Monthly Archives: February 2010

8.8 Magnitude Earthquake Rocks Chilean Coast, Tsunami Risk for Hawaii

Early this morning a massive magnitude 8.8 earthquake hit the coast region of Chile, South America, causing widespread damage to the area between Santiago and Concepcion, BioBio, Talca and other regions of Chile. Santiago is the capital and largest city in Chile. Concepcion is the second largest.

Preliminary photos from Chile are available here and the Boston Globe has good photos here. Note: these are large and there are many – might be a slow load for some visitors.

Located at 36.1° S by 72.6° W and at a preliminary depth estimate of 55 km, the quake burst generated tsunami warnings across the Pacific. Initial observed tsunami height above mean sea was reported to be approximately 8 feet ( 7.7 feet at Talcahuano, Chile (0653Z), 4.2 feet at Valparaiso, Chile (0708Z).

A tsunami is a wave front moving through the ocean (not on top of) at high speed (450km/hr), resulting from the lifting of a large mass of water by the earthquake. On the open ocean, it would be be barely perceptible, but when it approaches land, the depth of the pulse of wave energy causes it to crash into the rising sea floor, lifting and spilling the top of the wave forward on to the land as a surge of high flood water. Since a train of waves is usually created, the danger from a tsunami may exist for several hours as each wave in the train expends its energy on land, with the first wave not necessarily being the highest.

8.8 magnitude earthquake burst along the coast of Chile 2010/02/27. Click on map for more information

… A TSUNAMI IS A SERIES OF WAVES AND THE FIRST WAVE MAY NOT BE THE LARGEST. TSUNAMI WAVE HEIGHTS CANNOT BE PREDICTED AND CAN VARY SIGNIFICANTLY ALONG A COAST DUE TO LOCAL EFFECTS. THE TIME FROM ONE TSUNAMI WAVE TO THE NEXT CAN BE FIVE MINUTES TO AN HOUR, AND THE THREAT CAN CONTINUE FOR MANY HOURS AS MULTIPLE WAVES ARRIVE.

FOR ALL AREAS – WHEN NO MAJOR WAVES ARE OBSERVED FOR TWO HOURS AFTER THE ESTIMATED TIME OF ARRIVAL OR DAMAGING WAVES HAVE NOT OCCURRED FOR AT LEAST TWO HOURS THEN LOCAL AUTHORITIES CAN ASSUME THE THREAT IS PASSED. DANGER TO BOATS AND COASTAL STRUCTURES CAN CONTINUE FOR SEVERAL HOURS DUE TO RAPID CURRENTS. AS LOCAL CONDITIONS CAN CAUSE A WIDE VARIATION IN TSUNAMI WAVE ACTION THE ALL CLEAR DETERMINATION MUST BE MADE BY LOCAL AUTHORITIES.

ESTIMATED INITIAL TSUNAMI WAVE ARRIVAL TIMES AT FORECAST POINTS WITHIN THE WARNING AND WATCH AREAS ARE GIVEN BELOW. ACTUAL ARRIVAL TIMES MAY DIFFER AND THE INITIAL WAVE MAY NOT BE THE LARGEST. A TSUNAMI IS A SERIES OF WAVES AND THE TIME BETWEEN SUCCESSIVE WAVES CAN BE FIVE MINUTES TO ONE HOUR.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has issued a tsunami warning for Hawai’i.

A TSUNAMI HAS BEEN GENERATED THAT COULD CAUSE DAMAGE ALONG COASTLINES OF ALL ISLANDS IN THE STATE OF HAWAII. URGENT ACTION SHOULD BE TAKEN TO PROTECT LIVES AND PROPERTY.
[...]
THE ESTIMATED ARRIVAL TIME IN HAWAII OF THE FIRST TSUNAMI WAVE IS 1119 AM HST SAT 27 FEB 2010 (Hawaii is 10 hours behind Eastern Standard Time).

Update: Hawai’i went into full disaster preparedness mode. They closed coastal roads, the US Navy moved ships out to sea from Pearl Harbour, as did many owners of small boats. The PTC anticipated that wave heights could be as high as 10 feet. All coastal areas of Hawaii were believed to be at risk. In the end, wave heights were less than a metre generally.

The two images below are screencaps at about 4:45ff HST of the draw down from the arrival of the first tsunami wave in Hilo Bay, Hawaii. The little beach on the left was flooded on the fill from the first wave. The second picture is a screencap of the fill from the first tsunami wave. As of this posting there have been 4 draws and fills.

Hilo Bay, HI at full draw down on arrival of first tsunami wave

First tusnami fill after previous drawdown. Abt a foot above tide level

View live video feed from KGMB/KHNL Hawaii and from KHON.[now closed -Ed.]

Islands of the Marquesas did report a 6 foot wave coming ashore, and New Zealand reported a 6 foot surge in some areas.

This is the second tsunami warning issued in the past week. On February 23, 2010, a magnitude 7 earthquake struck the Ryukyu Islands in Japan, and on February 18, 2010, a deep magnitude 6.8 quake struck the China/Russian border on the Sea of Japan. Thus far, there have been more than 56 aftershocks greated than magnitude 5 in Chile.

While earthquakes are common around the Pacifc Rim, most have magnitude of 5 or less, and generally don’t cause significant damage or tsunamis.

Accuweather: Hurricane-Like Storm Aims for Pennsylvania to Maine Thursday, Friday

[Ed. Note: I don’t normally do weather on Ed Times, but this report out of Accuweather is, well, alarmist, or alarming, or something…!]

Hurricane-Like Storm Aims for Pennsylvania to Maine Thursday, Friday
2/23/2010 9:45 AM

A powerful storm of historical proportions is aiming at much of the Northeast Thursday into Friday and will follow up to a foot and a half of snow through Wednesday over upstate New York and western New England.

This second storm will be nothing short of a monster. Even in light of the blizzards earlier this winter that targeted the southern mid-Atlantic,
this may be the one that people remember the most this winter in parts of New England and the northern mid-Atlantic.

At its peak, the storm will deliver near hurricane-force wind gusts (74 mph) blinding snow falling at the rate of over an inch per hour. For some people in upstate New York and eastern and northern Pennsylvania, this may seem more like a “snow hurricane” rather than a blizzard.

Cities likely to be impacted by heavy snow for all or at least part of the storm include: New York City, Albany, Rochester, Syracuse, Binghamton, Scranton, Allentown, Reading, Williamsport and Burlington.

The storm also deliver heavy rain and flooding northeast of the center of circulation.

The cities of Boston, Providence and Portland may have their hands full with coastal flooding problems.

The combination of wind, heavy rain and heavy snow will lead to extensive power outages and property damage. Where numerous trees and lines are blown down, the power could be out for a week in some areas.

Impacts on travel in the region may be severe. The effects of the storm
will lead to flight delays and cancellations. Some major roads may be
blocked by snow, downed trees or flooding.

Many schools will be closed or have early dismissals.

Blowout tides caused by strong offshore winds from New Jersey to North Carolina may pose problems for coastal waterway interests.

Exactly where this storm forms and tracks will determine whether you
get all snow, all rain, snow to rain or just snow showers. A variance in track of as little as 50 miles will make a difference.

One thing is for sure, most people in the mid-Atlantic and New England will have problems from this storm’s strong winds.

Keep checking in at AccuWeather.com for updates on snowfall and other impacts on this potentially very dangerous, destructive storm.

Story by AccuWeather.com Alex Sosnowski

Climategate Meets the Law: Senator Inhofe To Ask for DOJ Investigation (Pajamas Media/PJTV Exclusive)

Climategate Meets the Law

by Charlie Martin February 23, 2010.

UPDATE: The Senate minority report is here

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) today asked the Obama administration to investigate what he called “the greatest scientific scandal of our generation” — the actions of climate scientists revealed by the Climategate Files, and the subsequent admissions by the editors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report (AR4).

Senator Inhofe also called for former Vice President Al Gore to be called back to the Senate to testify.

“In [Gore's] science fiction movie, every assertion has been rebutted,” Inhofe said. He believes Vice President Gore should defend himself and his movie before Congress.

Just prior to a hearing at 10:00 a.m. EST, Senator Inhofe released a minority staff report from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, of which he is ranking member. Senator Inhofe is asking the Department of Justice to investigate whether there has been research misconduct or criminal actions by the scientists involved, including Dr. Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University and Dr. James Hansen of Columbia University and the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Science.

This report, obtained exclusively by Pajamas Media before today’s hearing, alleges:

[The] Minority Staff of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works believe the scientists involved may have violated fundamental ethical principles governing taxpayer-funded research and, in some cases, federal laws. In addition to these findings, we believe the emails and accompanying documents seriously compromise the IPCC -backed “consensus” and its central conclusion that anthropogenic emissions are inexorably leading to environmental catastrophes.

As has been reported here at Pajamas Media over the last several months, the exposure of the Climategate Files has led to a re-examination of the IPCC Assessment Reports, especially the fourth report (AR4), published in 2007. The IPCC AR4 report was named by Environmental Protection Agency head Lisa Jackson as one of the major sources of scientific support for the agency’s Endangerment Finding, the first step towards allowing the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant.

Since the Climategate Files were released, the IPCC has been forced to retract a number of specific conclusions — such as a prediction that Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035 — and has been forced to confirm that the report was based in large part on reports from environmental activist groups instead of peer-reviewed scientific literature. Dr. Murari Lal, an editor of the IPCC AR4 report, admitted to the London Daily Mail that he had known the 2035 date was false, but was included in the report anyway “purely to put political pressure on world leaders.”

Based on this Minority Staff report, Senator Inhofe will be calling for an investigation into potential research misconduct and  possible criminal acts by the researchers involved. At the same time, Inhofe will ask the Environmental Protection Agency to reopen its consideration of an Endangerment Finding for carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the Federal Clean Air Act, and will ask Congress to withdraw funding for further consideration of carbon dioxide as a pollutant.

In requesting that the EPA reopen the Endangerment Finding, Inhofe joins with firms such as the Peabody Energy Company and several state Attorneys General (such as Texas and Virginia) in objecting to the Obama administration’s attempt to extend regulatory control over carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. Senator Inhofe believes this staff report “strengthens the case” for the Texas and Virginia Attorneys General.

Senator Inhofe’s announcement today appears to be the first time a member of Congress has formally called for an investigation into research misconduct and potential criminal acts by the scientists involved.

The staff report describes four major issues revealed by the Climategate Files and the subsequent revelations:

  1. The emails suggest some climate scientists were cooperating to obstruct the release of damaging information and counter-evidence.
  2. They suggest scientists were manipulating the data to reach predetermined conclusions.
  3. They show some climate scientists colluding to pressure journal editors not to publish work questioning the “consensus.”
  4. They show that scientists involved in the report were assuming the role of climate activists attempting to influence public opinion while claiming scientific objectivity.

The report notes a number of potential legal issues raised by their Climategate investigation:

  1. It suggests scientific misconduct that may violate the Shelby Amendment — requiring open access to the results of government-funded research — and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) policies on scientific misconduct (which were announced December 12, 2000).
  2. It notes the potential for violations of the Federal False Statements and False Claims Acts, which may have both civil and criminal penalties.
  3. The report also notes the possibility of there having been an obstruction of Congress in Congressional Proceeds, which may constitute an obstruction of justice.

If proven, these charges could subject the scientists involved to debarment from federally funded research, and even to criminal penalties.

By naming potential criminal offenses, Senator Inhofe raises the stakes for climate scientists and others involved. Dr. Phil Jones of the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit has already been forced to step aside because of the Climategate FOIA issues, and Dr. Michael Mann of Penn State is currently under investigation by the university for potential misconduct. Adding possible criminal charges to the mix increases the possibility that some of the people involved may choose to blow the whistle in order to protect themselves.

Senator Inhofe believes that Dr. Hansen and Dr. Mann should be “let go” from their posts “for the good of the institutions involved.”

The question, of course, is whether the Senate Democratic majority will allow this investigation to proceed, in the face of the Obama administration’s stated intention to regulate CO2 following the apparent death of cap and trade legislation. The Democratic majority has blocked previous attempts by Inhofe to investigate issues with climate science.

For more of PJM’s most recent Climategate coverage, read Charlie Martin’s “Climategate: The World’s Biggest Story, Everywhere but Here“.

Charlie Martin is a Colorado computer scientist and freelance writer. He holds an MS in Computer Science from Duke University, where he spent six years with the National Biomedical Simulation Resource, Duke University Medical Center. Find him at http://chasrmartin.com, and on his blog at http://explorations.chasrmartin.com.

Additional: from Hot Air, an exclusive interview with Imhofe:

Mead: How Al Gore Wrecked Planet Earth

How Al Gore Wrecked Planet Earth

by Walter Russell Mead, February 19th, 2010

The Washington Post this morning has a strong story on the collapse of the movement to stop climate change through a binding treaty negotiated under UN auspices. And even the normally taciturn New York Times is admitting that the resignation of the top UN climate change negotiator suggests that no global treaty will be coming this year.

Short summary: the current iteration of the movement–with its particular political project and goals–is dead. This will not be news to readers of this blog where the news was announced on February 1, but never mind.

Anyway, as the Post now belatedly acknowledges, the movement to stop climate change through a Really Big and Comprehensive Grand Global Treaty is dead because there is no political consensus in the US to go forward. It’s dead because the UN process is toppling over from its own excessive ambition and complexity. It’s dead because China and India are having second thoughts about even the smallish steps they put on the table back in Copenhagen.

Doornail dead.

As the Post story shows, the mainstream media is now coming to terms with the death. Environmentalists are still trying to avoid pulling the plug, but the corpse is already cool to the touch and soon it will begin to smell. As the global greens move from the denial stage of the grief process, brace yourself for some eloquent, petulant and arrogant rage. Tears will be shed and hands will be wrung. The world is stupid, uncaring, unworthy to be saved. Horrible Republicans, evil Chinese, demented know-nothing climate skeptics have ruined the world and condemned our grandchildren to lives of sorrow and pain. Messengers will be shot; skeptics will be blamed for asking questions and the media (and the internet) will be blamed for reporting the answers.

This storm will have to blow for a while; there’s a lot of emotion and conviction in the ‘climate change’ community. A year ago they were the last, best hope of the world, a shining band of brothers (and sisters) who were saving the planet and taming the excesses of self-destructive capitalist greed. The Force was with them and the world lay at their feet. They were going to be greeted as liberators by a grateful world desperate to be saved.

Now they are just another piece of roadkill on the heartless historical highway–an unforgiving place for people who seek to change the behavior of the world through comprehensive treaties, like the nuclear freeze proponents before them and like the advocates of the Grand Global Treaty Against War in the 1920s. (And at least the 1920s peace movement got its Grand Global Treaty: the 1929 Kellogg-Briand Pact outlawed war forever, sparing all future generations from this terrible scourge.)

The climate change movement now needs to regroup, and at some point it will have to confront a central, unpalatable fact: the wounds from which it is bleeding so profusely are mostly its own fault. This phase of the climate change movement was immature, unrealistic and naive. It was poorly organized and foolishly led. It adopted an unrealistic and unreachable political goal, and sought to stampede world opinion through misleading and exaggerated statements. It lacked the most elementary level of political realism–all the more egregious given the movement’s politically sophisticated and very rich opponents. Foundation staff, activists and sympathetic journalists cocooned themselves in an echo chamber of comfortable group-think, and as they toasted one another in green Kool-Aid they thought they were making progress when actually they were slowly and painfully digging themselves into an ever-deeper hole.

The service the movement now needs (but likely won’t get) from its close friends in the mainstream media is a harsh and unsparing review of exactly who screwed up and why. What dodo-brained foundation executives streamed money to groups committed to a suicidally unrealistic political strategy? Have they been fired yet? Why not? Who were the ignorant, self-righteous ‘leaders’ who shouted down anybody with doubts about this disastrous course? Why haven’t they resigned yet? When will they? Whose brainchild was the brilliant idea that the IPCC didn’t need a full time chair? What hare-brained funders failed to provide Phil Jones and the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia with enough clerical help to comply with the freedom of information act? And why was there no one available to counsel Jones when, apparently, he realized that some of the requests couldn’t be satisfied because key data was lost? How did the climate of carelessness at the IPCC develop — and why were warning voices from inside the movement ignored in the rush to get all the alarming but unverified predictions into print?

Failure to deal sternly and coldly with those who made these errors will leave the same incompetents in charge for the next stage of the movement. This will probably happen; social promotion is something liberals do very well and the blame for this mess is so widespread that few of the movement’s leaders will want any uncomfortable questions to be asked.

Frankly, I blame Al Gore. Unlike naive scientists who know little about life beyond the lab, or eco-activists whose concepts of the international political system come from writing direct-mail solicitations to true believers in rich countries, the former vice-president had decades of experience with high politics. It was his job to provide the leadership that could channel the energy and concern of this movement into an effective political program. Perhaps there’s a story we don’t know yet about how Mr. Gore labored quietly and in vain for many years to explain to his fellow global greens about the difficulties and intricacies of the political process. Perhaps he reminded them that it takes 67 votes in the US Senate to ratify a treaty, and that the ideas of the Kyoto Protocol were preemptively rejected 95-0–such a thorough beating that the Protocol itself was never even submitted to the Senate while he was in office. Perhaps he tried to explain to them that a global movement for a treaty was setting itself up for a colossal and comprehensive failure and begged them to take a more realistic course. Perhaps he urged them to be their own harshest critics and to make sure that any information and projections that came out the movement and institutions like the IPCC should be scrubbed cleaner than clean. Perhaps he begged them to make sure that the IPCC was staffed and led by competent, thoroughly vetted and full-time people whose tempered judgment could lead the institution through the inevitable storms it would face.

That could have happened, but I don’t think it did. I think Al Gore failed the climate change movement and that his negligence and blindness has done it irreparable harm. If the skeptics are right and the world isn’t warming — or if natural causes are responsible for climate change – it doesn’t matter much. But if Al Gore and the climate change people are even half right about what is happening to our world, the cost of Mr. Gore’s failures are incalculably great. He was the one world leader who had the standing inside the climate change movement to lead it onto a more sustainable path and, as far as we can tell from the facts now before us, he didn’t really try.

Ultimately, the most telling argument against global warming is the lack of seriousness with which the greens themselves have approached the issue. Getting the world to make the kind of changes greens want is a much more complex and serious endeavor than they themselves seem to have understood. As my colleague Michael Levi says in the Post, “It is becoming increasingly clear that a legally binding treaty is not in the cards…People aren’t quite sure what direction they’re going in at all.”

The greens claim to understand the dynamics of complex ecosystems better than the rest of humanity; the simplistic assumptions and unrealistic strategies with which they’ve approached the complex ecosystem of international politics don’t provide the dispassionate observer with much evidence in support of this claim.

Moving…

The Editorial Times is in process of moving from Blogger to WordPress, so this site will be in a state of flux for a bit. The Blogger version is currently at EditorialTimes.ca (this has now changed and both urls now point to this format), while this version is sitting on EditorialTimes.com. The new wordpress format is crisper and cleaner, and fits better where I want the blog to go for the next while. Shortly, http://www.editorialtimes.ca and http://www.editorialtimes.com will point to the new site. The Blogger site will remain for a while at its base url: editorialtimes.blogspot.com- I haven’t yet made the decision as to how much of the old content will be moved over. This is a labour intensive and slow process, and there is a fair bit of structural work to be done yet on the new site.

Editorial Times.ca originally started in 2003, as an html site that required laborious creation of new html pages for each post entry. Its original purpose remains, to provide selected editorial content concerning issues of the day, with a particular emphasis on Canadian issues, and like many blogs, it ebbs and flows with the interests of its owner and of the issues and topics of the day.

I’m open to adding regular guest contributors, if anyone wants to be a participant. While I am “predominantly” conservative politically, I value considered contrary opinion. This shouldn’t be interpreted as providing a forum for “nutroots” of either persuasion, but even they provide a standard on which to compare and contrast. As my tagline says, The Thorn of Dissent is the Flower of Democracy – one can’t exist without the other.

Now, if you’ve arrived at this page from http://www.editorialtimes.ca, hit the home tab at the top of the blog to arrive at the front page of Editorial Times’ new home.

Steyn:Iran will go nuclear and formally inaugurate the post-American era.

Keeping You Safe

by Mark Steyn, February 20, 2010 8:00 A.M.

In Britain, it is traditional on Shrove Tuesday to hold pancake races, in which contestants run while flipping a pancake in a frying pan. The appeal of the event depends on the potential pitfalls in attempting simultaneous rapid forward propulsion and pancake tossing. But, in St. Albans, England, competitors were informed by Health & Safety officials that they were “banned from running due to fears they would slip over in the rain.” Watching a man walk up the main street with a skillet is not the most riveting event, even in St. Albans. In the heat of the white-knuckle thrills, team captain David Emery momentarily forgot the new rules. “I have been disqualified from a running race for running,” he explained afterwards.

In Canada, Karen Selick told readers of the Ottawa Citizen about her winter vacation in Arizona last month: “The resort suite I rented via the Internet promised a private patio with hot tub,” she wrote. “Upon arrival, I found the door to my patio bolted shut. ‘Entry prohibited by federal law,’ read the sign. Hotel management explained that the drains in all the resort’s hot tubs had recently been found not to comply with new safety regulations. Compliance costs would be astronomical. Dozens of hot-tubs would instead be cemented over permanently.” In the meantime, her suite had an attractive view of the federally prohibited patio.

Anything else? Oh, yeah. In Iran, the self-declared nuclear regime announced that it was now enriching uranium to 20 percent. When President Obama took office, the Islamic Republic had 400 centrifuges enriching up to 3.5 percent. A year later, it has 8,000 centrifuges enriching to 20 percent. The CIA director, Leon Panetta, now cautiously concedes that Iran’s nuclear ambitions may have a military purpose. Which is odd, because the lavishly funded geniuses behind America’s National Intelligence Estimate told us only two years ago that Tehran had ended its nuclear weapons program in 2003. Is that estimate no longer operative? And, if so, could we taxpayers get a refund?

This is a perfect snapshot of the West at twilight. On the one hand, governments of developed nations micro-regulate every aspect of your life in the interests of “keeping you safe.” If you’re minded to flip a pancake at speeds of more than four miles per hour, the state will step in and act decisively: It’s for your own good. If you’re a tourist from Moose Jaw, Washington will take preemptive action to shield you from the potential dangers of your patio in Arizona.

On the other hand, when it comes to “keeping you safe” from real threats, such as a millenarian theocracy that claims universal jurisdiction, America and its allies do nothing. There aren’t going to be any sanctions, because China and Russia don’t want them. That means military action, which would have to be done without U.N. backing — which, as Greg Sheridan of the Australian puts it, “would be foreign to every instinct of the Obama administration.” Indeed. Nonetheless, Washington is (all together now) “losing patience” with the mullahs. The New York Daily News reports the latest get-tough move: “Secretary of State Clinton dared Iran on Monday to let her hold a town-hall meeting in Tehran.”

That’s telling ’em. If the ayatollahs had a sense of humor, they’d call her bluff.

The average Canadian can survive an Arizona hot tub merely compliant with 2009 safety standards rather than 2010. The average Englishman can survive stumbling with his frying pan: You may get a nasty graze on your kneecap, but rub in some soothing pancake syrup and you’ll soon feel right as rain. Whether they — or at any rate their pampered, complacent societies in which hot-tub regulation is the most pressing issue of the day — can survive a nuclear Iran is a more open question.

It is now certain that Tehran will get its nukes, and very soon. This is the biggest abdication of responsibility by the Western powers since the 1930s. It is far worse than Pakistan going nuclear, which, after all, was just another thing the CIA failed to see coming. In this case, the slow-motion nuclearization conducted in full view and through years of tortuous diplomatic charades and endlessly rescheduled looming deadlines is not just a victory for Iran but a decisive defeat for the United States. It confirms the Islamo-Sino-Russo-everybody-else diagnosis of Washington as a hollow superpower that no longer has the will or sense of purpose to enforce the global order.

What does it mean? That a year or two down the line Iran will be nuking Israel? Not necessarily, although the destruction of not just the Zionist Entity but the broader West remains an explicit priority. Maybe they mean it. Maybe they don’t. Maybe they’ll do it directly. Maybe they’ll just get one of their terrorist subcontractors to weaponize the St. Albans pancake batter. But, when you’ve authorized successful mob hits on Salman Rushdie’s publishers and translators, when you’ve blown up Jewish community centers in Buenos Aires, when you’ve acted extraterritorially to the full extent of your abilities for 30 years, it seems prudent for the rest of us to assume that when your abilities go nuclear, you’ll be acting to an even fuller extent.

But even without launching a single missile, Iran will at a stroke have transformed much of the map — and not just in the Middle East, where the Sunni dictatorships face a choice between an unsought nuclear arms race and a future as Iranian client states. In Eastern Europe, a nuclear Iran will vastly advance Russia’s plans for a de facto reconstitution of its old empire: In an unstable world, Putin will offer himself as the protection racket you can rely on. And you’d be surprised how far west “Eastern” Europe extends: Moscow’s strategic view is of a continent not only energy-dependent on Russia but also security-dependent. And, when every European city is within range of Tehran and other psycho states, there’ll be plenty of takers for that when the alternative is an effete and feckless Washington.

It’s a mistake to think that the infantilization of once-free peoples represented by the micro-regulatory nanny state can be confined to pancakes and hot tubs. Consider, for example, the incisive analysis of Scott Gration, the U.S. special envoy to the mass murderers of Sudan: “We’ve got to think about giving out cookies,” said Gration a few months back. “Kids, countries — they react to gold stars, smiley faces, handshakes, agreements, talk, engagement.”

Actually, there’s not a lot of evidence “smiley faces” have much impact on kids in the Bronx, never mind genocidal machete-wielders in Darfur. So much for the sophistication of “soft power,” smiling through a hard-faced world.

So Iran will go nuclear and formally inaugurate the post-American era. The Left and the isolationist right reckon that’s no big deal. They think of the planet as that Arizona patio and America as the hotel room. There may be an incendiary hot tub out there, but you can lock the door and hang a sign, and life will go on, albeit a little more cramped and constrained than before. I think not.

Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is author of America Alone. © 2010 Mark Steyn