Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Rudd's climate change lies

While regularly pillioring the government for its failure to act on climate change in 11 years, which I have pointed out previously is simply a lie, Labor leader Kevin Rudd has now done a complete backflip by stating that a Rudd government wouldn't agree to a carbon scheme that didn't include developing nations post-2012.

This position has never been Labor Party policy. Their policy all along has been that they will ratify Kyoto and accept whatever is decided by the world body for Australia.

They even embraced Al Gore messianic vision and proudly display a video from the world's most boring man on their climate change website and when he was here last month Gore publicly backed the ALP's position.

Kevin Rudd has consistently made statements similar to what he said last month:
"Within a little more than a year we will have a new president in the US and I predict we will have one committed to also solving the climate crisis."

Mr Rudd criticised the federal government for not ratifying the Kyoto Protocol 11 years ago and said failing to act would have a greater economic impact on Australia than on acting.

"The question farmers are asking me is: what are the long-term impacts of climate change on the ability of Australian agriculture to sustain itself?" he said.
Does Kevin Rudd believe that the world is facing a "climate crisis" if he is not going to ratify a post-2012 Kyoto agreement if developing nations don't come on board. Surely, if it's a crisis then he can't have a bet both ways?

Does Kevin Rudd now believe that not acting on climate change will have a much greater economic impact than ratifying the expensive non-solution known as Kyoto? It has been clear all along that unilateral action by Australia, in absence of the developing nations, would be far more damaging to the Australian economy than what the government has proposed.

Is the symbolism of Kyoto now dead for Labor?

Thanks to Rudd's untenable position, exposed in all its glory yesterday by Peter Garrett, it certainly appears to be.

Rudd has been telling lies on the issue of climate change since he took over as Labor leader.

Those lies are now coming home to roost.

(Nothing follows)

Professor Bob Carter demolishes the current state of climate science

Robert M. "Bob" Carter is a research professor in the Marine Geophysical Laboratory at James Cook University, Australia. He is a geologist and marine geologist with special interests in stratigraphy and, more recently, climate change.

Like everyone associated with the anti-AGW position Bob Carter has brought the wrath of the Climate Machine down upon him due to the stridency of his views.

He's not a climate scientist, they say.

Neither is Tim Flannery. Or Al Gore. Or Leonardo Di Caprio...!

Carter is, though, a member of the one group of scientists that have a proper understanding of what has been happening over the last millions of years - geologists.

In this recent lecture Carter brings his audience up to date with the state of climate science and completely demolishes to proposition that we're in some sort of 'unprecedented' warming phase. The graphs he puts up showing rate of change in temperature will shock people who think that the rate of rise in the 20th century (or late 20th century) is abnormal.

Readers know how harsh I am on the drivel that passes for science and its proponents, who I put on a par with Lysenko and Hwang. In spite of the vicious ad hominem attacks on Carter, the Climate Faithful are yet to lay a glove on the accuracy of the body of his arguments.

(Nothing Follows)

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

More incompetent than Hans Blix? Meet Mohamad ElBaradei.

The incompetence with which Hans Blix is generally regarded as having carried out his duties as head of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency was expected to take some topping.

Unfortunately, his successor Mohamad ElBaradei has given a whole new definition to the term 'incompetence' and in the same way that Middle East journalist Robert Fisk's name has become a verb - to 'fisk' - it would be appropriate if the same happened with ElBaradei to describe situations in which people or authorities, duly tasked with being in charge of a process or outcome, fail singularly in that task due to gross professional incompetence.

For example:
"Why hasn't the United Nations resolved the issues in Darfur?"

"Oh, they're too busy ElBaradeing."
(Note that Google returns zero results for 'elbaradeing''s unusual to make up any term and not find it already thought of previously).

From Pakistan to North Korea to India and to Iraq the IAEA has been shown to be profoundly ineffective as those countries went about developing nuclear weapons capabilities, some successfully and some not, right under the noses of the watchdog.

The IAEA is the agency that is meant to be aware of the development of nuclear technologies around the world.

In spite of all of the evidence that Iran is building nuclear weapons (read Kenneth Timmerman's book - Countdown To Crisis, amongst others) including the fact that the centrifuges they've installed are only used for the production of weapons grade material, ElBaradei defends Iran, says they're not trying to build nuclear weapons and berates the United States for overstating the case.
CHIEF UN atomic watchdog Mohamed ElBaradei said overnight he had no evidence Iran was building nuclear weapons and accused US leaders of adding "fuel to the fire" with recent bellicose rhetoric.

"I have not received any information that there is a concrete active nuclear weapons program going on right now," the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told CNN.
Last month the IAEA was caught with its pants down by Israel's destruction of a nuclear development facility in Syria. The Syrian's were so outraged (at getting caught) that they said almost nothing, expressing very minor outrage at what was an act of war by Israel. Whatever was bombed was clearly so secret that the Syrians wasted no time covering it up, as the before and after pictures below show:

What was ElBaradei's response? He's from the UN so, of course, it's blame Israel time.
The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog criticized Israel on Sunday for attacking a suspicious Syrian site last month, saying the "bomb first and then ask questions later" undermined global atomic monitoring work.

In his first public comment on Israel's mysterious bombing run on what some analysts suggested was a nascent Syrian nuclear reactor, Mohamed ElBaradei, the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, called on the Israelis and other countries to share information with IAEA.
Israel has spent nearly 60 years sharing information with UN agencies and finding it used against them so it's understandable that they'd take things into their own hands in this circumstance.

But Israel's attack is not the main issue. The elephant in the IAEA's padded cell is that it was completely unaware of Syria's nuclear facility up until Israel's action.

One of the under-reported benefits of toppling Saddam Hussein is that Libya voluntarily ceased its own nuclear program. Did the IAEA know about Tripoli's dabbling in the odd bit of atom splitting? Of course not.

The IAEA didn't even know about Iran's program until it was well under way. Given that both China and Russia had been helping build the thing and they're members of the UN's Security Council it shows not only how clueless the IAEA is but also what a joke the Security Council has become given its charter of maintaining international peace and security. Letting a regime that thinks the twelfth Imam's return is just around the corner, and the decisive conflict with the Jewish state is nigh, have nuclear weapons seems to be at least a tad at odds with the charter and just a little bit unwise.

What other rogue states are there in the process of quietly developing nuclear weapons? Is the nutjob that runs Venezuela heading down that path? Who knows? If anyone does then ElBaradei and his cronies will be the last to, that's for sure.

(Nothing follows)

Monday, 29 October 2007

Common sense email from person with common sense

Reader Kevin sent an email pointing out that whatever the green agenda du jour is the answer is always the same - more government power tending towards socialism.
With all due respect, if the worst outcome of the global warming panic is that the politicisation of science means scientists will have to work harder to bring credibility to their research - that will be the least of our worries.

Please refer to an increasing trend of argument amongst educated and academic sources that liberal democracy is unsuited to deal with the demands of global warming and social response, and that other systems of governance should be handed power to deal with this !

This is not a good direction to start bringing into common currency of debate.

The key elements of response are seen as enforced reductions in energy use, rationing and restraint on consumption and a cessation of economic growth, even contraction of activity. Self evidently no one in their right mind will vote for this, so the argument becomes installation of a command regime to enforce change.

The latest spin being the UN report which the media suggest states that the human population already exceeds the biological carrying capacity of the planet. And as we can’t expand the planet’s biosphere – would you like to guess where this thrust about restoring ‘balance’ is going to wind up ?

We do not have to look far into the history of authoritarian regimes of the late 20th / early 21st century to imagine yourself, Jack, under this sort of regime huddled at home with restricted transport options, either too cold or too hot due to energy constraints, likewise limited communications access ( mandated to cut energy demand ), clutching your food and water ration books, and hoping that next knock on the door is not the Greenstapo informing you that your number has fallen out of the barrel and that you are the next unfortunate conscript in the Involuntary Rapid Population Abatement Project ( aka The Great Culling, as it will possibly come to be known ).

I suspect at that point both you and I will have some other thoughts in mind about the individuals that will have brought us to that point.
I like the point about liberal democracies supposedly being unable to cope with the 'planetary emergency' - to use Al Gore's spin - which can only be dealt with by a command and control economy.

It's also complete drivel that we're already exceeding the load-bearing capacity of the planet, as the green alarmists keep telling us. I reckon we could double, or triple, in population and nobody would notice much of a difference. But that's another story.

Thanks, Kevin. That was a well thought out email.

(Nothing Follows)

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Sunday night Aussie rock

You Am I is an Australian alternative rock band, fronted by vocalist/guitarist and main songwriter Tim Rogers. They were the first Australian band to have three albums successively debut at #1 on the ARIA Charts, and are renowned for their live performances. The band's name was derived from late-night existential philosophising sessions, mainly under the influence of alcohol. You Am I had toured the United States beginning in the mid-'90s, including playing with Soundgarden on the Lollapalooza festival, Redd Kross, The Strokes, and Smoking Popes. (Soundgarden first came across them at the 1994 Big Day Out festival.) Despite little success overseas, the band became well known throughout Australia for Rogers' Pete Townshend-esque guitar windmills and for its upbeat "ponce and thuggery" take on rock and roll. Further success came with the albums Hi Fi Way and Hourly, Daily, with both picking up ARIA Awards. Hourly, Daily was the first album released on the Shock label to go to number one in the ARIA charts upon launch. These albums were marked by retro-inspired '60s bop and folky 12 string melodies, a departure from the band's earlier hard rock/ grunge sound.

I can certainly attest to the power of You Am I as a live band. I think that Tim Rogers must also hold the record for swearing more than any other rock 'n' roll front man, which takes some doing.


Friends Like You

(Nothing Follows)

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Climate Change officially becomes a Religion

There's been quite a bit to talk about on the world's most boring subject - global warming - lately.

As regular readers know, I am a harsh critic of climate models. None of them have ever been accurate even when hindcasting; that is, start the model in 1920 and see if it's accurate in 1950.

Now we have a series of articles reporting on research from Gerard Roe and Marcia Baker of the University of Washington in Seattle who say that not only are models not accurate but that they never will be.

Is this good news for Climate Blasphemers like myself? Well, yes and no, as we shall see.

From New Scientist:
Climate change models, no matter how powerful, can never give a precise prediction of how greenhouse gases will warm the Earth, according to a new study.

The result will provide ammunition to those who argue not enough is known about global warming to warrant taking action.

...It now appears that the estimates will never get much better. The reason lies with feedbacks in the climate system. For example, as the temperature increases, less snow will be present at the poles. Less snow means less sunlight reflected back into space, which means more warming.

...What is more, they found that better computer models or observational data will not do much to reduce that uncertainty. A better estimate of sensitivity is the holy grail of climate research, but it is time to "call off the quest", according to a commentary published alongside the paper.
Summary from Science magazine:
Uncertainties in projections of future climate change have not lessened substantially in past decades. Both models and observations yield broad probability distributions for long-term increases in global mean temperature expected from the doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide, with small but finite probabilities of very large increases. We show that the shape of these probability distributions is an inevitable and general consequence of the nature of the climate system, and we derive a simple analytic form for the shape that fits recent published distributions very well. We show that the breadth of the distribution and, in particular, the probability of large temperature increases are relatively insensitive to decreases in uncertainties associated with the underlying climate processes.
From Nature magazine:
Climate models might be improving but they will never be able to tell us exactly what to expect. That's the conclusion of experts from the University of Washington, Seattle, who have set out to prove that predicting the exact level of climate change is by its very nature an uncertain science.

Over the past 30 years, climate models have not appreciably narrowed down the precise relationship between greenhouse gases and the planet's temperature — despite huge advances in computing power, climate observations and the number of scientists studying the problem, say Gerard Roe and Marcia Baker. The researchers now argue that this is because the uncertainty simply cannot be reduced.
That really is pretty unequivocal. The models are not accurate and cannot be relied upon, which is what I've been saying all along. Anyone with even a modicum of ability in mathematics and statistics would say the same thing.

So is the argument won? Not so fast.

The Nature article continues:

They and other climatologists are now calling on policy-makers to make decisive policies on avoiding dangerous climate change, even if we don't have perfect models. This means focusing on keeping the planet's temperature below a certain point (and being willing and able to adjust emissions targets to achieve that), rather than trying to work out far in advance the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that will produce that level of warming.
The models are meant to represent the whole of our understanding of the climate system. They are the basis for all predictions of future climate change. If they're wrong then it's clear that we do not understand the climate system. Clearly, if they're going to be as hopelessly inaccurate as they have been hitherto then only a fool would commit trillions of dollars of the world's economic growth based on their forecasts.

Now we have a situation in which the whole basis of the climate change argument has fallen apart - "the science is settled" - so what's the answer?

Throw the models out and continue the plan to restrict the world's growth anyway.


With the evidence - models, surface temperature record, the Hockey Stick, An Inconvenient Truth - crumbling around them they turn to the only thing they can - faith.

Thus, climate science becomes more like a religion - or cult - every day.

(Nothing Follows)

Friday, 26 October 2007

Why do we fund the drivel that passes as climate science?

Advanced nations now spend billions upon billions of dollars undertaking research into the supposed bogey called climate change.

New research conducted by Australia's CSIRO claims that CO2 emissions were 35% higher in 2006 than the Kyoto base year of 1990.

When will the Climate Faithful get it into their thick heads that if CO2 is increasing rapidly but temperatures have stabilised over the last nearly 10 years then the causative effect of CO2 on climate has to be called into question - at the very least.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Just days after the Nobel prize was awarded for global warming work, an alarming new study finds that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing faster than expected.

Carbon dioxide emissions were 35 percent higher in 2006 than in 1990, a much faster growth rate than anticipated, researchers led by Josep G. Canadell, of Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, report in Tuesday's edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Increased industrial use of fossil fuels coupled with a decline in the gas absorbed by the oceans and land were listed as causes of the increase.

"In addition to the growth of global population and wealth, we now know that significant contributions to the growth of atmospheric CO2 arise from the slowdown" of nature's ability to take the chemical out of the air, said Canadell, director of the Global Carbon Project at the research organization.

The changes "characterize a carbon cycle that is generating stronger-than-expected and sooner-than-expected climate forcing," the researchers report.

Kevin Trenberth of the climate analysis section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. said the "paper raises some very important issues that the public should be aware of: Namely that concentrations of CO2 are increasing at much higher rates than previously expected and this is in spite of the Kyoto Protocol that is designed to hold them down in western countries,"
The Kyoto Protocol isn't working? Could that be because Europe (which has ratified Kyoto and implemented carbon trading) is increasing CO2 faster than it is meant to and, amusingly, faster than the US (which hasn't ratified Kyoto), as well as the fact that the world's largest emitter, China, is pumping huge quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere? But people still want Australia and the US to ratify the thing.
Alan Robock, associate director of the Center for Environmental Prediction at Rutgers University, added: "What is really shocking is the reduction of the oceanic CO2 sink," meaning the ability of the ocean to absorb carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere.

The researchers blamed that reduction on changes in wind circulation, but Robock said he also thinks rising ocean temperatures reduce the ability to take in the gas.

"...he also thinks..."? These guys are meant to know. The functioning of the earth's carbon sink needs to be fully understood in order for climate models to be accurate.
"Think that a warm Coke has less fizz than a cold Coke," he said.
As distinct from the global warming argument, which has no fizz at all.
Neither Robock nor Trenberth was part of Canadell's research team.

Carbon dioxide is the leading "greenhouse gas," so named because their accumulation in the atmosphere can help trap heat from the sun, causing potentially dangerous warming of the planet.

While most atmospheric scientists accept the idea, finding ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has been a political problem because of potential effects on the economy. Earlier this month, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and former Vice President Al Gore for their work in calling attention to global warming.

"It turns out that global warming critics were right when they said that global climate models did not do a good job at predicting climate change," Robock commented.
Whoa! Did I just read that correctly? I'm right? That's gotta hurt the unscientific, influenced AGW proponents that leave contrarian comments on my blog at regular intervals.
"But what has been wrong recently is that the climate is changing even faster than the models said. In fact, Arctic sea ice is melting much faster than any models predicted, and sea level is rising much faster than IPCC previously predicted."
I've been saying that the models have been a crock for umpteen years. Does the fact that the models have under-predicted the supposed effects of global warming mean that their forecasts are even more reliable because they're lower than reality?
According to the new study, carbon released from burning fossil fuel and making cement rose from 7.0 billion metric tons per year in 2000 to 8.4 billion metric tons in 2006. A metric tons is 2,205 pounds.

The growth rate increased from 1.3 percent per year in 1990-1999 to 3.3 percent per year in 2000-2006, the researchers added.

Trenberth noted that carbon dioxide is not the whole story — methane emissions have declined, so total greenhouse gases are not increasing as much as carbon dioxide alone. Also, he added, other pollution plays a role by cooling.
If CO2 is not the whole story then why is Kyoto the whole answer? The dishonesty of the Climate Faithful is astonishing. He then chucks in the old pollution chestnut, which is how modellers dealt with the cooling from 1940-75, a time at which CO2 rose consistently meaning the planet should have warmed. No doubt, modellers will now go and stick in some more fudged pollution to account for the current difference.
There are changes from year to year in the fraction of the atmosphere made up of carbon dioxide and the question is whether this increase is transient or will be sustained, he said.
Models work on the basis that CO2 sustains itself in the atmosphere for about 100 years. If the science is settled then how can this be a question?
"The theory suggests increases in (the atmospheric fraction), as is claimed here, but the evidence is not strong," Trenberth said.

The paper looks at a rather short time to measure a trend, Robock added, "but the results they get certainly look reasonable, and much of the paper is looking at much longer trends."

The research was supported by Australian, European and other international agencies.
As I said, why do we fund so lavishly such drivel?

Thursday, 25 October 2007

But apparently we're reaching a critical climate 'tipping point'

To the politically driven activists who keep blathering on about the end of the world due to mankind pumping a miniscule amount of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere we've reached a 'tipping point' in our climate system and if we don't institute massively restrictive energy policies right now then we're all doomed.

How do they know we've reached a tipping point? From their climate models, of course. You know them; they're the ones that have never predicted past climate remotely accurately, have not predicted future climate on a 5 or 10 year scale but, apparently, are accepted as providing accurate forecasts for 100 years into the future.

The following shows the temperature record from Canadian Arctic ice core data.

Current temperature trends show that over the past 50 years Nunavut has experienced both strong warming and cooling. The warming trend occurs primarily in the west, where as the east has undergone a cooling trend. Of course, we never hear about the bits that have cooled.

So what is the variability over the last 60 years?

If you believe that man made CO2 emissions have created a 'climate crisis' and pushed us to a 'tipping point' then, to be blunt, you're profoundly ignorant of:
  • the failure of climate scientists to follow the Scientific Method;
  • the failure of those climate scientists whose work is relied upon the most to make available to the public their data - even when it's publicly funded research;
  • the demolition of the validity of the iconic Hockey Stick, which has seen even the IPCC derogate its position in its recent Fourth Assessment Report; and
  • the failure of climate models to hindcast or forecast with any accuracy. The back-fitting that goes on is unbelievable. If we relied on financial models that followed the same method then it'd take about a month to bankrupt the planet.
The main problem with all the of alarmist climate hysteria is the damage it will do to the public's confidence in science.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Global Warming Delusions

Daniel Botkin is president of the Center for the Study of the Environment and professor emeritus in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of "Discordant Harmonies: A New Ecology for the Twenty-First Century".

Botkin discounts the whole global warming hysteria so one presumes that he must be funded by Big Oil. If he's not then maybe it's because he believes in facts and the scientific method. The unscientific, opinion-as-truth loons at have been frothing at the mouth about this one.
Global warming doesn't matter except to the extent that it will affect life--ours and that of all living things on Earth. And contrary to the latest news, the evidence that global warming will have serious effects on life is thin. Most evidence suggests the contrary.

Case in point: This year's United Nations report on climate change and other documents say that 20% to 30% of plant and animal species will be threatened with extinction in this century due to global warming--a truly terrifying thought. Yet, during the past 2.5 million years, a period that scientists now know experienced climatic changes as rapid and as warm as modern climatological models suggest will happen to us, almost none of the millions of species on Earth went extinct. The exceptions were about 20 species of large mammals (the famous megafauna of the last ice age--saber-tooth tigers, hairy mammoths and the like), which went extinct about 10,000 to 5,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age, and many dominant trees and shrubs of northwestern Europe. But elsewhere, including North America, few plant species went extinct, and few mammals.

We're also warned that tropical diseases are going to spread, and that we can expect malaria and encephalitis epidemics. But scientific papers by Prof. Sarah Randolph of Oxford University show that temperature changes do not correlate well with changes in the distribution or frequency of these diseases; warming has not broadened their distribution and is highly unlikely to do so in the future, global warming or not.

The key point here is that living things respond to many factors in addition to temperature and rainfall. In most cases, however, climate-modeling-based forecasts look primarily at temperature alone, or temperature and precipitation only. You might ask, "Isn't this enough to forecast changes in the distribution of species?" Ask a mockingbird. The New York Times recently published an answer to a query about why mockingbirds were becoming common in Manhattan. The expert answer was: food--an exotic plant species that mockingbirds like to eat had spread to New York City. It was this, not temperature or rainfall, the expert said, that caused the change in mockingbird geography.

You might think I must be one of those know-nothing naysayers who believes global warming is a liberal plot. On the contrary, I am a biologist and ecologist who has worked on global warming, and been concerned about its effects, since 1968. I've developed the computer model of forest growth that has been used widely to forecast possible effects of global warming on life--I've used the model for that purpose myself, and to forecast likely effects on specific endangered species.

I'm not a naysayer. I'm a scientist who believes in the scientific method and in what facts tell us. I have worked for 40 years to try to improve our environment and improve human life as well. I believe we can do this only from a basis in reality, and that is not what I see happening now. Instead, like fashions that took hold in the past and are eloquently analyzed in the classic 19th century book "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds," the popular imagination today appears to have been captured by beliefs that have little scientific basis.

Some colleagues who share some of my doubts argue that the only way to get our society to change is to frighten people with the possibility of a catastrophe, and that therefore it is all right and even necessary for scientists to exaggerate. They tell me that my belief in open and honest assessment is naïve. "Wolves deceive their prey, don't they?" one said to me recently. Therefore, biologically, he said, we are justified in exaggerating to get society to change.

The climate modelers who developed the computer programs that are being used to forecast climate change used to readily admit that the models were crude and not very realistic, but were the best that could be done with available computers and programming methods. They said our options were to either believe those crude models or believe the opinions of experienced, data-focused scientists. Having done a great deal of computer modeling myself, I appreciated their acknowledgment of the limits of their methods. But I hear no such statements today. Oddly, the forecasts of computer models have become our new reality, while facts such as the few extinctions of the past 2.5 million years are pushed aside, as if they were not our reality.

A recent article in the well-respected journal American Scientist explained why the glacier on Mt. Kilimanjaro could not be melting from global warming. Simply from an intellectual point of view it was fascinating--especially the author's Sherlock Holmes approach to figuring out what was causing the glacier to melt. That it couldn't be global warming directly (i.e., the result of air around the glacier warming) was made clear by the fact that the air temperature at the altitude of the glacier is below freezing. This means that only direct radiant heat from sunlight could be warming and melting the glacier. The author also studied the shape of the glacier and deduced that its melting pattern was consistent with radiant heat but not air temperature. Although acknowledged by many scientists, the paper is scorned by the true believers in global warming.

We are told that the melting of the arctic ice will be a disaster. But during the famous medieval warming period--A.D. 750 to 1230 or so--the Vikings found the warmer northern climate to their advantage. Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie addressed this in his book "Times of Feast, Times of Famine: A History of Climate Since the Year 1000," perhaps the greatest book about climate change before the onset of modern concerns with global warming. He wrote that Erik the Red "took advantage of a sea relatively free of ice to sail due west from Iceland to reach Greenland. . . . Two and a half centuries later, at the height of the climatic and demographic fortunes of the northern settlers, a bishopric of Greenland was founded at Gardar in 1126."

Ladurie pointed out that "it is reasonable to think of the Vikings as unconsciously taking advantage of this [referring to the warming of the Middle Ages] to colonize the most northern and inclement of their conquests, Iceland and Greenland." Good thing that Erik the Red didn't have Al Gore or his climatologists as his advisers.

Should we therefore dismiss global warming? Of course not. But we should make a realistic assessment, as rationally as possible, about its cultural, economic and environmental effects. As Erik the Red might have told you, not everything due to a climatic warming is bad, nor is everything that is bad due to a climatic warming.

We should approach the problem the way we decide whether to buy insurance and take precautions against other catastrophes--wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes. And as I have written elsewhere, many of the actions we would take to reduce greenhouse-gas production and mitigate global-warming effects are beneficial anyway, most particularly a movement away from fossil fuels to alternative solar and wind energy.

My concern is that we may be moving away from an irrational lack of concern about climate change to an equally irrational panic about it.

Many of my colleagues ask, "What's the problem? Hasn't it been a good thing to raise public concern?" The problem is that in this panic we are going to spend our money unwisely, we will take actions that are counterproductive, and we will fail to do many of those things that will benefit the environment and ourselves.

For example, right now the clearest threat to many species is habitat destruction. Take the orangutans, for instance, one of those charismatic species that people are often fascinated by and concerned about. They are endangered because of deforestation. In our fear of global warming, it would be sad if we fail to find funds to purchase those forests before they are destroyed, and thus let this species go extinct.

At the heart of the matter is how much faith we decide to put in science--even how much faith scientists put in science. Our times have benefited from clear-thinking, science-based rationality. I hope this prevails as we try to deal with our changing climate.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

If the debate is over then why are non-Big Oil funded scientists dissenting?

John Stossel's 20/20 program takes on the idea that there's a scientific consensus on the world's most boring subject - global warming.

If the scientists aren't funded by Big Oil and aren't Republican voters then why do they not agree with the global warming consensus position?

(Nothing Follows)

Monday, 22 October 2007

New Zealanders far better off moving to Australia

I love this story, particularly as it comes during an Australian election in which the public is more focused on its own wellbeing than normal.
The average Kiwi family would be more than $5000 better off living in Australia, according to an expert economic calculator.
A couple with two children earning the median gross salary of $38,400 get tax credits and benefits which equal the take-home pay of $45,668 across the Tasman, compared to $40,027 in New Zealand.

The figures come from a mathematical model created by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER), which includes in its calculations the benefit of the Working For Families package in New Zealand, and Family Tax Benefits in Australia.

The online calculator then shows how much money Kiwis would earn in New Zealand dollars after tax here and in Australia, with adjustments for the differences in cost of living between the two countries.

The NZIER report said nearly 24,000 New Zealanders emigrated to Australia in 2006-07, up from 19,000 from the previous year, because of higher living standards in Australia.

These included a higher gross income in Australia, lower tax or more family tax credits, greater purchasing power and greater ease in attaining wealth.

National Party finance spokesman Bill English said the report confirmed the need for lower taxes in New Zealand, particularly for people on middle incomes.

"There's already an income gap with Australia which attracts New Zealanders over there.

"And it's going to grow if the next Australian government cuts taxes and we don't."

English said National remained committed to phased tax cuts, which he said were clearly affordable given the $8.7 billion surplus, but would not elaborate further.

Last week, Australian Prime Minister John Howard announced $40b of tax cuts in a bid to woo voters before the November elections.

Opinion polling shows he is unlikely to be returned to power, but the Australian tax relief plan has put the heat back on Finance Minister Michael Cullen to do the same here.

Yesterday, Cullen had little to say about tax cuts other than he would deal with the issue in next year's Budget.

"It doesn't matter how big you make them [tax cuts], you couldn't possibly make up the difference between net wages in Australia and New Zealand. Even if you had zero tax," Cullen said. "Then we'd have no health, no superannuation, no education and no police and so on."

He disputed that Australia was a better place to live, saying that quality of life indicators compared well with our neighbours, well above New Zealand's gross domestic product per capita rating and in the top half of the OECD.

The NZIER report said wasteful Government spending was more inflationary than personal income tax reductions. Slowing the exodus of Kiwi workers to Australia would require the wages of New Zealanders to grow faster than they had recent times, according to the NZIER report.

"This requires an environment that rewards productive activities, and that attracts and retains skilled workers in increasingly competitive and global labour markets."

Single dad 'has no life, but no real choice'

Hangi Lima, 26, is a security technician who lives in Glen Eden.

He is a single dad with two young children. Lima works 75 hours a week for an annual before-tax income of $46,000.

"People tell me all the time that I don't have a life," he said. "But I don't have a choice."

He said his friends and colleagues talked all the time about better wages and conditions in Australia, and he was "seriously considering" heading across the Tasman to Perth.

"I've had quite a few offers," said Lima. "They earn double what I earn over there - and they have better hours. Who knows what is over there?"

Lima said he thought he and his friends were "getting by pretty well" but the lure of Australia was strong.

"They just look at the extra earnings they could get out there."

The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research calculator works out Lima's net income in this country as $43,500.

However, if he followed through on thoughts about moving to Australia, the family would be better off - the calculator says Lima's net income would be $50,068.

If it wasn't for his family and the laid-back lifestyle in New Zealand, Lima would probably make the move across the ditch.

"Everyone is talking about it," he said.

Kevin Rudd's muddled "digital divide" reality

It should come as no surprise to anyone closely following what Kevin Rudd has been saying since becoming Labor opposition leader that he muddles his facts about things numerical yet again.

I know I sound like a broken record but he really is an incompetent on matters of the economy and seems to have little affinity with things numerical, of which his recent gaff on tax thresholds is but one example. I have likened his understanding of economics to that other disastrous Labor leader of the past, Gough Whitlam, and nothing I have seen subsequent to making that judgement has changed my mind.

In releasing Labor's "me too" tax policy, which simply mirrors the Coalition's commitment, Kevin Rudd and his treasury spokesman Wayne Swan chose to differentiate their policy with a $2.3B education tax refund.
The Labor leader says the 50 per cent education refund would bring tax relief to parents of primary and secondary school students.

"If you have a child at primary school, then each year if you are eligible for Family Tax Benefit A, you'll be able to submit a claim for a 50 per cent refund up to $750 worth of outlay," he said.

"The second part of it deals with secondary school, where the same parents would be eligible for up to $1,500."

Mr Rudd says Australia needs to advance the cause of building prosperity beyond the mining boom.

He says a 50 per cent tax refund for working families will provide an investment for their kids' futures.

Mr Rudd says items like laptops, computers, internet costs, educational software and books will all be eligible to claim.

He says computers, "are the toolbox of the 21st century".

"We want to make sure that every Australian kid in the future has an opportunity to get themselves wired and computer literate, information revolution literate," he said.

"Because let me tell you in the future in the digital economy this is going to be fundamental business."
Now, there's no doubt that we live in the Information Age and that maintaining a position near the front of the technology curve will help us compete more effectively.

It's also fair to say that the government has been slow to achieve broadband speeds and coverage that other countries have over the last couple of years. There are two reasons for this: the battle with the new management at Telstra; and the physical size of Australia compared to the size of its economy. Thus, comparing us to countries in Europe that are smaller than Tasmania is not appropriate.

Leaving aside the fact that, according to the CIA World Factbook 2007, Australia has 14.6M Internet users in its population of 20M, Kevin Rudd seems to believe that Queensland is somehow lagging in its use of the Internet.

While being interviewed at the press conference to release Labor's tax policy he was asked who would actually benefit from a subsidy to purchase a computer. His response was that a "digital divide" existed and indicated that in the "People's Republic of Queensland" things were pretty grim.

On that last point there seems to be some self censoring going on. I saw the clip a few times and Rudd clearly says "People's Republic of Queensland" but here's what's on the ALP website:
JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

RUDD: I’m not quite sure what universe you’re inhabiting. Where we come from, people who grew up in Queensland, let me tell you, it’s different. You know.

SWAN: There’s a digital divide out there.
The question really wasn't inaudible. As mentioned, the journo clearly states that he, like most Australians, has a laptop so who's actually going to benefit from the policy? Obviously, the ALP is embarrassed by the "People's Republic of Queensland" line.

Back to the issue - so how grim are they in the state that advertises itself as "Beautiful one day. Perfect the next."?

The following table shows that - far from being disadvantaged - Queensland has the 3rd lowest number of people per Internet subscriber (lower is better) and is better than the national average.

If you're someone with sharp numeracy skills and deep understanding of the subject such as Peter Costello or Paul Keating then you're going to have a fairly good 'educated guess' when you need to wing it.

Kevin Rudd really needs to stop making stuff up as he goes along and rely on expertise within his team of advisors.

However, there are two problems he faces.
  1. Labor has focused on making this a Howard vs Rudd US Presidential style election so Rudd has to be the front man on all issues
  2. Labor lacks expertise from within its shadow front bench so Rudd's policy that he will be the front man on all issues works against him as, unfortunately, he's not as smart as he thinks he is and simply can't learn everything he needs to in order to get away with talking off the cuff.
(Nothing Follows)

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Sunday night Aussie rock

Ted Mulry (September 2, 1947 – September 1, 2001) was a British-born singer, songwriter, bass player and guitarist who achieved success in Australia firstly, as a solo performer, and then leading his own band Ted Mulry Gang, sometimes officially credited as just TMG.

After getting tired of being backed by different backing bands, in 1972 he switched from acoustic guitar to bass and formed his own band, "Ted Mulry Gang", with guitarist Les Hall & drummer Herman Kovacs. The band signed a recording deal with Albert Productions in 1974 and released their first album Here We Are. Guitarist Gary Dixon joined around this time to complete the foursome. With his own band behind him he adopted a more hard rockin' style.

Their first major hit, and the biggest of their career was the 1975 single Jump In My Car which spent 6 weeks at number one on the Australian singles charts in 1976. Over the next few years they achieved a string of hit singles including a rocked up version of the old jazz song, Darktown Strutter's Ball, Crazy, Jamaica Rum and My Little Girl. Many of TMG's songs, including Jump In My Car, were co-written with guitarist Les Hall. By the early 1980s their chart success had ended but they remained popular performers on the Australian pub circuit throughout the decade.

In 1998 Ted released a solo CD called "This Time" of songs co-written by himself and his brother Steve Mulry. In early 2001 Ted Mulry announced that he had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. A series of tribute concerts organised shortly before his death, Gimme Ted, brought together an assortment of Australian rock acts of his era to pay tribute to him. These included a reunion of his band Ted Mulry Gang with his brother Steve Mulry standing in for him as lead vocalist.

In January 2006, David Hasselhoff recorded a version of Ted's classic Jump In My Car whilst in Australia. Hasselhoff's version of Jump In My Car was subsequently released in the UK and went to #3 in the charts there in October 2006.

Other performers have also covered Jump In My Car including Rammstein.

Jump In My Car

Jamaica Rum

Darktown Strutters Ball

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Ayaan Hirsi Ali tells it like it is

When people say that we are at war with Islamic extremists they are trying to contain the battle to a subset of the numerically massive religion that is Islam.

As I point out all the time, if we were at war with extremists only then the so-called 'Muslim majority' would denounce atrocities performed in their name. The fact that they don't proves my point that we're at war with the whole of Islam, as Ayaan Hirsi Ali points out in an interview with the always interesting Reason magazine.
It was a heinous murder that made the best-selling memoirist Ayaan Hirsi Ali internationally famous, but she was neither the victim nor the perpetrator. The corpse was that of Theo van Gogh, a writer and filmmaker who in November 2004 was stabbed, slashed, and shot on an Amsterdam street by a Dutch-born Muslim extremist of Moroccan descent.

The assassin, driven to rage by Submission, a short film Van Gogh had made about the poor treatment of women under Islam, left no doubt about his motives. A letter he pinned to his victim’s chest with a knife was a call to jihad. It was also a death threat against Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a member of the Dutch parliament. She had persuaded Van Gogh to make Submission and had written the movie’s script.

Then 35, Hirsi Ali had already seen plenty of turmoil. She had endured a heavily religious upbringing in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, and Kenya, including a brutal circumcision to keep her “pure.” She chafed under the yoke of an embittered and sometimes violent mother and longed for a father who was perennially absent—often imprisoned or in hiding, due to his opposition to the Somali dictator Siad Barré.

In July 1992, Hirsi Ali defied her family’s wishes, refusing to marry the man to whom her father had betrothed her. She fled Kenya for the Netherlands, gaining refugee status and finding employment as a cleaning woman and a factory worker. She assimilated quickly, learning perfect Dutch and studying political science, a choice that led to a job as an analyst at the Labor Party’s think tank. There, to the consternation of her bosses, who had been courting the Muslim vote, Hirsi Ali worried out loud about Holland’s ever-burgeoning immigrant community and the rising tensions between Muslims and the native Dutch.

In Rotterdam, the Netherlands’ second-largest city, immigrants—mostly Muslims from Morocco and Turkey—had become a majority, with Amsterdam well on its way to a similar demographic sea change. That might not have been a problem, Hirsi Ali argued publicly, if the Dutch had only encouraged the newcomers to embrace the country’s culture the way she had. But the country’s multiculturalist mind-set, paired with the national inclination to tolerate almost any form of behavior, had led to minorities’ ghettoization and to a certain lawlessness. Dutch Muslims were largely content to stay in the neighborhoods they formed together, Hirsi Ali observed. Raised on a steady diet of Islamic preaching and Middle Eastern and North African satellite TV channels, many of them rejected the Dutch way of life as hedonistic, even sinful.

Hirsi Ali wasn’t shy about mentioning the Muslim community’s self-imposed insularity, or the crime wave involving disproportionate numbers of second- and third-generation Dutch Moroccans. But mostly she agitated against the oppression of local Muslim women by male family members: forced marriages, denial of education opportunities, domestic slave labor, and, in some horrific cases, honor killings. By extension, she criticized the native Dutch for turning a blind eye to the injustices in their midst, and for tolerating those who themselves refused to tolerate alternative lifestyles.

It was a shock and a revelation to see a young, black, Muslim woman championing causes previously associated with middle-aged white male pundits who had often been dismissed as racists or Islamophobes. Hirsi Ali’s star rose quickly, especially after she accepted an offer from the VVD, Holland’s pro-market party, to run for parliament. By then, she was receiving a stream of death threats from radical Dutch Muslims and their sympathizers. Once she won her parliamentary seat, the hate mail intensified. A security detail shadowed her everywhere. Van Gogh’s murder proved the threat was all too real.

Throughout her parliamentary career, which lasted from 2003 to 2006, Hirsi Ali reaped both praise and controversy. She continued writing and speaking out in favor of free speech and the right to offend. 2004 was an especially turbulent year both privately and publicly. In May she swore off Islam and all religion. Van Gogh’s assassination made her internationally famous, and she garnered a spot on Time’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world and a European of the Year Award from the European editors of Reader’s Digest. Even the readers of De Volkskrant, a newspaper that had long embraced unfettered multiculturalism, were enthralled: They chose Hirsi Ali as their Dutch Person of the Year at the end of 2004.

In May and June of last year, a tempest in a teacup erupted over her alleged truth-twisting at the time of her Dutch asylum application. (She allegedly used false biographical data.) Hirsi Ali had already decided to move on. The publication of her autobiography, Infidel, was imminent. Early whispers about a resident fellow position with the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., turned out to be correct. Hirsi Ali moved to America, and she joined the institute in the fall of last year.

In June, Hirsi Ali talked with the Dutch-born journalist Rogier van Bakel in Washington, D.C. Comments can be sent to

Reason: Tell me how you came to the United States and the American Enterprise Institute.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: I was a member of parliament back in the Netherlands, and my party asked if I wanted to run for the next elections, in 2007. I declined. Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende’s cabinet was very precarious anyway; every two or three weeks we thought the government would fall, which would mean elections, which would force all of us members of parliament to think about what we were going to do next. So I had already decided I didn’t want to run for elections, and wanted instead to go back to being a scholar. Cynthia Schneider, who was then the U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands, said she’d be delighted to take me around in the United States and introduce me—to the Brookings Institution, the Johns Hopkins Institute, Georgetown University, the RAND Corporation. I balked at paying a visit to the American Enterprise Institute, though.

Reason: Why the initial aversion?

Hirsi Ali: Because I thought they would be religious, and I had become an atheist. And I don’t consider myself a conservative. I consider myself a classical liberal.

Anyway, the Brookings Institution did not react. Johns Hopkins said they didn’t have enough money. The RAND Corporation wants its people to spend their days and nights in libraries figuring out statistics, and I’m very bad at statistics. But at AEI they were enthusiastic. It turns out that I have complete freedom of thought, freedom of expression. No one here imposed their religion on me, and I don’t impose my atheism on them.

Reason: Do you see eye to eye with high-profile AEI hawks such as former Bush speechwriter David Frum and former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton?

Hirsi Ali: Most of the time I do. For instance, I completely and utterly agree with John Bolton that talking to Iran is a sheer waste of time.

When I was with the Labor Party, I’d get into trouble because the party bosses determined that some of what I wrote, or proposed to write about, wasn’t conducive to their policies or to electoral success. But at AEI there are no such restraints. As long you can argue it with some intelligence, no one interferes.

Reason: Religion is hardly inconsequential in European politics, but it’s virtually a prerequisite for electability here: If you’re not devout, forget about it; you won’t be elected to public office.

Hirsi Ali: I’m not going to become president, and I’m not going to run for Congress. Your Constitution doesn’t allow it. [Laughs.]

Reason: But do you feel at all uncomfortable with that heavy emphasis on religion in American public life?

Hirsi Ali: Yes. And the good thing is—and that’s what I’ve tried to tell all my European friends—I’m allowed to say so.

I think that it’s a great mistake for this country to reject a very good atheist. I mean, when you have two candidates, and one is an atheist and the other is a religious person and the atheist would make the better public official, it’s a great loss not to elect him. Anyway, atheists here can forward their agenda and fight back safely without risking violence.

I accept that there are multitudes seeking God, seeking meaning, and so on, but if they reject atheism, I would rather they became modern-day Catholics or Jews than that they became Muslims. Because my Catholic and Jewish colleagues are fine. The concept of God in Jewish orthodoxy is one where you’re having constant quarrels with God. Where I come from, in Islam, the only concept of God is you submit to Him and you obey His commands, no quarreling allowed. Quarreling or even asking questions means you raise yourself to the same level as Him, and in Islam that’s the worst sin you can commit. Jews should be proselytizing about a God that you can quarrel with. Catholics should be proselytizing about a God who is love, who represents a hereafter where there’s no hell, who wants you to lead a life where you can confess your sins and feel much better afterwards. Those are lovely concepts of God. They can’t compare to the fire-breathing Allah who inspires jihadism and totalitarianism.

Reason: In Infidel, you point out many positive religious experiences you had as a Muslim. For instance, you describe Mecca’s Grand Mosque as a place of vastness and beauty. You praise the kindness that you experienced there, a sense of community, a lack of prejudice. Are there times when you miss that aspect of being a practicing believer?

Hirsi Ali: I’d love to go and visit the Mosque in Mecca again, just for the sheer beauty of it, not for God—much the way a non-Catholic might go to Vatican City because of the beauty of the buildings and the artifacts. There’s a sense of calm in such places that’s wonderful, and there’s the awe you feel because of what humanity can accomplish.

But do I miss the religious experience? The feelings of belonging and family and community were powerful, but the price in terms of freedom was too high. In order to be able to live free, I’ve accepted living with the pain of missing my family. As for community, I experienced a very deep sense of community with my friends in Holland.

Reason: Should we acknowledge that organized religion has sometimes sparked precisely the kinds of emancipation movements that could lift Islam into modern times? Slavery in the United States ended in part because of opposition by prominent church members and the communities they galvanized. The Polish Catholic Church helped defeat the Jaruzelski puppet regime. Do you think Islam could bring about similar social and political changes?

Hirsi Ali: Only if Islam is defeated. Because right now, the political side of Islam, the power-hungry expansionist side of Islam, has become superior to the Sufis and the Ismailis and the peace-seeking Muslims.

Reason: Don’t you mean defeating radical Islam?

Hirsi Ali: No. Islam, period. Once it’s defeated, it can mutate into something peaceful. It’s very difficult to even talk about peace now. They’re not interested in peace.

Reason: We have to crush the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims under our boot? In concrete terms, what does that mean, “defeat Islam”?

Hirsi Ali: I think that we are at war with Islam. And there’s no middle ground in wars. Islam can be defeated in many ways. For starters, you stop the spread of the ideology itself; at present, there are native Westerners converting to Islam, and they’re the most fanatical sometimes. There is infiltration of Islam in the schools and universities of the West. You stop that. You stop the symbol burning and the effigy burning, and you look them in the eye and flex your muscles and you say, “This is a warning. We won’t accept this anymore.” There comes a moment when you crush your enemy.

Reason: Militarily?

Hirsi Ali: In all forms, and if you don’t do that, then you have to live with the consequence of being crushed.

Reason: Are we really heading toward anything so ominous?

Hirsi Ali: I think that’s where we’re heading. We’re heading there because the West has been in denial for a long time. It did not respond to the signals that were smaller and easier to take care of. Now we have some choices to make. This is a dilemma: Western civilization is a celebration of life—everybody’s life, even your enemy’s life. So how can you be true to that morality and at the same time defend yourself against a very powerful enemy that seeks to destroy you?

Reason: George Bush, not the most conciliatory person in the world, has said on plenty of occasions that we are not at war with Islam.

Hirsi Ali: If the most powerful man in the West talks like that, then, without intending to, he’s making radical Muslims think they’ve already won. There is no moderate Islam. There are Muslims who are passive, who don’t all follow the rules of Islam, but there’s really only one Islam, defined as submission to the will of God. There’s nothing moderate about it.

Reason: So when even a hard-line critic of Islam such as Daniel Pipes says, “Radical Islam is the problem, but moderate Islam is the solution,” he’s wrong?

Hirsi Ali: He’s wrong. Sorry about that.

Reason: Explain to me what you mean when you say we have to stop the burning of our flags and effigies in Muslim countries. Why should we care?

Hirsi Ali: We can make fun of George Bush. He’s our president. We elected him. And the queen of England, they can make fun of her within Britain and so on. But on an international level, this has gone too far. You know, the Russians, they don’t burn American flags. The Chinese don’t burn American flags. Have you noticed that? They don’t defile the symbols of other civilizations. The Japanese don’t do it. That never happens.

Reason: Isn’t that a double standard? You want us to be able to say about Islam whatever we want—and I certainly agree with that. But then you add that people in Muslim countries should under all circumstances respect our symbols, or else.

Hirsi Ali: No, no, no.

Reason: We should be able to piss on a copy of the Koran or lampoon Muhammad, but they shouldn’t be able to burn the queen in effigy. That’s not a double standard?

Hirsi Ali: No, that’s not what I’m saying. In Iran a nongovernmental organization has collected money, up to 150,000 British pounds, to kill Salman Rushdie. That’s a criminal act, but we are silent about that.

Reason: We are?

Hirsi Ali: Yes. What happened? Have you seen any political response to it?

Reason: The fatwa against Rushdie has been the subject of repeated official anger and protests since 1989.

Hirsi Ali: I don’t know. The British sailors who were kidnapped this year—what happened? Nothing happened. The West keeps giving the impression that it’s OK, so the extremists will get away with it. Saudi Arabia is an economic partner, a partner in defense. On the other hand, they—Saudi Arabia, wealthy Saudi people—spread Islam. They have a sword on their flag. That’s the double standard.

Reason: I want my government to protest the Rushdie fatwa. I’m not so sure they ought to diplomatically engage some idiots burning a piece of cloth or a straw figure in the streets of Islamabad. Isn’t there a huge difference between the two?

Hirsi Ali: It’s not just a piece of cloth. It’s a symbol. In a tribal mind-set, if I’m allowed to take something and get away with it, I’ll come back and take some more. In fact, I’ll come and take the whole place, especially since it’s my holy obligation to spread Islam to the outskirts of the earth and I know I’ll be rewarded in heaven. At that point, I’ve only done my religious obligation while you’re still sitting there rationalizing that your own flag is a piece of cloth.

We have to get serious about this. The Egyptian dictatorship would not allow many radical imams to preach in Cairo, but they’re free to preach in giant mosques in London. Why do we allow it?

Reason: You’re in favor of civil liberties, but applied selectively?

Hirsi Ali: No. Asking whether radical preachers ought to be allowed to operate is not hostile to the idea of civil liberties; it’s an attempt to save civil liberties. A nation like this one is based on civil liberties, and we shouldn’t allow any serious threat to them. So Muslim schools in the West, some of which are institutions of fascism that teach innocent kids that Jews are pigs and monkeys—I would say in order to preserve civil liberties, don’t allow such schools.

Reason: In Holland, you wanted to introduce a special permit system for Islamic schools, correct?

Hirsi Ali: I wanted to get rid of them. I wanted to have them all closed, but my party said it wouldn’t fly. Top people in the party privately expressed that they agreed with me, but said, “We won’t get a majority to do that,” so it never went anywhere.

Reason: Well, your proposal went against Article 23 of the Dutch Constitution, which guarantees that religious movements may teach children in religious schools and says the government must pay for this if minimum standards are met. So it couldn’t be done. Would you in fact advocate that again?

Hirsi Ali: Oh, yeah.

Reason: Here in the United States, you’d advocate the abolition of—

Hirsi Ali: All Muslim schools. Close them down. Yeah, that sounds absolutist. I think 10 years ago things were different, but now the jihadi genie is out of the bottle. I’ve been saying this in Australia and in the U.K. and so on, and I get exactly the same arguments: The Constitution doesn’t allow it. But we need to ask where these constitutions came from to start with—what’s the history of Article 23 in the Netherlands, for instance? There were no Muslim schools when the constitution was written. There were no jihadists. They had no idea.

Reason: Do you believe that the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights—documents from more than 200 ago—ought to change?

Hirsi Ali: They’re not infallible. These Western constitutions are products of the Enlightenment. They’re products of reason, and reason dictates that you can only progress when you can analyze the circumstances and act accordingly. So now that we live under different conditions, the threat is different. Constitutions can be adapted, and they are, sometimes. The American Constitution has been amended a number of times. With the Dutch Constitution, I think the latest adaptation was in 1989. Constitutions are not like the Koran—nonnegotiable, never-changing.

Look, in a democracy, it’s like this: I suggest, “Let’s close Muslim schools.” You say, “No, we can’t do it.” The problem that I’m pointing out to you gets bigger and bigger. Then you say, “OK, let’s somehow discourage them,” and still the problem keeps on growing, and in another few years it gets so bad that I belatedly get what I wanted in the first place.

I respect that it needs to happen this way, but there’s a price for the fact that you and I didn’t share these insights earlier, and the longer we wait, the higher the price. In itself the whole process is not a bad thing. People and communities and societies learn through experience. The drawback is, in this case, that “let’s learn from experience” means other people’s lives will be taken.

Reason: When I read Ian Buruma’s review of your book in The New York Times, I felt he wasn’t being fair to you when he wrote that you “espouse an absolutist way of a perfectly enlightened west at war with the demonic world of Islam.” But maybe that’s a pretty apt description of what you believe.
Hirsi Ali: No, that’s not fair. I don’t think that the West is perfect, and I think that standing up and defending modern society from going back to the law of the jungle is not being absolutist.

I don’t know what Buruma saw when he went to Holland [to research Theo van Gogh’s assassination for his book Murder in Amsterdam], but Theo rode to work on his bicycle one morning, and a man armed with knives and guns took Theo’s life in the name of his God—and that same man, Mohammed Bouyeri, wasn’t born believing that. The people who introduced this mind-set to Bouyeri took advantage of the notion of freedom of religion and other civil liberties.

Samir Azouz, another young man in Holland convicted of terrorist plotting, attended a fundamentalist Muslim school in Amsterdam which is still open. He had maps of the Dutch parliament. He wanted to kill me and other politicians. He wanted to cause murder and mayhem congruent with the set of beliefs that he was taught in school using Dutch taxpayers’ money. Now go back in time a little. Isn’t it extremely cruel when you put yourself in the shoes of that little boy? He was just going to an officially recognized school in a multicultural society. Everyone approved—and now he’s being punished for it. He’s in jail.

Reason: One of the things in your book that struck me was that many of the women in the book made religious choices that seemed entirely free. Your childhood teacher, Sister Aziza, chose to cover herself “to seek a deeper satisfaction of pleasing God.” You described dressing in an ankle-length black cloak yourself, and how it made you feel sensuous and feminine and desirable and like an individual. There’s also the scene where many women in your own Somali neighborhood, including your mother, began dressing in burkas and jilbabs after encountering a preacher named Boqol Sawm. You and they apparently did so of their free will, without any obvious coercion. So what’s the problem with that?

Hirsi Ali: I really thought Sister Aziza was convincing, and I wanted to be like her. And she talked about God and hell and heaven in a way I hadn’t heard before. My mother would only scream, “Pray, it’s time to pray!” without ever explaining why. Sister Aziza wasn’t doing that.

But she did teach us to hate Jews. I must confess to a deep emotional hatred I felt for Jews as a 15-, 16-, 17-year-old living in Kenya. You almost can’t help it; you become part of something bigger. I think that’s how totalitarian movements function and that’s what’s wrong with them. You lose your faculty of reason. You’re told, “Don’t think for yourself. Just follow the leader.”

“Hate people.” OK. “Kill people.” OK, fine.

Reason: But I don’t think that you, at the time, would have said that you had lost your faculty of reason. Nor would your mother have copped to that. You and the other women believed you were all making a perfectly free, rational choice to dress religiously. And why not?

Hirsi Ali: Boqol Sawm is a Somali man who was offered a scholarship to go to Medina to learn true Islam. He was indoctrinated in Medina, and then he was sent with a message to go out and be a missionary, and that’s what he was doing and he did it voluntarily. No one kidnapped him. And he convinced a lot of people.

Reason: Isn’t it all in the eye of the beholder? When you say he was indoctrinated, he would say, “I was enlightened. I was gaining knowledge of my one true faith.”

Hirsi Ali: I agree with you. When I was with Sister Aziza I thought I was being enlightened. I wasn’t aware of all the terms that we are using now: fundamentalism, radical Islam, jihadism, and so on. We were simply true and pure Muslims. We were seeking to live as true Muslims, practicing true Islam, which you find in the Koran. But it’s a problematic ideology because it demands subservience to Allah, not just from believers but from everyone.

Reason: Having lived in the United States for about a year now, do you find that Muslims in the United States have by and large integrated better here than they have in Europe?

Hirsi Ali: Since I moved here, I’ve spent most of my time in airports, in airplanes, in waiting rooms, in hotels, doing promotion for Infidel all over the world, so the amount of time I’ve actually lived in the U.S. is very small. But yes, I have the impression that Muslims in the United States are far more integrated than Muslims in Europe. Of course, being assimilated doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t be a jihadist, but the likelihood of Muslims turning radical here seems lower than in Europe.

For one thing, America doesn’t really have a welfare system. Mohammed Bouyeri had all day long to plot the murder of Theo van Gogh. American Muslims have to get a job. What pushes people who come to America to assimilate is that it’s expected of them. And people are not mollycoddled by the government.

There’s a lot of white guilt in America, but it’s directed toward black Americans and native Indians, not toward Muslims and other immigrants. People come from China, Vietnam, and all kinds of Muslim countries. To the average American, they’re all fellow immigrants.

The white guilt in Germany and Holland and the U.K. is very different. It has to do with colonialism. It has to do with Dutch emigrants having spread apartheid in South Africa. It has to do with the Holocaust. So the mind-set toward immigrants in Europe is far more complex than here. Europeans are more reticent about saying no to immigrants.

And by and large, Muslim immigrants in Europe do not come with the intention to assimilate. They come with the intention to work, earn some money, and go back. That’s how the first wave of immigrants in the Netherlands was perceived: They would just come to work and then they’d go away. The newer generations that have followed are coming not so much to work and more to reap the benefits of the welfare state. Again, assimilation is not really on their minds.

Also, in order to get official status here in the U.S., you have to have an employer, so it’s the employable who are coming. The Arabs who live here came as businessmen, and a lot of them come from wealthy backgrounds. There are also large communities of Indian and Pakistani Muslims, who tend to be very liberal. Compare that to the Turks in Germany, who mostly come from the poor villages of Anatolia. Or compare it to the Moroccans in the Netherlands, who are for the most part Berbers with a similar socio-economic background. It’s a completely different set of people.

And finally, there’s the matter of borders. In America, Muslim immigrants typically pass through an airport, which means the Americans have a better way of controlling who comes in—a far cry from Europe’s open borders. Forty years ago, when Europe began talking about lifting borders between countries to facilitate the free traffic of goods and labor, they weren’t thinking about waves of immigrants. They thought of Europe as a place people left. America, on the other hand, has always been an immigration nation, with border controls that have been in place for a long time. I know the southern border is difficult to monitor, but for Arab Muslims and Pakistanis coming to America, it’s very hard to enter illegally.

Without passing any moral judgment, those are the differences between the two places.

Reason: Are you concerned about the efficacy of your message? Do you worry that, at least in the short term, you have exacerbated the miserable treatment of women under much of mainstream Islam by prompting moderate Muslims to turn inward to their religion because they really don’t want to follow the path of the apostate Hirsi Ali?

Hirsi Ali: Young men now want to become terrorists in response to something I’ve written, that sort of thing? I don’t think that is the case. If we continue that reasoning, we’ll never scrutinize anything. Can we ever write? Can we ever criticize anything?

Reason: You write in your book that you would never have voted for Pim Fortuyn, the murdered leader of an anti-immigration party who had been considered a candidate for the Dutch prime ministership. I wonder what ideological differences you had with him.

Hirsi Ali: It wasn’t an ideological difference I had with Pim Fortuyn. In the Netherlands, new parties provoke change; they’re shock parties. They don’t carry out policies. Also, Fortuyn had no experience and had an explosive temper. Don’t get me wrong; he would have been a wonderful addition to the Dutch parliament, because rhetorically he was far stronger than all the other candidates. But I don’t think he really wanted to become prime minister. He was only joking.

Reason: He was?

Hirsi Ali: I think he was. He was a flamboyant hedonist. To be a prime minister, you sleep about four hours a night. So anyway, I wouldn’t have voted for him. I’ve always voted for the establishment.

Reason: You don’t sound like an establishment-supporting kind of person. You’re supposed to be a big rebel.

Hirsi Ali: Yeah, but there are rebels and rebels. There are rebels who are always against something, like the Socialist Party in the Netherlands. To them, rebelling itself is the aim. That’s where they get their thrill from. But I’m rebelling for something. I want something to be established.

Reason: Tolerance is probably the most powerful word there is in the Netherlands. No other word encapsulates better what the Dutch believe really defines them. That makes it very easy for people to say that when they’re being criticized, they’re not being tolerated—and from there it’s only a small step to saying they’re being discriminated against or they’re the victims of Islamophobia or racism or what have you.

Hirsi Ali: We have to revert to the original meaning of the term tolerance. It meant you agreed to disagree without violence. It meant critical self-reflection. It meant not tolerating the intolerant. It also came to mean a very high level of personal freedom.

Then the Muslims arrived, and they hadn’t grown up with that understanding of tolerance. In short order, tolerance was now defined by multiculturalism, the idea that all cultures and religions are equal. Expectations were created among the Muslim population. They were told they could preserve their own culture, their own religion. The vocabulary was quickly established that if you criticize someone of color, you’re a racist, and if you criticize Islam, you’re an Islamophobe.

Reason: The international corollary to the word tolerance is probably respect. The alleged lack of respect has become a perennial sore spot in relations between the West and Islam. Salman Rushdie receiving a British knighthood supposedly signified such a lack of respect, as did the Danish cartoons last year, and many other things. Do you believe this is what Muslims genuinely crave—respect?

Hirsi Ali: It’s not about respect. It’s about power, and Islam is a political movement.

Reason: Uniquely so?

Hirsi Ali: Well, it hasn’t been tamed like Christianity. See, the Christian powers have accepted the separation of the worldly and the divine. We don’t interfere with their religion, and they don’t interfere with the state. That hasn’t happened in Islam.

But I don’t even think that the trouble is Islam. The trouble is the West, because in the West there’s this notion that we are invincible and that everyone will modernize anyway, and that what we are seeing now in Muslim countries is a craving for respect. Or it’s poverty, or it’s caused by colonization.

The Western mind-set—that if we respect them, they’re going to respect us, that if we indulge and appease and condone and so on, the problem will go away—is delusional. The problem is not going to go away. Confront it, or it’s only going to get bigger.