Sledgehammer's Cycles

Sledgehammer's Cycles
Sledgehammer's Performance and Custom Cycles

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Traffic

This has turned out to be my best traffic month, for no particular reason that I can fathom. No links from the major bloggers, no particularly au courant topic that got picked up by anyone.

I must confess to being a little flummoxed. But thanks for stopping by!

In important news ...

Weer'd Beard tells us that Mrs. Weer'd is going in for surgery. There's no "routine" surgery, especially when it's brain surgery.

Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers.

Please act all "Sciency", mkay?

Several people have emailed me about the report that's just been published, on improving the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) process. I'm underwhelmed.

First the good: the report has many sensible conclusions that would without question improve the process:
UNITED NATIONS — The scientists involved in producing the periodic United Nations reports on climate change need to be more open to alternative views and more transparent about their own possible conflicts of interest, an independent review panel said Monday.
Here's the problem in a nutshell: there is a huge lack of transparency in the IPCC process, and as a result people don't trust the output. I wrote of this before, how Willis Eschenbach's j'accuse has yet to be dealt with head on by the establishment Climate Science community:

The lack of trust is not a problem of perception or communication. It is a problem of lack of substance. Results are routinely exaggerated. “Scientific papers” are larded with “may” and “might” and “could possibly”. Advocacy is a common thread in climate science papers. Codes are routinely concealed, data is not archived. A concerted effort is made to marginalize and censor opposing views.

And most disturbing, for years you and the other climate scientists have not said a word about this disgraceful situation. When Michael Mann had to be hauled in front of a congressional committee to force him to follow the simplest of scientific requirements, transparency, you guys were all wailing about how this was a huge insult to him.

"May". "Might". "Could". Scandalously, these are the coin of the realm in Climate Science today - at least the Climate Science that makes the headlines. So what's in the new report?

The IPCC should elect an Executive Director to lead the Secretariat and handle day-to-day operations of the organization. The term of this senior scientist should be limited to the timeframe of one assessment.

...

The IPCC should encourage Review Editors to fully exercise their authority to ensure that reviewers’ comments are adequately considered by the authors and that genuine controversies are adequately reflected in the report.

The IPCC should adopt a more targeted and effective process for responding to reviewer comments. In such a process, Review Editors would prepare a written summary of the most significant issues raised by reviewers shortly after review comments have been received. Authors would be required to provide detailed written responses to the most significant review issues identified by the Review Editors, abbreviated responses to all non-editorial comments, and no written responses to editorial comments.

...

All Working Groups should use the qualitative level-of-understanding scale in their Summary for Policy Makers and Technical Summary, as suggested in IPCC’s uncertainty guidance for the Fourth Assessment Report. This scale may be supplemented by a quantitative probability scale, if appropriate.

Quantitative probabilities (as in the likelihood scale) should be used to describe the probability of well-defined outcomes only when there is sufficient evidence. Authors should indicate the basis for assigning a probability to an outcome or event (e.g., based on measurement, expert judgment, and/or model runs).

...

The IPCC should complete and implement a communications strategy that emphasizes transparency, rapid and thoughtful responses, and relevance to stakeholders, and which includes guidelines about who can speak on behalf of IPCC and how to represent the organization appropriately.

Emphasis mine. In other words, the IPCC should, but presumably is not required to offer up actual science. But let's look at that one about dealing with comments. Remember, one of the scandalous (no other word will do) errors in AR4 claimed increasing magnitude of weather related damage. The scandal wasn't that this was wrong, but that the IPCC was told of this by a reviewer, who was ignored:
It was all but certainly this passage that survived the review process and appear in the final report:
A previous normalisation of losses, undertaken for U.S. hurricanes by Pielke and Landsea (1998) and U.S. floods (Pielke et al., 2002) included normalising the economic losses for changes in wealth and population so as to express losses in constant dollars. These previous national U.S. assessments, as well as those for normalised Cuban hurricane losses (Pielke et al., 2003), did not show any significant upward trend in losses over time, but this was before the remarkable hurricane losses of 2004 and 2005.
What did Pielke think about this? Good question, easily answered. The IPCC never asked, but that did not stop the IPCC from making up an answer for me, which it did in its response to Zwiers (here in PDF, at p. 121):
I believe Pielke agrees that adding 2004 and 2005 has the potential to change his earlier conclusions – at least about the absence of a trend in US Cat losses.
...

So not only did the IPCC AR4 WGII egregiously misrepresent the science of disasters and climate change, but when questions were raised about that section by at least one expert reviewer, it simply made up a misleading and false response about my views. Not good.
The editor of that section of the IPCC AR4 report is - surprise! - the editor of the AR5 report. But the new guidelines say that you shouldn't do this, mkay?

The starting point for these sorts of "improvements" all seem to be that Climate Science deserves the benefit of the doubt. It doesn't. Freedom of Information Act requests are still being turned down. Software is still not being released. The quality of the data in the major temperature databases is highly questionable.

Climate Science isn't dealing with any of these issues. They should.

The Day After (the Dinosaur's) Tomorrow

I Tivo'ed Last Day Of The Dinosaurs. Feh.

The easy criticism is that it's animal Death Pr0n (not that there's anything wrong with that; I like North American Hunter). The story line is poorly written - poor dinosaurs! - but like I said, this is the easy criticism. The bigger criticism is that the story of the killer asteroid at the K-T boundary is mostly wrong, at least as told in shows like this. And therein lies the interesting part of the tale.

First, let's level-set: it's indisputable that an asteroid or very large meteor did hit the Earth 63 Million years ago. The evidence for this is pretty solid, not least the Iridium layer at the K-T boundary separating the Cretaceous ("K") and the Tertiary ("T") periods (K-T, see?).

Second, the Canonical narrative - a vigorous, thriving Dinosaur period snuffed out in the blink of an eye is almost certainly wrong. The Dinosaur world was in terrible trouble before the impact. The rate of speciation (actually, the creation of the next larger grouping, Genera) had been falling for millions of years. While the number of individuals represented in the fossil record remained roughly the same, they increasingly were made up from a smaller and smaller number of genera. For example, in the Hell's Creek formation, something like 80% of all individuals were from only a single genus (Tricerotops). That's not an healthy ecosystem, and Hell's Creek wasn't the only one - pretty much all the layers immediately below K-T show ecosystems in big trouble. And this wasn't anything new.

Dr. Robert Bakker in his indispensable (though a little dated) The Dinosaur Heresies, writes of this:
I first became aware of this pattern of evenness [a measure of how many different types of dinosaurs lived in a particular place at a particular time] in the evolution of the dinosaurs when I was a graduate student. It was clear that, even if a cosmic collision had killed off the very last dinosaurs, all the dynasties had been badly weakened from some other cause. I turned to checking the other great extinctions to determine whether there had been a disturbance of evenness before the final collapse on those occasions as well. I invested three years collecting evidence from the museums of Africa, Europe, and the United States. After counting and measuring thousands of skulls and skeletons, the killing agent's mode of operation came into sharp focus. Every well-recorded mass extinction fit the pattern of the late Cretaceous. Long before each final extinction, a decay in evenness had occurred. The saber-tooth gorgons of the Tartarian Epoch are a perfect case in point. Their ecosystem precisely displayed the typical three stages: a time of faunal richness, a subsequent decay of evenness, and the final collapse, when the gorgons disappeared entirely.
Where was the asteroid at the end of the Tartarian? Actually, you don't need one. As competition drives evolution in a stable environment, you would expect to see the emerging domination of a smaller number of genera. The longer the period of stability, the greater the domination. No mystery there.

Now add in a suddenly changing climate - new mountains draining the North American inland sea, for example, and you have a much less diverse gene pool from which to select new species. If it gets too thin, you get collapse. No need for a deus ex machina from Outer Space to cut down T. Rex.

So why the fascination with the Death Star? Partly, it's dramatic, and clueless TV producers will gravitate to dramatic. Like the TV shows showing crime scene reconstruction have little in common with the patient, nay almost boring grunt work that actually takes place. It's a Hallmark Moment, showing fire raining down from the skies and hundred meter tsunamis.

But that doesn't explain why the scientists have lined up behind the theory, and that's the interesting part. What's with them? I think that the answer is politics.



I've posted before about the Drake Equation, and the time that Carl Sagan spends talking about the possibility of nuclear extinction:
Now look, I don't have a problem with conjecture, as long as you call it that. But Sagan doesn't. He doesn't explicitly say that it's not science, and he doesn't explicitly say it is. He also does something very interesting: he doesn't remotely spend the same amount of time or emphasis on each variable. Sagan talks a lot about the variable for intelligent civilizations that blow themselves up. He even tries a couple of different values for that variable, to see how the number N changes. Go watch it again, paying attention to this emphasis. It's quite striking.

Things that we cannot control are glossed over, even if they would massively effect the overall outcome. Things that are politically top of mind are covered in depth. Does this remind you of anything?
Alvarez and his team discovered the Iridium layer marking the K-T boundary in 1980. Carl Sagan filmed Cosmos in 1980. Ronald Reagan was elected - promising to end détente - in 1980. Something was in the air.

Occam's Razor tells us that the simplest explanation is the best, when it comes to things scientific. We see something wildly not simple regarding the scientist's explanation of the dinosaurs' extinction. Occam's Razor tells us that the simplest explanation is best for why scientists act the way they do: they like getting phoned up by TV producers, and they like getting out a leftie message of you can't hug Brontosaurus* with Nuclear Arms.

But the show had way cool CGI animations of Pterodactyls getting shot down by flying asteroid detritus. Go, video production!**

* Yeah, I know: Brontosaurus was Jurassic, not Cretaceous. And everyone digs on Apatosaurus, not Brontosaurus. First, use of the name Apatosaurus is a plot by the KGB to undermine God Fearing American values. Second, even Blogger thinks it's Brontosaurus (which its spell checker recognizes, in great contrast to the lack of recognition given Apatosaurus). Third, Steven Jay Gould covered this in more than adequate depth. Go read.

** #1 Son wants to go into Internet video production.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Reflections on Summer's End


(Click to embiggen - #2 Son when he was 3)

Summer's end means back to school time. Kids and parents - us included - are caught up in the moment, and forget the longer view. Watching your children grow should make you think of how you grew. Watching your children grow should make you think of your parents, watching you grow. Watching your children grow should make you think of them, watching their children yet-to-be-born grow.

Time is a great river, never quite still in its flow. It's easy to get all caught up in the action in the eddy of the moment, and not see the flow towards the sea.

"But while I have the microphone ..."



This sort of lady is why we beat the Nazis and Imperial Japanese, and then stared down the Commies.

How Solar Power works


That's why Solar Power is so important in West Virgina, and so inefficient in California.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Blogroll Additions

Dave emails (yay! Not more tracking back via Sitemeter logs!) to tell me that he's blogrolled me over at Lead and Fermentation. Two of my favorite things, actually. He posts a lot on, well, what you'd expect, and has discovered the secret to signing people up for pro-RKBA political action at gun shows. Heh.

And somehow I seem to have managed to blog two years and some without linking to Jennifer. She brings good advice for taking women shooting the first time:
So to say that we are going to start slowly is an understatement. You know what I’m not going to do? Hand her my snub nosed revolver and 5 rounds of .38 special telling her that’s the perfect gun for a woman. There has been a lot of talk about that lately, in case you haven’t noticed. I happen to really like my snub and will even shoot .357 Magnum out of it from time to time. (I like the fireball.) But it is NOT A BEGINNERS GUN!
I'll be going back to Albuquerque in a couple weeks to see Mom and Dad, and hope to take Mom to the range. We will not be shooting a snubbie in .357, and I will be taking Jennifer's advice here - after all, what can be more fun than a Range Day with Mom?

Welcome to the blogroll, everyone! And a note to anyone else who's blogrolled me: if I haven't added you here, it's because I'm slacking off (and haven't noticed). Leave a comment or shoot me an email, and I'll get cracking.

Quote of The Day - Harry Reid Edition

So the NRA has gone all medieval on Harry, 'cause they think he's a liar when it comes to Supreme Court nominees. (Duh!)

Via Ace, is the bottom line on how the decision was made:
I know that Harry Reid's whiter than a bowl of rice in a blizzard, but somehow I just can't shake the thought that there's racism involved here somehow.
Probably the NRA are Homophobic and Anti-Muslim, too. A trifecta!

Your Internet: now with 62% more snark

Happy blogiversary to Tam, who's been fighting the snark shortage for five years now.

"It's only a flesh wound."

Lance Corporal Johno Lee was serving in Her Majesty's Armed Forces in Helmand Province, Afghanistan when he was caught in an explosion. His heart stopped twice, but medics and doctors were able to get it going both times. Unfortunately, they couldn't save his leg, which they amputated below the knee.

Nor, seemingly, could they get the heart beating again in the Newark, Nottinghamshire (UK) Town Council, which refuses to give him a disabled parking sticker for his car:

A hero soldier who lost a leg in Afghanistan has been denied a disabled parking badge three times by council bosses.

Lance Corporal Johno Lee has clocked up £800 in fines for parking in disabled bays in his home town of Newark, Nottinghamshire, on days when he uses a wheelchair or feels unable to walk very far.

When he first applied to Nottinghamshire County Council for a blue badge, he was advised he was young and 'may get better'.

Your arm's off. No, it's not.



The Council always triumphs!

This is not to make fun of Lance Cpl. Lee. On the contrary. I'm dumbfounded that the Council could be so clueless as to tell him that his leg might grow back. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? Grow back? Note to all Boston area lefties: observe your Philosopher Kings in action.

I normally leave the post at this point, with a sneer both at the sheer incompetence on offer in the UK, and the intellectual incompetence of an American Left that thinks we should import it to our shores. Not this time. There's no mistaking the malice on display: turned down not once, but three times; the suggestion that his leg might grow back.

Malice. Running the bureaucracy. This is what lampposts and rope were invented to handle. I'm willing to be convinced that hanging just a few - pour encourager les autres - is the prudent solution, contrasted with mass executions by firing squad.

There's a difference between subjects and citizens, and it's high time that "public servants" learned the lesson. Rope.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

"Look around you. You’re not alone."

Why, there are thousands of you!



Remember the original definition of Bolshevik was "majority", and the term was adopted when they were in the minority. The Media says "thousands" turned out, rather than the "hundreds of thousands" who were there. They want you to think that you're Mensheviks.

This is why they hate Sarah Palin, who speaks - simply and plainly - the Truths That Must Not Be Spoken. They nitpick, because they won't address the important stuff.

UPDATE 28 August 2010 15:28: Case in point: of the first 5 updates in their "live reporting", four were negative (2 on counter protests, 1 on people being treated for heat exhaustion, and a quote from a union guy who didn't like the protest). Did they offer an estimate of crowd size? No. Did they report what the speakers said? No.

And this update is hilarious:

Palin gets huge applause, cheers. Big cheer again when she invokes the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.

What are participants wearing?

There's a man in a Revolutionary War uniform and three-corner hat. There's a woman with what looks like a fighter jet tattooed to her upper right arm.

There are a number of tea party shirts and a man in a gray T-shirt that says "10th amendment -- our last hope for the preservation of freedom" -- with an "X" over an image of the Capitol dome.

-- Amy Goldstein

Reporting on what the speaker said that got applause? No. But lots about the crowd's fashion sense. I guess that everyone in the Washington Post's newsroom was busy today, and so they sent a reporter from the "Style" section.

It reminds me of the dark joke from right after JFK's killer was shot in the Dallas Police Station:

Q. What did the Dallas Police Chief say when an elephant walked through the Squad Room?

A. Nothing. He didn't notice.

Or perhaps the old saying: If you don't read the newspaper, you're uninformed. If you do read the newspaper, you're misinformed.

Or perhaps the mot juste is "malinformed". It would be nice if the MSM didn't continually live down to my expectations.

UPDATE 28 August 2010 15:43: The National Park Service estimate is north of 300,000 attendees. The crowd extended all the way from the Lincoln Memorial steps to the Washington Monument. Anyone who's ever walked that distance knows that's a long way. The MSM seems to be mostly missing in action. As I keep saying, the best evidence for media bias isn't what's misreported, but what isn't reported at all. And this might explain that:
If I were part of the liberal elite, I wouldn't be as worried by the historic/racial overtones of the rally. I'd be worried about what it symbolizes: A growing understanding on the part of regular Americans that they should (and need) no longer heed the supposed "wisdom" and "moral authority" of a liberal elite that has nothing but contempt for them.
Word. The Dinosaurs smell a change on the air - and hear the crowd noise, even over on 15th Street NW - and roar their defiance.

UPDATE 28 August 2010 17:07: "Thousands". Whatever:


UPDATE 28 August 2010 22:45: The reason they're all going out of business is that they think we're stupid. Can't block the signal, dudes ...

What could possibly go wrong?

Man tries to loosen lug nut with 12 Gauge, hilarity exactly what you'd imagine ensues:

A man has been severely injured after attempting to loosen a stiff wheel-nut on his car by blasting it with a shotgun.

The 66-year-old American shot the wheel from arm’s length with a 12-gauge shotgun and was peppered with ricocheting buckshot and debris.

According to a sheriff’s office report, he was taken to Tacoma General Hospital with severe but not life threatening injuries.

Via American Digest, where Gerhard imagines the "thought process" involved. The last sentence is particularly funny.

Political analysis, packed full o' smart

The Czar of Muscovy brings the smart, and very smart it is, too:
You must remember that most liberals need identity politics to comprehend anything. You either belong to a group with inherently genetic issues, or you follow a leader. Nothing else exists. So the Tea Party, which has no centralized leader and cuts across all social classes, is a divide-by-zero concept for them.
I try pretty hard to make sure I'm not underestimating my opponents (the second great blunder, behind getting into a land war in Asia). Sometimes that's a mistake. This is serious analysis, and more, is particularly useful as a tool to predict their behavior.

I'd go on about how they still think they're ever so much smarter than we, but I've said it many times before, and it's a beautiful morning, and my coffee is particularly tasty today. But go read.

Emmylou Harris - Blackhawk

Country Music is music for grownups. You have to have lost something to experience the true depth of the Human Experience, to have a road not taken - one that will never be taken - to really feel that depth.

Emmylou Harris captures this like few people recording today. Maybe it was working so closely with Graham Parsons (of The Byrds), and losing him so young. Listening to the change between her first two albums is all you have to do to know that she understood George Carlin's saying, Some nights the wolves are silent and the Moon howls.

My friend Brigid writes of this, of that road she didn't take but which some of her childhood friends did. And regretted:
I grew up in a small logging town, nestled at the base of beautiful, forested mountains. Ever present was the noticeable rotten egg smell of the pulp mill that I never noticed as a child, but is as constant as death and taxes. There were no malls, simply a main street, a roller rink, a movie theater and only two fast food restaurants. It was a town where my best friend and I could ride our bikes over streets unconfined and unhurried, until darkness or hunger for family dinner around the table brought us home. It was a town where you could raise your family in relative comfort and safety. Life was routine, life was predictable. You graduated high school, married the first or second person you ever slept with. Had several kids, a mortgage, a dog, a cat. You retired and got a gold watch and watched the next generation take over the positions in the mills. The mountains notwithstanding, it was a flat landscape of life, and one that I knew, probably by the age of 12, that I had to escape from.

...

Visiting Dad, I ran into someone at the neighborhood grocers with whom I played with as a child. She's been working the register as long as I remember, and although she is as pretty as she always was, there's a roughness to her, like a piece of beautiful fabric that's become worn and frayed over time. "How've you been" she asks, but the question doesn't reach her eyes - eyes fragile and the color of tea, the color only deepened by the deep wrinkles I already see around them. She asks what I do for a living, and when I tell her, I might as well be telling her I was just abducted by aliens and returned, my life so foreign to the life she leads. "Well you have a nice day" she says and I nod and take the receipt for Dad, not knowing what else to say. We're strangers, and though as children we shared bike rides and ice cream and secrets, now we are looking at the world from completely different places.
Emmylou has a song about that. About that girl who chose the comfortable, safe, and stale life so many years ago. Who might choose different now, but who passed by that road not taken. Who sometimes at night listens to the Moon howling.



Blackhawk (Songwriter: Daniel Lanois)
Well I work the double shift
In a bookstore on St. Clair
While he pushed the burning ingots
In Dofasco stinking air
Where the truth bites and stings
I remember just what we were
As the noon bell rings for
Blackhawk and the white winged dove

Hold on to your aching heart
I'll wipe the liquor from your lips
A small town hero never dies
He fades a bit and then he slips
Down into the blast furnace
In the heat of the open hearth
And at the punch clock he remembers
Blackhawk and the white winged dove

I remember your leather boots
Pointing up into the sky
We fell down to our knees
Over there where the grass grew high
Love hunters in the night
Our faces turned into the wind
Blackhawk where are you now
Blackhawk and the white winged dove
We were Blackhawk and the white winged dove
We were Blackhawk and the white winged dove

Do you still have the ring I gave you
On the banks of Lake Bear
Where I felt certain that I knew you
My cool and distant debonair
Now we drink at Liberty Station
Another cup of muscatel
Wrapped in the strong arms of the Union
Raisin' kids from raisin' hell
Bootnotes: [1] The picture of Emmylou is from her animal shelter. She founded and supports Bonaparte's Retreat in Nashville.

[2] Perhaps the most in-depth review of Emmylou's work is from Norm Geras, professor emeritus of Marxist theory from the University of Manchester. Of course the common thread between Prof. Geras and a gun totin' pilot who cooks what she shoots involves Country Music.

[3] Full disclosure: somewhere here Chez Borepatch I have a copy of Maurice Dobb, Studies in the Development of Capitalism, and Ernest Mandel, An Introduction to Marxist Economic Theory.

[4] Another sort of Blackhawk - and one hopefully to Brigid's liking - can be found here. Of course, if you're going with Professor Geras and the whole British thing, perhaps a Bisley would be called for.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Cool mockup


Mockups of Fallout 3 plasma rifles. Via the Daily What.

Stevie Ray Vaughan

Twenty years ago was the day the music died, in a helicopter crash.



That's one heck of a guitar.

Some things need to be said again

I don't think I've ever done this before, but this post from last year is still pertinent to the recent Vote Democrat thread. Remember, the Democrats aren't the problem, and the Republicans aren't the solution. The problem is an institutional Governing Party that has increasing contempt for the voters. The latest examples of GOP "leadership" simply underline this.

I'd love to see the Republicans stand for smaller, less expensive, and less intrusive government, for actual reform rather than incumbent feather-bedding, for listening to voters rather than big money special interests. If they actually start to do this, I might even vote for them.

And if anyone wants the artwork for their blog or web site, you're welcome to post it. Just link back to this post.

--------------- From June 8, 2009 -----------------

Both my regular readers know that I'm not exactly a Party Man. Mostly, I just like being left alone, which these days is getting harder and harder to do.

Let's consider the Republicans - the Stupid Party:
  • Corruption? If they've done anything about Abramoff and company, I sure haven't noticed.
  • Big Spenders? If they've changed their mind and decided that they can't buy my vote with my own money, I sure haven't noticed.
  • Party of Washington DC? If their goals are no longer appointing friends to positions of power, while stuffing their pockets with "campaign contributions", I sure haven't noticed.
The Democrats are worse - the Contemptible Party. Drunk on power, they're squandering my children's future:
  • Apres nous, le Déluge? If they've changed their minds about destroying the dollar, and making Entitlements "too big to fail", assuming that when the inevitable cuts come they'll protect their friends and hurt their enemies, I sure haven't noticed.
  • Shut up, he suggested. Show trials. "Fairness" Doctrine. If they hate the First Amendment less than they hate the Second Amendment, I sure haven't noticed.
  • Buy a Senate Seat? If they've changed their minds about turning the entire Republic into Chicago, I sure haven't noticed.
  • Lying bastards: Gay rights? Guantanamo? Don't appoint Lobbyists? If they think that anyone who voted for them isn't a sucker, I sure haven't noticed.
Corrupt, clueless, and vindictive. It's a trifecta!

Feh. The political elites on both sides aren't worth the time of day. We have two parties that are about nothing more than perpetuating their own power, at the expense of the governed.

However, there seems like there might be a way forward. It might be very effective indeed, letting the Political Class know that they sit in Congress on our sufferance. It's simple, which is necessary if you want to build it into something resembling a movement.

Vote against any incumbent. Any incumbent.

It doesn't matter who the incumbent is, or who is running against them - the parties are essentially interchangeable in their attitude towards power. But they all read the polls.

It doesn't even matter if many are voted out. If they realize that they're in a fight for their political careers - or if enough of them realize this - that will be a cold wake up call for the rest. Even ten percent of the races turning close will make (some of) them wise up.

And so, offered for your consideration, a call to action. Released into the public domain, as a service to the Republic:




UPDATE 27 August 2010 17:47: To Old To Work, Too Young To Retire has an excellent analysis of the general (as opposed to the Borepatch-specific) mood.

Clarifications

Yesterday pretty clearly was a muddled-thought-process sort of day, with a lot of comments on various posts suggesting to me that I was not clear. Not sure that this will be more clear, but here goes.

Regarding the UK and Condition White, ASM826 correctly points out the virtues of consulting Snopes. This particular email does indeed look like a hoax. However, I don't believe that it makes any difference in what's happening in The Place Where Great Britain Used To Be, where a risk-adverse but ever-expanding government bureaucracy is forcing paralysis:
Coast Guards lifesavers must fill out forms before rescuing ships in distress.

Thugs mug disarmed businessman in front of wife and kids.

UK fire service lets family burn to death, and Police stop neighbors from rescuing them.

Man jailed for 5 years for having a rifle with no firing pin
.

Army veteran faces five years for handing in gun some punk threw away in a park.

Britain abolishes trial by jury.

Man convicted for keeping Swiss Army Knife in car to cut up fruit.
I could go on, but this is just from a quick skim of my archives. The gist is that the UK.Gov penalizes initiative on the part of its citizens, and actively works to ensure that only criminals have weapons (the criminals, of course, ignore the UK.Gov). The result is an increasingly passive population, one that is forced to live in Condition White because there is no alternative. The stories about the Fire Service and the Coast Guards are particularly instructive here.

And so I stand by my assertion: a passive society will not take care of its weakest members. That's a crying shame, but not, seemingly, something that bothers the rulers of the UK. Nice "Social Model" there, Scooters.

Regarding Vote Democrat, I seem to have kicked the hornet's nest here. My point was not to keep Democrats in power; rather, it was to jar the Big Party Bosses in the Stupid Party (or more specifically, the lower level aspiring Bosses, who really need to look up defenestration in the dictionary) to get them to stop acting like a Ruling Party.

I've had a number of comments here in the past to the effect of we won't vote ourselves out of this mess. Maybe. But consequences are consequences, and we do in fact have some control over at least some of them. Right now the Stupid Party leadership is licking its chops, looking at possibly historic gains in the election. They do not appear to think that the actually have to do anything to get those - for example, stop acting like Gov.Party The Lesser. They seem to think that they can keep up the feed-at-the-trough behavior of the last few years. They think that putting up candidates who are blatant liars (John McCain and Mitt Romney are only two examples). They think that they can back the Machine, and thwart the will of the People.

Well, fooey on that. If you want to vote for that, go ahead. Not me. All that will change is a couple of points of the marginal tax increases we'll see, and the additional new Fed.Gov headcount.

I believe that the best outcome of this election will be for the Republicans to (barely) take back the house and be surprised at how few Senate seats they pick up. This will be what any reformers still there need to take on the Old Boys - while it would be a gain, a disappointing gain will still be a defeat. But we need to do our job, and let the bastards know that you have to do more than just sucking less.

Your mileage may vary, void where prohibited, do not remove tag under penalty of law.

Regarding What Do You Get When You Cross A Car With A Computer, this is an interesting attack scenario which is much more dependent on the attacker's motivation and funding (I expect I'll put up a post on this later).

However, the design of in-car networks is wretched from a security perspective. Most damning is the fact that there is only one network. A much better architecture would include this:
Critical Component Network: "drive by wire" systems, engine/throttle/break remote controls, requires expensive diagnostic tools to access. Absolutely no WiFi for this, under the first principle of Network Security (an Air Gap solves a multitude of security sins). If you absolutely have to have WiFi, then any WiFi device (say, tire pressure sensors) must be Read-Only. No remote control or code injection via WiFi.

Consumer Electronics Network: Where you attach your phone, iPod, etc. This one can be wireless.
This way, you have a system that is much more difficult to fiddle with. But that's not what we've got. So the question is not will someone fiddle with it, but when will the fiddle with it, and how bad will it be?

Institutionalized Condition White

An anonymous reader in the UK emails the following story, which I am reproducing here in its entirety:
While driving on a rural end of the roadway on Thursday morning, I saw an infant carseat on the side of the road with a blanket draped over it. For whatever reason, I did not stop, even though I had all kinds of thoughts running through my head. But when I got to my destination, I called the Police and they were going to check it out. But, this is what the Police advised even before they went out there to check....

There are several things to be aware of ... Gangs and thieves are now plotting different ways to get a person (mostly women)to stop their vehicle and get out of the car.

There is a gang initiation reported by the local Police Department where gangs are placing a carseat by the road...with a fake baby in it...waiting for a woman, of course, to stop and check on the abandoned baby.

Note that the location of this carseat is usually beside a wooded or grassy (field) area and the person -- woman -- will be dragged into the woods, beaten and raped, and usually left for dead. If it's a man, they're usually beaten and robbed and maybe left for dead, too.

DO NOT STOP FOR ANY REASON!!!

DIAL 9-9-9 AND REPORT WHAT YOU SAW, BUT DON'T EVEN SLOW DOWN.

IF YOU ARE DRIVING AT NIGHT AND EGGS ARE THROWN AT YOUR WINDSHIELD, DO NOT STOP TO CHECK THE CAR, DO NOT OPERATE THE WIPER AND DO NOT SPRAY ANY WATER BECAUSE EGGS MIXED WITH WATER BECOME MILKY AND BLOCK YOUR VISION UP TO 92.5%, AND YOU ARE THEN FORCED TO STOP BESIDE THE ROAD AND BECOME A VICTIM OF THESE CRIMINALS.

THIS IS A NEW TECHNIQUE USED BY GANGS, SO PLEASE INFORM YOUR FRIENDS AND RELATIVES.

THESE ARE DESPERATE TIMES AND THESE ARE UNSAVORY INDIVIDUALS WHO WILL TAKE DESPERATE MEASURES TO GET WHAT THEY WANT.

Please talk to your loved ones about this. This is a new tactic used. Please be safe.

Get started NOW -- SEND THIS MESSAGE TO ALL YOUR FRIENDS AND LOVED ONES TO BE CAREFUL AND AWARE OF EVERYTHING AROUND THEM SO AS NOT TO BECOME A VICTIM
For readers in the Colonies, 9-9-9 is the telephone number in Her Britannic Majesty's Realm that corresponds to our 9-1-1.

This brings several thoughts to the fore:

1. The UK is much more lenient to criminals - even violent criminals - than we benighted denizens of Darkest America. As a result, they have a horrific violent crime rate. With the exception of murder, the UK easily doubles or trebles US rates of assault, burglary (especially "hot" burglary, where the occupants are at home), stabbings, and rape.

2. While Europeans like to lecture us benighted denizens of Darkest America about the virtues of "community action", what we see from this reaction to crime is to reduce community action where it would be most needed: what could possibly be more in need of support by the community than an abandoned baby? But the Public Officials counsel people to pass by; nothing to see here, move along.

3. Sadly, in this degraded state of affairs goes hand-in-hand with the disarmament of the law abiding portion of the citizenry. It's so bad that even having your grandfather's old war souvenir will get you five years in durance vile. Since it's almost impossible to legally carry a handgun in the UK, so the law abiding citizens are placed at the mercy of the thugs.

4. There is a degenerate portion of This Republic - heavily concentrated in Blue regions - who think that we should "be more like Europe", and live our lives in Condition White, disarm ourselves, and trust to Officer Plod. It is a little piece of Europe brought to the New World, with tragically predictable consequences:
I read these stories every few months somewhere or other, and they always end the same way: a few years back, a couple of screwed-up Vermont teens decided they were going to kill somebody just for a giggle. They knocked on doors in neighboring towns demanding to be let in and cranky old plaid-clad coots told them to get lost and not to come back or they'd get it with both barrels. Dumb as they were, eventually the kids figured out that the one place where they'd be bound to find a couple of suckers who'd let 'em across the threshold was . . . an Ivy League college town! So they went across the river to Dartmouth in New Hampshire, were admitted by a couple of professors, and murdered them. The professors were also admirably "progressive": the last e-mails they sent that morning were impeccably anti-Bush.
5. It's been said that if you want to know how someone views you, ask them their opinion of whether you should be allowed to carry a pistol. Europeans, or Blue State bien pensants will be horrified at the thought. They see you as a subject. At the same time, they'll make tut tutting and mistakes were made noises about the failure of the Constabulary to protect its citizens, or of the Court System in releasing violent criminals back into a society upon which he will prey.

It's a Condition White philosophy, that they would impose on the rest of us via force majeure. An Institutionalized Condition White, demanded of us by our Intellectual Betters, for our own good.

No thanks. If I thought that these people actually were smarter than me, and actually had thought out the consequences of their philosophy, then I might still count myself as a liberal. They're not, and they haven't, and I don't. I guess that if I were as smart as I'd like to think, it wouldn't have taken me the better part of fifty years to reach this conclusion.

But I have reached the conclusion that it's better to stop to help an abandoned baby. And if a bunch of thugs try to jump me, to use the intelligence the Lord gave me - and the tools created by John Moses Browning, Peace Be Upon Him - to make sure that they don't go home fully staffed that night.

You want a society that takes care of the weak, you arm that society against the jackals that would feed on it.
The will to survive is not as important as the will to prevail... the answer to criminal aggression is retaliation.
- Col. Jeff Cooper

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Vote Democrat

Because the Stupid Party is too, well, stupid:

The National Republican Senatorial Committee is sending its lawyer to Alaska to assist Lisa Murkowski who is trailing conservative Joe Miller in the senate primary.

The Fix reported:

Sean Cairncross, the general counsel of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, is headed to Alaska at the request of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) to help provide guidance to the GOP incumbent who finds herself trailing attorney Joe Miller (R) by roughly 1,600 votes.

Cairncross will spend several days on the ground in Alaska as Murkowski and her campaign prepare for the counting of as many as 16,000 absentee ballots — a process expected to start next Tuesday and continue through early September.

Too stupid to be allowed to live. Vote 'em all out. The problem isn't the Democrats, and the solution isn't the Republicans.

Morons.

Blue States don't need all those dirty factory jobs anyway

After all, they support "clean", high tech, high paying industries. Oh, wait:

Adobe Systems, maker of a suite of graphics programs such as Adobe PDF, Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign, have announced that they are building a $100 million facility in either Salt Lake City or in nearby Utah County, Utah. The facility will bring thousands of jobs to Utah over the next few decades.

In May the Internet auction company ebay also announced a major new facility to be built in Salt Lake City. The $287 million data center will also bring hundreds of new jobs to the Bee Hive State.

Not to be forgotten, games maker Electronic Arts opened its new facility in July in Salt Lake City where around 100 employees are already at work.

Smartest move I ever didn't make was to California in 1989. Will the last (employed) California resident please turn out the lights on your way out?

Via Unc.

Your Global Warming Quote Of The Month

From Jennifer, in re: celebrities who think they're Climate Scientists:

Dear Hollywood celebrities,

You exist for my entertainment. Some of you are great eye candy.

...

I’ll crank the organ grinder; you dance.

...

And you? Really? I’m supposed to care what the director of fluffy tripe made for gullible people thinks of those who realize global warming is a scam? Get back into your bubble. I’ll let you know when I’m in the mood for something blue and shiny.

This is the most Righteous smackdown of over-stuffed Hollywood shirts that I've seen in a long time. RTWT.

I think that I have a little (platonic, Climate Science-ish) crush on Miss Jennifer. This hits center mass.

Via Law Dog.

What do you get when you cross a car with a computer?

A computer with wheels.

As software becomes more important to how cars work, the question is how much thought went into security? The answer is, as you'd expect, "none". Security wasn't an afterthought, it wasn't thought of at all.

Well, researchers are now turning their attention to the problem, and what they're finding is pretty horrifying. Like Computer worms that could hop from car to car, shutting off the engine and causing traffic jams from hell:
The idea would be to launch a worm that would spread on the Internet (in any of a number of well explored ways) looking for vulnerable smart phones. Smart phones have GPS devices in, so the worm, having infected the phone, could ensure it was only operating in some geographic area of interest (eg the US, or a particular city). The worm could then check if it was on a smart phone that happened to be plugged into a car, and if so compromise the car. It could then use whatever wireless opportunities were available to compromise any other cars within the attack range. It could also disable the car (eg by locking up the brakes, stopping the engine, etc).

The idea would be that the worm would seed itself into the small minority of cars that are Internet vulnerable and from there spread into the larger majority that are not.

If this worked correctly, the end result would be a city with all its major freeways and surface streets full of disabled cars, a situation that would paralyze almost all commerce. It would probably take weeks to straighten out the mess.
For extra credit, examine the effect of adding "Smart" electric power meter attacks to the rolling TEOTWAWKI. For maximum effect, make sure the code includes a 7 day delay, to allow the maximum spread, both to cars and homes. Then the logic bomb goes off.

This is the sort of scare scenario that gets security a bad name. We're a bunch of Cassandras, always looking at the downside - arguing about who killed who ...



"Plausible", as the MythBusters might say. The reason is well known:
Usually, when the security community comes across some new domain whose practictioners lack any understanding of security, it turns out that there are very large numbers of vulnerabilities of all kinds that are pervasive throughout the system.
Development teams are penalized for their feature not being ready for the new model year. Teams are not penalized if there's a huge, gaping security hole in their architecture (say, user devices like phones able to be attached to the network that accesses the engine and brakes).

Another reason to get that sweet GTO.

Why the economy is screwed, and will be for ten years

TJIC lays it out. I wish I could be more optimistic than he, but it sure looks like he has it analyzed. We also are looking at eliminating debt, which is one of the drivers behind us leaving the People's Republic of Massachusetts and moving to Atlanta.

To amplify TJIC, let me say that the Tech Bubble is (in some ways) still being worked out, and the Fed.Gov made things a lot worse with Sarbanes-Oxley. Specifically, the startup/IPO market has been depressed for 8 years, and so a bunch of startups that would have been successful were never started. Now that unemployment is bumping 10%, that's an example where our Government Masters are screwing things up.

Housing prices are "sticky", not just because people hesitate to accept a loss, but because when they only have maybe 10% equity in the house, they can't sell if the price drops 11%. "Buy more house than you can afford" is great when home prices are going up up up, but turns the house into a prison when prices drop. The Fed.Gov is doing many things here, all of them wrong - meaning they will make the problem last longer.

The Higher Education industry has done a simply outstanding job of teaching Marxist philosophy while simultaneously milking its customers for every penny of the surplus that the degree will generate. They've lobbied our Government Masters to make student loans one of the two types of debt that are non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. Way to go, Marxists! From each according to his ability, to you!

Combine this with the Entitlement collapse, and I fear not that my children will be less well off than I, but that they will be substantially less well off. Quite frankly, it's Big Government that is making all of these drivers much, much worse.

Man, all those Ivy League Technocrats sure did a good job, didn't they? Philosopher Kings.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The wolves are silent




There are nights when the wolves are silent, and the moon howls.
- George Carlin

There are nights when I wish I didn't know about PSA, and Taxotere. Those nights, the moon howls.

Every day is a gift, if we're wise enough to realize it.


Like tomorrow was a gift,
And you got eternity,
To think about what you’d do with it.
An' what did you do with it?

I'm not sure if this is a Good Thing or a Bad Thing


Gay-Test.com - How gay are you?

I did know where Barolo comes from. Pretty pricey for my tastes, though.

The lovely and fine-judge-of-manflesh Mrs. Borepatch tells me that "Every man should be at least a little bit Gay." I'm still not sure if that's a Good Thing or a Bad Thing, but hey - don't ask, don't tell!

Via Weer'd Beard.

Army to discontinue bayonet training in Basic?

Isegoria alerts us to what will be an enormous disappointment to JayG - the Army will stop bayonet training at their summer camps. The reason? Recruits are fat and lazy:

I mentioned a few months ago that the Army was dropping bayonet training from its boot camp — or Basic Combat Training. That’s not the only change, of course, and the Army’s own story sounds a bit defensive:

“A lot of these Soldiers come in and haven’t been in physical activities in high school so we start out with a preparation drill to warm up the muscles and go on from there,” said Sgt. 1st Class Zachary Parrish, who is a Fort Sill drill sergeant. “It used to be you take a Soldier and without the progression you may be putting too much on that Soldier. They’re going to inevitably get hurt.”

He said he’s seen less injuries so far with the new crawl, walk, run methodology. Even in the beginning if some of the Soldiers are more physically fit, he said they all progress to the end state where a rigorous workout is safe for everyone.

The Army is also taking a more holistic approach focusing on nutrition as well to keep Soldiers healthy and resilient.

“We talk nutrition from day one. The health of the Soldier is the bottom line. They’re going to be ineffective if they’re in sick call, so we make sure they get time to eat and that the food they’re eating is good for them,” said Parrish.

He also has a very interesting post about how the Mumbai Police don't know how to set their combat sights. It's not clear if this had an impact on the terrorist raid or not, but you'd think it would be hard to hit the Tango if you haven't been trained on how to set the sights on your battle rifle.

Automobile want


Seen on Top Gear, it's the Morgan Aero 8. Zero to sixty in 4.5 seconds, and said to handle like a Porche 911. That's what you need if you're going to charge $120,000 for a car.


I hear it comes with a factory installed cop on your ass, though. And you could put both #1 Son and #2 Son through college for the price.

Sigh.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Can't tell him nuthin'


Via Theo.

For those who don't catch the reference, it's a comparison to George W. Bush:



This video still appalls leftists, which makes it even better.

Marketing types say that once a person has formed an impression of a product, it's very hard to get them to change it. This is why people don't like to change brands (say, toothpaste) - they've already made up their minds, and you're asking them to reopen that mental analysis. This is why new brand introductions are so hideously expensive, because you have - for a brief moment - a blank slate, with no pre-conceptions. Brand re-launches (e.g. New Coke) are almost always a disaster.

Obama's brand looks to be solidifying as arrogant, out of touch, and unwilling to not be out of touch. There's a country song for that:

Wikipedia to ban Global Warming editor?

Back in December, I posted about the shenanigans of a Wikipedia editor. It seems one William M. Connolley had rewritten thousands of articles to censor anything that might cause skepticism of Global Warming. He more or less dissappeared the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) and the Little Ice Age (LIA), and removed all note of controversy about Mike Mann's hockey stick graph.
The ClimateGate emails have exposed Wikipedia as being entirely unreliable regarding climate change. Entirely. Anthony Watts has been all over this for a while, but the situation is essentially a politically motivated editor at Wikipedia rewrote history via thousands of Wikipedia articles. The Wikipedia "system" broke down, as corrections to these articles were blocked, and the people correcting them were banned from Wikipedia.

Computer Security folks look at "Resource Poisoning" attacks as some of the most interesting - if you can convince a critical mass of users that something is untrustworthy, it will collapse.
Well, it seems that Wikipedia is fixin' to ban him:
3.1) User:William M. Connolley is banned from the English Wikipedia for six months for long-term violations of WP:OWN, WP:CIVIL, and WP:BLP.

...

3.2) User:William M. Connolley is banned from all Climate Change articles, broadly construed, for one year. He may edit their talk pages. This editing restriction specifically includes modification of talk page edits made by any other user, on any talk page; in the case of posts to William M. Connolley's user talk page, he is free to remove posts without response.

...

4) User:William M. Connolley is banned from editing any article that is substantially the biography of a living person, where the person's notability or the subject of the edit relates to the topic area of global warming or climate change.

...

5) User:William M. Connolley is subject to an editing restriction for one year. Should he make any edits which are judged by an uninvolved administrator to be uncivil remarks, personal attacks, assumptions of bad faith, or violations of WP:BLP, he may be briefly blocked, up to a week in the event of repeated violations. After 3 blocks, the maximum block shall increase to one month. This editing restriction specifically includes modification of talk page edits made by any other user, on any talk page; in the case of posts to William M. Connolley's user talk page, he is free to remove posts without response.
So not a permanent ban, other than 4). I guess it's a start.

The problem remains the impression of Resource Poisoning. The Wikipedia articles on MWP and LIA are better now than they were two years ago, but (a) that's not saying much, and (b) there's still a ways to go. Take Wikipedia with a very large grain of salt on Climate Change issues.

Our political invective is in sad decline

Oh, for a more vigorous and spirited debate, like we had in the early days of the Republic. John Randolph said of opponent Edward Livingstone that "he shines and stinks like a rotten mackerel at midnight."

Lord knows that we have targets aplenty, and some of them hope to win their party's primary today.


Vote 'em out. Every rotten mackerel.


Remember, the problem isn't the Democrats, and the solution isn't the Republicans.

Not so smart after all

Penn Jillette nails it, with a (ahem) liberal sprinkling of F-Bombs:



You can almost hear the guy saying But I'm so smart, I must be able to figure it out. Yeah, it's something I have no experience with, and someone is actively trying to keep me from figuring it out, but it bothers me that I can't figure it out.

Yeah, it bothers us that you can't figure it out, too. Actually, that doesn't bother us; the fact that you think you can figure everything out - despite repeated examples of Epic Figure Out Fail - that bothers us.

Hat Tip: A Large Regular.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Linky links

Older Brother Borepatch is in town, and so we're getting together with them. While I hate to put up an "All Linky, No Thinky" sort of post, err, that's exactly what I'm doing.

Things that make you go "hmmmm":

The Obama administration is bullish on High Speed Rail, and is planning hundreds of billions in subsidies to create a partial nation-wide network. The Antiplanner looks at this, and runs the numbers:

By comparison, Obama’s 12,500-mile rail network won’t directly connect the Midwest with the East Coast or anywhere in the West with anywhere else. A report published by the ardently pro-rail Center for Clean Air Policy estimates that Obama’s network will carry about 20 billion passenger miles per year (not counting the Northeast Corridor, which is already in place and not a part of Obama’s plan), which (accounting for population growth) will average to less than 60 miles per person. Even accounting for the 3,000 or so route miles added to Obama’s plan since that report was written, even boosting speeds up to 200 or more mph, per-capita ridership is never going to amount to more than 400 miles, which is about what it is in France and Japan.

Let’s say 12,500 miles of 220-mph trains will move 140 billion passenger miles per year. We still have one system that paid for itself and moves well over a trillion passenger miles per year vs. another system that requires 100 percent capital subsidies and moves less than one-eighth that many passenger miles per year (and virtually no freight). In what universe could anyone think high-speed rail makes sense? Only one that has an extra $500 billion lying around collecting dust, which means not here.

So even using hopelessly unrealistic projections (Americans will travel by rail as much as French or Japanese), the HSR system will be six times as expensive as flying, and at least twice as expensive as driving. But it will, Big Dig style, give ample opportunity to dish out favorable contracts on a government Vanity project. RTWT.

The legal exposure of the Wikileaks gang may be much worse than you think, and much, much worse than is being reported:
Whatever notions you have absorbed by virtue of spending your formative years watching LA Law or The Practice, be rid of them. Not only do courts have no patience for cute, technically correct but highly disruptive legal theories involving technologies they barely understand, but the ultimate arbiter of whether the facts suggest that the defendant violated Title X Section Y of this or that statute is probably going to be a group of twelve people who lack the wherewithal to get out of jury duty.
This is a long post, by someone who sounds to me at least like he's a lawyer, who carefully goes through the law step by step - from the statutes protecting classified documents, to the Espionage Act, to Press Immunity, to how Prosecutors are likely to view this case, to how Wikileaks' MSM "partners" are distancing themselves from it, to the Classified Information Protection Act of 1980 (and the "Valerie Plame" case) - all leading to the conclusion that Wikileaks has screwed themselves:
Given the literal riot of theories of liability that seem to attach to the conduct of Wikileaks (not to mention the fact that Wikileaks appears to be under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement along with the U.S. Army investigators have begun to make it a habit of detaining at the border certain associates of Mr. Assange, searching their laptops and asking if such associates happen to know where Mr. Assanage is just now)40 future leakers might well want to consider not just the demonstrated ineptitude of the Wikileaks crowd in protecting its sources, but the fact that, should Wikileaks or Assange find themselves indicted or searched at the border, any material, logs, chat sessions, IP records or testimony from cooperating witnesses as they bend to prosecutorial pressure one by one, are all likely to make Wikileak sources a bit more popular than they expected to be.
This is the most interesting thing I've read about the whole situation. Long, but worth it.

A Primer on the IPCC Global Warming Claims. Too much to excerpt, but if you want to know the weakness of the "consensus" argument (and very weak it is indeed), then this is a great starting point. I'm thinking about updating my "Should you be a Global Warming Skeptic" post, and if I do, I'll be stealing incorporating much from this. And don't neglect the comments, which contain a wealth of Smart.

UPDATE 23 August 2010 15:41: Dang, even my linky posts are long. I also forgot this one, Global Warming Skepticism For Dummies, from Dr. Roy Spencer. Q&A format, very accessible.

Visual impact

OJ Simpson's defense attorneys knew something that the prosecution didn't - that wet leather shrinks when it dries. You'd think that this would make the prosecution's case even stronger: the blood-soaked gloves shouldn't fit, because they had been blood soaked.But they used this knowledge to make a courtroom display that burned through the masses of data, and lodged squarely in the jury's mind. Johnny Cochran captured this is a phrase that advertising people must admire for its memorability: It the glove does not fit, you must acquit.

This visually striking moment was when the trial was basically over. People remembered the image, not the data.

Here's another image that captured the public's imagination just a few years after OJ's trial.

It's the "Hockey Stick" temperature graph from the cover of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - specifically, the Third Assessment Report (AR3) in 2001. The graph itself was from Michael Mann et al, in a 1998 paper. There's background on this paper here, but the point is that this graph had a similar impact to OJ's glove: it captured the imagination of the public. It is reasonable to argue that this graph led directly to the Kyoto Protocols, and ultimately to today's proposals like Cap And Trade.

Just like OJ's glove, it gets interesting when you look into the data itself. We don't have temperature records going back a thousand years, so Mann et al used proxies - things that seem to work sort of like thermometers, but which aren't. They used tree rings, because trees grow faster in warmer years and slower in colder ones. No problem so far - this is pretty standard in the field.

What Mann did that has been the source of controversy is use a pretty unusual statistical analysis method. It's been shown that his method generates hockey stick shaped graphs when even random data is used as the input - say, the list of telephone numbers in your town. So far, the debate about this has had more than a bit of the playground did too/did not to it. This means that the hockey stick graph has won, because it is so visually striking.

That may be ending. There's a new paper out, written by professional statisticians, that pretty well breaks Mann's approach (including his revised 2008 method). You can find overviews here and here, but in my mind the most interesting commentary comes from William Briggs (himself a statistician), concerning another striking graph:

The jaggy red line is their prediction, over which they lay bands of uncertainty due to various factors. Just look at that envelope of possible temperatures!—the dull gray window. The straight yellow line is mine: notice how it slides right through the envelope, never poking out through it at any point. This suggests that a flat-line, i.e. unchanging, temperature fits just as well as the boys’ sophisticated model. At least, the unchanging “null” model cannot be rejected with any great certainty.

This is just as beautiful as a shorthanded goal. It means we cannot tell—using these data and this model—with any reasonable certainty if temperatures have changed plus or minus 1oC over the last thousand years.

What this is trying to visually represent is that the uncertainties are huge - plus or minus 5° or more, at least until we get to the modern age with the thermometer record. Mann's "there was no Medieval Warm Period" reconstruction is no more valid - mathematically speaking - than "there has not been a climate change in 1000 years".

Scientifically, this is enormous - certainly the biggest news in climate science since ClimateGate last autumn. One of the harshest criticisms leveled against scientists postulating rapid warming is that they underestimate/under report the uncertainties in their calculations. This paper quantifies that.

Overall, does it matter? The hockey stick is still a powerful visual image, and because of that it's not likely to go away. But it doesn't seem to be working - the public doesn't seem to be buying the scare (and note that this was before the ClimateGate scandal broke). Ultimately, this isn't a scientific issue, it's is a political one. The public doesn't believe that there's a need to act, just like the public believes that OJ killed his wife.

Hockey stick or not, the public has the image of corrupt scientists and politicians lodged in its mind. That image isn't going away.

Gun safe bleg

I'd be interested in any experiences any of y'all have had with gun safes. Fireproof or not? Digital combination or not? Store ammunition in it or not?

It seems that the sky's the limit on what you can spend. I'd like not to spend towards the no$ebleed end of the spectrum, but want something that I won't regret later.

I'll be looking at one big enough for both rifles and pistols.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The dangers of Local Warming

We hear the never ending drumbeat of doom concerning Global Warming. A more immediate - and serious - problem is local warming. Especially for men who blog.



Oh, foo.

But it's not on the Massachusetts "Approved Bible" Roster

Via Kevin, The Onion on a new edition of the Bible:
A new translation of the Bible released this week directly mentions the Second Amendment on eight occasions, and includes a version of Psalm 23 that begins, "The Lord is my shepherd, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." ... Deuteronomy 23:14 reads. "Your camp shall be holy, and if that means exercising your constitutional right to purchase a firearm, then that's your own damn business." The leather-bound book also comes with a handsomely crafted carrying case and a fully loaded, custom-monogrammed Glock 17 9mm.
Can't sell it in Massachusetts, then. "Banned in Boston" is back!

R.I.P. Vicki Weaver

Shot down by FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi on this day 18 years ago. Remember her, and him.

To their shame, H-S Precision signed Horiuchi as a spokesman a couple years ago. Remember them, too.