Hi everyone, lots of significant news stories today. Top of the line: the new Int’l Panel on Climate Change report is out. Or at least, the Summary for Policymakers; their web site is such an utter mess that I can’t find the actual report anywhere. Haven’t read it yet, will post once I do. (Maybe to ) Here’s pretty good news coverage from NYT. However, this report needs to be taken with a very serious grain of salt: Apparently they caved to political pressure and seriously damped the prediction about sea level rise, to basically assume that nothing bad ever happens to an ice sheet ever again. This is unfortunately total nonsense since ice sheets have been collapsing all over the place, and so it means that a lot of the predictions in this document are probably very off — in the conservative direction.
Next story, more fighting between Hamas and Fatah. Palestinians fall deeper into civil unrest. Subtext of this: After Arafat died, there was no central strongman. Hamas has been thoroughly infiltrated by Iranian agents and is working on its own little agenda, which is part of why it started shelling Israel a while ago and kidnapping soldiers (they did it before Hezbollah, when the latest Lebanese war started! These groups work in sync now) without bothering to ask the Palestinians if that was a good idea. And Fatah, Yassir Arafat’s old party, specializes mostly in corruption, despite what appear to be good intentions by its current leader Mahmoud Abbas. Fatah has the presidency and Hamas the parliament, and both have their own armed forces. So the two factions of Palestinian government are busily killing each other. If it weren’t for the fact that this is wholly destructive of any remaining bits of functioning civil society and infrastructure in the Palestinian territories, and thus one of the few ways left to make life systematically worse for the average Palestinian, I would say that these batch of idiots shooting one another is the best thing they could do with their time.
OK, for anyone who hasn’t figured this out yet, something important to understand. Majority rule is not the defining feature of democracy; there have been plenty of dictatorships that had the support of the majority. The key feature is protection of the rights of the minority. This is the center of the “deal” in democracy: when group X loses an election, they relinquish power, because they trust that the group taking power will not use that power to, say, brutally kill group X, or take everything X owns, or change the laws so that X is never again allowed to be in power. Without that level of trust, any election is simply a sham. In Iraq, there has never been this basic level of trust, because the basic level of political alliance is to tribe (and sect, and so on). A Sunni would have to be out of his mind to vote for a Shi’ite candidate, or even to let a Shi’ite candidate take power, because they know that the Shi’ites would have no compunction at all about killing them if they had the instruments of power, and vice-versa. In a situation like this, hopping for democracy is utterly ridiculous; civil war is the only possibility, ended either by one group seizing power forcibly over the others or by stable partition.
Please, please, please, don’t forget that. Having elections does not make you a democracy any more than going to a garage makes you a car.
OK, back to work for me.
(PS: Sorry, I’m just linking to the NYT stories today; these are being covered everywhere, check your favorite news outlet for details. Except for the climate report, which I couldn’t find anywhere at all on Fox News’ web site; what a shock)