Sunday, October 31, 2010

Save the data!

Maurizio Morabito:

The prestigious collection of hundreds of years of weather observations, historical books and meteorological instruments from the Collegio Romano in Rome is at risk of being dispersed for good. Please sign the appeal to prevent such a disaster: (in the signature section: “Nome”=First name; “Cognome”=Family name; “richiesto”=Mandatory field)


A few days ago I have received the following letter via e-mail (translated and adapted in English from the original in Italian):

Dear friends,

It is with great sadness that I am forwarding the attached letter – press release by the staff at the Research Unit for Applied Meteorology and Climatology in Agriculture (in Italian: CRA-CMA), the direct descendant of the first Italian National Weather Station inaugurated in 1876 and headquartered at the Collegio Romano from 1879 (in an area previously occupied by the Meteorological Observatory built in 1782 by Abbot Giuseppe Calandrelli (the first to apply gravitational theory to cometary atmospheres)). I hope that those who have taken this decision will go back on it, at least reconsider this meteorological site, by declaring its historical importance for Italian meteorology. That would mean leaving untouched its Library, Historical Archives and the Museum of Ancient Meteorological and Seismographic Instruments, as well as the historic Calandrelli Observatory. The Library is at present unique in Italy, after the closure, in the 1990s, of the Air Force Weather Service Library.
Joanne Nova says,
How valuable is empirical evidence and long term data? The Collegio Romano is one of the few places in the world with multi-centennial meteorological and climate data series (228 years!) … Not many people in the world appreciate how important and rare those long temperature series and historic collections are.
If the warmingists were really interested in science, this would be a big deal. Al Gore has made enough on climate alarmism to buy the place, single-handed. It's just as well, though, since the alarmists have shown what they think of data. Data are to be extrapolated, adjusted, inferred, or deleted. The actual records can be so, uh, inconvenient. Look at New Zealand for a current case, if you're tired of Phil Jones.

From Jerry Pournelle's mail.

Friday, October 29, 2010

We could use a man like Calvin Coolidge again

Archie Bunker liked the wrong President. Of course he did. Archie was written that way.

America missed a bet when Coolidge decided not to run in 1928. He would have been reelected in a landslide. If he had been in office, and the 1929 crash came anyway, he would have been able to follow Harding's example in dealing with it. The 1920 depression was a short sharp shock, followed by the Roaring 20's.

Coolidge presided over an era of unprecedented prosperity. He (and Harding) cut taxes and spending radically. The budget in 1929 was half what it was in 1920 [p. 21 of this GPO pdf.] At the end of Wilson's Presidency, the top income tax rate was 77%. Coolidge was able to push it down to 25%. (Robert Novak says he was not such a budget-cutter, but does so by comparing Wilson's pre-war budget to Coolidge's last budget. In the same essay, Novak points out that Coolidge made use of the Laffer Curve before Arthur Laffer was born.)

He wrote his own speeches. Contrary to the "Silent Cal" cliché, he "made use of the new medium of radio and made radio history several times while President. He made himself available to reporters, giving 52o press conferences, meeting with reporters more regularly than any President before or since." [Wikipedia, from David Greenberg's Calvin Coolidge.]

Here's a speech from 1924 in a talkie made with Lee De Forest's pioneering sound process:

I like this speech well enough that I have transcribed it. A highlight:

I want the people of America to be able to work less for the government and more for themselves. I want them to have the rewards of their own industry. This is the chief meaning of freedom. Until we can re-establish a condition under which the earnings of the people can be kept by the people, we are bound to suffer a very severe and distinct curtailment of our liberty.
The full text is below.

Here is the text of his address at the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

A few more links: David Bozeman calls Coolidge "The Great Un-Obama."

Alan Snyder's article explains why he did not run in 1928. It reminds me of the way George Washington term-limited himself in 1800.

Amity Shlaes calls Coolidge "The Great Refrainer."

Shlaes and Joe Thorndike have been writing a blog devoted to Coolidge, Silent Cal. Thorndike's personal blog is thorndike dot com.

Some notes on De Forest's sound film process, Phonofilm, here, here, and here.

Full text of the speech in the movie above:
[The] country needs every ounce of its energy to restore itself. The costs of government are all assessed upon the people. This means that the farmer is doomed to provide a certain amount of money out of the sale of his produce, no matter how low the price, to pay his taxes. The manufacturer, the professional man, the clerk, must do the same from their income. The wage earner, often at a higher rate when compared with his earning, makes his contribution perhaps not directly but indirectly in the advanced cost of everything he buys. The expenses of the government reach everybody. Taxes take from everyone a part of his earnings, and force everyone to work for a certain part of his time for the government.

When we come to realize that the yearly expenses of the governments of this country reach the stupendous sum of about seven billion, five hundred million dollars, we get [garbled] hundred million dollars is needed by the national government, and the remainder by local governments. Such a sum is difficult to comprehend. It represents all the pay of five million wage earners receiving five dollars a day, working three hundred days in the year. If the government should add one hundred million dollars of expense, it would represent four days' more work of these wage earners.

These are some of the reasons why I want to cut down public expense. I want the people of America to be able to work less for the government and more for themselves. I want them to have the rewards of their own industry. This is the chief meaning of freedom. Until we can re-establish a condition under which the earnings of the people can be kept by the people, we are bound to suffer a very severe and distinct curtailment of our liberty.

These results are not fanciful. They are not imaginary. They are grimly actual and real, reaching into every household in the land. They take from each home annually an average of over three hundred dollars, and taxes must be paid. They are not a voluntary contribution, to be met out of surplus earnings. They are a stern necessity. They come first. It is only out of what is left, after they are paid, that the necessities of food, clothing, and shelter can be provided, and the comforts of home secured, or the yearnings of the soul for a broader and more abundant life gratified.

When the government effects a new economy, it grants everybody a life pension, with which to raise the standard of existence. It increases the value of everybody's property, raises the scale of everybody's wages. One of the greatest favors that can be bestowed upon the American people is economy in government.
—President Calvin Coolidge, August 11, 1924

Monday, October 25, 2010

Kyoto Protocol by any other name is Wirtschaftskampf

That's "economic struggle," or trade warfare.

Back in 2002, there was still a lot of talk about how the US should hurry up and ratify the Kyoto Protocol before New York sank beneath the waves, or something. I asked Megan McArdle* if it might have been "designed to be harmless to EU economies while handcuffing ours? So that the ratification really requires no changes on their parts?" She looked at the numbers, and agreed that

The European politicians who pushed it care less about absolute prosperity than relative prosperity. They're okay with hurting their economies if ours is hurt more.
But she was too kind to those European politicians.

Recently in the Weekly Standard, John Rosenthal has taken a look at "The Secret History of Climate Alarmism: A very German story of power politics disguised as environmentalism." He goes back to 1986:
The original impulse to take action had come from the German Physics Society, which in January 1986 published a “Warning of an Impending Climate Catastrophe.” Just over six months later, in August, the newsweekly Der Spiegel popularized the German physicists’ “warning” in a spectacular cover story headlined “The Climate Catastrophe.” The image on the cover of the magazine depicted Cologne’s historic cathedral surrounded by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean: a consequence of the melting of the polar ice caps, as was explained on the inside of the issue. Thus was the “global warming” scare born. In Germany, in 1986.
The whole protocol, or "framework convention," was carefully tailored to fit events in Europe. It's no coincidence that the base year for most countries in Kyoto was the year after the Berlin Wall fell.

Rosenthal raises a concern about the wisdom, and priorities, of our diplomats:
The real questions that Americans need to ask concern their own negotiators. How could they have permitted the United States to be boxed into such an obviously prejudicial corner, and why did neither they nor the Clinton administration as such do anything to expose the ruse?
The Senate at least saw through it, and refused to ratify, 95-0. Here's the actual Senate resolution (pdf). So the 95 "Yea" votes are votes against adopting the treaty.

The science has always been secondary to the politics.

The Kyoto Protocol is still out there, not dead yet. A few more Al Frankens in the Senate and it still might pass. Here's Franken in 2009:
We can start by ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. One of the dumbest things that President Bush said -- and that's a high bar -- is that Kyoto would cripple the U.S. economy. I think the opposite is true.
Funny, Al.
* I was using my real name on the Internet in those days. The Anglosphere Challenge was published in 2004, and it was shortly after that I grew tired of having to explain over and over again that I was not the author of that fine book, but someone else entirely.

If the world is not going to end in 2012 ...

… as a new critique of the conversion from the Mayan suggests, some recalculations may be in order.

It's a good news/bad news situation for believers in the 2012 Mayan apocalypse. The good news is that the Mayan "Long Count" calendar may not end on Dec. 21, 2012 (and, by extension, the world may not end along with it). The bad news for prophecy believers? If the calendar doesn't end in December 2012, no one knows when it actually will - or if it has already.

A new critique, published as a chapter in the new textbook "Calendars and Years II: Astronomy and Time in the Ancient and Medieval World" (Oxbow Books, 2010), argues that the accepted conversions of dates from Mayan to the modern calendar may be off by as much as 50 or 100 years. That would throw the supposed and overhyped 2012 apocalypse off by decades and cast into doubt the dates of historical Mayan events.
I guess I'd better start stockpiling light bulbs after all. (From Jerry Pournelle's mail.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Instruments of dubious value

Not the robosigned mortgages causing such an uproar among the bankers, but "the 10 Most Ludicrous Musical Instruments Ever Conceived." All are described and presented with videos so that they can be seen and heard. All are unfamiliar to me, and for most of them, I'd just as soon they stay that way. There might be a future for the violimba in horror movie scores. The Samchillian Tip Tip Tip Cheeepeeeee, a keyboard "based on relativity," is intriguing and might actually have a future. Or it might be from the future.

Second Rate Snacks ...

… is the name of a blog devoted to, guess what? I read the whole thing and didn't even need an Alka-Seltzer afterwards. Recommended for anyone who has debated the merits of different brands of potato chips and cheese puffs, and, really, who hasn't?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sen. Leahy's plan to dismantle the Internet on hold for recess

The bill is S. 3804, the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, or COICA. (Full text.) It has 16 co-sponsors, including a few Republicans.

Commentary and comments at Techdirt, PC Mag, Fox News, ZDnet (Australia), EFF, and elsewhere.

From the Fox News story:

Internet advocates warn the legislation would open a door for a handful of people in the federal government to wantonly power off entire websites that may be operating legally under current law. Though senators suggest the bill would save jobs by cracking down on piracy, critics say it will hurt the economy by threatening fledgling companies whenever copyrighted material shows up on their sites. "If this bill had been law five or 10 years ago, there's a good chance that YouTube would no longer be around," Peter Eckersley, senior staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told

Eckersley said the bill would mark a drastic departure from current law by allowing the government not just to strip copyrighted material off an offending website, but to order the shutdown of a domain name altogether.

Eighty-seven engineers who played a role in the creation of the Internet have sent a letter to the Judiciary Committee urging it to sideline the bill.

"If enacted, this legislation will risk fragmenting the Internet's global domain name system (DNS), create an environment of tremendous fear and uncertainty for technological innovation, and seriously harm the credibility of the United States in its role as a steward of key Internet infrastructure," they wrote. "All censorship schemes impact speech beyond the category they were intended to restrict, but this bill will be particularly egregious in that regard because it causes entire domains to vanish from the Web, not just infringing pages or files. Worse, an incredible range of useful, law-abiding sites can be blacklisted under this bill."
They can't keep their grubby paws off.

Leahy has been in office far too long. All the political crystal gazers seem to think that there's no chance he will lose this election. I'll be hoping for Len Britton to surprise them on election night. It's a shame that the Republican Party is not supporting its own candidate.

Update: David Post at The Volokh Conspiracy says that COICA is "a truly awful bill."

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What to do if accounts are hacked

A friend had this happen last week. So, possibly a useful resource:
What to Do If Hackers Steal Your Online Accounts.

10:10 — Deep Greens fantasizing in public

Everybody's seen this by now, right? The video produced by the environmental group with the red button and the people getting blown to bloody bits for being indifferent about this environmental action. Richard Curtis, Gillian Anderson, Radiohead, so on and so forth.

Treacher has found a video response. Taranto and commenters at the WSJ have commentary. James Delingpole has a couple more examples of the enviro-terror genre.

Nothing new about this. Paul (Sea Shepherd) Watson's call for ~6,000,000,000 deaths, as soon as possible please, is still on the Sea Shepherd website. James Hanson was calling for trials for AGW deniers, not so long ago. Paul Krugman used the expression, "traitors to the planet." The penalty for treason is death.

Lefties, "progressives," enviros, what have you, they don't see human beings. They see economic units, or classes, or elements of the dialectic. In connection with which, Andrea Harris wrote about "The people Obama doesn't see." She also has a piece about the 10:10 video.

In the fantasies of "environmentalists," somehow all those awful people just disappear, but the dreamers are spared to view the resulting Paradise. That will only work if the environmentalists supervise the slaughter themselves. In the 10:10 video, the fuzzy teddy bear mask slipped.

Added: Andrew Bolt has a couple more of these toxic ads. Via Hot Air. S. Weasel has a recycling ad. Ed Driscoll has a post with many links, and a follow-up. Eric S. Raymond writes, "From now on, this video should be Exhibit A whenever the global-warming alarmists pretend to moral or intellectual superiority over the rest of us."