TBR News October 31, 2019

Oct 31 2019

The Voice of the White House Washington, D.C. October 31, 2019:
“Working in the White House as a junior staffer is an interesting experience.
When I was younger, I worked as a summer-time job in a clinic for people who had moderate to severe mental problems and the current work closely, at times, echos the earlier one.
I am not an intimate of the President but I have encountered him from time to time and I daily see manifestations of his growing psychological problems.
He insults people, uses foul language, is frantic to see his name mentioned on main-line television and pays absolutely no attention to any advice from his staff that runs counter to his strange ideas.
He lies like a rug to everyone, eats like a hog, makes lewd remarks to female staffers and flies into rages if anyone dares to contradict him.
It is becoming more and more evident to even the least intelligent American voter that Trump is vicious, corrupt and amoral. He has stated often that even if he loses the election in 2020, he will not leave the White House. I have news for Donald but this is not the place to discuss it.
Commentary for October 31:” Ever since the times of the great Malthus, it has been well recognized that since all species must eat to continue living, the existence of food sources is vital to the survival of any species, be it homo sapiens or others.
Food may, in short, be seen as a weapon as effective as a bullet or a bomb in an attack on a perceived enemy.
Let’s now consider the production of food stuffs as a weapon in a war, formal or informal.
I refer now to a growing struggle between the PRC (China) and the United States in which the PRC can clearly be seen as a challenger to the United States both in the military and economic spheres.
For example, the PRC has purchased very large financial holdings of the United States such as official U.S. Treasury bills and then also as holders of billions of American dollars worth of other financial holdings and long term investments.
These acquisitions are not intended for financial gain to the PRC but to be used as an economic and political lever when, and as, needed.
Also, the PRC has been known to be conducting a form of economic warfare against the United States by the production of counterfeit gold items, such as coinage and, most dangerously, as faked copies of American official U.S. Treasury gold bars. This has the dual purpose of enriching the PRC with badly-needed items such as oil and raw material it cannot, by itself, possess.
It is evident that the United States intelligence organs are entirely aware of these dangerous PRC activities and have been assiduously working both to blunt the economic warfare and then to counter with other methods.
The most important of these latter methods deals with the issue of food.
It is not certainly a secret that China has a number of growing, and potentially fatal, problems with her population and the care and feeding of it.
China’s basic supply of fresh water comes from the glaciers of the Himalayan mountains but these glaciers are not only melting rapidly but renewal of them does not occur due to obvious and growing planetary climate changes. The shrinking of glacial waters also strongly effects the hydroelectric programs of China.
Another of the PRC’s growing problems is the unchecked increase in population; the shrinkage of arable food (i.e. rice) production areas, a domestic and foreign economic “bubble” that is obvious will probably cause a disastrous implosion.

The Table of Contents
• U.S. House tees up first Trump impeachment vote
• Can the US government stem the tide of ‘fake news’ in a postmodern world?
• Hezbollah targets drone in south Lebanon: Al-Manar TV
• Don’t Be Fooled. Hezbollah Is Bigger and Badder Than Ever
• Why Israel Fears Iran’s Presence in Syria
• Missiles and Rockets of Hezbollah
• Past Cycles: Ice Age Speculations
• The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations
• Encyclopedia of American Loons

U.S. House tees up first Trump impeachment vote
October 31, 2019
by Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers planned to cast the first vote on Thursday in the impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump as the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives takes up a measure that sets up the next steps in the fast-moving effort.
The vote will be the first formal test of support for the inquiry launched on Sept. 24. Democrats, who control 234 seats in the 435-seat chamber, need a simple majority to approve the resolution.
The measure calls for public hearings and the release of transcripts from closed-door proceedings. It also outlines what rights Republican lawmakers and Trump himself would have to participate as the process moves ahead.
Republicans have accused Democrats of trampling on Trump’s rights and keeping the process too secret.
The U.S. Constitution gives the House broad authority to set ground rules for an impeachment inquiry and Democrats say they are following House rules on investigations. They have promised to hold public hearings on the case against Trump.
The impeachment inquiry focuses on a July 25 telephone call, in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskiy to investigate his Democratic political rival Joe Biden, a former U.S. vice president, and his son Hunter, who had served as a director for Ukrainian energy company Burisma.
Trump has denied wrongdoing and called the inquiry a sham.
Lawmakers on Thursday plan to hear closed-door testimony from Tim Morrison, the top Russia specialist on Trump’s National Security Council. Morrison resigned from his position on Wednesday, a senior administration official said.
He arrived for his testimony shortly before 8 a.m. ET (1200 GMT).
Members of the three committees conducting the investigation expect Morrison to fill in more of the details about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. Morrison listened in on the July 25 phone call and said the call “could have been better,” according to acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor.
In testimony last week, Taylor also said that Morrison had confided to him on Sept. 7 that he had a “sinking feeling” after a phone conversation in which Trump told another ambassador he wanted Zelenskiy to “go to a microphone and say he is opening investigations of Biden and 2016 election interference.”
Morrison was mentioned 15 times in Taylor’s detailed statement to lawmakers, which described a diplomatic back channel through which Trump had made the release of $391 million in U.S. aid to Ukraine contingent upon Kiev publicly declaring it would investigate the Bidens.
Committee members have asked a far more prominent player, former national security adviser John Bolton, to appear next week. Others have testified that Bolton was alarmed by a White House effort to pressure the president of Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political rivals.
It was unclear whether Bolton would testify. His lawyer said he was not willing to appear voluntarily, according to media reports.
If the House pursued impeachment, it would require a simple majority in the 435-member House to trigger a trial in the Republican-controlled Senate. Conviction requires the support of a two-thirds majority in the 100-member body.
The investigation is probing whether Trump misused the power of his office for personal political gain and, if so, whether that rises to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors” that merit impeachment and removal from office under the Constitution.
Trump made his request to Zelenskiy for an investigation into the Bidens after withholding $391 million in security aid approved by Congress to help Ukraine fight Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Zelenskiy agreed to Trump’s requests. The aid was later provided.
(The story corrects number of Democrats in House of Representatives in second paragraph)
Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley, Jan Wolfe, Doina Chiacu; Editing by Andy Sullivan, Peter Cooney and Bernadette Baum

Can the US government stem the tide of ‘fake news’ in a postmodern world?
Facebook faces the task of using its algorithms to fight fake news – but does it know the real problem it’s fighting against?
October 31, 2019
by Evgeny Morozov
The Guardian
Three years into Donald Trump’s presidency, the moral panic over “fake news” and “post-truth” has not abated. If anything, it has now blossomed into a full-blown culture war. Conservatives insist that their views are suppressed by Facebook and Twitter; progressives accuse the same platforms of not doing enough to crack down on hate speech and foreign manipulation of elections.
Mark Zuckerberg’s recent testimony in US Congress – where politicians competed to deal him the lethal rhetorical blow – doesn’t bode well for Silicon Valley. The Valley’s only savior, at this point, is the Communist Party of China. Only indefinite trade war with China will prevent US lawmakers from regulating the “strategic” tech sector; to break up the industry would weaken Washington’s global standing. The Trump administration is not blind to these risks.
Invoking the Chinese threat has bought the tech companies some time but it won’t work forever. The impending tech bubble is only going to increase everyone’s hatred of Silicon Valley; the calls for action will grow louder. The public humiliations of WeWork and Uber, the former darlings of tech investors, are signs that public tolerance of highfalutin technology platforms (and their leaders) is already running short. More government regulation is, indeed, likely to follow – and stemming the tide of “fake news” would be one of the highest priorities
But just how strong is that tide? What remains unexamined – in the public debate but also in many academic discussions of “post-truth” – is the background assumption that ours is the time of postmodernism on steroids: a time where no firm truths hold and no single narrative can survive the assault of radically different worldviews grounded in diverse material, cultural, and racial experiences.
To deny that something like this is happening – facilitated by the business models of digital platforms, their algorithmic nudges, and the filter bubbles that result thereof – would be disingenuous. But the fragmentation of truth is only one – and perhaps not the most important part – of the story.
One unappreciated paradox of today’s “digital condition” is that it celebrates post-truth and hyper-truth simultaneously. As narratives get fragmented, allowing competing truths to proliferate, there’s also a concurrent effort to deploy bots, ledgers, and algorithms to produce a singular, objective, and eternal truth.
The first stage of this “objectification” began with Wikipedia. Although the platform could be used to provide multiple readings and interpretations of any subject or phenomenon, a decision was taken that a “community” of editors and writers, armed with trustworthy and reliable sources, would converge upon a single interpretation of history.
While the critics of Wikipedia zeroed in on the fact that it was, in a truly radical manner, democratizing the production of knowledge – everyone could contribute! – they missed a more fundamental, conservative side of the project: while many controversial topics featured lengthy and often bitter discussions among the editors, the front-end presentation often gave no explicit sign of internal disagreement. The controversy and disagreement were, thus, hidden from the average viewer.
Instead, the proliferation of editorial and citational guidelines and regulations on Wikipedia ensured that those rules were presumed to have more say in determining the content of a page than the information supplied by the very subject of the entry. Hence the many curious cases of people complaining that Wikipedia has wrong information about them but they cannot change it as they are not presumed to be “authoritative” sources about themselves. This adherence to rationality and rules is the true modernist part of Wikipedia that has, so far, befuddled many of its observers.
The second stage of the “objectification” of narrative began with the rapid explosion of the blockchain technology. It created the illusion that everything can be embedded in digits and eventually presented, in an unalterable manner, on the “ledger”: the final truth, set in stone, not to be altered by anyone.
Applied to the narrow world of commercial transactions or computer events, this assumption appears harmless. Applied, however, to the more substantial issues – politics, arts, journalism – this “epistemology of the blockchain” creates the rather perverse expectation that, unless and until something has been packaged in a blockchain-friendly way, it must be corrupted by subjectivity, venality, or bias. Subjectivity is the enemy; opacity is sinful.
In other words, we’re starting to see an irony of the “post-truth” world: the democratization of knowledge has been matched by the intensification of the bureaucratic model. This time, however, the human side of bureaucracy is presented as archaic and uncool, to be replaced by “objective” algorithms and ledgers. The one true utopia of this mode of thinking – already glimpsed in places like Singapore or Estonia – is a fully-automated bureaucratic system enforcing the rules with Prussian efficiency.
The digital culture that ensues makes for a very odd beast. Not surprisingly, it’s conducive to the kind of cognitive dissonance feeding the alt-right. On the one hand, in a populist manner reminiscent of Wikipedia, it dispenses with expertise, as everyone is assumed to be equal to everyone else, much like the nodes on the blockchain network (another myth). On the other hand, it intensifies the modernist faith in rules and regulations – and the possibility of finding, by some quantitative means, the single truth, which can then be made available to all, without any intermediation by forces other than technology. If one had to come up with a label for this ideology, “populist modernism” would be quite appropriate.
The contradictions of such a bizarre ideological mix are quite apparent: in dispensing with the experts, it replaces them with faith in “technology” and “progress”. But since such accounts usually lack any meaningful discussion of the political economy of technology (let alone that of progress), they have nowhere to fall back upon to explain historical change. What, after all, drives and shapes all that technology around us?
In such accounts, “technology” is usually just a euphemism for a class of uber-human technologists and scientists, who, in their spare time, are ostensibly saving the world, mostly by inventing new apps and products. The experts, thus, are brought in through the back door, but without any formal acknowledgement (or possibility of democratic contestation). These experts – whether Wikipedia editors or blockchain engineers – are presented as mere appendages to the sheer force of technology and progress, when in reality they’re often its drivers.
This is hardly the sort of secure, reliable foundation on which democratic culture can flourish. It’s one thing, in a typical postmodernist move, to celebrate “situated knowledges” and “multiple epistemes”, refuting any appeals to the one and only truth; a visit to a grad school seminar in humanities will confirm that this kind of language is still very much alive in academia. It’s quite another to do it while also building a system to algorithmically enforce the truth through the zealous application of bureaucratic rules and regulations that would make Otto von Bismarck look like a carefree bricoleur.
Facebook, which is built on the populist assumption that horizontal communication among users trumps vertical preaching by experts, exemplifies this dilemma: for all its populism, it now faces the enviable task of using its algorithms to fight “fake news.” This, however, cannot be done without accepting the virtues of expertise and grounding one’s approach in a singular, coherent worldview.
The problem with Facebook is that it doesn’t even know that it has this problem: it will, thus, most likely continue its schizophrenic efforts of groping in the dark, erecting the sort of expert-led bureaucracy that it was supposed to demolish.
Nothing good will come out of such efforts, but they do highlight a fundamental truth that we seem to have forgotten: both fake news and its opposite, the excessive quest for hyper-rationalization, are the consequences – not causes! – of our problems. Postmodernism did not begin in Mark Zuckerberg’s dorm room.
Evgeny Morozov is a Guardian US columnist

Hezbollah targets drone in south Lebanon: Al-Manar TV
October 31, 2019
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s Hezbollah targeted a drone over the country’s south with “appropriate weapons” forcing it to leave Lebanese airspace on Thursday, al-Manar TV reported, citing a statement from the Iran-backed movement.
Israel’s military said earlier that an anti-aircraft missile was fired from Lebanon at one of its drones but the aircraft was not hit.
Writing by Eric Knecht; Editing by Andrew Heavens

Don’t Be Fooled. Hezbollah Is Bigger and Badder Than Ever
Just across Israel’s northern border, the world’s most dangerous terror group is getting stronger by the day.
by Shai Oseran and Stéphane Cohen Head of Operations and Defense Analyst, respectively, at The Israel Project in Jerusalem.
Hezbollah is probably the world’s largest, most sophisticated, wealthiest and most militarily capable terror organization. Created, trained, funded and deployed as a proxy of the Iranian government, with operations spanning Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas, the Shi’ite group has effectively taken over the Lebanese government, launched thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians, and murdered more Americans than anyone other than al-Qaeda—all of these making it into perhaps the most fearsome weapon in the jihadist anti-Western arsenal.
For months now, however, Hezbollah has been mired deep in the Syrian civil war. Thousands of its fighters have streamed eastward to join the struggle to save the regime of another Iranian proxy, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Many of its best soldiers have been killed in battle. Fighting is now spilling back over into Lebanon, with car bombs going off in southern Beirut and other Hezbollah strongholds. And its decades-long claim, aimed at justifying its existence in southern Lebanon, that it existed solely to protect the Lebanese from Israeli aggression, is becoming increasingly impossible to defend. On the contrary, it looks increasingly transparent as the Iranian marionette that it is, sharing responsibility for the humanitarian disaster in Syria.
One should not be surprised, then, to hear commentators asserting that Hezbollah has been severely weakened by the events of the last year. But has it?
Many Israeli military strategists don’t think so. To the contrary, they point to a number of alarming indicators suggesting that Hezbollah may be stronger than it has ever been. And that has them worried. The massive arsenal of advanced weaponry Hezbollah has amassed since it last faced off with Israel in the 2006 Second Lebanon War, the technological advances it has made, and the battlefield experience it has gained in Syria, have all helped turn Hezbollah into what could be Israel’s most dangerous enemy in a generation.
As a highly disciplined Islamist group that operates as an asymmetric terror and guerrilla force, a political party, and a mini-state in southern Lebanon, Hezbollah has of course been a serious threat to Israel for decades. As expressed in its 1985 “Open Letter,” Hezbollah believes that an open-ended holy war—a jihad—is the “cure to the ills and oppression afflicted on Lebanon and the region by Israel.” Put simply, Hezbollah has always seen Israel as an existential enemy that must be destroyed for both political and religious reasons.
Yet while the group’s mission hasn’t changed, its strategic significance has. Because of its location on Israel’s northern border, Hezbollah terrorism has been a serious headache for the IDF since Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000; along with the group’s attempt to corrupt Israeli society by smuggling drugs across the border, a source of both revenue and intelligence. And its evident subordination to Tehran has meant that Iran has now established a substantial military presence in both Syria and Lebanon, combining with the Syrian army and the IRGC to create what Israeli military officials now see as a single northern front across Syria and Lebanon, rendering previous security doctrines and realities obsolete.
For all intents and purposes, Iran is now sitting on Israel’s northern border, making the Iranian nuclear threat a lot more immediate for Israeli decision-makers. If military grade missiles, rockets and unmanned aircraft systems are making their way into Hezbollah’s hands, it is not difficult to imagine tactical nukes and dirty bombs aimed directly at Israel’s northern civilian population.
But even without nuclear weapons, Hezbollah may have already strengthened to the point that it is the most difficult enemy facing Israel today. And this should be of concern not only to Israel, but to anyone interested in a stable Middle East. Not to mention any Western world leader concerned with protecting their own people from the long arm of this global terrorist menace. that has in the last two years, attacked or attempted to bomb, India, Bulgaria, Georgia, Cyprus, Syria, and even, Washington D.C.
The improvements in Hezbollah’s military and technological capacities can be owed, to an astonishing degree, to the work of one man: Hassan al-Laqis. One of Hezbollah’s top innovators and technical minds, al-Laqis was assassinated in Beirut this past December by unknown assailants. While his murderers may remain mysterious, al-Laqis’ legacy is clear: Hezbollah is now far ahead of any other terrorist group in the world in terms of the weapons it can deploy, the tactics it uses, and the offensive and defensive technology at its disposal. With the support of Iran, and the guidance of al-Laqis, Hezbollah is not a terrorist group, but rather Tehran’s terrorist army.
The higher one goes up Hezbollah’s military chain of command, the more secret and mysterious its members and activities become, and al-Laqis was no exception. His work was concealed even from many Hezbollah members, and he was granted relative independence in leading the organization’s research and development division. He worked primarily on making Hezbollah’s rocket and missile arsenal more accurate and deadly, its internal telecommunications systems more sophisticated and difficult to breach, and, most recently, spearheading efforts to develop Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), such as drones, for use in both offensive operations and intelligence gathering.
Although al-Laqis’ assassination was clearly a setback for Hezbollah, his activities had already made substantial progress at the time of his death, and his life’s work will threaten Israel for years to come. Under his supervision, Hezbollah went from being a standard-issue terrorist group employing crude tactics like suicide bombers and katyusha rockets to a technologically advanced paramilitary organization capable of accurately firing missiles at almost any Israeli target, especially civilian areas. The man may be gone, but the fruits of his labors remain.
Indeed, Hezbollah’s capabilities have expanded across the board. Its arsenal has grown dramatically since 2006, in both quantity and quality. This includes mortars and small rockets with a range of 24 miles and, more disturbingly, rockets and missiles that can strike anywhere in Israel. Hezbollah is also believed to possess guided missiles accurate to within dozens of meters. According to Brigadier General Itay Baron, head of the IDF Military Intelligence research section, Hezbollah now has around 65,000 rockets and missiles, many times the number they had on the eve of the 2006 war. Particularly worrisome is the Tishreen missile, which contains control and guidance systems that have given Hezbollah a precision-strike capability.
The group also possesses Iranian-made rockets such as the Fajr-3 and Fajr-5, with respective ranges of 27 and 45 miles; and a huge quantity of simpler 107mm and 122mm rockets with ranges up to 12 miles. These rockets are capable of striking many cities in northern Israel, such as Haifa, Tiberias, Afula, Nahariya, and Safed. Hezbollah intends to use them in order to paralyze life in Israel through intense barrages of rocket and missile fire; something Hezbollah proved itself quite capable of doing already in 2006.
Hezbollah has also upgraded its anti-aircraft missiles, anti-ship cruise missiles, anti-tank missiles, and reconnaissance and attack drones; all of which would make Israeli retaliatory strikes far more difficult. The group notoriously displayed its anti-ship capabilities in 2006 by firing a Noor anti-ship missile at the Israeli naval vessel INS Hanit. It may now have obtained Russian Yakhont anti-ship cruise missiles from Syria. If these weapons have indeed been transferred to Hezbollah, it would instantly put any Israeli naval vessel under direct threat, even those docked at Israeli ports. The Yakhont is difficult to defend against, since it can be launched from beyond the horizon, at supersonic speeds and with a range of different possible trajectories. If fired from behind mountain ridges or other geographical obstacles in Lebanon, they could avoid detection from the sea and strike targeted vessels with minimal warning. It is believed that 12 of these missiles may be in the hands of Hezbollah fighters in Syria itself.
Israeli military officials are now beginning to view the Hezbollah threat as strategic rather than tactical; that is, they are preparing for a confrontation with a foreign army, rather than a terrorist group. But this army is not like others, because while it has the size and capacity of an army, it still fights like a terrorist organization. The tactics it has adopted would pose a growing challenge to any military, even one as experienced in asymmetric operations as the IDF.
Hezbollah’s combat tactics have been increasingly refined over recent years, and the group is now on the cutting edge of terrorist and jihadi warfare. It has gained substantial combat experience from its battles with Israel and especially with Syrian rebel forces, as well as sharing tactical knowledge with other jihadist groups around the world.
The organization’s style of fighting is based, generally speaking, on guerilla and jihadi tactics. Due to the asymmetrical nature of combat between terrorist organizations and state military forces, groups like Hezbollah have adopted what are called “counter-value strategies,” which target civilians and civilian infrastructure. This is distinguished from traditional “counter-force strategies,” which target military infrastructure. This makes such groups extremely difficult to fight, especially for armies like the IDF that go to great lengths to protect civilian lives on both sides. Hezbollah is an acknowledged master of counter-value strategy, and serves as a role model for groups like Hamas, which is adopting similar tactics.
This style of fighting is based on three principles: Absorption, deterrence, and attrition. Absorption refers to the organization’s ability to withstand attack or retaliation. Hezbollah has sought to maximize its absorption capacities by building intricate systems of underground tunnels and bunkers across southern Lebanon, which it uses to store and transfer weapons and fighters from one combat zone to another, and as shelter from IDF retaliation. These bolt-holes also help create the sense of a “disappearing” enemy, difficult to detect and target. After all, you cannot defeat what you cannot see.
Hezbollah also deftly exploits the IDF’s rules of engagement, which seek to safeguard civilian lives, by using densely populated urban areas to store and launch rockets. This strategy has a propaganda element as well. Hezbollah is well aware that Israel will be globally condemned if civilians are killed in the crossfire, as they almost inevitably will be given the use of such tactics. While often effective, this tactic is, in essence, a double war crime: Hezbollah fires rockets and missiles directly at Israeli civilians, while using the civilian population it rules as human shields; both of which are entirely illegal under international law.
In regard to deterrence and attrition, both refer to Hezbollah’s ability to keep up its fight against Israel without suffering total destruction, thus drawing out the conflict to such an extent that it becomes difficult to bear the cost of sustaining it. Hezbollah’s massive arsenal ensures that Israeli towns and civilians will suffer a constant barrage of rockets and missiles, something the director of IDF Intelligence has recently referred to as an “era of fire.” In order to destroy this arsenal and the infrastructure used to deploy it, Israel needs a combined air, ground, and sea attack. To be successful, however, Israel will need to overcome Hezbollah’s advanced anti-air and anti-ship weapons, countless booby traps and ambushes, abduction attempts, advanced anti-tank missiles, and many other challenges.
In addition, Israel will face intense domestic and international pressure to end the fighting as quickly as possible, while Hezbollah will seek to sustain it in order to inflict maximum damage. The organization has adopted this strategy because it believes that anything short of total military defeat—something that is all but impossible given its strategy of attrition—is a total victory for the organization. They also believe that this will create a sense of frustration and despair among Israelis, giving them the feeling that they cannot defeat such a ruthless, radical, and well-armed enemy.
As a result, since 2006 Israel has sought to limit its operations against Hezbollah to avoid being drawn into a large-scale conflict. But this strategy is becoming obsolete due to factors within Lebanon itself. Although it is usually agreed that only the state should have a monopoly on the use of force, Hezbollah exercises this privilege throughout southern Lebanon, and its opponents treat it as such; as a result, domestic and foreign Sunni groups that support the Syrian rebels—including offshoots of al-Qaeda—have now taken the fight to Hezbollah on its own turf in Lebanon. The resulting sectarian violence has led to an ominous trend: The presence of Sunni jihadist groups in Lebanon is rising swiftly.
This violence is now threatening to spill over the Israeli border, which could make large-scale Israeli military action very difficult to avoid. For example, rockets have been fired across the Lebanese border in an apparent attempt to provoke IDF retaliation against Hezbollah. The explosive potential of such attacks is enormous. If one rocket from Lebanon strikes an Israeli city and causes casualties, Israel would have no choice but to retaliate. In turn, this could draw Hezbollah and Israel into a new round of conflict, potentially as large and as difficult as that in 2006. To say the least, this is an outcome that the Israeli military and political establishments want to avoid.
What can be done?
Obviously, Israel could attempt to destroy Hezbollah by launching a military operation much larger and more comprehensive than that of 2006. Theoretically, such a war could be successful. But in practice, it would likely be impossible. In order to achieve victory, the operation would have to be relatively long, and Israel would almost certainly be forced to end it prematurely due to domestic and international pressure. In the present diplomatic climate, no major world power, not even the United States, is willing to risk significant diplomatic capital in order to destroy Iranian proxies—even those it considers to be terrorists. At best, Israel could temporarily retard Hezbollah’s military capabilities. At worst, a failed campaign could further enhance Hezbollah’s prestige and position in Lebanon.
Some believe that Hezbollah will eventually moderate on its own. This seems unlikely, especially since it continues to operate with impunity while its military capabilities only expand. If anything, the group appears to be becoming more radical, more violent, and more dangerous. Hezbollah feels strong and will not compromise from a position of strength.
This does not mean, however, that nothing can be done. Concerted diplomatic efforts among Western countries could yield substantial results. Two particular measures could be exceptionally helpful.
First, any negotiations with Iran regarding its nuclear program must also address its ongoing support of global terror, especially Hezbollah. While it may be convenient for the international community to focus solely on the nuclear issue in hopes of increasing their chances of success, Hezbollah and similar terrorist groups cannot be stopped without depriving them of Iranian backing. Having Iran at the table is the perfect opportunity to make progress on terror as well.
Second, the international community should make no distinction between Hezbollah’s military and political wings, something many countries in Europe still do. Hezbollah leaders have openly stated that they “do not have a military wing and a political wing,” and the international community should take them at their word. The entire organization should be treated as one until it dismantles its military wing and ceases its terrorist activities. This would have a major impact, for example, on the group’s ability to raise funds in Europe.
Certainly, the IDF will continue to use limited force in order to contain the threat from Hezbollah; but the problem cannot be conclusively resolved unless the group itself is contained. This can only be accomplished through diplomatic action and political pressure on both Hezbollah and its patrons in Iran. Israel and its supporters, then, should make substantial efforts to persuade the international community to adopt the policies outlined above. Without such efforts, there is little chance of bringing peace to Israel’s northern border—or of defanging the most significant force for projecting Iranian might against Western interests today.

Why Israel Fears Iran’s Presence in Syria
With its advanced missile arsenal, Hezbollah is better prepared than ever to inflict maximum damage.
July 22, 2018
by David Kenner
The Atlantic
In some ways, Israel has never been more powerful. It boasts a close relationship with the Trump administration, a powerful and nuclear-armed military, and an air force capable of striking enemies hundreds of miles away. At the same time, it is a small country with limited infrastructure: It has one international airport, a handful of major power stations, and an electrical grid that Israeli experts have already warned is vulnerable to attack.
Iran and its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, have obtained advanced missiles that are designed to exploit those weaknesses. For Israeli security officials, the nightmare scenario is that these weapons may become accurate enough to hit Israel’s civilian and military infrastructure, paralyzing daily life in the country. The threat they pose has already drawn Israel deeper into the Syrian conflict, and promises to fundamentally alter the next war with Hezbollah—a war that could come sooner than expected.
Since the beginning of the Syrian war, Israeli warplanes have struck Hezbollah arms convoys more than 100 times. A Syrian government offensive is sweeping through the southwest of the country, threatening to spark a further escalation. Syrian regime forces are approaching Israel, which has sent reinforcements to its side of the border to contain any spillover violence. Recently, Israel shot down two Syrian military drones that crossed into Israeli territory. While Iranian-backed fighters have played a low-profile role in the offensive, officials in Jerusalem remain worried that they could quietly move in once the Syrian government regains control.
The United States, Russia, and Israel are reportedly negotiating a diplomatic solution to the Syrian conflict that would establish a buffer zone free of Iran-backed forces near the Israeli border. Yet the threat from Hezbollah’s long-range missiles will remain. “Our concern is not Iran by the border. Our concern is Iran in Syria,” Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the United States and current deputy minister, told me. “Pulling Iranian forces away from the border doesn’t help you very much when [they] have a missile that can travel 200 kilometers.” Underscoring that point, on May 10, Iran and its allies fired 32 rockets at Israel from the Golan Heights; most landed short of the border or in unpopulated areas, and the rest were intercepted by Israel’s missile-defense system. The Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said the attacks marked a “new phase” in the conflict with Israel.
Since Hezbollah’s last war with Israel in 2006, it has expanded its rocket and missile stockpile. With Iran’s help, its arsenal is also now far more technologically advanced. Israel’s missile-defense systems can counter some threats, but would likely be overwhelmed by the sheer number of rockets and missiles that Hezbollah can now fire. “In the event of a war, the Israeli population will absorb blows that it has not experienced in decades,” Ofer Zalzberg, the International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Israel and Palestine, told me.
In Lebanon, I met with Hajj Mohammed, a short, stocky veteran Hezbollah fighter. During the 2006 war, he fired constant barrages of short-range Katyusha rockets from south Lebanon into northern Israel. With Israeli jets prowling the skies, it was dangerous work. But Hezbollah was prepared: The Lebanese militia had concealed its launchers under concrete bunkers, rigging them to rise up using a hydraulic system, fire, and then disappear in the ground again. This system allowed Hezbollah to fire a steady stream of rockets for the duration of the war, forcing hundreds of thousands of Israelis to flee their homes.
While Hajj Mohammed was only too happy to relive the glories of 2006, his focus is fixed on the future. “Since 2006 until today, the game has changed entirely,” he said. “This time we have already chosen the targets, and we’ll make it rain missiles with pinpoint accuracy.”
Foreign-intelligence assessments appear to lend credence to Hajj Mohammed’s bravado. A senior U.S. counterterrorism official told me that Hezbollah’s arsenal includes at least 100,000 rockets and missiles, 10 times the number the group had in 2006. These weapons likely include the Iranian-made Fateh-110 missile, scud missiles, guided surface-to-air missiles that could target Israeli warplanes, and an increasingly sophisticated drone program, the official said. Israeli military officials, meanwhile, have warned that Hezbollah could fire 1,200 rockets a day in a future conflict—up from the roughly 100 rockets a day 12 years ago.
Hezbollah has long possessed rockets capable of striking deep within Israel, but they are more liable to land harmlessly in empty fields than to hit their target. In recent years, Iran has developed missiles with significantly improved accuracy—and Israel has focused on destroying them.
For Israeli officials, this new threat is embodied in the Fateh-110, a missile produced by Iran that retrofits long-range rockets with advanced guidance systems, allowing Hezbollah to make good on its threats. In the 2006 war, Hezbollah learned that unguided rockets could spark panic and mass evacuations among civilians, but were far less effective for striking military targets or critical infrastructure. While the Fateh-110 is not yet a precision missile, it is undoubtedly a more accurate weapon. Hajj Mohammed’s unguided rockets, if fired at Tel Aviv, would be just as likely to hit a point within 3.6 kilometers of his target as to land outside that zone. The Fateh-110, by comparison, whittles that margin of error down to roughly one kilometer.
Such missiles could still bring life in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to a standstill and shut down Ben Gurion Airport. But they would not be accurate enough to destroy specific military targets. “I don’t think these newer capabilities that Iran is demonstrating will be militarily decisive,” said Michael Elleman, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “But it will complicate Israeli plans significantly.”
Iran’s missile capabilities, however, are improving every year. It could develop more advanced technology to regulate its missiles’ thrust, and outfit them with GPS systems. Perhaps more worrisome for the Israelis: Elleman said there is evidence that the Iranians are trying to miniaturize some of their guidance components, which could make some of Hezbollah’s smaller rockets more accurate as well. “It’s the direction in which this is all moving that is probably more worrying than their actual capacity today,” he said.
The Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has said that his group has transferred at least some Fateh-110s to Lebanon. Israeli defense officials have also expressed concern that the group maintains control of some of these missiles in the rugged, mountainous terrain of western Syria, allowing it to potentially strike Israel without igniting an all-out war in Lebanon. Israeli airstrikes against Hezbollah in Syria, meanwhile, could ignite the next war.
The damage done to Israel in another war will pale in comparison to the destruction wrought on Lebanon. Under a strategy outlined in 2008 that calls for the use of disproportionate force on any villages or neighborhoods in which Hezbollah operates, Lebanon would experience a level of destruction that “has not been seen since World War II,” one Israeli defense official was quoted in an International Crisis Group report as saying. “We will crush it and grind it to the ground.”
From a purely military perspective, such a strategy will eventually neutralize Hezbollah’s arsenal. Israeli warplanes will patrol the skies of Lebanon and Syria, working to destroy the launchers for the Fateh-110s and long-range unguided rockets. They will kill men like Hajj Mohammed and devastate Lebanon’s cities and villages to such a degree that international powers intervene to stop the war.
Oren said Israel will be forced to target civilian areas where Hezbollah has positioned its rockets, and advocates declaring war on the Lebanese government in a future conflict. But he also worried that Israel could be setting itself up for a Pyrrhic victory. The gory images from Israeli strikes would be transmitted across the world, he worries, inflicting a serious diplomatic blow on Israel. “The battle that begins in Lebanon doesn’t end in Lebanon. The battle in Lebanon, if Hezbollah wins, ends in The Hague. And the goal there is the systematic wearing away, erosion of our legitimacy. Our right to defend ourselves, and ultimately our right to exist,” he said. “And I’ve got to tell you, honestly, they’re winning this war.”

Missiles and Rockets of Hezbollah
Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Hezbollah (“Party of God”) is a Lebanese political party and militant group with close ties to Iran and Syria’s Assad regime. It is frequently identified as an Iranian proxy, as the Party supports Tehran’s regional ambitions in exchange for military, financial, and political support.1 Hezbollah is the world’s most heavily armed non-state actor, and has been described as “a militia trained like an army and equipped like a state.”2 This is especially true with regard to its missile and rocket forces, which Hezbollah has in vast quantities arrayed against Israel.
Hezbollah’s arsenal is comprised mostly of small, man-portable and unguided surface-to-surface artillery rockets. Although these devices lack precision, their sheer number make them effective weapons of terror. According to Israeli sources, Hezbollah held around 15,000 rockets and missiles on the eve of the 2006 Lebanon War, firing nearly 4,000 at Israel over the 34-day conflict. Hezbollah has since expanded its rocket arsenal, today estimated at 130,000.3
In May 2006, Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah explained that “The purpose of our rockets is to deter Israel from attacking Lebanese civilians…The enemy fears that every time he confronts us, whenever there are victims in our ranks among Lebanese civilians, this will lead to a counter-barrage of our rockets, which he fears.”4 Indiscriminate rocket fire, particularly from small, easily transportable launchers makes the suppression of fires with airpower more challenging. This forces Israel to rely more heavily on ground forces in a conflict. Lacking any air force of its own, Hezbollah prefers ground wars in its own territory to bombardment from the skies. As Human Rights Watch notes, however, these arguments do not justify civilian targeting and casualties under international law.5
The continued growth of Hezbollah’s missile and rocket forces is undesirable for several reasons. It may, for example, embolden the party to overstep Israeli red lines. Hezbollah’s push to acquire longer-ranged and precision-guided munitions could likewise spur Israel into preemptive action. Hezbollah’s weapons acquisition also raises the prospects for the proliferation of missile technology and know-how. According to Saudi and UAE officials, Hezbollah militants have worked with their Houthi forces in rocket development and launch divisions.6 Hezbollah forces in Syria and Iraq similarly operate with various Shiite militias. Growing relations among these groups presents risks for the dissemination of missile technology and knowledge.
Note: This is not a definitive list of Hezbollah’s rocket arsenal
Land Attack Missiles and Rockets
107 & 122 mm ‘Katyusha’ Rockets
Fajr-1 / Chinese 107 mm Rockets
Falaq 1/2
333 mm Shahin-1
122 mm Type-81 Rocket
Fajr-3 and Fajr-5
Raad-2 and Raad-3 / 220 mm Uragan-type Rockets
302 mm Khaibar-1 / M-302 / B-302
Zelzal-1 and Zelzal-2
Fateh-110 / M-600
Antiship Missiles (ASMs)
C-802 / Yingji-2 / Noor
Antitank Missiles (ATMs)
According to Israeli tank commanders at the front of the 2006 War, Hezbollah’s anti-tank missiles damaged or destroyed Israeli vehicles on about 20% of their hits.60 The party successfully struck nearly 50 Israeli Merkava tanks during the conflict, penetrating the armor of 21. Hezbollah used ATGMs against buildings and Israeli troop bunkers as well. As Anthony Cordesman writes, “More [Israeli] infantry soldiers were killed by anti-tank weapons than in hand-to-hand combat.”61 While fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq, Hezbollah has effectively used ATMs to counter suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devises (SVBIED) launched by the extremist group.62
RPG-29 Vampir
9M14 Malyutka (NATO: AT-3 Sagger)
9K111 Fagot (NATO: AT-4 Spigot)
9M113 Konkurs (NATO: AT-5 Spandrel)
9K115-2 Metis-M (NATO: AT-13 Saxhorn-2)
9M133 Kornet-E (NATO: AT-14 Spriggan)
Antiair Missiles (AAMs)
Most of Hezbollah’s antiair missile systems offer only a relatively small area of protection. They nevertheless force Israeli aircraft to fly at higher altitudes, reducing Israel’s ability to accurately strike ground-based targets.80 Israeli policymakers and military officers have consistently reiterated their concerns about Hezbollah acquiring more sophisticated air defenses from Bashar al-Assad’s Syria.
9K32 Strela-2 (NATO: SA-7 Grail)
9K33 Osa (NATO: SA-8 Gecko)
9K34 Strela-3 (NATO: SA-14 Gremlin)
9K310 Igla-1 (NATO: SA-16 Gimlet) and 9K38 Igla (NATO: SA-18 Grouse)
9K40 Buk-M2 (NATO: SA-17 Grizzly)
Pantsyr-S1 (NATO: SA-22 Greyhound)

Past Cycles: Ice Age Speculations
To understand climate change, the obvious first step would be to explain the colossal coming and going of ice ages. Scientists devised ingenious techniques to recover evidence from the distant past, first from deposits left on land, then also from sea floor sediments, and then still better by drilling deep into ice. These paleoclimatologists succeeded brilliantly, discovering a strangely regular pattern of glacial cycles. The pattern pointed to a surprising answer, so precise that some ventured to predict future changes. The timing of the cycles was apparently set by minor changes in sunlight caused by slow variations of the Earth’s orbit. Just how that could govern the ice ages remained uncertain, for the climate system turned out to be dauntingly complex. One lesson was clear: the system is delicately poised, so that a little stimulus might drive a great change. (There is a separate essay on shorter-term climate fluctuations, lasting a few years to a century or so, possibly related to Variations of the Sun.)
“The origin of these climatic trends… is a difficult subject: by long tradition the happy hunting ground for robust speculation, it suffers because so few can separate fact from fancy.” — G.S. Callendar(1)
Evidence and Speculations (to 1954)
It was an incredible claim, yet the evidence was eloquent. The scraped-down rock beds, the boulders perched wildly out of place, the bizarre deposits of gravel found all around northern Europe and the northern United States, all these looked exactly like the effects of Alpine glaciers — only far, far larger. By the late 19th century, after passionate debate, most scientists accepted the incredible. Long ago (although not very long as geological time went, for Stone Age humans had lived through it), northern regions had been buried kilometers deep in continental sheets of ice. This Ice Age stood as evidence of a prodigious climate change
Toward the end of the 19th century, field studies by geologists turned up another fact, almost as surprising and controversial. There had been not one Ice Age but several. The stupendous ice sheets had slowly ground south and retreated, time and again. The series of glacial periods had alternated with times of warmer climate, each cycle lasting many tens of thousands of years. German geologists, meticulously studying the scars left by ancient rivers on what were now hillsides in the Alps, worked out a scheme of four major cycles.(1a)
Geologists turned up evidence that the past few million years, during which the ice sheets cycled back and forth, was an unusual time in the Earth’s history. They gave it a name of its own, the Pleistocene epoch. Before that there had been long eras of less turbulent climate, when fossils of tropical plants and animals had been deposited in regions that were now frigid. Much farther back there had been a few other relatively brief epochs of glaciation, revealed by very ancient ice-scraped rocks and gravel deposits. Most geologists concluded that the planet’s climate had at least two possible states. The most common condition was long temperate epochs, like the balmy times of the dinosaurs. Much rarer were glacial epochs like our own, lasting a few millions of years, in which periods of glaciation alternated with warmer “interglacial” periods like the present. This essay does not cover studies of the very remote past, before the Pleistocene.
What could explain the change from a warm to a glacial epoch, and the cycling of ice ages within a glacial epoch? A solution to the puzzle would bring deep satisfaction and eternal fame to whoever solved it. Perhaps the solution would also tell when the next ice age might descend upon humanity.
Many theories were offered from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century. None amounted to more than plausible hand-waving. Most favored were ideas about how the uplift of mountain ranges, or other reconfigurations of the Earth’s surface, would alter the circulation of ocean currents and the pattern of winds. Other theories ranged from the extraterrestrial, such as a long-term cyclical variation of solar energy, to the deep Earth, such as massive volcanic eruptions. All these theories shared a problem. Given that something had put the Earth into a state conducive to glaciation, what made the ice sheets grow and then retreat, over and over again? None of the theories could readily explain the cycles.
Many things in the natural world come and go in cycles, so it was natural for people to suppose that there was a regular pattern to the ebb and flow of ice sheets. After all, there was evidence — convincing to many meteorologists, although doubted by as many more — that temperature and rainfall varied in regular cycles on human timescales of decades or centuries. The glacial periods of the ice ages likewise seemed to follow a cyclical pattern, on a far grander timescale. A series of repeated advances and retreats of the ice was visible in channels carved by glacial streams and in the fossil shorelines of lakes in regions that were now dry. If the pattern of advance and retreat could be measured and understood, it would give a crucial clue to the mystery of ice ages.
Simple observations of surface features were joined by inventive methods for measuring what a region’s climate had been like thousands or even millions of years ago. In particular, from the early 20th century forward, a few scientists in Sweden and elsewhere developed the study of ancient pollens (“palynology”). The tiny but amazingly durable pollen grains are as various as sea shells, with baroque lumps and apertures characteristic of the type of plant that produced them. One could dig up soil from lake beds or peat deposits, dissolve away in acids everything but the sturdy pollen, and after some hours at a microscope know what kinds of flowers, grasses or trees had lived in the neighborhood at the time the layer of lake-bed or peat was formed. That told scientists much about the ancient climate. We had no readings from rain gauges and thermometers 50,000 years ago, but pollen served as an accurate “proxy.”
Studying ancient pollens, scientists found again a sequence of colder and warmer spells, glacial and interglacial periods. The most recent ice age had ended ten thousand years or so ago. Other ingenious studies showed that a particularly warm period had followed. For example, fossil hoards of nuts collected by squirrels revealed that five thousand or so years ago, hazel trees had grown farther north in Sweden than at present. Were we drifting toward another ice age?(2)
The problem that researchers set themselves was to find a pattern in the timing of the changes. Unfortunately, there were no tools to accurately determine dates so far in the past; any figure might be wrong by thousands of years. That did not stop people from seeing regular patterns. An example was a 1933 study of ancient beach deposits by W.M. Davis. As the continental ice sheets formed and then melted, they had locked up and then released so much water that the oceans had dropped and risen many tens of meters. Wave-carved fossil shores stood as testimony of the different sea levels. Davis believed he saw a pattern, in which the warm interglacial periods were long. Our own time seemed near to the preceding ice age, so he concluded that the Earth ought to get warmer for a while before it cooled again. When this was added to reports that the climate of the 1930s was measurably getting warmer, predictions appeared in Science magazine and in the public press that “The poles may become useful and inhabited places.”(3)
The pattern of past changes, no matter how accurately geologists might measure it, would always be suspect until a plausible theory explained it. Of all the proposed theories, only one was bound by its very nature to give regular cycles of change. This theory promised, moreover, to give the timing of past changes precisely from basic physical principles, and to predict future ice ages. The history of the measurement of ancient climates is inseparable from the history of this “astronomical” theory.
In the mid 19th century, James Croll, a self-taught British amateur scientist, published calculations of how the gravitational pulls of the Sun, Moon, and planets subtly affect the Earth’s motion and orientation. The inclination of the Earth’s axis and the shape of its orbit around the Sun oscillate gently in cycles lasting tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of years. During some periods the Northern Hemisphere would get slightly less sunlight during the winter than it would get during other centuries. Snow would accumulate. Croll argued that this would change the pattern of trade winds, leading to the deflection of warming currents like the Gulf Stream, and finally a self-sustaining ice age. The timing of such changes could be calculated exactly using classical mechanics (at least in principle, for the mathematics were thorny). Croll believed that the timing of the astronomical cycles, tens to hundreds of thousands of years long, roughly matched the timing of ice ages.(4*)
Most scientists found Croll’s ideas unconvincing, and his timing of the ice ages wholly wrong.(5) Nevertheless a few enthusiasts pursued his astronomical theory. It became almost plausible in the hands of the Serbian engineer Milutin Milankovitch. Working in the 1920s and 1930s, he not only improved the tedious calculations of the varying distances and angles of the Sun’s radiation, but also came up with an important new idea. Suppose there was a particular time when the sunlight falling in a high-latitude zone of a given hemisphere was so weak, even in the summer, that the snow that fell in winter did not all melt away? It would build up, year after year. As others had pointed out, a covering of snow would reflect away enough sunlight to help keep a region cold, giving an amplifying feedback. Under such circumstances, a snowfield could grow over the centuries into a continental ice sheet.(6)
“The possibility of dating the varying episodes of the Pleistocene ice ages by correlating them with the [Milankovitch] radiation curve appealed to a number of workers,” a meteorologist reported in 1940. “Correlations with the radiation curve were found everywhere.”(7) It was also encouraging that even the tiny changes in solar radiation that came with the eleven-year sunspot cycle had some effect on weather — at least according to some studies. By the 1940s, some climate textbooks were teaching that Milankovitch’s theory gave a plausible solution to the problem of timing the ice ages.(8
Supporting evidence came from “varves,” a Swedish word for the pairs of layers seen in the mud covering the bottom of northern lakes. Each year the spring runoff laid down a thin layer of silt followed by a settling of finer particles. From bogs and outcrops where the beds of fossil lakes were exposed, or cores of slick clay drilled out of living lakes, researchers painstakingly counted and measured the layers. Some reported finding a 21,000-year cycle of changes. That approximately matched the timing for a wobbling of the Earth’s axis which Milankovitch had calculated as a crucial element (namely, the precession of the equinoxes, in fact a combination of 19,000- and 23,000-year cycles).(9)
Most geologists, however, dismissed the astronomical theory. For they could not fit Milankovitch’s timing to the accepted sequence of four ice ages. A generation of geologists had laboriously constructed this sequence from studies around the world of surface features, such as the gravel deposits (moraines) that marked where glaciers had halted, and hillside terraces that showed the level of ancient rivers. The Milankovitch theory, wrote one authority condescendingly in 1957, had served a useful function as “a dogma of faith” that had stimulated research, but compared with the actual glacial record, the orbital chronology “must be stamped as illusory.” Another problem lay in the fact that ice sheets had spread at the same time in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Since the astronomical theory relied upon an increase in the sunlight falling on one hemisphere along with a decrease on the other hemisphere, many experts considered the world-wide pattern of ice ages a devastating refutation.(10) Finally, there was a basic physical argument against the theory which seemed insurmountable.
One reviewer — who had himself seen 21,000-year variations in lake deposits — explained at a 1952 conference that it was a problem of magnitudes. The computed variations in the angle and intensity of incoming sunlight were only tiny changes, “insufficient to explain the periods of glaciation.”(11) Meanwhile, the studies that had found correlations between sunspot cycles and weather had all turned out wrong, giving an air of cranky unreliability to every connection between solar radiation variations and climate. That same year, a leading American planetary scientist wrote a European colleague to ask how the astronomical theory stood over there, remarking that “People I have consulted in this country… are not impressed by this work.” His correspondent replied, “I have discussed the question of the appraisal of Milankovitch’s theory with colleagues here. They are of the opinion that the theory cannot account for past changes. The effects are too small and the chronology of the occurrence of glaciation is so uncertain that any correspondence… appears fortuitous.”(12) So what had caused the ice ages? That was still anybody’s guess.
Reliable Dates and Temperatures (1955-1971)
The tool that would unlock the secret was constructed in the 1950s, although it took scientists a decade to make full use of it. This tool was radiocarbon dating. It could tell with surprising precision the age of features like a glacial moraine. You only needed to dig out fragments of trees or other organic material that had been buried thousands of years ago, and measure the fraction of the radioactive isotope carbon-14 in them. Of course researchers had to devise and test a number of laboratory techniques before they could get trustworthy results. Once that was done, they could assign a reliable timescale to the climate fluctuations that had previously been sketched out by various traditional means. The best of these means, in the 1950s, was pollen science. The study of ancient climates (as manifested by changes of vegetation) had turned out to be invaluable for identifying strata as an aid to oil exploration. That had paid for specialists who brought the technique to a high degree of refinement.(13) Carbon-14 measurements could now assign accurate dates to the palynologists’ tables of cool and warm periods in northern regions. For example, dating of lake deposits in the Western United States showed surprisingly regular cycles of drought and flood — which seemed to match the 21,000-year cycle predicted by Milankovitch. But other carbon-14 dates seemed altogether out of step with the Milankovitch timetable.
The swift postwar development of nuclear science meanwhile fostered another highly promising new technique. In 1947, the nuclear chemist Harold Urey discovered a way to measure ancient temperatures. The key was in the oxygen built into fossil shells pulled up from the sea floor. The amount of heavier or lighter oxygen isotopes that an organism took up from sea water varied according to the water’s temperature at that time, so the ratio (O18/O16 ) served as a proxy thermometer.(14) This ingenious method was taken up by Cesare Emiliani, a geology student from Italy working in Urey’s laboratory at the University of Chicago. Emiliani measured the oxygen isotopes in the microscopic shells of foraminifera, a kind of ocean plankton. Tracking the shells layer by layer in long cores of clay extracted from the seabed, he found a record of temperature variations. Emiliani’s 1955 paper, a landmark of paleoclimatology, provided the world’s first high-quality record of ice age temperatures.(15)
Historians usually treat techniques as a stodgy foundation, unseen beneath the more exciting story of scientific ideas. Yet techniques are often crucial, and controversial. The stories of two especially important cases are explored in short essays on Uses of Radiocarbon Dating and Temperatures from Fossil Shells.
Emiliani tentatively identified the rises and dips of temperatures with the geologists’ traditional chronology of the past three glacial periods. His efforts were motivated largely by a desire to learn something about the evolution of the human race, which had surely been powerfully influenced by the climate shocks of the ice ages. But his results turned out to tell less about the causes of human evolution than about the causes of climate change. To get a timescale connecting the temperature changes with depth down the core, he made carbon-14 measurements covering the top few tens of thousands of years (farther back there was too little of the isotope left to measure). That gave him an estimate for how fast sediments accumulated on the seabed at that point. Emiliani now found a rough correlation with the varying amount of sunlight that, according to Milankovitch’s astronomical calculations, struck high northern latitudes in summer. To get the match he had to figure in a lag of about five thousand years. That seemed reasonable, considering how long it would take a mass of ice to react. “A causal connection is suggested but not proved,” Emiliani concluded.(16*)
Carbon-14 could date the more recent layers in the deep-sea cores, pinning down the chronology of temperature changes with unprecedented precision. The chemist Hans Suess, another graduate of Urey’s lab, took the lead in improving the chronology. He reported, among other things, that the last ice age had come to a surprisingly abrupt end, starting sometime around 15,000 years ago. Looking farther back, Suess found hints of a roughly 40,000-year cycle, which sounded like the 41,000-year cycle that Milankovitch had computed for slight variations in the inclination of the Earth’s axis.(17) Emiliani too, reporting a cycle of roughly 50,000 years, was increasingly confident that orbital changes set the timing of ice ages.(18) His curves, however, did not match up with the canonical four ice ages.
To resolve the issue, Emiliani began urging colleagues to launch a major program and pull up truly long cores, a hundred-meter record covering many hundreds of thousands of years. But for a long time the drillers’ crude techniques were incapable of extracting long, undisturbed cores from the slimy ooze. As one of them remarked ruefully, “one does not make wood carvings with a butcher’s knife.”(19)
Meanwhile suggestive evidence was dug out (literally) by the geochemist Wallace Broecker and collaborators. Ancient coral reefs were perched at various elevations above the present sea level on islands that geological forces were gradually uplifting. The fossil reefs gave witness to how sea level had risen and fallen as ice sheets built up on the continents and melted away. The coral could be dated by hacking out samples and measuring their uranium and other radioactive isotopes. These isotopes decayed over millennia on a timescale that had been accurately measured in nuclear laboratories. Unlike carbon-14, the decay was slow enough so there was still enough left to measure after hundreds of thousands of years. As a check, the sea level changes could be set alongside the oxygen-isotope temperature changes measured in deep-sea cores. Again the orbital cycles emerged, plainer than ever. At a conference on climate change held in Boulder, Colorado in 1965, Broecker announced that “The Milankovitch hypothesis can no longer be considered just an interesting curiosity.”(20) People at the conference began to speculate on how the calculated changes in sunlight, although they seemed insignificantly small, might somehow trigger ice ages. That could happen if the climate system were so delicately balanced that a small push could prompt it to switch between different states.
Emiliani improved his measurements, thanks to a fine set of cores that reached back more than 400,000 years. He announced he could not make the data fit the traditional ice ages timetable at all. He rejected the entire scheme, painstakingly worked out around the end of the 19th century in Europe and accepted by generations of geologists, of a Pleistocene epoch comprising four major glacial advances alternating with long and equable interglacial periods. Emiliani said the interglacials had been briefer, and had been complicated by irregular rises and falls of temperature, making dozens of ice ages.(21) Many other scientists found his chronology dubious, but he defended his position tenaciously. Most significantly, he believed the sequence correlated rather well with the complex Milankovitch curve of summer sunlight at high northern latitude. Calculating how the cycle should continue in the future, in 1966 Emiliani predicted that “a new glaciation will begin within a few thousand years.”(22) It was a step toward what would soon become widespread public concern about future cooling.
Seldom was such work straightforward. Geologists defended their traditional chronology passionately and skillfully. For a few years they held their ground, for it turned out that Emiliani’s data on oxygen isotopes taken up in plankton shells did not directly measure ocean temperatures after all. Emiliani fiercely defended his position, but other workers in the late 1960s convinced the scientific community that he was mistaken. When water was withdrawn from the oceans to form continental ice sheets, the heavier and lighter isotopes evaporated and fell as rain or snow in different proportions. The way plankton absorbed oxygen at a given temperature did not matter so much as what proportion of each isotope was left in the sea water as ice sheets came and went.
Yet in a deeper sense Emiliani was vindicated. Whatever the forces that changed the isotope ratio, its rise and fall did represent the coming and going of ice ages. “Emiliani’s ‘paleotemperature’ curve,” the new findings revealed, “…may be renamed a ‘paleoglaciation’ curve.”(23)
These changes did turn out to correlate with ocean surface temperatures. New evidence for that came from scientists who took a census of the particular species of foraminifera, recognizing that the assemblage of different species varied with the temperature of the water where the animals had lived. The data confirmed that there had been dozens of major glaciations during the past couple of million years, not the four or so enshrined in textbooks. Corroborating evidence came from a wholly different type of record. In a brick-clay quarry in Czechoslovakia, George Kukla noticed how wind-blown dust had built up into deep layers of soil (what geologists call “loess”). Although Kukla could not get dates that matched Emiliani’s, the multiple repetitions of advance and retreat of ice sheets were immediately visible in the colored bands of different types of loess. It was one of the few cases in this story where traditional field geology, tramping around with your eyes open, paid a big dividend.
In 1968, still more complete and convincing evidence came from an expedition that Broecker and a few others took to Barbados. Terraces of ancient coral covered much of the island, rising to hundreds of meters above the present sea level. The dates for when the coral reefs had been living (125,000, 105,000, and 82,000 years ago) closely matched dates from Milankovitch cycles for times when the ice sheets should have been melted and the seas at their highest (127,000, 106,000, and 82,000 years ago). The dating matched, that is, so long as one looked for the times when the maximum amount of sunlight struck mid-northern latitudes during the summer. “The often-discredited hypothesis of Milankovitch,” declared Broecker and his collaborators, “must be recognized as the number-one contender in the climatic sweepstakes.”(24*)
Since the Milankovitch cycles could be computed directly from celestial mechanics, one could project them forward in time, as Emiliani had done in 1966. In 1972, presenting more Caribbean cores, he again advised that “the present episode of amiable climate is coming to an end.” Thus “we may soon be confronted with… a runaway glaciation.” However, he added, greenhouse effect warming caused by human emissions might overwhelm the orbital shifts, so we might instead face “a runaway deglaciation.”(25)
Some other scientists agreed that the current interglacial warm period had peaked 6,000 or so years ago, and should be approaching its natural end. A prominent example was Kukla, continuing his study of loess layers in Czechoslovakia. He could now date the layers thanks to a new technique provided by other scientists. Geological and oceanographic studies had shown that over the course of millions of years, now and then the Earth’s entire magnetic field flipped: the North magnetic pole became the South magnetic pole and vice-versa. These reverses were recorded where layers of sediment or volcanic lava had entombed the direction of the magnetic field at the time. Geologists had worked out a chronology in lava flows, dated by the faint radioactivity of an isotope of potassium that decayed very slowly.(26) If even one magnetic-field reversal could be identified in any set of layers, it pinned down the timing of the entire sequence. When the loess layers were dated in this fashion, Milankovitch cycles turned up. Extrapolating the cycles into the future, Kukla thought the next shift to an ice age “is due very soon.”(27)
If the climate experts of the time seem to have been a bit preoccupied with ice ages, that fitted their training and interests. For a hundred years their field had concerned itself above all with the ice ages. Their techniques, from pollen studies to sea floor drilling, were devoted to measuring the swings between warm and glacial epochs. Home at their desks, they occupied themselves with figuring how glacial-period climates had differed from the present, and attacking the grand challenge of explaining what might cause the swings. Now that they were beginning to turn their attention from the past to the future, the most natural meaning to attach to “climate change” was the next swing into cold.(28)
In 1972, a group of leading glacial-epoch experts met at Brown University to discuss how and when the present warm interglacial period might end. A large majority agreed that “the natural end of our warm epoch is undoubtedly near.” Unless there were impacts from future human activity, they thought that serious cooling “must be expected within the next few millennia or even centuries.”(29) But many other scientists doubted these conclusions. They hesitated to accept the Milankovitch theory at all unless they could get definitive proof from some entirely different kind of evidence.
Theories Confirmed (1971-1988)
The Greenland ice sheet is a daunting sight. Most investigators first come to it by air, past colossal bare cliffs where unimaginable quantities of ice pour down to the sea in a slow-motion flood. Beyond that the landscape rises and rises, over entire mountain ranges hidden under ice, to a limitless plain of gently undulating white. Greenland had played an important role in the 19th-century controversy over the ice ages. A few geologists had dared to postulate the existence, in the distant past, of seas of solid ice kilometers thick. Then astonished explorers of Greenland found just such a thing beneath their skis.
In the late 1950s, scientists came back to Greenland, hoping to find the key to the history of climate change. The logistics were arduous, but there was good support thanks to the International Geophysical Year — backed up by the United States government’s concern to master the Arctic regions that lay on the shortest air routes to the Soviet Union. At Camp Century, Greenland, workers drilled short cores from the ice to demonstrate that it could be done. An improved drill, brought onto the ice in 1961, produced glistening cores 5 inches in diameter in segments several feet long. This was no small feat in a land where removing your gloves for a few minutes to adjust something might cost you the skin on your fingertips, if not entire fingers. After another five years of difficult work, organized by the U.S. Army’s Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, the drill at Camp Century reached bedrock. The hole reached down some 1.4 kilometers (7/8 of a mile), bringing up ice as much as 100,000 years old.(30*) Two years later, in 1968, another long core of ancient ice was retrieved from a site even colder and more remote: Byrd Station in West Antarctica.(31)
Much could be read from these cores. For example, individual layers with a lot of acidic dust pointed to past volcanic eruptions. Individual eruptions could be assigned dates simply by counting the annual layers of ice.(32) (Known eruptions like the destruction of Pompeii in the year 79 gave a check on the counts.) Farther down the layers became blurred, but approximate dates could still be assigned. Deep in the ice there were large amounts of mineral dust, evidence that during the last ice age the world had been windier, with storms carrying dust clear from China. Still better, ancient air had been trapped and preserved as bubbles in the ice, a million tiny time capsules packed with information about past climates. However, for a long time nobody could figure out how to extract and measure the air reliably.
In the early years, the most useful work was done from the ice itself. The method had been worked out back in 1954 by an ingenious Danish scientist, Willi Dansgaard. He showed that the ratio of oxygen isotopes (O18/O16) in the ice measured the temperature of the clouds at the time the snow had fallen — the warmer the air, the more of the heavy isotope got into the ice crystals.(33) It was an exhilarating day for the researchers at Camp Century, making measurements along each cylinder of ice after it was pulled up from the borehole, when they saw the isotope ratios change and realized they had reached the last ice age. The preliminary study of the ice cores, published in 1969, showed variations that indicated changes of perhaps 10°C (that is, 18°F). Some cycles were tentatively identified, including one with a 13,000 year length.(34) Comparison of the Greenland and Antarctic cores showed that the climate changes were truly global, coming at essentially the same time in both hemispheres. That put a strict constraint on theories about the cause of cycles.(35)
Ice core studies also confirmed a feature that researchers had already noticed in deep-sea cores: the glacial cycle followed a sawtooth curve. In each cycle, a spurt of rapid warming was followed by a more gradual, irregular descent back into the cold over tens of thousands of years. A closer look showed that temperatures tended to cluster at the two ends of the curve. It seemed that the climate system had two fairly stable modes, brief warmth and more enduring cold, with relatively rapid shifts between them. Warm intervals like the past few thousand years normally did not last long.(36) Beyond such fascinating hints, however, the Greenland ice cores could say little about long-term cycles. They were too short to reach past a single glacial cycle. And the ice flowed like tar at great depths, confusing the record. In the 1970s, despite the arduous efforts of the ice drillers, the most reliable data were still coming from deep-sea cores.
That work too was strenuous and hazardous, manhandling long wet pipes on a heaving deck. Oceanographers (like ice drillers) lived close together for weeks or months at a time under Spartan conditions, far from their families. The teams might function smoothly — or not. Either way, the scientists labored long hours, for the problems were stimulating, the results could be exciting, and dedication to work seemed normal with everyone around them doing the same.
To make it worthwhile, scientists had to draw on all their knowledge and luck to find the right places to drill on the ocean bed. In these few places, layers of silt had built up unusually swiftly and steadily and without disturbance. Meanwhile, drilling techniques were finally worked out that could extract the continuous hundred-meter cores of clay that Emiliani had been asking for since the 1950s. Improved techniques for measuring the layers gave data good enough for thorough analysis.
The most prominent feature turned out to be a 100,000-year cycle — evidently a key to the entire climate puzzle. Several earlier studies had tentatively identified this long-term cycle. Corroboration was in hand from Kukla’s loess layers in Czechoslovakia, at the opposite end of the world from some of the deep-sea cores. Here too the 100,000-year cycle stood out.(37)
Yet nobody could be entirely sure. Radiocarbon decayed too rapidly to give dates going back more than a few tens of thousands of years. A deeper timescale could only be estimated by measuring lengths down a core, and it was uncertain whether the sediments were laid down at a uniform rate. For a decade controversy had smoldered between Emiliani, as usual sticking by his original position, and other scientists who felt that his chronology was seriously in error. According to their data, the prominent cycle he had seen and attributed to the 41,000-year orbital shifts was actually the 100,000-year cycle.(38) Here again Emiliani had been bogged down by erroneous assumptions, yet somehow had muddled through to the fundamental truth that Milankovitch cycles were real.
In 1973, Nicholas (Nick) Shackleton nailed it all down for certain. What made it possible was the new magnetic-reversal dates established by radioactive potassium, plus Shackleton’s uncommon combination of technical expertise in different fields. A splendid deep-sea core had been pulled — “one of the best and most complete records of the entire Pleistocene that is known” — the famous core Vema 28-238 (named after the Lamont Observatory’s oceanographic research vessel, a converted luxury yacht). It reached back over a million years, and included the most recent reversal of the Earth’s magnetic field, which geologists dated at a bit over 700,000 years ago. This calibrated the chronology for the entire core. As a further benefit, Shackleton managed to extract and analyze the rare foraminifera that lived in the deep sea, and which reflected basic oceanic changes independent of the fluctuating sea-surface temperatures. The deep-sea forams showed the same isotopic variations as surface ones, confirming that the variations gave a record of the withdrawal of water to form ice sheets. When Shackleton showed his graph of long-term change to a roomful of climate scientists, a spontaneous cheer went up.(39*)The core Vema 28-238 and a few others contained such a long run of consistent data that it was possible to analyze the numbers with a mathematically sophisticated “frequency-domain” calculation, a well-established technique for picking out the lengths of cycles with unimpeachable techniques.(40) Detailed measurements and numerical calculations found a set of favored frequencies, a spectrum of regular cycles visible amid the noise of random fluctuations. The first unimpeachable results (well, almost unimpeachable) were achieved in 1976 by James Hays, John Imbrie and Shackleton. The trio not only analyzed the oxygen-isotope record in selected cores from the Indian Ocean, but checked their curves against temperatures deduced from the assemblage of foraminifera species found in each layer.
The long cores proved beyond doubt what Emiliani had stoutly maintained — there had been not four major ice ages, but dozens. The analysis showed cycles with lengths roughly 20,000 and 40,000 years, and especially the very strong cycle around 100,000 years, all in agreement with Milankovitch calculations.(41) Extrapolating the curves ahead, the group predicted cooling for the next 20,000 years. As Emiliani, Kukla, and other specialists had already concluded several years earlier, the Earth was gradually (or perhaps not so gradually?) heading into a new ice age.
These results, like so many in paleoclimatology, were promptly called into question.(42) But the main results withstood all criticism. Confirmation came from other scientists who likewise found cycles near twenty and forty thousand years, give or take a few thousand. The most impressive analysis remained the pioneering work of Hays, Imbrie, and Shackleton. They could even split the 20,000 year cycle into a close pair of cycles with lengths of 19,000 and 23,000 years — exactly what the best new astronomical calculations predicted. By the late 1970s, most scientists were convinced that orbital variations acted as a “pacemaker” to set the timing of ice ages.(43) Science magazine reported in 1978 that the evidence for the Milankovitch theory was now “convincing,” and the theory “has recently gained widespread acceptance as a factor” in climate change.(44)
Yet the cause of the ice ages remained more a mystery than ever. How could the “pacemaker” possibly work? The variation in the intensity of sunlight that was computed for the 100,000-year astronomical cycle came from a minor change in orbital eccentricity — a slight stretching of the Earth’s path around the sun out of a perfect circle. It was a particularly tiny variation; the changes it caused should be trivial compared with the shorter-term and larger orbital shifts, not to mention all the other influences on climate. Yet it was the 100,000-year cycle that dominated the record. Scientists began to turn from hunting down cycles to searching for the physical mechanisms that could make the climate system respond so dramatically to subtle changes in sunlight. As a reviewer admitted, “failures to support the Milankovitch theory may only reflect the inadequacies of the models.”(45) A number of people took up the challenge, devising elaborate numerical models that took into account the sluggish dynamics of continental ice sheets. It seemed likely that eventually the modelers would produce a suite of feedbacks that would entirely explain the schedule of the ice ages.
During the 1980s, the work advanced steadily with few surprises. Ocean drilling in particular, pursued on an international scale, produced ever better cores. A costly project dedicated to “spectral mapping” (SPECMAP) yielded a spectrum of cycles that matched the astronomical calculations with gratifying precision going back hundreds of millennia. Five separate cores confirmed that variations in the Earth’s orbit drove the coming and going of ice ages.(46) But an unexpected finding brought in a new complication. The prominent 100,000-year cycle (due to changes in the orbit’s eccentricity) had dominated climate change only during the most recent million years. During a long earlier phase of the Pleistocene epoch, the rise and decay of ice sheets had followed the 41,000-year cycle (due to shifts in the inclination of the Earth’s axis).(47) Milankovitch and his followers had originally expected that this cycle would have a much stronger effect than the feeble 100,000-year shifts. They had recognized, however, that the 41,000-year variations in sunlight might still have been too small to cause ice ages without some kind of amplification. The experts understood that “the response characteristics of the Earth’s climate system have themselves evolved,” so that the details of cycling could well change.(48) The shift in the dominant cycle surely gave a clue, if an enigmatic one, to the variety of feedback mechanisms at work.
Meanwhile ice drillers, reaching ever farther into the past at locations where the flow of ice in the depths did not introduce too much confusion, joined the deep-sea drillers as a main source of information. The ice and seabed climate curves were found to go up and down in fine agreement, and researchers began to combine data from both sources in a single discussion. The most striking news from the ice was evidence that the level of CO2 in the atmosphere had risen and fallen more or less in time with the temperature.
The outstanding record was extracted by a French-Soviet team at the Soviets’ Vostok Station in Antarctica. It was a truly heroic feat of technology, wrestling with drills stuck a kilometer down, at temperatures so low that a puff of breath fell to the ground in glittering crystals. Vostok was the most remote spot on the planet, supplied once a year by a train of vehicles that clawed across hundreds of kilometers of ice. Underfunded and threadbare, the station was fueled by the typically Russian combination of cigarettes, vodka, and stubborn persistence. (“What do you do for recreation?” “Wash… you have a bath once every ten days.”)(49
The effort paid off. While the Greenland record reached into the most recent ice age, by 1985 the Antarctic team had pulled up cores of ice stretching clear through the cold period and into the preceding warm period—a complete glacial cycle.(50) During the cold period, the CO2 level had been much lower than during the warm periods before and after. Indeed the curves of gas level and temperature tracked one another remarkably closely. Measurements of methane gas in ice cores showed a similar rise and fall that matched the rise and fall of temperature.(51) This work fulfilled the old dream that studying the different climates of the past could be almost like putting the Earth on a laboratory bench, switching conditions back and forth and observing the consequences.
The Vostok team pointed out that the swings in greenhouse gas levels might play an important role in amplifying the relatively weak orbital effects. The changes in the atmosphere could also answer the old persuasive objection to Milankovitch’s theory — if the timing of ice ages was set by variations in the sunlight falling on a given hemisphere, why didn’t the Southern Hemisphere get warmer as the Northern Hemisphere cooled, and vice-versa? The answer was that changes in atmospheric CO2 and methane physically linked the two hemispheres, warming or cooling the planet as a whole.(52*)
After 1988
Looking at the rhythmic curves of past cycles, one could hardly resist the temptation to extrapolate into the future. By the late 1980s, most calculations had converged on the familiar prediction that the natural Milankovitch cycle should bring a mild but steady cooling over the next few thousand years. As climate models and studies of past ice ages improved, however, worries about a swift descent into the next great glaciation — what many in the 1970s had tentatively expected — died away. Not all ice ages were the same length, for the orbital elements differed in each. Improved calculations said that the next ice age would probably not reach its maximum for a few tens of thousands of years. [Ice core studies published in 2004 gave further evidence that a cycle like ours was likely to stay warm for many thousands of years].(53*)
The scientists who published these calculations always added a caveat. In the Antarctic record, CO2 levels over the past 400,000 years had cycled between about 180 and 280 parts per million. The level in the late 20th century had now climbed to 350 and was rising still. Greenhouse warming and other human influences seemed strong enough to overwhelm any natural trend. We might not only cancel the next ice age, but launch our planet into an altogether new climate regime. The ice cores themselves gave convincing evidence of the threat, according to an analysis two scientists published in 1992. The “climate sensitivity” — the response of temperature to changes in carbon dioxide — could be measured for the last glacial maximum. The answer was in the same range that computer models were predicting for our future, raising confidence that the models were not far wrong.
In climate science, where everything is subtle and complex, it is rare for an issue to be settled. By the late 1980s, it did seem to be an established fact that ice ages were timed by orbital variations. The chief question that remained in the minds of most scientists was what kind of feedbacks amplified the effect. Yet some people challenged whether any of this was really understood. The feedbacks that helped drive glacial cycles remained uncertain. The cycles, most scientists now agreed, involved not only orbital variations in solar irradiation, but also a variety of geological effects. First came the massive settling and flow of continental ice sheets, but large-scale physical and chemical changes in the oceans might be important too. New evidence gave a particularly crucial role to changes in CO2 and other greenhouse gases. These changes were apparently driven not just by geochemistry and ocean circulation, but still more by changes in biological activity. And of course the biosphere depended in turn on climate — and not just temperature, but also trickier matters like fertilization of the seas by minerals eroded from glacial era deserts. Further peculiar influences were added to the list of possibilities almost every year.(54) It would take much more study to determine just what combination of effects determined the shape of glacial cycles.
In 1992, a more fundamental challenge was raised by the ingenious exploitation of a novel source of data: layers of calcite laid down in the desert oasis of Devils Hole, Nevada. The layers showed glacial and interglacial periods much like those seen in the ice cores. The dating (using uranium isotopes) failed to agree with Milankovitch calculations. The authors suggested that the timing of ice ages followed no regular cycle at all, but was driven wholly by “internal nonlinear feedbacks within the atmosphere-ice sheet-ocean system.”(55) A vigorous controversy followed, with the majority of climate scientists sticking to the Milankovitch theory. The Devils Hole measurements looked solid, but didn’t they represent only a strictly local effect?
Apparently the story (like most climate stories) was not simple. As two experts reviewing the problem put it, “climate is too complicated to be predicted by a single parameter.”(56) The faint variations of summer sunlight were effective only because the astronomical schedule somehow resonated with other factors — ice sheet and ocean dynamics, the bio-geochemical CO2 system, and who knew what else. The more precise the data got, the less precise seemed the match between Milankovitch and ice age cycles. Evidently when orbital effects served as a pacemaker, it was only by partially adjusting the timing of greater forces working through their own complex cycles. As one reviewer said, “The sheer number of explanations for the 100,000-year cycle… seems to have dulled the scientific community into a semipermanent state of wariness about accepting any particular explanation.”(57) The grand puzzle of the ice ages stood unsolved — except insofar as scientists now understood that nobody would ever jump up with a neat single solution. There would instead be a long collective trudge through the intricacies of field data and models, gradually increasing our knowledge of all the interacting forces that drive climate cycles. The invaluable fruit of a century of ice ages research was the recognition of how complex and powerful all the feedbacks could be.
1. Callendar (1961), p. 1. BACK
1a. The history is reviewed by Imbrie and Imbrie (1986); the scheme of four ice ages was propounded by Albrecht Penck, Penck and Brückner (1901-1909). BACK
2. Nuts: G. Andersson in 1902 as cited in Lamb (1977), p. 397; for the history overall, see Lamb pp. 193, 378ff. and Webb (1980). BACK
3. Davis (1933). BACK
4. Croll (1864); Croll (1875); Croll predicted glaciation when the Earth was at aphelion in winter. But summer aphelion (with the distant Sun less likely to melt the snow away) was more likely to do it, as pointed out by Murphy (1876); Croll (1886) defends his views; Imbrie and Imbrie (1979), pp. 77-88. BACK
5. For example, Arrhenius (1896), p. 274; Brooks (1922), p. 18-19. BACK
6. Milankovitch (1920) ; Milankovitch (1930), see pp. 118-21 for additional history; Milankovitch (1941) ; for this history I have used Imbrie and Imbrie (1986). BACK
7. Simpson (1939-40), p. 203. BACK
8. E.g., Landsberg (1941, rev. ed. 1947, 1960), pp. 191-92. BACK
9. Bradley (1929) ; Zeuner (1946 [4th ed., 1958]). BACK
10. “dogma… illusory,” Öpik (1957); “This theory has been answered devastatingly by… Sir George Simpson,” Wexler (1952), p. 74. BACK
11. van Woerkom (1953); see also Science Newsletter (1952); similarly, “the changes of solar radiation due to changes in the Earth’s orbit are always too small to be of practical importance,” Simpson (1939-40), p. 209. BACK
12. Kuiper to H. Sverdrup, 28 May 1952, and reply, 11 June 1952, Box 11, G.P. Kuiper files, Special Collections, U. Ariz., kindly reported to me by Ron Doel.; similarly, the theory “has failed utterly,” Humphreys (1920), pp. 564-66, quote p. 568, on the Croll theory, but repeated without change in the 3rd (1940) edition, p. 586, without reference to Milankovitch. BACK
13. Faegri et al. (1964); Manten (1966). BACK
14. Urey (1947). BACK
15. Emiliani (1955); see Emiliani (1958). BACK
16. The effect was never expected to correlate with sunlight in the Southern Hemisphere, which is mostly ocean where snow would never accumulate. Emiliani (1955), p. 509; see also Emiliani (1958); on evolution, Emiliani (1958) p. 63. BACK
17. Suess (1956). BACK
18. Emiliani and Geiss (1959). BACK
19. Hsü (1992), pp. 30-32, 220. BACK
20. Quote: Broecker (1968), p. 139; for early work, see Broecker (1966). BACK
21. Emiliani (1966). BACK
22. Emiliani (1966). BACK
23. Dansgaard and Tauber (1969). BACK
24. “sweepstakes”: Broecker et al. (1968) p. 300; as 125, 105, and 82,000 in Mesolella et al. (1969); see also summary in Broecker and van Donk (1970); an important confirmation, using boreholes drilled in Barbados reefs now drowned, was Fairbanks and Matthews (1978); the objection that the sea level changes might be due to local uplift in Barbados, and not a world-wide phenomenon, was refuted by an expedition to another fine set of coral terraces on a rarely visited coast of New Guinea, Bloom et al. (1974); for discussion Berger (1988). BACK
25. Emiliani (1972). BACK
26. Glen (1982). BACK
27. Kukla and Kocí (1972), p. 383. BACK
28. Chambers and Brain (2002), p. 239. BACK
29. Kukla et al. (1972), p. 191; Kukla and Matthews (1972); “large majority” according to Flohn (1974), p. 385. BACK
30. The first long core (411m), using a drill developed by B. Lyle Hansen, was extracted at another site in Greenland in 1956: Dansgaard et al. (1973); for brief history and references, see also Langway et al. (1985); Levenson (1989) pp. 40-41; for a firsthand account, Alley (2000). BACK
31. Epstein et al. (1970). BACK
32. Hamilton and Seliga (1972). BACK
33. Dansgaard (1954); Dansgaard (1964); for further bibliography on gases in ice, see Broecker (1995), pp. 279-84. BACK
34. Dansgaard et al. (1969). Exciting day: oral history interview of Klaus Hammer by Finn Aaserud, 1993, GISP interviews, records of Study of Multi-Institutional Collaborations, AIP. BACK
35. Epstein et al. (1970). BACK
36. Newell (1974); using results of Johnsen et al. (1972). BACK
37. Kukla and Kocí (1972); see Schneider and Londer (1984), p. 53. BACK
38. Broecker and van Donk (1970); cf. Ericson and Wollin (1968), using foram temperatures. BACK
39. Later revised to 780,000. Shackleton and Opdyke (1973), quote p. 40. They determined temperatures by oxygen isotopes. Opdyke did the magnetic work. Cheer: John Imbrie, oral history interview by Ron Doel, 1997, AIP; see Imbrie and Imbrie (1979), p. 164. BACK
40. For history and comments, see Imbrie (1982); Imbrie and Imbrie (1979). BACK
41. Hays et al. (1976); for other work, see Imbrie et al. (1975). BACK
42. Evans and Freeland (1977). BACK
43. Hays et al. (1976); Berger (1977); other data: Berger (1978); see review, Berger (1988). BACK
44. Kerr (1978). BACK
45. Shift of emphasis: paraphrase of Imbrie (1982), p. 408; for example, see North and Coakley (1979); review: North et al. (1981), p. 107. BACK
46. Imbrie et al. (1984). BACK
47. Pisias and Moore (1981); Ruddiman et al. (1986). BACK
48. Imbrie (1982), p. 411. BACK
49. Quote: J.-R. Petit in Walker (2000). BACK
50. Lorius et al.(1985); Barnola et al.(1987); Genthon et al. (1987). BACK
51. Stauffer et al. (1988). BACK
52. E.g., Pisias and Shackleton (1984); “The existence of the 100-kyr [kiloyear] cycle and the synchronism between Northern and Southern Hemisphere climates may have their origin in the large glacial-interglacial CO2 changes.” Genthon et al. (1987), p. 414. BACK
53. E.g., Berger (1988), p. 649; see Falkowski et al. (2000); Berger and Loutre (2002) discusses a long interglacial. The new Antarctic record of climate went back more than 700,000 years, through a previous cycle where the orbital elements had been similar to those in our own cycle. EPICA community members (2004). BACK
54. A review of ice sheets (which added yet another factor, permafrost melting beneath a sheet) is Clark et al. (1999). BACK
55. Winograd et al. (1992), p. 255; Ludwig et al. (1992). BACK
56. Karner and Muller (2000). BACK
57. Crowley (2002), p. 1474. BACK

The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations
October 31, 2019
by Dr. Peter Janney
On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.
Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal, Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment.
Three months before, on July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md.
After Corson’s death, Trento and the well-known Washington fix-lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever.
The small group of CIA officials gathered at Trento’s house to search through the Crowley papers, looking for documents that must not become public. A few were found but, to their consternation, a significant number of files Crowley was known to have had in his possession had simply vanished.
When published material concerning the CIA’s actions against Kennedy became public in 2002, it was discovered to the CIA’s horror, that the missing documents had been sent by an increasingly erratic Crowley to another person and these missing papers included devastating material on the CIA’s activities in South East Asia to include drug running, money laundering and the maintenance of the notorious ‘Regional Interrogation Centers’ in Viet Nam and, worse still, the Zipper files proving the CIA’s active organization of the assassination of President John Kennedy..
A massive, preemptive disinformation campaign was readied, using government-friendly bloggers, CIA-paid “historians” and others, in the event that anything from this file ever surfaced. The best-laid plans often go astray and in this case, one of the compliant historians, a former government librarian who fancied himself a serious writer, began to tell his friends about the CIA plan to kill Kennedy and eventually, word of this began to leak out into the outside world.
The originals had vanished and an extensive search was conducted by the FBI and CIA operatives but without success. Crowley’s survivors, his aged wife and son, were interviewed extensively by the FBI and instructed to minimize any discussion of highly damaging CIA files that Crowley had, illegally, removed from Langley when he retired. Crowley had been a close friend of James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s notorious head of Counterintelligence. When Angleton was sacked by DCI William Colby in December of 1974, Crowley and Angleton conspired to secretly remove Angleton’s most sensitive secret files out of the agency. Crowley did the same thing right before his own retirement, secretly removing thousands of pages of classified information that covered his entire agency career.
Known as “The Crow” within the agency, Robert T. Crowley joined the CIA at its inception and spent his entire career in the Directorate of Plans, also know as the “Department of Dirty Tricks. ”
Crowley was one of the tallest man ever to work at the CIA. Born in 1924 and raised in Chicago, Crowley grew to six and a half feet when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in N.Y. as a cadet in 1943 in the class of 1946. He never graduated, having enlisted in the Army, serving in the Pacific during World War II. He retired from the Army Reserve in 1986 as a lieutenant colonel. According to a book he authored with his friend and colleague, William Corson, Crowley’s career included service in Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence, before joining the CIA at its inception in 1947. His entire career at the agency was spent within the Directorate of Plans in covert operations. Before his retirement, Bob Crowley became assistant deputy director for operations, the second-in-command in the Clandestine Directorate of Operations.
Bob Crowley first contacted Gregory Douglas in 1993 when he found out from John Costello that Douglas was about to publish his first book on Heinrich Mueller, the former head of the Gestapo who had become a secret, long-time asset to the CIA. Crowley contacted Douglas and they began a series of long and often very informative telephone conversations that lasted for four years. In 1996, Crowley told Douglas that he believed him to be the person that should ultimately tell Crowley’s story but only after Crowley’s death. Douglas, for his part, became so entranced with some of the material that Crowley began to share with him that he secretly began to record their conversations, later transcribing them word for word, planning to incorporate some, or all, of the material in later publication.

Conversation No. 25
Date: Monday, July 22, 1996
Commenced: 9:40 AM CST
Concluded: 10:10 AM CST

GD: Good morning, Robert. Been out and about today?
RTC: Gregory, I rarely get out and about these days. My hip problems you know. And there is nothing on television but trash and the continuing entertainment of the ignorant masses.
GD: Oh God, tell me about it. And the news is so controlled that the only way you can figure out what is happening is to read the foreign press. Not ours.
RTC: Well, if it doesn’t impact on Israel in a negative sense, we do get some news but God help the TV managers if anything negative in that area ever gets out. Israel and her boys inside the Beltway are sacred cows, believe me.
GD: I have no doubt of that, Robert. It’s interesting to consider than in the two thousand years since the mythic Jesus got nailed up, the poor Jews have been kicked out of every country they have colonized. No one wants them around after they get to know them. They were kicked out of England, France, Russia, Poland, Spain, and on and on. Why? Infectious bigotry? No, the locals get wind of what they are like and out they go. Get their hands on all the money and squeeze the public dry. None of them ever did manual labor in their lives but they live off the labor of everyone else. And then they get too greedy and too careless and out they go or, in some countries, into the bonfires.
RTC: The Germans?
GD: No, I had the Spanish in mind. Now I ask you, Robert, why would there be such universal hatred against Jews? There must be a reason. Jews have told me that it’s because they are so smart that people are jealous of them and perhaps this might have some validity but I personally think that it’s their utterly predatory nature. Jews are taught in their religion that non-Jews, and especially the hated Christians, are legitimate targets to attack. I mean, this sounds like some kind of redneck propaganda but an objective reading of history will more than bear me out. Besides, most of the really evil Jews are not Semitic Jews at all but actually Mongolian Turks. The Khazars. Before they were converted to Judaism by their Khan in 900 AD, they were a particularly vicious and depraved Caspian Sea army of marauding, raping and killing Turks, intermixed with Mongolian blood. The other Jews, the real ones, hate them with a passion.
RTC: And why so?
GD: Because they make them look bad. My God, they hate them. But these internecine fights are of no lasting consequence.
RTC: Jim loved the Jews and I warned him many times to be careful. But he never listened and got that Mossad right into our organization. What I’m truly afraid of is that these shits suck up all kinds of secret information and off it goes to Israel, mostly through their Embassy here. A real spy center.
GD: Well, under Roosevelt, who opened the gates for them, they stole everything and sent it to Stalin under the mistaken apprehension that he loved Jews. He did not, of course, but that’s another story. So, now they steal everything, like Pollard, and ship it off to Tel Aviv instead of Moscow.
RTC: Sometimes, I can sympathize with Hitler.
GD: Well, when it happens here, and it will soon enough, Hitler will be seen in a different light. But I must comment on something else. Johnson passed the Civil Rights laws and gave the blacks a good crack at a decent middle-class life. Of course he did it to get votes and not out of any decency, but they do have entrée now and many of them are coming up. Which, considering that we brought them all here as slaves, is not a bad nor improper concept. However, there are many people here who despise blacks and, in fact, hate them. We don’t hear from them because of the political correctness crap being shoved on kids in the schools but they are still there. I say this because I know some of them. Anyway, they are quiet now but if the time ever comes when the lower middle class loses its position, look for the racial issue to erupt here. Oh yes, civilization is only a very thin veneer on very cheap plywood, Robert. And the clever Jews have managed to promote the blacks not to help them but to use them as potential victims. If they get too gross, the Jews that is, and the economy takes a dump, then the public will want scapegoats and guess what? The Jews will point to the blacks and we can count on their papers, writers, think tanks and so on to play the race card in the domestic economic poker game. A nasty business but totally predictable.
RTC: Yes, I’ve seen this coming and so have some of my friends. But there is nothing to do with it. I suppose it’s better to see the black district of New Orleans going up in flames rather than synagogues in Skokie.
GD: But the economy is pretty sound now, Robert, so that hypothesis is not valid. I am speaking theoretically here.
RTC: My God, Gregory, I do hope the FBI isn’t tapping your phone.
GD: Or yours, Robert. Don’t forget, they hate you.
RTC: Well, there is freedom of speech.
GD: Yes, there is, but don’t scream fire in a crowded theater, Robert.
RTC: (Laughter) No correct on that one.
GD: My late grandfather once told me that. Do you know what else he said? I think I might have told you this before because it’s so funny but he said that you should not tell bald-headed jokes to Custer’s widow.
RTC: You may have said that but these days, I wouldn’t bother to tell anyone that.
GD: Bad taste?
RTC: No, no one remembers Custer anymore.
GD: How soon they forget. They’ve forgotten Pollard but I will bet you that he will never get out of prison alive.
RTC: I wouldn’t take that bet. They are supposed to be our wonderful allies yet they encourage one of theirs to steal our most valuable secrets, all of which ended up in Russia, and then, after he got caught, toss him out of the safety of the Israeli Embassy here right into the waiting arms of the FBI and life in prison. On the other hand, they set up a trust fund for him and made him a honorary member of their Knesset. That sends someone a message, doesn’t it?
GD: Yes, it does. I’m not quite sure what message, but it does send a message.
RTC: Can you imagine the New York Times or the Post running one of your comments?
GD: That would be like someone in Dublin endorsing an Orange candidate for the Dial.
RTC: (Laughter)

(Concluded at 10:10 AM CST)

Encyclopedia of American Loons

Gary Ruskin & the USRTK

Gary Ruskin is the executive director of the US Right to Know (USRTK), an anti-GMO activist organization ostensibly devoted to “uncovering the food industry’s efforts to manipulate scientists into advancing pro-genetically-modified propaganda,” but primarily trying to advance denialist causes by issuing FOIA requests designed to harass or silence those he disagrees with, i.e. experts and scientists who actually know anything about the topic. After all, as the American Association for the Advancement of Science puts it, “[e]very … respected organization that has examined the evidence has come to the same conclusion,” namely that “[c]onsuming foods containing ingredients derived from GM crops is no riskier than consuming the same foods containing ingredients from crop plants modified by conventional plant improvement techniques.” Anti-GMO movements accordingly cannot win on facts or evidence, but other strategies are available: after all, public debates, as opposed to the scientific ones, are often not won by facts and evidence.
As such, Ruskin and his group have become notable for having perfected one of the most effective denialist campaigning strategies in existence, the advanced shill gambit: if an expert who knows more than you on a topic a says something that don’t gel with your preferred narrative, don’t bother to discuss the facts; go for poisoning the well instead. In particular: investigate the person and harass her/him with FOIA requests; eventually, you will find some association you can possibly spin in a manner that makes it possible to question the integrity of the expert in question. What you find need of course not be anything that is even remotely fishy; as long as your target needs to explain the association, then questions are raised, and the FUD strategy has succeeded. Thus, any integrity issues you raise might involve multiple degrees of separation, if need be: If your target’s uncle works at the same institution as the mother-in-law of the founder of a non-profit organization you think (but has no evidence for thinking) has received support from Big Pharma, for instance (this was actually the one used by antivaccine conspiracy theorist Jake Crosby to try to discredit a science-based book Seth Mnookin that Crosby didn’t like or have the capacity to engage with on fact- and evidence-based grounds), you are in a position to reject anything your target has said about anything. It really is the most effective strategy when you can’t argue the facts or the evidence: question instead your opponent’s motives – yes, the strategy, which Ruskin has perfected, is the ultimate ad hominem.
Ruskin has summed up some of his “findings” in his report “Seedy Business: What Big Food Is Hiding With Its Slick PR Campaign on GMOs”, which proceeds by accusing scientists who disagree with him of being “untrustworthy” and “shills” in lieu of having to deal with the actual science. Perhaps the most illustrative example of the strategy is Ruskin’s and USRTK’s campaigns targeting Kevin Folta, which are detailed here. Ruskin’s strategy and its outcomes are further discussed here. Ruskin has also appeared on Dr. Oz to promote his harassment strategies and, without a hint of irony, to help discredit Oz’s critics with the help of shill gambits; yes, that’s right: dr. Oz was trying to discredit people pointing out how corrupt he is by accusing them of being paid.
It should be emphasized that the URSTK itself is funded by the organic food industry, a fact that they are, shall we say, not always sanguine about and sometimes inadvertently forget to mention when defending their own tactics.
Apart from harassing scientists, the URSTK website also serves as a repository for various denialist talking points and conspiracy theories. It should also be mentioned that one of the most experienced FUD tacticians in the denialist movement, Carey Gillam, is an central figure in URSTK.
Diagnosis: Yes, their business model is built around a familiar fallacy. So what? It’s effective, and this was never about facts, evidence or science. An icon of the post-truth political discourse, URSTK is an insidious threat to civilization and, yes, democracy.
And keep in mind: If you believe that scientists, who have devoted their lives and careers – and often sacrificed far more lucrative employment opportunities – to research their fields of interest, will without further ado opt for lying and deceiving on behalf of industry in return for small research grants, then that tells us quite a bit about you and your integrity; not so much about those scientists.

Robert J. Rowen

Robert J. Rowen is apparently an MD, but probably one you should stay clear. Rowen is also an “integrative physician”, and his probably most famous for his promotion of ozone therapy. Indeed, Rowen claims that ozone therapy even cures Ebola. He does seem to be a true believer rather than an outright fraud, however, since in 2014 he even went to Sierra Leone at the height of the Ebola outbreak, together with fellow crank Howard Robins, to offer ozone therapy and ultraviolet blood irradiation therapy to Ebola patients. (He was not the only lunatic to go there; infected areas were also invaded by homeopaths trying to push worthless nonsense to people in desperate need of real healthcare – the most ridiculous suggestion being perhaps this.
Ultraviolet blood irradiation therapy is one of the most ridiculous forms of quackery out there, though ozone therapy comes close; in Rowan’s very much alternate reality, both are “oxidative therapies” that supposedly increase the oxygen content of the blood. There is no evidence that UV radiation does that; ozone therapy will, but not in any way that will make any beneficial difference insofar as it doesn’t increase the hemoglobin content, and the hemoglobin is usually maximally saturated anyways. Rowan not only thinks it works, but even issued a press release where he suggested he had actually managed to cure a patient with Ebola. Of course, there is no reason to think that the patient in question ever had Ebola, since he refused to be tested – the evidence being solely that the patient had possibly been exposed and was stressed out about having been exposed. It is striking that Rowan did not do his obvious professional duty and reported the case to the authorities to prevent others from being infected, however, though we suppose that duty would only apply if Rowan actually suspected that the patient might have contracted the disease. We leave readers to assess Rowan’s ethical standards here. If you do, you should also consider the fact that the press release was issued only eight days after the supposed exposure incident, that Ebola has an incubation period of up to 21 days, and that the patient was, as mentioned, never actually tested for the disease. Evidence, documentation and accountability: these people really do not know how any of that works, and people are all the more at risk for i
“I sure hope the people of the world will begin to stand up to the forces of disease-maintenance evil that has taken over the world to pharm us,” said Rowan, since the fact that Big Pharma is evil somehow vindicates his own type of quackery.
Rowen is apparently recognized as one of the great experts on ozone therapy and related quackery in various pseudoscience circles (Edward Kondrot is a fan, for instance), and he gives talks and presentations at various cargo-cult conferences, such as World Oxygen and Ozone Congress, on the supposed benefits. But Rowen’s promotion of quackery doesn’t end with ozone therapy. Rowen is also an advisor of the American Board of Chelation Therapy which is a system created by chelation therapists (dangerous quackery) in order to be “board certified” in clinical metal toxicology without really knowing anything about the field. It is basically just a board set up by quacks to give themselves credentials and write capital letters behind their names. Rowen also recommends laetrile, no less, through something called the Cancer Control Society, a group whose website states that they do “not believe in the Traditional methods of Surgery, Radiation and Chemotherapy for the treatment of cancer by doctors in California hospitals.”
It is, by the way, actually remarkable to look at the legal troubles various people affiliated with the American Board of Chelation Therapy have landed themselves in. Rowen himself, for instance, got in trouble while practicing in Alaska (before he moved to California): to avoid federal income tax, Rowen set up “asset protection” trusts and did not file returns for 1992 through 1997. In 1997, he pled guilty to a federal felony charge of “corrupt endeavor to impede” an agent of the IRS and was sentenced to 10 months of probation and ordered to pay $10,003.91 in restitution and a $2,000 fine; Rowen subsequently filed for bankruptcy but in 2003, the court ruled that this did not discharge his tax debt, and in April 2007, after appeals had been denied, the court issued an abstract of judgment for $1,124,800.90. Though not directly related to his medicine, of course, it’s just the kind of thing that might give one a bit of insight into Rowen’s attitudes toward honesty and accountability.
Rowen is predictably also one of the woo promoters who rushed to the defense of anti-vaccine apologist Bob Sears when the latter got in trouble with the California medical board. That itself doesn’t necessarily entail that Rowen himself harbors antivaccine sympathies, but might rather just mean that he doesn’t like the fact that authorities hold MDs accountable for their actions toward patients – Rowen is, after all, affiliated with the American Association of Health Freedom, an organization mostly lobbying for the removal of oversight and accountability for doctors who wish to sell quackery and unproven treatments; apparently, Rowen is, according at least to himself, known as “The Father of Medical Freedom” for “pioneering the nation’s first statutory protection for alternative medicine in 1990.”
Then again, Rowen also appeared on at least one list of vaccine-skeptical doctors circulated among antivaccine groups (somewhat parallel to the Discovery Institute’s laughable petition A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism – petition signing is a gambit apparently loved by everyone who doesn’t know how science works). And Rowen has at least basically stated that death is better than autism, which is stupid and strictly speaking also irrelevant to vaccine discussions since vaccines don’t cause autism in the first place (Rowen, of course, being a dangerous moron, seems to think otherwise; he also thinks that vaccine-preventable diseases are nothing to worry about.)
The very much familiar
development of most GMO
debates (Hat-tip: ?)
And just to demonstrate the powers of crank magnetism, Rowan has also contributed to anti-GMO conspiracy theories. In his article “Is GMO worse than nuclear radiation?” (remember Betteridge’s law of headlines; it appears that Rowen’s answer is that GMOs are worse since radioactive substances have a half-life whereas GMOs are forever, which doesn’t exactly suggest a deep understanding of radioactivity, or GMOs), Rowen argues – notice the complete lack of facts and evidence – by FUD that the US is in a conspiracy to empower Monsanto (the whyis left open, but apparently the claim sounds truthy to his intended audiences) and persecute free-thinking scientists, but is mostly a promotion of unhinged conspiracy screeds and books by Jeffery Smith, a former yogic flying instructor, who certainly has no scientific credentials or relevant scientific background whatsoever.
Diagnosis: The embodiment of post-truth activism, really. Little or nothing of what Rowen says is true, and none of the quackery he promotes will do anyone any good. But we’re less sure it is accurate to call him a “liar”; Rowen simply doesn’t seem to care. It’s been common to distinguish those who act against better knowledge when promoting the kinds of therapies Rowen promotes, on the one hand, and deluded true believers, on the other, but people like Rowen really force one to question how meaningful this distinction actually is.

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