Thursday, February 21, 2008


Well I suppose you heard the great news that the dictator has resigned. Yep, and there are great hopes that reforms and even democracy will break out in the long-dominated nation—oh wait, that was Cuba. Damn.

Regarding the mysterious cuts in undersea communications cables, one may apply some basic logical tools—such as Occam’s razor. What is the simplest explanation for the cutting of six cables within weeks of each other, given that there was no seismic activity that could have rent the cables asunder? The cables all carried internet and, importantly, banking internet traffic for major Middle East countries, and their disfunction caused considerable consternation from Egypt to Saudi Arabia to Iran.

So, if not a seaquake, what cut them? Did a giant undersea-cable-chomping crab suddenly get hungry? Occam’s razor says no. Did six ships with six sharp anchors go adrift in heavy seas—over several hundred miles—and cut the cables as they fought to stay afloat? Well, there were no heavy seas. Occam’s razor says that explanation won’t cut it.

No, the simplest explanation is that a nation with advanced submarine assets operating in the area cut the cable. The US has several submarines in the area; they cut the cables.

As for motive for the crime, the other logical tool to apply is Cui Bono—who benefits? With the subprime mortgage sector spreading its disintegrating weight to several other financial instruments, the dollar has weakened considerably, and investors in Saudi and Iran were very interested in transferring their assets—via internet transactions carried by the cables—out of the dollar and into safer funds. After the cable cuts that process was very much slowed down, and an unmistakable threat was sent to the dollar-transferers: Slow down, or we’ll cut you off altogether. It was an act of war, an act of violence, from a humiliated George Dumbya Bush, whose pleadings and scrapings fell on deaf ears in Saudi Arabia earlier this year. Who benefits? US imperial power benefits; Exxon/Mobil and Texaco/BP benefit. The massive sell-off of dollars has been delayed, perhaps with the taint of intimidation in the air; maybe it’ll hold off until the elections. If I were Saudi I’d be interpreting it that way, but then if I were Saudi I’d be part of a movement against women, and who knows ho brains like that function.

We may apply like measures to the news that the US used an antisatellite missile this week. Here is the official lapdog press phrase, in this case the BBC’s: ”But it is not yet known how successful the operation was - the missile needed to pierce the bus-sized satellite's fuel tank, containing more than 450kg (1,000lbs) of toxic hydrazine, which would otherwise be expected to survive re-entry."

If the BBC reporter had done a bit of research on the pablum spouted by the US military instead of reporting it at face value, he would have discovered that the fuel tank was of necessity quite thin and would be rather unlikely to survive the heat and turbulence of a re-entry from space, and in any event its explosive hydrazine would have burned up in the crater. So it wasn’t any more of a threat than any of dozens of other satellites that have fallen in recent years. No, this was a gesture towards China not to bother developing more nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles. It’s another sign of our lying military careening out of control. It seems lying is in season, as we are also to believe this week that a kangaroo court conducted on a no-man’s-land six years after the destruction of all evidence relating to charges and several years after the defendants were tortured, is instead a free and fair trial reflecting values of democracy. I am reminded of Khalil Gibran, and certain silver-plated commodities.

“By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent Mon Feb 4, 5:27 PM ET

OSLO (Reuters) - Global warming this century could trigger a runaway thaw of Greenland's ice sheet and other abrupt shifts such as a dieback of the Amazon rainforest, scientists said on Monday.

They urged governments to be more aware of "tipping points" in nature, tiny shifts that can bring big and almost always damaging changes such as a melt of Arctic summer sea ice or a collapse of the Indian monsoon.

"Society may be lulled into a false sense of security by smooth projections of global change," the scientists at British, German and U.S. institutes wrote in a report saying there were many little-understood thresholds in nature.
"Tipping elements in the tropics, the boreal zone, and west Antarctica are surrounded by large uncertainty," they wrote, pointing to more potential abrupt shifts than seen in a 2007 report by the U.N. Climate Panel.

A projected drying of the Amazon basin, linked both to logging and to global warming, could set off a dieback of the rainforest.

"Many of these tipping points could be closer than we thought," lead author Timothy Lenton, of the University of East Anglia in England, told Reuters of the study.

Other sudden changes linked to climate change, stoked by human use of fossil fuels, included a dieback of northern pine forests, or a stronger warming of the Pacific under El Nino weather events that can disrupt weather worldwide, they wrote.

[UN Climate Panel:] The report also identified risks such as damage to northern pine forests -- widely exploited by the pulp industry -- because of factors such as more frequent fires and vulnerability to pests in warmer, drier conditions.

But it played down some other fears, such as of a runaway melt of Siberian permafrost, releasing stores of methane which is a powerful greenhouse gas.”[end]

The fact that the UN climate change panel should play down the methane threat is not in itself comforting to me; quite the opposite, in fact. These are people who have staked their reputations on stating very little in terms of projections, and their profession demands that they make all such speculation highly conservative, no matter how dramatic the looming facts may be.

The Siberian peat fields are already offgassing, as we know from fist-hand reports. That tipping point has been reached, and passed. The North Pole very nearly melted just a few years ago and of course will follow its current mathematically predicable trajectory to Summer oblivion. That is another tipping point passed. The UN Climate panel will not say the obvious, that the barbarians have breached the gate and the city is doomed. That would be unprofessional.

Yet it is professionals who have cored the ancient glaciers and found evidence of sudden climate-borne extinctions. We don’t know the cause of the tipping points previously, but we do know that once the ball is rolling, we will suddenly find ourselves in a situation in which less than a quarter of the oxygen now available to us at every breath can be had. Once the oceanic clathrates boil up from their slumber, the methane will displace the oxygen and that will be that. At first you’ll get a shocking headache, and at some point you’ll want to go to sleep, You will awaken several times, each time more confused, and then you will not waken.

But that’s a kind and conservative view of climate-change clathrate eruption. It assumes that the methane will somehow get mixed evenly, right away. But that’s not physically possible. There will be places and times in which the bubble of methane will simply displace the rest of the atmosphere, and in those places—I assume hundreds if not thousands of miles wide—there will simply be no oxygen, and death will come far more quickly for you, me, everyone you love, the geese that decorate the field, the squirrel in the tree, this city, that elementary school—every breathing thing, dead.

But excuse me, I don’t want to get overdramatic here. No need to clamor for extraordinary or emergency measures here. I could be wrong. Even though one of the first clathrate burps was caught on video recently off Santa Barbara. Forget what I said. Forget now. Now you are forgetting. Hey, great eclipse last night. /releases/2008/01/080115102706.htm


lauren said...

I love your work theresa thank you for what you do.

I found a potentially hopeful take on the methane situation, although it requires some radical and quick scientific developments. Extracting the methane to use as an energy source?

theresa mitchell said...

thanks for writing Lauren!