Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Reason and Error

[Note: Last week, Dan Caldwell and I wrote the essay below for publication in Pepperdine's campus newspaper, the Graphic, as a response to two presentations (with essentially the same content) on campus by Dinesh D'Souza. The editor of the Graphic chose not to publish the essay in the paper, so we offer it here instead. As needed, the essay has been updated to reflected the passage of a week since its intended publication.]

Two weeks ago, a court in Germany sentenced Ernst Zundel to five years in prison for his contributions to a web site that denies the Holocaust ever occurred. Here in the United States, the First Amendment would have protected the ignorant and offensive things Zundel has written. In fact, it did protect them for the two years that Zundel lived in Tennessee.

Although it was not always the case, the United States today places a higher value on freedom of speech than any other country in the world according to comparative law scholars. Because Americans recognize the importance of the free exchange of ideas in a democracy, our courts commonly give wide latitude to political speech. And we support that as a fundamental right guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Some of our national confidence in the value of free speech comes directly from Thomas Jefferson. In his first inaugural address, Jefferson said, "Error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it."

We raise this point because Dinesh D'Souza, author of a recently published book with an ignorant and offensive premise, spoke on campus last week. In fact, his appearances at the School of Law and Seaver College one week ago were specifically designed to promote his book, The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11.

D'Souza argues, in his own words, that "the cultural left in the country is responsible for causing 9/11." The "cultural left" is not everybody in the Democratic Party, but it includes an awful lot of people (almost all of them Democrats) who have a commonality that only D'Souza seems capable of intuiting. He specifically attacks, among others, President Jimmy Carter, Senator Robert Byrd, Senator Hillary Clinton, philanthropist George Soros, and journalist Bill Moyers.

D'Souza's false thesis, which is elaborated throughout the book, is ignorant and offensive enough, but there are others that are equally ludicrous. For example, we learn in chapter six that the cultural left was also responsible for the Abu Ghraib scandal. D'Souza writes, after pretending that Charles Graner and Lynndie England were the only soldiers involved in the torture and degradation of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, "For many Muslims, Abu Ghraib demonstrated the casualness with which married Americans have affairs, walk out on their spouses, and produce children without bothering to take responsibility for the care of their offspring." Really?

Sadly, there's much more like this. Really.

The Jeffersonian--and, in fact, the quintessentially American--response to obnoxious views like the ones D'Souza is currently peddling is not censorship but reason. This, it seems to us, is where scholars have not only the right but the obligation to speak.

So, let us be among those to confront falsehoods with truth and reason. D'Souza's opinions about liberals, as with most prejudices, bear little relationship to reality.

He attributes motives and desires to liberals for which there is no evidence, thereby defaming many good people. He treats political differences, including those born of opposition to preventive war or to torture, as evidence of moral depravity. He engages, very freely, in ad hominem attacks.

He purports to know the mind of Osama bin Laden, but his conclusions are at odds with both expert analyses and many of bin Laden's own statements.

D'Souza's views about his fellow Americans are deeply offensive--and even libelous, according to a recent op-ed by his fellow neoconservative and Hoover Institution colleague Victor Davis Hanson. He has, sadly, abandoned even the pretense of civility. We say "sadly" because it is civility that allows those who disagree nevertheless to engage in conversation, as often occurs, thankfully, on this campus.

While we're willing to be among the first to challenge D'Souza's false and malicious ideas, we certainly hope we're not the last. On the contrary, we would like to know exactly what those who brought D'Souza to Pepperdine and gave him a platform to present his offensive beliefs think of his view that liberals--people like us--are responsible for 9/11 and for the Abu Ghraib scandal.

One of the most important philosophers of political conservatism, Edmund Burke, wrote, "It is necessary only for the good man to do nothing for evil to triumph." Offended by D'Souza's false and malicious claims, we choose to speak out. What about others?

[Update (3/1/07): The Graphic has now posted this piece online here.]

Banning Wikipedia

According to this story in the New York Times last week, the history department at Middlebury College has decided to prohibit students from using Wikipedia as a source for research papers submitted in history classes. Welcome to the club.

As I've noted before, Wikipedia is a remarkable web phenomenon. It has much to recommend it, especially for those who need a quick, online source of information to serve as a starting point for research. In this respect, it's like other encyclopedias. But there are problems with using any encyclopedia as a source for a research paper in college.

Professor Thomas Beyer of the Russian department at Middlebury could be speaking for me and most of my colleagues with whom I've discussed student research when he said, "I guess I am not terribly impressed by anyone citing an encyclopedia as a reference point, but I am not against using it as a starting point."

Students, take note.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The World of Recycling

The International Herald Tribune has an interesting series of articles (published last week) on the state of recycling in seven major cities (Paris, Stockholm, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Milan, and Berlin). The report on Santa Monica's recycling program notes that plastics may go to Mohawk Industries in Alabama to be turned into carpet or to China for a variety of potential transformations. Glass may end up being recycled into new wine bottles for Gallo Wineries while cans may come back around as beer cans for Anheuser-Busch.

In spite of an impressive recycling program, Santa Monica still contributes to one of the largest landfills in the world--the Puente Hills Landfill 35 miles east of LA.

[Via Foreign Policy Passport.]

Friday, February 23, 2007

Amazing Grace

Today, on the 200th anniversary of the British Parliament's vote to end the slave trade, a film that recounts William Wilberforce's long struggle to win passage of that legislation is opening. For more about the film, Amazing Grace, go here. And for a very interesting commentary claiming that the vote to end British involvement in the slave trade was the first victory of the global human rights movement, go here.

The Ten-Step Program

A broad coalition of human rights organizations and religious groups has issued a document outlining ten steps the United States Congress must take to restore the moral authority of the United States.

The complete document is available here, but, briefly, the coalition is calling on Congress to

  1. restore habeas corpus;
  2. stop renditions to torture;
  3. abolish secret prisons;
  4. hold abusers accountable;
  5. hold fair trials;
  6. prohibit abusive interrogations;
  7. close Guantánamo Bay;
  8. respect the laws of war;
  9. protect victims of persecution from being defined as terrorists; and
  10. end indefinite detention without charge.

Among the organizations that are part of the coalition are Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Concerned Foreign Service Officers, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, the United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society, and even the conservative Rutherford Institute.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

W. in Germany

In Germany, Karneval reaches its peak each year on "Rose Monday" (Rosenmontag), the day before the Mardi Gras celebrations in other parts of the world. Parades with elaborate floats characterize Rosenmontag in the Rhineland.

Here, via Spiegel Online, is a float from this past Monday's parade in Mainz.

Continuing the George W. Bush theme, this float from the parade in Düsseldorf depicts W. getting a whiff of Ahmadinejad's "armpit [Achsel] of evil." [Via Wikipedia.]

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Value of an Education

"A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education he may steal the whole railroad."

--Theodore Roosevelt

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Swords Into Plowshares

It occurred to me recently that a blog called Swords Into Plowshares should, at some point, include a photograph of the sculpture in New York depicting that very activity. Here you have it.

The statue was created by Russian artist Evgeniy Vuchetich and presented by the Soviet Union to the United Nations in 1959. It stands on United Nations Plaza, just outside the Organization's headquarters.

Aptly Named

Ben Young has a post about "vulture funds" that is well worth reading, especially for those concerned about debt relief for developing countries.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Rogue Aid

China, which is sitting on over $1 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, has suddenly become one of the world's most generous states. Taking a page from the United States and the Soviet Union, both of which used foreign aid to try to secure the loyalty of strategically important regimes during the Cold War, China has been offering resource-rich states development assistance without international oversight or other onerous restrictions.

But Moisés Naím, editor of Foreign Policy and author of Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers, and Copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy, says there are some problems with the way China is throwing its money around:

Call it rogue aid. It is development assistance that is nondemocratic in origin and nontransparent in practice, and its effect is typically to stifle real progress while hurting ordinary citizens.

What, exactly, is the problem? The kind of no-strings-attached aid China provides not only fails to address corruption, inefficiency, environmental problems, or other issues that international development organizations such as the World Bank consider when structuring development packages, it also bolsters dictators who steal from their people or commit serious human rights abuses.

The problem, Naím says, is that "rogue aid" serves the interests of the states that provide it, not the interests of the people such aid is ordinarily designed to serve. So, Naím concludes,

States like China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela have the cash and the will to reshape the world into a place very unlike the one where we want to live. By pushing their alternative development model, such states effectively price responsible aid programs out of the market exactly where they are needed most. In place of those programs, rogue donors offer to underwrite a world that is more corrupt, chaotic and authoritarian. That sort of aid is in no one's interest, except the rogues.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Don't Drink Bottled Water

Here's a simple thing you can do to help the environment: Don't drink bottled water. (Click on the link to find out why.)

The Bad Old Days

Paul Kennedy has an excellent essay in today's Los Angeles Times that reminds those of us who are older--and informs those of us who are younger--that the Cold War was a very dangerous time.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Why The Scream Was Stolen

Last August, Norwegian police recovered Edvard Munch's iconic work, The Scream, which had been stolen from the Munch Museum two years earlier. This story in tomorrow's Guardian tells how it happened and why the theft occurred in the first place.

Rendition on Trial

Twenty-six Americans, most of whom are believed to be CIA agents, and six Italian intelligence officials have been indicted in Milan for their role in the abduction and extraordinary rendition from Italy of a terrorism suspect, Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr.

It is uncertain whether Italy's government will request the suspects' extradition from the United States. Even if such a request is forthcoming, the U. S. government is almost certain to refuse. However, Italian law permits trials in absentia.

On Wednesday, the European Parliament, following a lengthy investigation, issued a report that accuses the U.K., Germany, Italy, and several other EU member states of allowing their airspace and, in some cases, airports in their territories to be used for approximately 1,200 unlawful CIA flights transporting terrorism suspects in cases of extraordinary rendition.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Why I'm Not a Fan

James Donaghy of the Guardian, noting that Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan has complained to producers about the impact of 24 on foreigners' perceptions of the United States, neatly summarizes what I dislike about the show: "The Emmy-winning 24 doesn't just tap into American paranoia about the terrorist threat--it pours gasoline on to it, followed swiftly by a flaming rag."

Jane Mayer's story in The New Yorker, from which the information about Gen. Finnegan's complaint is drawn, tells why the show feeds American paranoia: It's produced by Joel Surnow, a self-described "right-wing nut job." Mayer writes:

For all its fictional liberties, "24" depicts the fight against Islamist extremism much as the Bush Administration has defined it: as an all-consuming struggle for America’s survival that demands the toughest of tactics. Not long after September 11th, Vice-President Dick Cheney alluded vaguely to the fact that America must begin working through the "dark side" in countering terrorism. On "24," the dark side is on full view.

But shouldn't we all be able to enjoy the thrills provided by 24 knowing that sane people will return to real life when it's over? It is, after all, just a television show on a network known for its strained relationship with reality.

Gen. Finnegan isn't so sure. According to Mayer,

Finnegan, who is a lawyer, has for a number of years taught a course on the laws of war to West Point seniors—cadets who would soon be commanders in the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. He always tries, he said, to get his students to sort out not just what is legal but what is right. However, it had become increasingly hard to convince some cadets that America had to respect the rule of law and human rights, even when terrorists did not. One reason for the growing resistance, he suggested, was misperceptions spread by "24," which was exceptionally popular with his students.

To be fair to 24, misperceptions spread by the Bush Administration are another reason for diminishing respect for the rule of law and human rights.

[Update: Roger Alford and Peggy McGuinness at Opinio Juris have also commented on 24 today.]

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Texts and Contexts

James Carroll ponders the evolution of reading and its impact on social organization (including democracy) in an intriguing column published yesterday. Here's a sample of what he has to say:

Once again, as occurred when the scroll became the book, innovations in technology that change the primal experience of reading are causing a shift in consciousness. Words on a subtly flickering screen come to the eye differently than from the page, and who knows yet what that difference does? The main note of interaction between readers and what is read electronically has become interruption, since the Internet, e-mail, instant messaging, talk radio, and even audio books all assume a simultaneous multiplicity of experience. Mutations inevitably follow in the way humans relate to language.

Whether silently or aloud, with interruptions or without, read the whole thing.

The Worst of the Bad Guys

I'm not a regular reader of Parade, the popular Sunday newspaper insert, but for reasons that Peter Howard at The Duck of Minerva articulates well, the annual "World's Worst Dictator" issue is worth a look. Omar al-Bashir of Sudan retains his position at the top of the list, followed by Kim Jong-il, who was also second on last year's list.

Equatorial Guinea's Teodoro Obiang Nguema, father of Malibu's own Teodoro Nguema Obiang, is eleventh on the list. Here's what Parade has to say about him:

Obiang seized control of this small, oil-rich West African nation by executing the previous dictator--his uncle. In July 2003, state radio announced that Obiang “is in permanent contact with The Almighty” and that he "can decide to kill without anyone calling him to account and without going to Hell." Obiang himself told his citizenry that he felt compelled to take full control of the national treasury in order to prevent civil servants from being tempted to engage in corrupt practices. To avoid this corruption, Obiang deposited more than half a billion dollars into accounts controlled by Obiang and his family at a bank in Washington, D.C., leading a U.S. federal court to fine the bank $16 million.

The complete list of the twenty worst dictators is available here.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Photos from the League

The League of Nations Archives in Geneva and the Indiana University Center for the Study of Global Change maintain an outstanding online archive of photographs from the League. The archive, located here, includes photographs of League assemblies, conferences, individual delegates, buildings, and much more.

A Deal with North Korea

This looks like good news. It also looks an awful lot like the 1994 Agreed Framework that the Clinton Administration negotiated with North Korea--several North Korean nuclear weapons ago.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

No Cuts

The BBC reports that authorities in Beijing have begun campaigning against cutting in lines (or "queue-jumping," as the BBC calls it). The campaign, which (inexplicably) occurs on the eleventh of each month, is intended to teach Beijing residents to be more polite in advance of the world's arrival for the 2008 Olympics.

Next on the government's list of social ills to be corrected: spitting.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Four Wars

Phillip Carter, in a piece published in Slate yesterday, breaks down the problems of trying to fight the four different wars in Iraq that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates identified last week. It's a brief essay that is well worth reading.

[Via Washington Monthly.]

And So It Begins

I didn't expect to begin posting any comments on the 2008 presidential campaign this early, but Barack Obama's official announcement of his candidacy today in Springfield, Illinois deserves mention because it came with an early indication that he'll be running a very disciplined and effective campaign.

The indication? Almost simultaneously with Obama's speech in Illinois, I got a call from a campaign volunteer asking for my support.

I'm keeping my options open, but I couldn't help but be impressed by the coordination.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Love and Peace

"Every act of love is an act of peace, no matter how small."

--Mother Teresa

[Via Sojourners.]

Online in Vietnam and China

Will Internet use transform the Communist governments in Vietnam and China or will those governments be able to harness its liberating effects? Consider these cases drawn from today's news:

Vietnam's prime minister hosted the country's highest-level online chat Friday, answering questions about everything from corruption to his personal life--a clear break from old-style communism in the rapidly changing country.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung answered questions preselected from more than 20,000 sent from across Vietnam and abroad. He also fielded a few live questions during the 2 1/2 hour chat, and did not shy away from thorny issues, including the lack of press freedom, the Vietnam War and government seizure of farmers' land for development. [The complete story is here.]

Here, Edward Cody reports for the Washington Post from China:

There was no sign, but Gedong's teenagers knew the way. Down a dusty alley just off Jicui Park and a few minutes' walk from local schools, the curtained door beckoned. Inside, in a dingy back room off the kitchen, a clutch of adolescent boys crowded around six computers and stared at the images flickering on their screens.

For the equivalent of 35 cents an hour, the youths were playing computer games in an underground Internet cafe, one of a half-dozen information-age speak-easies in this little farming and coal-mining town in Shanxi province 220 miles southwest of Beijing. For those unable to afford their own computers--the vast majority here--going online in a clandestine dive has become the only option; the local Communist Party leader banned Internet cafes nine months ago as a bad influence on minors.

For a detailed examination of Internet filtering in China, see this study conducted by the OpenNet Initiative (ONI). A similar, but more recent, study of Internet filtering in Vietnam, also conducted by ONI, is available here.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

An Interrogator's Regrets

Eric Fair, a civilian contractor who assisted with Army interrogations in Iraq, offers a mea culpa in tomorrow's Washington Post. After describing how he carried out his assigned task of depriving a prisoner of sleep during a twelve-hour shift, he writes:

Three years later the tables have turned. It is rare that I sleep through the night without a visit from this man. His memory harasses me as I once harassed him.

Despite my best efforts, I cannot ignore the mistakes I made at the interrogation facility in Fallujah. I failed to disobey a meritless order, I failed to protect a prisoner in my custody, and I failed to uphold the standards of human decency. Instead, I intimidated, degraded and humiliated a man who could not defend himself. I compromised my values. I will never forgive myself.

American authorities continue to insist that the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib was an isolated incident in an otherwise well-run detention system. That insistence, however, stands in sharp contrast to my own experiences as an interrogator in Iraq. I watched as detainees were forced to stand naked all night, shivering in their cold cells and pleading with their captors for help. Others were subjected to long periods of isolation in pitch-black rooms. Food and sleep deprivation were common, along with a variety of physical abuse, including punching and kicking. Aggressive, and in many ways abusive, techniques were used daily in Iraq, all in the name of acquiring the intelligence necessary to bring an end to the insurgency. The violence raging there today is evidence that those tactics never worked. My memories are evidence that those tactics were terribly wrong.


A 76-year-old Thai woman who got lost twenty-five years ago has been found. FP Passport describes what happened:

The woman boarded the wrong bus when leaving on a shopping trip, and ended up 800 miles north in Bangkok. She only spoke Yawi, a dialect of Muslims in southern Thailand, and couldn't communicate with anyone in Thai or English. In hopes of returning home, she took another wrong bus to a city near the border with Burma and ended up being a beggar there for five years. In 1987, police who suspected she was an illegal immigrant arrested her, but they couldn't identify where she was from. So they put her in a social services center, where she remained for the next 20 years.

The staff at the center thought she was a mute until last month, when Yawi-speaking students happened to visit the center and the woman could finally talk to people who could understand her.

The Sydney Morning Herald has more.

Being separated from friends and family and forced to live as a pauper among people whom you cannot understand for twenty-five years is a tragedy. But a three-hour detour attributable to poor spelling is, I think, rather amusing. So, on to the next story.

My son, currently a student in Pepperdine's Florence Program, reports that a group of students studying in Pepperdine's Lausanne Program visited Florence recently. When they returned to Switzerland, they boarded a train bound for Genova, Italy rather than Geneva, Switzerland.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Outsourcing in Iraq

Today the House Government Reform Committee heard testimony from family members of the four Blackwater contractors killed in Fallujah in 2004. Also testifying today were officials from the Department of Defense and representatives of the various private security firms (including Blackwater). Tonight the PBS Newshour ran a very good segment on the use of private military firms in Iraq. The transcript is available here.

Perhaps the most interesting point in Gwen Ifill's conversation with Robert Young Pelton, author of Licensed to Kill: Hired Guns in the War on Terror, and Doug Brooks, president of the International Peace Operations Association, was Brooks' admission that private security contractors face very little accountability for their actions in Iraq and that better means for ensuring accountability are needed.

Maybe. Or maybe we just shouldn't be relying so heavily on private military firms.

Changing the Way We Think . . .

. . . and write and watch and assess and even relate to information and to each other.

I think Professor Wesch is right. Take five minutes and look at his video, posted here on FP Passport, and see if you don't agree.

Comments are open and, once again, unmoderated.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Killing the Innocent

The realization that innocent people have been sentenced to die and, in some cases, actually executed has been a key factor in prompting some states to impose a moratorium on capital punishment. In warfare, the killing of innocents sometimes leads to inquests and courts martial--if the killings occur in the context of ground combat. But, as Simon Jenkins points out in a column in tomorrow's Guardian, killing innocent people from the air hardly rates any concern at all. Jenkins writes:

When bombing from the air kills non-combatants, as it does to an appalling degree, there should at least be a military inquiry into why. . . . Massacres committed by infantrymen are subject to courts martial. If soldiers enter a house by the front door and kill civilians inside, then they are hauled before world opinion and condemned. If a dropped bomb enters the same house through the roof and has the same effect, it is dismissed as collateral damage. In Iraq it is not even recorded.

That military strategy is so casual about bomb inaccuracy is largely due to the technological glamour attached to air forces as against ground troops. The latter are always worse equipped and worse protected. Air commanders have long oversold the efficacy of strategic bombing and ignore the degree to which, in counter-insurgency war, such bombardment can be wildly counter-productive. The destruction of non-military targets and the incidental killing of civilians is far more damaging to the cause of victory than friendly-fire casualties that attract so much publicity and inquiry.

In the United States, attitudes toward aerial bombardment were shaped by World War II and the indiscriminate bombing campaign led by General Curtis LeMay. LeMay summed up his own attitude toward war in these words: "I'll tell you what war is about. You've got to kill people, and when you've killed enough they stop fighting."

Until the United States comes to terms with the LeMay legacy, it may be impossible to understand "collateral damage" for what it is: killing the innocent.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Calling on Congress

Two senior fellows at Stanford, Leonard Weiss and Larry Diamond, agree with James Fallows: Congress should act now to prevent the Bush administration from going to war with Iran.

Repenting in Retirement

It was four years ago--February 5, 2003--that then-secretary of state Colin Powell addressed the UN Security Council in an effort to convince a majority of members that the inevitable American attack on Iraq was justified and should be sanctioned by the international community. Now out of office, Powell has begun to contradict many of the claims made by the Bush administration.

James Carroll's column today notes the tendency of former officials like Powell and Vietnam-era secretary of defense Robert McNamara to change their views after retiring. He concludes, "Colin Powell's authority today instructs the critics of the war. Too bad that authority did not prevent it."


Occasionally, people searching the Internet looking for stuff about swords end up here. Most, no doubt, are disappointed. Now, however, thanks to Ben Young, I can tell you where to find swords.

Take a look at this post on Ben's blog and click through to the video to see an extended interview with one of Saudi Arabia's official executioners. Ben got it exactly right when he called it "morbidly fascinating."

[UPDATE: Kevin Jon Heller at Opinio Juris notes that Morocco is about to become the first Arab country to abolish the death penalty.]

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Da Bears

Thanks to a partnership between the NFL and World Vision, somewhere in the developing world people will soon be getting T-shirts and caps proclaiming the Chicago Bears to be the winners of this year's Super Bowl. The New York Times has the story.

Opposing the Next War

Is the Bush administration so reckless that Congress ought to tie the president's hands with respect to Iran? James Fallows, an experienced and sober observer of U.S. foreign policy, thinks so.

Friday, February 02, 2007

"All Governments Lie"

"All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out."

--I. F. Stone

The Future of Kosovo

Is independence from Serbia a possibility? A UN-sponsored plan says it should be. The BBC has details.

Groundhog Day

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released its Fourth Assessment Report. (The Summary for Policymakers is available here [.pdf].) It concludes that there is a 90 percent chance that atmospheric warming over the past fifty years has been caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gases.

Meanwhile, the Guardian reports on one of the more interesting reactions to the new report:

Scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world's largest oil companies to undermine a major climate change report due to be published today.

Letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ExxonMobil-funded thinktank with close links to the Bush administration, offered the payments for articles that emphasise the shortcomings of a report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

And then there's the survey, reported here, by the Union of Concerned Scientists indicating that many government scientists have been subjected to political pressure to avoid using the terms "climate change" or "global warming."

On top of it all, ExxonMobil has reported that its annual profit for 2006 was $39.5 billion--up 9 percent from its record-setting 2005 profit. The company's revenues for 2006 were greater than the gross domestic product of Israel, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, or Austria--not to mention about 170 other countries in the world.

By the way, Kevin Drum puts two and two together and suggests that the scientists being offered $10,000 apiece for anti-climate change commentary might want to hold out for more money.