Wednesday, November 21, 2007

UN "scientists" are never wrong, except when they are.

The Ministry of Truth, AKA the NYT, is caught in another ham-handed self-spoof today by James Taranto, the watchful WSJ arbiter of NYT absurdities, which occur on a daily basis. Here is Taranto's column in Best of the Web:
"The Scientists Speak," reads the headline of the New York Times editorial, which informs us that there is no question the New York Times editorialists are right:

The world's scientists have done their job. Now it's time for world leaders, starting with President Bush, to do theirs. That is the urgent message at the core of the latest--and the most powerful--report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of 2,500 scientists who collectively constitute the world's most authoritative voice on global warming.

Released in Spain over the weekend, the report leaves no doubt that man-made emissions from the burning of fossil fuels (and, to a lesser extent, deforestation) have been responsible for the steady rise in atmospheric temperatures.

There is no doubt! These are scientists, after all, and they're working for the U.N. They don't make mistakes!

Or do they? Here's a news story that also appears in the Times today:

The United Nations' AIDS-fighting agency plans to issue a report today acknowledging that it overestimated the size of the epidemic and that new infections with the deadly virus have been dropping each year since they peaked in the late 1990s.

We're so confused. Didn't the scientists speak? How could they have gotten it so wrong? After all, they're scientists!

Here's a quote from the Washington Post that may shed some light on the matter:

"There was a tendency toward alarmism, and that fit perhaps a certain fundraising agenda," said Helen Epstein, author of "The Invisible Cure: Africa, the West, and the Fight Against AIDS." "I hope these new numbers will help refocus the response in a more pragmatic way."

Could it be that we are watching the same phenomenon with the whole global-warmist hysteria? Our bet would be yes.

However, the devil with a deep-blue dress on must also occasionally, like a broken clock, be correct. Here Taranto damns the NYT with faint praise:
So far as we know, pigs have not flown, and hell has not frozen over. But something almost as unusual happened: The lead story in today's New York Times--stretching two-thirds of the way across the front page--is about Baghdad, and it's good news:

The security improvements in most neighborhoods are real. Days now pass without a car bomb, after a high of 44 in the city in February. The number of bodies appearing on Baghdad's streets has plummeted to about 5 a day, from as many as 35 eight months ago, and suicide bombings across Iraq fell to 16 in October, half the number of last summer and down sharply from a recent peak of 59 in March, the American military says.

As a result, for the first time in nearly two years, people are moving with freedom around much of this city. In more than 50 interviews across Baghdad, it became clear that while there were still no-go zones, more Iraqis now drive between Sunni and Shiite areas for work, shopping or school, a few even after dark. In the most stable neighborhoods of Baghdad, some secular women are also dressing as they wish. Wedding bands are playing in public again, and at a handful of once shuttered liquor stores customers now line up outside in a collective rebuke to religious vigilantes from the Shiite Mahdi Army.

Iraqis are clearly surprised and relieved to see commerce and movement finally increase, five months after an extra 30,000 American troops arrived in the country.

Of course the Times notes that "the depth and sustainability of the changes remain open to question"--which is just another way of saying that journalists can't report on things that haven't happened yet*. Blogger Edward Morrissey notes just how remarkable is this story's appearance in the Times:

Just two months ago, the paper gave MoveOn a price break to run an ad that accused General David Petraeus of treason and perjury even before he testified about the security improvements. The editorial board called Petraeus' testimony "empty calories" and complained of his "broken promises and false claims of success" and asserted that Petraeus had not given an "honest accounting" in his Congressional briefings.

The Times waited until the success of Petraeus could no longer be denied to publish the truth.

The Washington Post, though, has a story you probably won't read in the Times anytime soon:

Abu Nawall, a captured al-Qaeda in Iraq leader, said he didn't join the Sunni insurgent group here to kill Americans or to form a Muslim caliphate. He signed up for the cash.

"I was out of work and needed the money," said Abu Nawall, the nom de guerre of an unemployed metal worker who was paid as much as $1,300 a month as an insurgent. He spoke in a phone interview from an Iraqi military base where he is being detained. "How else could I support my family?"

U.S. military commanders say that insurgents across the country are increasingly motivated more by money than ideology and that a growing number of insurgent cells, struggling to pay recruits, are turning to gangster-style racketeering operations.

U.S. military officials have responded by launching a major campaign to disrupt al-Qaeda in Iraq's financial networks and spread propaganda that portrays its leaders as greedy thugs, an effort the officials describe as a key factor in their recent success beating down the insurgency.

The Times, in an effort to promote the notion that al Qaeda has nothing to do with Iraq, has actually adopted a house style of referring to al Qaeda in Iraq as "al Qeada in Mesopotamia" and describing it as a grassroots Iraqi group that "the Bush administration says" has foreign leadership. It would be more accurate to identify it as "al Qaeda's Iraqi branch, which recruits local mercenaries to murder their countrymen."
* Except, of course, when "the scientists speak."

It is difficult for an institution that once prided itself to be "the newspaper of record" to now be regarded as a shill for opponents of the USA whereever they may be overseas, from Chavez to Putin to Ahmed..jad. By the time Pinch deconstructs the family heirloom, it may be as relevant as the Christian Science Monitor, except that it would be less accurate.

Scientists should be taken seriously when they find a clean way to get stem cells; they should not when extrapolating ambiguous data into the future as to climate at the end of the 21st century.

Leave that to astrologers, who have a higher ethical standard than the payday-to-prognosticate quacks who get research monies from lefty "think tanks" that reward "scientists" for coming to the "right" conclusion.

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