Knowledge equals paranoia *UPDATED*

(iPad wiped all my hyperlinks, so if you’re interested in the security programs I mention, you’ll have to search then yourself.)

A friend’s email got hacked. This led to a discussion with a very knowledgeable person about the risks she now faces. Upon realizing she was hacked, she immediately changed her email password and assumed her troubles were over. He told her the contrary was true:  her troubles had just begun.

She told him she had run a full virus check and it came up clean, so she shouldn’t have troubles. He told her that virus checkers, no matter how good, are just a superficial panacea.

The real problem, he said, is keystroke logging malware that lodges deep in the operating system. This means that every time you log into a website, the logger tracks and records your user name and password, and then delivers the data to the hacker. The hacker can then process that information to access your accounts and — voila! — your identity is compromised.  He can also sell it far and wide. Everything is at risk, from bank accounts to your Facebook page.

There are some ways to protect yourself. When it comes to email security, the best thing is two-step verification. If you log onto a computer that you haven’t authorized as a trusted computer, the double verify system sends you a numerical text message. Even if a hacker has both your user name and password, if he doesn’t have your cell phone, he can’t get into your email.

To prevent problems in the first place, you should have a good anti-virus software. Recently, for Microsoft users, several computer gurus have recommended Microsoft Security Essentials to me, which they say is the best and, as an added bonus, is free. You can also keep your computer away from dangerous websites by having your router pass through OpenDNS, which blocks your computer from accessing dangerous sites.

But if you’ve already got a keystroke logger buried in your operating system, you’re out of luck. Most virus checkers can’t find this type of malware, because it’s buried too deeply in your operating system, not to mention that it can actually look innocuous at a code level. Serious computer security people have two computers, one of which is for fun, and one of which is dedicated solely to secure information. They keep their passwords on a flash drive. When they need a password, they plug in the flash drive and then cut-and-paste, so that there are never keystrokes.

With all this in mind, the knowledgeable person told my friend that, because she knows she’s been compromised, she should junk her computer entirely. He thinks that even reinstalling the operating system is insufficient.

Another party to the conversation said this was all overkill. He said that the likelihood of a hacker taking the time to ferret out your information from all the information he selects is minuscule. Further, if he does, most institutions will notice strange behavior and contact you immediately. Ultimately, he felt the risks from hacking were too small to justify the draconian solution of throwing away a computer and starting anew.

As for me, I got totally paranoid from this conversation. I know I don’t have a virus, but I have no way of knowing if I have caught keystroke logger malware. I’m going to change my passwords, but if there’s a keystroke logger, that’s a wasted effort. I’m in a perpetual loop of paranoia and vulnerability.

This paranoia loop — which was triggered by an information dump from someone with more information than I have — irresistibly brought to mind the way we deal with politics in America. Last night, at dinner, Democrat said that Obama, during the his first term, did the best job possible with the hand he’d been dealt. She did not know that Reagan had a rougher economic hand and achieved a better economic outcome. In her limited information universe, Obama was the best.

Fiscal cliff? Going over it may be a plunge from which the economy never recovers, or it may be an illusory line and we discover, once we’ve crossed, that nothing has changed. Since my understand of economics is simple — you cannot spend more than you have or borrow more than you can repay — I foresee catastrophe. Others say a national economy is not a household, and that my analysis isn’t just simple, it’s idiotic and stifles our country’s economic potential.

The same thing happens with the way Americans approach the risk from Islamism. Those of us steeped in information about Islamic doctrine, worldwide terrorist attacks, and Islamic rhetoric see a very high risk. Those who accept that Islam is a religion of peace and think that it’s just a coincidence that all terrorists and would-be terrorists happen to be Muslims, believe are risks are low, and that we are just paranoid, loony conspiracy theorists.

This paranoia runs the other way too. Progressives are convinced that we are cooking ourselves and that the world will melt. We think they’re overreacting to, and taking unreasonable responsibility for, a natural phenomenon that has happened repeatedly since earth’s creation.

Quite obviously, people’s perception of risk is going to affect the steps they take to protect against those perceived risks. The big question, then, is whether the paranoid informed people or the relaxed uninformed people had a better read of the situation. Have we over educated ourselves about risk to the point of dysfunction and overblown reactions? Or have they gone beyond a reasonable assessment of actual risk to a denial so overwhelming that they are incapable of defending against a genuine enemy? Do we change our passwords or junk the whole computer?

As for me, right now, I’m just going to change my passwords and put them onto LastPass, so as to minimize the keystrokes I enter. I’m also going to remind myself that a hacker who collects trillions of keystrokes from millions of computers can’t possibly process that info, and that the odds are I won’t be processed.

UPDATE: A friend who knows more about computers and programming than anyone I have ever met says that an excellent way to protect oneself is to use Google Chrome. He says that Adobe flash is now a primary vehicle for malware. Chrome doesn’t use flash, thereby avoiding that risk. I like Firefox, and don’t like Chrome, but I’m not so stubborn that I won’t recognize a reasonable trade off and learn to live with a different browser.

Al Gore brings new levels of chutzpah to the expression that one should find a need and fill it

“Find a need and fill it.”  That’s great advice in a capitalist society and it’s how many people have gotten rich while improving other’s lives.

Al Gore has a different twist on that adage:  Use false data to create an artificial need, and then fill that need using pork:

The man who was within sight of the presidency 12 years ago has transformed himself, becoming perhaps the world’s most renowned crusader on climate change and a highly successful green-tech investor.

Just before leaving public office in 2001, Gore reported assets of less than $2 million; today, his wealth is estimated at $100 million.

[snip]

Fourteen green-tech firms in which Gore invested received or directly benefited from more than $2.5 billion in loans, grants and tax breaks, part of President Obama’s historic push to seed a U.S. renewable-energy industry with public money.

Please understand that I value a clean environment.  But proposing solutions for dealing with pollution is not how Gore got rich.  Gore got rich by creating an artificial panic structured around his hysterical insistence that human activity was turning the earth into a giant oven.  That’s fraud.  And using taxpayer created slush funds to fund his boondoggle is indecent — and it’s also Progressive politics as usual.

Progressives, to placate Gaia, engage in a “civilized” version of the ancient practice of human sacrifice

Food prices in America are going up and up.  We’re not starving, thank goodness, but we are seeing more and more of our money go to groceries.  Many see a direct connection with ethanol (i.e., using food to power cars) and rising food prices.  Thus, despite the challenging drought, the administration is pursuing ethanol-based policies that keep prices inflated:

A drought is currently driving down corn production. The shortage of feed is forcing livestock producers to slaughter animals early, putting downward pressure on meat prices in the short run and guaranteeing shortages and higher prices next year. But nature is not the biggest factor in this crisis — the government is. Specifically, the federal government’s ethanol mandate, which requires that 13.2 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol be produced in 2012.

Thanks to the ethanol mandate, more than 40 percent of the nation’s corn crop now goes into the production of a useless fuel that hardly anyone would buy if the government didn’t require it. That’s up from just 17 percent in 2005, before the mandate went into effect. Only 36 percent of the corn crop now goes for feed, and 24 percent goes for food.

Obama could solve this problem instantly by suspending the federal ethanol mandate — something his EPA actually can do unilaterally and legally. Instead, Obama will buy up meat — a move that meat producers say won’t help them much anyway. “It doesn’t solve the problem of having enough affordable corn next summer,” industry analyst Steve Meyer told Reuters. “Without changing the ethanol program, nothing can be done,” he said.

It’s bad enough that ethanol is hurting our pocketbooks at home.  What’s scary and tragic is that the diversion of food crops may be causing revolutions elsewhere.  Smart thinkers have posited that the government obsession with ethanol, which results in crop diversions and high food prices in marginal economies, may have led to the Arab Spring:

While the mainstream media focuses on the political aspects of this turmoil, they are overlooking the impact of rising inflation, driven mainly by record food prices. For example, former Bush advisor Dan Senor notes that Egypt is the world’s largest wheat importer. Yet because of skyrocketing prices, Egyptian inflation is now over 10 percent, while some experts estimate that Egyptian food inflation has risen as much as 20 percent.

[snip]

To be fair, not all of the food inflation can be blamed on the Fed. A good part of this problem can also be placed at the doorstep of bipartisan U.S. policies to subsidize ethanol.

According to the Wall Street Journal, in 2001, only 7 percent of U.S. corn went to ethanol. By 2010, the ethanol share was 39 percent. So instead of growing wheat, our farmers are growing corn in order to cash in on ethanol subsidies. Egyptians who can’t afford to buy bread and have taken to the streets in protest might be very interested to know this.

Not even Al Gore still believes that ethanol provides any environmental benefits.

More simply stated, the obsession with useless ethanol, all in the name of saving us from Gaia’s wrath, is starving people.

It occurred to me that this isn’t the first time that governments have taken to killing people in order to placate Gaia.  A little digging yielded this summary about the Aztec practice of human sacrifice.  Keep in mind as you read it that, in the 21st Century, every single itch and twitch in the weather — every heavy rain, heat wave, cold spell, etc. — is blamed on Gaia’s anger that we’re flooding her with CO2 (emphasis mine):

For hundreds of years, human sacrifice is believed to have played an important role of many of the indigenous tribes inhabiting the Valley of Mexico. However, the Mexica brought human sacrifice to levels that had never been practiced before. The Mexica Indians and their neighbors had developed a belief that it was necessary to constantly appease the gods through human sacrifice. By spilling the blood of human beings onto the ground, the high priests were, in a sense, paying their debt to the gods. If the blood would flow, then the sun would rise each morning, the crops would grow, the gods would provide favorable weather for good crops, and life would continue.

Over time, the Mexica, in particular, developed a feeling that the needs of their gods were insatiable. The period from 1446 to 1453 was a period of devastating natural disasters: locusts, drought, floods, early frosts, starvation, etc. The Mexica, during this period, resorted to massive human sacrifice in an attempt to remedy these problems. When abundant rain and a healthy crop followed in 1455, the Mexica believed that their efforts had been successful. In 1487, according to legend, Aztec priests sacrificed more than 80,000 prisoners of war at the dedication of the reconstructed temple of the sun god in Tenochtitl’n.

Just to be clear, I’m not accusing Progressives of deliberately engaging in human sacrifice.  Indeed, it’s ridiculous to compare converting corn to fuel, which has a byproduct of revolution and starvation, on the one hand, with deliberately and directly cutting the hearts out of 80,000 prisoners, on the other hand.  Nevertheless, I do think there’s a straight, albeit very thin, line between the primitive thinking of the Aztecs — “earth angry, kill people” — and the so-called “sophisticated thinking of the Progressives — “earth angry, who cares how many people we kill.”

A reminder, once again, that Nature is bigger than scientists

The scientists were wrong, so they blame it on climate change.  Maybe they’re right this time that their wrongness is because of climate change.  Or maybe the scientists simply don’t know as much as they think they do, whether because of poor data, poor predictions, or the fact that Mother Nature always has surprises in store for those humans who think they can control her:

An annual report released Thursday detailing the status of Lake Tahoe’s health and clarity has researchers rethinking some long-held assumptions and focusing on trends that may be linked to climate change.

[snip]

Schladow said researchers were surprised that after the monster winter of 2010-2011, Lake Tahoe’s clarity improved last year by 4.5 feet to an annual average of 68.9 feet. Harsh winters that bring heavy runoff from snowmelt are generally believed to decrease clarity.

“In the past, very wet years have led to decreases in lake clarity, whereas we are now seeing the opposite,” he said.

Researchers also said that the 2007 Angora Fire on Tahoe’s west shore that burned more than 3,000 acres and destroyed hundreds of homes has had little effect on the lake’s water clarity, another surprise.

It’s time for scientists, especially environmental and climate scientists, to remember that they are not infallible.  A little humility in the face of Nature’s greatness and magnitude would be in order.

Tahoe is a gem and I wish it could be restored to the crystal clarity I remember from my childhood.  My uninformed suspicion is that the diminution in clarity has more to do with a vastly growing population, lawns were none existed before, and the fertilizers the people use on those lawns, which run off into the lake and encourage algae growth.  (Every backyard swimming pool owner knows this pattern, and there’s no reason to believe that it isn’t playing out on the lake as well.)  Curb fertilizers, and you’ll probably get a bluer lake.  Just saying (and guessing).

A very beautiful history book arrived in my mail — and it (naturally) sparked some political thoughts in my brain

A couple of weeks ago, I asked you all to link to a General Knowledge Quiz that DK publishing hosts.   I disclosed at the time that this was not a purely altruistic act, even though I thought the quizzes were fun and I think the world of DK books.  In exchange for promoting the Quiz site, DK’s publicist was kind enough to send me an incredibly gorgeous, wonderful book: History: The Definitive Visual Guide (From The Dawn of Civilization To The Present Day).

I’ve always had a passion for historic surveys (and own several of them). I love seeing the tapestry of history spread out before me.  This type of book is great as a general reference book, and is also just fun to dive into, to acquaint (or reacquaint) oneself with a historic period or two.

The DK book, as one would expect, is lavishly illustrated, and the text is surprisingly accessible.  The book is comprehensive too, ranging from 4.5 million years ago through to pretty much yesterday.  Since it’s a huge book, I’ve only just gotten out of the Ice Age and the beginning of small agricultural communities, so I cannot (and, given its size, will not) offer a comprehensive review.  The early part of the book, though, strikes me as intellectually honest.

I got a real kick of the part of the book covering the climate changes that affected early Homo Sapiens’ development.  Keep in mind that, when these changes occurred, the earth was already billions of years old, so the changes were not related to a still evolving planet.  On the cosmic time line, these climate changes were a millisecond away from us:

Contrary to popular belief, an Ice Age is not a continual deep freeze, but a period of constantly fluctuating climate conditions punctuated by periods of intense cold.

[snip]

Sea cores give only a general impression of Ice Age climate change, but, as a rule, cooling proceeds relatively slowly and warming unfolds rapidly, as was the case at the end of the last cold period (glacial).  Glacial periods in the past have been longer than interglacials — brief, volatile intervals of warming conditions during the Ice Age when the climate was as warm, or warmer than, today.  These increases in temperature are caused by changes in the Earth’s path around the sun and its rotation on its axis.  Natural increases in greenhouse gases add to the warming.  We are currently experiencing an interglacial period caused by these natural phenomena that began about 10,000 years ago.  (pp. 22-23)

The Ice Age chapter goes on to describe the vast sheets of Ice that covered much of the Northern Hemisphere, and the way in which they drastically changed the earth’s landscape by storing water in ice, thereby creating the land shelves that allowed humans to spread out over the globe.

Of course, the earth warmed after the Ice Age, or we’d still be in one.  It warmed so much that Greenland was once actually green.  Then, there was a mini Ice Age, which accounts in part for the voluminous clothing people wore from the 14th century on.  In Queen Elizabeth I’s time, the Thames froze.  Then, the earth warmed again.

Warm and cold, scalded and frozen.  The earth changes endlessly.  There’s an incredible arrogance on the part of humans to say that all those previous changes were Gaia’s decision, while the last warming cycle (a cycle that stopped about 10 years ago) is America’s fault.

I will say again, as I always say, that we, as the most intelligent beings on earth, are its stewards.  As someone who remembers the pollution of the 1960s and early 1970s, I am delighted that we have developed an awareness that helps us keep our earthly garden clean and green.  I want us to continue to use our technological wizardry and knowledge, and our environmental conscience, to keep this world lovely for our children and their children.  BUT, I will not be bullied by flat earth global warmers who use every change in the weather, up or down, to justify a giant, anti-capitalist transfer of wealth from the First World, which is working hard to maintain the environment, to the Third World, which, because it lives very close to a Malthusian starvation level, has no interest whatsoever in improving the environment.

I want to lift up the Third World, but not at my world’s expense.  I believe that the best, and cleanest, future for both the First and Third world is to maximize our existing technology, and to figure out ways to optimize the one fuel on which we all can rely:  Fossil fuel.

La Media – Misleading by Misdirection

Years ago, the Bookworm Room took a leadership position in challenging man-made global warming dogma and I would comfortably assert that we have been winning the arguments. However, the battle is far from over.

Today’s Chicago Tribune posted a column published by two credentialed climate scientists from the U. of Illinois, attributing this winter’s warm winter conditions and tornado activity to man-made CO2 emissions in the atmosphere.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/ct-perspec-0606-climate-20120606,0,1084142.story

This column misleads by misdirection.

The warmer-than-normal weather this winter and early spring was the result of an extended Pacific Ocean-warming phenomenon called “La Nina”. This phenomenon has been linked to diverse weather conditions around the world, from severe drought conditions in our Southwest and Brazil, to warmer-than-normal winters in the upper Midwest to reduced monsoon activity in southern Asia. Warmer-than-normal winter and spring temperatures are also conducive to tornado formation when they clash and create turbulence with cold air from the winter jet stream.

Keep in mind that one of the paramount principles of scientific endeavor, routinely violated by man-made climate change proponents, is “Occam’s Razor”, which stipulates that you look at the simplest, most obvious explanations first!

So, let’s ask the question… are increasing levels of atmospheric CO2, present in concentrations measured in parts-per-million, responsible for massive warming events in the central Pacific? Does this sound like a reasonable explanation?

The best leading indicator of a La Nina event is not the amount of CO2 in the air, but subsurface water temperatures (i.e., below the ocean surface, not at the surface where CO2 would be absorbed from the air) around the Pacific Rim. The most likely cause for these temperature upwellings, supported by satellite and deep-sea surveyor data, is underwater volcanic activity, which we are only just beginning to understand. Bookworm aficionados are very well-read and aware, so they will recall reading that these past few years have been seismically active around the Pacific Rim. Undersea volcanos, like terrestrial volcanos, release huge amounts of heat, which must go somewhere. In water and in air, heat rises.

http://strata-sphere.com/blog/index.php/archives/18084

After La Nina ended this spring, we returned to cooler than normal temperatures in the Midwest and eastern U.S., which will probably persist through 2012, as a countervailing, cooling El Nino begins to form in the Pacific. In fact, the last 10 years have seen a consistent, measurable period of global cooling, not heating, even as atmospheric CO2 concentrations increased.

In addition, the pioneering work of Danish astrophysicist Henrik Svensmark, a man who’s name may one day rank in the Astronomer’s pantheon with Galileo and Copernicus, has laid out testable theories on how solar activity affects cloud cover, precipitation and global temperatures that are completely changing perceptions regarding climate change and, frankly, render the effects of CO2 (which, in the end, is just an insignificant greenhouse gas when compared to water) on climate as irrelevant. Thus far, the tests of his theories are coming out very positive and serve to explain both observed climate warming and cooling cycles.

The facade of man-made global warming is crumbling, but far too many credentialed “scientists” have vested their reputations and research budgets in man-made global warming postulations for them to give up lightly. So, they double down because they have to. Unfortunately, too many citizens will be fooled by their credentials to question their premises.

Given the credentials of the authors of this Chicago Tribune column, they in all likelihood knew all of this. They just didn’t feel that the Chicago Tribune’s readers should know about this details, because it doesn’t happen to fit their ideological meme. So, they misdirect.

Help wanted to understand a climate change post

I’ve been skeptical of climate change because (a) I think Al Gore’s an idiot; (b) the climate changers see everything in terms of climate change, which is nonsensical; (c) the Climate Gate emails indicated fraud and information suppression to advance the climate change narrative, suggesting that the actual facts do not advance that narrative; and (d) the manifest goal of those backing climate change is to transfer wealth from America to other nations and to downgrade the American standard of living.  I therefore wholeheartedly believe blogs such as Watts Up With That? when they put up posts challenging the climate change narrative.

The problem for me is that I’m not well-versed in science, and can easily be led down the primrose path.  So, while I have practical and ideological reasons for rejecting climate change, I can’t boast that I understand science well enough to add scientific reasons to my skeptical stance.

This gets me to the crux of this post.  One of my liberal Facebook friends, writing with a big “A-ha!”, linked to a blog post that claims to prove that climate change skeptics are cherry-picking data and are scientifically ignorant.  Since I’ve already admitted to scientific ignorance, I’m as incapable of analyzing this post, with which I disagree on principle, as I am of analyzing the Watts Up With That posts, with which I agree on principle.

So here’s the help I need from you:  Do those of you with better scientific chops than I have (that would be just about everyone) have any opinion on the relative merits of the post contending that climate change skeptics are arguing out of their rear orifice?

“Alien Encounters” — The subtle propaganda of a pseudo-documentary

The Science Channel’s Alien Encounters is a two-part pseudo-documentary that interweaves footage of real scientists and novelists talking about possible alien encounters, with faux footage of the world dealing with an actual alien encounter.  Alien Encounters has gotten decent press from the usual suspects.

I disagree.  As a science show, it’s not impressive.  The children, who are sophisticated media consumers, were perpetually confused about what was real and what was faux, and eventually walked out on the show in frustration.  We grown-ups didn’t fare much better, as we kept falling asleep.  A show that induces narcolepsy probably isn’t a very good show.

I did stay awake long enough, though, to be concerned about those children and those adults who stuck it out despite the show’s muddled story line and sleep-inducing presentation.  In addition to having some vaguely scientific content (Cue Twilight Zone music and repeat after me — “We are not alone”), the show has a very strong Progressive tone.  This is stealth politics. A rumination about aliens contacting earth should be about space and science.  As is typical, though, for anything Progressives touch, their politics and biases  just kind of ooze out.

In pertinent part, the plot goes as follows:  The SETI Institute, which was established to monitor the cosmos for other life forms, picks up a signal from space that is quite obviously meant to communicate with earth.  It proves, as the SETI people have long realized, that we here on earth are not the pinnacle of evolution — someone else (or something else) obviously is, because that other culture can communicate with us.

At least, that’s what Jill Tarter, who’s head of the SETI Institution and one of the show’s writers, says.  She also says that we’re not ready for alien contact because we have pollution or wars, or something like that.  (She was a bit muddled there.)  Tarter’s fascination with outer space may have come about because she obviously doesn’t like us here on planet earth.

Tarter’s statements about war and pollution, and her general disdain for humanity, have the virtue of being explicit.  Tucked into the show were other messages, however, ranging from silly to mean.

The first more subtle political message showed itself in the usual “global warming” stuff that is by now par for the course for any non-conservative production.  Indeed, bows to global warming appear in shows with the same frequency as Obama’s “ums” and “uhs” and “ers” when he’s speaking off teleprompter — which is to say, way too often.

In Alien Encounters, we learn that the alien beings have included in their message a code sequence that is light years (pardon the pun) more sophisticated than any computer code ever devised here on earth.  The hip young things paying attention to this cool alien invasion immediately appreciate the ramifications of this code.  The words “reverse global warming” are flashed across the screen at least twice.  (I may have slept through subsequent iterations.)  Yes, the secret to resolving global warming is . . . wait for it . . . an alien invasion.  Woo-hoo!

That’s the obvious propaganda.  It’s heavy-handed, but probably harmless, because it’s just another piece of white noise in the Progressive universe.  Although I must say I find rather amusing that an ostensibly scientific institution (that would be the SETI Institute) so blindly accepts global warming, despite the burgeoning body of evidence to the contrary.  But that’s another story….

The less obvious propaganda is what really irked me.  In an obvious effort to stretch a thin one-hour show into a two-hour show, the writers repeat themes, images and words over and over and over again.  Thus, we hear repeatedly that some people will be excited and open-minded about this invasion, while some will be scared and hostile.

“Scared and hostile” is represented by a moustachioed old white man who sits alone, drinking, and writing “end of the world?” and “danger” on reports about the alien encounter.  Later, he is shown stockpiling booze and weapons for his survivalist retreat.  And still later, the show finally reveals the hitherto cryptic writing on his baseball cap:  “82nd Airborne.”

Yup — the only ones who might be somewhat worried that a vastly more intelligent life form is heading towards our seriously imperfect (and overheated) world are the crazy, drunken, old militarists .  The show hints, although it’s too tactful to say, that drunken old survivalists are the scarier of the two invaders.

I haven’t actually seen the aliens land yet.  When I finally succumbed completely to sleep, they were still making their way to planet earth.  I’ll watch the last half hour tonight on my TiVo and get back to you on whether or not we survive our contact with this fine alien culture.  I do wonder, though, whether these aliens, who clearly have the potential to bring about the “moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal,” will bear an uncanny resemblance to Barack Obama.  After all, there are those who have posited that, based upon his fixed smile in official state photos, he might not be of this earth:

Barack Obama’s amazingly consistent smile from Eric Spiegelman on Vimeo.

Arbitrary and capricious gods, from ancient times to modern

Today at lunch, Don Quixote and I ended up talking about predestination and free will.  Along the way we touched upon whether prayers are necessary (if God is omniscient, doesn’t he already know what we want?) and funerals (definitely for the living, although one doesn’t want to disrespect the dead).  We also talked about the Christian concept of Grace, and the Puritan ethos of living a “holier than thou” lifestyle so as to make it clear to the neighbors that one had indeed embraced Christ and, presumably, been embraced right back.  (I know that’s a bit facetious and facile, but I’m assuming you all are reasonably familiar with the Puritan’s religious doctrine, religious practices, and lifestyles.)

We eventually ended up talking about the fact that God’s enormity makes him unknowable — yet so many are nevertheless certain that they can speak for God, predict his actions, and know his desires.  In that context, a little paradox flashed into my brain.  Pagan gods, rather consistently, are very human, and usually not in a very nice way.  If you cast your mind over the Greek and Roman panoply, you’ll see that the gods were greedy, lustful, vengeful, jealous, mischievous, vindictive, and impulsive.  And always, these characteristics showed themselves randomly.  The one consistent thing about the pagan gods was that they were unpredictable, arbitrary, and capricious.  For all that they mimicked human behaviors, they were impossible to understand.  One could only try to avoid and placate them.  For that reason, just like the children of abusive parents, pagan worshippers weren’t motivated by morality.  Rather, their goal, always, was to avoid abuse, no matter what it took.

The Jewish God was a different thing altogether.  Although abstract and invisible (no beautiful Aphrodite, thunderbolt-toting Zeus, or chariot-driving Apollo), the Jewish God did something unthinkable in the pagan world:  he entered into a fixed contract with his Chosen People.  He imposed an obligation upon himself to make these people his own and, in return, he imposed upon them a few specific, overarching moral rules (the commandments) and a raft of behavioral rules.  He never promised that his behavior would be comprehensible, but he make it clear that, if the Jews followed the rules, they would be his Chosen People and would not be at fault for the unknowable events that might affect their lives.

The irony, of course, is that humans, being human, haven’t been able to resist analyzing these practical and ethical obligations in an effort to reach into God’s mind and personality.  “If he tells us to do X, that must mean that he is (or wants) Y.“  The pagans didn’t bother to try to figure their gods out.  Doing so was like trying to herd cats or collect soap bubbles.  The Judeo-Christian God, though, by presenting humans with a rational template of behavior, gave the illusion that he is knowable.

As it happens, I don’t believe God can be knowable.  All we can do if we’re religious is follow the rules (whether Jewish or Christian), and take comfort from the fact that we’re holding up our side of the covenant.

Incidentally, because I can’t resist a bit of punditry myself, would it be too obvious if I suggested here that modern pagans, who rejoice in the “Progressive Environmentalist” label, engage in behaviors very similar to that practiced by the Greeks and Romans, in thrall to their own unpredictable earth goddess?  Because the earth they worship imposes no fixed moral standards or behavioral codes on them, they constantly take her temperature, trying to figure out if she’s running too hot or too cold.  And if the results of these investigations frighten them, they desperately try to placate her.

The human sacrifices the new pagans make aren’t as immediate as they once were — no people lobbed into swamps, buried in pits, tossed in volcanoes, or creatively eviscerated — but they’re just as real.  Thanks to the new pagans’ decision to abandon the petroleum products that have served us so long and so well, and their desperate move to turn crops into energy, rather than food, they’ve created starvation and unrest throughout the world.  (It’s been a while, but it’s worth remembering that Egypt was ripe for unrest because of skyrocketing food prices caused, in part, by the fact that food crops have been diverted to ethanol.)  If the immolation of large parts of the Middle East doesn’t count as a sizable human sacrifice to the unreliable, arbitrary and capricious Gaia, I don’t know what does.

 

Lynn Woolsey, unconstrained by reelection, lets loose, and it’s not pretty

There’s nothing like a Progressive who’s not worrying about reelection.  If you thought Barney Frank’s moobs were repellent, wait until you get a look inside Lynn Woolsey’s brain.  The 10-term House Democrat from Marin County is retiring this year, so she finally feels that she can speak freely.  It’s not pretty.

For example, we learn why Woolsey doesn’t like Michelle Bachmann, who holds, not just a JD, but an LL.M. from the prestigious William & Mary School of Law:

“[S]he’s an idiot,” Woolsey said. “It’s not very politic to say that of another member of Congress, but she is.”

As it happens, I’m not overly impressed with academic credentials, since I think they often train people away from decency, logic and common sense, but I feel obligated to point out here that Woolsey’s education consists of . . . well, it’s unclear.  According to Wikipedia, she attended a lot of schools, but doesn’t seem to have emerged with any discernible degrees.  That’s okay.  She clearly had enough education to lose her decency, logic and common sense anyway.

Woolsey doesn’t like Newt Gingrich either:

“He would be the worst president on earth.”

She does concede, though, that he’s got a brain, which would make him more dangerous than the “idiot” Michelle Bachmann.

The Tea Party crowd don’t fare well in Woolsey world, since she sees them as an impediment to saving the world from climate change (never mind that the climate change narrative is unraveling before Woolsey’s eyes):

“Half of them have never held an elected office in their lives; they don’t know nothing,” Woolsey said. “They don’t know why they’re against what they’re against. They don’t know what is happening to our environment. All they know is it’s not something they’re supposed to support.”

Poor Lynn.  She apparently missed the poll showing a wide-spread belief that Tea Party members are better informed than your average 10-term member of the House of Representatives.  I guess it’s axiomatic that the ill-informed are always the last to know to that particular truth about themselves.

Lynn may not like Tea Partiers, but she does love the Occupy crowd:

“I love the Occupiers,” Woolsey said. “They’re such a breath of fresh air for me. I’ve been waiting for them for a long time.”

There’s nothing like a gang of Apple computer toting, drug-taking, dirty, vomiting, defecating, raping, murderous thugs to excite an aging Progressive politician.

Interestingly, Woolsey is not a Barack Obama fan.  Not only is he too conservative for her (“He’s a moderate president. He’s not a progressive.”), she thinks he’s not a very nice person:

“He is kind of a cold, aloof guy.”

Back in 2008, she was rooting for Hillary, both because she thinks Hillary is a more principled Progressive than Obama (there’s a scary thought), but also because she thinks Hillary has the cajones Obama lacks.

Woosley, apparently, isn’t the only one who isn’t thrilled about Barry.  Although Woolsey was speaking to an “overwhelmingly liberal” crowd, I think she sensed a certain chill in the air when it came to Obama.  How else to explain the fact that she felt compelled to tell those in attendance that they must vote for him in 2012:

“Do not stay home,” she said. “Any one of those other people — we thought George Bush was a problem, huh.”

I wish I’d been at Woolsey’s talk.  Seeing the Progressive mind unfettered is kind of like wading in an old swamp.  It looks ugly and smells bad, but there are still interesting things swimming in the depths.

Topsy-Turvy Christmas Temps

Bummer! It’s two days before Christmas and there will be no white Christmas in Chicagoland, this year and the temperature will be above freezing. There’s not much snow north of here all the way to the Canadian border, either. Global warmening?

I called a good friend in Cali’s San Joaquin valley, today: turns out that their temperature right now is colder than here in Chicagoland. They are worried about pipes freezing at night.

I look at the weather maps and all the white Christmas weather appears to be south, in Texas and New Mexico. Even further south, the Aussies are suffering a record cold summer http://news.sky.com/home/world-news/article/16133817?f=rss

 

So, what’s going on?

I know. Bush did it!

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah, everyone! May we all enjoy a happy, prosperous and very normal new year.

 

Facts are stubborn things . . . but Leftist ideologues are even more stubborn

“Facts are stubborn things.”  — John Adams.

“Ideologues are even more stubborn than facts.”  — Bookworm

A few nights ago, Mr. Bookworm watched the movie Shattered Glass with the children.  It’s a fairly good retelling of the way in which Stephen Glass, a young feature writer at The New Republic, wrote a series of fraudulent articles.  I was a TNR subscriber at the time, and I vividly remember what might have been his most famous article, the one describing orgies of sex, drink and drugs at a young conservative convention.  The article was a perfect fraud because it so deftly fed into liberal prejudice about conservatives:  there was no way, we liberals thought, that conservatives could actually live up to the standards they sought to impose upon ordinary Americans.  Because we didn’t believe in those lifestyle values, we assumed that young conservatives were hypocrites — and Thank God for true journalists like Stephen Glass who were out there exposing this hypocrisy to the world.  Except, of course, for the fact that every word Glass wrote was a lie.

At the end of Shattered Glass, the movie informs the viewer that Glass went to law school and is working as a paralegal.  (I won’t even try to figure out why a highly respectable law school such as Georgetown would allot one of the valuable spaces in its freshman class to a conscienceless con man.)

My children were perplexed.  “A lawyer?  Why a lawyer?”  Mr. Bookworm knew the answer:  “Because lawyers lie.  That’s their job.  The better the liar, the more money they make.”

As a lawyer whose lies have never gone beyond social white lies (“That dress is lovely!” “I’m so sorry, but I’m already booked that night.”), I took umbrage at that statement.  “Good lawyers never lie!  They simply advocate.  I take the facts and put them together in a coherent, honest narrative that ties in with applicable law.  If my client has no case, I say so.  My integrity, and the integrity of my friends and colleagues, demands no less.  I’ve known lying lawyers, but they’re bottom feeders and viewed with disdain by decent practitioners.”

The fine line between advocacy and lying was a struggle for the children.  Imagine a car accident, I said.  A car traveling in excess of the speed limit passed through an intersection, and shortly thereafter struck a pedestrian.  If there was a subsequent lawsuit, there would be two ways to describe that car’s journey through the intersection.  If I represented the car’s driver at trial, I would never say anything other than that he “drove” through the intersection.  This would be a completely correct statement.  I would be implying, of course, that the defendant’s speed wasn’t so excessive that it could lead to an accident.  In the same trial, the attorney for the pedestrian would invariably say that the defendant “sped” or “raced” through the intersection, implying that he was out of control by the time he hit the pedestrian.  Again, since I’ve posited a speed above the speed limit (although I haven’t said by how much, whether two miles above or twenty miles above), that too is a truthful statement.  Both lawyers are being completely truthful, but both approaches are spin aimed at persuading an audience (the jury) to reach one of two antithetical conclusions.

I think the kids understand me.  Mr. Bookworm — well, I’m not so sure.  He is, after all, a man of the Left, and if there’s one thing a lifetime on the Left has taught me, it that my blog’s motto is accurate:  “Conservatives deal with facts and reach conclusions; liberals have conclusions and sell them as facts.”  To the Left, fact and spin are indistinguishable.  Truth isn’t a construct based upon irrefutable and stubborn facts.  Instead, truth is an ideological conclusion, sustained by whatever means necessary.

Interestingly, the day after I had this instructive conversation with the kids, the blogosphere was suddenly saturated with stories of stubborn ideologues, relentlessly intertwining conclusions and facts.  Unfortunately for public discourse, these ideologues are journalists.

The most well-known post is Mark Hemingway’s Lies, Damned Lies, and “Fact Checking.  In it, Hemingway takes aim at the proliferation of “fact checking” articles from major media outlets.

Fact checking can be useful, of course.  Going back to my car example above, the speed at which the driver traveled is a fact.  If he was going twenty miles above the limit, but his advocate claims he was only going two miles above the limit, that claim is a lie and a fact checker should call him on it.  In the world of liberal fact checking, however, the fact checkers confuse their spin (i.e., the advocacy of their ideology) for objective facts.  They would be challenging the lawyer they’re hostile to over his honest, albeit emotionally loaded, word choice (e.g., “drove” versus “sped”).

Here’s Hemingway’s conclusion, one he reaches after offering several egregious examples of the way Leftists confuse ideological “truth” with facts:

While it was always difficult in practice, once upon a time journalists at least paid obeisance to the idea of reporting the facts, as opposed to commenting on “narratives”​—​let alone being responsible for creating and debunking them.

But today’s fact checkers are largely uninterested in emphasizing the primacy of information. Accordingly, this is what happens when the media talk about fact checking: The Washington Post pats the AP on the back for questioning the veracity of a media-created narrative ex post facto, then cites a brazenly partisan blogger as proof that the effort to smack it down was successful.

What’s going on here should be obvious enough. With the rise of cable news and the Internet, traditional media institutions are increasingly unable to control what political rhetoric and which narratives catch fire with the public. Media fact-checking operations aren’t about checking facts so much as they are about a rearguard action to keep inconvenient truths out of the conversation.

Hemingway deservedly got attention for this brilliant deconstruction of ideological advancement dressed up as fact-checking, but he wasn’t the only one.  At the same time,  James Taranto caught the AP “fact checking” Newt’s debate promise that he will move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  The AP says that this “fact” — one that most of us would see as a promise of future action — is “false” because other presidential candidates have made the same promise to no effect.  Taranto understands what’s going on, and it’s not that Newt was lying:

To be sure, some things about the future are known with sufficient certainty that they are indistinguishable from facts. If Gingrich claimed to be immortal, the AP would be justified in running a “fact check” refutation even if it was not also an obituary. Likewise if he said tomorrow’s sunrise would occur at 3 p.m. on the East Coast, we could be sure he was wrong.

But the idea that Gingrich’s pledge is contrary to fact because other politicians have failed to keep the same promise is beyond ludicrous. Did the AP in 2008 run a “fact check” rebutting Barack Obama’s promise to enact “heath-care reform” because so many previous presidents have futilely attempted to do so?

[snip]

It would not have been hard to recast this story to make it journalistically sound, though it would have entailed a bit more work. Gearan could have begun by reporting the Gingrich promise, then put it in historical context by noting the record of other presidents. The arguments for why such a move is a bad idea could have been aired, too–not in Gearan’s own voice, but by interviewing diplomats or scholars who think it’s a bad idea. It might also have been worthwhile to seek a follow-up interview with Gingrich or a spokesman to ask why voters should expect him to keep this promise when past presidents haven’t.

Instead, the AP published what is essentially an opinion piece, and a rather lazy one at that. If we may borrow Gingrich’s favorite word, to label that a “fact check”–as if it had some greater authority than actual reporting–is fundamentally dishonest.

Taranto is correct that, if one actually cares about objective, verifiable facts, AP’s conduct was “fundamentally dishonest.”  I wonder, though, if he makes the mistakes of thinking that liberals actually care.  (I suspect that Taranto is to savvy to make this thinking error.)  To liberals, the only truth is ideology, and if one cares about ideological truth, “facts” are merely tools to be manipulated.

I am not about to call the AP or American journalists Nazis, because they’re not, but I can’t help but be struck by the way the parallelism between their belief that ultimate, ideological truth trumps verifiable fact, on the one hand, and Goebbels’ understanding of the propaganda necessary to bring German citizens to Naziism, on the other hand:

That propaganda is good which leads to success, and that is bad which fails to achieve the desired result.  It is not propaganda’s task to be intelligent, its task is to lead to success.

Or, as he more famously said:

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.

Given that too many American journalists (both as individuals and as institutions) seem comfortably wedded to a Goebbel-esque view of truth, is it any surprise that they rate so low in the public’s estimation when it comes to assessing their ethics and honesty?  While poll results show that they still rank above lawyers, lobbyists, politicians and used car salesmen, the margin is awfully small.

(As an aside, looking at that “ethics by profession” chart to which I just linked, is it any surprise that the military ranks so high?  It isn’t to me.  For years, we’ve watched our military put itself on the front line to defend America, both her people and her ethos.  We know that when our troops take that oath — a serious oath that America’s First Sergeant analyzes beautifully here — they mean it.  They say it, they mean it, they do it.)

As I mentioned above, journalists do manage to cling to an honesty position slightly above that held by politicians.  That’s not a surprise either.  After all, Eric Holder, who is both a lawyer and a politician, managed to state perfectly the Leftist (and, incidentally, the narcissist) approach to truth and lying:

Still unsatisfied, Sensenbrenner followed up again. “Tell me what the difference is between lying and misleading Congress in this context?,” he asked Holder.

Holder responded that whether a statement is a lie or misleading comment depends on what the person making it is thinking at the time.

“If you want to have this legal conversation, it all has to do with your state of mind, and whether or not you had the requisite intent to come up with something that can be considered perjury or a lie,” Holder said.

I know that what Holder meant to say is that ones ability to tell the truth is necessarily going to be limited by the universe of factual information available. If my boss has kept me sequestered from his side job as a drug dealer, I am telling the truth when I testify that he doesn’t deal drugs. However, Holder’s phrasing, which focuses on the speaker’s intent, rather than his fund of knowledge, manages to be the perfect Leftist/narcissist paradigm: truth is what you need to say at the moment.

Holder’s not the only lying politician.  I’ve repeatedly document at this blog Obama’s Leftist/narcissist approach to the truth.  (See here, here, here, here and here, for example.)  Three years into Obama’s presidency, more and more people are catching on to Obama’s distant relationship to stubborn facts.  Indeed, an audience member at a well-attended military briefing (upwards of 200 people), told me that a civilian who attended the briefing interrupted the speaker to say, “C’mon, don’t give me the Barack Obama answer, give me the real answer.”  The room’s response was telling:  silence, followed by titters.  No anger, no hissing, no booing.  Admittedly, given Obama’s approach to the military, it’s not surprising that a military venue wouldn’t take umbrage at this statement, but it is nevertheless impressive that Obama’s very name is becoming synonymous with lies.

Obama, of course, didn’t help his case with his recent Osawatomie speech, which was a truly magnificent example of ignorance, ideological spin, and blatant factual dishonesty.  Needless to say, the media didn’t fact-check the speech, since it advanced their ideology.  The fact that it was ideologically true satisfied the media, despite the egregiously wrong objective facts.

I’ll wrap this post up with two more points, one about a really big lie and one about a surprising truth.

The big lie:  climate change.  I’m not sure I need to say more.  We now know from a huge onrush of facts — actual, objective facts, such as the Climategate emails — that those advancing AGW have been systematically fudging data, omitting data, asserting falsehoods, substituting beliefs for facts, and stifling dissenting voices.  (Only today, Charlie Martin notes that our own DOJ is doing things that might be construed as stifling dissent, but he hastens to add — with a rigid adherence to truth — that the facts are currently too unclear to make that conclusion.)  Indeed, the whole environmental movement, not just the AGW side of it, has abandoned itself to an orgy of ideology, one that sees scientists, who should have a rigid adherence to scientific truth based upon verifiable data, happily abandoning data in favor of ideology.  (This post offers a two-fer, with both a corrupt scientist and a corrupt attorney.)

And here’s the surprising truth:  Newt’s courageous willingness to state that the Palestinians are an “invented” people.

Discussing the origin of the state of Israel in the 1940s, Mr. Gingrich said: “Remember, there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. And I think that we’ve had an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs and were historically part of the Arab community. And they had a chance to go many places.”

On objective facts, Newt is completely, absolutely right.  That the Palestinians have since coalesced into a coherent group identity separate from other Arabs is true too, but it doesn’t erase the truth of Newt’s statement.  Newt’s statement matters because understanding the truth behind Palestinian identity makes it clear that it is Goebbel-esque propaganda about the Palestinian’s imaginary past that places the Israelis in an unflattering, and dishonest, light, as apartheid colonialist land-grabbers:

One might ask why this should matter: Regardless of when either Jews or Palestinians arrived, millions of both live east of the Jordan River​ today, and that’s the reality policymakers must deal with. But in truth, it matters greatly – because Western support for Palestinian negotiating positions stems largely from the widespread view that Palestinians are an indigenous people whose land was stolen by Western (Jewish) interlopers.

Current demographic realities would probably suffice to convince most Westerners that a Palestinian state should exist. But the same can’t be said of Western insistence that its border must be the 1967 lines, with adjustments possible only via one-to-one territorial swaps and only if the Palestinians consent. Indeed, just 44 years ago, UN Resolution 242 was carefully crafted to reflect a Western consensus that the 1967 lines shouldn’t be the permanent border. So what changed?

The answer lies in the phrase routinely used to describe the West Bank and Gaza today, but which almost nobody used back in 1967, when Israel captured these areas from Jordan and Egypt, respectively: “occupied Palestinian territory.” This phrase implies that the land belongs to the Palestinians and always has. And if so, why shouldn’t Israel be required to give back every last inch?

But if the land hasn’t belonged to the Palestinians “from time immemorial” – if instead, both Palestinians and Jews comprise small indigenous populations augmented by massive immigration in the 19th and 20th centuries, with the West Bank and Gaza becoming fully Judenrein only after Jordan and Egypt occupied them in 1948 – then there’s no inherent reason why the border must necessarily be in one place rather than another. To create two states, a border must be drawn somewhere, but that “somewhere” should depend only on the parties’ current needs – just as the drafters of Resolution 242 envisioned.

Newt’s willingness to state truths is one of the more attractive things about his candidacy.  He can be unfiltered, which is worrisome, but that unfiltered quality is what allows him to trample over established Leftist political orthodoxies, and make statements that cut through the cognitive dissonance that affects anybody who lives in a world dominated by a statist media.  I hope that, whether Newt makes it to the White House or not, he sticks with this honesty.

Right now, Newt’s refreshing factual honesty makes me think of the first half of the I Love Lucy episode in which Lucy, in inveterate liar, makes a bet that she can tell the truth for 24 hours.  One of the funniest scenes in TV history has Lucy sitting down for a bridge game with three of her friends and abandoning all her social lies in favor of the truth, as she sees it, about their clothes, their children, their decor, and their personalities.  (Sadly, I can’t find a clip of that on the internet.)  In a lesson Newt would do well to heed, when Lucy gets the chance to achieve her heart’s desire — a show business gig — truth goes out the window, landing her in a hair-raising, but naturally quite funny, situation.

There’s nothing new about lying.  It comes with our lizard brains and can serve a very useful purpose, whether one is a spy, a prisoner of war, or a husband whose wife asks “Does this dress make me look fat?”  However, in the world of politics and journalism, lies have vast and significant consequences for nations.  When those who need to tell the truth routinely lie, not just to save face, but to advance underlying, and often disguised, ideological goals, we as a nation are in great danger.  Thankfully, we have an alternative media now that helps suss out the truth, but it only benefits those who willingly pay attention.

Dying certitudes

On the heels of Bookworm’s excellent, hard-hitting essay on narcissism comes a nice coda on man-made global warming that is emblematic of Bookworm’s theme.

Because of major discoveries involving the interaction of atmospheric aerosols and cosmic radiation, “climate models will have to be revised,” stated a communication from CERN that promises to completely overhaul scientific understanding of climate science. CERN is the European center for nuclear research. These discoveries are important, because they deal directly with the dynamics of the overwhelmingly dominant atmospheric greenhouse gas, water.

The complete article by Andrew Orlowski, in the U.K.’s The Register, is found here complete with supporting links:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/08/25/cern_cloud_cosmic_ray_first_results/

These recent discoveries regarding cosmic ray effects on climate pretty much render obsolete all previous climate prognostications by self-proclaimed experts. To use an analogy, it is as if these experts had tried to authoritatively explain the inner workings of an automobile by studiously ignoring the engine.

“When (leading CERN physicist) Dr. Jasper Kirkby first described the theory in 1998, he suggested cosmic rays “will probably be able to account for somewhere between a half and the whole of the increase in the Earth’s temperature that we have seen in the last century,” continues The Register‘s Orlowski.

The underlying theme here, however, is not cosmic rays or global warming, it is hubris. It is the self-righteous certainty and self-proclaimed wisdom with which scientists, politicians, media ideologues and demagogues could claim sufficent knowledge and command to engineer huge changes to society on the basis of their own self-righteous objectives. Their narcissism, in other words. In their world, their view was revealed truth, all else was anathema. We ourselves discovered some of this self-proclaimed righteousness from previous commentators on this blog. This is exactly the “fatal conceit” of which Friedrich Hayek.

http://www.amazon.com/Fatal-Conceit-Errors-Socialism-Collected/dp/0226320669

A qualifier is in order: I am in no way suggesting that the work by CERN is definitive. It does, however, illustrate how little we know and that, when pursuing any form of scientific inquiry, humility is a stellar virtue. No doubt, many more blockbuster revelations await us regarding  the complexities of climate dynamics, but we the main point is that we fallible humans are in no position and will never be in a position to mandate radical changes to either the globe or humanity on the basis of perceived knowledge. The believe otherwise is not just unwise, it is, forgive the term, stupid.

The CERN  announcement is emblematic of what is happening today, as we see other revealed truths such as socialism, Keynesianism, multiculturalism, peak oil, environmentalism and government central planning collapse under the repeated poundings of 2x4s called “reality”. It’s a painful process but, hopefully, it signals the birth pangs of a more practically-focused world to come, where the humility, skepticism and spirit of inquiry bequeathed by our Western philosophical traditions can once more hold sway over ignorance, dogma and ideology. Given the $-trillions of resources and human capital that have been wasted to date in pursuit of climate science and the other myths and illusions of our time, this would be a good thing.

We desperately need it.

The Dark World of Krugman

We have an odd family friend. Fundamentally, she is a nice person and sports a very unconventional view of the world that occasionally emotes great insights into the human condition. She has a major flaw, however, one that she admits as a character flaw: she is an unabashed hater. Despite her husband, kids and friends being conservative, she targets her venom at conservatives. We who love her nonetheless, understand: “conservatives” remind her of her father, a redneck sort of fellow who was a very bad father. She blames him for her mother’s suicide, which occurred when she was very young.

 

If you dig deep into people’s psyches, you can often find the reason for visceral hatreds and, usually but not always, they have to do with childhood experiences. As Oprah (an abused child) famously remarked, some people seem incapable of shedding their childhood baggage.

 

So, what is it with Paul Krugman, once a brilliant economist and now a dark troll fulminating ugly thoughts under stone bridges in Liberal-land? This article, contributed by Peter Foster in Canada’s Financial Post, does a brilliant dissection of Krugman’s visceral hatreds and the warped views he espouses on economics, conservatives and climate change (some of which have been repeated rote on this blog by certain participants).

http://opinion.financialpost.com/2011/06/28/peter-foster-the-demons-in-krugmanomics/

 

What the article doesn’t do is explain from whence do Paul Krugman’s demons arise. What happened to cause his descent into madness?

 

 

Known Unknowns in Climate Research

I know that we have been round and round on climate issues in our always edifying Bookworm Room discussions, so here is an interesting lecture that I found at our friends at Flopping Aces.

The lecturer, Prof. Courtillot, professor of geophysics at the University of Paris, does an excellent job summarizing both historical data and new understandings of how climate “works”. Note, first and foremost, his refreshing humility (and that of other true scientists) in how they approach new information and refuse to draw conclusions based on herd dynamics.

There is a lot of technical detail included that can be skipped over without losing the thrust of the presentation.

If nothing else, this presentation should help reinforce how much we don’t know about our planet, its climate and the sun.

This is how real science is done.

The nuclear plant problem in Japan — and the problem with ideologues in science *UPDATED*

Mr. Bookworm, New York Times reader, was telling the children that there was a total catastrophe in Japan, with the Japanese and the world exposed to the possibility of massive radiation poisoning.  I calmed the children’s fears by telling them that the paper could be right, but it could be wrong.  First, newspapers sell well on disasters, so it’s in their interest to play them up.  Second, I said, it’s doubtful that most of the reporters have any understanding of nuclear technology, so they’re winging it.  (What I didn’t add is that, almost certainly, the Times’ reporters have as their only “experts” anti-nuclear activists.  There’s nothing wrong with getting the activists’ point of view, but the reporting would be more honest if (a) the Times revealed their biases and (b) the Times talked to some people on the other, non-hysterical side.)  The children, bless their hearts, said “Mom, we know that!”

Anyway, if you want a view from the other side, written in the clearest English I’ve ever seen in a science-based article, read Charlie Martin on the nuclear meltdown and the media.  Whether or not you agree with him, he writes so well, you will certainly understand him.

By the way, this is a great place to tell a story I’ve had in my brain for several days.  I have to digress a teeny bit to set the story up, so please bear with me.

I own a Kindle.  I love the convenience (no more suitcases full of paperbacks when I travel), but I find the book pricing off-putting.  With the choice of free books at the library, or cheap books at Goodwill, I’m not thrilled about spending $10.00 on a book.  What makes it worse in my mind is that, while hardback books are marked down about 40-50% (hence the $10 or $12 Kindle pricing), paperback books are priced down only about 5%.  I’m too cheap to buy a full-priced paperback at the best of times (preferring to gamble that I’ll find something I like at Goodwill or the library), so I’m certainly not going to buy the same book for a mere 5% discount.

So I’ve got a Kindle, but I’m unwilling to buy the books.  The answer is to get the free books that show up on Kindle.  Sometimes, there are real finds there.  For example, if a reputable author is publishing the most recent book in a long-running series, the publishers will put out the first book for free, as a loss leader, to entice people.  That works for me and I have been enticed.  There are also free classics (or low priced, 99 cent, classics).  There are a lot of books that are pure garbage and are free because no one will or should pay any other price.  And there are books that see a publisher just trying to get titles out there and gin up some interest.

That last e-publishing approach is how I ended up with a free copy of Sherry Seethaler’s Lies, Damned Lies, and Science: How to Sort through the Noise around Global Warming, the Latest Health Claims, and Other Scientific Controversies. The publisher’s blurb promises that the book will help savvy news consumers understand the science in the news:

Every day, there’s a new scientific or health controversy. And every day, it seems as if there’s a new study that contradicts what you heard yesterday. What’s really going on? Who’s telling the truth? Who’s faking it? What do scientists actually know—and what don’t they know? This book will help you cut through the confusion and make sense of it all—even if you’ve never taken a science class! Leading science educator and journalist Dr. Sherry Seethaler reveals how science and health research really work…how to put scientific claims in context and understand the real tradeoffs involved…tell quality research from junk science…discover when someone’s deliberately trying to fool you…and find more information you can trust! Nobody knows what new controversy will erupt tomorrow. But one thing’s for certain: With this book, you’ll know how to figure out the real deal—and make smarter decisions for yourself and your family!

Watch the news, and you’ll be overwhelmed by snippets of badly presented science: information that’s incomplete, confusing, contradictory, out-of-context, wrong, or flat-out dishonest. Defend yourself! Dr. Sherry Seethaler gives you a powerful arsenal of tools for making sense of science. You’ll learn how to think more sensibly about everything from mad cow disease to global warming–and how to make better science-related decisions in both your personal life and as a citizen.

You’ll begin by understanding how science really works and progresses, and why scientists sometimes disagree. Seethaler helps you assess the possible biases of those who make scientific claims in the media, and place scientific issues in appropriate context, so you can intelligently assess tradeoffs. You’ll learn how to determine whether a new study is really meaningful; uncover the difference between cause and coincidence; figure out which statistics mean something, and which don’t.

Seethaler reveals the tricks self-interested players use to mislead and confuse you, and points you to sources of information you can actually rely upon. Her many examples range from genetic engineering of crops to drug treatments for depression…but the techniques she teaches you will be invaluable in understanding any scientific controversy, in any area of science or health.

^ Potions, plots, and personalities: How science progresses, and why scientists sometimes disagree
^ Is it “cause” or merely coincidence? How to tell compelling evidence from a “good story”
^ There are always tradeoffs: How to put science and health claims in context, and understand their real implications
^ All the tricks experts use to fool you, exposed! How to recognize lies, “truthiness,” or pseudo-expertise

At first, the book seemed to live up to its promises.  Seethaler explained that it was entirely legitimate for scientists to disagree, because science is not as black-and-white as elementary, middle and high schools imply.  Different techniques, different equipment, and different starting hypotheses can all result in differing outcomes that are open to legitimate dispute.  Seethaler explains that, quite often, conventional wisdom has proven to be plain wrong.  The nature of hypotheses is that they are tested, and then tested again, especially as new information and technology come along.

Seethaler also talks about modeling.  The way in which a scientist sets up a model — the parameters he chooses, the information he enters, and the calculations he applies — may dramatically affect the conclusions he reaches.

In light of all these variables, Seethaler acknowledges that, as she says, “scientific revolutions really happen.”  Conventional wisdom frequently gets turned on its head.  Few things are fixed in the world of true science.  What’s important, she says, is that “disputes are not a sign of science gone wrong.”  Instead, they represent scientists dealing with all of the problems, and variables, and information, and scientific development described above.  This can mean, Seethaler writes, that one person, one outlier, can turn conventional wisdom on its head.

After all this, you’d think, wouldn’t you, that Seethaler would carry these conclusions through to the subject of anthropogenic global warming, right?  Oh, so wrong.  Turning her back on everything she wrote in the preceding chapters, Seethaler has this to say on global warming, in the context of a warning the newspapers like to play up conflict, but don’t really understand scientific methodology:

Another problem is what sociologist Christopher Tourmey referred to as pseudo-symmetry of scientific authority — the media sometimes presents controversy as if scientists are evenly divided bewteen two points of view, when one of the points of view is held by a large majority of the scientific community.  For example, until recently, the media often gave equal time and space to the arguments for and against humans as the cause of global climate change.  Surveys of individual climate scientists have indicated that there is discord among scientists on the issue, but that the majority of scientists agree that humans are altering global climate.  One anlaysis of a decade of research papers on global climate change found no papers that disputed human impacts on global climate.  Also, all but one of the major scientific organizations in the United States whose members have expertise relevant to global climate change, more than a dozen organizations in all, have issued statements acknowledging that human activities are altering the earth’s climate.  The American Association of Petroleum Geologists dissents.  Therefore, there is a general consensus within the scientific community that humans are causing global climate change.  While it is legitimate to explore the arguments agianst the consensus position on global climate change, it is misleading for the media to present the issue so as to give the impression that the scientific community is evenly divided on the matter.

Have you read any media in the last ten years that “gave equal time and space to the arguments for and against humans as the cause of global climate change?”  I haven’t.  With the exception of Fox, the media has monolithically climbed aboard the AGW bandwagon, and ignored or discredited any contrary voices.

Also, considering that Seethaler spent pages and pages and pages warning against assuming that science is fixed, explaining how different approaches to models and hypotheses can affect scientific conclusions, and applauding outliers who challenged (correctly) institutional consensus, do you find it as peculiar as I do to have her suddenly announce that AGW is definitely proven and that any voices to the contrary should be ignored?  It also doesn’t seem to have occurred to her that, in this monolithic intellectual climate, the absence of published papers challenging AGW may arise from the fact that the challengers are being barred at the gates.

I deleted Seethaler’s book from my Kindle at this point.  The woman is a foolish ideologue, incapable of practicing what she preaches.  She’s also probably pretty typical of the science writers and “experts” bloviating about the very real nuclear problems in Japan.  That is, there are real problems, and real risks, but never trust an ideologue to be honest with you when it comes to the conclusions to be drawn from the facts.

UPDATE:  Another good example of the media’s gross (and, I suspect, intentional) scientific ignorance.

Superstorms coming?

Are we entering the next ice age?

One of the foundations of scientific inquiry is skepticism. Contrary to what some believe, science is not about consensus but about leaving all doors of inquiry open to all possibilities. It takes only one point of evidence to disprove an entire theory. Progress in science has occurred largely because of breakthrough insights made by individuals, not committees. Another aspect of science is that it is the study of realities much bigger than ourselves: to think otherwise is hubris. We use science to understand the world around us, we use technology to try and manipulate such knowledge to our benefit. However, not all things are within our control. Third, scientific progress depends upon skepticism. Skepticism is good, because it constantly puts conventional wisdom to the test. Conformity to conventional wisdom doesn’t equate with progress.

This is why I present the link below (h/t, http://qando.net/). It provides a different perspective on our future and explanations for many of the weather and climate phenomena we have been witnessing. It provides a very dark and troubling alternative vision of our future. The points it raises are ones of which scientists were already well aware during my university days many years ago. Thus do I know that it contains at least a kernel of truth.

The thrust of this linked article is that we are about to lose the earth’s magnetic shield, resulting in massive and destructive climate disruption that could be civilization altering and plunge us into the next ice age.

http://salem-news.com/articles/february042011/global-superstorms-ta.php

Scared yet?

Well, this article just appeared in an MSM publication published for people who are likely to be only vaguely aware of its scientific merits. Many of the points made in the article appear logically presented and certainly square with information of which I am already aware. However, the article lacks the rigorous detail needed for me to make any judgment of its merits. It is sensational and manipulative. The citations include publications that I consider of highly dubious quality (Scientific American, National Geographic). It does not cite countervailing points of view (which I can be sure exist).

Do I believe the conclusions implied in this article? Nope. Do I disbelieve them? Nope.

I will thus file away the information as evidence of an alternate hypothesis to explain the weather and climate changes that we have observed in our world. A third hypothesis to anthropogenic climate change is solar cycle theory, which also predicts a period of protracted global cooling). It’s a hypothesis that demands a healthy skepticism rather than a frantic reaction. However, it does broaden the terrain of debate on climate change.

I shall file it under “interesting, possibly true”.

Thank Goodness! The parodies of the 10:10 “no pressure” mini video have begun *UPDATED*

Unless you’ve been on a camping trip in a remote wilderness for the past few days, you’ve heard about the video that a British climate change advocacy group prepared.  The short video takes you through a variety of settings (classrooms, workplaces, sports fields), in which people are encouraged to diminish their carbon footprint and, importantly, assured that there is “no pressure” on them to cooperate.  Then after a show of hands of those who willingly respect mother Gaia, those who don’t get with the program are blown up, with an accompanying shower of blood and guts.  Here’s the video, but I do warn you not to watch it around small children or people who don’t like gross and disturbing images:

Isn’t that first scene, in the classroom, with the remaining kids covered in gore, a comedy classic?

Oh!  Didn’t I tell you?  This is meant to be humorous.  In the words of the group that created the video:

With climate change becoming increasingly threatening, and decreasingly talked about in the media, we wanted to find a way to bring this critical issue back into the headlines whilst making people laugh. We were therefore delighted when Britain’s leading comedy writer, Richard Curtis – writer of Blackadder, Four Weddings, Notting Hill and many others – agreed to write a short film for the 10:10 campaign. Many people found the resulting film extremely funny, but unfortunately some didn’t and we sincerely apologise to anybody we have offended.

Clearly, if you’re offended, it’s because you’re a puritanical stick in the mud.  Because so many people had fun with this video, and because it makes such an excellent point about the “little things” we can do to save Gaia, the group is going to keep the video up on the internet (although off their website).  This way, the ones who “get the joke” can still have a jolly good laugh.  I’m sure the group is also grateful for the free advertising they’re getting from sites such as mine which, through criticism, are helping it go viral.  After all, no publicity is bad publicity, right?

In answer to my own question, I think this group has, rather uniquely, run counter to that little advertising truism.  Here’s my question for you:  Having seen the video, do you now want to rush out and bow to your carbon neutral overlords?  Do you think any normal, decent person would?

I don’t know about you, but a video like this, with it’s jokey threats of extreme violence, makes me want to make an extra drive around the block every time I come home, just to be spiteful.  I won’t, of course.  I’m not a wasteful person, and I enjoy having a clean environment as much as the next person.  I do that, though, not because of the green police, but because I believe the Biblical injunction that I am the earth’s steward.  I really don’t like the threat implicit in that “funny” video and do have the urge to push back.

Speaking of push-back, it’s already begun.  The video below is the first one I’ve found.  Rather than pushing back directly against the AGW fascists, its creators recognize some remarkable similarities between one type of religious fanatic and another:

(By the way, I recommend Ed Morissey’s post at Hot Air for a good round up of intelligent and moral takes on the video, including Ed’s own.  Not surprisingly, he includes The Anchoress, who sees much larger spiritual implications here.)

UPDATE:  Here’s Zombie’s take, which as always, makes for enjoyable reading.  Ed Driscoll also has a great post on the video.  Be sure to watch the Mastercard commercial you’ll find there.  Then you can debate with me whether that smug, supercilious, condescending child made that commercial even more gross and horrifying than the 10:10 spot.

After graduation, 32 students attempted suicide

I have to say that this video actually made me giggle, because having all of Al Gore’s doom-and-gloom compressed to less than 2 minutes, and then playing Pomp & Circumstance in the background, is more like a cartoon than anything else.

Then again I didn’t have to listen to the whole blather, and I wasn’t a student who has spent my life being indoctrinated by the Chicken Little crowd.  For those students, watching this pompous boor go on and on about the imminent end of the world must have been a most disheartening end to their educational experience:

You get the message:  Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

Hat tip:  Hot Air

Does algore have any tone other than hysterical?

I truly intended to fisk algore’s op-ed at the New York Times, in which he explains why global warming is still so important that the world should continue its task of turning him into the first green-based billionaire.  I was foiled, however, by the fact that I couldn’t step giggling as I read his hysterical hyperbole.  I mean, really, just look at this opening paragraph (italicized emphasis mine, although I’m sure algore heard that shrill emphasis in his own head as he wrote):

It would be an enormous relief if the recent attacks on the science of global warming actually indicated that we do not face an unimaginable calamity requiring large-scale, preventive measures to protect human civilization as we know it.

The hysteria continues unabated in subsequent paragraphs:

Of course, we would still need to deal with the national security risks of our growing dependence on a global oil market dominated by dwindling reserves in the most unstable region of the world, and the economic risks of sending hundreds of billions of dollars a year overseas in return for that oil.

[snip]

We would no longer have to worry that our grandchildren would one day look back on us as a criminal generation that had selfishly and blithely ignored clear warnings that their fate was in our hands.

[snip]

But unfortunately, the reality of the danger we are courting has not been changed by the discovery of at least two mistakes in the thousands of pages of careful scientific work over the last 22 years by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In fact, the crisis is still growing because we are continuing to dump 90 million tons of global-warming pollution every 24 hours into the atmosphere — as if it were an open sewer.

And so it goes, with one overwrought opining after another.  What’s incredibly funny, though, is algore’s attempt to defuse the collapsing science.  Taking it like a man, he admits that there are just a few problems:

It is true that the climate panel published a flawed overestimate of the melting rate of debris-covered glaciers in the Himalayas, and used information about the Netherlands provided to it by the government, which was later found to be partly inaccurate. In addition, e-mail messages stolen from the University of East Anglia in Britain showed that scientists besieged by an onslaught of hostile, make-work demands from climate skeptics may not have adequately followed the requirements of the British freedom of information law.

But fear not, fair climate panic maidens — mistakes happen.  Fortunately for those whose life’s goal is to line algore’s pockets, consensus still exists notwithstanding these “little” mistakes completely undermining the AGW theory.  Read what algore writes carefully.  He offers no science to support AGW despite the mistakes.  Instead, he simply assures us that there is consensus and, to justify his assurance, reiterates, boot-strap style his existing, and increasingly discredited, theories:

But the scientific enterprise will never be completely free of mistakes. What is important is that the overwhelming consensus on global warming remains unchanged. It is also worth noting that the panel’s scientists — acting in good faith on the best information then available to them — probably underestimated the range of sea-level rise in this century, the speed with which the Arctic ice cap is disappearing and the speed with which some of the large glacial flows in Antarctica and Greenland are melting and racing to the sea.

[snip]

Here is what scientists have found is happening to our climate: man-made global-warming pollution traps heat from the sun and increases atmospheric temperatures. These pollutants — especially carbon dioxide — have been increasing rapidly with the growth in the burning of coal, oil, natural gas and forests, and temperatures have increased over the same period. Almost all of the ice-covered regions of the Earth are melting — and seas are rising. Hurricanes are predicted to grow stronger and more destructive, though their number is expected to decrease. Droughts are getting longer and deeper in many mid-continent regions, even as the severity of flooding increases. The seasonal predictability of rainfall and temperatures is being disrupted, posing serious threats to agriculture. The rate of species extinction is accelerating to dangerous levels.

I don’t know about you, but it seems tacky that algore ignores the icky little fact that earth’s climate has changed constantly for the past, oh, about 3 billion years.  Or maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that an incredibly wooden guy has a hard time comprehending a fluid situation.  (And yes, that’s a nasty, ad hominem attack on my part, but there’s no getting past the fact that, when you think algore, you don’t think of a flexible mind).

Suspecting that the ordinary American, after the past couple of years of cold winters and cooling global temperatures, might be inclined to discount his ravings, algore assures us that you should definitely discount the information of your own eyes and senses, not to mention all those newspaper articles you’ve been reading:

Because these and other effects of global warming are distributed globally, they are difficult to identify and interpret in any particular location. For example, January was seen as unusually cold in much of the United States. Yet from a global perspective, it was the second-hottest January since surface temperatures were first measured 130 years ago.

Algore’s reasoning, which seems to say that actual weather proves nothing, should come as a surprise to everyone who has noticed that, no matter the weather — heat, cold, snow, ice, sun, hurricane, even earthquakes — we are constantly assured that everything results from AGW.  So contrary to algore’s statement, one can apparently tell what’s going on just by looking out the window, as long as one always attributes what one sees to anthropogenic global warming.

If you feel the yen to giggle and be dismayed periodically, please take the time to read algore’s hysterical diatribe refuting collapsing science with algore-approved conclusions.  As for me, I’m simply grateful that the whole edifice is collapsing.  As the earth’s stewards, it is our responsibility, and it works to our benefit, to keep our environment as clean and beautiful as possible.  Doing so, however, does not require mass wealth transfer to algore and other Third World Nations (that word “other” is deliberate there), it does not involve upending our economy and lifestyle, and it does not require destroying our national security needs.  Instead, it simply requires us to use our American ingenuity to make things better, rather than to use our algore induced paranoia to make things insane.

The importance of remembering that scientists are not mathematicians

I’ve been reading Fermat’s Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World’s Greatest Mathematical Problem, by Simon Singh.  Normally, I’d shy away from a book like this — after all, it’s about math! — but it was required reading for my book club, and it’s proven to be delightful.  To the extent there is math in it, Singh masterfully simplifies complex ideas so that even math illiterates like myself can understand them.  Indeed, I suspect that, if I’d had a teach like Singh when I was in school, one who teaches why something matters, or how it came to be, rather than just demanding that one memorize meaningless formulas, I might not be the math illiterate (and math phobe) that I am today.

But my ruminations about books and math aren’t actually why I’m writing right now.  Instead, I wanted to comment on the different types of thinking in the sciences.  I’m ashamed to admit that I never really sat down and analyzed the different intellectual approaches people on the “science side” use.  To me, the world was binary:  science mind (including math) and not science mind (including me).  Sure I knew that engineers could be a bit obsessive compulsive, but it was a trait I admired, so I never thought more about it.

What never occurred to me, however, is that specific branches of science demand different approaches to finality — or, as it’s called in math, “absolute proof.”  Let me have Singh describe this concept.  I’ll quote at some length from his text at pages 20-22 (in the hard copy version 0f his book):

The story of Fermat’s Last Theorem revolves around the search for a missing proof. Mathematical proof is far more powerful and rigorous than the concept of proof we casually use in our everyday language, or even the concept of proof as understood by physicists or chemists. The difference between scientific and mathematical proof is both subtle and profound, and is crucial to understanding the work of every mathematician since Pythagoras. The idea of a classic mathematical proof is to begin with a series of axioms, statements that can be assumed to be true or that are self-evidently true. Then by arguing logically, step by step, it is possible to arrive at a conclusion. If the axioms are correct and the logic is flawless, then the conclusion will be undeniable. This conclusion is the theorem.

Mathematical theorems rely on this logical process and once proven are true until the end of time. Mathematical proofs are absolute. To appreciate the value of such proofs they should be compared with their poor relation, the scientific proof. In science a hypothesis is put forward to explain a physical phenomenon. If observations of the phenomenon compare well with the hypothesis, this becomes evidence in favor of it. Furthermore, the hypothesis should not merely describe a known phenomenon, but predict the results of other phenomena. Experiments may be performed to test the predictive power of the hypothesis, and if it continues to be successful then this is even more evidence to back the hypothesis. Eventually the amount of evidence may be overwhelming and the hypothesis becomes accepted as a scientific theory.

However, the scientific theory can never be proved to the same absolute level of a mathematical theorem: It is merely considered highly likely based on the evidence available. So-called scientific proof relies on observation and perception, both of which are fallible and provide only approximations to the truth. As Bertrand Russell pointed out: “Although this may seem a paradox, all exact science is dominated by the idea of approximation.” Even the most widely accepted scientific “proofs” always have a small element of doubt in them. Sometimes this doubt diminishes, although it never disappears completely, while on other occasions the proof is ultimately shown to be wrong. This weakness in scientific proof leads to scientific revolutions in which one theory that was assumed to be correct is replaced with another theory, which may be merely a refinement of the original theory, or which may be a complete contradiction.

I know that, having read that, you’re thinking exactly what I’m thinking:  Global Warming.  You’re thinking of falsified data, of non-vanishing glaciers, of robust polar bear populations, and of the other cascade of data showing wrong-headed theories supported by bad, careless, or out-and-out fraudulent “science.”  Credulous people, ideologically driven people, and people who confuse scientific theory with the absolute proof of a mathematical theorem were willing to accept that “the science is settled.”  But unlike math, which can see a theorem being finally and definitively proved, real science is never settled, and anyone who claims that must be a liar.

Certainly, we know that some scientific theories are more stable than others, and we’ve built large parts of our world on that.  But when people purport to take the dynamics of the sun, the moon, the earth and predict the climate outcome years or even decades in advance, and then it turns out that they’ve done so entirely without regard to the sun, the moon, and the earth, you know you’ve got mysticism and faith, and nothing remotely approaching science, let alone the sureties of math.

I’ll leave you with a joke, also from Singh’s book, although it originally comes from Ian Stewart, in his book Concepts of Modern Mathematics:

An astronomer, a physicist, and a mathematician (it is said) were holidaying in Scotland.  Glancing from a train window, they observed a black sheep in the middle of a field.  “How interesting,” observed the astronomer, “all Scottish sheep are black!”  To which the physicist responded, “No, no!  Some Scottish sheep are black!”  The mathematician gazed heavenward in supplication, and then intoned, “In Scotland there exists at least one field, containing at least one sheep, at least one side of which is black.”

Since you’re all much cleverer than I at jokes and bon mots, I’ll leave you to imagine what the AGW “scientist” would have said upon seeing that sheep in that field.

Mark Steyn on the way in which climate change makes hucksters rich, empowers governments, and turns people into pawns

This is one of Steyn’s best, and that’s saying a lot.  Here are my two favorite parts from his column on Copenhagen:

[T]he Prince of Wales is simultaneously heir to the thrones of Britain, Australian, Tuvalu, and a bunch of other countries. His Royal Highness was also in Copenhagen last week, telling delegates that there were now only seven years left to save the planet. Prince Charles is so famously concerned about the environment that he’s known as the Green Prince. Just for the record, his annual carbon footprint is 2,601 tons. The carbon footprint of an average Briton (i.e., all those wasteful, consumerist, environmentally unsustainable deadbeats) is 11 tons. To get him to Copenhagen to deliver his speech, His Highness was flown in by one of the Royal Air Force’s fleet of VIP jets from the Royal Squadron. Total carbon emissions: 6.4 tons. In other words, the Green Prince used up seven months’ of an average Brit’s annual carbon footprint on one short flight to give one mediocre speech of alarmist boilerplate.

But relax, it’s all cool, because he offsets! According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the prince will be investing in exciting new green initiatives. “Investing” as in “using his own money,” you mean? Not exactly. Apparently, it will be taxpayers’ money. So he’ll “offset” the cost of using up seven months of an average peasant’s carbon footprint on one flight by taking the peasant’s money and tossing it down some sinkhole. No wonder he feels so virtuous. Oh, don’t worry, though. He does have to pay a personal penalty for the sin of flying by private jet: 70 pounds. Which is the cost of about six new trees, or rather less than the bill for parking at Heathrow would have been.

[snip]

Remember that story a couple of weeks ago about how Danish prostitutes were offering free sex to Copenhagen delegates for the duration of the conference? I initially assumed it was just an amusing marketing cash-in by savvy Nordic strumpets. But no, the local “sex workers’ union” Sexarbejdernes Interesseorganisation was responding to the municipal government’s campaign to discourage attendees from partaking of prostitutes. The City of Copenhagen distributed cards to every hotel room showing a lady of the evening at a seedy street corner over the slogan “BE SUSTAINABLE: Don’t Buy Sex.”

“Be sustainable”? Prostitution happens to be legal in Copenhagen, and the “sex workers” were understandably peeved at being lumped into the same category of planet-wreckers as Big Oil, car manufacturers, travel agents, and other notorious pariahs. So Big Sex decided they weren’t going to take it lying down. Yet, in an odd way, that municipal postcard gets to the heart of what’s going on: Government can — and will — use a “sustainable” environment as a pretext for anything that tickles its fancy. All ambitious projects — Communism, the new Caliphate — have global ambitions, but, when the globe itself is the cover for those ambitions, freeborn citizens should beware.

Read the whole thing here.

What’s even more amazing is that Steyn manages to be so good without mentioning Hugo Chavez!

Russians say CRU ignored relevant data to falsify outcomes

Some things go out with a whimper.  Global warming may well be going out with a bang.  The latest news from Russia is the claim that the global warming scientists didn’t just have faulty code and highly massaged numbers.  It turns out that they also messed with the underlying data, falsifying it or ignoring data that didn’t match their political goals:

Climategate just got much, much bigger. And all thanks to the Russians who, with perfect timing, dropped this bombshell just as the world’s leaders are gathering in Copenhagen to discuss ways of carbon-taxing us all back to the dark ages.

Feast your eyes on this news release from Rionovosta, via the Ria Novosti agency, posted on Icecap. (Hat Tip: Richard North)

A discussion of the November 2009 Climatic Research Unit e-mail hacking incident, referred to by some sources as “Climategate,” continues against the backdrop of the abortive UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen (COP15) discussing alternative agreements to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol that aimed to combat global warming.

The incident involved an e-mail server used by the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich, East England. Unknown persons stole and anonymously disseminated thousands of e-mails and other documents dealing with the global-warming issue made over the course of 13 years.

Controversy arose after various allegations were made including that climate scientists colluded to withhold scientific evidence and manipulated data to make the case for global warming appear stronger than it is.

Climategate has already affected Russia. On Tuesday, the Moscow-based Institute of Economic Analysis (IEA) issued a report claiming that the Hadley Center for Climate Change based at the headquarters of the British Meteorological Office in Exeter (Devon, England) had probably tampered with Russian-climate data.

The IEA believes that Russian meteorological-station data did not substantiate the anthropogenic global-warming theory. Analysts say Russian meteorological stations cover most of the country’s territory, and that the Hadley Center had used data submitted by only 25% of such stations in its reports. Over 40% of Russian territory was not included in global-temperature calculations for some other reasons, rather than the lack of meteorological stations and observations.

The data of stations located in areas not listed in the Hadley Climate Research Unit Temperature UK (HadCRUT) survey often does not show any substantial warming in the late 20th century and the early 21st century.

The HadCRUT database includes specific stations providing incomplete data and highlighting the global-warming process, rather than stations facilitating uninterrupted observations.

On the whole, climatologists use the incomplete findings of meteorological stations far more often than those providing complete observations.

IEA analysts say climatologists use the data of stations located in large populated centers that are influenced by the urban-warming effect more frequently than the correct data of remote stations.

The scale of global warming was exaggerated due to temperature distortions for Russia accounting for 12.5% of the world’s land mass. The IEA said it was necessary to recalculate all global-temperature data in order to assess the scale of such exaggeration.

Global-temperature data will have to be modified if similar climate-date procedures have been used from other national data because the calculations used by COP15 analysts, including financial calculations, are based on HadCRUT research.

Whoops! Can we now return to our normal lives and stop the hysteria?

Normal lives should include trying to generate as little pollution as possible, treasuring the earth’s resources, and generally being good stewards. Normal lives should not include the breakdown of the American economy nor should it continue to render America incapable of relying on its own energy resources to serve its own energy needs. It is insane that we’re funding oil drilling in Brazil, buying oil from Saudi Arabia, and letting Iran continue to get rich, all the while sitting on our own massive reserves. We should be drilling, although we should do so with discipline and a focus on the cleanest, least environmentally harmful methods possible.

Obami and Congressional Democrats no longer function rationally

There is something deeply, deeply wrong with the Obami and the Congressional Democrats.  Or maybe not.  Maybe they are just all too human and are living out that saying that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  In this case, the corruption isn’t necessarily monetary (although that’s there too).  Instead, it’s a rot of the soul; an inability to confront the reality of actual governance, and a desire, instead, to live in a fantasy world.

As I read the stories about Dems lately, I keep thinking of Nero.  When Nero first become Emperor in Rome (54 A.D.), he was a golden boy.  He was handsome and charming.  Initially, he decreased corruption and increased freedom in Rome.  Eventually, however, unfettered power led Nero to unfettered acts of insane cruelty and murder.  There was nothing to stop him, so he became unstoppable.  (Leaders ranging from Caligula, to Mao, to Mugabe, to Kim Jong-Il are also nices example of the dangers of having unlimited power vested in a single person/group.)

I see the same thing going on in Washington.  The Democrats control completely both the executive and legislative branches.  Procedurally, there is nothing to stop them.  What should be stopping them, of course, is harsh reality:  the unyielding laws of economics, the increased arrogance of our enemies, and the growing disaffection of the voters.  But the Democrats, drunk on unlimited power, cannot stop themselves.  Indeed, our arrogant president, despite having accomplished nothing but emboldening our enemies, cheerfully awarded himself a B+ in governance.  There’s delusion for you.

Despite the fact that the voters are turning against government health care in droves, the Democrats are bound and determined to pass it.  Despite the fact that more and more evidence is appearing to show that the climate change “science” is corrupt, politically-driven voodoo, the Democrats insist on destroying our economy to meet illusive and impossible climate goals.  And most recently, despite the fact that a respected bipartisan economic organization is stating that the debt path the Democrats are pursuing is unsustainable, the Democrats won’t be stopped there either:

After passing a $447 billion spending bill Sunday, Congress faces a Jan. 1 deadline to raise the ceiling on the national debt even as a bipartisan expert panel warned Monday that the United States faces a potential funding crisis.

The Peterson-Pew Commission, composed of former members of Congress and budget experts, warned that the federal budget has reached a danger zone much faster than anticipated even a year ago. Like a homeowner swimming in mortgage debt, the government’s bills are growing faster than its income, to the point where overseas investors holding U.S. debt could be spooked at any moment.

“The long-run future is upon us,” said former Clinton administration budget chief Alice Rivlin. Bush administration debt, rapidly escalating health care costs, a deep recession that has slashed tax revenue, and record government spending this year on a $787 billion stimulus and a $700 billion bank rescue have, she said, “raised the debt very, very rapidly, to nervous-making levels.”

Still, Democratic leaders in Congress and the Obama administration contend that joblessness is the more important problem now. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has promised to pass a new jobs package this week as part of the $626 billion defense bill, including an extension of benefits for the unemployed and new infrastructure spending.

Obama economic adviser Christina Romer said it would be “suicidal” to cut spending with the unemployment rate above 10 percent. Economic growth is the best remedy to the deficit, they argue.

When it comes to the deficit, the closest analogy I can think of is a deranged physician who gives a person with a bad flu a toxic doses of chemotherapy on the principle that the chemotherapy will cure what ails him.   The best thing for the patient would be to fall ill rapidly, go to another doctor, and immediately have the medicine withdrawn.  The worst thing would be for the steady drip of the chemo to debilitate the patient so slowly that, by the time he realizes what’s wrong, it’s too late — he’s as good as dead.

The same holds true for us.  Because of the Democrats’ hubris, the American people are swiftly wising up to the appalling damage the Democrats are inflicting on our nation, both economically and in terms of national security.  That’s good because, in theory, that means we’re like the patient who got a second opinion quickly, rather than dying slowly.  However, the election process means that, even though we know we’re being grossly mistreated, we can’t do anything about it until November 2010.  This question, then, is whether we can survive that long without dying first.