Daily Wisdom

January 24, 2009

Republic or Oligarchy?

Hat-tip to PrettyOld and Heirborn Ranger...

January 22, 2009

The Coming World War

Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it. --Winston Churchill

I hope I'm wrong, but I have this nagging feeling that America will soon be embroiled in another world war. Of course, I was not around during the lead up to World War II, but I've read enough history to say, "This feels like deja vu all over again". Why do I say that? Well, consider the following parallels...

International Organizations
Following World War I (or, "The Great War"), the League of Nations was established as a super-state organization with the goals of disarmament, preventing war through collective security, settling disputes between countries through negotiation and diplomacy, and improving the global quality of life. Without any military forces of its own, the League was essentially incapable of enforcing sanctions or preventing aggression by the Axis powers in the 1930s.

Following World War II, the United Nations replaced the League of Nations and even inherited a number of agencies and organizations that were founded by the League. It was established along similar principles and suffers from the same deficincies that afflicted the League. It is essentially an impotent organization that has no inherent ability to enforce sanctions or prevent aggression. It has been unable to prevent wars since its founding and will find itself unable to prevent the next World War.

A Bad Economy
Prior to World War II (WWII), the world was in the midst of a "Great Depression" brought on by the U.S. stock market crash of 1929. It was a worldwide economic downturn that caused bank runs and bank failures, loss of confidence in the markets, fear on the part of consumers to incur new debt, a significant reduction in consumer spending, a deflationary price spiral, a massive reduction in international trade, high unemployment, and a loss of personal income.

Despite major spending by the U.S. government and businesses in 1930, consumers cut back expenditures and prices began to decline. Wages held steady for awhile, but then they too began to decline. There were frantic attempts by the governments of various nations to shore up their economies, but the policies that were implemented in many cases only exacerbated the problems.

Recently, we have seen a major stock market decline, bank failures, loss of personal income, a reduction in consumer spending, rising unemployment numbers, and falling prices for oil and gasoline. And while today's economy may not yet be as bad as the 1930s, we are told that this is the worst economic situation since the Great Depression.

While there are many theories as to what caused the Great Depression, there is one school of thought which blames the uncontrolled expansion of the money supply in the 1920s which led to an unsustainable credit-driven boom. The Federal Reserve, these scholars say, deserves much of the blame.

Likewise, we had a major credit-driven boom in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Credit was cheap and easy. Risky home mortgages were being given to customers that could not afford them and were unlikely to pay them back. Again, the Federal Reserve deserves at least some of the blame for not speaking out more vigorously against these practices. On October 23, 2008 former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan admitted that he had put too much faith in the self-correcting power of free markets and had failed to anticipate the self-destructive power of wanton mortgage lending.

In fairness to the Federal Reserve however, it should be noted that the U.S. government itself created the climate in which bad lending practices were encouraged. In 1977 Congress passed the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), which sought to encourage mortgage lending to the poor and minorities. But the banks failed to make many such loans since such mortgages would often be considered "risky".

During the Clinton administration in the early 1990s, Congress established a "CRA-rating" for banks. A high CRA-rating would be awarded to banks that made more such loans, while a low rating would be given to banks that failed to make such loans. The Congress then used low CRA-ratings against the banks when it came to matters requiring congressional approval such as mergers, acquisitions or expansion into new markets. Thus, Congress itself created an incentive to make risky loans and it resisted any attempts to curb such practices even as late as 2005 when it became increasingly apparent that a dangerous housing bubble was forming that might threaten the entire economy.

Economic Recovery
The Great Depression lasted until 1939 in the U.S. when the country began to move into a war-time economy. Why it lasted so long is also a matter of much discussion, but at least part of the answer can be attributed to the policies of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) who blamed "big business" for causing an unstable bubble in the economy. Democrats felt that business had "too much money" and sought to deprive them of their wealth by increasing taxes on corporate profits. This created an unfavorable business climate and produced an incentive against making profits.

FDR also initiated a number of government-backed "make-work" programs, including infrastructure projects such as the Hoover Dam and the Tennessee Valley Authority electrification program. While these were noteworthy achievements, they did not in and of themselves help end the Depression. Likewise, today's Democrats seem eager to invest in infrastructure projects, but the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office recently issued a report suggesting that such projects will do little to stimulate the economy any time soon, and perhaps not for ten years.

Weak Governments
Following WWI, Germany had a weak government known as the Weimar Republic. Germany had financed the war with borrowing which led to inflation, and under the Treaty of Versailles it was forced to make war reparations which were financed by even more borrowing. This led to hyper-inflation and economic chaos. Eventually, the German Reichsbank got things under control by simply not allowing the government to borrow any further and by creating a new currency called the Rentenmark, where one Rentenmark was equal to one billion old Marks! But the German people not only wanted financial stability, they wanted to be proud of their country again. Their loss of the war also resulted in the loss of international prestige. As a result, the Nazi party began to gain ascendency because it appealed to these desires of the German people with a promise of restored national greatness.

Following the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia had a weak democratic government that was faced with transitioning from communism to capitalism. Unfortunately, it was not a smooth transition. Where formerly, prices were fixed at unreasonably low levels, stores could never maintain an adequate supply of goods. People waited in long lines at a bakery only to find that there was no more bread left when they got to the counter. When capitalism was instituted, the store shelves were suddenly stocked and there was no problem finding almost anything. However, prices had skyrocketed and many people couldn't afford to buy anything.

The discontent this created led some people to pine for the old days of communism. They were also disenchanted about the fact that Russia was no longer a super-power that made the world stand up and take notice of its space achievments, its Olympic victories, its military prowess, etc. The Russians wanted a return of national pride and began to find it in the person of Vladimir Putin, just as the Germans had found it in the person of Adolf Hitler.

Political Machinations
Adolf Hitler used political machinations to gain the Chancellorship in Germany. Following his appointment to the Chancellorship, Hitler catapulted himself into a full-blown dictatorship. Likewise, Vladimir Putin has used political machinations to maintain his grip on power in Russia.

Putin became acting President in 1999 when president Boris Yeltsin resigned, and then Putin won the 2000 presidential election. In 2004, he was re-elected for a second term lasting until 2008. Due to constitutionally mandated term limits, Putin was ineligible to run for a third consecutive term. After the victory of Putin's successor - Dmitry Medvedev - in the 2008 presidential elections, Putin was nominated by Medvedev to be Russia's Prime Minister. Putin in fact took the post in May 2008. The move was seen by most analysts as a method whereby Putin could remain in power behind the scenes (i.e., he would be the power behind the throne).

It appears that Putin aspires to return to the presidency in 2012, and conveniently for Putin, Medvedev in late December signed a law extending the presidential term from four years to six. This would allow Putin to remain in office for twelve more years until 2024. These are all steps being taken at the direction of Putin to consolidate and extend his power.

Silencing the Opposition
After attaining the German Chancellorship, Adolf Hitler began to pressure rival parties and political factions. Following the Reichstag fire in 1933, Hitler used the event to suspend basic rights including habeus corpus. The German Communist Party (KPD) and other groups were suppressed. Later, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) was banned, while all other political parties were forced to dissolve themselves. Hitler's political opponents started winding up dead.

In Russia similarly, opposition voices to Putin are being silenced. Since coming to power in 1999, Putin has seized control of the country's major TV channels, all of which are now under the thumb of the government or its allies. The rollback of press freedoms is a sign of Putin's deepening authoritarianism. Nearly all serious opposition to Putin has been broken or marginalized. Prominent businessmen unwise enough to oppose him have been prosecuted and imprisoned, or forced to flee the country.

As recently as January 20th, the Washington Post reported that another Russian person fighting for human rights and the rule of law has been murdered in Vladimir Putin's Moscow...

The larger story here is of serial murders of Mr. Putin's opponents, at home and abroad. Ms. Baburova, 25, is at least the 15th journalist to be slain since Mr. Putin took power. No one has been held accountable in any of the cases -- including that of Anna Politkovskaya... who also was murdered execution-style in broad daylight, on Mr. Putin's birthday in 2006. In London, dissident former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned; so was Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, who survived. Karina Moskalenko, another opposition lawyer who has represented Ms. Politkovkaya's family, fell ill from mercury poisoning in Strasbourg, France, in October, just before a hearing in the case. Last week in Vienna, a Chechen dissident who had received political asylum was murdered on the street -- shot twice in the head... What is indisputable is that Russians live in a political climate in which those who criticize Mr. Putin or the human rights violations of his government can be murdered with impunity. --More Moscow Murder, Washington Post, 20 January 2009

Muscle Flexing
Prior to WWII, Adolf Hitler began flexing his military muscles. He built up Germany's military in violation of the Versailles Treaty. In 1933, Hitler ordered his army generals to prepare to treble the size of the army to 300,000 men. He ordered the Air Ministry to plan to build 1,000 war planes. Military buildings such as barracks were built. For two years, the German military expanded in secret. By March 1935, Europe learned that the Nazis had 2,500 war planes in its Luftwaffe and an army of 300,000 men in its Wehrmacht. Hitler felt confident enough to publicly announce that there would be compulsory military conscription in Nazi Germany and that the army would be increased to 550,000 men.

With an army to bolster his confidence, in 1938 Hitler decided to make his first territorial acquisitions. On March 12th, the 8th Army of the German Wehrmacht crossed the German-Austrian border. They did not face any resistance by the Austrian Army — on the contrary, the German troops were greeted by cheering Austrians.

Immediately following the Austrian "Anschluss" (or "joining"), Hitler set his sights on the Sudetenland. The Sudetenland had previously been part of the German confederation, but after WWI it became part of Czechoslovakia. Nazi sympathizers in the Sudeten-German Party (financed by Nazi Germany) began to argue that the Germans in Sudetenland might be better off under Hitler. Hitler wanted to invade Czechoslovakia but was persuaded by his generals against the move. British prime minsister Neville Chamberlain met with Hitler who threatened to invade Czechoslovakia unless Britain supported his plan to take over the Sudetenland. A four-power conference was held with Germany, Britain, Italy and France, at which time Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier of France agreed that Germany could have the Sudetenland. In return, Hitler promised not to make any further territorial demands in Europe. The German Army marched into the Sudetenland on October 1st, 1938.

Similarly, since taking office in 1999, Vladimir Putin has begun flexing his military muscles in a number of ways. Russia has been flying long-range bomber patrols toward the U.S. and Britain, launching planes from its aircraft carrier, redeploying the Russian fleet to the Mediterranean, engaging in war games, and sending warships to Venezuela. It also threatened Poland with a nuclear strike for agreeing to accept U.S. defensive missile systems. But perhaps the most notable recent event was when Russia marched into the Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Following the break-up of the Soviet Union, a civil war left parts of South Ossetia under the control of an unrecognized separatist government composed largely of Russian sympathizers. Hostilities escalated during 2008, and on the evening of August 7th, Georgia launched a ground- and air-based military attack on South Ossetia's capital, Tskhinvali. Russia responded by sending troops into South Ossetia and launching bombing raids farther into Georgia. After days of heavy fighting, on August 26th Russia recognized the "independence" of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and following international agreements, Russia completed its withdrawal from Georgia on October 8th. The "international agreements" were essentially terms of appeasement, and Russian troops still remain stationed in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, including areas that were formerly under Georgian control before the war.

Failure of Diplomacy
While Germany became increasingly aggressive in the lead up to WWII, the response of the former Allies (Britain, France and the U.S.) was silence or appeasement. They knew that Germany was flagrantly violating the terms of Versailles, but essentially did nothing. Americans wanted to remain isolationist. Britain was still recovering from the Depression which had devastated the economy and could not afford a conflict. The French preferred a defensive posture against the potential German threat and spent time and money building the vast "Maginot Line" - a series of forts and battle positions along the French and German border. They all sought to depend on diplomacy as a means of dealing with an aggressive nation... a move which clearly failed in the long run.

Today, the mood of many Americans and Europeans is distinctly anti-war. Barack Obama was overwhelmingly elected President of the United States having run on a platform that places great emphasis on diplomacy as a means of dealing with world problems. The tough-stance policies of George W. Bush have been rejected as militaristic, confrontational and inflammatory. Yet, as Neville Chamberlain would ultimately learn, diplomacy may be popular but it is doomed to failure when it comes to dictators and rogue regimes.

Military Preparedness
At the beginning of WWII, America was woefully unprepared for a military conflict. America wanted to remain isolationist and to "leave Europe's problems to the Europeans". Thus, when war came to America via the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, it was a challenge to gear up the economy quickly for a war-time footing.

Among his many promises during the presidential campaign, Barack Obama said he would unilaterally disarm America. He said he would reduce military spending, stop work on missile defense systems, and cut inventories of nuclear weapons. He vowed to get the troops out of Iraq and divert war funding to domestic spending programs in the United States. It is nothing less than a return to isolationism. But withdrawal and isolationism only creates a power vacuum that America's enemies are eager to fill. Isolationism can only leave America more vulnerable when it comes time for the next war. And as we have learned from history, there is always a "next" war.

By now you have surmised that I foresee a World War between the U.S. and Russia. But who might the other players be? As for Russia's allies, we might get a clue from Garry Kasparov, former Russian chess champion and democracy advocate...

Just as in the old days, Moscow has become an ally for troublemakers and anti-democratic rulers around the world. Nuclear aid to Iran, missile technology to North Korea, military aircraft to Sudan, Myanmar and Venezuela, and a budding friendship with Hamas: these are the West's rewards for keeping its mouth shut about human rights in Russia. --Garry Kasparov, New York Times, 10 July 2006

If all these countries were to side with Russia during a conflict, we could only imagine what kind of war it might be. Iran might invade Iraq to control its oil fields, assuming that the U.S. has already pulled out. North Korea might invade South Korea. Sudan could create problems in Africa. Myanmar could create problems in southeast Asia. Venezuela could create problems in our own backyard, particularly if it convinced Cuba and/or other Latin American countries to join the fight. Russia has also made overtures to Syria, and it could be assumed that along with Hamas, America's ally Israel would be a prime target for attack.

One would assume that Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand - America's traditional allies - would side with the U.S. We can only suppose that Japan would likewise side with us. But China is a big question mark. Although we have enjoyed good relations with China during the Bush administration, Obama has started out on the wrong foot even during his innaugural address by making comments about "communism" and "dissent" - comments that were censored by China's communist ruling party from live broadcasts and Chinese translations of the address.

Europe is likewise a big question mark. Ordinarily, one would assume that as NATO allies, they would join a fight against Russia without hesitation. Nevertheless, Russia recently cut off its natural gas supply to Europe during a bitter cold snap, an event which might make Europe think twice about picking a fight. One could imagine that, unless attacked, Europeans might wish to remain neutral.

Beyond that, I have nothing further to offer. Your thoughts and comments are always welcome.

January 18, 2009

Global Warming News - December 2008

Real News Stories To Share With Global-Warming Skeptics

On December 7th, the 'Watts Up With That?' blog, carried a story entitled "Early Snowfalls in Europe Hit Historic Levels". The information for the article came from the UK Snowboard Club which was reporting about events which had occurred within the previous 48 hours. Among the items were reports that the snowfall was so great in parts of Europe, that it closed roads, brought down power lines, and even led to the cancellation of some Swiss rail services. A 20-year record snowfall in the Italian Dolomites produced 5 feet of snow (and it was still falling), which was as much snow as they received all of last winter. The Pyrenees and elsewhere in Spain, received record pre-season accumulations in November which continued to grow in December as the snow kept falling. Anthony Watts said of these stories, "Anecdotal for certain, but these keep piling up."

Snow in the Pyrenees - late November.

On Monday, December 22nd, Xinhua News was reporting that freezing weather was keeping a grip on much of China and it was moving south. The cause was a cold wave that came from Inner Mongolia. Some areas of Inner Mongolia reported lows of -45C. It was the second cold wave this winter.

Yantai and Weihai, two port cities in eastern Shandong Province, had heavy snow, and highways were closed. Ferries crossing the Bohai Sea Strait to connect both cities with Dalian, in Liaoning Province, were cancelled because of strong winds. The cold wave also generated snow in Tianjin, near Beijing, and six other cities in Hebei Province, another neighbor of the national capital, according to weather services in Tianjin and Hebei. Nine freeways passing through Hebei which had been closed by snow over the weekend were reopened on Monday.

Cold wave hits Weihai China - Dec 22.

The Tianjin weather service said the snowfall Saturday night had stopped by early Sunday. The city's Hangu District on the coast had the most snow. More than 900 passengers were stranded at Tianjin Airport which closed at 9 p.m. Saturday, canceling about 100 flights. The airport remained closed on Sunday. Ground services arranged lodging for 800 passengers, and used buses to transport another 100 passengers to Beijing by train to take flights there. The airport reopened late Monday after firefighters and armed police cleared the runways of ice, according to an airport source.

Snow skipped Beijing's downtown, but it brought bone-chilling winds through the capital on Sunday, December 21st, driving the temperature to minus 12 degrees Celsius. The city's low was minus eight degrees Celsius on Monday. Nearly 1,000 vessels were stranded in Shanghai Port between Sunday and Monday as wind speeds reached 24 meters per second at the mouth of the Yangtze River, according to the Shanghai Maritime Safety Administration. Some ships drifted from the berths as their cables broke due to the strong wind. Ship collisions occurred more frequently than normal. The traffic could not start until the wind weakened, it said, adding that no casualties were reported.

The impact of the cold wave was also felt at offshore waters near Xiamen, a port city in Fujian Province, east China. There are two ferry services plying the sea waters between Jinmen, an outlying isle off Taiwan, and Xiamen. The ferry line that runs from Wutong dock in Xiamen was closed on Monday, while the other ferry line running from Dongdu dock was in service for most of Monday, but was forced to be pulled out of service at 3 p.m. A source of Xiamen General Checkpoint, which oversees the ferry service on both lines, said he could not give the exact date for the reopening of the two shipping routes.

Snow removal at Yantai airport - Dec 22.

On December 22nd, Beijing experienced its coldest day in 57 years, with the highest temperature of the day at -8.8C. The low temperatures were accompanied by strong winds which ripped off part of the metal roof on a university's gymnasium, and the thermal insulation layer of a hotel in Beijing.

Radio station FM 91.5 CKPR said that December delivered colder than normal temperatures to the Thunder Bay region of Ontario in 2008, according to Environment Canada. The government’s weather agency confirmed that Thunder Bay saw temperatures 3.5-degrees colder than the average. The normal mean temperature for December is -11.6 C, but last month the temperature was -15.1 C. That was the coldest December there since 2000. It was even chillier in other parts of the Northwest, they said. Dryden, Red Lake, Sioux Lookout and Kenora were all about five degrees colder than normal, while the average temperature in Pickle Lake last month was -21.9 C. [Pickle Lake is the most northerly community in the Canadian province of Ontario that has year-round access by road. It is located 530 kilometers north of Thunder Bay.]

Snow in Ontario Canada - Dec 21.

Nanaimo, the second largest city on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, saw records broken for snowfall and temperatures in December. The month saw 118.4 centimetres of snow fall, breaking the 111-centimetre record from December 1964 and also far surpassing the 1996 snowfall of 95.2 centimetres. On December 20th, the temperature fell to –20 C, tieing the all-time record low for the month as well as the all-time lowest temperature set on December 30th, 1968. “It’s the coldest air we’ve seen in a few years,” said David Jones, a meteorologist for Environment Canada. Two other records were broken this December. On December 15th, a temperature of –15.7 C broke the 1964 record for that day of –8.9 C. And on December 13th a dump of 37 centimetres of snow broke that day’s previous record of 10.7 centimetres set in 1975.

Canadians got their first "White Christmas" in nearly four decades. Dreams of a white Christmas became a reality pretty well across Canada. Environment Canada had been predicting the first cross-country white Christmas since 1971 after several storms battered most of Canada in the week leading up to the holiday. While the national weather forecasting agency didn't make an official declaration on whether snow had indeed blanketed Canada from coast to coast, many of its regional offices reported snow on the ground for Christmas.

"We're covered. Definitely a white Christmas here," Environment Canada meteorologist John McIntyre said from Vancouver. At the Vancouver airport, where many travellers were stranded because of the weather, 27 centimetres of snow fell on Christmas Eve, setting a weather record. "It's the greatest (amount of) snow on the ground for Christmas ever," said McIntyre. "The airport has 41 (centimetres) on the ground." Snow blanketed pretty well all of Ontario, said Environment Canada meteorologist Ria Alsen in Toronto. The only question mark in Canada's most populous province was in the southern city of Windsor, where only trace amounts of snow were recorded at the airport, Alsen said.

Stanley Park, Vacouver - Dec 25.

"We should be white everywhere. The province has been cold and we've had snow over the last week, so that keeps us nice and white." In neighbouring Quebec, the weather agency had issued wind and snow warnings for small pockets of the province. Montreal received a dump of 20 centimetres of snow earlier in the week and while rain threatened to wash it away, there was still some on the ground for Christmas. For the Maritime provinces, the question of whether it was truly a white Christmas might come down to timing. In most places there was snow on the ground for Christmas Eve.

"It was officially a white Christmas, but rapidly disappearing," said Dermott Kearney, an Environment Canada meteorologist in Gander, N.L. It was a mixed bag of weather. The province's southern coast received between 22 and 30 millimetres of rain while other regions saw a variety of weather warnings, from heavy snowfalls, blizzards and powerful winds to hazardous wind chills. Back on Canada's other coast, residents were bracing for more snow.

United States
The month of December opened with the season's first major snowstorm which "blasted" much of Illinois, according to an article at USA Today. Gusty winds accompanied the snow, stranding passengers at Chicago airports and leaving ice-slicked roads blamed for two deaths before tapering off on Monday, December 1st. The heaviest snow fell on Sunday and early Monday across a stretch of central Illinois roughly along Interstate 74 from west of Peoria to east of the Bloomington-Normal area. Icy roads led to two fatal accidents, one just outside Champaign and the other near Lincoln, Illinois.

The residents of Houston, Texas were treated to a rarity with snow on Wednesday, December 10th. The last previous snow fell in Houston on December 24, 2004. Although it was less than an inch of accumulation, the children were excited of course. The snowfall actually tied a record for the earliest snowfall in Houston ever. The previous record was set December 10th, 1944.

Snow in Houston - Dec 10.

It also snowed in New Orleans for the first time since Christmas, 2004. Before that, the last recorded snow was in 1989. Since 1850, snow has fallen in "measurable amounts" (rather than traces) just 17 times in the city. And of those 17 snowfalls, the December 10th, 2008 snowfall was also the earliest ever recorded in the season. As much as 6 inches piled up in Livingston Parish.

And in Beaumont, Texas, on the same day, an upper-level storm system dumped as much as 2 inches of snow on some parts of Southeast Texas, causing icy roads and power outages. Four bridges in Port Arthur were closed due to ice. In Houston, air travelers were delayed while workers at the city's two major airports de-iced planes. "Beaumont has had 2 inches of snow, and that's the highest snowfall ever recorded in the month of December," according to Sam Shamburger, meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "It is the earliest snowfall ever recorded in Beaumont. The previous record for the earliest measurable snowfall was December 22, 1989."

According to UPI, December was shaping up to be "one of the harshest months this winter", according to AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Alex Soskonowski. They said that December 11th was noted by CNN as being a big weather day, with only 10 states out of 50 not issuing some kind of weather advisory.

A major ice storm hit the northeast on December 12th, knocking out power to more than a million homes and businesses in New England, Pennsylvania and upstate New York. The storm encrusted some parts of the region with ice that was an inch thick. Tree limbs and powers lines continued to collapse under the crushing weight of the ice even as crews with chainsaws worked to clear debris that blocked roads and slowed recovery efforts. A warm afternoon sun created some melting, but winds gusting at 25 to 30 miles per hour continued to knock down branches and utility wires.

On December 13th, AccuWeather.com was reporting blizzard conditions across Montana with snow and wind gusts in excess of 60 mph, creating near zero visibility. One report out of an area near Fairfield Montana, described the blizzard as the "worst storm seen in decades." The report stated winds were so strong Friday night that a person could barely stand. The winds downed branches, damaged roofs and caused power outages.

Blizzard in Aberdeen, South Dakota - Dec 14.

Blizzard conditions were spreading across the northern Plains, while snow was being forecasted to fall from the Pacific Northwest to the Intermountain West throughout the rest of the weekend. Snow in the Northwest had dropped to below 500 feet in elevation, so places that rarely have snow were receiving some. Temperatures were being forecast to plummet 20 to 40 degrees over the same areas impacted by the blizzard following the snow. The dangerous subzero cold with gusty winds would bring AccuWeather RealFeel® temperatures as low as -50 degrees.

Forecast for dangerous cold on Dec 15.

On December 15th, the Seattle Times reported that the temperature of 19F set a record. The previous low of 20F was set 44 years ago. "We get cold weather but this is definitely not normal for this time of year," said meteorologist Johnny Burg, noting that temperatures were averaging 10 degrees colder than the 36-degree temperatures typically seen in December. The cold followed snow that had fallen on Saturday night, December 13th. West Seattle, King County's rural regions and Snohomish County bore the brunt of snow-and-ice-related accidents and road closures. To the south, the snow and ice were so bad in Portland that transportation officials required chains on all metro highways and briefly shut down Interstate 5.

Figid temperatures blanketed much of the U.S. on Tuesday, December 16th. New England was still trying to recover from the ice storm blackouts and now found itself in the second day of a bitter cold wave making repairs more difficult. New Hampshire utilities reported roughly 113,000 homes and businesses still without power, down from a peak of 430,000. Central Maine Power said about 10,700 customers were still in the dark and a spokesman said it expected to have power restored Wednesday. About 77,000 customers were still waiting for service in Massachusetts, state officials said.

Temperatures were 20 below zero and lower across the northern Plains, and a band of snow, freezing rain and sleet stretched from Kansas and Nebraska along the Ohio Valley to Maine. Dozens of schools closed in Kentucky and Tennessee because of slippery roads. Authorities in Lincoln Nebraska, blamed some 20 accidents on the weather. Police in north Texas had to close some highway overpasses because they were so slippery with ice.

Some of the sharpest cold was in northern Minnesota, where Hibbing bottomed out at -32F and International Falls dropped to -28F. In the middle of the state, St. Cloud fell to -24F, breaking its old record of -21F set in 1963. Winter weather advisories were in effect across much of the Midwest, and from Texas to New England. Even Southern California was warned of temperatures falling into the mid-30s. The day before, thermometers had read -31F in Glasgow Montana, and the wind chill was to 45 below. The Texas Panhandle had lows in the single digits, and Goodland Kansas, registered a record low of -10F.

Snow in Crested Butte, Colorado - Dec 16.

The cold wave and storms that accompanied it had been implicated in at least 14 deaths. An avalanche in Colorado killed a Ski Patrol member, and exposure probably killed an 87-year-old man found outside his Montana nursing home. Weather-related traffic accidents were blamed for three deaths in Oklahoma, one in Illinois and two each in Minnesota, Missouri and California.

There were record cold temps in several areas of Montana according to the Great Falls Tribune. White Sulphur Springs reported 29 degrees below zero to the National Weather Service, which was way beyond the previous daily record low of 17 degrees below zero set in 1922. Other towns breaking records were Lewistown with -25 degrees (24 below was the previous record), and Dillon with -16 degrees (the last record low was 15 below zero). Fort Benton and Boulder tied previous record lows of 23 and 20 degrees below, respectively, and Havre and Great Falls are both on their way to shattering previous records as well.

Also on December 16th, residents of Flagstaff, Arizona "brought out their skis, shovels, hats and gloves" according to KVOA News 4 in Tuscon. With a foot of snow already on the ground, it was expected to get deeper by the end of the week. The National Weather Service said a stronger storm that would hit northern Arizona on Wednesday could bring the total to three feet.

Snow in Arizona - Dec 16.

Meanwhile, as heavy snow blanketed areas from northern Arizona to Colorado, on the West Coast, sub-freezing temperatures followed rain and snow in Southern California prompting evacuations, triggering a school roof collapse, and causing at least two traffic deaths according to the L.A. Times.

Big Bear California (approximately 70 miles east of Los Angeles) saw nearly 24" of snow on December 16th. It was the first major snow storm of the season. Meanwhile, 2" of rain fell in Beverly Hills, said Stuart Seto of the National Weather Service. "This is atypical for this time of year, a very cold Alaskan storm that carries significant rain," Seto said. "As it moves through, temperatures are going to be significantly colder than normal." The storm was a dramatic break from the prevailing weather pattern, where frigid, dry air from Canada, which normally flows from West to East, plunged south along the Pacific coast, colliding with warm, moist air over the ocean. It was a "jet stream on steroids," said Bill Patzert, a climatologist with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge.

Snow in Big Bear California - Dec 16.

The strong arctic blast dumped snow over a large swathe of southern California and closed three major freeways, stranding thousands of motorists. The storm's combination of frigid air, powerful winds and heavy precipitation dropped the snow level to an unusually low 2,000 feet, with at least 20 inches of snow in Wrightwood, 5 inches in the hills above Malibu and 6 inches or more in Palmdale, where all major routes from Los Angeles were blocked. three of the region's key north-south routes -- Interstate 5, Interstate 15 and the 14 Freeway -- along with numerous mountain roads and desert highways.

The closures caused traffic nightmares for drivers trying to get in or out of Southern California. The severity of the storm caught many by surprise, leaving them stranded on the side of freeways, at rest stops and trying to stay warm inside their cars along snow-packed roads around Big Bear. By about 1:30 p.m., traffic had ground to a halt along the northbound 14 at Sand Canyon Road as frustrated motorists tried to exit the shuttered freeway or pull onto the shoulder. Palm trees were doubled over in the lashing winds, and drivers wrestled to keep their vehicles in lanes.

The same storm provided Las Vegas, Nevada with a rare snowfall that snarled traffic and caused delays or cancellations of flights. Snow blanketed the ground and the tops of roofs, marquee signs and palm trees. Many flights to McCarran International Airport were delayed or diverted elsewhere while at least 10 flights were delayed or canceled at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. The Federal Aviation Administration canceled all flights bound for Las Vegas from departing nationwide. Although snow is common in the foothills and hills around Las Vegas it is rare on the famed strip.

The 3.6 inches of snow at the weather service office two miles southwest of McCarran International Airport set a record for the most snow ever in the month of December in Las Vegas since the beginning of official records in 1937, the weather service said. The office is the official recording station for weather in the Las Vegas Valley. Measurable snow has only fallen on four other occasions since 1937 in December, the weather service said: 2 inches on Dec. 15, 1967; 0.4 inches on Dec. 5, 1972; 1 inch on Dec. 6, 1998; and 1.3 inches on Dec. 30, 2003.

Snow in Las Vegas - Dec 17.

Not all areas of the Las Vegas Valley had snow accumulations because a mix of rain and snow fell much of the time. Also, warm ground temperatures kept the snow from sticking in some areas, the weather service said. Downtown Las Vegas and the northern parts of the Strip saw snow, but little to no accumulation. However, 1.7 inches of snow was measured on The Strip at the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada" sign. Areas of heaviest snow measured between 3 to 6 inches, with local amounts of 8-plus inches in Henderson, the weather service said.

The AP reported that temperatures were forecast to drop below zero on Wednesday, December 17th in at least 12 states in the Midwest and West. A band of snow and sleet fell from Minnesota to New Hampshire. Dozens of schools were closed in Kentucky, Arkansas and Tennessee, as well as some in Illinois. Up to a half-foot of snow had fallen in parts of Kentucky.

More than 300 flights were canceled at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and about 50 were canceled at Midway Airport, said Department of Aviation spokesman Gregg Cunningham. In parts of Oklahoma, snow froze overnight and left a glaze of ice on roads, said John Pike, a weather service meteorologist. The weather service posted winter storm warnings for the Ohio Valley and parts of the Southwest — where New Mexico had numerous school closings, including Albuquerque.

The first day of winter (December 21st) brought with it an article from the New York Times about the "fierce winter storms and unusually cold temperatures [that] blanketed much of the northern half of the country." Frigid temperatures had plummeted to as low as 40 degrees below zero in northern Maine overnight, according to the National Weather Service. And residents in Portland, Oregon were waking up to a storm dumping as much as 2 or 3 inches of snow an hour. Thundersnow — in which thunder and lightning accompany heavy snowfall — was predicted to occur over parts of Maine’s Atlantic coast, bringing with it between 12 and 18 inches of snow.

In New Hampshire, heavy snow fell on the 16,800 customers still without electricity since ice storms knocked out power on December 11-12. Another foot of snow was expected, making restoration work challenging. Gusty winds were expected to lead to blizzard conditions in portions of Iowa, southern Minnesota and northern Illinois. Homeless people filled shelters in Chicago, where the morning low was 6 below zero, with a wind chill down to about 29 below. Snow fell over Boston and in western Massachusetts, where deep drifts accumulated. The region already had about a foot of snow on the ground, and up to 10 additional inches were expected.

Yakima resident skis to church - Dec 21.

On the West Coast, Seattle - known for its rainy winters - got socked with 4 to 7 inches of snow. Even more unusual, temperatures remained below freezing for three days straight and were only predicted to rise into the 20s. The result was an icy, slippery film on the region’s roads, making travel treacherous. Residents were warned to stay at home unless absolutely necessary. “The roads are really bad in most areas,” said Jay Albrecht, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle. “We don’t have a large number of snow removal trucks, because it normally doesn’t snow as much.” Another storm system was fast approaching from the Pacific Ocean and was expected to bring additional snow to the region that evening, while the earlier storm left deep snow in the mountains of Washington and was moving on to pummel Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

In Minneapolis, bitter cold conditions led officials to cancel the 2008 Target Holidazzle parade on December 21st. Organizers said it would be safer for spectators and participants to stay inside. It's the ninth weather cancellation in the parade's 17-year history. The Holidazzle parade is canceled if the temperature with the wind chill is 20 degrees below zero or colder.

In Dallas-Fort Worth area on December 21st, a cold front sweeping across North Texas caused temperatures to fall into the upper 20s and high teens by daybreak, with wind chills dipping into the single digits at some reporting stations. At 8 a.m., the National Weather Service reported it was 18 degrees in Denton and Decatur; 19 degrees at McKinney, Sherman/Denison and Fort Worth Meacham Airport. In spite of a lot of sunshine, the forecast high temperature was barely into 40s with a brisk north wind, followed by plummeting temperatures after sunset to the upper teens, the coldest of the season.

U.S. temperatures - Dec 22, 9:40 AM EST

In the Pittsburgh area on December 22nd, along with school closings and delays, some drivers found they weren't going anywhere because of the cold weather. Temperatures were in the single digits, but the wind chill made things feel even colder. Channel 4 Action News meteorologist Erin Kienzle reported some areas felt 10 or 20 degrees below zero because of the wind chill. Kienzle said the normal high for this time of year is around 38 degrees, but the high temperature wasn't expected to top 19 degrees. As a result, the low temperature took a toll on cars, especially those parked outside overnight. The AAA told Channel 4 Action News' Amber Nicotra that they had been responding to calls starting at 7 a.m. By noon, the Association said it had serviced more than 700 phone calls in the Greater Pittsburgh Area, about double the amount of calls seen on a typical winter day.

In Chicago, temperatures hovered around the zero mark for the second straight day. High winds, blowing snow, bitter cold temperatures and wind chills of -30F greeted Chicagoans on Monday, December 22nd. CBS 2's Dana Kozlov reported that people were already tired of the winter and were gearing up for what looks like a long, cold season. The wind chill was way below zero for the second night in a row. The National Weather Service issued a winter weather and a wind chill advisory for northern Illinois and northwest Indiana. The mercury fell to minus -4F degrees on Sunday night. The cold created slick conditions on the roads early in the day. CBS 2's Kris Habermehl reported dozens of accidents, creating backups and even closing the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway.

On December 29-30, Barron County Minnesota was hit with a storm that brought 9.0-10.5" of snow putting the region way ahead of the average snowfall for this time of year, according to the 'Chetek Alert'. During the month of December, 31.2 inches of snow fell in the Rice Lake area. A year ago, the month of December saw 26.5 inches of snowfall in Rice Lake (also above average for the region). According to Michelle Margraf, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Chanhassen, Minnesota, the average snowfall for December in Eau Claire (the closest climate site where averages are determined) is normally 10.4 inches. The average yearly snowfall for Eau Claire is 50.4 inches. "This is the fourth snowiest December on record for Eau Claire," said Margraf.

Much of the snow can be attributed to the cold weather that has plagued the region. The Rice Lake Air Center reported 16 days in December that were below zero. "We've been so cold this year because the jet stream (the border between the warm and cold air) which usually sits over our region has been found well south of Minnesota for much of the winter-as far south as Oklahoma at times," said Margraf. "This has allowed very cold air from Canada to stream into Minnesota, leading to a very cold start to the winter."

According to In-Forum.com, December was cold and snowy in the Fargo, North Dakota and Moorhead, Minnesota region. December 2008 saw record-breaking snowfall, which made it not only the snowiest December on record, but it was the snowiest month ever recorded as well. It was also bitterly cold. The month of December finished with an average temperature of just 5.9 degrees F, 6.6 degrees below the monthly average of 12.5 degrees. Twenty-three of the 31 days in December had temperatures below average. Twenty days saw temperatures below zero, with the coldest being -24F, recorded on the last day of the month. Of those 20 days with below-zero temperatures, four saw both the low and high temperatures remain in negative territory. With an average temperature of only 5.9 degrees, December was also the coldest month in 2008 besting January 2008 by 0.6 degrees for that honor.

The Grand Forks Herald was reporting record December snow in parts of North Dakota. Bismarck’s December total was a record 33.3 inches, more than any month on record. It topped the city’s previous mark of 31.1 inches set in March 1975. Minot also reported a record for the month. The North Central Research Extension Center said the city had 24.2 inches of snow, topping the record of 17 inches set in 1916. Juanita Grosz didn’t bother to measure the depth of snow at her home in Garrison, northwest of Bismarck. “It doesn’t matter — I just know that it’s a lot,” Grosz said. “Everything is solid white; there isn’t a track anywhere.” Grosz, 68, has lived in North Dakota all her life. She said she’s heard some grousing in town about the heavy snow and bitter cold after years of mild winters. “This is something that is normal and we should have had all these years, but we haven’t,” she said. “People just forget that we get this kind of weather.”

St. Cloud Minnesota recorded the snowiest December since 1969. It was also the coldest since 2000, according to a new report. It was also the fourth snowiest December on record, St. Cloud State University meteorologist Bob Weisman said in his monthly weather summary. A total of 23 inches of snow was recorded in St. Cloud, more than 14 inches above normal. There were 11 days with measurable snowfall, including 6.1 inches from a major storm on December 30th and snowfalls that set daily records on December 14th and 20th. The month was also significantly colder than normal, Weisman said. The average temperature in St. Cloud was 8.5 degrees, which is nearly 6 degrees colder than normal. That ranks as the 15th coldest out of the 128 Decembers on record in St. Cloud. On Decembe 15th the temperature never climbed above zero, Weisman reported. The following morning, the low temperature dropped to 24 degrees below zero, setting a record for December 16th.

Scientific Opinion

Coldest Winter Start Since 2000:
According to Jesse Ferrell of the WeatherMatrix Blog (owned by AccuWeather.com), temperatures for the period November 16th through December 8th, were significantly below normal. He produced a screen print with a map representing a large percentage of the country's northeast quadrant, showing the "departure from normal" temperatures in degrees F. As you can see in the image below, all of the numbers are negative meaning that the temps were below normal. "Now that's impressive!", says Ferrell. "Clearly below normal over the entire area, with parts of the Appalachians in double-digit departures from normal!"

Click on image to enlarge

AccuWeather's Joe Bastardi said, "I went through the data yesterday and yes, since November 15, this is the coldest [winter] start in the targeted areas since 2000." The targeted areas to which Bastardi refers include the cities of Denver, Omaha, Chicago, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, New York City and Boston.

650 Scientists Dissent Man-Made Global-Warming:
A 233-page report issued by the U.S. Senate documents how more than 650 international scientists dissent over man-made global-warming claims, and continue to debunk the notion of “scientific consensus” in 2008. The report was released on December 11th, 2008 and is available in its entirety HERE (PDF format). The report is the work of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (Minority Staff), and is an update of the 2007 report, which cited 400 scientists who disputed man-made global-warming claims in 2007. The report points out that "the over 650 dissenting scientists are more than 12 times the number of UN scientists (52) who authored the media-hyped IPCC 2007 Summary for Policymakers." The report proceeds to list a number of "inconvenient truths" that man-made global-warming advocates were forced to endure in 2008 (i.e., peer-reviewed studies, real world data, analyses, and developments which contradict the theory of man-made global-warming). The report also presents quotes from many notable scientists, such as the following...

“I am a skeptic... Global warming has become a new religion.” --Nobel Prize Winner for Physics, Ivar Giaever.

“Since I am no longer affiliated with any organization nor receiving any funding, I can speak quite frankly... As a scientist I remain skeptical... The main basis of the claim that man’s release of greenhouse gases is the cause of the warming is based almost entirely upon climate models. We all know the frailty of models concerning the air-surface
--Atmospheric Scientist Dr. Joanne Simpson, the first woman in the world to receive a PhD in meteorology, and formerly of NASA, who has authored more than 190 studies and has been called “among the most preeminent scientists of the last 100 years.

”Warming fears are the “worst scientific scandal in the history... When people come to know what the truth is, they will feel deceived by science and scientists.” --UN IPCC Japanese Scientist Dr. Kiminori Itoh, an award-winning PhD environmental physical chemist.

“The IPCC has actually become a closed circuit; it doesn’t listen to others. It doesn’t have open minds... I am really amazed that the Nobel Peace Prize has been given on scientifically incorrect conclusions by people who are not geologists.” --Indian geologist Dr. Arun D. Ahluwalia at Punjab University and a board member of the UN-supported
International Year of the Planet.

“So far, real measurements give no ground for concern about a catastrophic future warming.” --Scientist Dr. Jarl R. Ahlbeck, a chemical engineer at Abo Akademi University in Finland, author of 200 scientific publications and former Greenpeace member.

“Anyone who claims that the debate is over and the conclusions are firm has a fundamentally unscientific approach to one of the most momentous issues of our time.” --Solar physicist Dr. Pal Brekke, senior advisor to the Norwegian Space Centre in Oslo. Brekke has published more than 40 peer-reviewed scientific articles on the sun and solar interaction with the Earth.

Sea Ice Disappears Overnight
Anthony Watts, at his blog 'Watts Up With That?', stumbled upon an interesting development at the NANSEN arctic sea ice site. The title of his blog post "Something Is Rotten In Norway - 500,000 sq-km of sea ice disappears overnight" says it all.

While preparing to do a post about how sea ice area and extent had returned to very near normal levels, Watts was "shocked" to discover that "overnight" [Dec 10-11], huge amounts of sea ice "simply disappeared". He created a blink comparator of the graphs that were posted at the NANSEN web site "before and after" (see image).

NANSEN sea ice "anomaly" -- Click to enlarge.

There is no mention on the NANSEN website as to this change. So either it is an automation error or an undocumented adjustment. Either way, since this is for public consumption, NANSEN owes the public an explanation... This could be a data processing error, though if so, it is so blatantly obvious to anyone who follows the NANSEN presentation that it immediately stands out. Many people commenting on this blog and others also saw the change without the benefit of my handy-dandy blink comparator above. That fact that it occurs on a weekend could be viewed as suspicious due to fewer eyes on the website, or an indication that they have sloppy quality control there at NANSEN... --Anthony Watts, Watts Up With That?, December 13 2008

Watts says that after contacting NANSEN, the response he received created more questions than it answered...

The ice area calculation has been too high since about 22 October, causing too steep slope of the 2008 curve. We corrected for this yesterday and recalculated the ice area for 2008. The slope of the 2008 curve should now be correct and can be compared with 2007 and the previous mean monthly ice area. --Stein Sandven, Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center

Although Watts declined to state what questions he might have, the following are questions I have. The slope of the graph was "too steep"? Why was the slope too steep? 'Who' decided the slope was too steep? Is NANSEN simply reporting data points on a graph, or something else? If the data points on the graph are "calculated", then what caused the calculation change? If the "calculation" was too high "since about 22 October", then why did the graph show changes going all the way back to approximately September 5th? Is someone "massaging" the data? Why does the NANSEN data now more closely resemble the National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC) data? Did someone at NANSEN "like" the NSIDC data better? Can we trust the information coming out of NANSEN?

And speaking of sea ice, in early 2008 the global-warming alarmists were pointing to the record loss of sea ice in 2007 and making predictions that 2008 would be far worse. "There won't be any ice at the North Pole", they cried. "You'll be able to sail across the Pole without seeing any ice at all", some said. But their predictions were way off the mark. As you can see from the graph below, ice melt was far less than in 2007...

AMSRE Sea Ice Extent - Click to enlarge.

Myers: Manmade Global Warming Theory 'Arrogant':
According to Jeff Poor at Business & Media Institute, CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers has never bought into the notion that man can alter the climate. Myers, an American Meteorological Society certified meteorologist, explained on CNN’s December 18th “Lou Dobbs Tonight” that the whole idea is arrogant and mankind was in danger of dying from other natural events more so than global warming. You can watch the short Lou Dobbs segment below...

“You know, to think that we could affect weather all that much is pretty arrogant,” Myers said. “Mother Nature is so big, the world is so big, the oceans are so big – I think we’re going to die from a lack of fresh water or we’re going to die from ocean acidification before we die from global warming, for sure.” Myers is the second CNN meteorologist to challenge the global warming conventions common in the media. He also said trying to determine patterns occurring in the climate would be difficult based on such a short span. “We have 100 years worth of data, not millions of years that the world’s been around,” Myers said.

Political Opinion

Global-Warming Becoming A Low Priority:
Dennis Avery of the American Conservative Union Foundation, wrote a piece on December 3rd in which he shows how the attitudes of countries around the world are beginning to change negatively towards global-warming, particularly in light of the worldwide financial crisis. Avery says that China effectively killed a new Kyoto Protocol before the Poznan conference in Poland even began, when it "attached a ransom note to its Polish meeting RSVP." The Chinese suggested that they might go along with a new global-warming pact if the world's rich countries agree to hand over 1 percent of their GDP - about $300 billion per year - to finance the required non-fossil, higher-cost energy systems the West wants the developing countries to use.

China, India, Brazil, and Mexico had already demanded in July that the developed countries cut their own emissions by 80–95% by 2050, which is very unlikely. The EU had boasted of trying to set an 80-percent cut in its emissions, but that now looks impossible. Italy, Poland, Hungary, and Greece are part of a “blocking force” saying they can’t afford to give up coal and oil during a financial crisis (especially when the only alternative is imported Russian gas). German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who helped create the Kyoto Protocol, now says that drastic cuts in CO2 emissions are “ill-advised climate policy.” She’s building (26) brown-coal power plants instead, and re-thinking the German promise to scuttle its nuclear power plants. Meanwhile, India is importing about 50 million tons per year of high-sulfur, Appalachian coal from the US, which it sees as an under-priced energy resource. While New York and Philadelphia import low-sulfur coal from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, India wants to buy not just Appalachia’s coal but the mines that produce it. So much for "clean coal technology".

Avery further suggests not to spend too much time worrying about a new climate treaty however. Global temperatures are doing their best to tell us that CO2 isn’t very important after all...

  • Global thermometers stubbornly refused to rise after 1998, and have plummeted in the past two years by more than 0.5 degree C.
  • The world is now colder than in 1940, when the Post-WWII Industrial Revolution started spewing lots of man-made CO2 in the first place.
  • On October 29, the U.S. beat or tied 115 low-temperature records for the date.
  • London had snow in October for the first time in more than 70 years.
  • The 2007–08 temperature drop wasn’t predicted by the global climate models, but was predicted by sunspot activity.
  • Both the absent sunspots and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation now predict a 25–30 year period of global cooling.
  • After 25-30 years of cooling, any enthusiasm for global-warming agreements will presumably have vanished.

  • AP Article Indicative of Global-Warming Hysteria:
    A number of news sources, both on the Internet and in the more traditional media, all came to the same conclusion when they described an article on global-warming from the Associated Press as approaching "hysteria". Entitled 'Obama Left With Little Time to Curb Global Warming', the December 14th story by Seth Borenstein seemed to strike many in the media, as well as a number of scientists as being simply irrational. A quote from John Hinderaker at the PowerLine Blog sums it up...

    In the face of the current cooling trend, global warming alarmists have naturally gotten more hysterical than ever. This Associated Press article is typical: "Obama Left With Little Time to Curb Global Warming." Personally, I think Obama has a much better chance of walking on water than changing the weather. --John Hinderaker, Throw Another Log On the Fire, December 14 2008

    The AP article in question makes some claims that are decidedly questionable, and some that appear to be nothing more than personal opinion, including the following...

    When Bill Clinton took office in 1993, global warming was a slow-moving environmental problem that was easy to ignore. Now it is a ticking time bomb that President-elect Barack Obama can't avoid... The 10 hottest years on record have occurred since Clinton's second inauguration. Global warming is accelerating. Time is close to running out, and Obama knows it... "We're out of time," Stanford University biologist Terry Root said. "Things are going extinct"... The amount of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere has already pushed past what some scientists say is the safe level... Gore called the situation "the equivalent of a five-alarm fire that has to be addressed immediately." --Seth Borenstein, Obama Left With Little Time to Curb Global Warming, December 14 2008

    Hinderaker correctly points out some obvious errors in the article which he says, "displays a remarkable level of ignorance on the part of the Associated Press." Among the errors he refers to is the claim that the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since Clinton's second inauguration. He says "global temperature records are nowhere near accurate enough to rank years." However, he quotes revised NASA data for the U.S. which suggests the following ranking of the 10 hottest years: 1934, 1998, 1921, 2006, 1931, 1999, 1953, 1990, 1938, 1939. Also, global-warming has not been "accelerating". Rather, there has been a global-cooling trend over the last 8-10 years.

    Hinderaker also reproduces a graph from a report issued by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) which shows 3,000 years of temperature history acquired from proxy data (see image below). According to the graph, we are only now managing to approach the global surface temperature which was the average over the last 3,000 years following the Little Ice Age which ended in the mid-19th century (i.e., 1850s). In other words, the global surface temperature has been much higher than it is today, and without any help from the CO2 emissions of mankind.

    3000 Year Temp. Record from Proxy Data

    Global-Cooling Is Part Of Global-Warming?:
    In reference to the same AP article cited above, Paul Joseph Watson & Steve Watson at PrisonPlanet.com share the incredulity of many who are now learning that the current global-cooling trend is actually a proof of man-made global-warming. Huh?

    An Associated Press article has stunned some readers by suggesting that an ongoing global cooling trend is actually indicative of how quickly the planet is succumbing to man-made global warming. The bizarre statement appeared in a panic-inducing article that emphasizes man-made warming fears and highlights how president elect Obama must tackle them with new laws including a carbon tax “cap-and-trade” system. --Desperate Double Speak: Global Cooling Is Part Of Global Warming, December 16 2008

    They then go on to quote the article written by Seth Borenstein...

    Mother Nature, of course, is oblivious to the federal government’s machinations... Ironically, 2008 is on pace to be a slightly cooler year in a steadily rising temperature trend line. Experts say it’s thanks to a La Nina weather variation. While skeptics are already using it as evidence of some kind of cooling trend, it actually illustrates how fast the world is warming. --Seth Borenstein, Obama Left With Little Time to Curb Global Warming, December 14 2008

    This kind of babble is absolute nonsense. "A slightly cooler year... actually illustrates how fast the world is warming." What...? Did I miss something? How does that work? It is more than "ironic" to speak of "a slightly cooler year in a steadily rising temperature trend line" -- it is actually mathematically impossible. First of all, how can temperatures be "steadily rising" if this year was cooler than last year? But let's give Borenstein the benefit of the doubt, because he uses the word "trend" rather than speaking of absolute temperatures. Regardless of that, his statement still makes no logical sense.

    Let's consider "trend" for a moment. A "trend line" is created by analyzing data (in this case temperatures) and determining if it is increasing, decreasing or flat. Let's assume for a moment that we had 10 straight years of global temperature increases followed by one year of temperature decrease. Mathematically, the trend line for the first 10 years would have to be adjusted downwards (even if only slightly) when the 11th data point is added to the set. Worse yet, if the first data point is eliminated from the set because you are perhaps only interested in a 10-year rolling average, the trend line would have to be adjusted even further downwards.

    "Ironically" enough, Seth Borenstein fails to say anything in his article about the fact that global temperatures have been trending downwards not just for one year, but for 8 (or 10 if you include the unusually warm el Nino year of 1998). This failure on the part of Borenstein, is indicative of either deception or ignorance. Not only that, but the deception or ignorance must be expanded to include the AP's editorial staff (assuming that somebody actually reviewed Borenstein's article before it was published).

    So let's stop and think for a moment about what this means in terms of "climate change". Climate is commonly defined as the weather averaged over a long period of time. The standard averaging period is 30 years (but other periods may be used). Let's use the 30-year standard, and consider a 30-year rolling average. There have been 8-10 years of global temperature decrease out of the last 30. That means that nearly (or fully) one third of the data points have been acquired to categorically state that "global-cooling" is in fact occuring. In any case, the "trend line" has clearly been decreasing and not "steadily rising" for the last 10 years. We are indeed experiencing "climate change", and the "trend" is towards "global-cooling".

    2008 Cooler, But World Still Warming:
    Here's another idiotic headline -- this time from the Australian Broadcasting Service. If 2008 was cooler than the year before, then the world is NOT "still warming". It is cooling. D'UH! How stupid can these people be? Oh, excuse me. Again, the reporters are talking about "trends"...

    The past 12 months have been cooler than previous years but longer-term trends show the world is still warming due to climate change... "The global temperature is likely to rank around the 10th warmest year" on record, says World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) Director General Michel Jarraud. "The trend for warming is still very much there," he says... --2008 Cooler, But World Still Warming, Australia Broadcasting Service, December 17 2008

    Note that Michel Jarraud says that 2008 is "likely to rank around the 10th warmest year on record". Oh really? You mean it wasn't the 2nd warmest year on record? If the temperatures only dipped for one year, why wasn't 2007 the hottest year on record? Ohhhh!! Maybe that's because temperatures have been dropping for 10 years, and last year was the 10th year that temperatures have dropped. Well, that makes sense to me. You can forget that stuff about La Niña. That's just a cover for the real "deniers"... the ones who deny that the sun is mainly responsible for earth's climate.

    Climate Scientists In Denial:
    An article at RedOrbit.com acknowledges that the average global temperatures for 2008 should come close to 14.3C, the coolest since 2000 and 0.14C below the average temperature for 2001-07. The article says the prediction was based on preliminary estimates to be released by the Met Office [UK]. However, climate scientists say this doesn’t mean that global warming is on the decline. "Absolutely not," said Dr Peter Stott of the Met Office's Hadley Centre. "If we are going to understand climate change we need to look at long-term trends," he said during an interview with Britain’s 'The Guardian' [emphasis added].

    "You can bet your life there will be a lot of fuss about what a cold year it is. Actually no, its not been that cold a year, but the human memory is not very long, we are used to warm years," he told The Guardian... Compared with two hundred years ago, 2008 would be considered a "scorcher". [EDITOR'S NOTE: Two hundred years ago the earth was in the closing years of the 'Little Ice Age' which officially ended in 1850. During the 'Little Ice Age' there were at least two periods of reduced solar activity as evidenced by the observation of fewer sunspots. The first is known as the 'Maunder Minimum', which occurred from approximately 1650-1710. The second was known as the 'Dalton Minimum', which occurred from approximately 1790-1830. It should also be noted that 2008 began with a lack of sunspot activity, which has continued mostly unabated throughout 2008. The last time a solar sunspot cycle was delayed this long, was at the beginning of the Dalton Minimum.]

    December's only sunspot activity - Dec 11-12.

    The RedOrbit.com article quickly glosses over a surprising fact: "Alternatively, in the current climate there is a roughly ten percent chance of having a year this cool" [emphasis added]. In other words, according to the computer models of the 'climate change' gurus, the odds were 90% against 2008 being so cool. (So much for the climate change models.)

    The Met Office figures were obtained with help from a variety of measurements from satellites, ground weather stations and buoys. The data was then jointly compiled by the Hadley Centre and the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit. In March, climate scientists from Kiel University forecasted that natural variation would conceal the 0.3C warming predicted by the Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) over the next ten years. They said that global temperatures would remain constant until 2015, after which they would begin to rise again at an accelerating rate [emphasis added].

    In other words, the current global-cooling trend we are experiencing is "concealing" the actual global-warming that is taking place as "predicted" in the IPCC "forecast". The on-going warming trend won't become "apparent" again until the year 2015 when the current cooling trend ends (or so they hope). This "spin-talk" is the language of global-warming fanatics and political hacks. The current trend is global-cooling but they just can't bring themselves to admit it. They speak as if they can predict with absolute certainty that temperatures will again rise, and in what year. Nothing but sheer baloney.

    January 09, 2009

    The Constitution Still Matters

    January 07, 2009

    The Bush Legacy: My View - Part 1

    I recently did a Google search on "The Bush Legacy", and got 2,300,000 results. It is amusing to read any number of these stories about what some people view to be the legacy of George W. Bush. For those on the Left, he was a fascist dictator who presided over eight years of unmitigated disaster, which will take years or decades to correct. For them, every single problem which occurred anywhere in the world during the last eight years was caused by Bush, while liberals have been the shining beacon of hope for mankind. For those on the Right, Bush was a big-government, free-spending conservative who wasn't able to contain government growth, let alone cut it. For them, his principle crime is that he wasn't Ronald Reagan. In any case, if you are "fortunate" enough to read some of these stories, then it might be advisable to take most of them with a "grain of salt" -- especially the ones that drip with profanity, vitriol, sarcasm and/or ad hominem attacks.

    According to a recent poll from the American Research Group, Bush entered his final month in office with a disapproval rating of 67%, matching the highest for any President in history (Harry Truman was the previous record holder). Richard Nixon resigned from office following the Watergate scandal with a disapproval rating of "only" 66%. It is not surprising then to find so many negative articles about "The Bush Legacy", especially considering that the vast majority of reporters and journalists are liberals (the kind of people who like to write such stories). Evidence of this became clear in June 2007 when Bill Dedman, an investigative reporter for MSNBC.com, reported that a study of Federal Election Commission records revealed that out of 144 well-known reporters, 125 gave money to Democrats or liberal causes, while only 17 gave to Republicans or conservative causes. The remaining 2 gave to both parties or causes.

    Nevertheless, as you might imagine, one person's "negative" can be another person's "positive". I found myself chuckling over a few of the "disastrous... far-reaching, negative consequences" of the Bush administration listed by Paul Cummins in an article at the Huffington Post which goes back to 2006. Included in his list are things like: tax cuts, de-regulation, "weakening" the separation of church and state, protecting the gun industry from lawsuits, rejection of the U.N. and other international organizations, increased military spending, rejection of minimum wage increases, attempts to privatize Social Security, and so on. As a conservative, most of these are things I would find myself applauding George W. Bush for.

    It is clear then, that any discussion of the Bush Legacy will inherently be colored by the political or philosophical views of the author. It is nearly impossible to produce an unbiased view of this, or any President's legacy. And, without the luxury of time to reflect back on what kind of place our nation and our world have become as a result of his policies, we can only attempt to suggest what history might say about him by doing our best to remove our political blinders.

    Let us then consider some facts as we know them...

    A Decade of Partisanship
    The 2000 U.S. presidential election was one of the most divisive in American history. It pitted Texas Governor George W. Bush (Republican) against Vice President Al Gore (Democrat). Bush narrowly won the election, with 271 electoral votes to Al Gore's 266. The election was ultimately decided following a controversy over Florida's 25 electoral votes (and thus the presidency). The vote in Florida went to a recount, which led to charges of counting errors and voters being disenfranchised. "Hanging chads" and "butterfly ballots" became household phrases. Oddly enough, the losing candidate (Al Gore), received more popular votes than the winner (George Bush). It was the closest presidential election since 1876.

    The controversy began when television networks started calling the state of Florida for Al Gore at approximately 7:50 PM EST, ten minutes before the polls even closed in the Florida panhandle. However, as the vote continued to come in, the TV networks were forced to change their predictions. At about 10:00 PM EST, they put Florida back in the "Undecided" category. At about 2:30 AM they declared Bush the winner and President-Elect. At around 4:30 AM, Gore reduced Bush's lead in Florida to just over 2,000 votes as final vote tallies came in from the heavily-Democratic counties of Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach. Some of the networks again reversed themselves and called the race to close to call. Although Gore had already secretly conceded the election to Bush, Gore changed his mind, reversed the concession, and demanded a recount.

    A recount took place, which led to questions about counting procedures, and then ultimately to lawsuits. The lawsuits ended up in (2) U.S. Supreme Court decisions. The first decision (7-2) was that the Florida Supreme Court's plan for recounting ballots was unconstitutional. The second decision (5-4) ended the recounts and allowed Florida to certify its vote, in favor of George W. Bush. Democrats made allegations of corruption, suggesting that Florida's Republican Secretary of State (Katherine Harris) conspired with Florida's Rebulican Governor (Jeb Bush) -- George Bush's younger brother -- to "steal" the election from Al Gore. But the allegations were never substantiated.

    The bitter partisanship which ensued following the election controversy didn't begin in the year 2000, however. It actually started in 1998 with the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. Democrats never forgave the Republicans for pursuing the impeachment proceedings, and now they were even angrier after the 2000 election. They felt like the presidency was robbed from them, despite recount studies which proved that Bush won.

    It was into this climate of hard feelings and bitter partisanship then, that George W. Bush entered the presidency. It was an environment in which the Democrats were primed for confrontation. What made things worse, is that the base of the Democratic party was largely liberal, while the Republican party base was largely conservative. It was a fight just waiting to happen, and happen it did. The fireworks of partisanship continued (mostly unabated) from 1998 until the end of Bush's second term in 2008. Only in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 did the bickering subside -- but not for long. Only time will tell if a President Obama can quell the partisan animosity.

    The 'Idiot' President
    From the very beginning of his presidency, George W. Bush was labeled by his detractors as an 'idiot'. After the election, his first television appearances seem stilted and awkward. He had that "deer-in-the-headlights" look that suggested he was unsuited for office. He seemed to lack confidence and got tripped up over the names of foreign dignitaries. He was clearly not an eloquent speaker and regularly stumbled over his words. The irritation of the 'word-smiths' in the media soon became apparent. Their question of: "How the heck did this idiot get elected?" was often implied if not asked directly. Left-leaning 'bloggers' were far less shy about asking the question.

    In a good-natured, self-deprecating manner, President Bush joked that he was "known to mangle a few syl-LAB'-bulls" now and then, but many on the Left were merciless. They didn't like him and, with just a hint of elitism, they created a caricature of Bush as a bumbling idiot who was liable to ruin the country. Before long, it was even being suggested that Vice President Dick Cheney and Bush strategist Karl Rove were actually running the country, while Bush was merely a puppet.

    Bush cartoon from 2001.

    Even in the 2006 article by Paul Cummins mentioned above, President Bush is painted as a person guilty of: "Furthering anti-intellectualism - a president who admittedly does not read and is embarrassingly inarticulate" [emphasis added]. Nevertheless, Karl Rove has disputed such statements in a recent article at the Wall Street Journal. According to Rove, Bush is a "book lover" who read (95) books in 2005, at least (58) in 2006, (51) in 2007, and (40) in 2008. Besides that, Bush read the Bible cover-to-cover during each of those years along with a daily devotional. Rove said that President Bush enjoys heavy doses of history and biography, along with some novels and books on current events thrown in for a change of pace. Rove further went on to list some of the impressive titles Bush devoured during those years.

    There is a myth perpetuated by Bush critics that he would rather burn a book than read one. Like so many caricatures of the past eight years, this one is not only wrong, but also the opposite of the truth and evidence that bitterness can devour a small-minded critic. Mr. Bush loves books, learns from them, and is intellectually engaged by them. --Karl Rove, Bush Is A Book Lover, WSJ.com, December 28 2008

    While it is true that Bush might be one of the most inarticulate Presidents we have ever had, it should be remembered that he was a history major at Yale, and graduated from the Harvard Business School with an MBA (no easy feat for an "idiot" who "does not read"). Not only that, but his grades at Yale -- which were only average -- still surpassed those of John Kerry (Bush's opponent in the 2004 election), who also attended Yale during approximately the same time period. Yet, Kerry was considered by many to be the more intellectual of the two. Bush critics have been quick to seize upon his lack of eloquence and turn it into "proof" of his ignorance -- a non sequitur if ever there was one.

    It should also be pointed out that President Bush was a pilot in the Texas Air National Guard where he flew the F-102 'Delta Dagger' (also known as "The Deuce"). The F-102 was a supersonic jet capable of Mach 1.25 (825 mph), altitudes of 53,400 ft, with a Rate of Climb at 13,000 ft/min. For avionics, it employed the MG-10 fire control system. It could be fitted with (24) unguided rockets, or (6) AIM-4 air-to-air missiles, or (3) AIM-4 missiles plus (1) AIM-26 missile with either a conventional or nuclear warhead. The aircraft was an important element of America's Air National Defense from 1960-1973. The initial batch of NASA astronauts, commonly referred to as the "Mercury 7", flew the aircraft to keep up their flight hours. The F-102 was not an aircraft that would be readily entrusted to an "idiot".

    F-102A 'Delta Dagger'

    Less than 2 months before the 2004 Presidential election, Dan Rather and CBS News publicized six documents that were critical of President Bush and his service in the Texas Air National Guard. Often referred to as Rathergate, a controversy was sparked when the CBS show called '60 Minutes Wednesday' tried to pass off the documents as authentic. The documents were almost immediately called into question by Right-leaning 'bloggers' who said the typeset looked suspiciously computer-generated. You can see a "blink comparison" of one such document below. Charles Johnson, conservative and founder of the blog "Little Green Footballs" created this animated GIF comparison of a purported 1970's era typewritten memo with a 2004-era MS Word document using default settings...

    Unfortunately, CBS had failed to authenticate the documents, and subsequently, several typewriter and typography experts concluded that the documents were forgeries. Nevertheless, Dan Rather continued to argue that even though the documents might not be authentic, the underlying story was still true. But without proof, his arguments rang hollow and sounded desperately partisan. No forensic document examiners or typography experts have ever examined the original documents. The provider of the documents, a Lt. Colonel Bill Burkett, claims to have burned the originals after faxing the copies to CBS. CBS News producer Mary Mapes was forced to resign, and CBS News eventually apologized to its viewers. Dan Rather resigned several months later, although he said it had nothing to do with the controversy.

    The China-U.S. Spyplane Incident
    On April 1st, 2001 a collision occurred between a U.S. Navy EP-3E signals reconnaissance aircraft (the "spyplane"), and a Chinese military fighter jet over the South China Sea. The EP-3 was operating about 70 miles away from the Chinese island of Hainan, which China claimed was its airspace according to the "UN Convention on the Law of the Sea". China was a signatory to that Convention, but the U.S. was not. The U.S. considered that area where the incident took place to be international waters.

    The Chinese and the U.S. version of events differs, and each blamed the other for the collision. The Chinese J-8 jet was chopped in half and the pilot, Wang Wei, was forced to eject. He was never found, and was presumed dead. The nosecone and a propellor on the EP-3 were badly damaged, and the plane was forced to make an emergency landing on Hainan island.

    Damaged EP-3 Reconnaissance Aircraft on Hainan Island - April 2001.

    After landing, the U.S. aircraft crew attempted to destroy sensitive equipment on board the aircraft, but reports indicate the crew was only partially successful. Apparently the Chinese were later able to gather intelligence information from the equipment. The crew of 24 disembarked the plane and were taken into custody by the Chinese who interrogated them. Three U.S. diplomats were sent to Hainan to determine their condition and negotiate their release.

    The initial reporting of the incident was somewhat ominous. Oxford Analytica described the significance of the event this way...

    The incident will inflame tensions between Washington and Beijing at a time when the two countries are already at odds over US arms sales to Taiwan, China's human rights record and its alleged supply of equipment for military use to Iraq. The way in which the affair is handled will provide important clues to the future of Sino-US relations under the Bush administration. --Oxford Analytica, CHINA/US: Spy Plane Collision, April 2 2001

    The Chinese government refused to allow the plane to be repaired and to take off under its own power, resulting in a "stand-off". The incident was increasingly being painted as a "Litmus Test" for President Bush...

    The nearly week-old U.S.-China standoff over the EP-3 dominated editorial pages overseas... Commentators in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan saw the spat as indicative of China's enhanced standing as a world power. From Europe, writers worried that diplomatic efforts could be hindered by internal jockeying for power in both Beijing and Washington, with "hawks" in both capitals "exerting pressure for a 'tough line' without compromise." --GlobalSecurity.org, 'Bush Faces Litmus Test In Spy Plane Crisis', April 6 2001

    After preliminary expressions of U.S. regret, the Chinese demanded a formal apology. The U.S. issued the "Letter of Two Sorries", saying that the United States was "very sorry" for the death of Chinese pilot Wang Wei, and "We are very sorry [that] the entering of China's airspace and the landing did not have verbal clearance..."

    The crew was released on April 11, 2001 shortly after the letter was delivered, and they returned to the U.S. via Hawaii. The EP-3 was disassembled and sent home in pieces. The plane was officially released from Chinese custody on July 3rd when the last piece arrived in the United States. And President Bush was seen to have handled the situation in a positive manner which reduced tensions between the two powers. Prime Minister Howard of Australia praised Bush for his handling of the situation...

    Australian Prime Minister John Howard on Thursday praised U.S. President George W. Bush for his handling of the recent U.S.-China diplomatic standoff. "I think the president has handled the issue with a great deal of patience but also considerable strength," said Howard... Howard said he did not believe Bush could be criticized over his handling of the incident, which tested relations between the two powerful nations. --BNET, Howard Praises Bush Over Handling of Spy Plane Crisis, April 12 2001

    Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao shake hands.

    Bush's handling of this incident set the tone for U.S.-China relations over the next 7 years. The Sino-American relationship was undoubtedly one of the bright spots of the Bush years. As President Bush prepares to leave office, an article in the Asia Times says...

    Chinese leaders may be forgiven for some feelings of nostalgia for the outgoing US president... for the most part, his presidency has been a boon for China, which has continued its relentless rise as a world power under his largely congenial watch... On New Year's Day, Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao exchanged warm, congratulatory messages marking the 30th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the US and China... From a Chinese perspective, Bush has been a good steward of the Sino-American relationship... While other Western leaders such as French President Nicolas Sarkozy expressed reservations about attending the opening ceremony of the Olympics, Bush always was and continued to be a great supporter of China as Olympic host... On the sticky political issue of Taiwan, Bush officials have also been notably accommodating to Beijing... the Chinese, using their huge chest of foreign currency reserves, chose to underwrite America's enormous debt with the purchase of $653 billion in US Treasury securities, making China by far the world's largest holder of these securities... In the diplomatic arena, Bush officials received lots of help from the Chinese in the six-party nuclear disarmament talks with North Korea... Now, however, the world's most important bilateral relationship is threatened by the global recession, and an Obama presidency creates additional uncertainty. --Kent Ewing, In China, Bush Nostalgia, Asia Times, January 6 2009

    Aftermath of 9/11
    Less than eight months into his first year as President, George W. Bush would be tested again with the tragic events of September 11, 2001. It was the worst attack on American soil in U.S. history. More people died in one day than perished at Pearl Harbor. The events of 9/11 would change America and the world forever, in part because President Bush himself changed dramatically. He became focused and resolute. He became determined that another major attack like 9/11 would not happen again on his "watch". With very few days remaining in his second term as President, it appears that he will have made good on that promise.

    The actions taken by President Bush in response to the events of 9/11 were wide-ranging and significant. He declared a "Global War on Terror". He did so because he realized that al-Qaeda had cells and affiliated organizations around the world, and it was important to address them all...

    This group and its leader - a person named Osama bin Laden - are linked to many other organizations in different countries, including the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. There are thousands of these terrorists in more than 60 countries. They are recruited from their own nations and neighborhoods and brought to camps in places like Afghanistan, where they are trained in the tactics of terror. They are sent back to their homes or sent to hide in countries around the world to plot evil and destruction... Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated. --President George W. Bush, Address to Congress, September 20 2001

    He also knew that some rogue nations would be willing to harbor terrorists. Therefore, he issued an ultimatum...

    And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime. --President George W. Bush, Address to Congress, September 20 2001

    He initiated 'Operation Enduring Freedom' in Afghanistan with the stated goals of destroying the terrorist training camps there, and the capture of al-Qaeda leaders. The result was the liberation of Afghanistan. He deployed Special Operations forces to the Philippines to assist in the uprooting of terrorists there, including members of al-Qaeda, Abu Sayyaf, and Jemaah Islamiyah. He pushed for and signed into law the USA Patriot Act of 2001. He froze the assets of various front groups within the U.S. that were known to be funneling money to overseas terror groups. He worked with our allies around the world to freeze the assets of individuals and organizations with ties to terror. He created the Department of Homeland Security, and began the process of breaking down the "wall of separation" between the CIA and the FBI (which was at least partly to blame for our failure to prevent 9/11). He initiated various covert operations to improve U.S. intelligence gathering about potential threats, some of which later became highly controversial when they came to light.

    Most of the steps which President Bush took during this period and/or the programs which he started, are still in effect. Some have been modified to address concerns about the civil liberties of Americans, but for all practical purposes those policies and programs are largely unchanged. And Americans are safer today as a result of those measures established by George W. Bush following 9/11. Terrorists and terrorist leaders worldwide have been captured or killed. Terrorist plots have been thwarted. Hundreds, if not thousands, of lives have been saved.

    In an article dated November 13th 2007, at the Heritage Foundation, James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. describes (19) terrorist attacks on American soil that were thwarted since 9/11. While few of these attacks would likely have been as catastrophic as the events of 9/11, these thwarted plots "could have resulted in significant loss of life and property if they had been conducted successfully." All of the thwarted plots mentioned were those available through public information at the time the article was written. Other plots may have been made public since then of which I am unaware, and there may be others that have not been made public because they remain classified information.

    We also know that at least a few of the terrorist plots that have been thwarted overseas were due to the efforts of, or in cooperation with, American intelligence services. In fact, it has recently been reported that the U.S. warned India of an impending water-borne attack on Mumbai, but nothing was done with the information. As a result, at least 173 people were killed, and over 300 more were wounded in a series of ten coordinated terrorist attacks throughout the city.

    And, in the face of opposition from civil liberties proponents, President Bush has managed to vigorously defend his anti-terror policies...

    Bush has succeeded in beating back nearly all legal challenges -- including those to some of his most controversial policies. Among them are a domestic surveillance program to intercept international phone calls, the rounding up of Muslim men for questioning after the Sept. 11 attacks, the holding of suspects in military custody in this country without filing charges, harsh interrogations -- some have called it torture -- of suspects arrested abroad, and the detention of foreign captives at a military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

    Because of the administration's successful defense of such policies, they not only will be a part of Bush's legacy but will be around for his successors. Even if Barack Obama rejects or sharply modifies Bush's positions, the precedents will remain for future chief executives...

    Bush's anti-terrorism policies have not been blocked by the courts or Congress. When the Supreme Court struck down Bush's use of special military trials at Guantanamo on grounds that he had no legal basis for creating them, Congress passed the Military Commissions Act to authorize the trials.

    When critics claimed the National Security Agency was violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by intercepting calls without a warrant, Congress passed a law to authorize such wiretapping. The same measure also granted legal immunity to telephone companies that had cooperated with the administration.

    --L.A. Times, Bush Has Successfully Defended Anti-terrorism Policies, December 30 2008

    The Liberation of Afghanistan
    The liberation of Afghanistan started in early October 2001, marking the beginning of the U.S. "Global War on Terror". The Afghan Northern Alliance provided the majority of fighting forces, while the U.S. and a coalition of other countries provided support. The coalition countries included: the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Australia, Pakistan and New Zealand. The U.S. military name of the conflict was Operation Enduring Freedom. During the prosecution of Operation Enduring Freedom, the brutal Islamist regime of the Taliban was deposed, al-Qaeda terrorist training camps were destroyed, and the al-Qaeda leadership was forced to flee the country.

    Following the attacks of 9/11, investigations began implicating Osama bin Laden as the perpetrator. Even though he initially denied any involvement, Osama bin Laden later admitted his involvement in the attacks through an audiotape he released shortly before the 2004 U.S. presidential election. On May 21st, 2006, bin Laden went so far as to say that he had personally directed the 19 hijackers, in yet another audiotape posted on an al-Qaeda website. It was well-known by intelligence officials that Osama bin Laden was residing in Afghanistan under the protection of the Taliban, a Sunni Islamist pro-Pashtun movement which ruled most of Afghanistan since 1996 under brutal Sharia Law.

    George Bush addresses Congress - Sept 20 2001.

    In his Address to Congress on September 20 2001, President George W. Bush delivered an ultimatum to the Taliban, and further stated that these demands were NOT open to negotiation or discussion:

  • Deliver Al-Qaeda leaders located in Afghanistan to the United States
  • Release all imprisoned foreign nationals, including American citizens
  • Protect foreign journalists, diplomats, and aid workers in Afghanistan
  • Close terrorist training camps and "hand over every terrorist"
  • Give the U.S. full access to terrorist training camps to verify closure

  • The Taliban at first refused to respond, saying that talking with a non-Muslim political leader would be an insult to Islam. They later responded through their embassy in Pakistan demanding evidence of bin Laden's involvement in the September 11th attacks. They also proposed to try Bush in an Islamic court. Later, when U.S. military action appeared imminent, they offered to extradite bin Laden to a neutral nation. There were also reports that moderates within the Taliban met with American embassy officials in Pakistan to discuss the possibility of turning bin Laden over to the U.S. in order to avoid military intervention. President Bush rejected these offers as insincere, and not in compliance with the demands of the ultimatum.

    At approximately 16:30 UTC (12:30 EDT) on Sunday October 7, 2001, American and British forces began an aerial bombing campaign targeting Taliban and al-Qaeda forces. Strikes were reported in the capital, Kabul (where electricity supplies were severed), at the airport, at Kandahar (home of the Taliban's Supreme Leader Mullah Omar), and also in the city of Jalalabad (military/terrorist training camps). The U.S. government said these attacks came as a response to the failure of the Taliban to meet any of the U.S. demands. The Taliban condemned these attacks as an "attack on Islam."

    The strikes initially focused on the area in and around the cities of Kabul, Jalalabad, and Kandahar. Within a few days, most al-Qaeda training sites had been severely damaged and the Taliban's air defenses had been destroyed. The campaign then focused on communications and "command & control". The Taliban began losing the ability to coordinate, and their morale began to sink. However, the line of Taliban facing the Northern Alliance held firm, and there were no battlefield successes to report. Two weeks into the campaign, the Northern Alliance demanded that the bombing focus on the front lines. Critics began to suggest that the war would be lost. Civilian casualties began to mount.

    The next stage of the campaign began with carrier-based F/A-18 Hornet fighter-bombers, while other U.S. planes began cluster bombing Taliban defenses. Northern Alliance commanders finally began to see the results that they had hoped for. The Taliban were beginning to crumble under the pressure of the strikes. U.S. Special Forces then launched an audacious raid deep into the Taliban's heartland of Kandahar, even striking one of Mullah Omar's compounds. However, the campaign's progress seemed to remain slow. It was now the end of October.

    In the next stage of the air campaign the Taliban front lines were bombed with 15,000-pound daisy cutter bombs, and strafed by AC-130 gunships. Poor Taliban tactics increased the effects of the strikes. The fighters had no previous experience with American firepower, and often even stood on top of bare ridgelines where Special Forces could easily spot them and call in close air support. By November 2nd, Taliban frontal positions were decimated. Foreign fighters from al-Qaeda took over security in the Afghan cities from the Taliban regime.

    Carpet-bombing in Afghanistan

    On November 9th, the battle for Mazar-e-Sharif began. U.S. bombers carpet-bombed Taliban defenders concentrated in the Chesmay-e-Safa gorge that marks the entrance to the city. At 2 PM, Northern Alliance forces then swept in from the south and west, seizing the city's main military base and airport. The forces then mopped up the remnants of the Taliban in the gorge in front of the city, meeting only light resistance. Within 4 hours, the battle was over.

    On November 10th, Northern Alliance forces swept through five northern provinces in a rapid advance. The fall of Mazar-e-Sharif had triggered a complete collapse of Taliban positions. Many local commanders switched sides rather than fight. The regime was beginning to unravel throughout the north. Many of the their front line troops were outflanked and then surrounded in the northern city of Konduz (or Kunduz) as the Nothern Alliance drove past them southwards. Even in the south, their hold on power seemed tenuous at best. The religious police stopped their regular patrols. A complete implosion of the Taliban regime seemed imminent.

    On the night of November 12th, Taliban forces fled from the city of Kabul, sneaking away under cover of darkness in a massive retreat. The Northern Alliance forces arrived in the afternoon of November 13th. A small group of perhaps twenty hardline Arab fighters hiding in the city's park were the only remaining defenders. This Taliban group was killed in a brief 15-minute gun battle. Kabul was now in the hands of the Northern Alliance and US/NATO forces.

    Northern Alliance captures Kabul - Nov 13 2001

    The fall of Kabul marked the beginning of a collapse of Taliban positions across the country. Within 24 hours, all of the Afghan provinces along the Iranian border, including the key city of Herat, had fallen. Local Pashtun commanders and warlords had taken over throughout northeastern Afghanistan, including the key city of Jalalabad. By the end of November, Kandahar was the last remaining Taliban stronghold and was coming under increasing pressure. Nearly 3,000 Afghan tribal fighters, led by Hamid Karzai and Gul Agha Sherzai, put pressure on Taliban forces from the east and cut off the northern Taliban supply lines to Kandahar.

    On December 6th, Mullah Omar began to signal that he was ready to surrender Kandahar. His forces were broken by heavy U.S. bombing, and his morale appeared to lag. On December 7th, Mullah Mohammad Omar slipped out of the city of Kandahar with a group of his hardcore loyalists, reneging on his promise to surrender fighters and weapons. Other members of the Taliban leadership fled into Pakistan through the remote passes of Paktia and Paktika provinces. Kandahar was the last Taliban-controlled city. When it fell the majority of the Taliban fighters disbanded. The border town of Spin Boldak surrendered on the same day, marking the end of Taliban control in Afghanistan. The Afghan tribal forces under Gul Agha Sherzai seized the city of Kandahar while the Marines took control of the airport outside and established a U.S. base.

    In December 2001, exiled Afghan political leaders - many with no followers inside Afghanistan - gathered in Bonn, Germany to agree on new leadership structures. Under the December 5th Bonn Agreement they formed an interim Transitional Administration and named Hamid Karzai Chairman of a 29-member governing committee. Following a Loya Jirga (or grand council of major Afghan factions, tribal leaders, and former exiles), an interim Afghan government was established in Kabul under Karzai. He was sworn-in as leader on December 22nd, 2001.

    The Loya Jirga of June 19, 2002 appointed Hamid Karzai interim holder of the new position as President of the Afghan Transitional Administration and he was appointed shortly afterwards with Hedayat Amin Arsala as one of his vice presidents. Karzai was a candidate in the October 9th, 2004 Presidential Elections. Despite a perceived lack of national support he won 21 of the 34 provinces, defeating his 22 opponents. He became the first democratically elected leader of Afghanistan. The national election commission on November 3rd declared Karzai the winner, without runoff, having received 55.4% of the total 8.1 million votes cast.

    Karzai was officially sworn in as President of Afghanistan on December 7th, 2004 at a formal ceremony in Kabul. Many interpreted the ceremony as a symbolically important "new start" for the war torn nation. Notable guests at the inauguration included the country's former King, Zahir Shah, Afghanistan's three living former presidents, and American Vice President Dick Cheney.

    In recent months the Taliban have been showing signs of resurgence in Afghanistan, but President George W. Bush must be credited with the liberation of nearly 30 million Afghanis and the establishment of a democratically-elected government there. Where formerly they had been repressed, women are now able to work and young girls are now allowed to receive an education. Health care is more available, and infrastructure is being repaired. There are still problems of course, but life in general is significantly improved since the Taliban were deposed.