Alexander Higgins Blog
Saturday, September 3, 2011
Take freedom of speech and other personal liberties — including protections against cruel and unusual punishment, right to face your accuser, and right to trial by jury — and throw them right out the window. All for the crime of uploading a YouTube.
That is what a 24-year-old Virginia man, Jubair Ahmad, faces as the feds charge him with providing support for terrorism for allegedly uploading a propaganda video. The crime comes with the dubious distinction that the accused are treated as if they are actually terrorists or as the U.S. government labels them “enemies combatants”. With the declaration of being an enemy combatant the rights and protections engraved into the Constitution with the full force of our founding father’s very own flesh and blood are instantly nullified.
That’s right. The Department of Justice of the great United States of America has charged a Jubair Ahmad, a 24-year-old Woodbridge, Virginia man, of providing support for terrorism because he allegedly uploaded a propaganda video to YouTube. The accusation alone instantly classifies the man as an ‘enemy combatant’ and ‘clear and present danger’. Such persons who are a ‘threat to national security’ have absolutely no rights. To make matters worse, businesses and nations aren’t allowed to do business with such so-called ‘terrorists’ or they will be declared a terrorist themselves. That means a lawyer who takes up his case can be charge with providing support for terrorism. That is if the United States government even decides to honor habeas corpus and give the man a trial in the first place. Our beloved supreme court has ruled that ‘enemy combatants’ can be abducted, tortured,assassinated, and even detained for ever without a trial because the constitution does not apply to them. Even worse, the lucky few who are released after being declared innocent have no right to legal recourse because revealing the details of their detention and torture is also a threat to national security.
This is what the ‘war on terror’ has escalated to, which we have been brainwashed by our government is necessary to protect our liberties from our enemies.
The video in question reportedly showed the leader of a group designated as a terrorist organization along with other purported “jihadi martyrs” and clips armored trucks exploding from the detonation of IEDs.
The Feds by uploading the propaganda video the man has committed the crime of providing support to terrorists organization, which qualifies the man to have all constitutional rights to be suspended and to be detained indefinitely without trial. As we have seen in past cases, the suspension of the constitutional “inalienable rights” for the so-called enemy combatants allows the executive branch of the federal government, including the military and CIA, to become the judge, jury and executioner in such cases. Of course without the constitutional right to the protection against cruel and unusual punishment the feds are now free to beat and torture the man to death, as they have done in past cases.
To reinforce their charges, the feds further allege Ahmad received ‘religious training’ from the ‘Lashkar-e-Taiba’ ‘terrorist group’ when he was a teenager while he still lived in Pakistan before moving to the United States. The State Department claims the group operates in the disputed Kashmir territory along the Pakistan and India border.
Virginian accused of making YouTube terror video
Federal officials allege he trained with militants behind Mumbai attack
A Virginia man who came to the US from Pakistan has been charged with supporting Lashkar-e-Taiba, the radical Islamist terrorist group behind the 2008 shooting attack in Mumbai, India.
Justice Department officials said Friday that Jubair Ahmad, 24, of Woodbridge, received religious training from the terrorist group as a teenager in Pakistan and later attended one of its training camps.
He came to the United States in 2007 with his family. He’s been under investigation for two years, ever since the FBI got a tip that he might be connected to the group, the officials said.
Court documents say that last fall, he produced and uploaded a propaganda video to YouTube on behalf of the group, showing its leader and purporting to show “jihadi martyrs” and armored trucks exploding after having been hit by improvised explosive devices. Investigators say when asked about the video, Jubair falsely denied having anything to do with it.
The State Department has designated Lashkar-e-Taiba as a terrorist group. It is among nearly a dozen rebel groups operating in the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.
It is all about Mind Control. Despite what the Youtube user TheRedPillNews seems to imply here this,, stuff is already in use in America against US citizens every day. It is literally everywhere. HDTV, Radio, CD‘s, Movie DVD‘s, Cell phones HAARP and on and on. Right now it is mostly about conditioning us to get used to weird behavioral and mood changes, ringing in the ears, dizziness etc. If you complain they will try to put a psychiatric label on you and drug you or they will explain away the symptoms as “normal signs of aging etc.
Watch and learn!
Those of the young generation, people too young to remember the collapse of Soviet bloc and other socialist states in 1989 and 1990, are fortunate to be living through another thrilling example of a seemingly impenetrable state edifice reduced to impotence when faced with crowds demanding freedom, peace, and justice.
There is surely no greater event than this. To see it instills in us a sense of hope that the longing for freedom that beats in the heart of every human being can be realized in our time.
This is why all young people should pay close attention to what is happening in Egypt — to the protests against the regime of Hosni Mubarak as well as the pathetic response coming from his imperial partner, the United States, which has given him many billions in military and secret-police aid to keep him in power.
The United States is in much the same situation today as the Soviet Union was in 1989, as a series of socialist dominoes toppled. Poland, Romania, Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia all experienced dramatic meltdowns, while the Soviet regime, supportive of these systems since the end of the Second World War, sat by helplessly and watched. Leaders made vague statements about the need for peaceful transitions and elections, while the people on the ground completely ignored them.
What has sparked the uprising? There are economic considerations, of course. A good rate of inflation in Egypt is considered to be 10 percent, and currency depreciation works as a massive punishment against savings and capital accumulation. Unemployment is high — about the same rate as the United States’ — but it is even higher for young people who are worried about the future.
Economic growth has been much better in the last decades, thanks to economic reforms, but this tendency (as in the old Soviet bloc) has only worked to create rising expectations and more demands for freedom. It remains a fact that nearly half the population lives in terrifying poverty.
The core of the problem, it appears, relates to civil liberties and the very old-fashioned conviction that the country is ruled by a tyrant who must go. Mubarak tolerates no challenges to his martial-law rule. There are tens of thousands of political prisoners in the country, and it is easy to get arrested and tortured simply by calling the dictator names. The press is censored, opposition groups are suppressed, and corruption runs rampant. Mubarak’s will to power has known no bounds: he chooses all the country’s elites based solely on personal loyalty to himself.
Mubarak has ruled for 30 years, and yes, there have been elections every 6 years, but these are widely seen as being only for show. Opposition candidates end up prosecuted for a variety of invented crimes. Democracy in Egypt is merely a slogan for one-party rule. And this is striking: the main excuse for his martial law is one that is all too familiar to Americans — the war on terror (and never mind the terror dispensed by the warriors themselves).
Probably a more substantive issue concerns the digital revolution and the opening up of the entire world through the Internet — a species of the very thing that the United States cited as the reason for the anti-Soviet uprisings of the late 1980s and early ’90s. Many young people in Egypt are as connected to the world through social media as American teenagers, and they enjoy access to the sights and sounds of the modernity that the regime so opposes.
To understand what is driving the protests, consider the date that they began: National Police Day on January 25. This holiday was created by Mubarak only in 2009. Talk about misjudging the situation! And sure enough, the government’s response was to jam nearly all Internet communications and shut down all cell-phone service on the day of the planned protest. But it didn’t work: Thanks to what is now being called “hacktivism,” the revolution is being broadcast around the world through Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, even as Wikipedia is being updated minute by minute. And the Al Jazeera English live feed has, as usual, put the biased US media to shame.
Meanwhile, official government voices in the United States have been pathetically behind the times. Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton have been refusing to describe Mubarak as a dictator and lamely urging a transition to an election — run and ruled over by the Mubarak regime. The protest leadership immediately saw that line for what it was and rejected it outright. It is unbearably obvious that the United States is nearly alone in more-or-less supporting Mubarak, but that is exactly what you would expect of the imperial backer of the despot.
What are the protestors’ demands? It is not complicated. As in 1989, the one demand is that the dictator go. This makes complete sense and is the only solution that accords with what is right and just. This and only this will establish the basis for a transition to anything. What follows after that is really something that has to be worked out, not by the CIA, but by the Egyptian people, who have had their voices muzzled for far too long.
What the uprisings underscore is a fundamental reality that the world too often forgets. It is at the core of the relationship between any government and any people, in all times and all places. The people far outnumber the government, and for that reason — and even when the government is heavily armed — every government must depend on some degree of consent to continue its rule. If the whole of a people rise up and say no, the bureaucrats and even the police are powerless. This is the great secret of government that is mostly ignored until revolution day arrives.
More than the anti-Soviet protests of the late 1980s, the Egyptian uprisings reveal what might eventually come home to the American empire itself. Under the right conditions and at the right time, consciousness might dawn right here at home. It could happen here for the same reason it could happen anywhere.
Government knows this, and hence its accumulation of weaponry and relentless propaganda. The difficulty for the state comes when its will to power generates what Thomas Jefferson called “a long train of abuses” that create a burning desire within people to rise up and demand freedom. Because, after all, it is the right of a people — is it not? — to alter and abolish the form of government under which they are forced to live.
Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr. is chairman of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, editor of LewRockwell.com, and author of The Left, the Right, and the State. Send him mail. See Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr.’s article archives.
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Where Have All The Flowers Gone?
Bring Em Home
War What Is It Good For?
George W Told The Nation
Peter, Paul And Mary
1971 Anti-War March in Washington, D.C.
by Andrew Mason
Going into high school in 2001, I had no idea what the future held for me. Then 9/11 happened. I had the Bushian mentality (being raised in a staunch Republican household) of “let’s go get some,” and since he had said that I could either be “either with the terrorists or against the terrorists,” I wanted to be against the terrorists like every other American. My motivation and will to live were at their highest they had ever been after I enlisted in the Marine Corps. I thought to myself, “I am going to make a difference in this world. I am going to fight for our freedom!” I graduated from high school a semester early in January of 2005 to attend Marine Corps Basic Training. I deployed twice to the killing fields of Iraq, and I was completely oblivious to the fact that the war was based on total lies. I had friends who were maimed and murdered all in the name of nothing genuinely patriotic. I wish more of them were able to read the articles at lewrockwell.com and campaignforliberty.com before they made the fateful choice of enlisting.
I barely made it out of my first deployment alive, after a few close calls with IEDS and mortars (I was a M1A1 tank driver and later a gunner), which in turn lead to the collapse of my morality. I guess it is a little difficult to keep your morals when you witness the carnage most of us have faced there, like children running out in the streets getting their heads blown off, and suicide bombers blowing themselves up and killing my mentors. I came back from the war a soulless degenerate. I started hating Muslims for what I thought they stood for from my experience in the Middle East. While on my post deployment leave I would drive past the local mosque and look with pure disgust. I would think to myself, “Look at all of these terrorists,” as I held a death grip on my steering wheel. It is amazing what war and war propaganda does to the mind. Man, was I wrong.
At that point, my morality had sunk into the abyss. I started drinking heavily to help numb my hatred towards life itself, which helped pass the time until my next deployment to Iraq. My next deployment consisted of wondering around the desert aimlessly looking for “bad guys.” This was kind of a metaphor for what was going on in my mind. I felt completely lost about everything, and I thought to myself, “What the hell are we doing here?” I was discharged, somehow honorably, in 2009 and I still felt completely lost. I moved back to Ohio with my family, and I started praying like my parents always told me I should. I thought I might go into law enforcement like many veterans do, so I moved to Southern California to scope out a potential career.
After a few months of praying and cleaning up my act, I started finding answers. I was living in San Diego, where I was going to school at the time, and I wanted to work in the security industry for some extra cash. I was speaking to a Vietnam veteran who was giving a class for those who wish to get into the security industry, and he completely opened my eyes to a fact that had not been brought to my attention in the Marines. He said to all of us, “The reason the U.S. has so many enemies is because we create them by not minding our own business.” Right then and there it was like the veil of deceit had been ripped from my eyes. I went home and started searching for all things related to foreign policy, which is how I found Ron Paul on YouTube. I watched Dr. Paul’s famous “What If?” speech, and I could not help but become furious. It was not because the Congressman offended me, but because he had enlightened me about just how wrong I was. I knew, as soon as I was done watching his speech, it was not a “What If” speech but a “What Is!” speech. After watching the “What Is!” speech, I was led to Web sites like campaignforliberty.com, antiwar.com, and lewrockwell.com. I started to become even more outraged after realizing that I had been lied to my entire life by my government, the media, and my history teachers. I really took a hit in the face while watching our former fearless leader President Bush jokingly say in front of the elite media “Those weapons of mass destruction gotta be somewhere.” I wonder if the thought of my fellow veterans blood-curdling screams or the children of the Middle East getting blown to smithereens in the name of protecting us from those non-existent weapons ever crossed his mind. Probably not, just like the real sounds of war haven’t entered the mind of our current chicken-hawk-in-chief, Barack Obama.
Veterans Day is no longer a holiday I will celebrate, unlike most Americans who thank our service members for “defending our freedom.” I can only hope that someday all of the flag-wavers and veterans marching in the parades realize that the people of the United States have been manipulated into every war of the past hundred years, and are continuously being bombarded with propaganda to continue the wars today. Will my fellow Marines ever come to know that Major General Smedley Butler is not just the name of a war hero whose words we had to memorize by heart? Will they ever come to realize, as General Butler realized, that we are and were nothing but “musclemen” for the criminal corporate and banking cartels, and servants for the Corporatists who are perpetuating the destruction of the very idea they claim to be fighting for. I have come to this realization.
I wrote this article to give some truth to the concluding statement in Mark Crovelli’s article “Kiss Honor and Morality Goodbye in the U.S. Armed Forces.” In his concluding statement, Mr. Crovelli said, “May God protect us all from this group of people whose allegiance is to secrecy, immoral war, and lying politicians, instead of to defending the people of the United States.” I believe that some sort of divine intervention, in combination with a good conscience, has indeed shown me the light towards real morality and real patriotism through articles like the ones found at this Web site and other liberty-loving websites. Furthermore, I see that many more veterans have and will come to see the light of truth. My goal is to help highlight the fact that they, like myself, have sworn to “uphold and defend the Constitution from enemies both foreign and domestic,” and that our greatest threat comes from the state itself; not the Middle East. As long we continue to educate all of those who are and were serving in the military about the constant stream of lies our government spews, they will join the true patriots and the actual fight for the restoration of liberty.
January 3, 2011
Andrew Mason is a former corporal in the U.S.M.C.
Copyright © 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
In the past our politicians offered us dreams of a better world. Now they promise to protect us from nightmares.
The most frightening of these is the threat of an international terror network. But just as the dreams were not true, neither are these nightmares.
Here is what one reviewer says about”The Power of Nightmares“:
Not Available in the US
This film is still copyrighted and Curtis Adams gave permission to freely distribute the film in the US. No network would show this series in the US and no distributor would touch it in the US.
This was a highly acclaimed series initially produced by BBC. As could be expected, the series received criticism, but it was well documented and facts are … well, facts. They have stood the test of time.
That’s disturbing US media doesn’t have more investment in reporting truth. The Power of Nightmares has been shown the world over. At least 5 times in Canada. More than that in UK and Western Europe. And many times in Australia, NZ, throughout South America …
It would be difficult to find someone that hasn’t seen this film anywhere but in the US and yet, the bulk of the film deals with US history.
Curtis does an admirable job refraining from making opinions and sticks to facts that he had backed up on his website. He does have a bias and he gives in to making comments in the final episode for the last 15 minutes. I can see where not everyone would agree.
What this film does is present a historical timeline from the beginning of the neo conservative movement and the taliban. They share some of the same sources in the beginning (50’s). That’s why I say it’s fact based. It’s verifiable history.
There are many debates, that when put into context, are simplified. At least that’s what this film did for me. It cut through so much rhetoric and clutter that’s through out such that it was hard to know who was telling the truth. Not anymore. I did look to blow holes in some of what’s reported and it doesn’t work. Facts are facts.
This film simplifies life. It’s a must-see for everyone in the US. It should be a crime this series wasn’t distributed here, not even on DVD..
Having just finished a course on the New Deal for the Mises Academy, I’m nowoffering one on state nullification, the subject of my most recent book. I thought my New Deal course covered issues and sources left out of the typical classroom, but in that respect this course has that one beat.
Nullification is the Jeffersonian idea that the states of the American Union must judge the constitutionality of the acts of their agent, the federal government, since no impartial arbiter between them exists. When the federal government exercises a particularly dangerous power not delegated to it, the states must refuse to allow its enforcement within their borders.
I can hear people saying that such a response doesn’t go nearly far enough. No argument there. The trouble with nullification is not that it is too “extreme,” as the enforcers of opinion would say, but that it is too timid. But it gets people thinking in terms of resistance, which has to be a good thing, and it defies the unexamined premise of the entire political spectrum, according to which society must be organized with a single, irresistible power center issuing infallible commands from the top.
That’s at least a pretty good start.
The course, Nullification: A Jeffersonian Bulwark Against Tyranny, will cover the basics, to be sure, and after the first week everyone will be well-grounded in the relevant issues. But then I want to dig into the primary sources. I want to examine the long-forgotten debates on this subject in detail. In particular, we’ll study the exchanges between Daniel Webster and Robert Hayne, Andrew Jackson and Littleton Waller Tazewell, and Joseph Story and Abel Upshur.
Hardly anyone, including graduate students in American history, has actually read these texts as opposed to just knowing of their existence — and if my own experience at Columbia University is any indication, even that is more than some grad students know.
The various commissars who have taken it upon themselves to ensure that no one strays from officially approved opinion — or to appropriately scold anyone who in fact does so — have become apoplectic at the return of nullification. I confess to taking mischievous delight in this. They are accustomed to setting the terms of debate. They are not used to seeing people promote ideas of their own.
And the commissars have not read these sources, either. But you will. You will know the arguments of both sides inside and out.
You will also enjoy the discussions that ensue at the end of each lecture. You can sign off whenever you like, of course, but during the course I just completed on the New Deal I stayed around for an hour and a half to two extra hours answering questions and directing discussion, and then shooting the breeze about anything people wanted to discuss. We had a great time. As always, the lectures are available for viewing, along with a full transcript of the chat box, for people who cannot watch them live.
I understand the impatience that many of us feel regarding nullification, particularly the complaints that
These criticisms are by no means misplaced. But nullification remains a useful quiver in the liberty arsenal all the same. As I’ve said, it gets people thinking in healthy ways. And it can be employed for good purposes, as when the Principles of ’98 (as the ideas culminating in nullification came to be known) were cited on behalf of free speech and free trade, and against unconstitutional searches and seizures, military conscription, and fugitive-slave laws. In our own day, Janet Napolitano said the reason the Real ID Act failed was that the states refused to cooperate in its enforcement.
And the states are indeed rotten, too — which is why we may as well put them to some good use by pursuing nullification. Liberty is more likely to have room to flourish in a world of many competing jurisdictions rather than under a single, irresistible jurisdiction.
In short, this course will introduce you to a chapter of American history that has fallen down the memory hole but which is much too interesting and valuable to leave down there. In the process of pulling it out, you’ll acquire a much deeper understanding of American history.
I hope you’ll join me.
Here is the Mises Institute‘s Jeffrey Tucker interviewing me on the subject:
Thomas E. Woods, Jr. (visit his website) is a senior fellow at the Mises Institute, where he will be teaching “Nullification: A Jeffersonian Bulwark Against Tyranny” this fall at the Mises Academy. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Meltdown: A Free-Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed, the Economy Tanked, and Government Bailouts Will Make Things Worse. His other recent books include 33 Questions About American History You’re Not Supposed to Ask, The Church and the Market: A Catholic Defense of the Free Economy, Nullification, and The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History (a New York Times bestseller). Send him mail. See Thomas E. Woods, Jr.’s article archives.
by Mark Nestmann
A friend of mine sent me a link to a video labeled “The Most Terrifying Video You’ll Ever See.” According to YouTube, this video has been viewed over 3.5 million times. Narrator Greg Craven, a high-school science teacher, presents an application of the precautionary principle to the debate over anthropogenic global warming (AGW). Craven claims to have found an argument that does not depend on the resolution of the scientific controversy — a “silver bullet argument,” an argument that leads to an “inescapable conclusion,” one “that even the most hardened skeptic and the most panicked activist can agree on.”
I beg to differ.
Craven starts out with the premise that we can reduce the problem to one of four possible outcomes, which he places on a grid (as shown below). The rows represent the proposition that the worst outcome of AGW (the end of human life on earth) is on its way or is not. The columns represent the choice to do something or do nothing.
Craven then proceeds to examine the implications of ending up in each one of his four quadrants. I have written an abbreviation of his conclusion in the cells of the table:
|Do Something||Do Nothing|
|AGW – true||avert total disaster||total disaster|
|AGW – false||wasted resources||avoid waste of resources|
According to Craven, because we cannot be totally certain about the science, we need to find another way to choose our course of action. And Craven aims to show that this is possible. He states that “we begin by acknowledging that no one can know with absolute certainty what the future will bring.” This argument is a variant of Pascal’s Wager, which structures the issue of belief in God the same way, with punishment for nonbelievers as the worst case.
Craven’s reasoning is that the objective of our decision-making process should be to avoid the top right cell. He observes that we cannot control which row we are in because we don’t know for sure the outcome of the science; but we can avoid the top right cell (total disaster) because we can control which column we are in. We should choose to “do something” to ensure that we end up in the right column rather than the left column.
There are many problems with this approach.
The first problem is that this argument proves too much. The premise — that something really, really bad might happen — is undoubtedly true: there is a virtually unlimited supply of hypotheses about things that might go wrong. The less evidence required for any particular catastrophe, the longer the list of bad things we can make. Craven’s mode of argument could be used to prove that we should “do something” about any — or all — of them.
Go through the entire video and replace “global warming” with “Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction”:
Saddam Hussein might have WMDs, which he could be planning to use against the United States. No one can prove that he does not because, as members of the neocon war party enjoyed pointing out, you can’t prove a negative.
Even trying to use reason to figure out whether or not Saddam has WMDs is what Mr. Craven would call “row thinking,” while what we need in dark times such as these is “column thinking.”
As Craven would undoubtedly agree, we don’t know whether Saddam has WMDs or not. In the worst case, Saddam has WMDs and he will use them against the United States. If we “take action” by invading Iraq and deposing Saddam, then we can eliminate the worst case. If we “do nothing” through “inaction” then the worst case might happen anyway.
It is true that we will incur costs by invading Iraq: dollars, some American deaths. Maybe we disrupt the lives of Iraqis a bit. But the cost of the worst case is incalculable.
The conclusion is therefore inescapable to all rational and right-minded people: we must invade Iraq.
Glenn Greenwald, in a recent piece, points out that this exact argument is being used to defend the decision to go to war in Iraq. And now the war party is using the same argument to lie the country into a war with Iran (“we cannot allow a nuclear Iran“) even though there is no credible evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program — it takes Scott Horton less than seven minutes to debunk the propaganda on this issue.
The second problem I will address is that Craven’s argument proves nothing at all. His objective is to show that we should do something to avoid the worst case. But to prove that we must “do something” is to prove nothing. He organizes the problem around a set of abstract choices. But in life, we face only concrete choices, not abstract ones. While deciding to “do something” about an issue in your life that you have been ignoring might be an important psychological step, it is still not an actionable decision. What to do is the real decision and cannot be separated from the decision to “do something.”
Another way of saying this is that the grid describing reality has more than two columns. It has infinitely many columns representing the infinite range of choices that exist in the real world. Craven’s mode of argument provides no guidance as to how many resources should be expended or in what direction to address the problem.
The aim of Craven’s argument is to show that we can avoid the worse case without resolving the science. But this is only true if we choose a concrete plan that has the desired result. We have an infinite range of choices that all involve doing something — and some other choices that involve watching and waiting. Because our resources are finite, we could not adopt all policy proposals. To avoid the worse case, we would have to evaluate whether each proposal might have any benefits at all and whether the benefits outweigh the costs. Should we choose one staggeringly expensive plan that might work? Or ten less expensive plans that each have a chance of working?
If we use up a vast amount of resources on one very small risk, then we will be in a worse position to deal with other problems that do materialize. Maybe the best course is to do nothing right now, relying on economic growth to increase our wealth and therefore our range of choices in the future?
The argument can be used to prove whatever conclusion you want, depending on what you posit as the worst case. For example, try using the argument on the following worst case: we implement restrictive carbon-emission legislation and that causes even worse climate change. Or this: destroy the world’s economy fighting a problem that doesn’t exist (AGW), and then a very real — and much bigger — crisis emerges (and, as Mr. Craven points out, science cannot prove whether this will or will not happen), but we have no more wealth left to address it. Craven’s contention proves that we should do nothing now so that we can address the real worst case that has not yet shown its face.
This brings us to another gross deficiency in Craven’s argument: the choice among the many concrete options that we have depends on our understanding the cause and effect of each choice. To “do something” is for us to create some causes that we believe have certain effects. We cannot evaluate the effect of any cause without relying on the science of the issue. The science applied to any concrete proposal is essentially the same controversial science that Craven claims we don’t need in order to reach a conclusion about what to do.
As the Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC) explains in their excellent commentary on the precautionary principle,
[t]he precautionary principle is, however, a very useful one for consumer activists precisely because it prevents scientific debate. The burden of evidence and proof is taken away from those who make unjustified and often whimsical claims and placed on the scientific community which, because it proceeds logically and rationally, is often powerless to respond. This is what makes the principle so dangerous. It generates a quasi-religious bigotry which history should have has [sic] taught us to fear. Its inherent irrationality renders it unsustainable.
The deficiency is illustrated this way. If the goal is to avoid the worst possible outcome, then “do something” is not enough. We must do something effective. Some of the actions we might take would not be very costly but would also (probably) not meet Mr. Craven’s criteria for effectiveness.
Suppose that we all wore Whip Global Warming Now buttons? Would that help us avoid the worst case? Some might say so, but the strongest objection to that plan would be that there is no scientific basis for the belief that wearing buttons has any impact on global climate change.
Suppose that I agreed with Craven’s conclusion and suggested as the solution that we lengthen our commutes to work so we can drive more, and that we increase the use of coal-fired power plants. Oh, but that won’t work, he might say, because it would increase carbon emissions. But this is only a constructive response if carbon emissions are really the cause of AGW. Without any science linking cause and effect, how do we know that reducing (not increasing) carbon emissions will help?
Though Craven doesn’t present a concrete proposal, clearly he has something in mind — probably Cap and Tax or a similar scheme — because he is able to fill in the lower left quadrant of his grid with various economic costs — depression, lost jobs, lower wages, and the like. Similar legislative proposals would incur the absolutely stupefying cost of reducing carbon emissions to preindustrial levels.
So far I have been focusing on the columns. But there are also a lot more rows than Craven shows. His two rows representing AGW true/false correspond to the cases that either nothing much happens or it’s the end of civilization. But there are a lot of points in between — something happens but it is benign, something bad happens but it is manageable, something really bad happens but it is not the end of human life altogether, etc.
Craven claims that the risk of inaction outweighs the risk of action. But as I have shown, an analysis entirely in terms of the abstract categories he uses does not reach any meaningful conclusion. Relative costs can only be understood in terms of the concrete choices and their actual or estimated costs. While it is true that it might be worth taking action to avoid a very small risk with a very high cost, rationality requires an estimation of the risk and the cost.
Think about how you face the risk of extinction in your own life. Your life could end suddenly for many reasons — a car accident, an airplane crash, a predator-drone strike (just kidding), or even a 16-ton weight falling on your head. What is a rational approach to managing these risks? Some of them are, for most of us, too remote to think about, while others justify modest costs to reduce them. You could avoid all risk of car accidents by staying at home all the time, but for most people that cost is too high.
Mr. Craven compares the problem to that of buying a lottery ticket, but a rational approach to even lottery-ticket purchases requires a calculation in terms of the cost of each ticket against the probability of winning and the expected winnings.
The point of Craven’s argument is to reach a conclusion that we should support carbon-trading permits or some other incredible central-planning scheme that would fundamentally alter human society and economics without having to win on the science.
AGW promoters have good reason for steering people away from the science. Once you start to tug on that ball of yarn, the entire politically motivated fraud starts to unravel.
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