Saturday, May 20, 2006

Going, Going, Gone With The Wind

It turns out that all the fancy digital imagery that accompanies television weather broadcasts is still assembled mainly from raw data cobbled together from hundreds of little balloons sent up into the sky, twice a day, from far-flung weather stations. And there really is some truth to that old saw about how the smell of things is more noticeable just before a storm. As it happens, scents are released in conditions of low air pressure.

It also turns out that sand borne by winds from the Sahara causes fish-killing algae blooms in the waters around Florida, and that clouds of pollution have been found to contain human dandruff, flakes of skin and fur fibres. Some wind-savvy albatrosses sleep during flight and circumnavigate the Earth twice a year, and Gerry Forbes, the head of the Environment Canada station on Sable Island, likes the lift that gales give him when he runs along the beach. They let him leap 10 metres and more in a single bound.


That’s from Marq de Villiers’ new book, Windswept: The Story of Wind and Weather. I review it in the Globe and Mail today. Nevermind my minor quibbles with it; Marq (that's him in the picture) takes great delight in the wonders of the real world, and he tells a fine story.

Among other things, Windswept allows me to become ever more entrenched in my conviction that the real world – the world that consists of facts, examined with an acceptance of the now-nearly-heretical notion of objective reality – is a sufficiently wonderful and horrifying and astonishing place without resorting to to this kind of crap, or this, or this. And this is not an honest retraction.

These people put the case better than I ever have. Read this while you’re at it, and then take heart:

We’re number one!

12 Comments:

Blogger Dirk Buchholz said...

Books such as Marq de Villiers’ new book, Windswept: The Story of Wind and Weather clearly illustrates just how much we don't know.This dispite all our science and "faith" in technology.
But this is not a bad thing,many of us humans need to be taught lessons of a humble nature.Our arrogance and mind-sets that leads us to do battle with nature,rather than learn from and live with, will be the undoing of us all.
Nature and the natural world is so awesome and enlighting.So vast as to be unknowable.I get goose bumps just thinking about all nature has taught and has yet to reveal.Theres some thing so spiritual about it all...

7:52 PM  
Blogger SIAW said...

Have you considered cross-posting this at Popinjays, if only to get them talking about something slightly different?

12:08 AM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

...without resorting to to this kind of crap...

Well, there's crap and there's crap. While I disagree with that Republic article, I'm not sure why it needs to be called crap. Am I missing something?

10:58 AM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

We’re number one!

Indeed we are.

11:18 AM  
Blogger tglavin said...

DPU: Why that first article is crap (in answer to your "Am I missing something?" question):

First sentence: "Canada is undeniably part of an illegal occupation of Afghanistan."

Crap. An untruth, a lie.

Ridiculous prevarication: ". . .the Taliban wasn't a terrorist organization."

"As Eric Margolis indicates. . ." Indicates? A founding editor of Patrick Buchanan's American Conservative magazine, now a darling of the pseudo-left, especially Canada's stoppists, spews hateful, racist screeds about the incorrigably backward people of Afghanistan, and his star rises in the firmament such that it nears the blinding prominence of Noam Chomsky.

The article goes on to absolve the Taliban of its crimes, referring to these fascistic thugs as "indigenous to Afghanistan and devoted to its reconstruction." As the Nazis were indigenous to Germany, and ostensibly devoted to Germany's reconstruction, one might also also argue, I guess.

After accepting as fact the absurd presumption that the Taliban was capable of and sincere about turning Osama bin Laden over to some as-yet-to-be-constituted third-party tribunal, we read: "As Afghanistan didn’t pose a threat to any Western government, this was clearly an unprovoked war of aggression." A gang of slaughterers must pose a threat to some Western government before it is legitimately removed? The Taliban did not pose a threat to any "western government"? It is only threats to "western governments" that should concern us? The removal of any regime that does not pose a threat to some western government is necessarily an "unprovoked war of aggression"?

Crap.

"Unlike its NATO counterpart called the International Security Assistance Force, Enduring Freedom’s never been explicitly sanctioned by the United Nations, and it may well be in violation of the UN Charter. "

As Canadians of the Left, we might not like our soldiers being engaged with the two dozen or so other countries participating with the Americans' "Enduring Freedom" escapades. But the fact is that all these armies (incuding the Yanks') are the welcome guests of the democratically elected government of Afghanistan (yes, we are going to have to get over the fact that the government of Afghanistan is democratically elected), and by all evidence welcomed by the overwhelming majority of the Afghan people (who also, by all evidence, overwhelmingly detest the Taliban). And the UN's mandate for the NATO-ISAF mission stipulates that it cooperate with "Enduring Freedom."

This does not make us "invaders and occupiers." This silly business about us not being "peacekeepers" ignores the fact that there is no peace to keep with the Taliban. The Taliban are at war with not only "the West" but also with the government of Afghanistan, and indeed the people of Afghanistan.

"Canada is implicated in whatever human rights abuses are committed by any military forces participating in Enduring Freedom." This is a preposterous, illogical and groundless assertion. And this is where such twisted logic will get you: "Thus, when hundreds of Taliban prisoners were suffocated or shot to death in metal truck containers while being taken by US and Northern Alliance soldiers to Sherbeghan prison, Canada shared a portion of the blame."

After a melange of this kind of tortured, pathetic argumentation, we end up with a demand that Canadians should "withdraw our forces and start paying reparations for our crimes against their country," concluding with: "Our troops should come home, and they should come home now."

This is fantasist gibberish, DPU. It is written by an admirer of such great thinkers as Justin Raimondo - another darling of the "anti-war" left, who writes his own gibberish for the paycheque he receives from the extreme-right Ayn-Rand cult that runs the American site antiwar.com.

That's what I meant by crap.

12:32 PM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

As I said, Terry, I don't agree with the article, and support Canada's role in Afghanistan. Thanks for explaining your own reasons for disagreeing with it. I don't agree with all of your points, but I can certainly see why you might be angered by some of its assertions.

1:44 PM  
Blogger tglavin said...

Not angered, DPU; mostly amused, slightly disgusted, but this is certainly not about "disagreeing" with some article. One can disagree with the meaning and the implication of certain facts, and facts may be disputed, but facts themselves are not to be agreed with or disagreed with.

A thing is a fact or it isn't. And falsehood is falsehood. I wasn't making a "point" at all, beyond that. Those last links, as I noted, make that case very well.

2:36 PM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

A thing is a fact or it isn't.

Much of politics is interpretation of the facts and therefore subjective. For example, I don't recall any acts of international terrorism committed by the Taliban, repellent though their regime was, so I'm not sure why you object to that particular fact. Similarly, pointing out that the military forces in Afghanistan are the welcome guests of the government has as much credibility as when the Soviet Union claimed the same thing. Also, it's fairly difficult to ascertain, as you seem to have, the will of the Afghan people in the matter.

I'm not at all sure that the article is crap-label-worthy. In a society like ours, I'd expect dissent on major things like out armed forces in another country, and I'd certainly expect to read about it in an East Van publication.

Out of curiosity, have you seen any such opinion that you wouldn't wouldn't call crap?

3:36 PM  
Blogger tglavin said...

DPU: "Similarly, pointing out that the military forces in Afghanistan are the welcome guests of the government has as much credibility as when the Soviet Union claimed the same thing."

Now you're talking complete crap. And I don't have time for it.

The will of the Afghan people is not "difficult to ascertain". They vote, they answer questions put to them in public opinion polls, and so on. Look it up.

"Out of curiosity, have you seen any such opinion that you wouldn't wouldn't call crap?"

No.

There is a great deal of reasonable debate and dissent about how effective the "Enduring Freedom" strategy has been, the degree to which the work of NGOs is effective, what to do about the opium trade, whether we can or should divert some of our effort from Afghanistan to Darfur, and on and on. There's all sorts of room for debate on these and many other questions.

The main problem with debates of that sort is that they are muddied by ill-informed rubbish, deliberate misrepresentation of fact, and outright falsehood.

You know. Crap.

4:53 PM  
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11:13 PM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

Now you're talking complete crap. And I don't have time for it.

Then don't take the time.

A government that depends on the presence of a foreign military force to maintain its power and safety is always going to welcome that military presence in the country. It's a simple tautology, and makes a weak defense against the arguments that you're objecting to (the crap).

The main problem with debates of that sort is that they are muddied by ill-informed rubbish, deliberate misrepresentation of fact, and outright falsehood.

Like all political debates, and from both sides. You don't win many converts by calling their arguments crap, though.

10:53 AM  
Blogger Will said...

"You don't win many converts by calling their arguments crap, though."

And this is to misunderstand the point of 'debates' and the relationship of argument to debating and what are the 'facts'.

Knowledge is aquired through life.

Debate is about mobilizing knowledge to correspond to the facts.

Argument is about making a subjective standpoint objective.

Hence you talk crap.

I mobilize my knowledge to correspond to facts. When I call someone's utterences crap it's because I'm not interested in winning them over to what I think because they only believe.

3:29 PM  

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