Saturday, February 29, 2020

Home Free and The Oak Ridge Boys - Elvira

I complain a lot about the New Nashville sound, where you seem to hear every style but Country on the country radio.  But sometimes the kids are all right.  Home Free is an a cappella singing group that isn't particularly country.  But they nail this Oak Ridge Boys classic, with the Oak Ridge Boys.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Well, damn

Freeman Dyson, dead at 96.  Nobody does obits like Dwight, and this one is particularly good.

What it leaves out is just how big a deal he was in theoretical physics.  Among the big time awards he won are the Lorentz Medal, the Max Planck Medal, the J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Prize, and the Enrico Fermi Award.  That's kind of a Who's Who of theoretical physics awards.

Oh, yeah - he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, which makes him a "fraternity brother" with Sir Isaac Newton.

Interestingly, he did not win the Nobel Prize for his theory of Quantum Electrodynamics.  He was an early pioneer in this field (little physics pun, right there) along with Richard Feynman.  Feynman and a couple others won the prize in 1965; Dyson wasn't included.  It makes you wonder why.

But we've seen Dyson on this blog before: here, here, and here.  Most of those links are where he discussed his skepticism of the Global Warming scare, and in particular the wretched state of the climate models.  He was an iconoclast and a gad fly, and that may explain a little bit why he wasn't included in the Nobel.  Then again, Feynman was an iconoclast and a gad fly, and he was also skeptical about global warming - or at least was quite explicit that science must be done much more rigorously than is current practice in the climate field.

Rest in Peace, Dr. Dyson.  The Lord broke the mould when He made you.

Someone you should know - CPL Clarence Smoyer

OldAFSarge sometimes posts this sort of thing, but I don't remember this story over there.

Clarence Smoyer was said to be the best shot in the Tank Corps in World War II.  A reluctant warrior (drafted into the Army) he was assigned to the Tank Corps because he had taken a night class on aircraft engine repair.  Since the Sherman tank had what was basically an aircraft engine, he found himself assigned to be a loader.

As D-Day approached, his commanding officer thought it would be a good idea to cross train tank crews so they could cover for wounded team members.  That's when everyone realized that Smoyer was an exceptionally accurate gunner.  He quickly became assigned full time at that position, and gained a reputation for coolness under fire and quickness in getting off a first, accurate shot.  Since 75% of the time the tank that shot first survived, this was pretty important to his team.

He was assigned one of the first 20 of the brand new M26 Pershing medium tanks.  It was in this that he became famous for the tank duel in front of Cologne Cathedral in March 1945.



His tank won that battle.  It made the newsreels back home:
Footage of the battle, captured by Tech. Sgt. Jim Bates, a combat cameraman attached to the 165th Photo Signal Company, made its way into movie newsreels worldwide, including back home in Pennsylvania, where Smoyer called home.  

"That's Hon!" Smoyer's sister-in-law yelled during an airing of the newsreel, Hon was Smoyer's family nickname. 

She later convinced the theater owners to replay the reel, so Smoyer's parents, who had never been to a movie theater, could see their son was still alive. 
Smoyer came home from that war, went to work, and married his High School sweetheart.  He never talked about the war; he put it behind him, getting on with raising a family.  But in the 1990s he was increasingly troubled by his experiences, and began searching for closure.  His search led him to Germany to meet Gustav Schaefer, the gunner in the Panther tank in that duel.  The men became fast friends, half a century after they tried to kill each other.

Smoyer eventually told his story, first to an oral historian collecting stories of the 3rd Armored Division, and later to Adam Makos who wrote it in the best selling book Spearhead.  There is an outstanding podcast interview of Makos about his experiences interviewing Smoyer at the History Unplugged podcast.  Highly, highly recommended.  It covers Shermans and Pershings, tank gunnery, why you really didn't want to be in the lead Sherman, and Smoyer's search for peace.

One final note on Smoyer's strange journey: he was put in for the Bronze Star for his exploits in front of Cologne Cathedral, but was caught talking to some German children who asked for bubble gum.  This was a violation of the anti-fraternizing regulations, and in a classic example of Army Charlie Sierra The Powers That Be didn't give him the medal.  Makos pushed the Army to reconsider, and last fall they did:
Clarence Smoyer received the surprise — and the award — of a lifetime Wednesday, when the Army bestowed on him the Bronze Star for his heroism as a tank gunner during World War II. 
Flanked by a Sherman tank parked on the National Mall just behind the World War II Memorial, Mr. Smoyer and relatives of three of his late crew members received the medal during a special ceremony featuring dignitaries and more than 100 other veterans of the war.
His family told him that they were going to take him to Washington D.C. to see the World War II memorial; the medal was kept as a surprise.  Nice.

Also last year he was met and thanked by an infantryman who was in Cologne and who said that Smoyer had saved his life.  He's making rounds where people are (deservedly) making a fuss over him. Here's a nice story from Boston.

I'd heard about the tank duel, but this is the least interesting part of Smoyer's life.  All this attention really can be traced to Adam Makos and his determination to help Smoyer get some closure.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Jontavious Willis and Jock Webb - Gonna Boogie All Night Long

Here are a couple of young up and commers doing some classic blues.  If this doesn't get your toes tapping then we can't be friends anymore.



There are only 570 views of this on Youtube (!).  You know what to do.

Should you trust scientists?

Well, no.  Here's a fascinating paper from the editor of a scientific journal, describing the reindeer games he deals with every day:

Abstract

A reproducibility crisis is a situation where many scientific studies cannot be reproduced. Inappropriate practices of science, such as HARKing, p-hacking, and selective reporting of positive results, have been suggested as causes of irreproducibility. In this editorial, I propose that a lack of raw data or data fabrication is another possible cause of irreproducibility.
As an Editor-in-Chief of Molecular Brain, I have handled 180 manuscripts since early 2017 and have made 41 editorial decisions categorized as “Revise before review,” requesting that the authors provide raw data. Surprisingly, among those 41 manuscripts, 21 were withdrawn without providing raw data, indicating that requiring raw data drove away more than half of the manuscripts. I rejected 19 out of the remaining 20 manuscripts because of insufficient raw data. Thus, more than 97% of the 41 manuscripts did not present the raw data supporting their results when requested by an editor, suggesting a possibility that the raw data did not exist from the beginning, at least in some portions of these cases. [ My emphasis - Borepatch]
Considering that any scientific study should be based on raw data, and that data storage space should no longer be a challenge, journals, in principle, should try to have their authors publicize raw data in a public database or journal site upon the publication of the paper to increase reproducibility of the published results and to increase public trust in science.
The scariest thing about this?  It's published in the journal Molecular Brain - a medical journal.  Professional scientists game the system with lousy papers, taking attention and money away from legitimate papers.  They do this for exactly the reason you would think - to divert that attention and funding to them, to help their careers.

I've written repeatedly about this problem (most recently here, perhaps the earliest here).  And this only covers plain old grifting; politicized science like Global Warming is another elephant in the room.  I had a long post ten years back about pushback from scientists against scientists who played fast and loose:
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.
Eschenbach is the person who filed the Freedom Of Information Act request for the CRU's climate data that led to the ClimateGate ("Hide the decline") leak.  Sadly, nothing has changed much.

So no, you shouldn't trust scientists, at least until you can assure yourself that they're not self-dealing.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

A poignant story of a child actor

"Baby Peggy" was a big film star in the early days of Hollywood.  But her parents and business managers squandered her fortune and she ended up a store clerk trying to live down her past.  Dwight has the story, which actually is rather inspiring.

He also has the obituary for NASA'a Katherine Johnson.  They made a film about her not very long ago.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

CDC Update: Prepare for Disruptions

CDC warns Americans of 'significant disruption' from coronavirus.

U.S. health officials issued a strong warning about novel coronavirus on Tuesday -- that it's no longer a matter of if, but when it will spread in the U.S., and that Americans should prepare for a "significant disruption."
Until now, health officials said they'd hoped to prevent community spread in the U.S. But following community transmissions in Italy, Iran and South Korea, health officials believe the virus may not be able to be contained at the border.

 

 

Condolences to Ol' Remus at Woodpile Report

His wife is nearing the end of her journey:
A personal note.  
There's no gentle way to say this, so I'll not try. My wife is at the end stage of a terminal condition. As is always the case there's some uncertainty. Weeks are possible, days are probable. Woodpile Report will go dark for a while when it happens.
At times like these words seem small, and inadequate.
For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart. It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul.
- Judy Garland

Why Government services are always worse that private sector ones

The Organs Of The State do not self-correct.  Businesses that do not self-correct don't stay in business.  That's the simple part of the matter.

The complicated part is why all the Government rules and regulations keep accumulating.  People (especially Donald Trump) know that these are mostly counter productive - so why have the regulations increased so much in the last 50 years?

I wrote this ten years ago, but it is worth rolling out again in anticipation of Bernie Sanders getting the Democratic nomination.  It focuses the attention on Trump's biggest success so far - reducing the number of regulations imposed by the government.

Originally posted 25 February 2010.

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.

Monday, February 24, 2020

The Roman Leap Day

The only surviving sculpture of
Julius Caesar
made during his lifetime
The Romans were famously practical, and their practical engineering works are still a marvel to this day.  Looking at this, you might think that the Romans were almost modern in their approach to the world.  While that's partially right, it misses a huge part of the story, one that makes the Romans very, very foreign to modern eyes.  They were incredibly superstitious, to the point where they would refuse to fight battles if the sacrifices did not show the proper portents.  It was kind of like "everybody go back to their tents because the liver spots on these sacrificial animals were in the wrong place".

Err, or go build an aqueduct or road or something.  It's kind of like if the Massachussets Institute of Technology used Ouija boards.

Today is a great example of this.  The old Roman calendar was 355 days long.  Sharp-eyed readers will think that's ten days (actually ten and a quarter days) too short.  As a practical people, they also knew this was too short, and so they added a Leap Month every year or two.  This month was called Mercedonius, and began on this date.  The rules for the month grew over time and became enshrouded in superstition, to the extent that they were fabulously complex and Julius Caesar didn't bother to try to rationalize them in his Julian Calendar - he just eliminated the whole thing.  Just as an example, the month didn't follow February, it was embedded within it.  Caesar's simplified calendar had a 365 day year which was also wrong (but still a big improvement) and which lasted until Pope Gregory got the year changed to 365 and a quarter days - which is the calendar we have today.  We get an extra day every four years, a Leap Day, rather than the weirdness of a Leap Month.

As a weird coincidence, the ancient Roman Mercedonius was authorized each year by the Pontifex Maximus priest; the Popes are the descendants of that office, and the twitter account of the Pope is @Pontifex.  As another weird coincidence, Pope Gregory introduced his calendar on this day in 1582.

No telling if Pope Gregory used a Ouija Board in making his new calendar.  Probably not.

But Happy Mercedonius anyway!

It may be that my best year of posting was ten years ago

There were a lot of thoughtful posts that I put up in 2010 - and especially in the first half of 2010.  One of the reasons that I went through a "my best blogging days" funk in 2013 and 2014 was that maybe my best days were past by then.  I'm a little less convinced of this now, but there's no denying that the quality of the posts here were well above average ten years ago.

Ten years ago I put up this post, which presaged (but didn't predict) the Trump revolution.  Trump's use of social media to bypass the gatekeepers is as strong an example of disruptive innovation as you will ever see.  You can still hearing the roaring of the Never Trump Dinosaurs, enraged at the political asteroid that is upending their world.

[UPDATE 24 February 2020 11:59: Peter has an outstanding post with a ten year old discussion of the collapse of America's ruling class.  It dovetails with this very, very well. /UPDATE]

Originally posted 24 February 2010.

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.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Sunday, puppy Sunday


Wolfgang and Charlee play at the dog park.  That Frisbee is beginning to come apart at the seams.
I posted this ten years ago, and it is perhaps the most prescient post I've ever written.  It was a decade back, so some of the people I talked about (e.g. Sarah Palin) have faded from the scene, but you do not have a more powerful example of someone who broke the "business model" of American politics than Donald Trump.  And my comment that it would take a decade for things to settle down into a new paradigm sure held up well.

(Originally posted February 23, 2010)

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 coolistor 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.

Franz Waxman - Suite to Sunset Boulevard

It's hard to think of a film more iconic than Sunset Boulevard, or a more iconic scene than "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my closeup."  11 Academy Award nominations doesn't happen every day.  It really defined Film Noir.



One of the Oscars it won was for the musical score.  Franz Waxman was German, driven to America by the Nazis in the 1930s.  Already known for his composition work from Germany, we was offered the job of scoring Bride of Frankenstein in 1935.  He never looked back.  He wrote 150 film scores and ended up with 12 Academy Award nominations.  This one won.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Blogiversary

The Silicon Graybeard has been blogging for ten years now.  Go leave him some commenty love.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Charles Martel smiles

Charles the Hammer taught the world that organizing and drilling over and over again builds a force that sweeps all enemies before it.

Well, it looks like Virginia militias have learned that lesson well.  Bravo Zulu, Virginia Patriots.  Bravo Zulu indeed.


Thursday, February 20, 2020

Other things that happened today

Co-blogger ASM826 pointed out that the Leathernecks hit the sands of Iwo Jima on this day 75 years ago.  But a lot more happened on February 20.

In 1942, Butch O'Hare became the first American ace in World War II, shooting down five bombers and saving the U.S.S. Lexington.

Twenty years later in 1962, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth.  That's a long way to come in 20 years.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

75 Years Ago Today

February 19th, 1945. The planning and the training was over. Young men climbed down into landing craft and went ashore at Iwo Jima. 6,800 died, another 19,000 were wounded. It bears remembering what price has been paid for us.


My father was in the first wave ashore on Iwo Jima. He's 86 years old now, and every single night of his life, he has nightmares, and he wakes yelling.
--Jeff Lindsay

Huh. It seems an Internet voting app is insecure

VOATZ Internet voting app is not secure.

Gosh, who didn't see that coming?


There's a lot to click through and read, but the tl;dr aspect is that VOATZ says the report is unfair, the report doesn't seem unfair (at least to me), and the problems I called out 18 months ago still seem pertinent.  Bury it in the desert.  Wear gloves.

Who knew?

The American Discovery Trail is a hiking trail that crosses the entire continental USA from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans.

If you go, co-blogger ASM826 put up a great series of posts about backpacking.

Hat tip to Al Fin who has a lot more on hiking (and biking, and boating) routes.


Tuesday, February 18, 2020

So what does your "smart" car do when it can't get on the 'net?

Rental car won't start because renter drove it to a park in the boondocks.  Rental agency recommends she sleep in the car and see if it starts in the morning:
Over the weekend, a trip to the Californian boonies by Guardian journalist Kari Paul turned into a cautionary tale about the perils of the connected car and the Internet of Things. Paul had rented a car through a local car-sharing service called GIG Car Share, which offers a fleet of hybrid Toyota Priuses and electric Chevrolet Bolt EVs in the Bay Area and Sacramento, with plans to spend the weekend in a more rural part of the state about three hours north of Oakland. But on Sunday, she was left stranded on an unpaved road when the car's telematics system lost its cell signal. Without being able to call home, the rented Prius refused to move.
But I'm sure that the software in autonomous cars will be able to anticipate problems like this and figure out a way around it.  Suuuuuuure.

Young scientists better not step out of line

Ten years ago I posted this, which looked at the dark underbelly of how the "Scientific Consensus" is enforced.  Sadly nothing has changed in the past decade, except the public has shoveled $30B down the rathole of the scientific establishment.  The only thing I'd change since then is that I said this was "probably" the greatest scientific scandal of all time.  I think that we can now strike that "probably" - this is definitely the greatest scientific scandal of all time.

Originally posted 18 February 2010.

"Nice career you have here. It'd be a shame if anything happened to it."

Someone left an anonymous comment to my post about Global Warming and the canals of Mars. I'm reproducing it here in full:
I am a scientist, in the alternative energy field. Every conference I go to, people are afraid to speak about AGW - except in their papers and presentations, which invariably use AGW as justification for their research.

Nobody believes in it, everybody knows it's a lie, but that's where all the money is coming from. If a scientist publishes a paper that doesn't affirm AGW, not only is that paper less likely to get published but any other future papers are in question as well. And he can forget about grants, forever.

Who controls the textbooks owns the next generation, and who controls the science funding gets to dictate what "science" says. 
I don't find this at all surprising. While you usually have to take anonymous comments with a grain of salt, if the commenter actually is a scientist, he (or she) certainly would have strong motivation to remain anonymous. Consider:

It's widely discussed that climate scientists are nervous about being seen to stray off the :consensus" reservation. I posted about that six months ago:
You can almost smell the fear - the article discusses a series of climate changes over the centuries (not a surprise to either of my regular readers), strongly correlated with changes in Solar activity. But the author feels the need to add a non sequitur about Carbon Dioxide. E pur si muove, indeed.
As to the funding, there's a lot of it, so long as you toe the line. As I said in Make Big Money Doing Climate Change Research From Home:
Well, I don't know about the "work from home" part, and whether you need to stuff envelopes, but the money's sweet: $79B since 1989, just from the US Fed.Gov. Add in the fellow traveler Euro.Govs and you've maybe doubled that.
As to the peer-review process and the motivation to keep the "doubter" bullseye off your career, we've seen example after example of subversion of peer-review in the ClimateGate emails. This one is particularly interesting, from a very prominent scientist (who presumably has little to fear, as he is retired):
Thanks for the extensive and detailed e-mail. This is terrible but not surprising. Obviously I do not know what gives with these guys. However, I have my own suspicions and hypothesis. I dont think they are scientifically inadequate or stupid. I think they are dishonest and members of a club that has much to gain by practicing and perpetuating global warming scare tactics. That is not to say that global warming is not occurring to some extent since it would be even without CO2 emissions. The CO2 emissions only accelerate the warming and there are other factors controlling climate. As a result, the entire process may be going slower than the powers that be would like. Hence, (I postulate) the global warming contingent has substantial motivation to be dishonest or seriously biased, and to be loyal to their equally dishonest club members. Among the motivations are increased and continued grant funding, university advancement, job advancement, profits and payoffs from carbon control advocates such as Gore, being in the limelight, and other motivating factors I am too inexperienced to identify.
As the Mythbusters would say, Anonymous' comment sure is plausible - each of his points is confirmed by independent data. And data from a two-bit blogger like me - imagine what you could find in a well funded and strongly motivated investigation from, say, the National Science Foundation.

But we won't see one, will we? And that is what's at the heart of the issue now - the public distrusts the scientific community on Climate Change. Not only does this issue poll very poorly, but there's a political revolt in progress against the policy agenda that uses Climate Change as its justification:
AUSTIN, Texas (Legal Newsline)-The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency relied on flawed data to issue its endangerment finding that greenhouse gases pose a public health risk, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said Wednesday.

In a lawsuit against the federal government, the Republican attorney general said that the Lone Star State's economy could be harmed as the result of the EPA's finding, issued in December.
And while we can thank the Lone Star state for leading the way, other, lesser states look like they're falling in line, too:
The federal government's ruling that greenhouse gases are a public health threat is based on erroneous science that will destroy jobs, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said Wednesday.

Speaking at an afternoon press conference in Richmond, Cuccinelli said the Environmental Protection Agency is relying on "unreliable, unverifiable and doctored" science in its bid to regulate greenhouse gases.

He was referring to the work of the International Panel on Climate Change, which shared a Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore in 2007 for linking greenhouse gases to global warming. The IPCC came under fire last year, however, after irregularities and errors were found in its reports.
"Irregularities"? Boy, howdy - it's much, much more than that.

Quite frankly, the public should feel skeptical. Not only do we see repeated mistakes that a High School student knows not to make (I'm looking at youIPCC AR4!), not only do scientists refuse to release their data even under Freedom of Information Act requests, not only have the scientists (repeatedly) lost the data.

Most significantly, anyone who questions the "consensus" is not met with reasoned, scientific arguments.  Shut Up, they suggested.  Hey you Denier, get off my lawn! The public is right to smell a rat.

I believe that this is probably the greatest scientific scandal of all time. An entire field has probably been subverted by a political agenda backed by crates of Government funding, to produce spurious theories and results in support of the agenda. It's Lysenko on steroids, and if the scientific community doesn't come clean on this, then the relationship between the community and the public will never be the same.

Those on the left like to say that it's Republicans who are a threat to science, with creationism and stem cell research*. They should look at the polls, about how the public does not believe the reported "science" by a huge margin (more people believe in UFOs than in Man-made Global Warming). Then they should look in a mirror.

Yeah, I'm more than a little steamed about this.

Thank you, anonymous, for giving us the view from inside the House Of Mirrors.

* Yes, yes, I know that it's not this simple: embryonic vs. mature cell lines, yadda yadda.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Christopher Lee's Special Forces career

I was attached to the SAS from time to time but we are forbidden – former, present, or future – to discuss any specific operations. Let's just say I was in Special Forces and leave it at that. People can read in to that what they like.
- Christopher Lee, 2011 interview in London Daily Telegraph
I have posted before about how Sir Christopher was a total badass and the real Most Interesting Man In The World.  I just stumbled across this interview from Belgian TV where they located an impossible to find special forces unit patch, which they presented to him on camera.  It's quite a moment, with Sir Christopher expressing how grateful he was in that manner that shows what a Gentleman used to be in an older and more vigorous age.  Bravo to the Belgian Television channel for making that happen.



And more vigorous it was indeed.  He talks about his time in Popski's Private Army (for American readers of a certain age, think Rat Patrol).  It's said that their Jeeps are the only wheeled vehicles that ever drove in Venice's St. Mark's Square.  When I said Lee as a badass, I hadn't quite realized just how badass he really was.  In reality, when Christopher Lee spoke, Chuck Norris got quiet and listened.  Here is a short list of Lee's badassitude:

  • His mother was an Italian Countess whose family got its coat of arms from Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa.  He died in the Second Crusade around 1100 A.D.  One of her great great uncles was a Cardinal and was buried in the Pantheon in Rome right next to Raphael.  A painting of the Cardinal hangs in Windsor Castle.
  • He was engaged to a woman who was Swedish nobility, and had to ask the King of Sweden for permission to marry her.  Permission was granted but the wedding did not go through for other reasons.
  • He witnessed the last public execution by guillotine in Paris.
  • He served with the Gurkhas of the 8th Indian Army Division at the battle of Monte Cassino.  
  • He was cousin to Ian Flemming, author of the James Bond novels.  Flemming tried to get him cast as Dr. No but the role was already filled.  Lee had to wait until Man With The Golden Gun to play a Bond villain.  Interestingly, in the novel the villain was basically a thug; Lee played him as the dark opposite of Bond.
  • He was in over 200 films, not counting dozens of TV appearances.
  • When he was filming The Lord Of The Rings, director Peter Jackson told him that he wanted Lee to make a particular sound when he got stabbed in the back.  Lee said that's not how people sound when they get stabbed in the back; Jackson asked how he knew, and Lee just said "Oh, I know."  Maybe he learned what that sounded like when he was fighting with the Gurkhas.
  • He is the only cast member of that film to ever have met J.R.R. Tolkien.
  • He was the oldest person to ever record Heavy Metal, releasing a song on his 90th birthday in 2012.  The following year he release a Heavy Metal Christmas Album (!); the song Jingle Hell reached #22 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, making him the oldest person to enter the music charts at 91.


Here's an early performance of his rock genre, from Rhapsody of Fire's 2005 album, singing a duet with Fabio Lione:



Regular readers of this blog will remember that we've seen his basso profundo voice here before:



That's quite a life.  Here is a photo of Flight Officer Lee looking out on the liberation of Rome in 1944.


Yeah, that all qualifies as badass and the actual most interesting man in the world.  I'm glad that they found the unit patch for him.

In which I am a Dumbass


I put up a recent blogroll update post and asked folks to email me if I hadn't added them.  Boy, howdy, how did I miss these folks?  I mean, they're in my RSS feed and everything.  Err, no fair peeking in the blog post title for the answer ...

The Feral Irishman has been blogging like forever.  I don't expect that I need to introduce him to any of our readers.  So how the heck did I not get him blogrolled?  (yeah, yeah, answer in the post title and all that).

And I've been linking to Comrade Misfit at Just An Earthbound Misfit, I for years and years.  Again, how did I not have her blogrolled?

Hokey smokes, this is embarrassing.  Sorry, guys.  Fixed now.

And as a request to you, Gentle Reader - can you please let me know when I'm being a Dumbass?

Virginia Opts For Sanity

The Virginia legislature has decided not to ban the sales of modern sporting rifles and regular capacity magazines.


So farmers are too dumb to understand hi tech?

Michael Bloomberg says farmers don't have the "grey matter" that's needed to understand technology.  (Hat tip to commenter Libertyman via email for the link)

The Queen Of The World tells a story about a new sales rep being taken around his region by his sales manager.  They end up out in the sticks, and pull into a diner for lunch.  A bunch of farmers are at a nearby table, dressed in overalls and John Deere hats.

The new sales manager sniffs at the spectacle.  "Man, they they sure look like a bunch of dumb hicks," he said.

His boss smiles.  "You see that field across the road?"

The young guy says he does.  "How much fertilizer do you think that would need for a corn crop?"  The young man doesn't know.

"If you wanted to plant soybeans, how many plants per acre would give you the best yield?"  Again, the young man doesn't know.

"When should you plant to minimize the risk of late frost while maximizing the growing season?"  Again, nothing.

"Well, if you go over and ask those 'dumb hicks', every one of them can give you the answer."


And if you go to your local County Fair, you can see all the computer monitors in the tractors and combines.  Oh, and the latest GPS farming tech.  Just sayin'.

Little Mike showed once again that the intelligence of the political class can be pretty stupid.  The Re-Elect Trump 2020 Campaign thanks him for his support.
Education, n. That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.
- Ambrose Bierce

President's Day - Best and Worst Presidents

Today is (the observed) President's Day.  This is my annual posts of the best and worst Presidents.  The one addition this year is a Lincoln de-mythification from the son of John Tyler, America's tenth President: Lincoln The Dwarf.  This will give you a taste:
Tyler catalogued Lincoln's crippling deficiencies: He was coarse, too coarse to be a hero; his reputation for kindness and humanity was grossly overblown; he was an overrated statesman, a vacillator who had trouble making decisions. He was too deferential to his cabinet, indeed was dominated by its stronger personalities. He started the war, then meddled in its conduct, prolonging the bloodshed, was a poor judge of generals, and allowed political expediency to guide his appointments. In constructing his argument Tyler relied as much as possible on sources he considered unimpeachable, such as Lincoln's friends Ward Hill Lamon and William H. Herndon and distinguished Northerners like Charles Francis Adams.
Sharp eyed readers will recall that we've seen (Union General) Charles Francis Adams here before.

(originally posted 20 February 2012)

It's not a real President's birthday (Lincoln was the 12th, Washington is the 22nd), but everyone wants a day off, so sorry Abe and George, but we're taking it today.  But in the spirit intended for the holiday, let me offer up Borepatch's bestest and worstest lists for Presidents.

Top Five:

#5: Calvin Coolidge

Nothing To Report is a fine epitaph for a President, in this day of unbridled expansion of Leviathan.

#4. Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson is perhaps the last (and first) President who exercised extra-Constitutional power in a manner that was unambiguously beneficial for the Republic (the Louisiana Purchase).  He repealed Adam's noxious Alien and Sedition Acts and pardoned those convicted under them.

#3. Grover Cleveland. 

He didn't like the pomp and circumstance of the office, and he hated the payoffs so common then and now.  He continually vetoed pork spending (including for veterans of the War Between the States), so much so that he was defeated for re-election, but unusually won a second term later.  This quote is priceless (would that Latter Day Presidents rise so high), on vetoing a farm relief bill: "Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character." 

#2. Ronald Reagan

He at least tried to slow down the growth of Leviathan, the first President to do so in over half a century (see entry #5, above).  He would have reduced it further, except that his opposition to the Soviet fascist state and determination to end it cost boatloads of cash.  It also caused outrage among the home grown fascists in the Media and Universities, but was wildly popular among the general population which was (and hopefully still remains) sane.

#1. George Washington

Could have been King.  Wasn't.  Q.E.D. 

Bottom Five:

#5. John Adams.

There's no way to read the Alien and Sedition Acts as anything other than a blatant violation of the First Amendment.  It's a sad statement that the first violation of a Presidential Oath of Office was with President #2. 

#4. Woodrow Wilson.

Not only did he revive the spirit of Adams' Sedition Acts, he caused a Presidential opponent to be imprisoned under the terms of his grotesque Sedition Act of 1918.  He was Progressivism incarnate: he lied us into war, he jailed the anti-war opposition, he instituted a draft, and he was entirely soft-headed when it came to foreign policy.  The fact that Progressives love him (and hate George W. Bush) says all you need to know about them.

#3 Lyndon Johnson.

An able legislator who was able to get bills passed without having any real idea what they would do once enacted, he is responsible for more Americans living in poverty and despair than any occupant of the White House, and that says a lot.

#2. Franklin Roosevelt.

America's Mussolini - ruling extra-Constitutionally fixing wages and prices, packing the Supreme Court, sending American citizens to concentration camps, and transforming the country into a bunch of takers who would sell their votes for a trifle.  At least Mussolini met an honorable end.

#1. Abraham Lincoln.

There's no doubt that the Constitution never would have been ratified if the States hadn't thought they could leave if they needed to.  Lincoln saw to it that 10% of the military-age male population was killed or wounded preventing that in an extra-Constitutional debacle unequaled in the Republic's history.  Along the way, he suspended Habeas Corpus, instituted the first ever draft on these shores, and jailed political opponents as he saw fit.  Needless to say, Progressives adore him.

So happy President's Day.  Thankfully, the recent occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue haven't gotten this bad.  Yet.



Sunday, February 16, 2020

Sunday, puppy Sunday

Wolfgang got worn out at the dog park.


Even the squeaky monkey toy is worn out.

Blogroll update

How on earth have I not had McThag on the blogroll here?  Good lord, he'd been blogging longer than I have (actually, by quite a bit).  That's fixed now.

And an incoming traffic spike from Intrepid Reporter showed that he's blogrolled me there.  Thank you kindly, and back atcha.

I expect that there are other folks who have be blogrolled but who are not listed here.  Leave a comment or shoot me an email to borepatch at gmail and I'll add you here.

Maurice Jarre - Overture to Lawrence of Arabia

I hadn't realized that a recent reader's poll in the UK (by the London Telegraph paper) showed that Lawrence of Arabia was the UK's favorite film of all time.  Even if you don't agree, you can certainly do a lot worse.  A lot worse.  You can also make a case that the soundtrack for the film is the greatest in motion picture history.

I should say "the Academy Award winning soundtrack", which catapulted the unknown composer Maurice Jarre to fame.  He later won Oscars for the music for the films Passage to India and Dr. Zhivago - and his "Lara's Tune/Somewhere My Love" from that last film spent almost a year on the Billboard charts.  Oh yeah - he also contributed to the score for The Man Who Would be King (great flick) and was nominated for an Oscar for his soundtrack to Ghost.  Not to mention Fatal Attraction, The Year Of Living Dangerously, and Dead Poet's Society.  I'm not sure that he was the greatest Hollywood composer of all time, but I'm not sure he wasn't.

Full disclosure, I believe that if the music to this film isn't the greatest in cinema history, it's because it was beat by Jarre's Dr. Zhivago.  What's interesting is that he almost never got the gig - he was #3 on the list of composers but the first two had other commitments.  You have to wonder if they kicked themselves on missing that change.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

How Science goes off the rails

Ten years ago today I put up this post about how Science wanders into the weeds.  Not only has it held up particularly well, I think that this is one of the top ten posts I've ever done here.  Plus, Brother-From-Another-Mother ASM826 took me to his shooting range.  Not a bad day, all in all.

(Originally posted 15 February 2010)

The Canals of Mars the Climate Research Unit

In 1877, the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli observed faint lines on the surface of Mars. He called these lines canali - channels. When his findings were (mis) translated into English, they appeared as canals, and ignited the imagination of the world.

Rather than natural causes (as you would expect for channel), canal implies artificial construction. The thought of intelligent life in our solar system - an ancient race fighting a desperate battle for survival on a dying planet - caused legions of astronomers to rush to their telescopes. Others reported that they also saw canals. Some published maps. But nobody saw as many canals, or published such detailed maps, as Percival Lowell from his Flagstaff observatory, whose map appears here.

It wasn't just scientists whose imaginations were captured by the Martians. The press promoted the story almost hysterically, giving Orson Wells his opportunity to create mass panic with his radio dramatization of H. G. Wells' novel The War of the Worlds. But the Barsoom novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs were the best.

John Carter was the human hero, mysteriously transported to Mars. Caught up in the epic battles there, as the slow drying of the planet led to desperate wars among the populations, his adventures amidst beautiful Martian princesses and noble Martian warriors fired the imagination of this young boy, back around 1969.

Alas, by then we knew that it was all impossible. Mariner 4 reached Mars in 1965, and photographed the entire planet from orbit. No castles holding Martian princesses, no Orovar cities, and most definitely no Zodangan canals. So how did the entire scientific community spend three decades chasing a Will o' the Wisp? I mean, this stuff was peer reviewed.

Eric Raymond has an interesting thought that seems to apply to both the science of Mars and the current theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming (the theory that human production of Carbon Dioxide is causing the planet to warm). Most scientists are caught up in an error cascade:
scientific error cascade happens when researchers substitute the reports or judgment of more senior and famous researchers for their own, and incorrectly conclude that their own work is erroneous or must be trimmed to fit a “consensus” view.

...

In extreme cases, entire fields of inquiry can go down a rathole for years because almost everyone has preference-falsified almost everyone else into submission to a “scientific consensus” theory that is (a) widely but privately disbelieved, and (b) doesn’t predict or retrodict observed facts at all well. In the worst case, the field will become pathologized — scientific fraud will spread like dry rot among workers overinvested in the “consensus” view and scrambling to prop it up. Yes, anthropogenic global warming, I’m looking at you!
When a few influential scientists publish important work, younger scientists will often defer to "established" results that contradict their own, even if the established results are wrong. Science tends to self correct this sort of thing, although it can take a while - the mass of the electron was incorrectly specified for years and years, because everyone who measured it got a different result than Robert Millikan. Millikan had received the Nobel Prize, and they hadn't, so their results "had to be wrong".

And so with AGW. Strong evidence opposing it "can't be right" and weak evidence supporting it "must be right", and as a result, AGW is an astonishingly weak theory. In the last twenty years its proponents have made many predictions, most of which have been falsified. Michael Mann said that the Medieval Warm Period wasn't warm, contradicting recorded evidence from the period like the Domesday Book that showed wine vinyards in England in the eleventh century. AGW computer models predicted a warm layer in the middle Troposphere in the tropics; MIT's Jim Lindzen and others looked and looked - no warm zone. NOAA's Global Historical Climate Network (GHCN) is the most comprehensive store of historical climate data; people are finding that the data has been frequently, consistently, and mysteriously adjusted so that older temperatures are lowered below what the thermometer readings showed, and recent temperatures are raised above what the thermometer readings showed.

It's an error cascade of epic proportions. The situation is almost like an astronomer in 1965 continuing to insist that the Mariner 5 pictures are irrelevant, because there is a mountain of peer-reviewed literature supporting Ptarth hydrological engineering. Phil Jones of the CRU admits that the Medieval Warm Period was warmer than today, and that the climate is not getting warmer lately - despite the theory predictions, and that his data is a mess (which is why he refused to release it, even after a Freedom Of Information Act request).

And yet the Climate Scientists still see canals.

Raymond points out why:
There an important difference between the AGW rathole and the others, though. Errors in the mass of the electron, or the human chromosome count, or structural analyses of obscure languages, don’t have political consequences (I chose Chomsky, who is definitely politically active, in part to sharpen this point). AGW theory most certainly does have political consequences; in fact, it becomes clearer by the day that the IPCC assessment reports were fraudulently designed to fit the desired political consequences rather than being based on anything so mundane and unhelpful as observed facts.
When a field of science is co-opted for political ends, the stakes for diverging from the “consensus” point of view become much higher. If politicians have staked their prestige and/or hopes for advancement on being the ones to fix a crisis, they don’t like to hear that “Oops! There is no crisis!” — and where that preference leads, grant money follows. When politics co-opts a field that is in the grip of an error cascade, the effect is to tighten that grip to the strangling point.
Eisenhower famously warmed of the growing Military-Industrial Complex, an alliance between the Government and Industry to justify and fund continuing increases in Government and its Industry allies. Follow the Money. How is this not identical to what we see happening in climate science?  Billions of dollars of Government grant funding flowing to academic organizations, whose research (surprise!) provides justification for large Government programs like Cap And Trade. Government funding maintains the momentum of the error cascade.

The challenges to the AGW "consensus" have almost all come from outside of this "Environment-Academic Complex", as they would have to. Outsiders are free to report what the data actually say, without fear of losing their funding. As Raymond said:
If politicians have staked their prestige and/or hopes for advancement on being the ones to fix a crisis, they don’t like to hear that “Oops! There is no crisis!”
Thus the emphasis demonstrated by the ClimateGate emails on controlling the Peer Review process. If the narrative can't be directed at the front end, it must be channeled at the back end. The canali of the modern scientific process are indeed man-made.

And so, the debate isn't about science at all, any more than the debate over the XM2001 Crusader self-propelled Howitzer was about defense. I expect to hear any day that NOAA plans to appoint Dejah Thoris to head the new office of Climate Change.

I hope they don't make her wear a brass bikini. It wouldn't provide the dignity that the office demands.

UPDATE 15 February 2010 22:28: Boy, I picked a bad day to toss out a post and then head out for 8 hours in the car and 4 hours at the range (not that it's ever bad to spend 4 hours at the range). Welcome visitors from View From The Porch! Thanks, Tam, and the beer is on me. Anyone interested in a somewhat long-ish overview of the science of AGW might want to start here.

UPDATE 15 February 2010 23:43: This is another interesting comparison.