Podcast for 18 Feb 07 (Updated with Transcript)
Posted by: Dale Franks
on Sunday, February 18, 2007
In this podcast, we introduce Bryan Pick, QandO's new blogger to the audience, the Bryan, Bruce McQuain and Dale Franks discuss this week's Congressional maneuverings, the surge, and Global Warming.
For those of you who prefer it, the direct link to the podcast is here.
The music for this podcast goes old school with Life is a Highway, by Tom Cochrane starting it up, and Rush sending us out with Spirit of Radio.
As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don't forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don't have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here.
UPDATE (Bryan): I don't think Dale will object; I just did some yeoman's work and typed up the transcript in case anything was difficult to understand (particularly me and my halting speech), along with some clarifying links, which I think are a nice touch for anyone who wants to know what we were talking about. The transcript is below the fold, sans most of our "uhs" and "ums".
UPDATE II [Dale]: The transcript deal is magnificent! You know, Bryan, it'd be great if we could provide a transcript every week. I'm just saying.
DALE: This is Observations, the podcast of the QandO Online Magazine. I'm Dale Franks; welcome back to the podcast. As always, it's a pleasure to be with you. Bruce McQuain is standing by. Also standing by: the newest addition to QandO, Bryan Pick. So, we've got three full bloggers here, or we have a full class of three bloggers, or something like that... I was going to have something really witty to say there and it just seems to have completely escaped my mind. Anyway, Bruce and Bryan are standing by.
Bryan, welcome to Observations and welcome to QandO.
BRYAN: Hi! I'm glad to be here.
DALE: Hello, Bruce.
DALE: Let's start off this week by talking to you, Bryan, and why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself.
BRYAN: Well, I almost don't know how to introduce myself, really, because it's been such a short time since I really got into blogs or even politics and economics period. But I'll try to be thorough since I haven't formally introduced myself on the blog. The first thing that's going to strike people is probably how young I am; I'm 21 years old, which makes me about nine years younger than Jon, and yet here I am. And I wasn't born and raised a libertarian, either; I wasn't really indoctrinated in any political philosophy, and nobody came over and knocked me in the head with Ayn Rand and suddenly converted me. Y'know, I just started getting interested in history and government and economics in high school, started getting into debates mostly with my teachers, uh, and other students, and from there I just didn't want to stop. And y'know, I just started debating with people wherever I could find them, on forums for the on-line games I played... anywhere, really.
So after graduation I started reading just everything I could get my hands on about policy and economics and politics, mostly policy analysis papers from the RAND Corporation and things like that, and before long I found my way onto one—just—this really fantastic forum where I could debate all these things with people of every political persuasion in a civil manner. I spent hours and hours, like, every day debating with an avowed communist and an avowed fascist and uh, I also debated with Tom Bailey, who was—I don't know if you remember—the Libertarian Party's candidate for Senator in North Carolina... and so there were all kinds of people to debate with and I uh, it y'know, wasn't just divided into partisan camps, and it wasn't an echo chamber. So if you said something, you had to back it up or you'd get eaten alive, and I just loved that. (cough) And uh, I thought Tom was kinda crazy, actually, and I hadn't really identified myself as a libertarian yet so he actually made me hesitant to be a libertarian in the first place, but uh—
DALE: (laughing) Nothing like contact with Libertarians to make you not want to be one.
BRYAN: Yeah, sometimes that uh, that really was the case, but... while I was just reading everything I could get my hands on from as many sources—liberal, conservative, whatever—and just discovering just what my political philosophy was, and just, y'know, and somebody posted a link to QandO in late 2004 and I think it was initially to something you wrote, Dale, and just I was really impressed with what I found here at QandO. And just reading you guys' take on everything, while I didn't agree with every last thing you wrote... it was—it was like coming home. I read your description of what makes a (neo)libertarian and I just thought, “that's me.” Y'know?
So I started commenting... I think my first comments were back in December of 2004... and I kept debating at that other forum, and I just kept on getting more involved, I guess. When you guys started The New Libertarian in May of 2005 [note: TNL started in April, but Bryan joined in May], I emailed you guys about some typos I noticed and that you might think about a proofreader, and Dale, you asked kinda sarcastically if I was volunteering, and I said, “Ah, I'd be happy to.”
MCQ: Be careful what you ask for.
DALE: Yeah, 'cause that took a big load off me, trust me.
BRYAN: Yeah, uh (laughs) and uh, I did that for a while, and I kept on commenting, and last year when I started school out here in DC, I started to talk to Jon, and ended up meeting him and his family in July. And now, here I am blogging, and that's the story of how I ended up, er, y'know, right here, so...
MCQ: That's interesting, that you did battle on a group with a bunch of other people. That's pretty much how I got into—not blogging, but really into some political activity. I ended up on a little bulletin board in Atlanta called Dialogue and the guy that, among others, that I was constantly debating with was Billy Beck...
MCQ: ... which was... I did that for five years. I'll tell you what, that'll toughen you up.
DALE: By the way, we've talked about Billy Beck. I think it's only fair that we actually tell people what the URL to his website is, it's two(dash-dash)four.net, so two-dash-dash-four-dot-net, for Billy Beck's website, and he has a link to his weblog right here on the main page. So anyway, Bryan, welcome to QandO, we've now finally roped you into everything—the blog and the podcast—so let's get on with the podcast.
A big week this week, in terms of Iraq policy, as both the Senate and the House were debating non-binding resolutions to essentially condemn the president's surge strategy in Iraq. Passed in the House, failed in the Senate, did not get enough votes to get cloture, so the debate will continue presumably for as long as the Sun burns hot in space at this point. Bryan, we'll start off with you: what was your take on what happened this week in Congress?
BRYAN: I—I kind of—really think that the Washington Post nailed it, and they were talking about how the Democrats really—uh, this isn't what they were elected to do, this isn't what they said they were going to do, and the way that they're going about it, especially when they're starting to talk about the “slow bleed” that they intend to go on from here, I just don't see it being a real winner for them. It's just—it seems like they're going to... they're getting into something that I don't think even they will be able to control. They're, y'know, they're not really standing up for what they what they claim to believe and what they said they were going to do, so... I think they're going to lose people both from the Left and from some of the more moderate people.
DALE: What really ge—
MCQ: I agree.
DALE: What really gets me, and just let me jump in here Bruce, I'm sorry, but what really got me was Murtha's just blatant acceptance of the WaPo's proposition that you're really just doing this for political purposes, aren't you? I mean, you don't want to take the political risk of cutting off funding, so as far as the “slow bleed” strategy goes, all you're really trying to do is cut off funding without making it appear as if you're cutting off funding. And Murtha seems perfectly comfortable with that, as if, y'know, nobody will ever figure out what he's doing.
MCQ: Well yeah, that's kinda [unintelligible] that you, y'know, that you make this “secret strategy” by announcing it to the world. And it's such a morally bankrupt way of approaching this, that it's unbelievable. What they're attempting is to gain a political advantage without paying any political price. They'll let this particular strategy bleed the money away from the Army or the—and the Marines and let them essentially fail because they can't get the troops or the equipment or the support they need to actually win, or at least succeed in this mission. And that's cowardly, I'm sorry—
BRYAN: And who do they think is going to be blamed for this at the end?
MCQ: Well, and that's the important thing: that's what I don't understand, but they feel they can duck responsibility if they do it this way, that it remains Bush's war, and that may be true if he'd kept his mouth shut and they had done this sort of on the sly, and then it would have been a bunch of people claiming one thing and others claiming another, but he's literally proud of this, and that's what really frosts me, and apparently it frosts Brit Hume too, because Brit Hume called him “dotty” today.
Y'know, Brit Hume doesn't normally resort to that type thing.
DALE: Not usually.
MCQ: And he said there were just things that he said needed to be said about Mr. Murtha, and that one of them is that he just doesn't have a real good grasp of what's going on over there, and I have to agree with him, but what's even more disconcerting is the fact that Nancy Pelosi supports what he said. And what that may have done, or appears to have done in the House vote for the resolution, is run a bunch of Republicans off that were thinking about voting for it. They ended up with 17 Republicans; they were expecting somewhere up between 30 and 40, and when this little Murtha “slow bleed” thing came out, I think that those who were going try and make a non-binding stand decided “Nuh-uh, not worth it, because we know what's following it.”
BRYAN: And I really like that video that you posted earlier this week that has that soldier who was saying, “I'm a born and bred Democrat, but this just makes me sick.”
BRYAN: And I can very much see, y'know, exactly why, and it's just, y'know, they've already identified it, they've identified it right now, y'know, they're not going to wait 'til later to suddenly realize, “Oh, we've, y'know, we've been pretty much stabbed in the back on this one, and y'know, it's all for some political gain.” I mean, what else does this accomplish, besides political gain? Just cover your (y'know)...
MCQ: Yeah. If you believe in this on principle, if it is that important and you think it's for the good of the country, stand up and cut off funding for the war, period.
DALE: Y'know, I have to admit, I just don't get John Murtha. I mean, you expect a former career Marine to have a much more fundamental grasp of reality, certainly the military realities, and a better grasp of strategy than the guy has. I just don't—I don't see how an entire lifetime spent in the Marine Corps ends up inculcating the views that this guy has, and I can only assume that it's, y'know, X number of years in Congress that has sort of changed his fundamental viewpoint, because I guarantee ya, as a colonel in the Marine Corps, he did not think the things that he thinks today.
MCQ: Well, I think one of the things—and this goes back to Brit Hume again—y'know I think that essentially what Brit Hume is saying is, “You guys need to listen to this man, and figure out what's going on there because he does not have—in fact he said he does not have a good grasp of... let me back up, he says, “this guy is long past the day when he had the foggiest awareness of what the heck is going on in the world.” That's Brit Hume. And what he's saying is, “Democrats, be careful who you hook your trailer to on this particular issue, because he is leading you down a primrose path, and you're gonna pay for it.”
BRYAN: Or he starts thinking of ideas like pulling back to Okinawa, (laughter) where you could still somehow run planes all the way to Iraq, just in case, y'know?
MCQ: Yeah! Let's refuel four times before we drop our load.
BRYAN: That'll work.
DALE: Just over the horizon... eight thousand miles away.
MCQ: I mean, it is... well, that and the fact that, y'know, he says that was gonna close down Abu Ghraib. Well, Abu Ghraib was demolished a year ago; it was given to the Iraqis and they demolished that area. It doesn't even exist anymore. The town of Abu Ghraib still is there, and yes, they still do run a prison, but the place that is infamous is gone.
DALE: And good riddance.
MCQ: Yeah, and he doesn't know that. So it's, y'know, but this is one of his major talking points.
BRYAN: So it's—
DALE: That kind of lack of knowledge, though, I have to say, it's not confined to Mr. Murtha. I mean, you can find—I think it was at Red State earlier this week, maybe, where they were talking about some Republican—or maybe it was Hugh Hewitt, I don't know—but they were talking about some Republican who was just going on and on about Sunnis and Shia and he appeared to have no earthly clue what the issues were, and I think that that is symptomatic of a larger problem, which is that there are very few people in Congress who are taking the time to look and figure any of this stuff out. Once they know the political position of their party is, or of their particular caucus is, that's, y'know, that's the line that they parrot. And so any sort of thoughtful analysis is sorely missing in Congress.
MCQ: And we saw that writ large with Sylvestre Reyes, uh, when he took over as head of the Intel Committee and couldn't tell you what a Shia or a Sunni was.
BRYAN: Um, Sylvestre Reyes has a couple of problems; that was one of the few posts that I've put up so far, is how he just completely flip-flopped on whether or not he supported sending 20 to 30,000 extra troops to Iraq, and y'know, it's just, uh—I dunno. Reyes doesn't strike me as the kind of person where you're going, y'know, for consistency and principle.
MCQ: And yeah, in fact he did exactly what Dale said and he went with the party line, which was “Oh gee, we don't need this now.”
DALE: Well, you know, that's—
MCQ: And I thought it was interesting, by the way, reading Billy Hollis's post about uh, the Transmission from an Alternate Universe...
MCQ: That is the way it should have happened. “We said 'Change course.' You changed course. Now we're going to support that until we see it's not working.”
DALE: Yeah, but I mean, that doesn't fit in with the way Congress works, which on the Democratic side, at least in the House, and to a lesser extent (but still present) in the Senate is, “If George Bush is for it, I'm agin' it.”
MCQ: Well, agreed. Agreed. But I'm saying, in a perfect world, that's the way that should have all happened, because in fact he has changed course; he has changed missions; he has changed the entire focus of the operation in Iraq. And consequently, that is a change in direction: we're going to do something completely different now; that was what was demanded. But the goal posts were then moved again... well, this isn't what—and what became clear to me then was, after speaking generally about changing course, what they really meant was, “Get out now.”
DALE: Right. Right, I mean, that's the ultimate answer for the Democrats. For whatever reason—
MCQ: But they wouldn't say that, see.
DALE: Well. Yeah, but for whatever reason—
BRYAN: The problem wasn't really that Bush was so stubborn, and that he wouldn't consider changing course mid-stream; their problem was that he wasn't doing exactly what they want him to do.
DALE: Well, the thing is you've got a significant caucus whose only idea in Iraq is that it was lost before it began, it was illegitimate—whether they voted for it or not is immaterial at this point, I think—but that it's just all a failure, it's a quagmire, it's the Vietnam template, and the only thing we can do is get out, and if the little brown people kill each other, well, [affecting British accent] they're only bloody wogs anyway, aren't they?
MCQ: Yeah, and that unfortunately is the conclusion I've come to as well, is that they really don't care what happens in Iraq... if they can score a political victory in the U.S. Speaking of that, and you said something about the vote, an interesting thing I was reading over at Swampland about Hillary Clinton... y'know, one of the things that I think is going to ruin Mitt Romney is the fact that he continues to flip-flop on things, and apparently one of the things that was drilled into Democrats after John Kerry was, you don't flip-flop. So that puts Hillary in a very tough position on her vote; and she's tried every way in the world to explain away the vote, and she hasn't been successful. So apparently, recently she was asked why she voted for the war, and she said, quote, “If the most important thing to any of you is choosing someone who did not cast a vote or who has said his vote was a mistake, then there are others to choose from.”
DALE: Well, I—that—that's probably the best thing she could say.
MCQ: Absolutely! And she is—what they're saying is, she wants to maintain a firmness, and people to see her as being firm about something. They believe that's what people are going to want in 2008, and I don't discount that at all. Again, I think that's going to be Romney's downfall.
DALE: Yeah, you know, you mentioned Romney; that brings up a whole new can of worms. I was just looking over the way things seem to be sort of heading in 2008, and if I was to guess now, I'd say that nobody but Rudy Giuliani has a good shot at becoming the Republican nominee. I mean, at this point I think it's Guiliani. I don't even think McCain, for all the work that he's done to make him seem like, you know, Bob Dole in '96, you know... “John McCain: Because it's his turn.” I just don't think that that's going to work. I think Rudy is the guy at this point and y'know, unless, like Edwin Edwards said, they find him in bed with a dead girl or a live boy, I think it's pretty much his to lose.
MCQ: You're probably right.
DALE: The interesting thing is, there is no sort of—there's no sort of a clear front runner on the Democratic side. That's just a gaggle of wannabes at this point, nobody... y'know for all this talk about front running and stuff, Hillary's gotten a lot of attention, but in point of fact, if you look at the polling, she's just not doing all that well. She doesn't have a clear and commanding slice of the Democratic votership.
MCQ: Well I think that has a lot to do with her negatives. They are there, they've been there, and they're constantly up in the 40s. I mean, this is a woman—and of course with the war vote, and that type thing—this is a woman with a lot of baggage and a lot of people who don't like her stance on the war and the fact that until recently, she has pretty much stood behind Bush and what he's done in Iraq.
DALE: Well of course, Amanda Marcotte would argue that it's because people are afraid of a strong woman.
MCQ: I ain't goin' there, Dale.
DALE: Oh, come on! I'm throwing you a—
MCQ: I've said all I need to say about Amanda Marcotte.
DALE: Well, but she's such a good bad example.
MCQ: Yeah, really...
DALE: Well, the—another interesting thing, speaking of Iraq, that happened this week is Nouri al-Maliki is coming back and apparently is so happy he can hardly contain himself with the surge strategy. Based on what we have seen so far, and there have been a lot of reports out of Iraq, both pro and con, I'm interested in hearing you guys. What do you think about, at least, the initial results of the surge?
BRYAN: Well, a lot of people are keeping their heads down at this point, it seems, or they've skipped town, y'know, maybe on to Syria, but y'know, everybody's kinda waiting to see: what, are they just going to, just—study our troops as they move in and see what the real risks are, or whether they're going to keep their heads down a little bit longer and give the Iraqi government some time and space. It's hard to know how optimistic or pessimistic to be at this point because we haven't seen just what kind of challenge they're ready to put up.
MCQ: Yeah, I think that's exactly right. As Mohammed from the Iraqi blog [IraqTheModel] said, while it's showing signs of success and it invites hope and optimism, it's way too early to celebrate. And the point is that in any change like this, there's gonna be an assessment, and a reassessment, and an adjustment and adaptation. What we don't know at this point is whether that's what's going on, or in fact we're actually having some success, and in fact they're putting down their arms and going underground and they're going to stay there. And we won't know that for a while.
But, on the other hand, y'know, folks in Baghdad are moving back in that had fled, that there are signs of safety and security, and I think I pointed out in the blog post that one of the things that—one of the more visible signs was cleaning up the streets, planting trees, fixing the curbs, painting things. Yeah, it may seem like little stuff, but it's huge, because what it does is, it says, “I'm in charge”—
BRYAN: Like the “broken windows” policy—
BRYAN: —in New York City.
MCQ: Exactly, same thing. It's a visible, very visible thing for people there to look at and say, “they're actually doing something here.”
DALE: The one cause for worry that I have, though, something that you alluded to just a moment ago... anytime in warfare, you are not fighting some machine that spits out programmed responses. You are fighting people who have as large an interest in defeating your strategy as you have in making that strategy successful. They will adapt; they will find new ways to attack. And I don't think that, despite all these good signs that we're seeing, I don't think that anybody can say that we're seeing anything other than the insurgent forces sitting back, taking a look at what is happening, and trying to come up with a strategy or tactics to counter it.
MCQ: Yeah, nor do I. And that's going to be evident, I think, within the month. I think that by the end of March, it will be evident whether in fact we have been successful or are being successful in clamping some things down, or they have figured out how they're going to approach this now, and you'll see the level of violence beginning to rise, and it'll go higher and higher each month.
The other side of that is, and something else I talked about, is the fact that we came to be, or have shown to have different tactics now, especially like the checkpoints, and the checkpoints were, “build a sandbag thing somewhere near a street and stop everything that comes through.” Well, guess what? If you were there more than a day, you're a target. Well, now what they're doing is, they have essentially mobile checkpoints, and they're also—what they'll do is, set up there for a while and then they'll move somewhere else, and that gets inside the decision cycle of anybody that's trying to plan a way to attack you and to take that checkpoint out, and that's key. And—
BRYAN: And really the first people who decide to stick their head up, and decide to try and test the defenses, I think that's going to be a signal to the other insurgent groups of just how much the battlefield has actually changed. If the first couple of attacks are just as bad, or just as successful, then you're going to see the other insurgents will be emboldened. “The surge is weak, y'know, it doesn't have the kind of teeth they were promising,” and y'know, they'll go ahead with it. But I think the most motivated groups, who stick their heads up first, are going to kind of set the pace of whether this thing really gets derailed heavily again, or how quickly.
MCQ: Yeah, and a lot of that will then have to do with reaction forces, how we react to it, whether we are in fact able to cover one of these checkpoints hanging out there, and if so, if we're successful. And the other thing I've been reading—I read an article in USA Today this week about the teams, or the groups that are moving into the city. I was reading some remarks by a company commander who said, the difference between him being on a compound and him being in the city is, he knows what's going on. He says, “I am plugged in.” He says, “Where we'd get a few tips every day,” he says, “I get a few tips every hour now.” These people are literally walking in now; they're plugged into the community and what's going on around them, and the fact that they're plugged in, the fact that they're there, the fact that they're risking themselves as well apparently is impressing the community.
DALE: Yeah, and it's a tactic that's been sorely lacking for the past three years.
BRYAN: Um, some parts of Iraq that, y'know, they've already been doing some kinds of things like this—in the Anbar campaign, y'know, some of the people who are in charge of the surge now are the very people who showed that this kind of strategy can succeed in other parts of Iraq—
DALE: H.R. McMaster, maybe.
BRYAN: —where you really get in touch with local leaders and you do end up getting a lot of extra intelligence, you get the community on your side, and really, that showed a lot of success out in western Iraq. There's a reason why there's so much of the violence in the very center of Iraq as opposed to all over, and if anybody's been reading Bill Roggio, I mean he's described how a lot of the actual strategy in Iraq has evolved up to this point, and—
BRYAN: —and, y'know, if Baghdad—it's a “bigger” and more complex place than western Iraq, but it's, y'know, if you're putting those same principles to work, you might start to see more success.
MCQ: That's right. And what you're going to see in Iraq, or in Baghdad, is there are hot areas and there are not-so-hot areas, and what you're gonna do is you're gonna cover all the areas but you're not going to have prob—in the not-so-hot areas, you may not have the force that you'd have in some of the hotter areas. And its going to be a constant game, but what you don't want is, as General Petraeus said, “Whack-a-mole.” You don't want to push them out of one area and they pop up in another. So we have to have presence everywhere. We have to be able to react to them fleeing from one area to another, and taking them out. But the whole point is, this saturation coverage, the willingness to go in there and cover the whole of the city, is going to pay off by either running them to ground or killing them, and that's what we have to do. But the other side of that is—y'know, I don't know how else to say it except that you establish ownership. It's yours. And that's where the security comes from; that's when the people start feeling secure in your presence, and that's the whole point of this thing.
DALE: Well, let's move away from Iraq now and talk about something that actually, all three of us have blogged about quite a bit this past week for some reason—I don't know why; it just seems to have been that way—and that is the global warming debate. Bryan, you'd written a really interesting post from a really different point of view actually, than the ones that Bruce and I have been writing. Could you sort of recap that for us and give us your thoughts on that?
BRYAN: Uh, yeah. I just think everybody I've seen has wanted to put something up about the science of global warming and trying to really attack it on whether or not it's actually occurring, y'know, anthropogenic climate change, and to what degree and all that, and you know, there's just so much literature about it, and there's so much of the deep science and a lot of people are actually not experts on it at all, and I'm definitely not an expert, but I thought I could attack the issue from what I see as being even more fundamental to the big debate, which is about the economics and the politics of actually responding to it, to whatever degree it is occurring. And, you know, there's tons and tons of problems in the world, y'know, just all kinds of things that people want to solve that are going to be very costly to us, but global warming—or global climate change, whatever it's being called—is just one of those things.
And one of the questions you have to take into account, or actually several of the questions, involve how certain you are of what kind of damage is going to be done, how certain you are that you can fix it, and how certain you are that your particular action is a better action than another. And it seems to me that there's so much uncertainty about so many aspects of this debate that, to jump straight from “scientists are pretty sure that climate change is occurring” to “let's go and do something about it” to spending billions or trillions of dollars over time on it seems to me to be just getting ahead of ourselves. Y'know, it seems kind of foolish, because there are many other problems that we are more certain about, things that we know are going on, we know what kind of damage they do, because we've been living with them and we've studied them much more closely than we're able to say, “Y'know, this amount of temperature change at all these different points on the globe is causing this much damage, and this is how the free market is responding, and this is how different countries can respond.”
And so, y'know, I wanted to put those questions out there and really question the bases of the political action responding to climate change, and I'd just really like to see somebody make that entire case, and I just don't see it very often.
MCQ: Well, years ago I read an article in Reason, and I can't remember who wrote it, but it was interesting; it caught my eye because the first paragraph of the article said, environmentalism is a luxury of the rich countries. It's something that they have the luxury to pursue because (A), they have the riches, etc. etc. It is not something that is a priority in developing countries. And I think we see that all the time. And one of the reasons that I get a little irritated with some of those who want to rush headlong into spending trillions of dollars on a solution that we don't know will do any good at this point is the fact that we—when we say “we,” we're talking about the developed world. The biggest polluters are the ones that are coming up, and this is not a priority for them; feeding their people is; developing their economy is. So while they may agree and whatever, I really doubt that they'll ever take strenuous steps or curtail the economic growth that they would have to to actually make a difference, if there's a difference to be made.
DALE: And you know, the other thing too is, whenever we talk about anthropogenic global warming, we always point to CO2, and of course the obvious solution is to reduce CO2 emissions, which means killing the petroleum economy, essentially. That's a very expensive solution, but for years in the science fiction community, and in fact just this past weekend, Greg Benford wrote, you know, you don't have to do that. You can take silicates and just seed the atmosphere with silicates; they will reflect a percentage of the sunlight; the more that you seed, the greater the percentage is; we could even test that out over the Arctic to see if it stops the, y'know, the Arctic ice retreat.
Just one of the things that I just happened to see this last week in the Institute's—the Naval Institute's Proceedings Journal—was, the Navy is trying to figure out how to address what will be the new Northwest Passage. There will be an arctic passage from Europe to Asia simply because pack ice has decreased so substantially, and is expected to keep decreasing.
You have a very cheap solution, the ability to make—silicates are in fact dirt, so therefore they are as cheap as dirt. You can seed the Earth's atmosphere, reflect a certain amount of sunlight back into space, without even having to address the CO2 problem, or at least not having to address it now. And yet, those types of solutions are not what is thought of; what is thought of is, “We've got to attack this monster of carbon consumption”, which, just in terms of cost-benefit analysis, strikes me as something that is more motivated for political reasons than it is on the basis of plain old science, cost-effectiveness and common sense.
BRYAN: All right, yeah, I've seen just a wide degree of proposed solutions; y'know, it's not the only—the “green” people and the climate change people, they don't just propose an attack on oil and gasoline. There are a bunch of proposed solutions, but uh, yeah, very commonly they do end up going after gasoline. And there are some other arguments for why we should reduce our dependence on pollutants like, y'know, especially oil.
BRYAN: Y'know... security. Because if we have to tax something, then I'd rather see them taxing gasoline or pollutants than taxing income. But that has little to do with any argument that I have on climate change.
DALE: Yeah, well I think, y'know, the most reasonable position is that even if global warming weren't a problem, even if it didn't exist, burning fossil fuels the way we do is problematic for any number of reasons that have nothing to do with global warming. Getting away from fossil fuels would be an unalloyed good, I think, assuming that we can do so in some sort of rational and logical manner, and one that doesn't cost us trillions and trillions of dollars and consign literally billions of people to lives of poverty.
BRYAN: And you have to be sure about what kind of benefit you're going to be getting out of it before you decide just how much you're willing to pay. If we were to go on a campaign to get rid of all carbon pollutants tomorrow that would, y'know—it's possible. It would be extraordinarily costly, and you'd have to make an argument for exactly what we're going to get out of that. And I just don't see anybody putting together even a close-to-serious analysis of what all of the possible costs and benefits are of the carbon economy.
MCQ: Well, and that's because it's been turned over to the politicians, who really don't understand it. But they do know how to spend money and wave their hands and yell, “We have a problem.” All you have to do is look at education in this country to understand that, or many other things, really. The solution to all problems is to spend more money, and—
BRYAN: Pass a law.
MCQ: That's just where it is right now, and that's my biggest concern right now, is that's what—a consensus of scientists has handed the ball to politicians, and that scares the bejeezus out of me.
DALE: Well... now that you've scared us, I think we can go.
MCQ: (laughs) That's pessimistic enough—
DALE: It's not pessimistic, but it's—but it's scary.
DALE: So we can stop it there. Bryan, thanks for joining us on the podcast.
BRYAN: I was glad to be here.
DALE: Bruce, we'll talk to you again next week.
MCQ: You bet.
DALE: Well, that's our time. We gotta go. You've been listening to Observations, the podcast of the QandO Online Magazine. Observations is co-hosted and produced by Bruce McQuain. I'm Dale Franks, I co-host and I do all the music-y, sound-y, edit-y bits—whatever those are called. Hope you enjoyed the podcast; hope you enjoyed meeting Bryan Pick for the first time; and we hope you'll be back again next week for yet another edition of Observations, the podcast of the QandO Online Magazine. Until next week, have a great week everybody. So long.
Total running time: 36:55