Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

In case we want to sing this, later:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to min'?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days o' auld lang syne?
Chorus:
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou'd the gowans fine;
But we've wander'd mony a weary foot,
Sin auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl't i' the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine,
But seas between us braid hae roar'd
Sin auld lang syne.

And there's a hand, my trusty fiere,
And gie's a hand o' thine,
And we'll tak a right guid willie waught,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp,
And surely I'll be mine;
And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne.
Robert Burns World Federation offers this side-by-side.

To your health!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Another wowser heard from

Why am I not surprised that someone writing in the NY Times wants to raise taxes? This time on booze. David Leonhardt cites a load of specious reasons for raising taxes on the anodyne of the poor in his mendaciously titled Let’s Raise a Glass to Fairness, inspired by a book, Paying the Tab, by Peter Cook, a Duke University economist. This economist can't tell the difference between a tax and a subsidy:

Each of the three taxes is now effectively 33 percent lower than it was in 1992. Since 1970, the federal beer tax has plummeted 63 percent. Many states taxes have also been falling.

At first blush, this sounds like good news: who likes to pay taxes, right? But taxes serve a purpose beyond merely raising general government revenue. Taxes on a given activity are also supposed to pay the costs that activity imposes on society. And for all that is wonderful about wine, beer and liquor, they clearly bring some heavy costs.

Right now, the patchwork of alcohol taxes isn’t coming close to covering those costs — the costs of drunken-driving checkpoints, of hospital bills for alcohol-related accidents and child abuse, and of the economic loss caused by death and injury. Last year, some 17,000 Americans, or almost 50 a day, died in alcohol-related car accidents. An additional 65,000 people a year die from other accidents, assaults or illnesses in which alcohol plays a major role.

Mr. Cook, besides being a wine lover, has been thinking about the costs and benefits of alcohol for much of his career, and he has come up with a blunt way of describing the problem. “Do you think we should be subsidizing alcohol?” he asks. “Because that’s what we’re doing.”
"We" subsidize drunkenness to the extent that some recipients of disability payments spend the money on booze. To say that not taxing something is the same as subsidizing it is to fall into the same sort of Newspeakery that makes it a "budget cut" when a government agency's budget is increased less than someone (administrator, legislator) had asked for. A smaller increase is still an increase. If you can pass through Sherwood Forest without being robbed, Robin Hood has not given you a subsidy. Low taxes do not "cost" the government money that it never had to begin with.

I'll dissect this phony "reasoning" further in a while; right now I need a couple of drinks. In the meantime, go read what Glenn Reynolds has to say about it.

Later: The call for an increase in taxes sounds to me like "Let them eat cake." The Times writer, the Duke professor, what is a couple of dollars increase in the price of a bottle of Champagne to them? I am reminded of the sort of billionaire Democrats who think everyone's taxes should be increased. There's another post in that: in the days of ancient Rome, as now, wealthy politicians ran for office, promising everything under the sun to the voters; but in those days, if elected, they paid for the bread and circuses themselves!

The article, like the book, is a call for a regressive taxation scheme, based on phony numbers, with social engineering as its goal.
• Regressive: Good booze is too good for the poor; if the manufacturers won't raise the prices enough to keep the stuff the writer likes out of the hands of those not in his socio-economic class, well then, the tax power of the government can be used for that purpose.
• Phony numbers: Old stuff, but the MADD propaganda machine doesn't quit. The expression "alcohol-related" is the tip-off. If a passenger in the car not at fault was tipsy, that counts as alcohol-related. Links: National Motorists Association. Responsibility In DUI Laws. (Ugly formatting, interesting numbers:) GetMADD: Real Numbers. A business writer ought to have better grasp of numbers … oh never mind, it's the Times.
• "Taxes on a given activity are supposed to pay the costs …" Supposed to? Where is that in the Constitution? Taxes are "supposed to" raise revenue. How about a tax on newspapers to pay for recycling? The Times is in a bad place to be talking about tax fairness, considering the combination of eminent domain abuse and tax breaks involved in clearing the ground for its new HQ.

This is the Times' business section. If this is the kind of wisdom they can muster over there, it's no wonder the paper's own stock is down as far as it is.

Update: Bill Quick has a post on this.
More on wowsers, with quotes from Candace Lightner, founder of MADD, who does not like what that organization has become: Prohibition Returns!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Some cheese with those Christmas crackers?

Some in the US may not be familiar with Christmas crackers. In England, they are an indispensible part of Christmas dinner. You grasp the ends and pull, there's a bang, and things fall out on the table: usually a paper crown, a tiny toy, a piece of paper with a joke on it. Harry Erwin writes a weekly letter from England to Jerry Pournelle. This week, he links to an article in the Independent that includes a long list of Christmas cracker jokes. Just a few, to get you started:

What are the small rivers that run into the Nile?
The juve-Niles.

How did the Vikings send secret messages?
By Norse code.

What kind of lighting did Noah use for the ark?
Floodlights.
I'm feeling merrier already.

'Tis the season

My first Christmas with this blog, so here's something sort of seasonal:

And here is a bit of necessary explication: I want the government to give me more presents. Thanks, Prof. Althouse; and Merry Christmas to all.

Consensus on warming evaporating

Or so it would seem from this new report, dated Dec. 20: U.S. Senate Report: Over 400 Prominent Scientists Disputed Man-Made Global Warming Claims in 2007. It's no great shakes as a report on science; but it doesn't claim to be. It's a report on scientists. By listing remarks from scientists, it seeks to invalidate the warmingists' claim that the consensus is all but complete.

I wouldn't expect a Senate report to be readable; but since this is a collection of remarks, a paragraph or so from each of the many scientists, it's as readable as a blog, with one short entry after another. And from this I learn that the minority side of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works has a blog. Thanks to Charles at LGF.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Regret the Error

Seen on Reliable Sources this morning, Craig Silverman, proprietor of Regret the Error, a blog devoted to correction notices. Some are funnier than others—well, naturally—but it's more a journalism than a humor site.

I have long been a fan of the sort of unintentionally funny typos that the New Yorker runs as bottom-of-the-column filler, and Private Eye has collected in several Books of Boobs. But that's another kind of error.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Not the Holy Land Foundation, but similar

Care International, another such organization in Boston. Coverage of the trial has been so pervasive that I had completely missed it. Now it's over, and the verdicts are coming out. But Miss Kelly has been blogging the trial and such coverage of it as exists, for some time. Thanks to Solomonia.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Micro-nukes coming even sooner than minis

Or, a nuke on every block. Who needs a nationwide grid when you can have local power anywhere or everywhere?

The Toshiba micro-nuke.

Thanks to Instapundit, who asks, "Where do I order one?"

What mini-nukes? These mini-nukes.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Thoughts on the death penalty (was: Open thread for Earl)

This post is updated, but kept at the original link, in order to keep the Internet from falling into utter chaos.

(A discussion at Making Light has become a bit warm. I would like to see if the talk might cool off a bit, if moved here.) That's not happening. Reader, if you want to see me make an ass of myself in public, take a look at this: Go, New Jersey! The lesson: don't post while feelings are running high. The old wisdom about writing angry letters applies: write it, but don't mail it till the next day, when you have cooled off. On reflection, you may find that you want to say something different, or to say the same thing in different, less inflammatory language. Or, maybe, not say anything at all.

But let's look at the original post over there. Here's the substance of it:

The arguments against capital punishment are these: It doesn’t actually prevent violent criminals from committing crimes, it’s barbaric no matter how you go about doing it, there’s no guarantee you got the right guy, and it sends the wrong message: Killing is wrong, and to prove it we’ll kill you. Most civilized countries banned capital punishment long ago.
Much as I respect Jim Macdonald (I have linked to his posts several times here), these "arguments" are bumper stickers. One at a time:

• "It doesn’t actually prevent violent criminals from committing crimes." Which criminals? A violent criminal who has been executed will commit no more crimes. I would call that some actual prevention. Or is this intended to mean, "It does not deter potentially violent criminals from committing crimes?" That's another matter. In London when pickpockets were publicly hanged at Tyburn, other pickpockets worked the crowd of spectators. Someone is going to object that picking pockets is not a violent crime. So shouldn't the message get across even more clearly to non-violent criminals? Apparently not. Some people just don't get the message. They are not listening and do not care about messages. As Samuel Goldwyn famously said, "If you want to send a message, call Western Union." Goldwyn was talking about movies, of course; but the point is that there are people who will not or cannot get the message. So how to stop them from murdering, raping, and robbing? Sentencing them to life imprisonment does not seem to work, since governors and parole boards who wish to make themselves feel good by being merciful are always likely to be with us. To grant mercy to a predator is to condemn the prey, which would be the general populace. Jack Abbott. Darrell Billingslea. (Why was this convicted murderer released from prison?) Wayne Dumond. Richard Allen Davis. Daniel Tavares. Far too many more. "Life without parole" is not a real sentence, as it is always subject to review; and the possibility of escape is always there.

• "It’s barbaric no matter how you go about doing it." Barbarism is in the eye of the beholder. The word "barbaric" means foreign, alien, uncouth, uncivilized; literally, unable to speak our language; so, something that "we" would not do, because it's just not "our" way. Squicky and unpleasant. There's an element of elitism here, of amour-propre above all, reminiscent of the Jains of India, who will not kill an insect. Of course they have to hire flunkies of other beliefs to sweep their paths before them, lest they tread on some little creature; but the flunkies' sins are their own, not their master's. Killing an animal is unpleasant; killing a human being, I can only imagine, much more so; but a mad dog must be killed. Is this argument really about the death penalty itself, or about Which Execution Method Causes the Least Discomfort (to the Public)? Leaving out such things as 9/11, unaimed rockets fired into Israel, and bomb attacks on Israeli buses, Balinese nightclubs, Spanish trains, and English pillar-boxes, I would call the killing of Daniel Pearl barbaric. Or that of Nicholas Berg. Or those of Jennifer, Hayley, and Michaela Petit. Or those of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom. The execution of Nathan Hale: regrettable, for our side; not barbaric. The rules of war were followed; Nathan Hale knew what he risked. The execution of John Wayne Gacy: not regrettable, not barbaric. (Though botched; maybe Dr. Guillotine had the right idea. He invented his device for humane reasons.) Is it too incomprehensible to consider the death penalty as a public safety measure? In this comment thread I argue against it for the mentally incompetent. Now I am starting to wonder if I was right about that.

• "There’s no guarantee you got the right guy." Sometimes you can be sure; Brian Nichols, for instance. Jack Ruby. Otherwise, it varies from case to case. And this bumper sticker just about invalidates the entire justice system, since the same could be said in any criminal case. Juries do the best they can. Cases of corrupt juries and overzealous prosecutors do not make the whole system useless. Such cases, as with the Duke lacrosse players, or the Scottsboro Boys, are horrible examples that should help to wake people up to abuses of a system that is about as good as what we can have, given the human material available. (On the opposite side of this coin are such as O.J. Simpson and the first couple of trials of Byron De La Beckwith.) As modern forensic science improves, especially with DNA testing (exemplified by the great work of the Innocence Project), it is possible to achieve a greater degree of certainty. If we could see more of the kind of thing that Radley Balko writes about in More Prosecutors Like Craig Watkins, Please, that would be a great thing, too.

• "It sends the wrong message: Killing is wrong, and to prove it we’ll kill you." See above about sending messages. This seems to be a misunderstanding of the sixth, or fifth, Commandment, which in the Hebrew, is not "Thou shalt not kill," but "Thou shalt not murder." The distinction between murder and killing is an important one. Is every soldier who has killed an enemy in battle a murderer? Is a person who kills an attacker in self-defense a murderer? For that matter, is an executioner, employed by the state to do justice, a murderer? The answer to each of these must be "No." The alternative is the worst kind of Hobbesian anarchy.

• "Most civilized countries banned capital punishment long ago." Depends on what is meant by "civilized." Most of the "civilized" countries of Europe have been convulsed with violence in the last century: revolutions, the Holocaust, two World Wars, terror gangs like the Red Brigades, "ethnic cleansing," now the rioting youths in the banlieues; the US is far more civilized than those places. If being civilized means to keep on turning the other cheek, for the sake of one's own self-regard, then the civilized will run out of cheeks before the real barbarians run out of knives, bombs, bullets, clubs, and fists.

Those are arguments against the arguments against the death penalty. Do I have arguments in favor of the death penalty? Other than the above, not so much. This is a lesser of two evils decision that someone has to make. In our system, "someone" would be the legislature and governor, in this specific case, of New Jersey. Banning the death penalty means that, in the estimation of those who hold the High Justice, no crime is serious enough to warrant it. Murder, rape, torture, kidnapping, treason, espionage, all of them in combination: nothing. A counsel, literally, of nihilism. A statement that no sins are deadly. A trivialization of human volition. A sloughing of responsibility. Certainly the death penalty should be rarely applied; but to say that it is never warranted is to deny the seriousness of free will, the existence of evil, and the worth of lives and nations.

=======================

There's one more point to address here, having to do with netiquette and politeness in general. The post of mine that has received the most hits in the shortest space of time was the one about trolls. It's ironic, then, that I should be perceived as trolling, when I have expressed my detestation of the creatures. As I said in my apology on the New Jersey thread, "Making Light is a wonderful party." It's not polite to bust into a party where everyone shares the same ideas, and tell them that they are wrong. I was Alice, and got the Hatter's final reply. No-one's ideas are ever changed in Internet comment fora. (What, never? Well, hardly ever.)

=======================

Update, years later: Glenn Reynolds, on Radley Balko (Why Americans still support the death penalty), offers this:

I think it’s because tedious liberals self-righteously oppose it, while showing an appalling insensitivity to the lives (and deaths) of ordinary non-criminal Americans. Though I should note that European citizens also support the death penalty in large numbers — they’re just ignored by their leaders. The best argument against the death penalty, of course, is what Charles Black called “the inevitability of caprice and mistake.” But that argument, taken seriously, is an indictment of the entire criminal-justice system, not just the death penalty. It may be a valid indictment, but few are willing to go that far.

The worst argument against the death penalty, of course, is that it’s somehow awful for the state to kill people. Nation-states are all about killing people. They exist solely because they’re better at that, on a large scale, than any other form of human organization. Everything else is superstructure, and if they lose that edge it will fade away.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Friday, December 14, 2007

Magic, can we have magic

Fantasy can be cruel.
It's difficult for some people to admit to themselves that there is a war going on.
But then, something happens…

Ginsberg , by Julia Vinograd

No blame. Anyone who wrote Howl and Kaddish
earned the right to make any possible mistake
for the rest of his life.
I just wish I hadn't made this mistake with him.
It was during the Vietnam war
and he was giving a great protest reading
in Washington Square Park
and nobody wanted to leave.
So Ginsberg got the idea, "I'm going to shout
"the war is over" as loud as I can," he said
"and all of you run over the city
in different directions
yelling the war is over, shout it in offices,
shops, everywhere and when enough people
believe the war is over
why, not even the politicians
will be able to keep it going."
I thought it was a great idea at the time
a truly poetic idea.
So when Ginsberg yelled I ran down the street
and leaned in the doorway
of the sort of respectable down on its luck cafeteria
where librarians and minor clerks have lunch
and I yelled "the war is over."
And a little old lady looked up
from her cottage cheese and fruit salad.
She was so ordinary she would have been invisible
except for the terrible light
filling her face as she whispered
"My son. My son is coming home."
I got myself out of there and was sick in some bushes.
That was the first time I believed there was a war.
Thanks to mazzie and Lee.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Heinlein speaks

Bill Higgins, who introduced us to the Zeusaphone a while back, links to a page with a sound recording of Robert Heinlein. This I believe… "Our Noble, Essential Decency." It's a big part of what makes Western Civilization work.

The opening and closing voice is that of Edward R. Murrow.

Republican show of hands for warming in Iowa

Michelle Malkin has the scoop, and the pic: Digging deeper: The enviro-nitwit-ization of the GOP. Fred Thompson won the gold star on this one. Video at Hot Air.

Fred: a Calvin Coolidge for our time! (That's a compliment.)

How did I miss this! Michelle Malkin liveblogged the debate.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Keep washing those hands

There's a new virus in town: Virus Starts Like a Cold But Can Turn Into a Killer. RTWT. Glenn Reynolds says:

IF YOU HAVE A BAD COLD, and the symptoms keep getting worse, it could be this nasty new virus. If it seems out of the ordinary for a cold, and you have trouble breathing, get to a doctor fast.

UPDATE: Reader Stephen Hill emails:

I had this virus, succumbing to it two days after returning from a trip to Australia. To give you an idea of just how bad it can be, understand that I'm not your normal, everyday, healthy adult male. I'm a National Champion Elite-level cyclist. I had a 104°F fever within a day, and a cough that would not quit. Now I have trained through just about every kind of illness that is transmittable (and some that aren't), but it was three weeks before I could even think of riding again, and for a week could only exercise lightly. Six weeks later, I still have an occasional (4-6 times per day) coughing fit.

Wash your hands!

Always good advice. Or use hand sanitizer.
Apparently a new variety of a common virus with wide variations in how it affects people. And see Did you get your flu shot for more on hand-washing.

More Holy Land Foundation jurors are talking

There has been some blog reaction to an article at the Investigative Project on Terrorism by Michael Fechter. The piece is mainly an interview with juror Kristina Williams. It includes video.

Most of the blog reactions are just quotations and comments.
Captain Ed: The Idiot Who Torpedoed The Holy Land Foundation Trial.
Hot Air: Steve Emerson’s IPT uncovers jury bullying in Holy Land Foundation trial?
LGF: IPT Investigation Uncovers HLF Jury Room Bullying. Over 600 comments!
Jihad Watch: Investigative Project uncovers Holy Land Foundation jury bullying
Patterico: Inside the Jury Room at the Holy Land Foundation Trial

I expect there will be more.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Whipped ocean, or "Cappucino coast"

In email, an environmental oddity in Australia. This seems to be making the rounds. I'll link to what seems to be the original in the Daily Mail because the pictures are nice and big.


Cappuccino Coast: The day the Pacific was whipped up into an ocean of froth
By RICHARD SHEARS - Last updated at 08:27am on 28th August 2007

It was as if someone had poured tons of coffee and milk into the ocean, then switched on a giant blender.

Suddenly the shoreline north of Sydney were transformed into the Cappuccino Coast.

Foam swallowed an entire beach and half the nearby buildings, including the local lifeguards' centre, in a freak display of nature at Yamba in New South Wales.
Anybody who spends time near water has seen small amounts of this stuff, often lying on the beach at low tide. This much of it at once, crikey! Must be some kind of a record!

Update: Some searchers seem to think this story is a fake. I was not there, so I can't testify, but there is some discussion here, which leads indirectly to this. So, not only was it real, it happened again in January '08!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Historical origin of Kucinich

A piece in Cleveland Scene on Kucinich's early years in politics: The King of Spin: How Dennis Kucinich remade himself from race-baiting bomb-thrower to liberal sweetheart.

Thanks to Charles at LGF.

A little more levity

There's a blog post that's been making the rounds as one of those forwarded-and-reforwarded emails. I just received it in a format that stripped all the pictures out, so the humor didn't work, which led me to look around a little and re-find the original post. Anyhow, just a note to remind myself that the original of the "1977 J.C. Penney Catalog" is "Strap in, shut up and hold on. We're going back." at 15 Minute Lunch. The post has, in a little less than two months, picked up 572 comments!

One of them recommends the collection of Weight-Watchers recipe cards, with commentary, at Candyboots. And so do I. Frightening food. And those who like this sort of thing should pay a visit to Lileks.com, for hours, no, days, even months, of fun.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Funny name, interesting ideas: Mencius Moldbug

I'm adding a new name to the links list: Mencius Moldbug. For some reason, a pricking of my thumbs, I suspect this is a pseudonym. An interesting thinker, who is not afraid of writing long posts. Michael Blowhard gave him a coming-out party back in April. Read that link first, as an introduction to Moldbug's thinking. Don't click unless you are prepared to spend at least half an hour reading and thinking. He seems to derive some inspiration from Albert Jay Nock; I found Nock's Our Enemy, the State illuminating, so we have that in common. I like the way he tears into the poetry establishment here.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Speaking of farce, here's Tim Slagle

I have been hoping to see more in the line of mockery of this whole Global Warming business, and Gerard Van der Leun comes through with this. I hope he is right when he says, "Once the comics get onto you with this kind of granulation, you are history." Thanks!

Not safe for work.

Update: And another! Country Joe meets Big Warm Al: Gore to Earthlings: The Memo.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

They're hot at Powerline

with several posts on the new NIE: The Crystal Ball Changes Its Mind, Are we fools? (in which Iran's new nuclear negotiator is quoted as saying, "With me, you start over."), World doesn't end, Bush suffers blow, Iran's nuclear weapons program: Israel assesses, Five years of the Condor, A word from Mark Falcoff on the NIE, and High confidence in low confidence. And that's just the NIE. In other posts from the last few days, Harry Reid is Still Betting On Defeat, and the Boswell Sisters have the Heebie Jeebies.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Happy Repeal Day!

It is the anniversary of December 5, 1933, happy ending of an unhappy experiment. The evils inflicted upon the nation, and the world for that matter, by Prohibition, continue, but now our gangsters, politicians and G-Men quarrel over different kinds of contraband. We know from history that anodynes need not be outlawed; there is just too much profit in misery for the current version of Prohibition to be ended. Volstead and Anslinger have worked much evil in the world. Thanks to The Wine Commonsewer at Hit & Run for this lovely bit of nostalgia: But today let us be joyful, within the limits imposed by the current bunch of wowsers.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Gleanings

Instapundit: Progress on resveratrol.

Andrea Harris: Global warming is responsible for everything.

Recommended by two of Jerry Pournelle's correspondents: The Secret to Raising Smart Kids.

Amy Alkon links to Jonathan Rauch at The Atlantic on Caring for Your Introvert: The habits and needs of a little-understood group. Alkon's comments may be better than the original Rauch piece.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Youtube debate

I seem to have participated in this. Just got excited, I guess. I'm usually more phlegmatic.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Climatologists vs. physicists

A couple of old-fashioned German physicists take on global warming in a paper available at arXiv. From the summary of Falsification Of The Atmospheric CO2 Greenhouse Effects Within The Frame Of Physics (pdf), by Gerhard Gerlich and Ralf D. Tscheuschner:

The CO2-greenhouse effect, however is a "mirage". The horror visions of a risen sea level, melting pole caps and developing deserts in North America and in Europe are fictitious consequences of fictitious physical mechanisms as they cannot be seen even in the climate model computations.

[…]

Evidently, the defenders of the CO2-greenhouse thesis refuse to accept any reproducible calculation as an explanation and have resorted to unreproducible ones. A theoretical physicist must complain about a lack of transparency here, and he also has to complain about the style of the scientific discussion, where advocators of the greenhouse thesis claim that the discussion is closed, and others are discrediting justified arguments as a discussion of "questions of yesterday and the day before yesterday". In exact sciences, in particular in theoretical physics, the discussion is never closed and is to be continued ad infinitum, even if there are proofs of theorems available. Regardless of the specific field of studies a minimal basic rule should be fulfilled in natural science, though, even if the scientific fields are methodically as far apart as physics and meteorology: At least among experts, the results and conclusions should be understandable or reproducible. And it should be strictly distinguished between a theory and a model on the one hand, and between a model and a scenario on the other hand, as clarified in the philosophy of science.

That means that if conclusions out of computer simulations are to be more than simple speculations, then in addition to the examination of the numerical stability and the estimation of the effects of the many vague input parameters, at least the simplifications of the physical original equations should be critically exposed. Not the critics have to estimate the effects of the approximation, but the scientists who do the computer simulation.

"Global warming is good … The net effect of a modest global warming is positive." (Singer). In any case, it is extremely interesting to understand the dynamics and causes of the long-term fluctuations of the climates. However, it was not the purpose of this paper to get into all aspects of the climate variability debate.

The point discussed here was to answer the question, whether the supposed atmospheric effect has a physical basis. This is not the case. In summary, there is no atmospheric greenhouse effect, in particular CO2-greenhouse effect, in theoretical physics and engineering thermodynamics. Thus it is illegitimate to deduce predictions which provide a consulting solution for economics and intergovernmental policy.
Another country heard from. Thanks to Louis D. Nettles, one of Jerry Pournelle's correspondents.

Arctic Ocean circulation reverses, again

It used to be one way, then it changed, then it changed again, and you know, it might change again! What a wild idea.

Arctic Ocean Circulation Does An About-Face

ScienceDaily (Nov. 14, 2007) — A team of NASA and university scientists has detected an ongoing reversal in Arctic Ocean circulation triggered by atmospheric circulation changes that vary on decade-long time scales. The results suggest not all the large changes seen in Arctic climate in recent years are a result of long-term trends associated with global warming.

The team, led by James Morison of the University of Washington's Polar Science Center Applied Physics Laboratory, Seattle, used data from an Earth-observing satellite and from deep-sea pressure gauges to monitor Arctic Ocean circulation from 2002 to 2006. They measured changes in the weight of columns of Arctic Ocean water, from the surface to the ocean bottom. That weight is influenced by factors such as the height of the ocean's surface, and its salinity. A saltier ocean is heavier and circulates differently than one with less salt.

The very precise deep-sea gauges were developed with help from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; the satellite is NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (Grace). The team of scientists found a 10-millibar decrease in water pressure at the bottom of the ocean at the North Pole between 2002 and 2006, equal to removing the weight of 10 centimeters (four inches) of water from the ocean. The distribution and size of the decrease suggest that Arctic Ocean circulation changed from the counterclockwise pattern it exhibited in the 1990s to the clockwise pattern that was dominant prior to 1990.

Reporting in Geophysical Research Letters, the authors attribute the reversal to a weakened Arctic Oscillation, a major atmospheric circulation pattern in the northern hemisphere. The weakening reduced the salinity of the upper ocean near the North Pole, decreasing its weight and changing its circulation.

"Our study confirms many changes seen in upper Arctic Ocean circulation in the 1990s were mostly decadal in nature, rather than trends caused by global warming," said Morison.
Thanks to Bill Quick at Daily Pundit. The GRACE satellites were previously mentioned here in Canada still affected by the last ice age.

Can we have mini-nukes?

SteveF at Daily Pundit links to the greatest thing since cold fusion.

Nuke to the Future
By Dave Maass

Published: November 21, 2007

The portable nuclear reactor is the size of a hot tub. It’s shaped like a sake cup, filled with a uranium hydride core and surrounded by a hydrogen atmosphere. Encase it in concrete, truck it to a site, bury it underground, hook it up to a steam turbine and, voila, one would generate enough electricity to power a 25,000-home community for at least five years.

The company Hyperion Power Generation was formed last month to develop the nuclear fission reactor at Los Alamos National Laboratory and take it into the private sector. If all goes according to plan, Hyperion could have a factory in New Mexico by late 2012, and begin producing 4,000 of these reactors.
Not quite a Shipstone, but awfully good! Ever since the local power company shut down our local (coal-burning) power plant, then was bought out by the big regional power company, I have hoped to see local nodes return to the grid. In the old days, when the coal-burning plant was still on line, regional blackouts did not affect the island, since we had local power.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thankful I'm not a zombie

Theo has found The Greatest Movie Line ever!!!

Transcript in first comment below, for the hard of hearing.

Update: Theo's link no longer works: try this one instead.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Mark Steyn's Thanksgiving address

Blessings close to home.

Speaking as a misfit unassimilated foreigner, I think of Thanksgiving as the most American of holidays.

Christmas is celebrated elsewhere, even if there are significant local variations: In Continental Europe, naughty children get left rods to be flayed with and lumps of coal; in Britain, Christmas lasts from Dec. 22 to mid-January and celebrates the ancient cultural traditions of massive alcohol intake and watching the telly till you pass out in a pool of your own vomit. All part of the rich diversity of our world.

But Thanksgiving (excepting the premature and somewhat undernourished Canadian version) is unique to America. "What's it about?" an Irish visitor asked me a couple of years back. "Everyone sits around giving thanks all day? Thanks for what? George bloody Bush?"

Well, Americans have a lot to be thankful for.

[…]

Three hundred and 14 years ago, the Pilgrims thanked God because there was a place for them in this land, and it was indeed grand. The land is grander today, and that, too, is remarkable: France has lurched from Second Empires to Fifth Republics struggling to devise a lasting constitutional settlement for the same smallish chunk of real estate, but the principles that united a baker's dozen of East Coast colonies were resilient enough to expand across a continent and halfway around the globe to Hawaii.

Americans should, as always, be thankful this Thanksgiving, but they should also understand just how rare in human history their blessings are.
Prosperity, democracy, liberty: these are not normal conditions of humanity. They are rare and usually fleeting. Take them for granted, cease to guard them, and they will soon be gone. RTWT and give thanks.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Is music encoded in da Vinci's Last Supper?

From CNN:

Italian musician uncovers hidden music in Da Vinci's 'Last Supper'

ROME, Italy (AP) -- It's a new Da Vinci code, but this time it could be for real.

A laptop screen shows musical notes encoded in Leonardo Da Vinci's "Last Supper."

An Italian musician and computer technician claims to have uncovered musical notes encoded in Leonardo Da Vinci's "Last Supper," raising the possibility that the Renaissance genius might have left behind a somber composition to accompany the scene depicted in the 15th-century wall painting.

"It sounds like a requiem," Giovanni Maria Pala said. "It's like a soundtrack that emphasizes the passion of Jesus."

Painted from 1494 to 1498 in Milan's Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, the "Last Supper" vividly depicts a key moment in the Gospel narrative: Jesus' last meal with the 12 Apostles before his arrest and crucifixion, and the shock of Christ's followers as they learn that one of them is about to betray him.

Pala, a 45-year-old musician who lives near the southern Italian city of Lecce, began studying Leonardo's painting in 2003, after hearing on a news program that researchers believed the artist and inventor had hidden a musical composition in the work.

"Afterward, I didn't hear anything more about it," he said in an interview with The Associated Press. "As a musician, I wanted to dig deeper."

In a book released Friday in Italy, Pala explains how he took elements of the painting that have symbolic value in Christian theology and interpreted them as musical clues.

Pala first saw that by drawing the five lines of a musical staff across the painting, the loaves of bread on the table as well as the hands of Jesus and the Apostles could each represent a musical note.

This fit the relation in Christian symbolism between the bread, representing the body of Christ, and the hands, which are used to bless the food, he said. But the notes made no sense musically until Pala realized that the score had to be read from right to left, following Leonardo's particular writing style.

In his book -- "La Musica Celata" ("The Hidden Music") -- Pala also describes how he found what he says are other clues in the painting that reveal the slow rhythm of the composition and the duration of each note.

The result is a 40-second "hymn to God" that Pala said sounds best on a pipe organ, the instrument most commonly used in Leonardo's time for spiritual music. A short segment taken from a CD of the piece contained a Bach-like passage played on the organ. The tempo was almost painfully slow but musical.
You'd have to play it slow, to make it last 40 seconds. I suspect we have a case of the Law of Fives here, but maybe I've just seen too many conspiracy theories.

From Glenn Reynolds.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I question the accuracy of this tool

Just one of those things you have to try, like emu burgers at Sunfest.
college undergrad reading level graphicSince the embed code for the graphic includes a link [removed] to a site offering usurious loans, and a hotlink [also removed] for the image, it is a form of spam, isn't it? But just too tasty to pass by. Would they even bother to check reading level, whatever is meant by that. If The Volokh Conspiracy is junior-high level and Rand Simberg is high-school level; and bloggers at those sites are smarter than I am (they are, you know); then maybe I ought to try writing a bit differently?

What? And compromise my artistic integrity? They don't pay me enough for that!

Update: Further research on this at The Periodic Table.

Friday, November 9, 2007

More on biofuels

Glenn Reynolds, linking to George Monbiot at the Grauniad, says "BIOFUELS are now officially evil." Monbiot (rhymes with moonbat), a leader among the global warmingists, has been writing to this effect about biofuels for a while. A few months, anyway. Which shows that a stopped clock, and so on.

Now Jerry Pournelle's readers enter the fray. Dr. Pournelle says, "We don't need the ethanol in the first place. Better we produce gallons and gallons and make every Senator and Member of Congress drink two quarts a day of absolute alcohol diluted however they like. They couldn't do worse, could they?"

Sounds like a plan.

It's starting to get confusing: since pollution cools the Earth, the Greens ought to be in favor of burning more stuff, but they don't want to burn stuff, since that liberates carbon, making more CO2, which warms the Earth, which is bad; but pollution is bad, and so is drilling for oil, which results in burning stuff, which would cool the Earth, which would alleviate Global Warming™, which would be good, except for the pollution, which defiles Mother Gaia. Maybe I'll try to diagram this. Not right now. It's important (isn't it?) to avoid the Fallen Angels scenario.

By the way, I'm seriously tired of seeing Walt Kelly's line "We have met the enemy, and he is us" used about all kinds of things that have nothing to do with littering! Pogo the possum was talking about littering! Tires in the creek, and that sort of thing. Dammit. Carelessness, not evil or subversion.

Here previously: Biofuel problems, Progress on biofuels, Ethanol scam at Rolling Stone.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Baghdad church re-opened

This has to be good.

Glenn Reynolds has a roundup of reactions.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Potted history of climate alarmism

Sure it's a word. If you can have alarmists, you gotta have alarmism. It's in the Telegraph: The deceit behind global warming.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

If you want something done right

… don't let your opponents do it. J.R. Dunn at The American Thinker, The 'Torture' Fraud of the Left:

It's no news that the Bush Administration has done a horrible job of selling itself and its policies. Bush, being a Texan, evidently believes that accomplishments speak for themselves. But the great world, unfortunately, is not Texas. If you don't create your own narrative, lay down your own version of events, someone else is going to do it for you. And you probably will not like the results.
The Administration has been getting kicked around by the media since election day in 2000. All the slick PR people are Democrats, it seems. Or as Simon says in a comment at Althouse,
The reason that the anti-war side is winning the propaganda war (or if you'd rather use a term with less pejorative connotations, "war of words" is because this administration has systematically failed to make the case for what we're doing in Iraq, why it's important we're there, how we're going to move forwards, and what the consequences of surrender would be. The current administration has failed, over and over again, even the most basic communications competency, and in a democracy, that's a fatal flaw, because when you're doing something important and the people turn against you, ceteris paribus, in due course they're going to reassert themselves and shut it down. If we now yank troops out, it won't be because of the myriad failings in the conduct of the war itself, it'll be because the administration has failed to carry the public.
Thanks for the Dunn piece to Gagdad Bob, who says, among much else,"There is no sanctimonious moral scold like leftist moral scold -- for example, you are the moral equivalent of Hitler if you don't believe in Al Gore's weather hysteria." Both linked posts are worth a RTWT. And see It's cold on Presidents' Day, here in February.

What song the lightning sang

Commenter Bill Higgins at Making Light mentions a new musical instrument, the Zeusaphone.

If you found that interesting, do click through to the Youtube page, where there is some information on the instrument and its builder, Steve Ward.

Oh dear. This would be tough on the roadies, if you wanted one for your band. Here's a duet on "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy." This double coil has a more mellow tone.

Who farted?

Hitler farted!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Hillary! finds GWB's analogies "faulty and offensive"

Her whole statement:

“George Bush’s faulty and offensive historical analogies aren’t going to end the war in Iraq, make America safer or bring our troops home. Americans are tired of the President’s efforts to play politics with national security and practice the politics of division.

“When I am President I will end the war in Iraq and bring our troops home safely.”

That's a lot to ask of a few analogies. But which analogies were those, you ask? She might have been more specific. Mark Hemingway thinks it was the ones in which he compared Osama bin Laden to Lenin and Hitler. From the speech:
We must take the words of the enemy seriously. The terrorists have stated their objectives. They intend to build a totalitarian Islamic empire -- encompassing all current and former Muslim lands, stretching from Europe to North Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. In pursuit of their imperial aims, these extremists say there can be no compromise or dialog with those they call infidels -- a category that includes America, the world's free nation [sic], Jews, and all Muslims who reject their extreme vision of Islam. They reject the possibility of peaceful coexistence with the free world. Again, hear the words of Osama bin Laden last year: "Death is better than living on this Earth with the unbelievers among us."

History teaches that underestimating the words of evil, ambitious men is a terrible mistake. In the early 1900s, the world ignored the words of Lenin, as he laid out his plans to launch a Communist revolution in Russia -- and the world paid a terrible price. The Soviet Empire he established killed tens of millions, and brought the world to the brink of thermonuclear war.

In the 1920s, the world ignored the words of Hitler, as he explained his intention to build an Aryan super-state in Germany, take revenge on Europe, and eradicate the Jews -- and the world paid a terrible price. His Nazi regime killed millions in the gas chambers, and set the world aflame in war, before it was finally defeated at a terrible cost in lives and treasure.

Bin Laden and his terrorist allies have made their intentions as clear as Lenin and Hitler before them. And the question is: Will we listen? America and our coalition partners are listening. We have made our choice. We take the words of the enemy seriously. Over the past six years, we have captured or killed hundreds of terrorists. We have disrupted their finances. We have prevented new attacks before they could be carried out. We removed regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq that had supported terrorists and threatened our citizens, and in so doing, liberated 50 million people from the clutches of tyranny.
I'm baffled trying to sort this out. Certainly those two were greater villains, in the sense that they killed greater numbers, so is she taking Osama's side, suggesting that the President is being mean to bin Laden by comparing him to those two? Or were Lenin and Hitler the ones being unfairly maligned?

These are the questions that Hemingway was wondering about when he asked the leaders of the Communist Party USA and American Nazi Party if they felt offended by the President's analogies.
So if you’re keeping score, Hillary Clinton finds Bush’s historical analogy, comparing Osama Bin Laden to Hitler and Lenin, wrong and offensive. She is joined by the Communist Party USA, who also find the analogy offensive — apparently because Lenin didn’t do anything wrong. The American Nazi Party is, frankly, flattered by the comparison — which it gleefully extends to George Washington for reasons only a mental health professional knows. And everybody involved hates George W. Bush.

Somehow I doubt these are the ideological compatriots Clinton was seeking out when she suggested that the President’s analogy was “faulty and offensive.” But if the American Nazi Party and Communist Party USA are not the company in which Clinton wishes to place herself, then what did she mean? I, for one, would be grateful for some clarification about exactly how evil the Senator regards Osama Bin Laden — if he’s not fairly mentioned in the same breath as Hitler and Lenin.

Otherwise, I might suggest that the Senator’s Clintonian parsing has gotten out of hand. Or have we really reached a point at which it depends on what your definition of “megalomaniacal threat to Western civilization” is?
Later in the speech, though, the President makes a couple more historical analogies. Maybe this passage is what she found faulty and offensive:
We can have confidence in this cause because we have seen the power of liberty to transform nations and secure peace before. Here at the Heritage Foundation, you understand this better than most. During the Cold War, there were loud voices in Washington who argued for accommodation of the Soviet Union -- because they believed the watchword of our policy should be "stability." At Heritage, you knew that when it came to the Soviet Union, the watchword of our policy should be "freedom."

Together with a great President named Ronald Reagan, you championed a policy of rolling back communism oppression and bringing freedom to nations enslaved by communist tyranny. And by taking the side of dissidents, who helped millions across the world throw off the shackles of communism, you helped build the free and peaceful societies that are the true sources of stability and peace in the world.

And now we're at the start of a new century, and the same debate is once again unfolding -- this time regarding my policy in the Middle East. Once again, voices in Washington are arguing that the watchword of the policy should be "stability." And once again they're wrong. In Kabul, in Baghdad, in Beirut, and other cities across the broader Middle East, brave men and women are risking their lives every day for the same freedoms we enjoy. And like the citizens of Prague and Warsaw and Budapest in the century gone by, they are looking to the United States to stand up for them, speak out for them, and champion their cause. And we are doing just that.

We are standing with those who yearn for the liberty -- who yearn for liberty in the Middle East, because we understand that the desire for freedom is universal, written by the Almighty into the hearts of every man, woman and child on this Earth.

We are standing with those who yearn for liberty in the Middle East, because we know that the terrorists fear freedom even more than they fear our firepower. They know that given a choice, no one will choose to live under their dark ideology of violence and death.

We're standing with those who yearn for liberty in the Middle East, because we know that when free societies take root in that part of the world, they will yield the peace we all desire. See, the only way the terrorists can recruit operatives and suicide bombers is by feeding on the hopelessness of societies mired in despair. And by bringing freedom to these societies, we replace hatred with hope, and this will help us to marginalize the extremists and eliminate the conditions that feed radicalism, and make the American people more secure.

The lessons of the past have taught us that liberty is transformative. And I believe 50 years from now an American President will be speaking to Heritage and say, thank God that generation that wrote the first chapter in the 21st century understood the power of freedom to bring the peace we want.
Could it be that what is "faulty and offensive" is the comparison of the Cold War and the rolling back of Communism to the current war and the rolling back of what exactly? Terrorism? Totalitarianism? Islamo-fascism? Many of the Democrats seem to think there is no war; from the middle of the speech:
I know that when I discuss the war on terror, some here in Washington, D.C. dismiss it as political rhetoric -- an attempt to scare people into votes. Given the nature of the enemy and the words of its leaders, politicians who deny that we are at war are either being disingenuous or naive. Either way, it is dangerous for our country. We are at war -- and we cannot win this war by wishing it away or pretending it does not exist.

Unfortunately, on too many issues, some in Congress are behaving as if America is not at war.
The analogy would be faulty if there were no enemy, and offensive if Hillary! regarded herself as being depicted on the wrong side in the struggle between the "stability" and the "freedom" factions, or if she regarded the depiction of the accomodationists, the "stability" faction, as being in the wrong, as demeaning.

The enemy is not Islam per se, nor any particular nation, which makes the enemy exceedingly difficult to define. Difficult to find, too; they hide among civilians and use them as shields as a matter of policy. The President's opponents, seeking advantage wherever they can, would like the public to confuse difficulty with impossibility, and then, the undefinable with the nonexistent.

Should those opponents achieve the power they seek, they will have to choose. They can continue to defend Western civilization in whatever way they can, though the word "war" will by denied them by their own choosing. Or they can continue in their current path, denying the existence of an enemy, as we lose an embassy here, a warship there, airplanes, buildings, who knows what. This war has been going on over a thousand years. It warms, it cools, it continues. Some of the quiet spells have lasted over a century. But the first overseas enemies the US faced and defeated were the Barbary Pirates, 200 years ago. [The XYZ Affair fighting was closer to home, off our shores and in the Caribbean.] That was the first US battle in the war that we are fighting now. "Shores of Tripoli," as you remember. Which makes Bush the inheritor of the mantle of Jefferson. How about that!

To get back to Hillary!'s statement for a minute: she finds the President's analogies "faulty and offensive," but does not tell us what their faults are, or in what way they offend. She goes on to say that the analogies will not accomplish the goals of ending the war, making America safer, of bringing the troops home. If the analogies had been less faulty, less offensive, would they have been able to do those things? Oh come on, they're analogies, mere words. They don't have the strength to accomplish anything. Although one sees this kind of magical thinking on the Left often enough: good intentions count more than actual deeds, words have power to make a difference in the physical world.

She goes on to say that when (not "if") she becomes President she will accomplish two of the three goals. She'll end the war and bring the troops home safely, but she won't make America safer. Seems about right: such a display of weakness would only lead to more aggressive attacks by our enemies. When Bill was President, it was an embassy here, a warship there, the first WTC bomb, and so forth; Democrats regard that period as a Golden Age. So there is a level of losses, some number of airplanes hijacked, some number of buildings blown up, and so on, that Hillary! and the Democrats find acceptable and would like to return to. That's a policy of being the victim of a war of attrition, and not responding. The sentence "Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute!" comes to mind. The origin of that slogan is disputed. Still, it resonates with Kipling's

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray,
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say:—

“We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that plays it is lost!”

Jizya, Danegeld, attrition, whatever. Do I ramble? A bit, a bit.

There is one more historical analogy that might be offensive to someone: it's in that last paragraph,
I believe 50 years from now an American President will be speaking to Heritage and say, thank God that generation that wrote the first chapter in the 21st century understood the power of freedom to bring the peace we want.
Of course this is historical in a projective sense, it's history that has not happened yet. But to one who thought her party should have been writing that chapter, and would have written it differently—that could be offensive. "It should have been us that that future President was/will be praising! Not them!" Maybe that's the one.

Update: Interesting that Jay Tea at Wizbang! uses the Harper and Kipling quotes, in equally close proximity, on another topic. Great minds, you know.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

College education, value of

Having a college education does not entitle you to anything. If you did it right, it makes you more capable of something. This Washington Post article, Fulfillment Elusive for Young Altruists In the Crowded Field of Public Interest, occasions some comment at Transterrestrial Musings and Althouse. Commenter M. Simon at Transterrestrial says, "I have one year of college and wound up as an aerospace engineer. How did that happen? The degree is not the ticket. You are the ticket."

The number of people going to college expanded enormously in the last century.
That's hard to read without gridlines. It's from PBS, based on the Statistical Abstract. Click to see it better. Per capita, more college graduates now than high school grads in 1940; more college grads now than high school and college grads put together for the first 160 years or so of this country's existence. This is the kind of quantitative change that is large enough to become a qualitative change. Or it would be, if high school were as tough now as it was then, and likewise college. A good education is still available; but so are diplomas and degrees for time served and tuition paid.

New Math, it's wonderful

Or not.

Publishers need new textbooks to sell, even in fields that have not changed. Professors of education need to publish new theories and methods. Children just need to learn arithmetic.

Found a while back at Jerry Pournelle's place.

Update, Nov. 28: Michelle Malkin and her commenters have plenty to say on this. The comments are particularly good, and they are not partisan. This is really not a partisan issue at all.

Victory parade in Ramadi, Iraq

Video of the parade, with drums, flowers, smiling children, at Perfunction. This can't be Bush-concocted propaganda, since it will never appear in the big newspapers or on broadcast TV, and after all, propaganda that isn't seen might as well not exist. Here's an article on the parade and related developments from the official Multi-National Force website.

Michelle Malkin has: AP reports: “Thousands Return to Safer Iraqi Capital.” Jules Crittenden has a roundup of British reports, including this:

Smoking hookah pipes and drinking beer, Sarmad Ali joked and gossiped long into the night with a group of friends in Baghdad – a luxury they could not enjoy a few months ago because of the violence.

Slightly tipsy, the young men piled into a minibus and drove to Palestine Street, until recently a no-go area after dark but now filled with traffic and pedestrians. They pulled up outside a recently opened late-night restaurant, which serves sheep’s head on bread, a favourite dish for Iraqi men after a few drinks.

Such hangouts, called pacha restaurants, closed after the 2003 invasion because people were too scared to go out late in the evening. “We were surprised to see a pacha restaurant open again,” said Mr Ali, a 28-year-old contractor. “It is a clear sign that things are getting back to normal.”
I wonder if you need a few drinks to eat that.

Defense contractor is a non-profit charity

Concurrent Technologies, just one of Rep. John Murtha's earmark-funded home district projects. From the Washington Post:

Concurrent Technologies began two decades ago doing metalworking research in Pennsylvania's struggling rust belt. In the years since, the Johnstown, Pa., company has become a federal contracting chameleon.

It is an intelligence adviser, an environmental consultant and a software engineering specialist. It has trained mine-detecting dogs and managed religion-based initiatives. It oversees construction projects, organizes conferences and studies ways to use hydrogen for fuel in Pennsylvania and South Carolina. Missile-defense research is part of its portfolio. So is the development of special armor for combat vehicles in Iraq and "solid waste technology" in Florida.

And it is a nonprofit charity.

Behind the rise of Concurrent is Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee's defense subcommittee, who helped arrange funding to launch the organization in 1988. Murtha has since arranged millions of dollars more in directed congressional appropriations called earmarks. Now Concurrent has nearly $250 million in annual revenue and 1,500 employees.
It's a floor wax and a dessert topping! How do dey do dat?
Unlike many other big contractors, Concurrent pays no income tax on most of its revenue. Unlike nonprofit, federally funded research-and-development corporations, it is not chartered by the federal government.

According to Concurrent's chief financial officer, Edward J. Sheehan Jr., the Internal Revenue Service approved Concurrent as a charity because it "lessens the burden on governance" and helps "the federal government and American industry to perform more effectively through the use of emerging technologies."
Oh. ˙ǝsuǝs sǝʞɐɯ ʇɐɥʇ 'uǝɥʇ llǝʍ

Comments are interesting, for once, at the WaPo. From ThatPoliticalBlog, via Glenn Reynolds.

Friday, November 2, 2007

CBC video: Doomsday Called Off

I suppose the Canadians might be in favor of a bit of warming. Global Warming: Doomsday Called Off.

Happy birthday, Alfred Wegener

Back when I used to live in a university town, I would occasionally see a bumper sticker saying "Reunite Gondwanaland!" I wondered what the people with the "Free Tibet!" stickers made of that. Now, thanks to Luboš Motl, I find that it should have said "Reunite Pangaea!" Anyway, a happy (slightly belated) 127th to the pioneer of continental drift theory. The consensus was against him.

Click through for maps, a portrait, and real discussion (more than this pitiful stub of a post).

New climate video from Warren Meyer

Details at Coyote Blog.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

IPCC scientists against Gore

A couple of items. From the WSJ:

My Nobel Moment
By JOHN R. CHRISTY
November 1, 2007; Page A19

I've had a lot of fun recently with my tiny (and unofficial) slice of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But, though I was one of thousands of IPCC participants, I don't think I will add "0.0001 Nobel Laureate" to my resume.

The other half of the prize was awarded to former Vice President Al Gore, whose carbon footprint would stomp my neighborhood flat. But that's another story.

Both halves of the award honor promoting the message that Earth's temperature is rising due to human-based emissions of greenhouse gases. The Nobel committee praises Mr. Gore and the IPCC for alerting us to a potential catastrophe and for spurring us to a carbonless economy.

I'm sure the majority (but not all) of my IPCC colleagues cringe when I say this, but I see neither the developing catastrophe nor the smoking gun proving that human activity is to blame for most of the warming we see. Rather, I see a reliance on climate models (useful but never "proof") and the coincidence that changes in carbon dioxide and global temperatures have loose similarity over time.

[…] We discount the possibility that everything is caused by human actions, because everything we've seen the climate do has happened before. Sea levels rise and fall continually. The Arctic ice cap has shrunk before. One millennium there are hippos swimming in the Thames, and a geological blink later there is an ice bridge linking Asia and North America.

One of the challenges in studying global climate is keeping a global perspective, especially when much of the research focuses on data gathered from spots around the globe. Often observations from one region get more attention than equally valid data from another.

The recent CNN report "Planet in Peril," for instance, spent considerable time discussing shrinking Arctic sea ice cover. CNN did not note that winter sea ice around Antarctica last month set a record maximum (yes, maximum) for coverage since aerial measurements started.
Linked from Newsbusters and Eric Scheie, via Glenn Reynolds.

A Newsbusters commenter links to Lawrence Solomon at the Financial Post, writing about Dr. Vincent Gray:
IPCC too blinkered and corrupt to save
Lawrence Solomon, Financial Post
Published: Friday, October 26, 2007

Vincent Gray has begun a second career as a climate-change activist. His motivation springs from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body that combats global warming by advocating the reduction of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Dr. Gray has worked relentlessly for the IPCC as an expert reviewer since the early 1990s.

But Dr. Gray isn't an activist in the cause of enforcing the Kyoto Protocol and realizing the other goals of the worldwide IPCC process. To the contrary, Dr. Gray's mission, in his new role as cofounder of The New Zealand Climate Science Coalition, is to stop the IPCC from spreading climate-change propaganda that undermines the integrity of science.

"The whole process is a swindle," he states, in large part because the IPCC has a blinkered mandate that excludes natural causes of global warming.

" The Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) 1992 defined 'climate change' as changes in climate caused by human interference with atmospheric composition," he explains. "The task of the IPCC, therefore, has been to accumulate evidence to support this belief that all changes in the climate are caused by human interference with the atmosphere. Studies of natural climate change have largely been used to claim that these are negligible compared with 'climate change.' "

Dr. Gray is one of the 2,000 to 2,500 top scientists from around the world whom the IPCC often cites as forming the basis of its findings. No one has been a more faithful reviewer than Dr. Gray over the years -- he has been an IPCC expert almost from the start, and perhaps its most prolific contributor, logging almost 1,900 comments on the IPCC's final draft of its most recent report alone.

But Dr. Gray, who knows as much about the IPCC's review processes as anyone, has been troubled by what he sees as an appalling absence of scientific rigour in the IPCC's review process.

"Right from the beginning, I have had difficulty with this procedure. Penetrating questions often ended without any answer. Comments on the IPCC drafts were rejected without explanation, and attempts to pursue the matter were frustrated indefinitely.

"Over the years, as I have learned more about the data and procedures of the IPCC, I have found increasing opposition by them to providing explanations, until I have been forced to the conclusion that for significant parts of the work of the IPCC, the data collection and scientific methods employed are unsound. Resistance to all efforts to try and discuss or rectify these problems has convinced me that normal scientific procedures are not only rejected by the IPCC, but that this practice is endemic, and was part of the organization from the very beginning."
Consensus? As Paul Reiter said to John Stossel, the IPCC is a political organization, not a scientific one.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The brighter side of global warming, part 2: Greenland

The NY Times had a piece on Sunday, Warming Revives Flora and Fauna in Greenland. Much interesting information, including this sentence:

When using the words “growing” in connection with Greenland in the same sentence, it is important to remember that although Greenland is the size of Europe, it has only nine conifer forests like Mr. Bjerge’s, all of them cultivated.
By Wednesday morning, another couple of paragraphs had been added to the article:
Correction: October 30, 2007

An article on Sunday about the effect of climate change in Greenland misstated its geographic size relative to Europe. It is about one-quarter as big, not the same size.
That would be the single easiest thing in the article to check. The Times' reputation for accuracy is further enhanced.

Also of interest in this article is the mention of the Medieval Optimum (though not by name; the warmingists do not like to discuss it) and the Little Ice Age:
Greenland, a self-governing province of Denmark, was settled by the pugilistic Viking Erik the Red in the 10th century, after his murderous ways got him ejected from Iceland. Legend has it that he called it Greenland as a way to entice others to join him, and, in fact, it was.

It was relatively green then, with forests and fertile soil, and the Vikings grew crops and raised sheep for hundreds of years. But temperatures dropped precipitously in the so-called Little Ice Age, which began in the 16th century, the Norse settlers died out and agriculture was no longer possible.
[Twirling moustache] Aha! So there has been variation in the past! [stops twirling] Will a correction appear for this, next? We wait to find out.

Brighter side, part 1.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Personal priorities

John Hawkins:

Let this thread over at the Daily Kos be a warning to you: life is bigger than politics. Yes, politics and ideology are important, but you shouldn't take things to such an extreme that you let it make you miserable or wreck your relationships with your friends or family.
Thanks to Michelle Malkin.

Update, over a year later: See? what happens? A thirty-some-years friendship, demolished, in public, on the Web. Over politics, and ego. This leading to this, and other bits of hostility, in the same thread. A whole lot of people would rather be right. (That's an SF link; the source of it is Henry Clay, who famously said that he would rather be right than President. He managed to be neither, but that's another story.) Maybe they'll make it up, now that the election's over.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Christopher Walken for President?

Charles at LGF links to "Perhaps the greatest music video ever made." Perhaps, indeed. (Did you spot the Dune reference?) The comment thread is one music video recommendation after another. In the course of which I find that Christopher Walken has a campaign website, Christopher Walken for President 2008. It seems like a pretty laid-back campaign. At the CafePress shop for campaign stuff, the T-shirt slogan is "This country needs more cowbell;" the bumper sticker slogan is, "If you want me to be President, I'll do it!" Another T-shirt actually seems to take a position on an issue, "No more zoos!" I for one would hate to see all those animals put out of work. It's not easy getting a job as a lion in the Bronx if you can't connect at the zoo.

More news from the cancer front

From the New Scientist:

GM virus shrinks cancer tumours in humans

A virus carefully engineered to target cancer tumours has shown promising results in treating liver cancer in a small, early-stage clinical trial.

Some of the patients enrolled in the trial experienced a greater than 50% reduction in the size of their tumours over the course of the year long study, according to researchers. The virus used in the treatment works well, they say, because it can replicate and spread quickly within the tumours.

Scientists have suspected that viruses might help thwart tumours ever since 1912. In that year, an Italian gynaecology journal reported that a woman with advanced cervical cancer showed signs of increasing tumour shrinkage after receiving a rabies vaccination for a dog bite.

[…]

To overcome this challenge scientists such as David Kirn at Jennerex Biotherapeutics in San Francisco, California, US have tried to develop treatments based on the vaccinia or pox virus. This spreads more easily within cancer tumours than previously employed viruses thanks to a 'tail' composed of a protein called actin.

In the first step, Kirn's team deleted a gene from the vaccinia virus that made it unable to produce an enzyme called thymidine kinase. Without this enzyme, the virus cannot replicate and cause damage in normal, healthy tissue.

Cancerous cells, however, contain an abundance of thymidine kinase, making it easy for the modified vaccinia virus to multiply within tumours. And once the virus creates enough copies of itself it bursts the cancer cell where it resides.

Next, Kirns' group added a gene to the virus that made it produce a signalling molecule called cytokine, which attracts the body's immune cells towards tumours. The end result of this elaborate process of genetic engineering was a tumour-targeting vaccinia virus known as JX-594.
Hopeful signs all over. Europeans will not want this, I suppose, because of the genetic engineering involved.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Somewhere, over the rainbow

As Theo says, "a bit soppy but amazing."

That's Connie Talbot.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Spying for law enforcement?

At ThreatsWatch:

The Domestic Intelligence Imperative
Something is wrong when sharing requires breaking the law
By Michael Tanji

Driven to desperation by restrictive information sharing rules, and concerned about the terrorist threat to their homes and loved ones, at least five American intelligence officers established a domestic espionage ring. The target of their actions: the federal government. The beneficiary of their actions: Los Angeles. How has it come to this, that otherwise patriotic and loyal citizens feel compelled to work against their government in order to serve and protect their communities?
At TCS:
Patriot or Vigilante?

By Robert Haddick

Did a group of experienced military officers, comprised of intelligence analysts, Iraq war veterans, and reservists, some who are also police officers in Los Angeles, form their own "vigilance committee" to hunt down al Qaeda suspects operating inside the U.S.?

If true, what drove these men to risk their careers, their reputations, and their personal freedom to break strict laws on the handling of top-secret documents?
The military working with law enforcement to track down internal threats, sounds good, no? No? The "Gorelick wall" is still standing, and it is being enforced.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Lord Monckton takes on Gore's errors, again

It seems the Gore publicity office has reacted to the British judge who ruled that Gore's movie had 9 errors. From the opening of Lord Monckton's new piece:

Al Gore’s spokesman and “environment advisor,” Ms. Kalee Kreider, begins by saying that the film presented “thousands and thousands of facts.” It did not: just 2,000 “facts” in 93 minutes would have been one fact every three seconds. The film contained only a few dozen points, most of which will be seen to have been substantially inaccurate. The judge concentrated only on nine points which even the UK Government, to which Gore is a climate-change advisor, had to admit did not represent mainstream scientific opinion.

Ms. Kreider then states, incorrectly, that the judge himself had never used the term “errors.” In fact, the judge used the term “errors,” in inverted commas, throughout his judgment.
It does go on. Available from the Science and Public Policy Institute in html and pdf. The previous Monckton vs. Gore back-and-forth was the occasion of my first post here.

John Stossel on global warming, 10/19/07



The report from last Friday's 20-20. The kids are being frightened by having An Inconvenient Truth forced upon them by their teachers. How many neuroses will this lead to? At least the Russian bombs that frightened my generation were real. Anybody recognize the creep with the English accent who says, "We have Holocaust deniers, we have climate change deniers, and to be honest, I don't think there's a great deal of difference." at 6:55 in (1:11 remaining, if you see a countdown)?

A shorter written version at the ABC News site.

Update: Russell Seitz thinks that Tom Yulsman has called Stossel's "attempt to bluff on some bad bets in climate science." Yulsman's Prometheus site is sponsored by NOAA, which is heavily invested in the AGW "consensus." The way I read the post, it sounds like Yulsman is the one bluffing. "Flat-earthers?" Really? See what you think.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Holy Land Foundation mistrial

The verdict, awaited over the weekend, turns out to be no verdict at all.

Justice Department prosecutors can get juries to convict businesspersons such as Martha Stewart and Conrad Black, and high government officials such as Lewis Libby, on the flimsiest evidence, of non-crimes. Prison sentences result. But given networks and documents and years of real evidence of subversion, they cannot get a conviction. At least they got a mistrial and will have another chance, hopefully with another prosecutor and another strategy. It's enough to make you wonder if the DOJ are really trying. Gee, Sandy Berger has not taken that lie detector test, and DOJ is not pressing him on it. Maybe they're not really trying. There are probably people at DOJ and CIA who started working there when Jimmy Carter was president. The entrenched bureaucracy has its own agenda. Compare to this book, and this one.

Dallas Morning News: Judge declares mistrial in Holy Land Foundation case.
Rod Dreher: Holy Land Foundation snafu.
LGF: Breaking: Mistrial Declared in HLF Hamas Trial - Update: Official Verdict Document Added, quickly followed by CAIR Gloating Over Mistrial.
NY Times: U.S. Prosecution of Muslim Group Ends in Mistrial

Update, Tuesday Oct 23: More from the talkative juror, William Neal, a 33-year-old art director in Dallas: Holy Land defendants' long wait ends as U.S. vows to retry case.
From the American Thinker: Bad News for Holy Land Defendants.
And from the Investigative Project on Terrorism: Second HLF Trial Could Bring Changes. This includes a link to a video interview with juror William Neal. It seems odd that he can't remember his own age: "I'd never been on a jury before, never, this is my first time in 30, what, 20 years since I'm 18, or whatever …" He makes good points about the way the case was presented. Too much evidence that was too technical for the jury to deal with; too many charges. 197 charges! An hour a charge is not too much time for debate and voting, but 197 hours is five 40-hour work weeks, or 25 days. Assuming no time is spent on deciding what's for lunch—and Neal says that some days were mostly spent discussing lunch—then the 19 days of deliberation were still inadequate for the case as presented.

Another update, Oct 29: Steven Emerson in the NY Post:

Prosecutors in the Northern District of Texas deserve praise for bringing this case in the first place. The trial record conclusively demonstrated that Holy Land and several of its unindicted co-conspirators - including the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) - grew out of Hamas. Moreover, it showed that they spent the better part of 15 years deceiving government agencies and the media, hiding their true goals under a mask of work for charity and civil rights.

To be sure, the mistrial was portrayed as another in a series of setbacks for the government's anti-terror prosecution strategy. Notably, several jurors seemed to discount the testimony of an Israeli security expert, testifying under an assumed name, apparently on the belief that Israelis cannot be trusted on Palestinian matters.

Some jurors may even have bought the defense argument that anti-Israel terror isn't truly terrorism, but merely "resisting the occupation." One juror told the Dallas Morning News of his difficulty in describing Hamas as a terrorist group, stating, "Part of it does terrorist acts, but it's a political movement. It's an uprising."
This juror was of course William Neal, the only juror who has spoken to the press.

Here previously: Islamic fifth column.