Green Weenie of the Week Needs “Corrections”

I know it’s only the first day of the month—and April Fools’ Day (which was probably intended with goofy environmentalists in mind)—but despite stiff competition we can award a coveted Green Weenie Award already.

There’s stiff competition, though. The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katherine Jefferts Schori, has issued the pronouncement that ignoring climate change is a sin. Yes, come to think of it, I never hear anything about climate change any more. We really must start talking about it more, and not just Sunday in church.

In the Puffington Host article reporting on the bishop’s views, she is pictured in front of row upon row of . . . empty pews. I wonder if the fitting irony occurred to anyone else besides me?

Empty pews led by vacant minds?

Empty pews led by vacant minds?

But the good bishop is overmatched by novelist Jonathan Franzen (author of The Corrections), who has offered the following confession that environmentalism really is a religious faith at its core in The New Yorker this week:

Maybe it’s because I was raised as a Protestant and became an environmentalist, but I’ve long been struck by the spiritual kinship of environmentalism and New England Puritanism. Both belief systems are haunted by the feeling that simply to be human is to be guilty. In the case of environmentalism, the feeling is grounded in scientific fact. Whether it’s prehistoric North Americans hunting the mastodon to extinction, Maori wiping out the megafauna of New Zealand, or modern civilization deforesting the planet and emptying the oceans, human beings are universal killers of the natural world. And now climate change has given us an eschatology for reckoning with our guilt: coming soon, some hellishly overheated tomorrow, is Judgment Day. Unless we repent and mend our ways, we’ll all be sinners in the hands of an angry Earth.

Beyond this astounding statement, Franzen’s article is actually an incoherent mess, as he goes on to argue that perhaps we’re overdoing it with climate change at the expense of other, near-term environmental concerns—especially . . . birds. Uh-oh—better hope the presiding bishop doesn’t hear about this.

Turns out we won’t have to give Franzen our Green Weenie, because lots of environmentalists are mad at him for daring to question the priority of climate change uber alles:

Audubon’s CEO David Yarnold said Franzen’s essay “read like some angst-ridden, Woody Allen-esque lament”.

“The whole piece is a pretty confused piece of thinking. He seems to be saying that people aren’t capable of holding two ideas in their heads at once. That they’re not capable of preserving the places that birds need now, while mitigating the threat of climate change in the future. And there’s absolutely nothing in our experience at Audubon that would lead us to believe that’s true,” he said. . .

“It was so stupid,” said John Gummer, chairman of the UK government’s Committee on Climate Change. . .

“I think he’s talking nonsense,” says former director of conservation at the RSPB Mark Avery.

Talk about corrections!

How Republicans can give Obama leverage against Iran, whether he wants it or not

Negotiations between Team Obama and the mullahs of Iran failed to result in an agreement before the supposed deadline. However, to no one’s surprise (except the Washington Post) the parties will continue to negotiate.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest intoned that “it’s time for Iran to make the serious commitments that they know the international community is expecting them to make to reach an agreement.”

Actually, it’s past that time. Literally. The administration’s stated deadline was yesterday.

The way to extract concessions is not to beg for them. Rather, one obtains concessions, if they are to be had, by demonstrating seriousness. In a case like this, one demonstrates seriousness by adhering to deadlines.

In other words, the U.S. should walk away. As any experienced negotiator knows, walking away doesn’t automatically mean an end to negotiations. If Iran is willing to make concessions, it will come chasing, in some face-facing way. If it doesn’t come chasing, this means it won’t make the concessions that are (or should be considered) necessary.

According to the Washington Post, time is of the essence for President Obama. But the essence of his timeliness concern pertains to thwarting the U.S. Congress, not to pressuring Iran:

In fact, the deadline was mostly about American politics. The Obama administration is trying to get an agreement with Iran before congressional critics have a chance to pass bills requiring their approval of any nuclear deal or imposing more sanctions on the country. Several bills are pending that would give Congress the option to reject a final accord.

Congress is out of session. It won’t return until April 14.

Congress may be on holiday, but Republican presidential politics isn’t. Bill Otis suggests that Republican candidates and potential candidates issue a joint statement that, in their view, any deal reached with Iran is not binding on the United States until the Senate ratifies it.

Unless the mullahs are overwhelmingly confident that a Democrat will win, the letter should give them pause. This might provide Obama leverage with which to negotiate a better deal. Alternatively, if there is no good deal to be had, the statement might be a deal-breaker for Iran. This would be a good outcome if, as appears to be the case, Iran won’t make the necessary concessions.

Most Republican contenders haven’t announced their candidacy yet. So the joint statement would have to be couched as coming from concerned Republicans, or some such description. The mullahs will grasp the import.

It’s possible that Rand Paul wouldn’t sign on. No problem. His decision not to sign would add clarity to the Republican race.

“Economics Is a Form of Brain Damage”

Click to embiggen

Click to embiggen

That slogan, which you can see on display in this 1993 full-page New York Times ad nearby, is making a comeback of sorts on the left. A generation ago it was the slogan of the environmental left, which hates the fact that we live in a world of tradeoffs, and which thinks we live in a world where the only unlimited resource is other people’s money. The late David Brower was quoting environmental activist Hazel Henderson in that expensive ad; Henderson said at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 that when the green revolution finally comes, economists would be rounded up and sent to re-education camps.

I say the slogan is “making a comeback,” though I suppose it never really went away in the general precincts on the left. But most environmentalists have grudgingly admitted the importance of economics, even if their grasp of the subject is typically at a kindergarten level. At least it’s some progress.

But as I noted here back in January, economics as an academic discipline has been the one social science most immune to the nihilism and willfulness of the PC-left. As I wrote then:

The one field in the social sciences where there is the least presence of post-modern oppression-“privilege” types is Economics, which prompts me to propose the theorem that the presence of politically correct nonsense in an academic department is inversely proportional to the emphasis placed on rigorous regression modeling.

I went on to note that the left is not happy about the resistance of economists, and were protesting at the annual meeting of the American Economics Association.

The latest installment of the leftist rage against economics comes from sociologist (stop giggling) Lisa Wade of Occidental College (where Obama attended to two years don’t forget), who argues that economists are “anti-social.”

Yep. Economics majors are more anti-social than non-econ majors. And taking econ classes also makes people more anti-social than they were before. It turns out, there’s quite a bit of research on this. . . Econ majors are less likely to share, less generous to the needy, and more likely to cheat, lie, and steal.

And you know what we do with anti-social people, right? Prof. Wade writes: “Being exposed to a variety of views, including ones that question the premises of neoclassical economics, may be one way to make economists more honest and kind.”  I’ll bet the economics department just loves her at Occidental faculty meetings.

Where is Hayek when we need him? Oh, he’s right here:

Hayek on Socialism copy

A blast of truth

Prime Minister Netanyahu has made a statement on the ongoing negotiations with Iran. The statement is a clarion call with the blast of truth. In it, Netanyahu refers to the statement by the Iran militia chief stating that Israel’s destruction is “non-negotiable.” The statement is reported here by the Times of Israel. The video of Netanyahu’s statement is below.

The Washington Free Beacon has posted this transcript:

Yesterday an Iranian general brazenly declared and I quote: ‘Israel’s destruction is non-negotiable’, but evidently giving Iran’s murderous regime a clear path to the bomb is negotiable. This is unconscionable. I agree with those who have said that Iran’s claim that its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes doesn’t square with Iran’s insistence on keeping underground nuclear facilities, advanced centrifuges and a heavy water reactor. Nor does it square with Iran’s insistence on developing ICBMs and its refusal to come clean with the IAEA on its past weaponization efforts. At the same time, Iran is accelerating its campaign of terror, subjugation and conquest throughout the region, most recently in Yemen.

The concessions offered to Iran in Lausanne would ensure a bad deal that would endanger Israel, the Middle East and the peace of the world. Now is the time for the international community to insist on a better deal. A better deal would significantly roll back Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. A better deal would link the eventual lifting of the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program to a change in Iran’s behavior. Iran must stop its aggression in the region, stop its terrorism throughout the world and stop its threats to annihilate Israel. That should be non-negotiable and that’s the deal that the world powers must insist upon. Thank you.

Madam Hillary gets her wires crossed

The AP published an important story by Jack Gillum yesterday on the State Department’s response to a Freedom of Information Act request it submitted in 2013. Paul wrote about the AP story here.

The AP’s FOIA request sought correspondence between Madam Hillary and her advisers over a four-year period that contained keywords such as “drone,” “metadata” and “prism.” Gillum explained: “The latter ['prism'] was among several code words for controversial U.S. surveillance programs revealed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. The request also asked for certain emails about government programs to eavesdrop on terror suspects believed to be foreigners.”

The AP filed its FOIA request 18 months ago. The State Department responded this week. Given the delay, the department’s response was slightly anticlimactic; the department turned over a grand total of four email messages.

On the paucity of messages touching on the subject, Gillum reports:

Steven Aftergood, a government secrecy expert at the Federation of American Scientists, said the low number of emails provided to AP could be because the State Department uses different words to describe its operations — such as “UAV,” or unmanned aerial vehicle, instead of “drone.”

It’s also possible that Clinton and her advisers’ emails are not in the department’s archives, he said.

“If there are four, one would expect there to be quite a few more than that,” Aftergood said. “And it looks like another indication of faulty records management and retrieval at the State Department.”

I’m not sure this exhausts the possibilities. A close reading of David Kendall’s letter to Rep. Trey Gowdy suggests “the Secretary’s personal attorneys” may not have retrieved and turned over all such messages.

Two of the four messages didn’t even address the subject on which the AP had submitted its FOIA request; they reflected Madam Hillary has simply gotten her wires crossed, as might easily happen when you have a single email account for both work and personal matters. Gillum reports:

Among the four emails obtained by AP is one in which Clinton accidentally mingled personal and work matters. In reply to a message sent in September 2011 by adviser Huma Abedin to Clinton’s personal email account, which contained an AP story about a drone strike in Pakistan, Clinton mistakenly replied with questions that appear to be about decorations.

“I like the idea of these,” she wrote to Abedin. “How high are they? What would the bench be made of? And I’d prefer two shelves or attractive boxes/baskets/ conmtainers (sic) on one. What do you think?”

Abedin replied, “Did u mean to send to me?” To which Clinton wrote, “No-sorry! Also, pls let me know if you got a reply from my ipad. I’m not sure replies go thru.”

In sum, as Gillum reports at the top of his story, the four messages have virtually nothing to do with the subject of the AP’s request: “She asks for a phone call in one, a phone number in another. She seeks advice on how best to condemn information leaks, and accidentally replies to one work email with questions apparently about decorations.”

Gillum’s AP story is dated March 31. This is not an April Fool’s joke.

The capitulationist

In his weekly Wall Street Journal column yesterday (accessible via Google here), Bret Stephens compiled quotes from President Obama setting forth his previously stated demands of Iran in connection with its nuclear program. Here is how Stephens’s column opens:

For a sense of the magnitude of the capitulation represented by Barack Obama’s Iran diplomacy, it’s worth recalling what the president said when he was trying to sell his interim nuclear agreement to a Washington, D.C., audience in December 2013.

“We know they don’t need to have an underground, fortified facility like Fordo in order to have a peaceful program,” Mr. Obama said of the Iranians in an interview with Haim Saban, the Israeli-American billionaire philanthropist. “They certainly don’t need a heavy-water reactor at Arak in order to have a peaceful nuclear program. They don’t need some of the advanced centrifuges that they currently possess in order to have a limited, peaceful nuclear program.”

Hardly more than a year later, on the eve of what might be deal-day, here is where those promises stand:

Fordo: “The United States is considering letting Tehran run hundreds of centrifuges at a once-secret, fortified underground bunker in exchange for limits on centrifuge work and research and development at other sites.”—Associated Press, March 26.

Arak: “Today, the six powers negotiating with Iran . . . want the reactor at Arak, still under construction, reconfigured to produce less plutonium, the other bomb fuel.”—The New York Times, March 7.

Advanced centrifuges: “Iran is building about 3,000 advanced uranium-enrichment centrifuges, the Iranian news media reported Sunday, a development likely to add to Western concerns about Tehran’s disputed nuclear program.”—Reuters, March 3.

The column continues in this vein. I hope readers who are interested in the subject will check it out.

Stephens’s column inspired the Free Beacon’s David Rutz to compile the video below documenting Obama’s diplomatic surrender to Iran. The perfect accompaniment to Stephens’s column, it provides what Othello called “the ocular proof.”

Losin’ in Lausanne (7)

Following his messages summarizing the status of negotiations with Iran on the verge of yesterday’s purported deadline, Omri Ceren arranged a conference call with former IAEA Deputy Director General Olli Heinonen. On the technical issues Heinonen knows what he is talking about.

Having sat in on the conference call, I thought it might be of interest to readers who have been following this series and trying to understand what we have given away in the negotiations so far. Passing on the transcript of the conference call, Omri wrote:

[T]he full transcript from this morning’s 10 minute phone hit with Olli Heinonen is pasted below….[T]he quotes are quite candid, especially from a figure of Heinonen’s stature: former IAEA Deputy Director General, former chief of safeguards at the agency, literally the guy who was in charge of the sorts of things the IAEA will be doing in Iran. The audio is online on TIP’s SoundCloud page here. Some highlights….:

The proposed deal falls short of the administration’s 1 year breakout time goal: “[W]hen I look from the parameters which I know, it looks to me that if there are 6,500 centrifuges remaining, installed and in operation – it might be difficult to get it to one year or longer, the breakout time. It will be clearly below. And then we have to add all the uncertainties, the unknowns.”

The administration’s concession on Iranian disclosure, revealed in a WSJ scoop on Wednesday, will cause future monitoring to fail: “you are more or less fencing one hand behind your back and it might be difficult to find the proper places and detect them early enough… it is important to get to those locations and have them subject to the monitoring. Anything less, I don’t think this monitoring scheme will be successful in the longer term.”

Iran continues to jam up the IAEA, which prevents the prerequisite baselining needed for future verification and monitoring regimes: “IAEA has not been able yet to verify the completeness of Iran’s declaration. So we don’t know at this point of time whether all the uranium which is in Iran is really subject to IAEA verification. Same is with the enrichment program. They have produced a lot of centrifuges. Are these all the centrifuges installed and operating, which we see in Natanz? This, together with the military dimensions to understand what were the activities on high explosives, missile reentry vehicle which Iran seems to have done. All these 3 items – nuclear material inventory, all the centrifuges, and this PMD – they form a baseline for future monitoring.”

…Last week’s concessions, which seem to have bought only an announcement to keep negotiating, are only now beginning to sink in.

Here is the transcript of the conference call with Heinonen (including links I have inserted to to articles Heinonen cites):

Omri Ceren: Thank you all for joining us today on what I know is a very, very busy and very early, for some of you, news day. We have on the line with us Olli Heinonen, of course, he is known to all of you, Former Deputy Director General of the IAEA. He was the chief of the safeguards program over there. And we wanted to make sure that you had access to him or to at least hear from him in the context of one of the major debates that are ongoing around the Iran talks which is course the issue of verification, in the broadest sense, and the issue of Iran’s possible military dimensions, in the specific sense, which throughout this week has been a source of controversy, a source of major news, debates over the degree to which Iran will have to make concessions have been key to the discussions over here. There is no one, quite literally no one, in the public sphere today who has written more on this than Dr. Heinonen has….[A]t this point, I will turn things over to Dr. Heinonen to talk about where we are, where we’re going, and how it relates to where we’ve been, Olli?

Dr. Heinonen: Hi thank you. Thanks for having me and good morning to everyone from Geneva. Actually, in my meeting room here in the United Nations building, they are setting up all kinds of security arrangements. So it seems to me that some kind of deal is around the corner, but it will be a very, very long day.

And what we are going to see, I think, maybe the process: taking a stock where they are, explaining some kind of framework, what they have agreed, what will be agreed now with regard to the nuclear program of Iran and then some kind of plan how they will go this remaining 3-4 months because as you remember, nothing is agreed before everything is agreed. So whatever we hear today is a very generic, very tentative agreement, and I think they will address a number of issues.

One is the scope and content of enrichment program of Iran. Certainly everyone is interested how many centrifuges will be there, which kind of enriched uranium stocks will stay in Iran. This is an important parameter on the program, centrifuges and types of centrifuges, and then what will be the R&D program of Iran with regard of centrifuges, and then is this a possible military dimension? I don’t think they will put much details on that yet – on the table, how they will go about it. And then are generic things which I’m not sure they will be talking very much like lifting of sanctions, how they have foreseen a stepwide process.

But there needs to be some additional elements, in my view. There needs to be a robust system for the cases of non-compliance, if Iran doesn’t honor its undertakings there must be consequences. And then, let’s look at the nuclear program as a whole and project this whole thing to the future. I think that I would divide this future in three parts: One is next few years, where we know how much Iran has centrifuges, which stocks will stay, and we can fairly easy to establish the breakout times. And to this end, I refer to an article which I wrote on the website of Washington Institute [here]. You will find the numbers, in my view, about the breakout times there so let’s not spend time for that.

But the important thing will be the R&D on centrifuges, what kind of centrifuges Iran will develop further, in which numbers, which kind of access rights IAEA will have to ensure that no centrifuges which are produced there are all declared. And this goes to my medium term plan because this is the time when the nuclear landscape in Iran will change and then comes the theory of somewhere of ten years or after on how we can maintain a robust system in place so that Iran’s nuclear program is entirely for peaceful purposes. And this is a time, where in my view, the provision of the so-called Additional Protocol Plus should still continue until Iran has fully restored the confidence of the international community to its nuclear program and this goes well beyond 12 or 15 years in my view.

And then how to deal with the military dimensions. That will be sticky. But we have to look – this [inaudible] in its totality. IAEA has verified how much nuclear material Iran has declared and confirmed those numbers. But IAEA has not been able yet to verify the completeness of Iran’s declaration. So we don’t know at this point of time whether all the uranium which is in Iran is really subject to IAEA verification. Same is with the enrichment program. They have produced a lot of centrifuges. Are these all the centrifuges installed and operating, which we see in Natanz? This, together with the military dimensions to understand what were the activities on high explosives, missile reentry vehicle which Iran seems to have done. All these 3 items – nuclear material inventory, all the centrifuges, and this PMD – they form a baseline for future monitoring.

So what Iran has to do in this first stage is actually to come with a complete declaration on its past and current nuclear program. And this will be the baseline on which the IAEA starts to verify. And this would be part of the agreement which they now negotiate. So I think that this gives you a summary. I’ll just add one more thing, if you go to the Washington institute piece. You see that I’m asking that what are the real breakout times; because when I look from the parameters which I know, it looks to me that if there are 6,500 centrifuges remaining, installed and in operation – it might be difficult to get it to one year or longer, the breakout time. It will be clearly below.

And then we have to add all the uncertainties, the unknowns to this image. Are there some unknown nuclear materials, are there some unknown centrifuges, so it’s going to be very hard to maintain that one year. And I think at this point, I refer to the paper which I wrote with General Hayden about the compliance and uncertainties to Washington Post a couple, a few days ago [here].

So after this I think that I’m ready for questions and as many questions you have, I’ll try to answer them to the best of my knowledge. Thank you.

Omri Ceren: The first question that we had and this is a question that we got numerous times: As I’m sure you know, on Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal revealed that the Americans may be contemplating an arrangement where Iran would not have to submit to full disclosure of all the 11 outstanding issues that they have with the IAEA until some time in the middle of the deal. I was wondering if you could comment on what effect that would have on the verification regime and how much space there is to put off disclosure or whether disclosure has to be given at the very, very beginning.

Dr. Heinonen: I think it would be better because you know you need to have a good baseline for a solid monitoring. You need to know how far they got, which are the important institutions and capabilities so that you pick the right things for the monitoring. Because if you go the other way around you are more or less fencing one hand behind your back and it might be difficult to find the proper places and detect them early enough. But this perhaps can be to certain degree compensated by additional access rights. But I think by far the best starting point is to have a complete disclosure. We may a difference in view what this disclosure means. Because many of these experiments which Iran has done, they serve for dual purpose. They can be conventional military but they can also be nuclear military. So I don’t think we should start a debate whether this is you know a weapons program or not but it is important to get to those locations and have them subject to the monitoring. Anything less, I don’t think this monitoring scheme will be successful in the longer term. And we have a good example from North Korea in 1994: compromised in the beginning with the declarations.

The call with Heineken was organized by The Israel Project. The Israel Project’s online site The Tower has more on Heinonen’s briefing here.