Go Giants! Boston sports teams must be stopped at all costs! I assumed this would be a Pats blowout, but so far so good.
The New York Times reports that the CIA’s “every action in the prolonged drama of the interrogation videotapes was prompted in part by worry about how its conduct might be perceived — by Congress, by prosecutors, by the American public and by Muslims worldwide.” The Times adds:
By late 2002, interrogators were recycling videotapes, preserving only two days of tapes before recording over them, one C.I.A. officer said. Finally, senior agency officials decided that written summaries of prisoners’ answers would suffice.
Still, that decision left hundreds of hours of videotape of the two Qaeda figures locked in an overseas safe.
Clandestine service officers who had overseen the interrogations began pushing hard to destroy the tapes. But George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, was wary, in part because the agency’s top lawyer, Scott W. Muller, advised against it, current and former officials said.
Yet agency officials decided to float the idea of eliminating the tapes on Capitol Hill, hoping for political cover. In February 2003, Mr. Muller told members of the House and Senate oversight committees about the C.I.A’s interest in destroying the tapes for security reasons.
The tapes recorded a program “so closely guarded that President Bush himself had agreed with intelligence officials’ advice that he not be told the locations of the secret C.I.A. prisons.”
More reasons to be infuriated with the new airline security regime:
The folly is much the same with respect to the liquids and gels restrictions, introduced two summers ago following the breakup of a London-based cabal that was planning to blow up jetliners using liquid explosives. Allegations surrounding the conspiracy were revealed to substantially embellished. In an August, 2006 article in the New York Times, British officials admitted that public statements made following the arrests were overcooked, inaccurate and “unfortunate.” The plot’s leaders were still in the process of recruiting and radicalizing would-be bombers. They lacked passports, airline tickets and, most critical of all, they had been unsuccessful in actually producing liquid explosives. Investigators later described the widely parroted report that up to ten U.S airliners had been targeted as “speculative” and “exaggerated.” [...]
“The notion that deadly explosives can be cooked up in an airplane lavatory is pure fiction,” Greene told me during an interview. “A handy gimmick for action movies and shows like ‘24.’ The reality proves disappointing: it’s rather awkward to do chemistry in an airplane toilet. Nevertheless, our official protectors and deciders respond to such notions instinctively, because they’re familiar to us: we’ve all seen scenarios on television and in the cinema. This, incredibly, is why you can no longer carry a bottle of water onto a plane.”
But, hey, you can never put too much hassle into air travel.
Ron Paul said the decision to exclude him from a debate on Fox News Sunday the weekend before the New Hampshire Primary is proof that the network “is scared” of him.
“They are scared of me and don’t want my message to get out, but it will,” Paul said in an interview at a diner here. “They are propagandists for this war and I challenge them on the notion that they are conservative.”
Ryan Avent says that if I hate political prediction markets so much, why don’t I bet on them and make a bunch of money. Well, I don’t do that because it seems to me that it would call my professional work into question. I don’t want it to be the case that if I say stuff about the candidates I get accused of trying to juice my contracts.
My instincts are torn on this issue. On the one hand, my instinct is to say that based on my admittedly somewhat thin understanding of what hedge funds do, they seem like a giant scam. On the other hand, my awareness that my understanding is somewhat thin makes me skeptical that this could really be the case. Under the circumstances, the impressive establishment credentials of this piece — a “think tank town” item in The Washington Post by Dean P. Foster of the Wharton School and H. Peyton Young of Oxford and the Brookings Institution — carries a lot of weight with me.
These guys aren’t smart-ass twentysomething bloggers and they say that while it’s not necessarily the case that all hedge funds are huge scams, a lot of hedge funds are huge scams exploiting the fact that if you make a few bets with small odds of enormous downside, the probability favors you putting together a few years’ worth of incredibly impressive returns and getting in a position to make a lot of cash. Nassim Taleb’s The Black Swan discusses many related issues.
Photo of hedges in the New York Botanical Garden by Flickr user MoToMo used under a Creative Commons license
The nation’s top climate scientist, NASA’s James Hansen, apparently now believes “the safe upper limit for atmospheric CO2 is no more than 350 ppm,” according to an op-ed by the the great environmental writer Bill McKibben. Yet while preindustrial levels were 280, we’re now already at more than 380 and rising 2 ppm a year!
Like many people, in the 1990s I believed 550 was the target needed to avoid climate catastrophe — but now it’s clear that
- 550 ppm would lead to the greatest disaster ever experienced by human civilization — returning us to temperatures last seen when sea levels were some 80 feet higher. This is especially true because….
- Long before we hit 550, major carbon cycle feedbacks — the loss of carbon from the tundra and the Amazon, the saturation of the ocean sink (already beginning) would almost certainly kick in to high gear, inevitably pushing us to much, much higher CO2 levels (see here and here and my book).
Exactly when those feedbacks seriously kick in is the rub. No one knows for sure, but based on my review of the literature and interviews of leading climate scientists, somewhere between 400 and 500 ppm seems most likely. It could be lower, but it probably couldn’t be much higher.
So I, like the Center for American Progress and the world’s top climate scientists, now believe 450 ppm is the upper bound. That said, I have spent two decades managing, analyzing, researching, and writing about climate solutions and can state with some confidence that:
- Staying below 450 ppm is technologically doable, but would be the greatest achievement in the history of the human race, by far. It would require a global effort sustained for decades comparable to what the U.S. did for just the few years of World War II (the biggest obstacle is not technological, but political — conservatives currently would never let progressives and moderates pursue such a strategy).
- If 350 ppm is needed (and I’m not at all sure it is) then the deniers and delayers have won, since such a target is hopeless.
In 2008, I will devote a fair amount of
ink bits to laying out the solution (there really is only one), but to understand why 450 is so hard, and 350 all but inconceivable, let’s look at the odd way McKibben describes the solution:
– Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), 12/28/07
I’ve linked to John Burns’ lengthy 1998 Benazir Bhutto profile for The New York Times before, but since she’s back in the news here it is again. It makes clear that her corruption (and that of her husband, nicknamed “Mr. Ten Percent”) wasn’t run-of-the-mill developing world graft, but really big-time stuff by Pakistani standards.
I don’t mean to just harp on the failings of the dead, and political assassinations of this sort are a horrible thing, but it’s not a good idea for western journalists to get into the habit of lionizing massively corrupt politicians just because they worked on the Crimson (I seem to recall that Pol Pot went to a fancy western university while Abraham Lincoln was self-taught). Michael Hirsch says “In the end, Benazir Bhutto could become in death the kind of hero for democracy in Pakistan that she never quite became in life.” Maybe so.
“President Bush on Saturday signed legislation that extends a popular children’s health insurance program after twice vetoing attempts to expand it,” AP reports. “The extension of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program is expected to provide states with enough money to cover those enrolled through March 2009.”