate Alarmism

Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures

By Alan Carlin | Carlin Economics and Science | September 20, 2017

For inexplicable reasons the Democratic Party has in many ways made itself the “Green Party,” and thereby has incurred major electoral losses. Each time it loses as a result of its increasingly green ideology, it has responded by doubling down on its green bet. The underlying miscalculation they have made is a result of the fact that the presidency is decided by electoral votes, not popular votes. Most of the “environmentalists” live in strongly blue states and the red state “environmentalists” are widely scattered in the few large towns, particularly college towns. This was very evident in the 2016 election when Clinton won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote, with much of her surplus of popular votes coming from California. Hillary Clinton has now confirmed this view by writing that her statement on the loss of coal mining jobs was the single greatest mistake of her campaign.

In 2016 the Party went whole hog for climate alarmism by writing it into their party platform and even promising to end all use of fossil fuels by a date certain. Clinton also hurt her prospects in 2016 as a result of her remarks about the loss of coal mining jobs and her last minute endorsement of Al Gore and his strident climate alarmism. Yes, Clinton probably picked up some “environmentalist” votes, but most of them were in states that she was going to win anyway. And she probably lost votes in the states that Trump most needed to win for an electoral vote majority.

But a very good case can be made that the climate issue played a decisive role in the 2000 presidential election, the 2010 congressional election, as well as in the 2016 presidential election. Somehow the Party overlooked or misinterpreted what happened in 2000 and in 2010.

2000

Most people who remember the 2000 presidential election immediately think of the controversial outcome in Florida, which ultimately decided the election. But it would have had no influence if Al Gore had not lost West Virginia for the Democrats for one of the few times from 1932 to then. The deciding issue appears to have been climate and coal mining. In the end, Gore lost the presidential election by 3 electoral votes. West Virginia had 5 electoral votes that year. But all of them went to Bush primarily because of concerns about Gore’s views on climate and the likely effects of climate alarmism on coal mining, an important source of income in the State. West Virginia voted Republican in only three presidential elections from 1932 until 1996 but has become increasingly Republican in presidential voting since 2000. I believe most of that increase can be attributed to the Democratic Party’s increasing support for climate alarmism. If Gore had not pursued climate alarmism or had not been the nominee I believe that the Democrats would have won in 2000.

2010

The 2010 Congressional Election resulted in the Democratic Party’s loss of a majority in the House of Representatives. It appears that this loss was due to the loss of Democratic seats where Democratic incumbents had voted for the American Energy and Security Act of 2010 (the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill). A number of Democrats who voted for the bill lost their seats in 2010 and the Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives and have not regained it as of 2017. This played an important role in their success or rather lack of it during the remainder of the Obama Presidency in passing legislation to implement the party’s platforms.

Conclusions

From a purely Democratic Party viewpoint, their unequivocal adoption of climate alarmism has been a very bad bet. And this week a number of prominent alarmist climate modelers have finally admitted (see here and here) that the alleged “consensus” has been wrong by exaggerating the global warming that would occur if carbon dioxide emissions are not reduced, just as many climate realists have long been saying. This leaves the Democratic Party with a greatly reduced basis for their extremist views on climate. So major electoral losses over an issue that has little, or more likely, no effect on anyone.

I even wonder if the modelers withheld their long needed revisions until after the Paris treaty was agreed to, but wanted to avoid the increasing criticism of the differences between their models and actual temperatures.

As readers of this blog know, I believe that the situation is even worse for climate alarmists and thereby for their Democratic Party supporters since carbon dioxide emissions and atmospheric levels have been shown to have no significant effects on global temperatures and because higher CO2 levels are good, not bad. So the Democratic Party has been backing the wrong horse and has paid dearly for it. They are not saving the world; they are pushing bad policy that hurts the Party’s electoral chances as well as the economy, green plants, and poor people.

September 24, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Science and Pseudo-Science | | Leave a comment

The 11-Year Major Hurricane Drought: Much More Unusual than Two Cat 4 Strikes

By Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D. | September 21, 2017

Weather.com published an article noting that the two Cat 4 hurricane strikes this year (Harvey and Irma) is a new record. Here’s a nice graphic they used showing both storms at landfall.

Left: Hurricane Harvey makes landfall near Rockport, Texas, on Aug. 25, 2017 | Right: Hurricane Irma makes its first landfall at Cudjoe Key, Florida, 9-10-17 (graphic: Weather.com).

But the statistics of rare events (like hurricanes) are not very well behaved. Let’s look at this new record, and compare it to the 11+year period of no major hurricane strikes that ended when Harvey struck Texas.

The Probability of Two Cat 4 Strikes in One Year

By my count, we have had 24 Cat 4 or Cat 5 landfalls in the U.S. between 1851 and 2016. This gives a probability (prior to Harvey and Irma) of one Cat4+ strike every 7 years. It also leads to an average return period of two Cat4+ strikes of about 50 years (maybe one of you statisticians out there can correct me if I’m wrong).

So, since the average return period is once every 50 years, we were overdue for two Cat4+ strikes in the same year over the entire 166 period of record. (Again, for rare events, the statistics aren’t very well behaved.)

The Probability of the 11-Year “Drought” in Major Landfalling Hurricane

In 2015, a NASA study was published which calculated how unlikely the (then) 9-year stretch with no major hurricane landfalls was. They came up with a 177 year return period for such an event.

I used that statistic to estimate what eventually happened, which was 11 years with no major hurricane strikes.

I get a return period of 560 years!

Now, which seems more unusual and potentially due to climate change: something that should happen only once every 50 years, or every 560 years?

Maybe global warming causes fewer landfalling major hurricanes.

September 24, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science | | 1 Comment

First Do No Harm

By Emmy Bee | Dissident Voice | September 24, 2017

Let me preface what I am about to say by stating that I have the utmost esteem for mainstream medicine’s skill in emergency situations — the do or die surgeries, the dispensing of powerful life-saving drugs necessary in that setting are second to none; and its mastery of cosmetic surgery in cases of deformities and the advances made in prosthetics are nothing less than spectacular. These are what make mainstream medicine great.

I would also like to add that I am not an expert of any kind. I hold no degrees or certifications, and neither do I represent, belong to, or work for any party, organization or corporation. I speak for myself, a sixty-two year old woman, and from my experiences with, and extensive research of, a topic I find fascinating, intriguing and bothersome — mainstream medicine and how the belief in its infallibility harms us in so many ways.

The pompous certainty of mainstream medicine’s powerful proponents — be they multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical companies, medical associations, disease-specific charities, government agencies, Madison Avenue selling the diseases and the pills, TV or magazines, the news media parroting its cash cow’s every claim — combined have most people, hook, line and sinker, believing in the impeccable record of mainstream medicine. No questions asked.

Here, I would like to throw out some alarming statistics — ones that can be easily found in a variety of journals from Forbes to JAMA to CounterPunch, etc.

The estimated annual mortality rate for adverse drug reactions to “correctly” prescribed drugs is the 5th leading cause of death in the U.S.1 Over the counter (OTC) cold medications are among the top twenty substances causing death in children.2 Used according to direction, NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs) are responsible for more than 20,000 deaths every year.3 There are over 400,000 deaths each year from drug and medical errors and tens of thousands more deaths from unnecessary procedures.4 Add those together and mainstream medicine is the third leading cause of death in the U.S.

So, why is it that most people trust, without question, the omnipotence of mainstream medicine in the same way religious zealots believe in their chosen religion or atheists in theirs? When well over 200,000 people die in the U.S. each year from prescription drug use alone — not abuse, but use; when we spend more, per capita than any other nation on earth and yet our health indices and life expectancy are near the bottom of all other developed nations5 why is there no sense of outrage (except for price gouging!) or, at the very least, a sense that something is not right, that something is terribly wrong?

Yet, as has happened many times, should a doctor, a scientist, a researcher or a curious layperson question conventional medical creed the herald is quickly battered down with jeers of derision, and swiftly “discredited” and shunned by the medical community. The media then parrots what they are told and soon everyone is asking, “How dare they question science? Haven’t they heard of collateral damage? Every war (and they are constantly reminding us of the war we are fighting against diseases) has collateral damage”. Yet when a few people die from dirty spinach, improper use of some herbal product, or a handful of people (some even vaccinated) catch the measles (and live to tell about it!) panic overruns the media.

Does anyone remember or know of the ad campaigns telling us that “nine out of ten doctors smoke Camel cigarettes” or that DDT pesticide spray is “good for you!”? We may laugh now but what about the more recent debacles such as HRT (hormone replacement therapy), Vioxx, swine flu vaccines and GMOs — all of which received the seal of approval from industry scientists, government agencies and all were pushed by Madison Ave. — just like the cigarettes given to my father for heart disease and the DDT sprayed on everything in sight, including children.

The number of TV commercials for drugs, medical clinics, hospitals, and doctor-related reality TV shows is mind blowing. It is a constant barrage of “a pill for every ill” and “don’t forget to ask your doctor about it”, while people with vapid eyes move in slow motion through white rooms or a meadow filmed through gauze, while a voice, soft and soothing, tells you of the pill’s benefits and then the same voice, just as soft but at breakneck speed, spews a partial list of possible side effects and a series of unwanted symptoms, some of which sound, and are (such as death) worse than the “disease” itself.

And interspersed between the ad for an over-the-counter (OTC) medication that had not long ago been given “by prescription only” and another ad for the new six story billion dollar specialty clinic are yet more commercials inviting us to join in what has become a celebration of you fill in the blank disease. There’s a “walk” or a “run”, even a paddle! for this disease and a different colored “ribbon” for that disease. It is almost as if having a disease has become the new “in” thing — fashionable, admirable, heroic even.  Are we being groomed to embrace our diseases, while at the same time being told to give, give, give to find a “cure”? According to Dr. Robert Sharpe, author of The Cruel Deception, a book about animal testing in medical research,” . . . in our culture treating disease is enormously profitable, preventing it is not.”

We have been told we are living longer but the sad fact is that the trend has reversed and now for the first time in decades life expectancy has dropped in the U.S.6 Even more alarming is that, along with adults, the number of children with chronic diseases has risen sharply. Think about it. How many of us make it past seventy (hell, even sixty!) without some major medical catastrophe (or two) requiring surgery and/or special apparatuses to help us do what used to come naturally and/or prescribed no less than three or four drugs? And how many “new” (iatrogenic) diseases do we then acquire from taking those drugs or undergoing those procedures that require even more drugs and/or more procedures?

And just what is conventional medicine’s track record for curing disease — any disease — not palliation or suppression or masking (all of which suppress and weaken the immune system) — but curing?  Forty years ago I knew one woman with breast cancer while today I know dozens, all of whom underwent tortuous procedures, surgeries and drugging, and yes, some of them died. And why is it that when people die after making use of conventional medicine — surgery, chemotherapy, drugs, etc. — there are no cries of foul against their choice of healthcare? Instead they are hailed as heroes who fought a courageous battle, but when someone dies after trying an alternative medicine the cries against their choice are nothing less than vitriolic, as if no one ever dies using mainstream medicine, when in actuality many thousands die each year from mishaps alone, never mind the many hundreds of thousands who die from the diseases that have remained rampant — heart disease, cancer and diabetes, etc.7

Despite unprecedented technical and scientific advances, mainstream medicine’s only answer to disease is to destroy—with toxic substances, ingested or injected, with life-threatening procedures and with the removal of diseased (and often times healthy) body parts. Kill germs, fight cancer, destroy cells, kick (name a disease)’s ass, crush, terminate, rub out, blast; never build up, heal, cure. Are we, as a society, even capable of imagining alternatives to mainstream medicine? I once told an MD I knew that a friend’s kidney stone passed with relative ease after drinking a herbal tea prescribed by an Acupuncturist. “If there was something out there that can do that,” he told me, “we would know about it”. Not with that attitude!

When contemplating all that led up to the economic debacle of 2008, I would venture to guess that most people would be leery now (if they weren’t already!) of any advise given by the banking industry and Wall Street concerning, let’s say, home loans. And the same wariness would prevail when listening to the oil or coal industries’ take on environmental issues, or the weapons makers’ spin on whether to go to war or sell arms, or the pesticide- producing conglomerates on the safety of their products. The conflict of interest in each case should be obvious because when one considers that the very ones who profit by limiting the field of allowable research, who selectively choose among research papers to discredit alternative theories or boost their own are the very ones who control the message, it becomes obvious that we are seeing conflict of interest on a massive scale.

And, what of the research done by pharmaceutical companies that tell us a certain drug, or procedure, or vaccine is safe and effective? Does it make you comfortable to know that President Obama’s pick for FDA (Food and Drug Administration) Commissioner, Robert Califf, had received research funds from twenty-five drug companies while director of Duke University clinical research department where a major research fraud scandal had erupted under his watch8 or that Julie Gerderding, former head of the CDC (Center for Disease Control) concealed and then destroyed evidence of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism in African-American boys9, and yet congress refuses to subpoena her and the whistleblower from the CDC and the media never mentions it, and that this same Julie Gerderding left the CDC to become the president of Merck’s vaccine division and then executive VP of Merck, the sole manufacturer of the MMR vaccine? These examples are just two of many that are not only about a colossal conflict of interest but also about a dangerous threat to true scientific discovery affecting millions of lives.

So, why is it that pharmaceutical companies (which, by the way, have more lobbyists than there are members of congress and the senate combined) and which have a woeful track record when it comes to conflict of interest in medical research, drug research and alternative medicine viability research, are given a pass, a green light, a pat on the back of confidence and, besides, are vehemently defended and vociferously cheered on? What marketing magic do they spin that makes people overlook their complicity in fraudulent research, their over-the-top demonizing of opposing viewpoints, and above all their abhorrent safety record?

Why can’t we question the effectiveness, the safety or the necessity of some vaccines without being rudely shouted down? I wonder if those who shout the, “Shut up! They are safe!” mantra have ever taken the time to study the long history of infectious disease and the history of vaccine use? Do they know there are no long-term studies on the effects of vaccines, or that vaccinated people are not necessarily protected from the diseases they are vaccinated against, or that the pharmaceutical companies and the government agencies refuse to do a vaccinated vs. unvaccinated population study as to their overall health indices, that vaccines, unlike other drugs are not tested against a placebo but against another vaccine, or that childhood infectious diseases had been on a downward trend for many years (measles deaths had declined by almost 100 percent!) well before vaccines were introduced as had many of the other infectious diseases — running their course, improving as our sanitary conditions and treatment of the illness improved? So, why not let them continue to decline until they naturally disappear? Why introduce crude disease substances and a mixture of lethal chemicals (of which no one knows or bothers to test their long-term effects) into our bodies in an attempt to eradicate diseases that seemed to be doing a fine job of doing just that naturally?

Could there be a connection between the plethora of “new” or increasing diseases and the crude drugs (including vaccines) we have been putting into our bodies for decades now? If we stop to think about it does it make sense to inject ourselves with hazardous material we know nothing about to prevent diseases like the measles, mumps and the flu and others that are now so simple to treat?

But we are told, ad nauseam, to, “Shut up and just get your shots! All your questions have already been answered!” However, when you look behind the scenes of medical research and find the pharmaceutical companies paying the bills, writing the reports and working closely with government agencies, research colleges, medical journals and the media to get their message out, it should raise a red flag.

What is the great harm brought about by this absolutism of the proponents of mainstream medicine? There are many but two are outstanding. One is that freedom of choice in one’s healthcare decisions can and will be taken away — it has begun already and is picking up momentum. I do not use conventional medicine except in some emergency situations, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t fight for the right of others to choose to use it exclusively if they believe it to be their best or only option. Being comfortable with one’s healthcare choice is, I firmly believe, of utmost importance. Yet if it were up to many people I should not be allowed to choose the kind of healthcare I want for my family and me.

And secondly, that same vitriolic certainty and insular thinking is truly harmful to the very essence of scientific inquiry. Great discoveries could be ignored simply because of a refusal to look beyond what we are told is scientifically acceptable today, the realm of inquiry having been limited by the greed of those in power and their manipulation of the masses by way of the fear factor.

  1. To Err is Human: Building a Safer Healthcare System: Institute of Medicine, Committee on Quality of Health Care in America, 2000.
  2. 2009 annual report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System (27th report).
  3. Healing the NSAID Nation, E. Goldman, 2012.
  4. Leah Binder, Stunning News on Preventable Deaths in Hospitals, September 23, 2013; see also: Gary Null, PhD; Carolyn Dean MD, ND; Martin Feldman, MD; Debora Rasio, MD; and Dorothy Smith, PhD. Death by Medicine, Integral Options Cafe, January 12, 2010.
  5. Numbeo. Health Care Index for Country 2016.
  6. Public Health, Life Expectany in the U.S. drops for First Time in Decades, Report Finds, Health News from NPR, December 8, 2016.
  7. The Marshall Protocol Knowledge Base, Autoimmunity Research Foundation.
  8. Martha Rosenberg, Obama’s Latest FDA Nominee: No Hidden Big Pharma Links, They are all in Plain Sight, Counterpunch, November 19, 2015.
  9. Sharyl Attkisson, CDC Scientist:  “We scheduled Meeting to Destroy Vaccine Autism Study Documents“, March 23, 2016.

September 24, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , | 2 Comments

Provisional Arctic Sea Ice Minimum

By Paul Homewood | Not A Lot Of People Know That | September 16, 2017

It’s now looking pretty certain that Arctic sea ice extent has passed its minimum this year. Since Tuesday, it has climbed over three days by 75,000 sq km, according to NSIDC figures:

2017 9 1 4.758
2017 9 2 4.791
2017 9 3 4.801
2017 9 4 4.782
2017 9 5 4.723
2017 9 6 4.643
2017 9 7 4.635
2017 9 8 4.697
2017 9 9 4.641
2017 9 10 4.628
2017 9 11 4.646
2017 9 12 4.611
2017 9 13 4.651
2017 9 14 4.651
2017 9 15 4.686

http://nsidc.org/data/seaice_index/

Provisionally that would make it the 4th highest since 2007.

image

The ice does not appear to be thin and slushy, as we are often told. According to DMI, much of it is 2 meters or more thick.

CICE_combine_thick_SM_EN_20170910

http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/icethickness/thk.uk.php

Pen Hadow’s abortive sailing expedition, now safely back in harbour in Nome, certainly ran up against unexpectedly thick and extensive ice 600 miles from the Pole, before being forced to turn tail.

arcticsailors.jpg

It is far too soon to draw any conclusions about what this means for Arctic sea ice in future years.

But there is certainly nothing to support the wild claims of an Arctic death spiral, that we have been fed over the years.

The climate clown, Prof Peter Wadhams, seems to have kept his head down this year after his own succession of ludicrous claims, like this one last year.

image

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/aug/21/arctic-will-be-ice-free-in-summer-next-year

September 16, 2017 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science | , | Leave a comment