Sunday, February 28, 2010

Triple Lutz Double Tap

It's probably not, but may be Russian Spetsnaz training. If so, I'd score the performance with something from Mussorgsky.

Via Everyday, No Days Off.

Yeah, that's what we're worried about

Al Gore lets the mask slip, in the New York Times:
From the standpoint of governance, what is at stake is our ability to use the rule of law as an instrument of human redemption.
The science is just the window dressing.

Via Ann Althouse, who simply skewers him.

I've clearly been deficient: I didn't have a "Pompous old basbags" tag, or a "Statist pricks" tag, or a "Pompous old gasbags who are Statist pricks" tag, either. Fixed now.

How do you back up your blog?

A question for bloggers out there: how do you back up your blog? I've been dumping the HTML into OpenOffice and saving each month as a file, just in case. It's probably paranoid, but (a) I was trained to be paranoid by the finest minds in the Free World, and (b) it gives me an easy way to get a monthly word count.

I don't know if I'm getting too heavy on embedded video or something, but OpenOffice has been getting cranky lately - it's been crashing as I dump the data into it. I could probably feed it in smaller mouthfuls, but thought I'd ask Teh Intarwebz for their collective wisdom.

Albert Rasch meets the Taliban

They're loud.

What's the difference between Bill Clinton and Nancy Pelosi?

Bill Clinton is a better liar:
When a reporter prefaced a question about Rangel by noting that Pelosi had promised to run the “most ethical and honest Congress in history” she interrupted him to say: “And we are.”
With Bill,it felt like a "date lie". You really didn't believe it, but he was trying so hard to convince himself that it was sometimes charming. Nancy gives us a "been married 30 years lie": you don't believe it, she doesn't believe it, and you both know that nobody believes it because you're heard it 400 times before.

Nancy, at least send flowers.

Hat tip: GorTechie.

Blogroll Additions

Each time I update my blogroll I ask folks to contact me and let me know if they've blogrolled me, because otherwise it might be a while before I notice. Well, it worked! Misanthropic? Me? Inconceivable left a comment to let me know about his new (to me) blog).

And a beautiful, restful layout it is, too. And, we learn from him that Grumpiness is a sign of advanced civilization. I feel more rested already!

The Six writes on The Warrior Class over at, well, The Warrior Class. He has a very interesting post up about Gays. Forget Gays in the Military - what's the proper place of Gays in Society? He nails it.

Also, we have God, Guns, and Grits. Srlsy, what more do you have to know about him? He packs some interesting heat with a S&W "Shorty Forty" review, and describes an encounter with a gentleman married to "the perfect wife".

Boots has a new blog, Boots and Shoots. He's not wordy like me, but boils it down to the hard truth: Freedom isn't free. Nor should it be. He has some thoughts on 1911s and Glocks, and other lesser options that I quite like:
The 1911 has served me well. One sits in my desk and is treasured because it has sent thousands upon thousands of rounds down range. It is a classic worthy of consistent praise.

So are the Glocks. Hate them if you like but again, from a performance standpoint, they have sent thousands of rounds down the range and have not once failed me in any way, shape or form. Ditto the Sigs.
And Common Cents dropped a line, leading to his posts on the media coverage of the whole Global Warming controversy. He does a much more thorough job of watching the watchers, and has the video to prove it.

Welcome to the blogroll!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The "Paper of Record" and a peer-reviewed Climate Scientist ...

... tell us that there's been no warming since 1895. First, the New York Times, which in a story published 26 January 1989 wrote:
After examining climate data extending back nearly 100 years, a team of Government scientists has concluded that there has been no significant change in average temperatures or rainfall in the United States over that entire period.


The study, made by scientists for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was published in the current issue of Geophysical Research Letters. It is based on temperature and precipitation readings taken at weather stations around the country from 1895 to 1987.

Phil Jones - director of the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit admitted that there's been no warming in the last 15 years. The IPCC AR4 report was based on the CRU's data, and Dr. Jones was an editor of the report.

So let's see: Dr. Jones of the CRU, NOAA, and The New York Times say that there's been nothing since 1895. Can we all just agree that the science is settled?

Hat tip: Don Surber.

The M1 Garand as a work of art

Make your own, here.

Roy Rogers - Skyball Paint

He broke the mold.

Roy Rogers was one of my heros when I was young - I spent many a saturday morning in front of the TV, watching the Roy Rogers Show. Cowboys were the big thing, and the shows were full of six shooters and horseback chases. Some would have a song from Roy, although that wasn't my favorite part.

That's a shame, because he had quite the singing career. While the Frontier had been closed for sixty years, the days of the open range were still in living memory in the 1940s and 1950s, and Roy captured that nostalgia, of camaraderie around the open fire.

Skyball Paint was one of his less well known songs, but one that really captures this moment, as the Cowboy began to fade from America's imagination, replaced by the Astronaut.

Skyball Paint (Songwriter: Unknown. Possibly Bob Nolan)
Old Sky Ball Paint was a devil’s saint, his eyes were a fiery red.
Good men have tried this horse to ride
And all of them are dead.
Now I won’t brag but I rode this nag till his blood began to boil.
Then I hit the ground and I ate three pound
Of good old Texas soil.

Singin’ hi ho, whoopee ti yo,
Ride him high and down you go,
Sons of the western soil.

So I swore, by heck, I’d break his neck for the jolt he gave my pride.
I threw my noose on that old cayuse
And once more took a ride.
He turned around and soon I found his head where his tail should be
So I sez, sez I, perhaps he’s shy
Or he just don’t care for me.

Singin’ hi ho, whoopee ti yo,
Ride him high and down you go,
Sons of the western soil.

In town one day I chanced to stray upon old Cross-Eyed Jim.
For a whoop and a holler and a counterfeit dollar
I sold the nag to him.
But when he plants the seat of his pants in Sky Ball’s leather chair,
I’ll bet four bits when Sky Ball quits
That Jim will not be there.

Singin’ hi ho, whoopee ti yo,
Ride him high and down you go,
Sons of the western soil.
I had never known until researching this post that Roy and Dale Evans had had a daughter, Robin. She died an infant from complications from Down's Syndrome. Dale wrote about it in Angel Unaware. Dale was the one who wrote Happy Trails, shortly before Robin's death.

RIP Roy and Dale, until we meet again. I always chose you over those Spacemen, anyway.

UPDATE 27 February 12:22: Highpkts emails to point to this video of the song, which is Made Of Awesome and covered with Awesomesauce:

Weather is not Climate

Rick emails to point out the following:

After repeatedly asking for an interview to address Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe's request for former Vice President Al Gore to testify on global warming, finally heard from Gore's office.

Here's the response we received, verbatim:

"Thank you for your kind request. Unfortunately, Mr. Gore's schedule is extremely overbooked and we're unable to offer any availability. It's very difficult to decline invitations such as yours, but it's an unfortunate inevitability of the growing influence of the climate crisis message and the demand on Mr. Gore's time. We do apologize, but thanks for your interest."

So what's Al up to that's keeping him so busy?

That's one long driveway at his mansion ...

Quote of the Day - Living ethically edition

The "Willis and Judy" show on how Climate Science has turned into a mother lode of deep thinking. Commenter Steve J. left a comment that makes me wonder: at which University does he teach? I want him teaching my children:
I wanted to comment on an aspect of all of this that doesn’t seem to be emphasized in these two essays and the responses: the issues of verifiability and scientific ethics that are so disturbing in climate science are really part of a broader social problem, especially in hierarchical structures such as academic science and academe in general, but also in government and corporate life, as the essay comparing climategate to the fall of Enron suggests. We live in an era that has been characterized as “post-modern,” which seems to mean that we can all adopt whatever worldview works for us: in particular, it’s easy to see in many areas of human endeavor that what used to be called ethical behavior has become optional. Corporations, politicians, academics all espouse the highest ethics in public but “everybody” knows they would be fools to actually conduct their lives in this way. This is exactly the dichotomy you see in the climategate emails – public rectitude and private corruption. Postmodernism is the new flavor, but it’s as old as the hills. I’m an academic, and you can see the seem same problems in most academic departments: circling the wagons, cleaving to a politically favored point of view despite the evidence – and as economic factors increase competition for academic and scientific positions, the result under the current system is not greater quality, but more academics and scientists who are willing to shade the result – to advocate – to cheat in one way or another. When the time comes for an investigation, the university or other academic authority acts to favor it’s own best interest – that’s how administrators stay in power. Medical science is so completely infiltrated by the pharmaceuticals that a former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine recently wrote a book about the fact the most medical research, as well as the conclusions of many authorities in medical science, cannot be trusted. In short, we have a serious problem – in our gradual move toward openness and pluralism over the last century, we are in the process of throwing the baby out with the bathwater; pluralism and the rejection of other “isms” such as racism, sexism, and so on, have been a tremendous benefit to society, but the adoption of “situational morality” as a broadly accepted standard is very dangerous. I remember the comment about the Watergate conspirators that the scandal was ultimately quite profitable for many of them because they became widely sought after speakers – nobody seemed too concerned about how they acquired their notoriety. Dishonesty and professional malfeasance have always been with us, but they were once publicly condemned: we had better understand the road we are following – if unethical behavior becomes an acceptable choice in polite society, our civilization will be greatly weakened, and not just by unnecessary economic restrictions.
So let it be written; so let it be done.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Good on ya, cobber!

Made of awesome, and covered with awesomesauce:
CHEEKY protesters have hacked into a large illuminated traffic sign to declare to passing motorists that "Kevin Rudd sucks".

Sydney police are baffled how the political protesters hacked into the road sign's controls in leafy Rose Bay in Sydney, the Daily Telegraph reports.

"Baffled"? Err, we've seen this sort of thing before:

But full marks the the Lads for getting politically involved. I mean, you really can't "up the system" when you're playing Zombiepocalypse on the X-Box.
But the dramatical sign on a major arterial road in the city has proven a traffic stopper.

Locals have been stopping their cars to take photographs, and the sign causing such a major distraction that the police were called in at 3am today.

Police officers were forced to used bolt cutters to reach the the sign's power box sign to turn off the lights, and preserve the Prime Minister's honour.

Hono(u)r now restored, traffic moves smoothly, if less hilariously on Sidney's highways.

Note to American readers: Kevin Rudd is the Prime Minister of Australia.

Hat tip: El Reg.

Do want

I'd need the Tactical Beer Shingle, though. Sorry, the justification is classified. Strictly need-to-know basis only.


Too Old To Work, Too Young To Retire has a debate with an acquaintance about the latest retraction from the IPCC AR4 report, about sea level rise and how what the report originally said wasn't backed up by the science. In the comments discussion, TOTWTYTR points out that the many errors in the report cannot be random - after all, they all erred on the side of catastrophic warming. He has a debate with a fellow named Jimmy, who seems a decent bloke, but (like most people) doesn't have a ton of time to go wading through a whole mess of primary sources.

Jimmy also doesn't want to put too much faith in some J. Random Blogger (Ah, a touch! A touch, I do confess!). So what's a guy to do?

There is a fascinating public debate going on right now between the scientists themselves. Georgia Tech's Dr. Judith Curry reached out to the Skeptic community, by publishing a guest post on the high profile skeptic blogs. In it, she muses on why the scientific community has lost the public's trust:
Credibility is a combination of expertise and trust. While scientists persist in thinking that they should be trusted because of their expertise, climategate has made it clear that expertise itself is not a sufficient basis for public trust. The fallout from climategate is much broader than the allegations of misconduct by scientists at two universities. Of greatest importance is the reduced credibility of the IPCC assessment reports, which are providing the scientific basis for international policies on climate change. Recent disclosures about the IPCC have brought up a host of concerns about the IPCC that had been festering in the background: involvement of IPCC scientists in explicit climate policy advocacy; tribalism that excluded skeptics; hubris of scientists with regards to a noble (Nobel) cause; alarmism; and inadequate attention to the statistics of uncertainty and the complexity of alternative interpretations.
Let me point out that Dr. Curry isn't some jackass Denier like me; rather, she is fairly mainstream in supporting the theory that mankind is contributing to long term and possibly irreversible climate change. This is a voice from the "warmist" camp, expressing very serious concern about how the science behind Global Warming is being done. She deplores the poisonous debate, and reaches out to the skeptic side in a way that I haven't seen before:
So who are the climate auditors? They are technically educated people, mostly outside of academia. Several individuals have developed substantial expertise in aspects of climate science, although they mainly audit rather than produce original scientific research. They tend to be watchdogs rather than deniers; many of them classify themselves as “lukewarmers”. They are independent of oil industry influence. They have found a collective voice in the blogosphere and their posts are often picked up by the mainstream media. They are demanding greater accountability and transparency of climate research and assessment reports.
This is, quite frankly, a refreshing change from "Hey you Deniers, get off my lawn!" It's a very long post, but is worth reading in its entirety.

It's also worth reading the comments. This is a skeptic web site, after all; the comments are a barometer to how effective Dr. Curry was in reaching out to the skeptic community.

But you also need to go read Willis Eschenbach's reply, Judith I love ya, but you're way wrong. Long time readers might remember Eschenbach as the fellow who showed how the raw temperature data at Darwin, Australia had been manipulated. Instead of showing a 0.6°C decline over the 20th Century (which is what the "raw" thermometer readings show), the data had been mysteriously "adjusted" to where it showed a 0.6°C increase.

In other words, he's a man who really, really goes to primary sources - and doesn't like what he sees there. And Darwin isn't by any means the only place we see this.

Eschenbach thinks that Curry misses the critical issue. Trust hasn't been lost because of a lack of collegiality or because the scientists haven't communicated effectively enough. It's been lost because the science stinks, and the scientists seem to be OK with that:

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.

Eschenbach has been at the center of the Climate debate - specifically the Freedom Of Information Act requests:
I made the request to CRU because I was disgusted with the response of mainstream climate scientists to Phil Jone’s reply to Warwick Hughes. When Warwick made a simple scientific request for data, Jones famously said:

Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?

When I heard that, I was astounded. But in addition to being astounded, I was naive. Looking back, I was incredibly naive. I was so naive that I actually thought, “Well, Phil’s gonna get his hand slapped hard by real scientists for that kind of anti-scientific statements”. Foolish me, I thought you guys were honest scientists who would be outraged by that.

So I waited for some mainstream climate scientist to speak out against that kind of scientific malfeasance … and waited … and waited. In fact, I’m still waiting.
His conclusion is brutal:
Steve McIntyre doesn’t inspire trust because he is a good communicator. He inspires trust because he follows the age-old practices of science — transparency and openness and freewheeling scientific discussion and honest reporting of results.

And until mainstream climate science follows his lead, I’ll let you in on a very dark, ugly secret — I don’t want trust in climate science to be restored. I don’t want you learning better ways to propagandize for shoddy science. I don’t want you to figure out how to inspire trust by camouflaging your unethical practices in new and innovative ways. I don’t want scientists learning to use clever words and communication tricks to get people to think that the wound is healed until it actually is healed. I don’t want you to learn to use the blogosphere to spread your pernicious unsupported unscientific alarmism.

You think this is a problem of image, that climate science has a bad image. It is nothing of the sort. It is a problem of scientific malfeasance, and of complicity by silence with that malfeasance. The public, it turns out, has a much better bullsh*t detector than the mainstream climate scientists do … or at least we’re willing to say so in public, while y’all cower in your cubbyholes with your heads down and never, never, never say a bad word about some other climate scientist’s bogus claims and wrong actions.

In all fairness, the public doesn't jeopardize research grants by objecting to the consensus.

My excerpts from his post are particularly harsh, and Eschenbach also strives to return Curry's tone of civility while making his point. RTWT, and especially the comments. All 600 of them, where Dr. Curry comes to engage in the discussion.

Jimmy, this is the current state of the science, from the perspective of the scientists dealing with the primary sources. Neither side thinks that the science can be trusted. You shouldn't either.

You may now hit the Bride upside the head

Don't hide your feelings, though. Tell us what you really think.

Hat tip: Andrew, via email.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


I'm watching Curling on the Olympics (srlsy - it's the only Olympic sport I could plausibly still win a medal in). And the announcers talk about the Swedish team member whose daily workout includes 30 minutes of cardio.

Huh? My workout would be at the bar. I mean, c'mon - it's curling.

I must be missing something here ...


It's against the law to have a gun in a Gun-Free Zone. Fortunately there was someone there who didn't wait for the police to show up, and tackled the shooter:
During regular emergency drills at Deer Creek Middle School in suburban Denver, math teacher David Benke always told himself and his students that, should something dire occur, he would try to protect them.

So when he spotted a rifleman shooting at students who were leaving school Tuesday, Benke didn't hesitate. "I made a promise," he said.

The 57-year-old teacher charged the gunman and knocked him to the ground. While an assistant principal grabbed the rifle, Benke and another teacher kept the shooter pinned until police arrived.
Bravo to Mr. Benke, and full marks.

Now can someone please explain to me why Mr. Benke can't be trusted to carry a gun to protect his charges?

Regulation is a Luxury Good

The title is from a comment to Eric Raymond's post, where he writes on unemployment:
We’ve spent the last seventy years increasing the hidden overhead and downside risks associated with hiring a worker — which meant the minimum revenue-per-employee threshold below which hiring doesn’t make sense has crept up and up and up, gradually. This effect was partly masked by credit and asset bubbles, but those have now popped. Increasingly it’s not just the classic hard-core unemployables (alcoholics, criminal deviants, crazies) that can’t pull enough weight to justify a paycheck; it’s the marginal ones, the mediocre, and the mildly dysfunctional.

If that doesn’t scare the crap out of you, you’re not paying attention. It’s a recipe for long-term structural unemployment at European levels of 10%, 15%, and up. What’s even crazier is that the Obama administration wants to respond to this problem by…raising taxes and piling more regulatory burden on employers.

I'd amplify his last sentence. Downturns have always been a spur to efficiency for private companies. Everyone wants more headcount and resources, but when profits are falling, there's a triage effect that well-run companies go through. Expenses get justified, and then re-justified. Plans get re-planned. The result is a more efficient allocation of resources.

Ideally, you wouldn't need a downturn for this, but my experience is that there's a slow decay of efficiency (in private sector companies) during the good years, and then a sudden step-wise ratchet when things get tight. The effect is for companies to remain more or less efficient over the long haul.

This simply doesn't apply to Government. Government employment has been increasing monotonically for as long as I've been paying attention, which would be probably 30 odd years now. Efficiency measures are terribly difficult to apply to government (perhaps intentionally so), but where you can apply external metrics you see an inverse relationship of headcount to output. Education comes to mind, where the inflation adjusted cost of primary and secondary education has roughly doubled in the last three decades, at the same time that test scores have plummeted.

Congress (both Democrat and Republican) and the White House both sound like the Middle Manager who always wants just a few more headcount for his team. I mean, who doesn't? What hasn't happened (so far) is the corrections that focus those resources on the most important goals. If you assume that the most important goal for Congress and the President is getting re-elected, it's hard to see how this can possibly be reformed from within.

So what's the purgative for the public sector, short of tar and feathers, rope and lamp post? While I don't have any proof, it seems that the Tea Parties are a spontaneous outbreak of resistance to government friction that's reached an intolerable level and, with Health Care "reform" and Cap-and-Trade on the horizon, should promise of being able to entirely sieze up the engine. I wonder how a political platform of "I'll reduce government headcount by 15%" would poll.

One thing that seems highly probably: the American public simply will not tolerate European levels of unemployment. We're a restless and independent crowd, at least compared to the plebes on that side of The Pond.

Dang, I sound like Ron Paul.

RTWT, especially the comments thread which is really interesting.

UPDATE 25 February 2010 14:57: The discussion in the comments about the underground labor market as a reaction of regulatory friction is particularly interesting. In some European countries - Greece especially, but Italy to a large extent too - tax evasion via off-the-book exchanges have been raised to an art form. With polls showing north of 70% of the public believing that our government lacks legitimacy, something will change. The nature of the change will be interesting.

400 dead in Britain

Britain has suffered a terrible tragedy, with 400 dead. It doesn't look like it's over yet.

The tragedy? It's National Health Service:

Patients were routinely neglected or left “sobbing and humiliated” by staff at an NHS trust where at least 400 deaths have been linked to appalling care.

An independent inquiry found that managers at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust stopped providing safe care because they were preoccupied with government targets and cutting costs.

You get more of what you measure. You get less of what you don't measure. In Britain, it seems that survival rates are not one of the metrics that is tracked. If it is, it's not given a very strong weighting.

It's striking what you hear in the country. In 1993, HillaryCare had hundreds of pages of punitive regulations aimed at Insurance Companies and Doctors. None were aimed at government bureaucrats. Bureaucrats who let this happen:
Staff shortages at Stafford Hospital meant that patients went unwashed for weeks, were left without food or drink and were even unable to get to the lavatory. Some lay in soiled sheets that relatives had to take home to wash, others developed infections or had falls, occasionally fatal. Many staff did their best but the attitude of some nurses “left a lot to be desired”.
I'm unimpressed with people who think that this couldn't happen here. We're not talking East Elbonia here, we're talking Great Britain. I mean, we keep hearing how we're supposed to be more like Europe, right? So how would government run health care here not lead to precisely this? It seems to have in Canada, where big shot politicians come here for treatment.

It's the Department of Motor Vehicles, running the hospitals.

Hat tip: Too Old To Work, Too Young To Retire.

Short Selling Global Warming

Rational Market Theory claims that financial markets will ultimately be rational, but only in the long run. In the short run, they can be crazier than a Soup Sandwich. When a market is suffering from a bad case of Teh Crazy, the first real sign of a correction is the appearance of Short Sellers.

Short selling (or "shorting") is a specific form of futures investment where the buyer believes that the investment will be worth less at some specific future date. It is essentially the opposite of the simplest form of investment, buying shares in a company because you think the shares will be more valuable in the future. Instead, you think the company is tanking. It was short sellers that showed that Enron was a house of cards. Ken Lay hated their guts.

But Shorts are taking big risks, and often have done their homework - better than the crowd, in fact. While the Crowd may accept Mr. Emerson's dictum that a foolish consistency is the Hobgoblin of small minds, Shorts see the small inconsistency as a sign of something significant.

And so to a fascinating post by Steve McIntyre on the similarities between the "consensus" view of Global Warming and the "consensus" view that Enron was the best run company in America. It's a long post, with a lot of background, but this is the heart:
Obviously, corruption at Enron did not prove that all business enterprises were corrupt. Conversely, no defence lawyer for Ken Lay or Jeffrey Skillings or Andrew Fastow would have stood before a court and argued that, because no one had showed that all business enterprises were corrupt, corruption at Enron didn’t “matter”. It did matter. Honest businessmen did not discourage an investigation of Enron or try to sweep it under the carpet. The best way to restore confidence in the rest of the system was to do a proper investigation of Enron.

I think that there is a useful analogy here. Defects in proxy reconstructions do not prove the non-existence of AGW just as corruption at Enron doesn’t prove that all businesses are corrupt. But the fact that some lines of scientific argument are unaffected by CRU conduct or misconduct doesn’t mean that potential misconduct by CRU and others doesn’t “matter”. It does. The difficulty of the “community” in understanding this does not reassure the public – that’s for sure.

Both the Global Warming Skeptics and the Shorts came from the same starting point: something was not quite right with the data. With Enron, the profits/capital ratio seemed too stable, suggesting accounting shenanigans. With climate, the raw data seems to have been manipulated.

In both cases, the more people looked, the more funny stuff they found. With climate data, this is still playing out, and the scientific community has yet to come to grips with it. But people keep finding more manipulated data, data that can only have been manipulated for one reason: to show warming where there is none:

Although GISS can truthfully say they have not adjusted the GHCN data, the splicing of the last 6 years of the Post Office dataset to the warmer Gladstone Radar leads to a trend of 1.7 degrees Celsius per Century.

I have shown three possible options for more appropriate adjustments to combine all temperatures at the one site. Of these, the highest trend is about 1.5 degrees, which is close to the trend (1.4 degrees) of the nearest rural sites. Examination of these sites shows that their data is of questionable quality. The second option produces a trend of 0.9 degrees, and the third and (in my opinion) best option, 0.7 degrees. The average trend of the 5 nearest long-record rural sites (0.8 degrees) is between these last two options and so matches well. Nearby cities of Rockhampton and Bundaberg show adjusted trends of about 0.7 and 0.5 degrees respectively, and Maryborough, ignored by GHCN, shows a trend of 0.4 degrees.

Thus the GISS record for Gladstone is derived from cynically cherry-picked data. The resulting trend of about 1.7 degrees Celsius per Century cannot be justified. The record is false.

This is only the latest example, as the Long Tail of the Internet does the peer review on climate data that the scientific community won't.

Is there a Key Lay for ClimateGate? We'll have to see:
At the GISS website, the responsible NASA official is listed as Dr James Hansen. I will leave it to others to decide what he is responsible for.
Me, I'm short on Global Warming. This theory will be worth less in the future. Much less.

Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall is dumb as a rock

UPDATE: Full transcript of Del. Marshall's statement (plus some commentary) at the end of this post. [end]

If you're in Manassas, VA, he's your representative. Here's what he said:
State Delegate Bob Marshall of Manassas says disabled children are God's punishment to women who have aborted their first pregnancy.

He made that statement Thursday at a press conference to oppose state funding for Planned Parenthood.

"The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children," said Marshall, a Republican.
No need to play "Name That Party", because Del. Marshall is a Republican. But I digress.

As you know, I'm pretty harsh on what David Brooks likes to call the "Educated Class". I don't think that in general they're all that smart, and I think that they are - as a class - exceptionally close minded and bigoted towards rural areas, southerners, and much of the middle class.

And then someone like Marshall opens his pie hole and confirms everything they say. Thanks for making us look like a bunch of know-nothing, ignorant rednecks, Bob. Now can you please STFU? You're hurting the team.

Marshall joins Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley in the exclusive "Dumb as a rock" category here. I expect that he won't be the last.

Hat tip: Sabra, who replies to this doofus in a much more intelligent and measured manner than I.

UPDATE 1 March 2010 14:52: Via Citizen Tom, here's the full transcript of Del. Marshall's remarks:
“Thank you very much for coming here today. We are dealing with an attempt to defund, frankly, a malevolent organization. And I say that because you know people by their fruits. In 1960, 65, the out of wed-lock birthrate for blacks was 25 percent. I think it was about 23 percent in 1960 – it was 5 percent for all races. Now it’s 40 percent. It’s 72% for blacks, 51% for Latinas. These are the fruits of planned parenthood. OK. Nothing else. More heartache. More guys who are completely irresponsible and think that women have one function and one function only for a few minutes. OK. But this just isn’t affecting our families, our inner cities, our communities and our state. This poison animates a world-wide population control program that the United States funds and which is unnecessarily making us enemies overseas. We are attacking traditional family structure in a way that no country should be doing. These aren’t my words. Go read a book by Denesh DeSouza. Ok. He’s looking at it from a cultural, historical perspective. This organization should be called Planned Barrenhood cause they have nothing to do with families, they have nothing to do with responsibility. One-fourth of all abortions are done by Planned Parenthood in the United States. Ok. The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion who have handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first-born of any, Nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children. In the Old Testament, the first-born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There’s a special punishment Christians would suggest, and with the knowledge they have from faith has been verified by a study by the Virginia Commonwealth University. First abortions of the first pregnancy are much more damaging to the woman than latter abortions. None of these are good for anybody but this organization has had its time. They have failed in their efforts and we need to defund them and not have them receive a dime of public money.”
I'm actually quite sympathetic for the first half of his statement. It's a factual, serious presentation of the issues. Then it strays into the fever swamps. Frequent readers know that I'm very harsh on advocates for man-made global warming; Del. Marshall's statement that abortions cause birth defects in subsequent pregnancies sets off precisely the same alarm bells as people who say that higher levels of Carbon Dioxide cause higher temperatures. Is it possible? Yes. Is there a clear political motive? Yes.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

BREAKING: New Global Warming retraction from the IPCC

And this one's big:
TREES will not uproot themselves and embark on blood-soaked killing sprees by 2035, global warming experts have admitted.

The IPCC headquarters in Geneva
The International Panel on Climate Change confirmed the evidence had not been peer - reviewed and will now amend the section of its 2007 report devoted to 'killer trees'.

A spokesman said: "It appears the claim was not based on new data or field research but on that bit with the angry, talking trees in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
In the interest of avoiding panic among my readers, let me emphasize that the IPCC report of Killer Zombie Trees is not true. This is a good thing, as I doubt that a .30-06 round has sufficient knock-down power for a tree.

Although I did hear that some of J.R.R. Tolkein's work was peer reviewed.

Hat tip: Soylent Green.

Faster traffic speeds make us safer

According to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, in testimony to Congress:
... as [Congressman] Souder pointed out, lowering the speed limit to 30 mph would save a lot of lives, but we don't do it. Aren't there tradeoffs, he asked.

At which point Secretary LaHood achieved liftoff and rapidly departed reality. He responded that lowering the speed limit to 30 mph would not save any lives, which is why we have minimum speeds on highways. Representative Souder looked just as flummoxed as I was; did the Secretary of Transportation really not understand that the minimum speed limit exists to ensure that traffic is traveling at basically the same speed--which is indeed safer than allowing wide speed differentials? Could he possibly believe that it was actually safer to drive 40 mph than to drive 30 mph?

Yes, apparently he could.
Well then. Here's some free advice to Secretary LaHood, who clearly needs some help with the hard sciences:

No need to thank me, it's all part of the service.

I'm sorry, but I'm really tired of hearing people talk about how dumb Sarah Palin is.
ADMINISTRATION, n. An ingenious abstraction in politics, designed to receive the kicks and cuffs due to the premier or president. A man of straw, proof against bad-egging and dead-catting.
- Ambrose Bierce

Can we nominate anyone?

When Basement Cat comes for my soul, I'm not playing this

I'm holding out for this, the awesomest Battleship game of all time:
Avalon Hill's Jutland game. No board, just pieces. Jim Dunnigan's first game, and man, what a game. My first introduction to real wargaming, in 1969 (can it really be that long ago?). We made the scale maneuver gauges, so instead of needing a room to play it, you needed a whole house. Mom had the patience of Job as we maneuvered our fleets down the hallway, and one of the high points of my gaming life was executing Admiral Scheer's battle turn away maneuver on the living room floor.

If you have to settle for a less awesomest Battleship game, you'll probably have to settle for this:

It's odd the memories that get triggered when you're on Al Gore's Intarwebz thingie.

The intelligence of the political class

Education, n. That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.
- Ambrose Bierce

Robert Bakker's monumentally interesting book The Dinosaur Heresies is a must-read for anyone who - like me - is a dino fan. In it, he argues convincingly that dinosaurs were warm blooded and led active lives. This view has, in the years since its 1986 publication, become more or less orthodox science.

He also argues - much less convincingly - that they were intelligent. It may be that we have poor ways to measure intelligence based on the fossil record, and in any case intelligence is probably overrated as a survival trait. But it seems to me that dinosaur's intelligence was, well, stupid.

They're not the only ones. George Will is by any rational measure a very intelligent man. Educated at Oxford and Princeton, recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, he embodies the virtues of what David Brooks called the "educated class".

And yet we see times when his intelligence is stupid, like his latest piece on Sarah Palin. He writes of populism, and misses not only center mass, but the entire target:
America, its luck exhausted, at last has a president from the academic culture, that grating blend of knowingness and unrealism. But the reaction against this must somewhat please him. That reaction is populism, a celebration of intellectual ordinariness. This is not a stance that will strengthen the Republican Party, which recently has become ruinously weak among highly educated whites.
His analysis is logical, consistent, well thought out, and entirely wrong. The reason is that he's playing by the old rules, and hasn't adjusted to how the Internet has changed politics. There's no roadmap, and so the old careful analysis techniques - the weights assigned to various attributes that have led to success in the past - are no longer any guide.

Clayton Christensen wrote the single most terrifying business book I've ever read. In The Innovator's Dilemma, he says that it's obvious why badly-managed companies go out of business (they're badly managed, duh). He asks a very interesting question: why do well-managed companies go out of business? He says that it's all about managing innovation.

Christensen posits two types of innovation. Continuous innovation (what he calls sustaining technologies) is easy to manage: it's more of what we have, only better. Well managed companies excel at growing sustaining technologies. There are also revolutionary innovations (what he calls disruptive technologies) that change how the game is played. It doesn't matter how much better your buggy whip is, you won't be able to grow your business on that product line.

Companies almost always fail at managing disruptive technology transformations, because they are well managed. The entire corporate structure is based on producing and selling at a particular price point. A product that kills your cash cow because it's priced 50% lower probably can't be sold effectively at that company, no matter how brilliantly disruptive it is. IBM sold million dollar mainframe computers. While they certainly knew how to make minicomputers, all the incentives were for them to push customers to bigger and more expensive machines. Minicomputers couldn't become too compelling without undercutting the quarterly sales targets, and so DEC ate IBM's lunch. And then Compaq ate DEC's lunch with PCs.

There is a massively disruptive force reshaping politics today, and the current establishment doesn't know how to deal with it. And so they continue to do what they've always done, because it's what made them successful. Right now, they're dismissing the changes. Will, again:
Populism has had as many incarnations as it has had provocations, but its constant ingredient has been resentment, and hence whininess. Populism does not wax in tranquil times; it is a cathartic response to serious problems. But it always wanes because it never seems serious as a solution.
Ah, but what happens when populism no longer needs the press, because the Internet lets the movement organize without the help - and even against the efforts - of the current political gatekeepers? What happens to populism when it's combined with this disruptive innovation?

Walter Russell Meade gets it. The Tea Partiers may have been relegated to the Long Tail by the political gatekeepers, but they are a storming of the gates:
But you don’t have to buy every line item (or even any line item) in the emerging Tea Party program to see the movement’s potential. Its ruling passion is a belief in the ability of the ordinary citizen to make decisions for himself or herself without the guidance or ‘help’ of experts and professionals. No idea has deeper roots in American history and culture and by global standards Americans have historically distrusted doctors, lawyers, bankers, preachers and professors: everybody who presumes that their special insider knowledge gives them a special right to decide what’s best for the rest of us and historically no political force has been stronger than the determination of ordinary Americans to flatten the social and political hierarchy.
Now that's enabled by the disruptive technology of the Internet. George Will, despite all his intelligence - maybe because of his intelligence - cannot be a part of this New Revolution. He's made a highly successful career out of brilliantly managing sustaining political innovations. But the game has changed, and the emergence of talent from the Internet's Long Tail, without the need for the blessings of his educated class, seems to have him out of his depth. "Intellectual ordinariness"? He just doesn't see how Palin is harnessing the Internet better than anyone. She's brilliantly riding the disruptive wave.

He doesn't see, even though it's right before his eyes. His intelligence seems to be making him stupid. The dinosaurs smell a change in the air, and roar their defiance.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Quote of the Day

I've been a bit (ahem) wordy lately, and alas there's more coming tomorrow. Fortunately, there are others who can say pretty much the same thing as I, only better and pithier. I went on and on about nanny staters; Weer'd Beard cuts to the chase:
I think we all know these nanny-state jerkoffs just want to ban smoking...but they know they can't do it.

Guess what? I enjoy a cigar from time-to-time. I'll have a swill of some whiskey or a nice gin. I eat fatty red meat, occasionally pan-fried in butter. I used to SCUBA dive, and still have the gear in my garage. Sometimes I can't be bothered to slather sunscreen on exposed skin when I'm outside, and when I do I sometimes don't re-apply as often as the bottle requires me to. Maybe someday I'll jump out of an airplane with a fancy backpack strapped to my ass.

Guess what? All those things aren't the best things in the world for me, and they might lead to my early demise. Guess what? FUCK OFF! I'm a big boy, and I put on my big-boy pants one-leg-at-a-time, and if any of my chosen activities end in my early demise, or a diminishment of my health in my twilight years, I'll take my licks.
Amen, brother. Amen.

Malum in se

Ay! what 'mong men as knowledge doth obtain!
Who on the child its true name dares bestow?
The few who somewhat of these things have known,
Who their full hearts unguardedly reveal'd,
Nor thoughts, nor feelings, from the mob conceal'd,
Have died on crosses, or in flames been thrown!
- Goethe, Faust
Internet Security has come a long way since I first started in it, back in the 1980s. The technology has advanced enormously, although there is much that is lacking on that score. But the biggest advance has been the public's understanding of the problem.

In a sense, we've come full circle. The original hacker culture had no problem with breaking the rules (malum prohibitum, things that are proscribed by regulation). This hacker culture had nothing in common with what's commonly called "hacking", other than they didn't care about the silly rules. There was a very strong culture against doing harm to other people - to the hackers themselves, this was a line not to be crossed. Not because it was against the rules, but because it was wrong in and of itself: Malum in se.

The Lower Merion School District looks like it has an IT administrator that crossed that line. The more that comes out about the story, the more it seems impossible to believe that this was in any way accidental. The details are ugly, very ugly:

In a September 2009 post that may come to haunt this investigation, [the administrator] posted a scripting method for remote enable/disable of the iSight camera in the laptops. This post makes a lot more sense when [he] puts it in context on an admin newsgroup, in a post which makes it clear that his script allows for the camera to appear shut down to user applications such as Photo Booth but still function via remote administration:

"what this does is prevent internal use of the iSight, but some utilities might still work (for instance an external application using it for Theft tracking"
It looks like it was designed to keep people from being able to see whether they were being monitored. Worse, the spy software used on the Macbook computers is (surprise!) filled with security holes. And by "filled with security holes" I mean that it appears that security wasn't an afterthought; it wasn't thought of at all:
With some of my colleagues, I began a reverse engineering effort against LANRev in order to determine the nature of the threat and possible countermeasures. Some of the things we found at first left us aghast as security pros: the spyware "client" (they call it an agent) binds to the server permanently without using authentication or [encryption] key distribution. Find an unbound agent on your network with Bonjour, click on it, you own it. The server software, with an externally facing Internet port... runs as root. I'm not kidding. For those unfamiliar with the principle of least privilege- this is an indicator of a highly unskilled design.
'Unskilled design"? Boy, howdy.

What makes this double plus ungood is the regulations that the school imposed. While by definition the regulations cannot be malum prohibitum, it's simply impossible to see how they could not be malum in se:

The truly amazing part of this story is what's coming out from comments from the students themselves. Some of the interesting points:

  • Possession of a monitored Macbook was required for classes

  • Possession of an unmonitored personal computer was forbidden and would be confiscated

  • Disabling the camera was impossible

  • Jailbreaking a school laptop in order to secure it or monitor it against intrusion was an offense which merited expulsion
JayG left a comment to yesterday's post on the matter:
You can remotely activate a webcam to send video?


I need a hammer.
Yes, they can remotely activate the webcam. What you need, Jay, is a band-aid (srlsy, to put over the webcam on Baby Girl G's school-issued laptop; duct tape will leave adhesive on the camera lens). Then you need some personal time with the school administrators, so that they understand that (a) you want a list of all school-installed software that could be used for monitoring your child, (b) you want written documentation of all procedures under which a school employee might monitor your child, and (c) a guarantee that no such monitoring of your child shall be done without either your consent or a court order. I would even suggest that you let them know that you know (or can find out) how to file a Freedom Of Information Act request, and can very likely make them the #1 Google result for your town.

You might also remind them of the "Washington Post" rule, taught these many moons ago to fledgling engineer Borepatch at Three Letter Intelligence Agency:
Nothing that you read in the Washington Post about this Agency is good for this Agency.
The risk to early hackers was not so much in getting caught (malum prohibitum). Security was lousy, and system owners were incompetent or simply didn't care. The danger to the early hacker was getting so caught up in exploring the technology that you hurt someone. That the thrill of flying would cause you to fly too high, and Icarus-like melt your wings. Of making that Faustian bargain. It is not for nothing that it's called malum.

I know that some of the folks who read this blog are IT Administrators, and are cringing inside right now. Or fuming, like me. To protect their reputations, I hope that there's jail time involved for the IT Administrators who implemented this at Merion, and for the School Administrators who authorized it. The School Administrators in particular cannot credibly plead ignorance, not with those regulations prohibiting jailbreaking the laptops.

If any readers have a child with a school-supplied laptop and want some pro bono technical Internet Security help for a chat with their child's school system, please leave a comment or email me directly at borepatch {at} gmail {dot} com. This sort of behavior by school districts is a cancer, and needs to be purged from the Body Public.

Dilbert the Environmentalist

One of the dumbest things that you hear about the whole ClimateGate brouhaha is the nonsense from the "warmists" that the "deniers" are well funded, from nefarious - and probably Energy Company - sources. This is, quite frankly, so dumb that you can actually feel your IQ shrink temporarily when you hear it.

So why do people keep saying it? It's a reaction from people who can't grapple with how the Internet's Long Tail is changing how we talk about science and politics.

Offered for your consideration is a brilliant analysis of the wellsprings from whence comes this madness. At its heart, there's a shifting business model that is flummoxing those who are living in Yesterday, and not seeing that it's actually Tomorrow:
According to publicly-available figures compiled by, over a 12-year period Greenpeace raised $2.4 billion. That works out to $200 million a year in resources.

If you think that’s impressive, take a moment to ponder the fact that the World Wildlife Fund raised $3.1 billion in just six years (2003-2008). Which means that that organization has ready access to half a billion dollars annually.

When you’re that big – and that loaded – suddenly everything costs a small fortune. Want to start a new blog? That’ll require a series of meetings. You’ll need to invite web design folks, IT folks, a contingent of in-house PR people, an ad agency person or two, a corporate strategy person, and probably someone from legal. You’ll meet in shiny offices in a fashionable part of town and order-in sandwiches from the pricey, organic, fair-trade café at the end of the street.

It's Dilbert the Environmentalist. The writer goes on to describe how easy it is to set up a blog, and then slips the knife in with a "compare and contrast":

Many skeptical-leaning bloggers have scientific, mathematical, and statistical training – not to mention decades of real-world experience under their belts. Others have been professional communicators (I, myself, am a former print journalist). Some are speed-readers, others have photographic memories. Many, like the folks who rendered the Climategate e-mails fully searchable within a matter of hours, have impressive information technology skills. Some are retired, with plenty of time on their hands. Others devote as many hours to reading and writing about climate issues in a week as they’d otherwise spend on knitting or golf.

From the perspective of environmental organization staffers, research agency employees, and tenured university professors it must appear as though skeptics have access to deep pockets.
I've written probably 50,000 words on Global Warming. Rather than doing it for bushel baskets of Oil Company cash (welcome though that would be), I do it for fun.

That's a business model that the folks at Greenpeace don't grok. And so they bleat that folks like me must be paid shills. After all, they only encounter paid shills at their jobs at Greenpeace. Idiots.

They're trying to keep two mutually contradictory thoughts in their head at the same time: that they're the Underground Resistance, fighting heroically against impossible odds; and that Money is the sinews of their political action campaign.

The business model is shifting underneath their feet. They don't like it, but they don't know what to do. Welcome to the New Revolution.

The dinosaurs smell a change in the air, and roar their defiance.

The Long Tail of the Internet and the election of 2010

The Long Tail is one of the most important books about how electronic distribution of information via the Internet is shattering old business models, and replacing them with new ones. In it, author Chris Anderson uses the music industry as an illustration. Radio air time or Big Box retailer shelf space have hard limits to the quantity of music they can offer: after all, there are only 24 hours in a day, so you probably can't ever play more than about 400 songs a day.

As a result, the radio industry looks for hits, and plays pretty much only those. Hit albums are pretty much the only ones you see on the shelf down at Wally World. But what about all the rest of the music? Anderson looked at customer track listening data from Rhapsody, and found something very interesting:
But by then I had some hard data, thanks to Rhapsody, which is one of the online music companies. They had given me a month's worth of customer usage data, and when I graphed it out, I realized that the curve was unlike anything I'd seen before.

It started like any other demand curve, ranked by popularity. A few hits were downloaded a huge number of times at the head of the curve, and then it fell off steeply with less popular tracks. But the interesting thing was that it never fell to zero. I'd go to the 100,000th track, zoom in, and the downloads per month were still in the thousands. And the curve just kept going: 200,000, 300,000, 400,000 tracks - no store could ever carry this much music. Yet as far as I looked, there was still demand. Way out at the end of the curve, tracks were being downloaded just four or five times a month, but still the curve wasn't at zero.
Anderson graphed the curve. He calls it "the long tail" of the Internet:

The hits are all at the front of the curve, the "head" (the red stuff). Everything else is in the tail (yellow).

OK, this is all very interesting and everything, but what (I hear you ask) does this have to do with business models shattering? Well, the recording industry is paid to act as gatekeepers: they have traditionally scanned the tail for interesting new artists, and have promoted them to the head. Think Col. Tom Parker "discovering" Elvis. Nobody had ever heard of Elvis before, and Parker made him a star.

But in the Internet Age, who needs a Parker? Listen to Anderson again:
Way out at the end of the curve, tracks were being downloaded just four or five times a month, but still the curve wasn't at zero.
Business models are collapsing because the Gatekeeper function is being eliminated, or at least massively changed. A lot of recording labels will never figure out how to respond, and will go out of business. Some will figure it out, and will have massive success. It will take another decade for us to know who's who.

It's not just music. Any information product exhibits Long Tail market properties today. We're seeing this in Climate Science, where the folks in the long tail have blown the peer reviewed science out of the water. The ClimateGate emails show how a small team of scientists worked to rig the peer review process. They wanted control of the gatekeeping system, to let their friends in and keep their enemies out. Their "business model" was gaining control of the traditional distribution networks, e.g. getting the editor of Geophysical Research Letters fired.

But in the Internet Age, information wants to - and will - be free. So long, Dr. Phil Jones of the CRU. Michael Mann of Penn State, you're next. The scientific review "business model" is already shattering. Dr. Les Halton is a Climatologist who was interested in the IPCC's statement that Global Warming is making Hurricanes more destructive. He downloaded hurricane data from NOAA and did a statistical analysis, and discovered that contrary to the IPCC claims, there's no correlation. He's placed his code and data on the Internet for Long Tail review:
Before sending me hate-mail if you are a warmist or love-mail if you are a coolist or denialist or whatever the parlance is this week, I am neither. I am a scientist and trained to be sceptical. To make it easier than the CRU have made it, the data is readily accessible at the link below. Go check it yourself. I'm damned if I know how the IPCC came to the conclusions it did.
For something this important, all the software and models and all the data should be publicly available in easily accessed form to allow anybody to contribute. Anything less is insane.
Information wants to be free, despite the best effort of the Gatekeepers to keep it locked up. Which brings us to the election of 2010. We see a bunch of Long Tail phenomena, including the Tea Parties, Scott Brown, and Sarah Palin. The are all outsiders. They all use the Internet to organize, to raise money, to get the message out. They all drive the gatekeepers crazy.

The Gatekeepers are the two main political parties (it's a mistake to think that Tea Partiers don't hate the Republican party machine, and vice versa). It's the media: The New York Times and CBS News, which is finding to their dismay that they can no longer control the message (ask John Edwards or Dan Rather). But most importantly, it's the Ivy League.

I wondered for years why anyone would spend a quarter million dollars to send their child to Harvard. Like one of the grand old movie stars, it's living off its past reputation. I didn't get small, the movies did. So what gives with the price tag?

It's the gatekeeper into the political class. Both George W. Bush and John Kerry were Skull and Bones men. It's where the political elite sends their children to meet the future movers and shakers. To become a future mover and shaker. To find their rightful place in the head of the political power curve, not down on the tail.

Most of the members of the Political Elite aren't very bright (I'm looking at you, Joe Biden). Rather, they're the beneficiaries of the gatekeeping system. Some have, through talent, personal exertion, and great personal expense passed through the gates dividing the Head from the Long Tail - say, an outsider graduating from Columbia Journalism School. Now in the Ruling Class, and saddled with mountains of student loans, they find that Palin (or Scott Brown, or the Tea Parties) seem to be "jumping the queue". Playing by different rules. Shattering the business model for entering into the Halls Of Power.

How could they not be incandescent with rage? They'd have to be a saint not to be. Welcome to the New Revolution.

When you hear talk of "teabaggers", or how "dumb" Palin is, or how Brown won "because he stood in the cold shaking hands outside Fenway Park", you know that you're talking to one of the people that the Internet is turning into a loser, as their political business model collapses around them. They'll all be gone in ten years.

These memes don't - can't - stand up to scrutiny. They're actually not intended to, any more than Jones and Mann thought that their scientific papers could stand up to skeptical challenges: the suppression of alternate ideas is all the proof you need to understand how strong they thought their own arguments were. It was all posturing - signaling - to the other Gatekeepers, as is chatter about "teabaggers".

The election of 2010 won't be the last in this Revolution. We're looking at a decade of upheaval, as the current "business model" of political power gets reshaped. It will probably take ten years before it settles down into a new Conventional Wisdom of how to succeed in the political market. Most of the current incumbents will be gone, and a bunch of people we've never heard of will be major players. All of these new faces will have something in common.

Like Sarah Palin and Scott Brown, they will have come out of the Long Tail, and will have bypassed the old Gatekeepers on their way to success.

The dinosaurs smell a change in the air, and roar their defiance.

Um, I didn't fail, actually ...

... but if this were any more awesome, your screen would collapse into a Black Hole of Awesomeness.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Farce The Music is simply on fire

If you're not following Farce The Music, you should be. Case in point:

We are no longer the Knights who say "ni"

We are now the Knights who say "Ekke Ekke Ekke Ekke Ptang Zoo Boing Zow Zing" ...

And so, this blog is no at longer It is now at:

Make your own el mongo grosso URLs at the Freaking Huge URL Generator.

God mocks me with his blizzards.

This is Climate Science inside baseball, but what fabulous inside baseball.

Hap tip: the indispensable Jo Nova.

Feds investigating school webcam spying case

Not sure how this will play out, but it's hard to see upside for the Lower Merion School District:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is opening a probe into allegations that a US high school used laptop cameras to monitor students.

The investigation is the result of a class action suit filed last week against Lower Merion School District.

For those late to the party, here's the Cliff Notes' version: School issues 1800 laptops to students. Laptops come with webcam and spyware pre-installed. Kid gets in trouble because school administrators see him eating Mike And Ike while he was in his own room. School administrators have picture of kid eating said foodstuff in hte safety and comfort of his own home, presumably in violation of school rules. Kid's parents file class action lawsuit against school.

I'm likely in the wrong line of work. I should go to Law School, and hang out a shingle as a sheister, because here are the uncomfortable questions to ask the school administrators:
  • Who was authorized to remotely monitor students?
  • What sort of background check did you perform on them?
  • What sort of access logging is performed by the school-installed spyware?
  • Is it possible for an administrator to access a student's webcam without this activity being logged?
  • Is it possible for an administrator to save a picture of a student?
  • Can pictures be saved to non-school controlled locations (say, an administrator's home computer or network)?
  • Is there access logging for pictures saved on school controlled locations?
The smart money is betting that these folks don't have good answers to any of these questions.

Now what do you think would happen to a private school where this happened? What do you think would happen to administrators at a private school that did this? Why will none of this happen to the Lower Merion School District?

The Organs of the State do not self-correct. But thanks for all the tax money.

It's not for you

There's quite a lot of buzz in the Blogosphere about Glen Beck's speech to the CPAC conference. If you haven't seen it, you should go watch it; it's quite long (over an hour), but he touches on a number of issues that triggered the thoughts that turned into this post.

There's a lot of frustration on the left these days. Of course, the left has pretty much always been frustrated - with the exception of a couple years after Nixon's resignation and (maybe) the first couple years of Clinton's presidency, it's been a long, long dry spell for the Progressives. Obama was supposed to change things (ignoring that his positions during the campaign were decidedly middle of the road; we'll come back to this). He hasn't. A year into his presidency, his agenda is in tatters, and his party is headed for what looks to be the biggest defeat in living memory.

What gives? How can the Progressive Agenda be so unable to deliver? After all, its proponents will tell you that it's the Last Best Hope for the majority of Americans. A typical formulation from the Fever Swamps puts it down to Indoctrination via Patriotism:
We're indoctinated [sic] into believing the most unbelievably rosy portrait of America as breadbasket, treasure-trove, land of opportunity, and benevolent savior of the world, that any ideas that undermine that image are simply unthinkable to a large portion of the population.


And of course, there are the folks living off of mac n' cheese in a double-wide somewhere who feel they've got it made, that they're middle class - even though they've got to pay half the cost of a lousy HMO plan, and can't sock away ANYTHING for the future...
A more highbrow formulation was offered in a famous Op-Ed in the New York Times in 2004, right after John Kerry lost the election. In it, Nick Kristof put it down to economic matters being trumped by conservative social ones:
Democrats are still effective on bread-and-butter issues like health care, but they come across in much of America as arrogant and out of touch the moment the discussion shifts to values.


Democrats peddle issues, and Republicans sell values. Consider the four G's: God, guns, gays and grizzlies.
Ignoring for now the focus on social issues, the common thread is that the Democratic Party supposedly has a basket of economic issues on offer that is being rejected by poor voters, who mysteriously are voting against their own interests. This is nonsense on stilts. As long as Democrats and "progressives" (redundancy alert) keep believing this, they will remain frustrated.

To start with, I want to approach this from the Democrat's perceived strong position - that their agenda is designed to help the poor. As such, I'll ignore obvious counter evidence like the fact that they raise more campaign contributions from the wealthy than Republicans do, or that they poll better in the most affluent zip codes than Republicans do. Let's fight this battle on grounds of their choosing.

Their value proposition boils down to this:
The progressive agenda will make lower income Americans better off.
It doesn't. On the contrary, it makes middle America (the third and fourth quintiles of the population, not the bottom 20% of earners, but the next two groups, i.e. 40% and 60%) much worse off financially. Consider the out-of-pocket expenses paid by Middle America, and what would happen to these expenses if the Progressive Agenda were fully implemented:

Gasoline Taxes. Anyone who drives (i.e. most of Middle America) pays tax on every gallon of gasoline they put into their tank. On average (the fifty states plus the District of Columbia), the tax is 21¢ a gallon for the State, plus more than 18 ¢ for the Feds. At an average of 15,000 miles per year and an average of 17 miles per gallon, this means that each car pays average gasoline taxes of $347.50 a year. If Middle America consists of two car families, that's a gas tax of $695 a year.

It's actually worse than this. "Progressive" states like Wisconsin and Rhode Island have much higher gas taxes - over 30 cents a gallon, instead of the state average of 21. That's an extra $90 a year, per car. Our two car, Middle America family in these progressive states will pay almost $900 a year in gas taxes.

And it's even worse than this. If you look at the progressive agenda, it's filled with programs to move people out of their cars and into mass transit, despite the demonstrated failure of these transportation systems. The only real way to accomplish this is by making driving much more expensive, both to raise revenue to subsidize mass transport and to discourage driving. While the Democrats haven't (yet) tried to push massive gas taxes, you do hear progressive intellectuals periodically mooting big gas taxes. Friedman in the New York Times, in 2008:
Raising taxes in a recession is a no-no. But I’ve wracked my brain trying to think of ways to retool America around clean-power technologies without a price signal — i.e., a tax — and there are no effective ones.
So any well informed member of Middle America should rightly think that voting for progressives will cause their gas taxes to go up, possibly substantially.

Sin Taxes, particularly on Tobacco. Progressives make no bones that they hate smoking, and are doing their best to tax it into oblivion. This is being done for the Good Of The People, who are presumably too stupid to be allowed to choose whether or not they should smoke. Average tax on a pack of cigarettes is now $5. Smoking is concentrated among the poorer sectors of the population, so this is a massively regressive tax on poor people. A person with a pack-a-day habit pays $1825 a year in state and federal tobacco taxes.

And quite frankly, this tax is inseparable from the Progressive Agenda. Conservatives may be heartless is their inclination to let people choose for themselves, and perhaps get cancer and die; progressives intentionally crafted these taxes knowing that they would fall disproportionately on the poor. In fact, this is a good predictor of what progressives might do to the gas tax, if Middle America were to vote them in.

Alcohol taxes are lower, maybe a dollar a gallon or so. Still, this adds up to $50 a year or so for a lot of folks. Progressives want this to go up, a lot.

Social Security. Progressives will jump in here to point out that this program is massively popular. That's not the point. Social Security hits Joe and Jane America with a 15% off-the-top tax on every penny they earn. While people in the top two quintiles hit the FICA cap (the tax drops to 7.5% after the cap), the target demographic of the Progressive Agenda is offered no such respite. At the median family income of around $50,000 (2007), the target of the Progressive's Agenda pays $7,500 a year in tax for this.

Ignoring Social Security's serious financial condition (which means that these taxes will have to go up), this is a program that Progressives love, and it presumably will be a model for other programs on the Progressive Agenda.

Health Care. In Progressive Utopia, if you don't have it, you'll have to buy it. Wealthier quintiles almost all have it, lower quintiles may not. In Massachusetts, if you don't buy it, the state will fine you more than $1000.

The Environment. The Progressive agenda leads to shortages and higher prices. No off shore drilling, no Nukes, and Cap-And-Trade all raise the cost of electricity. We'll ignore what this costs because this post is already too long and because it's hard to figure out how big a nut this is. But it isn't zero.

I could go on, but here's my point: programs that Progressives support by huge margins cost the average citizen $12,500 a year, out of an income of $50,000. That's 25%, right off the top, for the Progressive Agenda. Let's look at Friedman's original quote again:
Democrats are still effective on bread-and-butter issues like health care, but they come across in much of America as arrogant and out of touch the moment the discussion shifts to values.
Yes and no. No, they are not more effective on bread-and-butter issues. Anyone paying the least attention knows that Progressive programs are (a) expensive, (b) regressive, and (c) much too small to suit Progressives. Joe and Jane America are correct to vote against Progressives on economic grounds.

But Friedman is absolutely correct that Progressives come across as arrogant and out of touch. The examples of this are legion, but I'll leave you with a couple selected ones:

Megan McArdle on the reaction of some friends to Sarah Palin's first speech:
I heard basically the same thing last night from a friend who grew up in the small-town south. They're all libertarian. They're all male. They all liked her. She speaks to the sense of people who didn't go to Ivy League schools that Harvard grads think they're not quite bright, and definitely not competent to run their own lives without a Yale man supervising things. And they're entirely right that a lot of Ivy League grads do think this way, consciously or unconsciously.
Eric Raymond, ostensibly on moral posturing trumping protecting the country, but covering much broader ground:
I was born and educated into the class that produces “gentry liberals”, but I’ve come to loathe them. This is why. It’s always someone else who pays the cost of their posturing. Very often, it’s the people they claim to be helping: the black teenager who ends up in a drug posse because because minimum-wage laws would force the small businessmen in his ‘hood to take a loss if they hired him for a legal job; the coal miner who gets pneumoconiosis because nuclear-plant construction was strangled in environmental red tape; the woman found in an alley strangled with her own pantyhose, because the handgun she could have shot that rapist with was denied her by force of law.
Add to this Candidate Obama on bitter people, clinging to their guns, and we can about wrap up the "arrogant and out of touch" bit.

But we can't ignore it. Middle America - the folks who Progressives are so sure should vote for them - won't ignore it. And here is where Progressives find themselves in a deep pool of FAIL: people think they're a bunch of liars.

I said I'd come back to Candidate Obama running as a centrist. He's governed as the most left wing president in history. Remember how the K Street Lobbyists wouldn't have a place in his administration? Remember how he was only going to take campaign contributions from small contributors? Remember how the Stimulus Bill was going to put people to work immediately, rather than simply channeling tons and tons of dough to favored interests? Remember transparency, debating the Health Care bill on CSPAN?

I also said I'd come back to social issues, where even Friedman admits that Progressives lose. Of course, Obama will take our guns - it's in his platform. Add economic issues: of course he'll raise taxes and fees on Middle America - it's the only way to change behaviors that his platform said he'd change. Middle America isn't stupid - they understand this.

There is a huge gap between Progressive's perception of themselves and their agenda, and Middle America's. The Agenda doesn't empower the little guy; it empowers Big Government (and its Big Business allies) and crushes the little guy. And so, the gap:

What Progressives say to Middle America: Yes, our program is going to cost more and make government bigger and more powerful, but it will make you much, much better off.

What Middle America hears Progressives telling them: It's not for you. It's for us.

Now go back and listen to Glen Beck. While I don't by any means agree with everything he says, ask yourself how Middle America will hear this. He's right that progressivism is a cancer, he just didn't go far enough saying it.