Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas

Not my hamster Harry.
(I will note this is not a picture of my own hamster, who would not put up with such shenanigans.)

I'm a little early, but if I don't get around to posting anything in the next couple of days I wanted to wish all my readers a Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Storyline I Wish I Could Write More Often

Every once in awhile the ACLU rocks. This is one of those times. First the background courtesy of the St. Louis Post Dispatch:

Jun Xiao became so frustrated with his organic chemistry professor at St. Louis Community College at Meramec that he dropped the class — and sent e-mails inviting his classmates to do the same.

He never mentioned his current professor's name or directly criticized her in the e-mails, though several websites such as allow college students around the nation to comment on their professors by name.

So he was surprised when he received a letter from the college a couple of days later that said he had been placed on disciplinary probation for the 2007-08 academic year for violating the student handbook, including sections about hazing, obstruction or disruption of teaching, and disorderly conduct and defamation.

Now a national advocacy group that defends the legal, religious or free-speech rights of students is rallying behind Xiao's cause. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has written Paul Pai, president of the Meramec campus, saying that the college's actions ignore the constitutional guarantees of free speech and due process. The group has asked that the college rescind the probation and remove all mention of it from Xiao's record.

Pat Crowe, a college spokeswoman, said that there is another side to the story but that student privacy laws prevented her from commenting now. She said the school expects to review the case at a hearing next month.

What dastardly crime had Xiao committed?

Xiao, who has a doctorate from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, has done post-doctoral research in neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia University and Washington University.

He enrolled at the Meramec campus this fall to take pre-medical courses so he can apply to medical school.

He said he received A's in the four other science classes he took this semester. But he said he dropped his organic chemistry class because he did not like the professor, who could not be reached for comment.

Like him, that professor is a non-native English speaker and was sometimes difficult to understand in class, he said. He approached her a number of times to clarify the material, including during her office hours, but he said she was impatient.

On Oct. 10, he sent an e-mail to his classmates saying that he was dropping the class and hoped to get an "A" in the same class in the spring.

"P.S." he wrote, "Is there someone who wants to retake the class with me?"

In the second e-mail, sent Oct. 21, he told his classmates about other professors with good reputations who also teach organic chemistry.

He also pointed out that St. Charles Community College offers the same class for about the same price. He added that a friend of his said the professor there is nice, patient, a native English speaker, and has a good reputation. He noted the school's scholarship opportunities and suggested carpooling.

That constitutes "hazing, obstruction or disruption of teaching, and disorderly conduct and defamation"???? Ohmigod! A student has an opinion! Someone has very dangerously taught this fellow to think for himself. The horror.

The good folks at FIRE got on the case the other day. Today it is the ACLU coming in with guns ablazin' via this letter:

Dr. Xiao continues to be punished merely for speaking without any reasonable notice or opportunity to be heard. The harm to him is exacerbated as this matter drags on without final resolution. We reiterate the concerns expressed to you by FIRE regarding the serious civil liberties implications from your actions. We hope that you will give this matter the serious and immediate attention it deserves. On behalf of Dr. Xiao, we demand that you take immediate action to rescind the probation imposed upon him and expunge the disciplinary action from his records.

While it is our desire to resolve this matter in an amicable manner, we are willing to consider alternatives if you do not take immediate action to insure that Dr. Xiao’s constitutional rights are safeguarded and vindicated.

Finally. An ACLU threat I can get behind.

I just wish this wasn't such a "man bites dog" story.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Valuable Information Being Withheld From The American People

No, the government is in no way involved: Lynne Spears' Book Delayed Indefinitely

Lynne Spears' book about parenting has been delayed indefinitely, her publisher said Wednesday. Lindsey Nobles, a spokeswoman for Christian book publisher Thomas Nelson Inc., said Wednesday that the memoir by the mother of Britney Spears was put on hold last week.

She declined to comment on whether the delay was connected to the revelation that Spears' 16-year-old daughter, Jamie Lynn, is pregnant.

"I can tell you that we are standing behind Lynne and supporting her decision to be with her family at this time," Nobles told The Associated Press.

"Pop Culture Mom: A Real Story of Fame and Family in a Tabloid World" was initially scheduled for release May 11, Mother's Day.

I cannot think of a more important work for any family with young children. I certainly want to know what Lynne did so I can do the opposite.

By George, I Think They've Got It

First Things now has a blog, and they are getting the quick hitting snarky post down: Oliver Twist, Call Your Office

Here’s a tale of woe. According to this story in the American Lawyer, lawyers in Manhattan’s elite law firms—the kinds of places where partners make $1 million a year and more—are depressed because they don’t make as much money as financial professionals. Alas, it’s true. Top investment bankers have long made a multiple of what top lawyers make, and private equity types and hedge fund managers can make considerably more than that.

Apparently the differences are becoming undeniably apparent in social settings. The article describes a fund-raising auction at a private school in Manhattan: when a home-cooked meal by a famous chef was being auctioned off, the doctors dropped out of the bidding at $7,000, the lawyers at $15,000, and then the bankers, private equity and hedge fund crowd got serious and fought it out among themselves, with the winning bid coming in at $40,000.

“‘Face it, we have no status,’ says an Am Law 100 [i.e., one of the one hundred most profitable law firms in the U.S.] partner of the pecking order at his sons’ private school. ‘We go to these school functions, and this well-heeled group looks right through you. They won’t give you the time of day. You’re just one step ahead of the doorman.’”

Indeed, there is no misery so small that it cannot fill the human heart.


Now all they need to do is allow comments.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Algore Our Über-Lord

Once again Spiked gets it just right:

As he flies around the world to tell people that they should fly less, or organises rock-star extravaganzas to tell the masses they should live more meekly, some sceptics have asked: ‘Who the hell does Al Gore think he is?’

Well, now we know. He seems to think he is the spokesman for the human species, the legitimate representative of every human being who has ever lived or who will ever live in the future. He thinks he and his supporters ‘control the destiny of all generations to come’, a boast that even the worst dictators in history never dared to make. Al Gore is an enviro-tyrant with delusions of global domination.

In his speech at the climate change conference in Bali last week, Gore expressed some deeply anti-democratic views. He told an audience of 1,000, including NGOs, green campaigners and journalists, as well as UN representatives and government officials, that they should ‘feel a sense of exhilaration that we are the people alive at a moment in history when we can make all the difference’. He suggested the audience should not be worried about being seen as a minority, a tiny brave group that recognises the ‘planetary emergency’ facing Earth and its inhabitants, but rather should consider it a ‘privilege to be alive at a moment when a relatively small group of people could control the destiny of all generations to come’

Actually, in some ways Algore is a doctrinaire Leninist in his belief in himself as the head of a "vanguard party" which will lead the great unwashed into a glorious future. Of course that requires the elimination of the recalcitrant, which in practice has generally meant most everyone alive above a certain age. (Older folks don't take too kindly to the necessary re-education.)

Gore opened his speech in Bali with the words: ‘We, the human species…’ Nothing better sums up his megalomaniacal delusions than those four words. American governments have claimed to speak for ‘We, the people’ (some with more right and legitimacy than others). Outside of the democratic process, tyrannical leaders have often claimed to represent ‘the nation’ or ‘the masses’: apparently they have some special emotional insight into what the people need and desire. But no one has ever claimed to represent the human species before.

Unlike those who merely represent a people or a nation, the self-described representatives of the human species, that ‘relatively small group’ of privileged warriors for planetkind, have a blank cheque to do and say as they please. Legitimate representatives of the people are dependent on the people’s support: they are confined and directed by the electoral process. Representatives of the nation are restricted by borders: their writ extends only to the ends of their sovereign territory. But a wannabe representative of the human species like Al Gore recognises no democratic mandate or territorial border, because he thinks he represents every human being who has ever existed, who exists now, and who will exist in the future: the species itself. Gore’s mandate is timeless and borderless, and it most certainly does not require the rubber-stamping of the mass of the population, that relatively large group of people who apparently do not appreciate the urgency of today’s ‘planetary emergency’.

Just imagine what authority you can command when anyone who wants to disagree with you can be labelled as an "enemy of the species." Presumably, anyone who disagree with Algore can be treated as if they were a rabid dog and be "put down" in the name of the common good. After all as Gore has repeatedly said, "The debate is over." Everything must then be sacrificed to the nexus of environmentalism and action; everything including rationality, personal autonomy, political liberty, and freedom of conscience.

It's a brave new world indeed.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Paths Of Least (Ideological) Resistence

I always like it when I come across something that frames an issue in a different way:

But more interesting to me are the surprising consequences of the ideological bias of our universities. The bias has done a great deal to help staff the think tanks of the Right. Sinecures of academia unavailable, a conservative intellectual is practically forced to find a public voice. The same holds for students. A liberal student is on ideological welfare. The entire university is set up to support his or her causes. The conservatively-minded students must be entrepreneurial. If they don’t start their own organizations, then their positions go unheard.

Thus the law of unintended consequences. It seems rather obvious to me that the vibrant organizational and intellectual potency of contemporary conservatism is largely due to the transparent and relentless Leftism of the academy. Deny a podium to smart, motivated folks who hold positions consistently preferred by more than 50% of American voters, and they will find other outlets. And furthermore, removed from the relative insularity and softening wealth of the contemporary university, those same conservative intellectuals will need to be nimble, articulate, and energetic in order to survive.

It does seem to me that students of a left leaning persuasion are increasingly unable to articulate their positions well. That may be precisely because they are so unchallenged in the university environment. I would no longer dare to forcefully take on a leftist student's predisposed notions because they lack the tools to defend themselves and I would just come across as a bully. I fall back on my ability to cajole even though I realize that that comes across as a lack of seriousness. My hope is I can get to know some students well enough that I can be more forthright and direct with them.

It's quite sad when you think about it. As a result I try not to.

What Is A Forecast?

Just following up on my earlier post of the dissembling and games being played with hurricane "forecasts" by insurance industry lapdog RMS. Basically, Roger Pielke asked RMS if they are standing by their forecast of a 40% increase on insured losses due to hurricanes for the time period 2006-2010, after both 2006 and 2007 resulted in below average losses. From Prometheus:

Yes, we do stand by that forecast, although I should point out that we update the forecast every year, so the 2005 forecast (for 2006-2010) is now 2 years out of date. Apart from questions of forecast accuracy, there's no particular reason for any of our users to use the 2005 forecast at this point (that would be like using a weather forecast from last week).

Think about this for a second. The RMS "forecast" was used by insurance companies as an excuse to raise the rates consumers pay for coverage, because they called for a 40% increase in damages. The original RMS forecast has, to this point, been off by a factor of 20. Actually losses have been 95% less than RMS forecast. But RMS claims, that's okay, because they now have a new forecast which raises losses by another 40%! Based on what exactly? Because the old forecasts have proven so inaccurate?????

The "logic" presented is that we need not evaluate the old forecasts because new forecasts are available. What garbage. You can only evaluate any methodology based upon past results. You make a prediction and then you compare that prediction to actual events. Period. But, using RMS' rules, their methodology can never be evaluated because they will always be issuing new "forecasts." Baloney. A forecast for the period 2006-2010 is not "out of date," because we haven't reached 2010 yet. Period. A new forecast for the dates 2008-2012 doesn't take the place of the older forecast because it covers a different period of time. It is a forecast of something else.

RMS' response wasn't complete nonsense, however:

One curious property of the loss distribution is that it is very skewed. As a result the real losses would be expected to fall below the mean in most years. This is compensated for in the average by occasional years with very high losses.

Yes, that is obviously the case. Two years of low loss totals does not mean you can say there is a "trend" towards less loss occurring generally, any more than a Katrina type event can allow you to make the opposite conclusion. The point is RMS has to be committed to the 2006-2010 forecast win, lose or draw. It seems unlikely that they will be able to make the case for their 40% increase, barring another Katrina. If their "forecast" fails and RMS and the insurance industry don't take that into account, then they are engaged in nothing but an attempt to bilk their customers.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Dan Fogelberg 1951-2007

AP Reports:

Dan Fogelberg, the singer and songwriter whose hits "Leader of the Band" and "Same Old Lang Syne" helped define the soft-rock era, died Sunday at his home in Maine after battling prostate cancer. He was 56.

His death was announced Sunday on the singer's Web site.

"Dan left us this morning at 6 a.m. He fought a brave battle with cancer and died peacefully at home in Maine with his wife, Jean, at his side," it read. "His strength, dignity and grace in the face of the daunting challenges of this disease were an inspiration to all who knew him."

Fogelberg discovered he had advanced prostate cancer in 2004. In a statement then, he thanked fans for their support: "It is truly overwhelming and humbling to realize how many lives my music has touched so deeply all these years. ... I thank you from the very depths of my heart."

Fogelberg's music was powerful in its simplicity. He didn't rely on the volume of his voice to convey his emotions; instead, they came through in the soft, tender delivery and his poignant lyrics. Songs like "Same Old Lang Syne" -- in which a man reminisces after meeting an old girlfriend by chance during the holidays -- became classics not only because of his performance, but also for the engaging storyline.

Fogelberg's heyday was in the 1970s and early '80s, when he scored several platinum and multiplatinum records fueled by such hits as "The Power of Gold" and "Leader of the Band," a touching tribute he wrote to his father, a bandleader.

This saddens me. I recently bought a new turntable and had been enjoying the LP's I still had that never got replaced by the equivalent CD. One I listened to just the other day was Fogelberg's Windows and Walls. I hadn't heard the album in maybe 12 years but I found I still had it in the memory banks. That speaks to Fogelberg's quality as a songwriter. I preferred his folk/pop leaning material to his more western/country stuff, and my pop music tastes drifted in another direction over the years. But he was a large part of my teenage music listening, and I remember fondly seeing him play a great show at the Fox Theater in St. Louis.

Rest in peace.

The One Step, Two Step

It is a simple plan. It only requires two steps: A) Destroy the economy, and B) Impose a neo-fascist state to do away with messy democratic governance. The only trouble they are having is, usually, you need a destroyed economy BEFORE you can impose the fascist state, and today you need the fascist state before you can destroy the economy.

It's a quandary.

Transport policy-makers should start preparing now for a dramatic reduction in motorised travel that will be brought about by carbon rationing, one of the country's leading environmental thinkers told LTT this week.

"Just start reading the runes because what's going to happen is the demand for road, rail and air travel is going to start falling away just as soon as we have rationing," says Mayer Hillman in an interview with the magazine.

Hillman, senior fellow emeritus at the Policy Studies Institute, says carbon rationing is the only way to ensure that the world avoids the worst effects of climate change. And he says that the problems caused by burning fossil fuels are so serious that governments might have to implement rationing against the will of the people.

"When the chips are down I think democracy is a less important goal than is the protection of the planet from the death of life, the end of life on it," he says. "This has got to be imposed on people whether they like it or not."

You know what advocates of liberal democratic theory (you know, folks such as John Locke, Thomas Jefferson and the like) advise in such circumstances? Armed resistance. No wonder these new fascists are even trying to ban kitchen knives in the UK.

H/T Blue Crab Boulevard

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Left Wing Imperialism

Spiked has a great piece written by Nathalie Rothschild on what is really behind the western drive to give the third world "appropriate technology" instead of modern technology. It's time to unwrap ‘Oxfam Unwrapped’

Volunteers from the youth education charity WORLDwrite went to Ghana to make a series of short documentaries investigating life at the receiving end of debt relief and development initiatives. One of their films, Keeping Africa Small, which premieres at the Rich Mix cinema in London next week, challenges ‘Western “feelgood” shopping for goats and hoes’. The film crew found that the friends and strangers they met in Ghana had aspirations that are way out of line with Western development programmes that champion sustainable development and small ways of coping with poverty.

The Ghanaians interviewed in WORLDwrite’s film dream of living in concrete houses instead of mud huts; of owning washing machines instead of having to trek to a bore hole several times a day to fetch water. They want motor-powered fishing boats instead of wooden canoes, which have to be dragged to the shore by hand. They want university education, not lessons in how to use a condom; and they prefer having regular work in factories to the hand-to-mouth existence offered by NGOs’ micro-credit schemes. They do not, as the charity Water Aid argues, think that extracting water by rope pumps from hand-dug wells constitutes ‘appropriate technology’. And they do not want a goat for Christmas, thanks very much.

Yet development organisations working in the areas that WORLDwrite visited don’t seem to offer things that locals actually want. A resident in the village of Anamole received three grass-cutters from Action Aid. No, a grass-cutter is not the latest electrical lawnmower; it’s a cane rat, a rodent that is commonly reared in West Africa and which eats long grass. As one man points out in Keeping Africa Small, this is not a serious development initiative; it is a ‘pet programme’. NGOs are clearly not heeding the Anamole village chief’s call; in the film, chief Nii Ayitey Tetteh Okpe II says ‘people must come up with what they think the best solutions are for themselves so that, at the end of the day, they can take their destiny into their own hands’.

But that would work against the left's new rallying call: Human dignity for me, not for thee.

Iranians! Get Down Tonight!

Got this from the BBC:

Lady In Red star Chris De Burgh will be the first Western artist to play a concert in Iran since the country's 1979 revolution, according to reports.

Hmm...De Burgh's signature song might cause some problems. I better "tidy it up" for him.

The Lady In The Red Burqa

The lady in the red burqa
Is not dancing with me,
Cheek to cheek.
There's nobody here.
Not even me.
But I hardly know
What I'm even singin' bout.....Oooo
I'll never forget
The way I didn't see you tonight. its mullah-proofed.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Right Blogosphere Sure Doesn't Like Huckabee...

...and maybe with good reason.

I haven't said much about the presidential candidates so far. I've been thinking about them more as a political scientist rather than someone looking for a campaign to support. I've felt Huckabee comes off pretty well on television, especially in one-on-one interviews, compared to the rest of the GOP field. Sure, it is form over substance, but that is just what political scientists do.

However, the more I learn the more it seems Huckabee has less to offer substance wise than any other GOP candidate...Ron Paul included.

That would make three GOP candidates I will have deemed unacceptable: Huckabee, Paul and McCain. (I think McCain is lukewarm on the First Amendment, which makes him a non-starter in my book.)

As for the rest? Well, let's just say no one thrills me.

It's Wrong I Enjoy This As Much As I Do

Look For The Union Label

And we'll have fun, fun, fun:

A video of a Gucci- and Louis Vuitton-clad politician attacking capitalism then struggling to explain how his luxurious clothes square with his socialist beliefs has become an instant YouTube hit in Venezuela.

Venezuelan Interior Minister Pedro Carreno was momentarily at a loss for words when a journalist interrupted his speech and asked if it was not contradictory to criticize capitalism while wearing Gucci shoes and a tie made by Parisian luxury goods maker Louis Vuitton.

"I don't, uh ... I ... of course," stammered Carreno on Tuesday before regaining his composure. "It's not contradictory because I would like Venezuela to produce all this so I could buy stuff produced here instead of 95 percent of what we consume being imported."

That's right. Remember the golden era (1946-1987) when all the Hollywood starlets walked down the red carpet of the Academy Awards sporting the latest fashions from Minsk, Moscow and Leningrad. "It's what everyone is wearing at Yalta this season!" was the watchword of high style.

Ah.....the good old days.

Who needs Paris or Milan when you have the gulag?

Maybe Gore Will Have To "Disappear" These Scientists...

...after all, he already said they didn't exist. Then who is writing letters like this?

Dec. 13, 2007

His Excellency Ban Ki-Moon

Secretary-General, United Nations

New York, N.Y.

Dear Mr. Secretary-General,

Re: UN climate conference taking the World in entirely the wrong direction

It is not possible to stop climate change, a natural phenomenon that has affected humanity through the ages. Geological, archaeological, oral and written histories all attest to the dramatic challenges posed to past societies from unanticipated changes in temperature, precipitation, winds and other climatic variables. We therefore need to equip nations to become resilient to the full range of these natural phenomena by promoting economic growth and wealth generation.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued increasingly alarming conclusions about the climatic influences of human-produced carbon dioxide (CO2), a non-polluting gas that is essential to plant photosynthesis. While we understand the evidence that has led them to view CO2 emissions as harmful, the IPCC's conclusions are quite inadequate as justification for implementing policies that will markedly diminish future prosperity. In particular, it is not established that it is possible to significantly alter global climate through cuts in human greenhouse gas emissions. On top of which, because attempts to cut emissions will slow development, the current UN approach of CO2 reduction is likely to increase human suffering from future climate change rather than to decrease it.

The IPCC Summaries for Policy Makers are the most widely read IPCC reports amongst politicians and non-scientists and are the basis for most climate change policy formulation. Yet these Summaries are prepared by a relatively small core writing team with the final drafts approved line-by-line by ­government ­representatives. The great ­majority of IPCC contributors and ­reviewers, and the tens of thousands of other scientists who are qualified to comment on these matters, are not involved in the preparation of these documents. The summaries therefore cannot properly be represented as a consensus view among experts.

Contrary to the impression left by the IPCC Summary reports:

  • Recent observations of phenomena such as glacial retreats, sea-level rise and the migration of temperature-sensitive species are not evidence for abnormal climate change, for none of these changes has been shown to lie outside the bounds of known natural variability.
  • The average rate of warming of 0.1 to 0. 2 degrees Celsius per decade recorded by satellites during the late 20th century falls within known natural rates of warming and cooling over the last 10,000 years.
  • Leading scientists, including some senior IPCC representatives, acknowledge that today's computer models cannot predict climate. Consistent with this, and despite computer projections of temperature rises, there has been no net global warming since 1998. That the current temperature plateau follows a late 20th-century period of warming is consistent with the continuation today of natural multi-decadal or millennial climate cycling.

In stark contrast to the often repeated assertion that the science of climate change is "settled," significant new peer-reviewed research has cast even more doubt on the hypothesis of dangerous human-caused global warming. But because IPCC working groups were generally instructed (see to consider work published only through May, 2005, these important findings are not included in their reports; i.e., the IPCC assessment reports are already materially outdated.

The UN climate conference in Bali has been planned to take the world along a path of severe CO2 restrictions, ignoring the lessons apparent from the failure of the Kyoto Protocol, the chaotic nature of the European CO2 trading market, and the ineffectiveness of other costly initiatives to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Balanced cost/benefit analyses provide no support for the introduction of global measures to cap and reduce energy consumption for the purpose of restricting CO2 emissions. Furthermore, it is irrational to apply the "precautionary principle" because many scientists recognize that both climatic coolings and warmings are realistic possibilities over the medium-term future.

The current UN focus on "fighting climate change," as illustrated in the Nov. 27 UN Development Programme's Human Development Report, is distracting governments from adapting to the threat of inevitable natural climate changes, whatever forms they may take. National and international planning for such changes is needed, with a focus on helping our most vulnerable citizens adapt to conditions that lie ahead. Attempts to prevent global climate change from occurring are ultimately futile, and constitute a tragic misallocation of resources that would be better spent on humanity's real and pressing problems.

Yours faithfully,

Oh I'll leave you hanging a second here. Who could have possibly written such a statement?? They must all be working for the oil industry, right?? Or the pseudo-fascist AEI, right?? It's gotta be!!!! Al Gore said so!!!!!!!!!!

Don Aitkin, PhD, Professor, social scientist, retired vice-chancellor and president, University of Canberra, Australia

William J.R. Alexander, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Civil and Biosystems Engineering, University of Pretoria, South Africa; Member, UN Scientific and Technical Committee on Natural Disasters, 1994-2000

Bjarne Andresen, PhD, physicist, Professor, The Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Geoff L. Austin, PhD, FNZIP, FRSNZ, Professor, Dept. of Physics, University of Auckland, New Zealand

Timothy F. Ball, PhD, environmental consultant, former climatology professor, University of Winnipeg

Ernst-Georg Beck, Dipl. Biol., Biologist, Merian-Schule Freiburg, Germany

Sonja A. Boehmer-Christiansen, PhD, Reader, Dept. of Geography, Hull University, U.K.; Editor, Energy & Environment journal

Chris C. Borel, PhD, remote sensing scientist, U.S.

Reid A. Bryson, PhD, DSc, DEngr, UNE P. Global 500 Laureate; Senior Scientist, Center for Climatic Research; Emeritus Professor of Meteorology, of Geography, and of Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin

Dan Carruthers, M.Sc., wildlife biology consultant specializing in animal ecology in Arctic and Subarctic regions, Alberta

R.M. Carter, PhD, Professor, Marine Geophysical Laboratory, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia

Ian D. Clark, PhD, Professor, isotope hydrogeology and paleoclimatology, Dept. of Earth Sciences, University of Ottawa

Richard S. Courtney, PhD, climate and atmospheric science consultant, IPCC expert reviewer, U.K.

Willem de Lange, PhD, Dept. of Earth and Ocean Sciences, School of Science and Engineering, Waikato University, New Zealand

David Deming, PhD (Geophysics), Associate Professor, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Oklahoma

Freeman J. Dyson, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton, N.J.

Don J. Easterbrook, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Geology, Western Washington University

Lance Endersbee, Emeritus Professor, former dean of Engineering and Pro-Vice Chancellor of Monasy University, Australia

Hans Erren, Doctorandus, geophysicist and climate specialist, Sittard, The Netherlands

Robert H. Essenhigh, PhD, E.G. Bailey Professor of Energy Conversion, Dept. of Mechanical Engineering, The Ohio State University

Christopher Essex, PhD, Professor of Applied Mathematics and Associate Director of the Program in Theoretical Physics, University of Western Ontario

David Evans, PhD, mathematician, carbon accountant, computer and electrical engineer and head of 'Science Speak,' Australia

William Evans, PhD, editor, American Midland Naturalist; Dept. of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame

Stewart Franks, PhD, Professor, Hydroclimatologist, University of Newcastle, Australia

R. W. Gauldie, PhD, Research Professor, Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, School of Ocean Earth Sciences and Technology, University of Hawai'i at Manoa

Lee C. Gerhard, PhD, Senior Scientist Emeritus, University of Kansas; former director and state geologist, Kansas Geological Survey

Gerhard Gerlich, Professor for Mathematical and Theoretical Physics, Institut für Mathematische Physik der TU Braunschweig, Germany

Albrecht Glatzle, PhD, sc.agr., Agro-Biologist and Gerente ejecutivo, INTTAS, Paraguay

Fred Goldberg, PhD, Adjunct Professor, Royal Institute of Technology, Mechanical Engineering, Stockholm, Sweden

Vincent Gray, PhD, expert reviewer for the IPCC and author of The Greenhouse Delusion: A Critique of 'Climate Change 2001, Wellington, New Zealand

William M. Gray, Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University and Head of the Tropical Meteorology Project

Howard Hayden, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of Connecticut

Louis Hissink MSc, M.A.I.G., editor, AIG News, and consulting geologist, Perth, Western Australia

Craig D. Idso, PhD, Chairman, Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, Arizona

Sherwood B. Idso, PhD, President, Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, AZ, USA

Andrei Illarionov, PhD, Senior Fellow, Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity; founder and director of the Institute of Economic Analysis

Zbigniew Jaworowski, PhD, physicist, Chairman - Scientific Council of Central Laboratory for Radiological Protection, Warsaw, Poland

Jon Jenkins, PhD, MD, computer modelling - virology, NSW, Australia

Wibjorn Karlen, PhD, Emeritus Professor, Dept. of Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology, Stockholm University, Sweden

Olavi Kärner, Ph.D., Research Associate, Dept. of Atmospheric Physics, Institute of Astrophysics and Atmospheric Physics, Toravere, Estonia

Joel M. Kauffman, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry, University of the Sciences in Philadelphia

David Kear, PhD, FRSNZ, CMG, geologist, former Director-General of NZ Dept. of Scientific & Industrial Research, New Zealand

Madhav Khandekar, PhD, former research scientist, Environment Canada; editor, Climate Research (2003-05); editorial board member, Natural Hazards; IPCC expert reviewer 2007

William Kininmonth M.Sc., M.Admin., former head of Australia's National Climate Centre and a consultant to the World Meteorological organization's Commission for Climatology Jan J.H. Kop, MSc Ceng FICE (Civil Engineer Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers), Emeritus Prof. of Public Health Engineering, Technical University Delft, The Netherlands

Prof. R.W.J. Kouffeld, Emeritus Professor, Energy Conversion, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands

Salomon Kroonenberg, PhD, Professor, Dept. of Geotechnology, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands

Hans H.J. Labohm, PhD, economist, former advisor to the executive board, Clingendael Institute (The Netherlands Institute of International Relations), The Netherlands

The Rt. Hon. Lord Lawson of Blaby, economist; Chairman of the Central Europe Trust; former Chancellor of the Exchequer, U.K.

Douglas Leahey, PhD, meteorologist and air-quality consultant, Calgary

David R. Legates, PhD, Director, Center for Climatic Research, University of Delaware

Marcel Leroux, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Climatology, University of Lyon, France; former director of Laboratory of Climatology, Risks and Environment, CNRS

Bryan Leyland, International Climate Science Coalition, consultant and power engineer, Auckland, New Zealand

William Lindqvist, PhD, independent consulting geologist, Calif.

Richard S. Lindzen, PhD, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology, Dept. of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

A.J. Tom van Loon, PhD, Professor of Geology (Quaternary Geology), Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan, Poland; former President of the European Association of Science Editors

Anthony R. Lupo, PhD, Associate Professor of Atmospheric Science, Dept. of Soil, Environmental, and Atmospheric Science, University of Missouri-Columbia

Richard Mackey, PhD, Statistician, Australia

Horst Malberg, PhD, Professor for Meteorology and Climatology, Institut für Meteorologie, Berlin, Germany

John Maunder, PhD, Climatologist, former President of the Commission for Climatology of the World Meteorological Organization (89-97), New Zealand

Alister McFarquhar, PhD, international economy, Downing College, Cambridge, U.K.

Ross McKitrick, PhD, Associate Professor, Dept. of Economics, University of Guelph

John McLean, PhD, climate data analyst, computer scientist, Australia

Owen McShane, PhD, economist, head of the International Climate Science Coalition; Director, Centre for Resource Management Studies, New Zealand

Fred Michel, PhD, Director, Institute of Environmental Sciences and Associate Professor of Earth Sciences, Carleton University

Frank Milne, PhD, Professor, Dept. of Economics, Queen's University

Asmunn Moene, PhD, former head of the Forecasting Centre, Meteorological Institute, Norway

Alan Moran, PhD, Energy Economist, Director of the IPA's Deregulation Unit, Australia

Nils-Axel Morner, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Paleogeophysics & Geodynamics, Stockholm University, Sweden

Lubos Motl, PhD, Physicist, former Harvard string theorist, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic

John Nicol, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Physics, James Cook University, Australia

David Nowell, M.Sc., Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society, former chairman of the NATO Meteorological Group, Ottawa

James J. O'Brien, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Meteorology and Oceanography, Florida State University

Cliff Ollier, PhD, Professor Emeritus (Geology), Research Fellow, University of Western Australia

Garth W. Paltridge, PhD, atmospheric physicist, Emeritus Professor and former Director of the Institute of Antarctic and Southern Ocean Studies, University of Tasmania, Australia

R. Timothy Patterson, PhD, Professor, Dept. of Earth Sciences (paleoclimatology), Carleton University

Al Pekarek, PhD, Associate Professor of Geology, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Dept., St. Cloud State University, Minnesota

Ian Plimer, PhD, Professor of Geology, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Adelaide and Emeritus Professor of Earth Sciences, University of Melbourne, Australia

Brian Pratt, PhD, Professor of Geology, Sedimentology, University of Saskatchewan

Harry N.A. Priem, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Planetary Geology and Isotope Geophysics, Utrecht University; former director of the Netherlands Institute for Isotope Geosciences

Alex Robson, PhD, Economics, Australian National University Colonel F.P.M. Rombouts, Branch Chief - Safety, Quality and Environment, Royal Netherland Air Force

R.G. Roper, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Atmospheric Sciences, School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology

Arthur Rorsch, PhD, Emeritus Professor, Molecular Genetics, Leiden University, The Netherlands

Rob Scagel, M.Sc., forest microclimate specialist, principal consultant, Pacific Phytometric Consultants, B.C.

Tom V. Segalstad, PhD, (Geology/Geochemistry), Head of the Geological Museum and Associate Professor of Resource and Environmental Geology, University of Oslo, Norway

Gary D. Sharp, PhD, Center for Climate/Ocean Resources Study, Salinas, CA

S. Fred Singer, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia and former director Weather Satellite Service

L. Graham Smith, PhD, Associate Professor, Dept. of Geography, University of Western Ontario

Roy W. Spencer, PhD, climatologist, Principal Research Scientist, Earth System Science Center, The University of Alabama, Huntsville

Peter Stilbs, TeknD, Professor of Physical Chemistry, Research Leader, School of Chemical Science and Engineering, KTH (Royal Institute of Technology), Stockholm, Sweden

Hendrik Tennekes, PhD, former director of research, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute

Dick Thoenes, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Chemical Engineering, Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands

Brian G Valentine, PhD, PE (Chem.), Technology Manager - Industrial Energy Efficiency, Adjunct Associate Professor of Engineering Science, University of Maryland at College Park; Dept of Energy, Washington, DC

Gerrit J. van der Lingen, PhD, geologist and paleoclimatologist, climate change consultant, Geoscience Research and Investigations, New Zealand

Len Walker, PhD, Power Engineering, Australia

Edward J. Wegman, PhD, Department of Computational and Data Sciences, George Mason University, Virginia

Stephan Wilksch, PhD, Professor for Innovation and Technology Management, Production Management and Logistics, University of Technolgy and Economics Berlin, Germany

Boris Winterhalter, PhD, senior marine researcher (retired), Geological Survey of Finland, former professor in marine geology, University of Helsinki, Finland

David E. Wojick, PhD, P.Eng., energy consultant, Virginia

Raphael Wust, PhD, Lecturer, Marine Geology/Sedimentology, James Cook University, Australia

A. Zichichi, PhD, President of the World Federation of Scientists, Geneva, Switzerland; Emeritus Professor of Advanced Physics, University of Bologna, Italy

Notice: all of these scientist were taking exception not with one little facet of the known research, but with enough of the fairy tale the IPCC is selling to sign on to the entire letter above.

So the next time someone tries to sell you "consenus" and Anthropogenic Global Warming remind them that,

A) Science isn't done through consensus, and
B) Even if it was, the idea that "consensus" exists on AGW is a lie.

Stick that in your carbon emitting pipe and smoke it.

H/T to Blue Crab Boulevard

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Baseball's Dirty Laundry

Alright. I read the whole summary and the section where the players implicated by Kirk Radomski are enumerated. Here is my take:

I think Sen. Mitchell should be commended for doing such an even handed job in the report. It seems clear he collected a preponderance of evidence before releasing any names, and gave all of the accused a chance to tell their side of the story...if they had one.

It also becomes clear that the players from the start have been stonewalling, and not just in the sense of trying to keep illegal activities from coming to light. The players or, maybe more accurately, the Players Association have attempted to obfuscate and wrongdoing to the point that they no longer care of the integrity of the game is at stake.

For example:

  1. Of the 500 former players the Mitchell investigation attempted to interview, only 68 agreed to do so. That is 13.6%.

  2. The Players Association refused to supply any documentation on any matter whatsoever.

  3. They refused to make chief operating officer Gene Orza available to be interviewed. (Something to hide one has to presume.)

  4. They refused full access to the director of the current drug testing program.

  5. They sent memos "discouraging" players from cooperating with the investigation.

  6. They refused to respond to any of the specific allegations.

The report goes over all of the information on various drug related matters that have come out over the years, but there were still many things I had never heard before. For example, despite what I have heard and read numerous times, it turns out that MLB had banned all prescription drugs obtained without a valid prescription in 1971. So, while steroids were only banned by name in 1991, their use under the prior policy would have been against the rules of baseball as well.

The report seems to indicate that Gene Orza has been working to undermine the existing testing program by deliberating dragging out the mandated notification process for testing so that players could have the drugs cleared from their system by the time, several months later, when tests were actually adminstered. Mitchell is right that the oversight for the testing program should be removed from the control of the players and the owners and entrusted to an independent body. The incentives are too great for the players to "game" the system.

Of the players whose drug involvement was already open news in the press (Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, Jeremey Giambi, Armando Rios, Gary Sheffield, Benito Santiago, Marvin Bernard, Randy Velarde and Bobby Estalella) the only thing new I learned was that Estalella was taking the female fertility drug Clomid.

I don't think I wanted to know that.

Of the new(ish) names that have come to light because of the Radomski information, a lot of them are/were marginal major leaguers. You can understand the pressure they must have felt to try to hold onto or gain a spot on the 40 man roster. It's hard to get too pissed off about those guys. The big names?? Well, its hard not to want to spit at them.

The list: (Click here for Baseball-References links to all the players mentioned in the report.)

  1. Lenny Dykstra - Long rumored, now looking like a slam dunk.

  2. David Segui

  3. Larry Bigbie - Bigbie did say that members of the Cards clubhouse could hook him up with more drugs if he wanted them. That's real encouraging.

  4. Brian Roberts - This hurts. I always admired Roberts' game.

  5. Jack Cust - So much for that "breakout" season?

  6. Tim Laker

  7. Josias Manzanillo

  8. Todd Hundley

  9. Mark Carreon

  10. Hal Morris

  11. Matt Franco

  12. Rondell White - No wonder he breaks down whenever anyone looks at him.

  13. Roger Clemons - The biggest name and the proof that the steroids investigations are not just the "man" trying to keep Barry Bonds down.

  14. Andy Pettite - The biggest surprise to me.

  15. Chuck Knoblauch - You would have thought he would have focused more on the whole "throwing from second base to first base" problem first.

  16. Jason Grimsley

  17. Gregg Zaun

  18. David Justice - Didn't his career seem to just pop like an over-inflated balloon?

  19. F.P. Santangello

  20. Glenallen Hill

  21. Mo Vaughn - Didn't his career seem to just pop like an over-inflated balloon?

  22. Denny Neagle - Really?

  23. Ron Villone

  24. Ryan Franklin - Oops.

  25. Chris Donnels

  26. Todd Williams

  27. Phil Hiatt

  28. Todd Pratt

  29. Kevin Young

  30. Mike Lansing

  31. Cody McKay - Oops again.

  32. Kent Mercker

  33. Adam Piatt

  34. Miguel Tejada - Enjoy Houston. Enjoy.

  35. Jason Christiansen

  36. Mike Stanton

  37. Stephan Randolph

  38. Jerry Hairston, Jr.

  39. Paul Lo Duca - Too bad. Such an enjoyable player to watch.

  40. Adam Riggs

  41. Bart Miadich - Never heard of him.

  42. Fernando Vina - Will ESPN return his calls? Or will he wind up with Harold Reynolds in Baseball Tonight purgatory?

  43. Kevin Brown - He should ask for a refund.

  44. Eric Gagne - A theme is delevoping.

  45. Mike Bell

  46. Matt Herges

  47. Gary Bennett, Jr. - One more and we've hit the Cardinals backup catcher trifecta.

  48. Jim Parque

  49. Brendan Donnelly

  50. Chad Allen

  51. Jeff Williams

  52. Howie Clark

  53. Exavier "Nook" Logan - Always liked Nook. Damn.

The other thing I take from this report is the obvious pressure that the Player's Association has been putting on current and former players alike to keep their mouths shut. This makes the performace of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa before Congress more understandable. Not anymore right, but more understandable. I wonder if the media that has spent so much time crucifying McGwire and Sosa will visit the same venom on all the big names in the list above? Clemons and Pettite will face a shit-storm just because they are Yankees, but there are others.

I also wonder if all the pious sportwriters who claimed they could never vote for Rafael Palmeiro for the Hall of Fame will hold the Rocket to the same standard. We will see.

This is a awful day for baseball; an awful and absolutely necessary day.

Tinker Bell Politics

It's really is. It seems Kos has descended into existential angst again: Capitulators

You'd think that for no other reason than pride, Democrats would decide to fight. I mean, they can't stop telling us how tough they are by voting for "let's bomb Iraq" and "let's bomb Iran" resolutions. But people then elect them to do such quaint things as "lead" and "fight". So what happens when they don't? Congressional ratings keep tanking, we get headlines like these, and people think, "well, Democrats sure are wimps." Actually, "wimp" would be an improvement over the word they really use, but it's not politically correct so I won't use it. But you know what it is.

If the public needs to see which party is made up of strong members, and which one is chock full of patsies, it's not too difficult to figure out. And the worst part? Republicans always knew Democrats didn't have the cojones to fight, and have sat back and laughed at all the tough talk from Reid and Pelosi.

That's what they've become. A joke.

So all that's left is to see the final "Hoyer Math". How many millions in pork is the life of each soldier worth to Democrats in DC? We know that for Republicans, our soldiers' lives have zero value. For Democrats, the Hoyer rate appears to be in the $10 million range.

One last point: The American people hate Bush -- the most unpopular president since polling began -- and consider him a weak incompetent SOB.

Then they see Democrats capitulate to him.

It seems the folks who pride themselves on their "reality based" politics have a little problem with political reality. Despite what they seem to believe, success in the political arena is not ultimately a matter of will and belief. Politics in a democratic system is fundamentally quantitative rather than qualitative. Whether you win or lose is based upon how many votes you've got, not on the purity of your ideological convictions. Convictions are fine when you voicing your opinion on your little blog, but that isn't how votes are won in Congress. The DK seems to think that "if you only believe in it hard enough, you will make it live!" So they write post after post saying "I believe we can defund the war!! I believe!!" They then look on in dismay as the beautiful purity of their ideological vision is shattered by the "you win some, you lose some" nature of political reality.

Thus the angst...the silly, petulant angst.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Old Stupidites Rediscovered

Over at The Torch they seem a little put out to have to deal with the inane chatter of one Grover Furr.

Grover Furr is at it again. Responding in the comments section to the Chronicle for Higher Education’s blog entry on this week’s release of FIRE’s annual speech codes report, Spotlight on Speech Codes 2007: The State of Free Speech on Our Nation’s Campuses, Furr calls the report a “fraud,” claiming that we seek only to advance a political agenda and that our analysis of speech codes is incorrect.

The thing is, we’ve answered Furr before - in 2005, when he was making nearly identical claims. Since he didn’t get the message then – and we suspect a finely-honed proclivity to ignore viewpoints differing from his own – we’re forced to respond again...

The exasperation the good folks at FIRE were obviously experiencing because of the painfully simple-minded "ideas" of Furr struck a chord with me. In fact, the practiced blinkered pig ignorance displayed by Furr coupled with his near total disregard for the basic tenets of intellectual honesty seemed familiar somehow.

"Grover Furr....where have I heard that name before?"

Well, I did a quick search and discovered I had had a run in with Furr eleven years ago back when I was in grad school at The Catholic University of America and Furr was wasting the time of serious academics on a Medieval Philosophy mailing list.

The following was written by me on March 23, 1996. In it I quote from Furr his response to another writers assertion that Stalin may not have been the nicest fellow in the world and the gulag was a bad thing:

On Sat, 23 Mar 1996, Grover Furr wrote:

This is just cold-war rubbish!

You might, with more accuracy, say that "the Americans perfected the slave state," keeping in mind (a) the fascist Jim Crow system; (b) peonage and virtual slavery, to say nothing of mass murder, in Central America, directly under American control; (c) support of fascists in South Africa, South Korea, Vietnam; (d) American corporations profiting from virtual slavery TODAY in Indonesia, Thailand, and South-East Asia generally: unions outlawed, and starvation wages and 14-hour days being the norm.

Look. Fascism is a specific thing and it is NOT profitably defined as "everything I happen not to like." Of course this might have to force us all to learn more terms (the HORROR) to accurately describe a given situation, but I think we can all think of this as a professional hazard. Likewise history deserves to be looked at more closely. Not every civil war is the Spanish Civil War. Thus not every civil war is
Communists v. Fascists.

RE: Fascism. Sabine, in the standard history of political thought states that the form fascism took was largely defined by its great enemy, communism. Marxists were materialists, therefore fascism defined themselves as idealists; Marxists saw class warfare as permanent, therefore fascists saw the organic totality of the state etc.

Of course fascism and communism seemed to be in lock-step as regards the totalitarian state.

Sabine [says]:

Both are dictatorships; both have condemned liberalism and parliamentarism in unmeasured terms; both tolerate but a single political party, which is in substance hardly distinguishable from the government of the state. In both the party is the self-proclaimed elite, the "best" brains and hearts, entrusted with the mission of giving ordinary men what is good for them and making them want it. The power of the factions in control of the party has had to be perpetuated in both systems by bloody "purges" which at the best are hardly more than judicial murder and at the worst are murder pure and simple.

And before someone claims this is "cold war" rhetoric it must be pointed out that this was published in 1937, well before the worst of the atrocities of either fascist Germany or soviet Russia were known.

"Jim Crow" laws are a uniquely American injustice. And it has nothing to do with fascism, unless someone wants to claim that only fascists have ever been racists.

Off the soapbox.

It is nice to know that old Grover isn't allowing the dearth of facts supporting his idiotic positions to slow him down.

Anti-Semites, Harvard Style

Folks should head over to Solomonia for an incredible post on what is passing for "learned thought" at Harvard these days. Here is a sample:

But what is most disturbing about Professor Matory’s apparent obsession with Israel and Jews (at one point he referred to "a moneyed and media connected American Israeli defense force" – I guess we can dispense with the usual coded language observation) is the unavoidable realization that for Professor Matory who was at the epicenter of ousting Larry Summers, ostensibly for sexist remarks, Israel was the primary trigger. It seems clear that for Professor Matory, Summers’ original sin was his opposition to the Harvard divestment - from - Israel campaign expressed long before his (in)famous speech on women in the sciences.

It would seem that Professor Matory has a bad case of Jews-on-the brain. He is beset by Israeli colonizers and their minions on campus: Practitioners of "character assassination, dis-invitation, and other losses of career opportunities campaign contributions, income or friends, and, above all, the damage done by fervent Zionists to the process of intellectual inquiry and debate in this university". By dis-invitation, he was referring to the wide opposition to the Harvard English Department’s invitation to Tom Paulin, an Irish poet who has called for the murder of all Jewish settlers, including men, women and children (a position predictably skipped over by the Professor). Continuing his breathless rant he claimed that even his teaching compensation was not off limits for the vaporous cabal: "Even my annual salary is set by officials who appear to feel threatened by my bringing up this issue."

Boy, hate-filled racists sure have it tough in today's academy. Being tenured at Harvard must be hell.

Distasteful? Maybe. Unconstitutional? Not Really.

Concerning Mitt Romney's speech on religion Jason Steck writes the following in a post entitled Religious Bigotry Lives:

Mormons are subjected to a double-whammy. At the same time that they are opposed by anti-Mormons who deem them a “non-Christian” “cult”, they are barred by anti-Christians who hate them because of their Christian religious beliefs. There exists, in effect, not one but two unconstitutional religious tests barring Romney and every other one of the millions of American Mormons from ever aspiring to the Presidency. That these two tests contradict each other in every way merely adds insult to injury.

I repeat here what I wrote there in the comments.

During the World Wars it was said that "Loose Lips Sinks Ships." Nowadays I think that idea should be revived as "Loose Terminology Sinks Ideas." The notion that since the government is not allowed to use religious tests as a prerequisite for holding political office then individual voters are not allowed to be uncomfortable with candidates who hold religious beliefs they find odd or downright weird is simple nonsense. We do not say that since the government cannot censor publications they dislike then any individual who chooses not to allow a copy of The Turner Diaries in their collection is guilty of censorship. The Constitution is a document that regulates the running of the mechanism of government, it is not a source of personal ethics. You may personally feel that voters shouldn’t ever take religious background into account, but that is nothing but the expression of your personal preference.

I myself would find it difficult to vote for a practitioner of voodoo, or a scientologist, or a believer in the divinity of Jim Jones, or someone who believes completely in astrology, therefore I cannot say that there is something inherently wrong with those people who are distrustful of Mormonism. Now, I may argue that their fears are exaggerated or completely misplaced, their ignorance too great to make any knowledgeable decision on the matter, etc., but that is an entirely different argument than the one made here.

Yeah. And Napoleon's Invasion Of Russia Was Really A Success Too.

Let us re-visit a topic I brought up back in January of this year. You may remember that I took the company Risk Management Solutions to task:

Insurance companies are now using the threat of global warming to rip its customers off. Evidently a group called Risk Management Solutions (RMS) supplies the models insurance companies use to get an idea of what their risks and liabilities are in hurricane prone areas. Well, last spring threw out its old models based upon 100 years worth of empirical evidence in favor of a guess; a guess real life hurricane experts call "actually unscientific."

I then looked at the data and found:

The claim that "significantly higher hurricane activity that has persisted in 9 out of the last 12 years" is simply false. Since hurricanes can only hit in full integers (i.e. one at a time), it is dishonest to claim a year that has 2 hurricanes is an example of "higher activity" when the average is around 1.75. It would be much more honest to claim it is an example of bouncing around the mean.

I then worked on a more statistically sophisticated post (as sophisticated as I can get anyway) where I concluded:

According to my work the claim that the last 12 years of hurricane activity is significantly different from what came before is false. In fact I found that the activity fell within a standard deviation from the mean. I also ran the numbers using as a baseline the data from 1946-1993 and comparing the 1994-2005 years to that (i.e. a log10 mean of 0.9625, with a standard deviation of 0.1326 for the 1946-1993 data, vs. a log10 mean of 1.1354 for the 1994-2005 period.), and found the 12 year period was still only barely one standard deviation away from the older numbers.

It seems clear to me that the claims of the folks at RMS (" "Increases in hurricane frequency should be expected along the entire U.S. coast, but will be highest in the Gulf, Florida, and the Southeast, while lower in the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast.") is in no way borne out by the data.

So, we now are two years into the "predictions" offered by RMS. Who is doing a better job, RMS or The Iconic Midwest? Thanks to Roger Pielke over at Prometheus you can be the judge:

In the spring of 2006, a company called Risk Management Solutions (RMS) issued a five year forecast of hurricane activity (for 2006-2010) predicting U.S. insured losses to be 40% higher than average. RMS is an important company because their loss models are used by insurance companies to set rates charged to homeowners, by reinsurance companies to set rates they charge to insurers, by ratings agencies for evaluating risks, and others.

We are now two years into the RMS forecast period and can thus say something preliminary about their forecast based on actual hurricane damage from 2006 and 2007, which was minimal. In short, the forecast doesn't look too good. For 2006 and 2007, the following figure shows average annual insured historical losses (for 2005 and earlier) in blue (based on Pielke et al. 2008, adjusted up by 4% from 2006 to 2007 to account for changing exposure), the RMS prediction of 40% more losses above the average in pink, and the actual losses in red.

So the RMS forecast has been spectacularly wrong to this point. They predicted close to $15 Billion in storm damages for 2006-7 and we have had under $1 billion. The historical average would predict $11 billion for the same time period, so yes we have been lucky during the last two years. But what seems more likely, that we are in a totally different situation where we can expect Katrina like events every few years, OR that we are bouncing around the historical mean for these events?

Well, if you are RMS you don't even admit your models have failed to this point.

From Prometheus:

So what has RMS done is the face of evidence that its first 5-year forecast was not so accurate? Well, they have declared success and issued another 5-year forecast of 40% higher losses for the period 2008-2012.

Risk Management Solutions (RMS) has confirmed its modeled hurricane activity rates for 2008 to 2012 following an elicitation with a group of the world's leading hurricane researchers. . . . The current activity rates lead to estimates of average annual insured losses that will be 40% higher than those predicted by the long-term mean of hurricane activity for the Gulf Coast, Florida, and the Southeast, and 25-30% higher for the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast coastal regions.

In gambling terms, RMS has effectively doubled down. Adding 40% increases to the remaining three years in their original 2006-2010 forecast means we will have to average $17.5 Billion in storm losses during the next three years.

Not only is RMS doubling down, they are doing so on the basis of cards showing a King and a Six against a house showing an Ace.

Good luck with that.


I'll point out RMS' strange way of attempting to "confirm" their models. They look not at what actually has happened during the period they were supposedly predicting, but instead talk "with a group of the world's leading hurricane researchers." Huh, and here I was thinking they should use empirical observations instead.

This new science amazes me....explain again how sheep's bladders can be used to prevent earthquakes.

Sunday, December 02, 2007


As I mentioned below, the The Van Der Galiën Gazette is winding down its publishing life to be replaced by PoliGazette. I enjoyed writing for the old Gazette, and I am happy to say I will continue to be affiliated with the new blog. I do not have the time I used to for my blogging, but I hope to contribute the occasional essay.

I look forward to being a witness to the birth of this fine new political voice. So, to Michael, Pieter, and Jason I wish you the best of luck with the new endeavor!

The Limits Of Political Junkiedom

Here is another of my The Van Der Galiën Gazette pieces. Enjoy again for the first time!

Back when I was in my first iteration of grad school (Political Science, 1990-1993), I was witness to one of the more infamous scenes at that particular institution of higher learning. Most of the Political Science department gathered to hear a talk being given by one of the American politics professors. I don’t recall exactly the topic, but it had something to do with Congress and how the political process was perceived. During the Q&A time after the talk another of the Political Science professors, a well respected scholar in the field of International Relations, asked the following question:

What is meant by this phrase ‘inside the beltway’?

Well, every grad student at the talk groaned; inwardly in the room at the time of the question, audibly back in our T.A. offices or at a favorite watering hole later. It was typical, we said. The Political Science faculty simply did not seem to be as interested in the political world as we were. We devoured news coverage of national party politics, kept current on the latest controversies, had passionate opinions on policy debates, and many even kept a close watch on local party politics. We were, to a man and woman, political junkies. The professors were not. The political news that made up the fodder of our daily conversations and debates seemed to be only dimly perceived by the members of the faculty. A typical response from a professor were a current “hot” political topic to arise in a seminar would be something along the lines of “Yeah, yeah, yeah. That thing.” So, they were kinda aware of the debate, but not so much they’d actually have an opinion on the matter.

As good grad students we were, of course, scandalized. How and why, we wondered, did these people become Political Scientists in the first place if they were not all that interested in politics? We granted, being even handed folks, that they might be focusing upon their specific research questions, but was that any excuse for not having been exposed to the concept of inside the beltway? No! We answered over our frosty malted beverages. No! No! A thousand times no!

Ah, the joys of being young and in a near perpetual state of indignation.

Today, I have a lot more sympathy with my old professors. Yes, I still think it wouldn’t kill them to have some basic knowledge of the present political scene, even if they do nothing else in their careers but study sub-Saharan Africa or IR formal modelling. (Subscribe to Newsweek, for God’s sake.. It takes all of 15 minutes a week to read and you at least have a primer.) But, I think their aloofness was on to something about the political scene. There is a sameness about the disputes and controversies. Pure political junkies don’t really notice this as they can always live “in the moment.” They are like the guy in Memento: everything is perpetually new. Every new issue is taken upon its face value, and analogies are just tools used to bludgeon the other side and not to remind us that we have been here before.

For Political Scientists, however, we have always been here before. Every new political issue can be related to older issues. You don’t have to take anything at its face value, because chances are it is in reality an older controversy dressed up in new clothes. And, as much as it pains me to repudiate the me of 15 years ago, I can see a lot of merit in this view. Political junkies always see the world they live in as a “tipping point” (the most overused trope of the last fifty years). Every issue is of epoch making importance, each setback is a “disaster”, and every politician can be categorically labelled as ally, enemy, hero or traitor. Contrary to a common opinion Political Science has actually taught us some things, including that such hyperbole is largely nonsense. Today, I cannot blame these professors for not getting worked up about the controversies of the moment. Why should they? So the political junkies of today get themselves in a tizzy over the guilt or innocence of a man named Scooter? So what? In so many ways it is no different from all of the political junkies who got worked up (and still do) over Sacco & Vanzetti, Whittaker Chambers or Alger Hiss. The names may change, but the motivations remain largely the same. In any event, Political Science is more interested in abstracting out patterns of political behavior as opposed to obsessing about the minutiae of the political tabloids.

Political junkies simply do not and cannot recognize when their world is deja vu all over again.

Of course, there are those rare times when the political junkie has the better of the skeptical/cynical Political Scientists, such as when epoch changing moments do arrive. Soviet experts were too wedded to old patterns of behavior to notice the end of the U.S.S.R. until it was upon them, and the general reaction of Political Scientists to the Republican takeover of Congress in the 1990’s was “How’d that happen?” But these moments don’t alter the fact political junkies most often lack even the semblance of perspective.

Not that any real political junkie would ever care. Get them on a good day and they might even agree with my basic premise.

“Yes!”, they would say to me, “I’m often myopic and can rarely see the forest for the trees. But, when you get right down to it, that is part of the reason it is so much damn fun.”

In Praise of Incivility

I originally wrote this for the The Van Der Galiën Gazette this past summer. As the VDGG is soon to be a thing of the past, I thought it best to collect some of those pieces here as well.

It says something about our society that even after all of this time the internet can still give so many folks the screaming heebie jeebies. You cannot swing a nice four-letter expletive around without hitting a main stream media lament about the state of American discourse. The culprits, we are told, are various bloggers of the left and right, anonymous commentors with dubious language skills, and assorted other evil doers who add to the near certain ruination of our fine republic. For the most part, bloggers react to such criticism by stomping their feet and shouting, “You don’t understand me! You’ve never loved me and you never will! I hate you!” If there was an internet equivalent of running up to their room and slamming the door, I’m sure they would add that as well.

This little drama seemingly repeats itself every month or two; so often in fact that I sometimes feel like I’m stuck in the movie Groundhog Day, except without the ability to actually change anything. The reason nothing ever changes in this scenario has to do with the intersection of human nature with the nature of the internet. Believe it or not, it is a question with philosophical import and it has quite a pedigree.

In his dialogue The Laws, Plato discusses what has to be the best analogous practice to the internet in all of the history of philosophy: the drinking party. The problem with drinking parties, obviously, is their ability to get out of hand. They become riotous affairs.

Athenian Stranger- What I’m asking is this: doesn’t the drinking of wine make pleasures, pain, the spirited emotions, and the erotic emotions, more intense?

Kleinias- Very much so.

Athenian Stranger- What about sensations, memories, opinions, and prudent thoughts? Do they become more intense in the same way? Or don’t they abandon anyone who becomes thoroughly soused?

Kleinias- Yes, they completely abandon him.

Replace the pleasurable activity of drinking wine with the pleasurable activity of online discourse and I’m not sure what is different, other than the lack of a hangover. Many media types blame the anonymity of the web for much of this, but I’m sure that misses the mark. People will gladly sign their name to examples of their bad behavior, forgoing any semblance of anonymity in the bargain. There seems to be something in the way the internet allows us to be connected and disconnected simultaneously. We can forcefully present our ideas to any number of people without ever sharing proximity with them. Some might say the internet allows people to be belligerent without fear of actually being, well, beaten to a bloody pulp. But… it never really reads that way. It reads more like people affected by, if Michael will forgive the term, Dutch courage.

Of course, not everyone gets “soused” in that special internet way. Many folks employ the internet the same way Plato advocates the use of wine. For those who take a moderate approach free discourse is encouraged and much can be learned for our mutual edification. Those who “overindulge” and thus act immoderately stick out like a sore thumb. In any society it is important to know who you can look to for their steady outlook on life, and who you want to avoid as being prone to flights of unhinged invective. Incivility is thus a positive benefit to our political order. You may be discouraged by the sheer numbers of these buffoons, but at least you aware of the actual state of the polity and are not deceived by polite appearances.

In fact, for all the complaining about the coarseness of political discourse today, it might be worse in an unfailingly “proper” society. As Rousseau stated in his Discourse on the Sciences and Arts:

One no longer dares to appear as he is; and in this perpetual constraint, the men who form the herd called society, placed in the same circumstances, will all do the same things unless stronger motives deter them. Therefore one will never know well those with whom he deals, for to know one’s friends thoroughly, it would be necessary to wait for emergencies-that is, to wait until it is too late…

Lucky thing for us we live in a time with no such difficulties. Thanks to the wonderfully intoxicating properties of the internet we can all have a clear idea of just who we are dealing with in this cyber world. We may at times be distressed at the depths people will descend to in the name of their political ideology, but we will always know the true score thanks to those moments of incivility.

So, with pure philosophical purpose in our voices we can heartily say, “Thanks, jerks.”

Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me

The DK offers this today:

I started writing for the most selfish of reasons. I wanted to change the world around me. Or, failing that, I wanted to leave the slightest imprint upon it, during dark days, so that I could feel I had stirred the dust in some small way. Like a leaf pressed in the pages of a book, rediscovered long afterwards, I wanted the thin veins of words to exist somewhere, even if only as memory of the true thing itself.

We have plenty of people who write about politics, these days. And some of them are rational people, and the larger share are butchers. It is easier to be bloodthirsty than not; it requires no courage. It is easy to shave the smallest possible straws of principle from the larger sheaf, and the smallest possible slivers of paper from the law; it is the harder challenge to leave them there. It is the easiest thing in the world to be a bigot: it requires no knowledge, no sense, no logic. It is harder not to be.

And that is, in a word, insanity. It is a flaw in the fabric of the world. We are, apparently, monstrous creatures, and if we are truly created in God's image than God would have to be a more petty creator than we can possibly imagine. It seems more likely we are beasts.

Translation? "People who do not think exactly as I do are evil sons-of-bitches. I hate them so"

Somebody, please give this guy a lolipop, a hug, and a clue.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Counting Hurricanes Is Like Pulling Rabbits From A Hat...

...You never know when another one is coming. U.S. upgrades storm Karen as hurricane season ends

U.S. weather experts posthumously upgraded Tropical Storm Karen to a hurricane as the 2007 Atlantic storm season drew to a close on Friday, making the year a near-average one for hurricane activity.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center, in a post-season analysis of Karen, said the storm briefly reached hurricane intensity on September 26, with winds of 65 knots, equal to 74.8 mph (120 kph) or just over the threshold at which tropical storms become hurricanes.

The upgrade of Karen took the 2007 season's hurricane toll to six, bang on the long-term average. The 14 named storms that formed exceeded the long-term average of around 10 for a six-month Atlantic hurricane season.

Boy, that sure is convenient for the forecasters who were way off in their predictions this year, isn't it? So, let me get this straight. We are flying hurricane hunter patrols, and have large weather service staffs whose only job is to monitor the tropics for exactly this type of weather activity, and we are only able to identify a storm as a hurricane two months after the fact?

I usually have a rule about things that look like bullshit and smell like bullshit. Chances are they're bullshit. The more these "re-evaluations" take place, and the more we see questions about the validity of what are being called named storms by the National Hurricane Center these days, you cannot help but get the feeling there is a lot of bullshit out there.

Now, there is two ways to look at this. One could say that this simply represents a difference in our data gathering methods which allows for a greater level of precision than was available in the past, or one could say that outside considerations, maybe of a political nature, are influencing the way data is categorized. I'll admit the former seems unlikely when we confine ourselves to the last 10-15 years. I don't see that there has been any dramatic upgrade in our capabilities over that time period. Certainly, the desire to have a homogeneous storm data set should have been enough to keep storm categorization criteria constant over time, but that doesn't seem to be the case anymore.

One is left with the impression that there are those at work who do not care that they are rending the data set useless for making valid comparisons over time. And, of course, there is a small cottage industry that has arisen simply to take advantage of these sorts of limitations in the data set to espouse their pet political projects, ala Kerry Emanuel.

Of course, these are the exact same people who insist that the pre-satellite era data is nearly 100% complete and accurate. Once again, how convenient.

For the time being, the only option I'm left with is to read this stuff and hold my nose.