Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Political spam

I've started getting political spam comments.  The reason that I disabled anonymous comments here was that the marketroids were dropping 300 comments a day flogging their wares.  Now they come from registered accounts, but it's been onsey-twosie action.

What's interesting is that I just got two in the last week shilling for Joe Biden's presidential campaign.  They've been sent to the spam can, but it seems that the campaign season is on the prowl.

If you're interested, the post they both targeted was this one.  And if you're interested in that, I have a collection of some of the funnier spam comments collected here.

Lastly, I like Spam (the meat).  While the pumpkin spice flavor doesn't do anything for me, I might have to search out the Portuguese Sausage flavor on Amazon.  Mmmmmm.

Get offa my lawn


Stolen from George, who has all the cool stuff.

Quote of the day: Capitalism beats Socialism edition




Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Taps on the Western Front

Image von via Der Wik
The Western Front was a meat grinder.  The lash of artillery simply blew many men apart.  Others fell into the mud and craters, getting buried by other explosions.  Millions never came home, and many of those disappeared without a trace.

But the post World War II European economy has led to a construction boom across the whole of the Western Front.  Construction means excavation and excavation means, well,  some of the boys come home after all:
It's been a year and a half since my stint helping excavate the World War One battlefield at Hill 80. The site has now been developed and if there were any additional surprises found when the bulldozers rolled through I have not heard of them.

A major motivation for the excavation was to spare the many lost soldiers buried there an unworthy fate. Human remains are found all the time on former World War sites. Generally the bones are at best put off to one side for the police to come and collect. Since many of the remains are scattered and fragmentary, it is likely that a large number are not noticed at all, just ground into dust under the treads of heavy equipment. And even the occasional intact burials get separated from artifacts that might have shown their nationality or - the best outcome - their identity.

In the end a minimum of 110 fallen soldiers were found. The passage of time combined with four continuous years of artillery fire make an exact count impossible. In fact I consider it miraculous that so many of the early war casualties were quite nearly intact, buried in two mass graves.

On Thursday of last week 13 soldiers British Army were buried. Three French and one South African are to be interred at a later date.

...

And on Friday the German casualties were put to rest in their own cemetery. In this much larger group there was one possible and one definite ID. 17 year old Albert Oehrle a gardener from Bavaria who volunteered at the outbreak of war. He would never see his 18th birthday.
Click through to read the whole thing.  He has pictures of the ceremonies, which I found very moving.  Five years ago on the centennial anniversary of the start of The War To End All Wars I posted a song cycle that captured - at least a little - of the experience of those men.

Thank you, Tim, for the part you played in helping bring some of those men home at last.

A modest proposal to prevent the fall of civilization

Every person has two educations, one which he receives from others, and one, more important, which he gives to himself.
― Edward Gibbon
The Silicon Graybeard muses on the fall of civilization:
Over the years, I've said (and more often hinted) that what I see in the future is not just the chance of an economic collapse due to the world's unsustainable debt levels. I see a real chance for another Dark Ages. The main driving force there is the Postmodernists in academia pushing the idea of "my truth and your truth"; the idea that there isn't anything other than our perceptions of things. That works fine for simple questions like, "what's your favorite color?" but is completely wrong for "what's the speed of light?", "will this virus survive in air?" or any interactions with the real world. VDH follows those trends to the conclusion a Dark Age may already be starting.
When civilization falls, it falls hard.  We hear mostly dry statistics about the collapse of civilization, things like the population of Rome in 100 AD was around a million people.  That's impossible to visualize.  Instead, we should look at this:

Immagine gentilmente concessa da Wikipedia
This is Monte Testaccio in Rome.  It is a hill made entirely of broken pottery, and it dates to the first and second centuries AD.  It's over 100 feet high, around a kilometer around, and historians think that it used to be much larger but has eroded over the last two millennia.  The Roman "bread and circuses" was a huge welfare project that fed much of the city's population, and which required huge imports of not just grain but also olive oil - over a million gallons of oil each year, every year, for hundreds of years.  The oil was shipped in big clay pots, but what do you do with the pots when you've distributed the oil?  The Romans were the best engineers until at least the eighteenth century, and so they came up with an engineering solution: they made a mountain out of broken up pots.

And then it all fell, and fell so far and hard that it was forgotten.  The Roman Forum itself - the political center of the Ancient World for four centuries or more - became a cow field:

Modern Rome - Campo Vaccino by J.M.W. Turner, painted in 1839
It's been said that any system can survive only three generations before facing crisis.  The first generation is the generation that created the system.  They knew it intimately.  The second generation saw the system being created, and so at least understood its main functions and how they worked.  The third generation inherited the system.  They may or may not know anything at all about how it works.

If this is a system created by the government - and remember that government is politics - then politics will be the main thing that we can expect the third generation to understand.  NASA is an excellent example of this dynamic: the generation that won World War II created it.  They landed a man on the Moon and returned him safely to the Earth, all in that decade.  The generation that followed watched that.  They were able to make a Space Shuttle and a Mars Rover.  Now NASA is in the third generation and the Space Launch System is pushing a decade late and $20B over budget, all while offering less capability than SpaceX at quadruple the price.  But hey, a Senator is happy so it's all good, amirite?

This Republic has a population that is observably more stupid than when I wore a younger man's shoes. This isn't just get offa my lawn ranting, it's a measurable fact:
According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), test scores for 17 year olds have not improved since the early 1970s. That is, the average 17 year old in 2012 got about the same score in reading and math (287 and 306, respectively) as a 17 year old in 1971 or 1973 did (285 and 304, respectively). 
The response from professional educators?
Carr argues that flat scores aren’t terrible. “It’s a good thing that they’re not going down,” she said.
Well okay, then.  This is the same time period when per-pupil spending on K-12 education has skyrocketed:

If anything, this understates the scope of the problem: there is lots of discussion about how incoming college students can't read or do math very well, and so they have to take remedial course (and take on student debt while doing so) before they can start what would otherwise be their studies.

Note that this discussion has been about the portion of the public education system that is arguably working; it doesn't work at all in the inner cities.  None of Baltimore's schools graduate students who can do mathematics, and Atlanta's school system had a huge scandal where test scores were massively manipulated so that administrators could get their incentive bonus.  People went to jail for that, but the system is no better five years later.

In short, the more government has gotten itself into education, the dumber the population has gotten - and at fabulous expense.  The system is broken, and since it's a government system (in which politics is uber alles) it will not reform itself.  Further, the public education system is generally popular throughout the land, so the normal political process will be useless for reform.

And so the Republic slouches towards the Campo Vaccino.  The third generation will lead to a fourth, and as Graybeard fears, a new Dark Age approaches.

Immodestly, I believe that there is a solution.  It's one that will improve performance, reduce costs, and be politically acceptable to large portions of the voters.  The Department of Education can issue a rule saying that if a public school system does not issue vouchers allowing parents to send their children to the school of their choice, that the Department will withhold education grants to that school system equal to the average per-pupil cost in that district.  The Department will then issue an Income Tax credit to the parents for that amount.  The Department will provide a free home schooling curriculum and teaching materials for free with the tax credit.

Simples.  No fuss, no muss.  It may even be that the Education Department can do this without any action of Congress.  I Am Not A Lawyer, but Congress has granted a huge amount of authority to the Regulatory State.

So why do I think that this is politically possible when the Teacher's Unions and Democratic Party (but I repeat myself) will fight this to the death?  Consider:

  • Vouchers are popular among blacks and hispanics and have been for a long time.  This makes sense, as its their kids who are locked into failing school districts.  You don't get much more White Privilege than mandatory public schools.
  • Tax Credits allow stay-at-home Moms to school their kids if they want.  Home schooling three kids at an average tax credit of around $12,000 per kid is the equivalent of a pre-tax job paying around $50,000/year.  Politically, this will play very well with women.
  • We can expect this to be especially popular with black and hispanic women.  No doubt some upper middle class white women will complain that these women of color cannot be trusted to educate their children but we can dismiss this as veiled racism, and the women certainly can't do any worse than the current inner-city schools are doing.  At the very worst, the money wouldn't be going to an impenetrable education bureaucracy but rather directly to voters.
  • Public schools will have to do a better job, at a lower cost.  Competition will focus on results, rather than on a politicized curriculum.

Now what's interesting about this is that politically this would hurt democrats and help Donald Trump.  However, the people who think that politics doesn't enter into the public education system shouldn't concern themselves about, well, politics entering into the public education system.  And anyway, since government is politics, a better  description of "public education" is "government education", leading to "political education".

This is no panacea against the New Dark Age.  However, it puts resources in the hands of parents who presumably care more about their kids than a set of bureaucrats.  Eliminating all the nonsense permeating the schools (hello, Common Core) will let teachers and parents focus on reading and math and you know, education.

I'll deal with Higher Education in a future post.  Turning that around will be harder in some ways and easier in some.

Ten year Blogiversary

Lawrence has been going for ten years, which is a major milestone in the blogosphere.  You might have run across him either from links here or over at Instapundit.  But probably here.  He's a go-to source for WTF is going on in the Democratic Party stuff.  That man has a strong stomach ...

And this made me laugh, looking forward:
Now if I could only make the blogroll for Instapundit or Ace of Spades…
LOL.  You and me both, brother.

Monday, October 14, 2019

A conversation with Snippi Longstockings

LOLOLOLOL



And I love the tip of the Slouch Hat to Johnny Cash.  Good on ya, Cobber!

Hat tip: Chris Lynch.

Happy Thanksgiving, eh!

To our Canadian readers (unless you're in the Maritimes in which case it may or may not be Thanksgiving) let me wish you recovery from the feast.  But there's Monday afternoon football, which is cool because it isn't NFL and so you don't have to worry about overpaid crybabies taking a knee during the national anthem.

When do rooftop solar panels not work?

During a blackout:
Californians have embraced rooftop solar panels more than anyone in the U.S., but many are learning the hard way the systems won’t keep the lights on during blackouts.
That’s because most panels are designed to supply power to the grid -- not directly to houses. During the heat of the day, solar systems can crank out more juice than a home can handle. Conversely, they don’t produce power at all at night.
So systems are tied into the grid, and the vast majority aren’t working this week as PG&E Corp. cuts power to much of Northern California to prevent wildfires.
You need expensive batteries and special equipment to run off-grid, and most people don't have them.  And the sweet subsidies from non-solar rate payers don't cover these, so solar lovers will have to pay out of their own pocket.

It looks like a generator is a lot cheaper, and maybe more reliable.

Hat tip: biker, former co-worker, and all around good guy Burt via email.
Happy Columbus Day!  In this election season pitting normal Americans against a witches brew of socialists and latter day fascists (**cough** Beto **cough**) it's worth taking a look back on one of the epochal turning points in world history.  The key term that you really need to know for any discussion on Columbus Day is the Great Divergence - the point where Europe passed, and then pulled away from the rest of the world in terms of production and wealth per capita.

In 1000 AD, nobody would have predicted that Europe would lead the Great Divergence.  China had cities of hundreds of thousands when Paris was a few thousand thatch-roofed huts.  In 1500 AD it would have seemed pretty unlikely.  Mogul India was fabulously wealthy.  By 1800 AD it was pretty much all over but the shouting.

The reason for this quite unlikely turn of fate is relevant to our upcoming election.  Forms of government are important and while the old Chinese and Indian governmental structures excelled at distributing wealth (as do today's socialists), none of them were very good at fostering wealth creation.  Then, politics interfered with economic growth.  If Elizabeth Warren gets her way she'll bring this to our shores.

This is an important topic and there's a lot here.  I highly recommend the Tides of History podcast on setting the stage for this: 1492: A Guided Tour of Europe on the Brink.

(Originally posted October 13, 2008)

Obligatory Imperialist Post

Because it's Columbus Power-Mad Dead White Dude Day.  Insty posted about Admiral of the Ocean Sea (great book) which gives you a great Columbus overview, but entirely misses the Power-Mad Dead White Dude thing.

As a public service, here's something that you should read if you really want to make a liberal's head explode like the fembots in Austin Powers. Or understand why the world's economy is the way it is.  The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, by David Landes. The title is intentionally taken from Adam Smith, but Landes focuses less on describing economics per se, and more on the constraints that a society puts on their economy.

It traces the history of economic development over the last 1000 years, and asks some very politically incorrect questions:
  • Why did China, the world's richest and most powerful country in 1000 AD not only lose her lead, but lose it so badly that it was dismembered by the European (and later resurgent Japanese) powers?
  • Why did India, fabulously wealthy and populous, not conquor the west, rather than vice-versa?
  • Why did England, an undeveloped backwater as late as 1500 AD, ultimately lead the Industrial Revolution and become the world's most powerful country?
  • What explains the vast differences in economic development between the USA and Canada, and other New World countries? After all, in 1700, Mexico's GDP per capita was $450, not far short of the colonies' $490 (1985 dollars). In 1989, Mexico's GDP per capita was $3,500, vs. $18,300 for the USA.
No, it wasn't "western imperialism" by dead white dudes. Landes' politically incorrect thesis is that society counts, and some societies foster faster economic growth than others. He uses many, many examples.

The quote for this [2008] election season, if we're smart enough to listen, is about the post-Cold War economies:
Among the heaviest losers in this period of record-breaking economic growth and technological advance were the countries of the Communist Socialist bloc: the Soviet Union at the bottom of the barrel, Romania and North Korea almost as bad, and a range of satellite victims and emulators struggling to rise above the mess. Best off were probably Czechoslovkia and Hungary, with East Germany (the DDR) and Poland trailing behind. The striking feature of these command economies was the contradiction between system and pretensions on the one hand, performance on the other. The logic was impeccable: experts would plan, zealots would compete in zeal, technology would tame nature, labor would make free, the benefits would accrue to all. From each according to their ability; to each according to his deserts; and eventually, to each according to his needs.

The dream appealed to the victims and critics of capitalism, admittedly a most imperfect system - but as it turned out, far better than the alternatives. Hence the Marxist economies long enjoyed a willful credulous favor among radicals, liberals, and progressives in the advanced industrial nations;
You'll hate this if you think that economics a la John Kerry and Barack Obama is the shizzle flippity floppity floop.

Contradiction between pretension and performance: nice phrase, that. For an example, see Patrick, Deval. For extra credit, compare and contrast Obama, Barack.

Dang, I think I must have just got my Hate Speech on, right there.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Global Warming - confirmed!

The thermostat hasn't been this high at Castle Borepatch is months and months.

Franz Liszt - Totentanz

The Fab One in 1843
In eight years of posting classical music on Sundays - over 300 posts to day - I'm kind of surprised that I've never posted Franz Liszt.  Good thing that Halloween is coming because it gives be a great opportunity to correct that with one of the all time great/creepy classical music pieces.  And I can't believe that I've never posted about Liszt before.  You see, he was The Beetles of the 1840s.

Really.  A contemporary  coined the term Lisztomania.  Women packet his many concerts, fought over a dropped glove or handkerchief, and any of these relics were cut up and sold as souvenirs.  He was the greatest performer of his day, and his fame was such that when he personally paid to publish his friend Hector Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique, it saved Berlioz from poverty.

He knew literally everyone who was anyone in the arts in Europe, from Beethoven to Hans Christian Andersen - but including Frédéric Chopin, Richard Wagner, Robert Schumann, Camille Saint-Saëns, Edvard Grieg,  and Alexander Borodin.  He shacked up with a (married) countess for years and had three kids with her.  Like I said, he was The Beetles.

He is without doubt the greatest Hungarian composer of all time,  He wrote too many pieces to count - many of which are famous for their difficulty, leading to frequent performance by musicians looking to display their virtuosity - but a number had a definite fascination with the macabre.  Mephisto Waltz, Pensées des morts, and La lugubre gondola ("The Funeral Gondola") would all be good Halloween songs, but Totentanz (Dance Of The Dead) shows both his virtuoso composition (the creepy part) and his virtuoso performance side - this is serious piano.  As a matter of fact, it's worthy of a performance in Shea Stadium with a screaming audience hoping to get a piece of his handkerchief.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Andy Griffith on Columbus Day

This isn't the holiday because it isn't a Mnnday, but Columbus made landfall in the Americas on this day in 1492.  For some reason, this is also Andy Griffith Day here at Borepatch.  Here's his take on Columbus.

Andy Griffith explains football

Saturday is College Football.  For readers overseas who are unaware of American Football, here's Andy Griffith explaining the game for you.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Halloween comes to Castle Borepatch

There's a pirate cove at the castle drawbridge.


Yeah, we went a little overboard this year.  Kind of hard to get a good picture on the phone - the pirate ship on the right is pretty dark so you'll want to click to embiggen.  Need to get the actual camera out.

It's no longer the "Al Gore Effect"

Now it's the "Swedish Brat Effect" ...


Hat tip: Don Surber

Looks like the Swedish Brat's 15 minutes of fame have passed


Thursday, October 10, 2019

Arguing with gun grabbers

It's like talking to a wall.




Yay, me

I was out at the Orange Big Box Hardware Store picking up some things.  I had everything I came for, but called The Queen Of The World to double check.  She's been decorating for Halloween, and (unsurprisingly) had some more items she wanted.

So I ended up walking back and forth through OBBHS five times but didn't need to drive back five times.  Me, FTW!  May be the first time in my life I didn't have to go back to OBBHS ...

And her decorations look awesome.  I'll put up pix later, but need to wait until evening when we turn on the fog machines.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Earth Day in California

It's going to look like this:


Extra off-the-hook-crazy irony points id the lights go out in San Diego but stay on in Tijuana.

California Government discovers the Law of Unintended Consequences, good and hard

So riddle me this, Big Government Man: what happens after a series of separate decisions made over the course of years, each restricting a company's ability to manage its assets?  What happens when the result of these decisions causes an entirely preventable (except that prevention is now prohibited) wildfire that causes billions of dollars of damage?  What happens when the California Government uses that company as a piggy bank to deflect blame from all those regulations that prevented the company from preventing the disaster?

Good thing that California has good weather.  You won't freeze, you'll just be in the dark:
The ‘new’ fire prevention effort for northern California is to have the utilities turn off the power!!!
Citing the potential for extremely dry air and steady winds of up to 30 mph, with gusts that experts said could be twice as strong, Pacific Gas & Electric announced it was considering a public safety power shut-off for 29 counties between Wednesday morning and Thursday afternoon.
Full article, HERE.
Now ‘my’ question is, what about those folks who NEED power to run medical devices, keep things like…oh… Insulin cold, and other meds??? Or charge their wheelchair, or charge that Tesla or other electric car they depend on?
Well, for a start they should lobby the government to repeal those stupid regulations preventing PG&E from doing fire prevention maintenance along the power lines.  They could also vote out the dirty commies who enacted those regulations.  They can move.  They can sit in the dark wondering what else the California Government will screw up.

From where I sit, those are all the options.  Of course, some will want the government to take over PG&E, and after a couple years of government control the entire state can enjoy Venezuela style blackouts.  So I guess that's an option, too.

Adam Smith famously said that there's a lot of ruin in a country - it take a lot to run it into the ground.  We're seeing that every day from the Golden State.
Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. 
This is known as "bad luck.”
- Robert Heinlein

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Endorsed




It Started With A Cartoon

Rascal the Raccoon was a cartoon that debuted in Japan in 1977. The adventures of a cute, funny, lovable racoon was an immediate hit in Japan. Here's the intro.



Why wouldn't everyone want a pet like Rascal? Approximately two thousand raccoons were imported before the government recognized the problem and banned it. They were too late.

What do people do with unwanted exotic pets? There is now a thriving population of raccoons in Japan. Raccoons are known to exist in every prefacture. There are no natural predators.


Monday, October 7, 2019

Speed check

This is an old story - I posted it ten years or so ago - but I hadn't known that the pilot of the SR-71 that requested a speed check from Air Traffic Control told this story.  He's really funny.

Diahann Carol, RIP

Dwight has the obit, as you'd expect.

The Queen Of The World was once on a cruise where Carol was the entertainment.  TQOTW's business group also happened to use Carol as their spokesperson.  TQOTW asked Carol if she would attend the group's meeting for a meet and greet, since everyone would be thrilled.  Carol did, and TQOTW remembers her as mixing class and graciousness in equal measures.  The world is less today with her passing.

The Invisible People of this country

The Gormogons was one of my daily reads, but one sadly suffering "blogger burnout" after more than a decade.  I can't blame them, since I already quit.

But while they don't post a lot anymore, when they do it's sure worth a read.  Gettoputer has a spectacular post saying "thank you" to the invisible people who keep the world working:
Patty is the face of millions of workers across America today. A good person working a difficult job for low pay and doing the best she can. ‘Puter figures the least he can do is to say thank you.
So, thank you all of you working difficult jobs which don’t pay you what you deserve.
Thank you, Patty and all the other fast food workers like you. You give those of us in “better” jobs perspective.
Thank you, people who pick up my trash, treat my sewage, and provide me clean water. You have saved more lives throughout history than all the doctors and surgeons combined. Suck it, Doc.
...
Thank you, soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and coasties. You literally put your lives on the line for our nation every day.
You really need to read the whole thing - the whole damn thing - especially this Monday morning.  This is why you should follow The Gormogons.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Atonement


To our Jewish readers, on Yom Kippur:
Man's days are as grass, it blossoms like a flower of the field.
The wind blows and it is gone, and its place it knows no more.

- Psalm 103
Jewish or not, it is good to think on who we are, and who we should be.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Jonathan Swift, where are you in our hour of need?

Troll level: thermonuclear:
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) held a town hall in her district last night and it turned into one for the books. Not because of any policy that she was trying to push but because of the reaction of one of the members of the audience. 
A woman stood up and began decrying climate change, saying we only had a few months left, and that Ocasio-Cortez wasn’t moving fast enough. Then it really went over the slide. Have a listen as she demands that in order to stop the CO2 we have to “eat the babies.”
 
Now we were really hoping someone was not that ill. The delivery and “even if we bomb Russia” would suggest that. She even had an “eat the babies” shirt. And this morning, the LaRouche group is saying she was a troll, part of their group.
What's interesting here is AOC's reaction to the troll.  She hadn't figured out it was a troll, but what she did not say is what any normal person would have said:

No, we don't need to start eating babies.  What's wrong with you?

It was a huge missed opportunity for AOC to demonstrate that she's, well, normal.  She didn't, and so it was a massive own goal.  Alinsky smiles.

Alinsky's rules #5 and #6

On display in Murphy, North Carolina.


Rule 5: Ridicule is man's most potent weapon.

Rule 6: A good tactic is one your people enjoy.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Goodbye, Nine-O-Nine

The B-17 that crashed yesterday - killing seven and critically injuring another three - was Nine-O-Nine.  It came to the local airport near Castle Borepatch a year ago.


It's weird to think that I have been in this bird, and now it's crashed.  Here's a video I took of Nine-O-Nine taking off.


Rest in peace to those who died in the crash.

Ten years of global warming blogging

I've been beating the drum on the shaky nature of climate science as it's currently practiced.  Beating it for a long time.  Ten years ago I put up the first significant global warming post.  I'm reposting it because the topic has been air brushed out of existence, and we should remember just how terribly weak the science is in this field.

Originally posted October 3, 2009.

YAD061

The Science of Global Warming is settled. The next time you hear this, reply "YAD061".

Global Warming was a sensational story in the 1990s:
For decades the consensus view was that earth was very warm during the middle ages, got cold around the 17th century, and has been steadily warming since, to a level today probably a bit short of where we were in the Middle Ages. This was all flipped on its head by Michael Mann, who used tree ring studies to “prove” that the Medieval warm period, despite anecdotal evidence in the historic record (e.g. the name of Greenland) never existed, and that temperatures over the last 1000 years have been remarkably stable, shooting up only in the last 50 years to 1998 which he said was likely the hottest year of the last 1000 years. This is called the hockey stick analysis, for the shape of the curve.
Mann based his analysis on bristlecone tree rings, which acted as a proxy for temperatures in times before we had thermometers. You may remember the graph in Al Gore's film "An Inconvenient Truth" - it featured prominently in stories in the press. The message was clear and simple: the climate has started changing suddenly and drastically, it's all our fault for generating industrial amounts of Carbon Dioxide, and we will permanently change the climate if we don't stop Right NOW.

The problem is that Mann's analysis was deeply - fatally - flawed. His computer model had a bug that caused even random data to produce a hockey stick shape. His data set was one clearly marked as inappropriate for use as a temperature proxy, but he used it anyway. When asked for his computer code and data, he refused. Ultimately the truth did come out, which is why you don't hear about "Global Warming" or "Hockey Sticks" any more.

None of this is news for long term readers - my introduction to the topic is here. [Update: there is an updated post here that is a better starting point - Borepatch]

This has put the scientists advocating for global warming in an odd position - they have been looking for new sources of temperature proxy records that show (at least in broad brush strokes) the same thing that Mann's study "showed". Recently, a fellow named Briffa published a study of Siberian tree ring cores from the Yamal peninsula that showed this same temperature curve. Well done, Briffa!

Except not so fast. Almost as soon as it was published, it started unraveling. There are now so many real scientists (not to mention intelligent laymen) skeptical of the theory of man-made global warming that many, many people started sifting through the report's data and methodology. As the Linux community likes to say about Open Source software quality, "Many eyeballs make bugs shallow."

The first problem turns out to be nothing short of astonishing. Briffa used cores from only ten trees. Ten.

The second is more subtle, but a picture is worth a thousand words. Of the ten cores, how many show variations more than what is obviously random? One.

That is tree #YAD061. Seems like an outlier, that should be discarded from the analysis, right? That's not what Bifra did. Keeping it in, the average of the group was raised a little. Just a little, but enough.

Remember, the whole "Climate is increasing catastrophically" discussion revolves around just a couple of degrees increase over a century. YAD061 varied from the group average by eight standard deviations, which was enough to get that sudden, couple of degree rise for the group. (Look at the line highlighted in yellow).

We have a multi-trillion dollar proposed restructuring of society, based on tree #YAD061.

Back in the Dark Ages, when I was a wee lad at State U, I had to learn Ockham's Razor: entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem* (yes, we had to learn it in Latin - this was history of science):
The simplest explanation is the best explanation.
Carl Sagan's story about an invisible, non-corporeal, flying dragon that spits heatless fire is an accessible demonstration of Ockham's Razor. Sure, a dragon like that could exist, but that's not where the Smart Money bets. The Smart Money bets on "the dragon doesn't exist", which explains the situation just as well, without introducing a lot of added, unproven hypotheses.

So let's think about this tree, YAD061. Maybe it sees massive global warming - 8 degrees in 70 years - when none of the others do. Maybe. Is there a simpler explanation, that doesn't require us to explain why the other 9 didn't see warming?

Yes there is, and you have each seen it with your own eyes:
YAD061 looks very much like a tree that grew up in the shade of its elders, and therefore grew slowly, until age or ice-storms or insects removed the elders and the shade. Then, with sunshine and the rotting remains of its elders to feed it, the tree could take off.
I have seen growth patterns much like YAD061 in the rings of many stumps in New Hampshire, and not once have I thought it showed a sign of global warming, or of increased levels of CO2 in the air. Rather the cause is far more simple: A childhood in the under-story, followed by a tree’s “day in the sun.”
Dr. Briffa should spend less time gazing at computer screens, and actually get out and associate with trees more.
Click through to RTWT.Tree rings are imperfect proxies for temperature. Things other than warmth can cause trees to grow faster, and things other than cold can cause them to grow more slowly. Duh.

So, we see a perfectly normal tree experiencing a perfectly normal arborial lifestyle. We see a scientist who uses such a pitifully small number of trees in his sample that YAD061's perfectly ordinary growth pattern throws off the group results, in a way that the scientist can use to justify his old Hockey Stick model.

Who are you going to believe, Dr. Briffa or your lieing eyes?

So the next time you hear those words the science is settled, tell them "Me and YAD061 say it ain't." And then ask them The Question: what's the difference between an invisible, flying, non-corporeal Hockey Stick that breathes heatless fire, and no Hockey Stick at all?

* OK, OK, it's usually translated as "entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily".

UPDATE 21 November 2009 13:42: Considerable background on Yamal at Bishop Hill.

And Then There Were 17

One of the 18 flyable B-17 bombers crashed today in Connecticut. It was on a flying tour, there 3 crew and 10 passengers aboard. As of the latest reports, there were 7 fatalities. 

Here's the tower and aircraft audio.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

How Donald Trump can ride the impeachment circus to a second term

It's hard to argue with this:
President Trump should extract the full price for their farce. Whilst the attorney general and inspector general continue investigating Hillarygate and Muellergate, President Trump should have fun with this by forcing Democrats to make their case to the American people.

...

That means putting the whistle blower on the stand. The Constitution requires the accuser to face the accused.

That means putting Hunter Biden on the stand. Why not? Donald Trump Jr. was called to testify many times as Democrats tried to entrap him. Parade the coke-addled Biden before the entire nation.
Remember, Trump knows how to make TV that people watch.
Put all the deep state creepies on the stand.

Let the public see what a cretinous lot we have in Washington. Make them sweat. Ridicule them.

Finally, as I wrote on Friday, put Donald John Trump on the stand. His debate performances in the 2016 race showed he can handle it. I offered three examples, and then wrote, "Megyn Kelly is gone from the airwaves. Jeb! and the Bush Dynasty are over. Hillary is wandering the Earth in a tent dress muttering about losing.

...

I would drag the impeachment trial out for a month. Every day a new defense witness. Every day a public humiliation. Every day a jump in his job approval.
At the end of all this, 80% of the country would think that the House of Representatives is full of a lot of nonsense, that the Democratic Party are sore losers who are happy to hurt the country, and that the Deep State is a reality.  And then we all go to the polls to vote for the next President.  This is clearly a cunning plan cooked up by Top Men in the Democratic Party.

Top.  Men.

I called the Obama Administration 8 months into his first term

I posted this ten years ago, after the first few months of Obama's first term.  It's held up really well over the intervening ten years.  The Trump presidency casts  things into even sharper focus.  With the benefit of this "compare and contrast" I would add the following about Obama which pretty much kept him from accomplishing anything at all in 8 years:

  • Obama never did anything except run for office.  Trump, while not a self-made millionaire/billionaire tried and failed at many things over his career.  He learned from those and used them to succeed at many more things.  Obama entirely lacked this perspective.
  • Trump's goals are tangible, Obama's goals were ideological.  This lets Trump look to make deals with the other side, but prevented Obama from doing the same.  Obamacare passing on a party-line vote using reconciliation to get a half-done bill enacted after Ted Kennedy's Senate seat was won by a Republican tells you everything you need to know about Obama's desire to negotiate.
  • It is impossible to see Obama's Iranian deal as anything other than Obama being ideologically determined to weaken this country and to the Iranians smelling weakness.  That part of the old post holds up really well.
  • The Democratic Party looked to Obama to bring victory, and his administrations were a series of epic electoral disasters, at both the federal and state levels.  The analogy in the post is particularly solid.
But we hadn't seen either of these when I wrote this post.  However, both of these reinforce my assessment of Obama in October 2009.  Perhaps the only mistake I made in the post was offering too much of the benefit of the doubt to the man.  I put it down to incompetence, when it was the inability to work with others.

Originally posted October 2, 2009

Unready

The Battle of Maldon is probably the second oldest epic poem in the English language (only Beowulf is older). It tells the tale of Earl Britnoth, who fell in battle against the invading Vikings in 991 AD. The poem is so old that it is in Old English, the still Germanic root of our current language. J.R.R. Tolkein was a scholar of Anglo-Saxon literature, and published a translation of the poem.

A story this old only survives if it speaks to something deep in the soul of the people of the time. What spoke to them was how Britnoth's hearth companions - his bodyguard, his huskarls - fought to the death over their slain lord's body. Despite the victory, the Viking army was so mauled that it sailed for home. People remembered their sacrifice because it stood in stark contrast to the cowardly actions of the king.

The 970s were the high water mark of the Anglo-Saxon empire. King Edgar was overlord - Emperor, really - of lesser kings in a united Britain. The realm was powerful, feared, and so at peace.

Until Ethelred the Unready. Coming to the throne as a boy in 979 when his brother Edward was murdered, he had to rely on advisers to defend his kingdom during the 980s. It was a brutal era, and it didn't take long for predictors to start stalking the weakened kingdom.

Ethelred means "noble counsel", from the root raed (council, advice). The Anglo-Saxons were great lovers of puns, and it was gallows humor that gave his nickname: unraed - "no council" - from which we get Unready.

Ethelred! Ethelred!
Spent his royal life in bed;
one shoe off and one shoe on,
greatly loved by everyone.
Ethelred couldn't make up his mind - he couldn't formulate a plan and stick to it. And so he dithered: strong for a time until he met some minor difficulty, then weak when he could have pressed his enemies and won. They smelled blood, and what had started in the 970s as small plunder raids turned into all out invasions by Viking armies intent on inflicting the maximum damage possible.

They were after Danegeld - a ransom for them to go away. Rather than doing their own plundering, they got Ethelred to do it for them: collect taxes to pay them off. The problem, of course is well known.  Once you pay the Danegeld, you never get rid of the Dane. Ethelred found the price kept rising: 10,000 pounds (992), 16,000 (994), 24,000 (1002), 36,000 (1007), 48,000 (1012). At this point, the Vikings wanted the whole prize, and Ethelred had to flee to France the next year.

His cruelty - such as his order to kill all male Danes in his kingdom in 1002 - was something his people could tolerate; indeed, it was a cruel time. His fecklessness was a different story, because he couldn't provide what all leaders must: victory. He couldn't win. Coming to the throne too young, he never learned how to lead.

We're seeing this today, in the Oval Office. The Obama administration is long on promises, but short on victories. They rammed the "stimulus" through Congress (we can blame the Bush administration for the Bank bailout), but since then their agenda has stalled. Cap and Trade is languishing in committee, unlikely to pass. His Health care plan is a shambles, with five competing plans and a fragmented Democratic party that smells defeat in the 2010 elections. We see the echo of Ethelred here: no mandate to buy insurance (candidate Obama), a mandate that people must buy it (today), a required "public option" (April), no required public option (today).

His foreign policy is a disaster: retreat from the Russians (no missile defense in eastern Europe), no sanctions for Iran (even the French are disgusted), retreat from victory in Afghanistan, unable to convince the International Olympic Committee to pick Chicago.

The more people see him - at home and abroad - the less they fear him. Like Ethelred, he may have a ruthless streak, but in October - what should be the high water mark of his power and influence - he seems unready. He thinks too highly of himself but he doesn't know how to accomplish his goals, he keeps changing his goals, his enemies are increasingly confident, and he surrounds himself with unraed - bad council.

We've seen this story before, and it doesn't end well.  
þa wearð afeallen þæs folces ealdor, Æþelredes eorl;

Then was the folk’s prince fallen,
Ethelred’s earl. All saw there,
his hearth-companions, that their lord lay.
Then valiant thegns went forth there,

men undaunted eagerly hastened:
they all wished, then, one of two things—
to leave life or loved one avenge.
Britnoth's headless body was brought back to Ely Cathedral, where he lies to this day. On his tomb is carved BRITHNOTHUS, NORTHUMBRIORUM DUX, PRAELIO CAESUS A DANIS A.D. DCCCCXCI. "Britnoth, Duke of Northumbria. He fell in battle against the Danes in the Year of Our Lord 991".

Sacrificed by a feckless leader. May we fare better.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Halloween preparation

The Queen Of The World is already planning upgrades to the Castle Borepatch walls, said upgrades to be complete by Halloween.  So I guess I have to start cracking, because her plans rival the Theodosian Walls of Constantinople.  Translation: it will be awesome.  About the only thing it will lack will be a regiment of zombies doing synchronized dancing to Michael Jackson's Thriller.



But her wish is my command, so excelsior!

The man who saved the world dies at 77

That little Swedish brat doesn't know what living on the edge of disaster is.  The world came within 30 minutes of nuclear destruction in 1983, and nobody remembers it.

But Stanislav Petrov saved everything.  Rest in peace.