Sunday, December 31, 2006

I Know I Said I was Done For Today...

...but I came across a classic "What color is the sky in your world?" moment. From Patricians, Professionals, and Political Science, by Michael Parenti:

Today there are right-wing critics who would have us
believe that institutions of higher learning are hotbeds
of “politically correct” leftist orthodoxy, propagated
by liberals, feminists, Black militants, Marxists, and
gay/lesbian-rights promoters, a place where conservative
opinion cannot find light of day. On the average
college campus, it is said, a decent conservative who
refuses to bow his head to the tyranny of campus liberals
dare not hope for a career. In fact, no university
is under leftist rule, and conservatives remain a regular
fixture inmany academic departments. The university’s
corporate-oriented board of trustees and extravagant
monetary compensations for top administrators, its
heavy exploitation of adjunct teachers, steep student
financial indebtedness, increasing corporate arrogation
of institutional functions, and overall growing dependence
on private funding all militate against anything
resembling a radical predominance (Soley 1997;White
and Hauck 2000). If anything, in political science the
spectrum has moved somewhat to the right since the
1970s, mirroring the climate of opinion in the wider

The only people on earth dumb enough to believe this are A) folks who have never been to college and therefor haven't experienced things firsthand, or B) crazed ideologues who look at every dyed in the wool Democrat as a right wing reactionary.

I got my B.A. in Political Science in 1990, my first M.A. in Political Science in 1992, and my second M.A. in political philosophy in 1998, and, before I entered Catholic Unversity in 1995, I dealt with liberal Democrats, Marxists, neo-Marxists, "post-modernists" of various stripes, feminists of various stripes, anarchists, and even one or two Republicans, but no one really conservative or (heaven forbid) libertarian. Of my cohort of fellow grad students I do not know of a single one who was right-of-center now employed in academia. (Some of my grad school buddies read this blog, so I'm sure they will point one out if I have forgotten them.)

I'm not saying you have to subscribe to the Horowitz school of conservative paranoia, but you have to take a leave of your good senses to believe in Parenti's leftist parody of them. Good God, "conservatives" couldn't even remove Ward Churchill who lacks both the academic credentials and the acumen to hold a university position.

So rest easy those of you curled up tonight with your lovingly worn copies of "The German Ideology," big, bad corporate America isn't coming for ya.

The Happy New Year Post

I'm sure I wont be online much today (and I have a nice cold bottle of cava ready for the ball drop tonight), but I thought I'd point folks to a fun link. For anyone who was a dork in high-school or college and who ever wasted a lot of time playing table-top RPG's, check out this from Unlocked Wordhoard:

I spent this evening watching a group play a tabletop role-playing game (RPG) called "Ars Magica." For those of you unfamiliar with RPGs, these are basically the "Dungeons and Dragons" style games, where players create characters and run those characters through adventures. The games are refereed by someone who is not playing, generally called the "Game Master," though the GM has only limited control over how the story will play out -- if the characters decide to do something different than the GM had expected, the GM has to be flexible enough to make that story adjustment work. In many ways, RPGs are collaborative storytelling.

"Ars Magica" is set in mythical Europe, which is nearly the very same as the medieval Europe we all know, except that in this world magic is real (and the players generally play characters who are mages). Unlike games in pure fantasy settings, however, "Ars Magica" is expected to stick pretty closely to our own historical world. The game I saw (I was able to participate a little) took place in Germany, along the Rhine in the 13th century.

I was struck by how much more educational this tabletop RPG was than any MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online games are the online roleplaying games like Everquest and World of Warcraft). Because of the collaborative storytelling aspect, tabletop RPGs allow the players to be more deeply involved in the creation of the world in ways that MMORPGs cannot allow. In the game I observered, the players and GM had the following discussions about the 13th century Rhineland:

How does one arrange a dowry?
How much would a dowry cost?
How would one initiate contact with high-ranking Church officials?
How would one initiate contact with mid-ranking nobility?
Would a mill or a forge be more effective for starting a community?
How fast would river travel have been?
How far and fast could a medieval peasant walk?
If there had been mages in the 13th Century, would they have pronounced Latin in the Classical way or the ecclesiastical way?

Ah...for the days when I had more time than I knew what to do with....

Speaking of time, it marches on. I hope evertone has a safe and happy evening. Here's to the New Year, may she be a damn sight better than the last one.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Ringing Out The Old Year In Style

Every once in a great while it is a lot of fun writing this piss-ant little blog. Today is one of those fun times. While doing my normal surfing I came across this draft of a paper by Roger Pielke, Jr. who is "on the faculty of the University of Colorado since 2001 and is a Professor in the Environmental Studies Program and a Fellow of the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Sciences (CIRES)."

The title of the draft is, "Decreased Proportion of Tropical Cyclone Landfalls in the United States,". If you know this blog at all you might know this is an area I've investigated and wrote about extensively, so I was interested to say the least. While going into more detail than I did, Dr. Pielke basically confirms what I found. (See here, here and here.)

Someone in the comments section wondered why no one had noticed this before, and I felt the need to post something to the effect that "Hey, I noticed it last year!" Dr. Pielke was nice enough to post the following in response to my comment:


Thanks much. You are absolutely right that this issue has been noticed (e.g., see the Solow articles cited above). And your analysis looks right on to me. What is interesting is that a number of very recent studies continue to use storm count data in uncritical fashion.

On balance I think I prefer this type of response to the one I got last year when I was producing my hurricane work:

Shut up, asshole.

mguyot at

Back to Dr. have to like an academic that doesn't mind taking people on AND having a sense of humor about it. For example, there is this response to a critics assesment of his work:

Anthes et al. (2006) present three criticisms of our paper. One criticism is that Pielke et al. (2005) "leaves the impression that there is no significant connection between recent climate change caused by human activities and hurricane characteristics and impacts." If by "significant" they mean either (a) presence in the peer-reviewed literature or (b) discernible in the observed economic impacts, then this is indeed an accurate reading. Anthes et al. (2006) provide no data, analyses, or references that directly connect observed hurricane characteristics and impacts to anthropogenic climate change.

Now, that is the way it should be done.

I will highly recommend Prometheus: The Science Policy Weblog for anyone interested in these issues. I'm sure I won't agree with the folks over there all the time, but they sure do seem to do things the right way.

More Looking Out For The Wealthy Guy

More eminent domain thuggery courtesy of your friendly local Supreme Court:

St. Louis' redevelopment agency sued a convent, a saint, a nun and an elderly woman in a wheelchair who has a 999-year lease on Friday, seeking to use eminent domain to condemn a property in the Ice House District north of Soulard.

City officials hope the area will be a hip entertainment district one day, but first they have to remove stubborn landowners and tenants.

The suit, filed in St. Louis Circuit Court, says the city's Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority has been unable to agree on a price for 1119-1127 South Broadway, owned by the Convent of the Sacred Heart.

The land and buildings have been leased for no rent to Salvatore and Mabel Inserra for a 999-year term, according to an appraisal supplied by the Inserras' lawyer, Francis X. Duda. Advertisement

The Inserras have leased the 13,660-square-foot property since at least the early 1980s. Salvatore Inserra, a longtime Soulard Market produce seller, died at work in 1985 at age 60.

It is rare to see a story dance all around the ridiculous/sublime line, but this one gets better.

The suit also names property owners from centuries ago and their heirs, including John Mullanphy, said to be St. Louis' first millionaire, a nun and "Philipini Duchesne." The suit appears to be referring to St. Rose Phillipine Duchesne, who founded a school for the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in a cabin in St. Charles in 1818, according to the Vatican. She died in 1852 and was canonized in 1988.

That is right, the city of St. Louis has just sued a 19th century Catholic saint. (The Lord above knows St. Phillipine Duschene just can't provide the taxes that yet another Soulard bar and grill would.)

What is truly unseemly about this particular instance is that the city is trying to railroad a convent and an elderly woman in an attempt to circumvent new laws in Missouri which go into effect January 1.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 that cities can use eminent domain for economic development.

An outcry after the decision prompted new laws in Missouri and Illinois seeking to curb the practice, but a provision awarding a 50 percent bonus over fair market value doesn't apply. That applies only to those who have owned the property for more than 50 years, and for suits filed after Dec. 31, 2006.

The city assessor's office said the convent has owned the property since the 1880s.

"My poor aunt, I think, is being taken advantage of," said Mabel Inserra's nephew Mariano Favazza, who is the St. Louis circuit clerk. "But she's one of thousands being displaced from their property … on behalf of someone who has more friends and more power. It's just not right."

Pratzel said that the agency had bargained in good faith for the property and that the eminent domain process would establish fair market value.

Duda disagreed, saying there had been no good-faith attempt to reach an agreement. Mabel Inserra barely had time to hire a lawyer, said Duda, who was hired Thursday.

"We were told suddenly that the lawsuit would be filed this week," he said.

Duda said the filing may be an attempt to avoid the new eminent domain law.

Not only do they want to screw people out of their property, they insist on doing it on the cheap.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Field Trip

I know some of you can't pass a day without one of my patented rants on the hysteria that is global warming. Well head on over to The Moderate Voice for another doosie.

At best I've uncovered lousy journalistic practices, at worst it looks like a poorly executed attempt at outright propaganda.

If the global warming crowd is really so secure, why engage in this type of crapola?

Are Blogs Really That Difficult To Understand?

Here is yet another curious take on political blogs, Candidates beware: The blogs are watching

Many of Missouri's biggest political stories this year — regardless of candidate or content — had one thing in common: They first showed up on the Internet.

Newspapers statewide were scooped by a Democratic-leaning website,, which first disclosed the details of Gov. Matt Blunt's proposal to sell off the assets of the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority.

And, a St. Louis Web blog, first reported U.S. Senate candidate Claire McCaskill's closed-door assertion to fellow Democrats that President George W. Bush "let people die on rooftops in New Orleans because they were poor and because they were black."

Such coverage helps explain why potential Missouri candidates for 2008 are already grousing, mainly in private, about scrutiny they're facing on various blogs. Advertisement

Explained Democratic consultant Tony Wyche: "The Internet forces you to track another whole set of media outlets."

(singing) "Nobody knows...the troubles I've seen..."

The poor dears!

A Republican blog, The Source (, already claims credit for the first 2008-related controversy. The site was among those who produced the first accounts of contributions that Attorney General Jay Nixon — a Democrat running for governor in 2008 — received from Democratic groups. Those groups had just gotten similar sums from AmerenUE, which was in the midst of negotiations with the state over the Taum Sauk reservoir collapse. Nixon, the Democratic groups and Ameren deny any link between the donations and the talks.

Dave Robertson, a political science professor at the University of Missouri at St. Louis, says Missouri politicians must accept the fact that activities or comments that once were ignored could now end up as fodder for the Internet for all the world to see.

"If you thought you didn't have any privacy before, you really don't have privacy now,'' Robertson said.

I hate to bust on someone from the old Alma Mater, but PRIVACY!?! What!?! Who??!? How??!?! I'll admit that often in the past candidates could rely on their cozy working relationships with reporters to keep some things under the radar, but campaign contributions and negotiations carried on with the state are not, by any stretch of the imagination, private concerns. If such things were not brought to light before a better explanation is that the newspapers were not doing their job, and not that bloggers are now doing anything unseemly.

Republican blogger John Combest pointed to the flap over McCaskill's New Orleans remark as evidence that "the Internet has destroyed the sense among (Missouri) candidates that there's any such thing as 'off the record.'"

That's not necessarily a good thing, said St. Louis University political science professor Ken Warren.

"The stuff on these blog sites is usually extremely partisan, extremely irresponsible and often simply not true,''

Notice what is "extremely partisan, extremely irresponsible and simply not true," are bloggers, and not McCaskill's statement.


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Dave Barry, Subversive?

Put this in the "You have got to be kidding!" file.

As the year draws to a close and we reflect on all of FIRE's activities in 2006, the case of Stuart Ditsler at Marquette University stands out not only for its absurdity but also because the case has yet to be resolved.

Torch readers will recall Ditsler's case from earlier this fall, when administrators removed a Dave Barry quote from his office door in Marquette's philosophy department because they deemed it "patently offensive." The quote—which could not be considered "patently offensive" (a term usually reserved for hardcore pornography) by any stretch of the imagination—read: "As Americans we must always remember that we all have a common enemy, an enemy that is dangerous, powerful, and relentless. I refer, of course, to the federal government."

The only have one question: Is there really anyone in this country moronic enough to defend Marquette's action? Granted, I would have bet there was no one in the country moronic enough to undertake said action, so what the hell do I know!

I Didn't Say It....

...Dr Roger A. Pielke, Sr. did:

A website, Climate Science, was launched in July 2005 to provide a more inclusive venue to communicate climate science to other scientists, the public and the media.

There are a set of conclusions that have become clearer as the peer reviewed papers and reports were discussed on this website. These are:

1. The needed focus for the study of climate change and variability is on the regional and local scales. Global and zonally-averaged climate metrics would only be important to the extent that they provide useful information on these space scales.

2. Global and zonally-averaged surface temperature trend assessments, besides having major difficulties in terms of how this metric is diagnosed and analyzed, do not provide significant information on climate change and variability on the regional and local scales.

3. Global warming is not equivalent to climate change. Significant, societally important climate change, due to both natural- and human- climate forcings, can occur without any global warming or cooling.

4. The spatial pattern of ocean heat content change is the appropriate metric to assess climate system heat changes including global warming.

5. In terms of climate change and variability on the regional and local scale, the IPCC Reports, the CCSP Report on surface and tropospheric temperature trends, and the U.S. National Assessment have overstated the role of the radiative effect of the anthropogenic increase of CO2 relative to the role of the diversity of other human climate climate forcing on global warming, and more generally, on climate variability and change.

6. Global and regional climate models have not demonstrated skill at predicting climate change and variability on multi-decadal time scales.

7. Attempts to significantly influence regional and local-scale climate based on controlling CO2 emissions alone is an inadequate policy for this purpose.

8. A vulnerability framework, focused on regional and local societal and environmental resources of importance, is a more inclusive, useful, and scientifically robust framework to interact with policymakers, than is the focus on global multi-decadal climate predictions which are downscaled to the regional and local scales. The vulnerability paradigm permits the evaluation of the entire spectrum of risks associated with different social and environmental threats, including climate variability and change.

"Where the hell is that consensus? I could have sworn it was around here somewhere."

Never Trust A Jacobin

Folks should go on over to American Future and read Marc's Christmas day post on the legacy of Iraq. (Actually, if you are not reading American Future daily already you are missing one of the best.)

In the U.S., then, the mismanagement of the war resulted in a crisis of confidence in the spread of democracy as the antidote to the disease of terrorism and in the claims of the Bush Administration regarding the war's progress. The repercussions haven't been limited to the U.S.

By late 2003, had the war gone as planned, the American troop level would have been roughly half of its level at the time of the invasion and the lives of the Iraqi people would have been at least reasonably secure. Instead, the American footprint was—and has remained to this day—essentially unchanged, and security has worsened. Most importantly from the perspective of both European and Muslim opinion, the elongation of the war allowed Abu Ghraib to happen. With the publication of pictures of American soldiers humiliating Muslims, whatever chance there was to stop the growth of anti-Americanism vanished. The Bush Administration was trashed throughout the world for betraying American values. The mismanagement of the war intensified the crisis of confidence in America that had been rising since the second half of 2002, when it started to be apparent that the U.S. was intent on toppling Saddam.

Earlier, I noted that elections held prior to 2006 provided a facade of progress, keeping the mistakes of Bush Administration at least partially hidden from view. The least violent days in Iraq have been days when voters were casting their ballots. If I were an Iraqi, this would make me wonder: if American and Iraqi forces can provide for my security on voting days, why can't they do so on all other days? I would lack the knowledge that there are too few soldiers to provide security on a sustained basis. Because of the war's mismanagement, the political (elections) and military (security) tracks have been out of synch. In the absence of a military footprint large enough to provide security, Washington hoped that elections revealing the Iraqis' desire for and commitment to democracy would reduce the level of violence. Exactly the opposite has happened, creating a crisis of confidence among the Iraqis—in both their and our government, and in democracy.

I agree with Marc here in the broadest sense. However, I wonder if the failures of Bush and Co. have less to do with the sort of things that could be corrected by Monday Morning Quarter-backing (e.g. we should have had more troops, etc.) and more to do with the ideological fervor employed.

For example, the thirst for "democratic purity" has been a handicap ever since Saddam's forces were routed. The disastrous "de-Baathization" campaign denuded the Iraqi army of exactly the people most needed to remain effective for any new regime. But, for the purity police, all of those linked to the old order were suspect and must be excluded. Similarly, we have avoided working with local sheiks and clan leaders because that wouldn't be democratic enough.

Indeed, it has become clear in the last three years that our Iraq policy follows a line of "democracy" that has little in common with the American experience. In its demand for centralization and "purity" this approach seems more at home with revolutionary Jacobinism than anything else. (If you doubt this at all ask yourself if you have ever felt that we were engaged in a Rouseauean attempt to "force them (i.e. the Iraqis) to be free.) If Bush had been more wedded to real conservative thought, which would have advocated we integrate existing and historically relevant power structures into any new Iraqi government, we might be in a much better place today.

As I was thinking these thoughts over the last couple of days something struck me as very familiar about the terrain I was crossing over. Then it came to me, I have heard exactly the same argument from one of my old professors ten years ago. Back when I was in grad school at Catholic University I took multiple classes with Prof. Claes Ryn. Dr. Ryn would classify himself (proudly) as a decidedly paleo-conservative, and he took as much pride in mauling the neo-conservative movement as he did any liberal machinations. To that end he published a little polemic back in 1991 entitled, The New Jacobinism: Can Democracy Survive?, that can only be described as a "ho holds barred" assault on neo-con ideas.

To be honest, I do not remember being impressed at the time, but I can look back now and see how in many ways Dr. Ryn was prescient.

(From The New Jacobinsm, National Humanities Institute, 1991, pg. 71-72:)

The belief that political virtue is summed up in specific "principles" or "rights" and that these are also best known by an intellectual elite with special powers of discernment breeds not only arrogance in those who consider themselves in the know but intolerance of those who deviate from the presumed moral prescriptions. Why, indeed, should the complexity and messiness of society not yield to the direction of the virtuous?

The potential for tyranny in this moral abstractionism is apparent, for example, in the attacks on historical thinking by many of its intellectual exponents. The belief that human life is inescapably historical and that the pursuit of good must be adjusted to time and place is rejected as a threat to moral universality and rectitude. To think of moral universality as affected by historical circumstance is, so it is asserted, to dissolve moral universality; a rel moral standard must exist apart from the historical phenomena for which it is to be the standard. Besides revealing philosophically rather amateurish habits, this advocacy of a historically pure moral vantage point discloses the grounds for denying to individuality, particularity, and diversity as such any moral legitimacy. Let pure virtue rule!

(Pg. 74)

Speaking of the United States and its principles as models for all peoples is today a recurring theme in some American intellectual and political circles. Sometimes the will to power behind this refrain is barely able to keep up ideological appearances. Writes Ben Wattenberg, "It's pretty clear what the global community need: probably a top cop, but surely a powerful global organizer. Somebody's got to do it. We're the only ones who can." Advocating a "visionary" American foreign policy, Wattenberg proclaims: "The idea of spreading democratic and American values around the world is visionary." With moralistic righteousness he adds, "It's the right thing to do."

Now, I have little patience with the claims made by many that Iraqis (or maybe Arabs in general) are inherently incapable of living in some sort of democratic society because of their history. Such a belief dooms folks to forever living under tyranny, since you cannot develop a democratic history until you actually give it a try. However, Ryn is correct in saying we cannot export the American experience. Any democracy in Iraq worthy of the name would of necessity have to incorporate the elements of society that have played cohesive roles within it. If that means acknowledging the historical reality of sheiks, clan leaders, mullahs, other ethnic divisions, etc., than it does. Going up to these folks and saying "Ideological purity insists that you Mr. Sheik can no longer have political influence here," is a prescription for failure. So what if the political system that evolves doesn't look like that of New Jersey or Wisconsin?

If Edmund Burke were brought back and asked about this situation I get the feeling his first question would be, "So what are the traditional 'rights of Iraqimen?'" Has anyone in the Bush administration asked that question? I tend to doubt it.

Who's The Investigative Reporter Here?

For all the complaining you get about bloggers from the MSM, there is one quality bloggers seem to lack that works in their favor. They don't seem to have the attention span of a gnat. Some 33 years after the fact PowerLine is asking why the U.S. State Department won't stand up for its own.

Why isn't this worthy of the New York Times?

My chance To Be A Thousandaire...

...gone forever: Coming soon: an ATM that makes and dispenses books

On Demand Books hopes you will. The New York-based company plans in 2007 to expand production of a device that dispenses just about any book you can imagine by punching a few buttons.

And we're not talking about a mere vending machine. ODB's device, tentatively called the Espresso, is a $50,000 hunk of innovation that makes the books from scratch — 15 to 20 per hour — and in several languages.

The process of printing the pages, cutting and shaping the cover, and gluing the pages to the binding takes about seven minutes, and can be done two books at a time. Additional book features include laminated covers, high-quality color pictures and a variety of paper for the pages.

Espresso even binds books on the right-hand side, for languages that are read from right to left.

Currently, an Espresso-made tome cannot exceed 550 pages, although somewhat longer works can be accommodated by reducing the type size. And the choice of titles is limited to the 2.5 million or so English-language works not currently protected by a copyright, although ODB is working to expand the reading list.

Prices for whatever comes out of Espresso's dispenser will vary due to a number of factors, book length being just one of them, but the estimated production cost is about a penny per page.

An Espresso now sits in the World Bank Info Shop in Washington, D.C., and the Library of Alexandria in Egypt. Another is due to arrive at the New York Public Library in February. ODB says it will install another 25 or so of the devices through 2007, though it hasn't announced the locations.

But you can bet that when the Espresso arrives, it will draw a crowd. The device is bound to redefine the term "hot off the press."

I had the same idea about 7 years ago when I was working at the late, lamented Cleveland Park Bookshop. In a digital age it seemed strange there should be books that were "out of print." I'll admit I never envisioned an ATM with all of the bells and whistles the "Espresso" has. (Which strikes me as risky. It's as if the early car makers tried to build a Lambourghini before the Model-T.) But the basic concept is the same.

Even though this will be a revolution for the consumer of books, I think it will be the death of the dedicated book store. If all you need to sell millions of titles is install a machine, it makes little sense to devote a bunch of shelf space to display titles. (In my experience there were very few true "browse and buy" book buyers anyway. People generally came to the store knowing what they wanted to buy.) In effect any store, any coffeshop, any barbershop or hair salon, that wanted to sell books (and magazines) could do so without doing more than stuffing this ATM in a corner. Bookstore will have to find more creative ways to fill up their space with non-digitally re-creatable product.

I'll agree with anyone who claims that something will be lost in the transition, but I don't see anyway to avoid it. The really good bookstores will find a way to translate themselves into some sort of uber-cafe, although you will probably end up with a wait-staff that knows latte better than literature.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Dreaming Of A White Christmas.... the dead of summer?

YES, this is Australia. Snow, and plenty of it, doused the alpine bushfires, transforming the blackened landscape in Victoria's east into a brilliant white.
Christmas revellers - enjoying a sweltering 34C - took to Perth's popular beaches, and holidaymakers in Queensland intent on getting sand between their toes were not disappointed by the muggy 32C.

Melburnians, on the other hand, shrouded by smoke for the past fortnight, had their coldest-ever Christmas Day and were pelted with hail and chilled by biting winds.

Just days after fearing deadly fires would destroy their mountain, residents atop Mt Buller, northeast of Melbourne, were hurling snowballs at each other and shaking their heads in amazement. Likewise, in parts of Tasmania, and Thredbo, in the NSW snow territory, snowmen were the order of the day.

As much as 30mm of snow fell at Mt Baw Baw overnight.

"I've never seen snow fall before in my life, so I thought it would be worth it on Christmas Day just to go up there and have a look," 25-year-old Peter Tuffley said, gripping girlfriend Andrea Innes in the thick snow. "I loved it, it was great."

There is more on the way for Thredbo and Perisher in NSW.

Adelaide shivered through its coldest Christmas Day in 13 years. And Hobart hasn't had a Christmas quite as cold in more than two decades.
And the weather was amiss in Sydney, too, where the traditional backpacker pilgrimage to Bondi was subdued - only about 10,000 of the usual 40,000 plonked themselves down on the famous stretch - because of the cooler temperatures and the early-morning drizzle.

At Perth's Cottesloe Beach, Deb Webb and her group of family and friends were among 10,000 crammed on to the city beaches.

"Same beach, same time, same beer and champagne every year," she said yesterday.

The group gathers at the beach each Christmas morning for champagne and strawberries and nibblies in the sun before heading home for a full festive dinner.

But in Victoria, it was the coldest Christmas Day in 150 years that brought "significant" amounts of snow to Victoria's southern regions, including a 30mm drop at Mount Baw Baw, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

"I don't think I've seen Christmas spirits like this for a long time. Maybe because there's a sigh of relief because of the fire (threat) being dampened for a little bit longer ... everyone is elated," Mt Buller Chalet's Eric Siewart said.

Local Jacqui Whitby said she was "ecstatic" to see snow.

"This is what we all live up here for - for the snow," she told The Australian. "So to have it on Christmas Day, given what we've faced in the last three weeks, is just unbelievable and there's a lot of happy faces around."

Country Fire Authority captain Andrew Kelly said the snow "settled" the fires in the region and gave crew members a rest ahead of more fires expected by the end of the week when temperatures begin to rise again.

"The snow's been unreal, really good for Christmas," he said.

Someone send a memo to Al Gore...low pressure fronts in the Tasman sea aren't playing ball. What to do with cold fronts??? No kneecaps to break.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Conservative Judges (The Horror)

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: St. Louis judge's outspoken book causing controversy

A liberal-bashing book by a veteran St. Louis judge is to become available publicly this week, but it is already causing a stir in political and legal circles — and prompting some to say it could cost him his job.Chapter 1 of Circuit Judge Robert H. Dierker Jr.'s book, "The Tyranny of Tolerance: A Sitting Judge Breaks the Code of Silence to Expose the Liberal Judicial Assault," has circulated via e-mail since last month and been widely read in legal circles, lawyers and judges say.The sentiments expressed in that chapter, which frequently uses the term "femifascists" and is titled "The Cloud Cuckooland of Radical Feminism," have already prompted a complaint with the state body that can reprimand or remove judges.

Chapter 1 of Circuit Judge Robert H. Dierker Jr.'s book, "The Tyranny of Tolerance: A Sitting Judge Breaks the Code of Silence to Expose the Liberal Judicial Assault," has circulated via e-mail since last month and been widely read in legal circles, lawyers and judges say.

The sentiments expressed in that chapter, which frequently uses the term "femifascists" and is titled "The Cloud Cuckooland of Radical Feminism," have already prompted a complaint with the state body that can reprimand or remove judges.

Other judges and lawyers have said that Dierker may have violated a state rule against a judge using his or her position for personal profit. One judge said it would be surprising if Dierker was not removed, calling the book "professional suicide."


Dierker is living a charmed life, as all of his critics seem to have been hired from the temp agency "Proving Your Point For you."

Judges contacted by the Post-Dispatch, including many of Dierker's St. Louis colleagues, would not comment publicly. Privately, they complain that Dierker didn't warn them of the book, or offer a preview.

What may be the only public shot at Dierker came at a Dec. 18 judges' meeting. In a discussion of hiring of a spokesperson, Circuit Judge Jimmie Edwards suggested such a person might also function as a "judges' book review" to prevent them from "offending the bench."

Am I the only one to find the notion of a censorship board to approve what a citizen of this country is allowed to say in order that judges not be "offended," much scarier than the notion that there might be conservative judges speaking their mind? If the mere fact that such an idea was broached doesn't go a long in justifying the use of the term facist I don't know what would. It is a very simple rule. If you don't want to be called a facist, make sure you are not acting like one.

The PD, of course is not content to just report on the story. Oh no, they are not above a little character assasination.

The first chapter was heavily discussed at the recent holiday party for the Women Lawyers' Association of Greater St. Louis.

One judge who attended noted, "Everyone's just pretty much shocked."

Association President Lynn Ricci said, "I have read it. I find it disturbing." She also said, "I frankly think that it is a shame that this very smart man has lowered himself to name-calling."

Although Ricci said she has not studied the chapter, she said, "It appears that he's cloaking his own personal preferences against women in alleged legal research and a partial examination of the law."

Dierker, who has been on the bench since 1986, has repeatedly been passed over for advancement.

Thank God, the PD writer was not skilled enough to actually disguise the non-sequitar here. As written it works are a brilliant piece of comic relief.

Can he be impartial?

He may face repercussions in the courtroom.Lawyers could cite the book as evidence that Dierker is unable to be impartial on issues involving women, or liberals, or the American Civil Liberties Union, for example, forcing his removal from cases.

Dierker responds that he is always fair in the courtroom, and paraphrases the book: "Conservative judges are much more likely to know where their biases are and how to draw the line."

I find it informative that the man has been a judge since 1986 and yet the PD, nor anyone else provides a SINGLE example of Dierker acting in a biased manner. Obviously, the determining factor is his writing a polemic that favors conservative ideas instead of liberal. The 20 years of actual behavior count for exactly nothing.

I suppose the lesson is you can be a conservative as long as you act like a second class citizen.

The PD has also provided helpful quotes that I presume are to show the inflammatory nature of Dierker's book. Here are the beyond the pale statements:

— "Just as we saw with the femifascists, illiberal liberals don't want equality; they want to make some people more equal than others. And they've made it happen through their dominance of the courts over the past seventy-five years. Liberals have converted the courts from the 'least dangerous' branch of government envisioned by the Founding Fathers to the most dangerous." (from a chapter titled "Making some Americans more equal than others" about the 14th Amendment and equal protection under the law)

— "This is liberal law in a nutshell. History and tradition count for nothing; the language of the Constitution itself counts for little; the only criterion is whether a ruling will advance the liberal agenda." (from the chapter "Ozzie and Harriet are dead" about abortion and the attack on the traditional family)

— " ...The Constitution died on April 18, 1990, as a direct result of the liberal pursuit of racial 'equality.'" (from the chapter "Taxation for Tolerance" about school desegregation and desegregation rulings that allow judges to impose taxes)

The horror....the horror.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas

If Christmas is your bag, than I hope you have a merry one.

P.S. This cat should sue somebody.


Ok I screwed up. It seems there were French commando forces attached to "Enduring Freedom" (as opposed to the ISAF) in 2001 and again in the summer of 2003 to the present. These forces, which never seem to have number more than 200 or so, have been under U.S. command. (See here and here.)

So the timeline is possible, but I still find it unlikely. They were under American control, and if they had requested a go ahead on an attack of this sort somebody in the U.S. military knows about it. Actually, lots of people would have to know about it. Yet no reporters can find a single corroborating source?

I remain dubious.

Friday, December 22, 2006


I got his link from the daily Kos:French troops had bin Laden in sights

A documentary says French special forces had Osama bin Laden in their sights twice about three years ago but their U.S. superiors never ordered them to fire.

The French military, however, said that the incidents never happened and the report was "erroneous information."

The documentary, due to air next year and seen by Reuters on Tuesday, says the troops could have killed the al Qaeda leader in Afghanistan but the order to shoot never came, possibly because it took too long to request it.

"In 2003 and 2004 we had bin Laden in our sights. The sniper said 'I have bin Laden'," an anonymous French soldier is quoted as saying.

The documentary 'Bin Laden, the failings of a manhunt' is by journalists Emmanuel Razavi and Eric de Lavarene, who have worked for several major French media outlets in Afghanistan. A cable television channel plans to air the documentary in March.

Razavi said the soldier told them it took roughly two hours for the request to reach the U.S. officers who could authorize it but the anonymous man is also quoted in the documentary as saying: "There was a hesitation in command."

Razavi told Reuters several sources told them the sightings were six months apart and they declined to be more specific.

It is a very interesting story. The trouble is I doubt it could be true. The vagueness of the story with its lack of detail sticks out like a red ass on a baboon. We do know that these events were supposed to have happened in 2003 and 2004, six months apart. O.K.

A) The NATO force (including 500+ French troops) doesn't get to Afganistan until August 11th, 2003. However, they are restricted to operations in Kabul.

Maybe Bin Laden was hanging around in a Kabul cafe?

B) On October 14th, 2003 the UN security council OK's the NATO force expanding its role outside of Kabul. NATO says it will take it under advisement.

C) In meetings held on December 1-2, 2003, NATO agree to the plan to expand the role of the force in Afganistan.

OK, so this leaves most of the month of December for some French troops to get deployed outside of Kabul so they can train their greedy little gun sights on OBL himself, right?

Well, no. On the 19th of December we learn:

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force has stepped up security in Kabul, including temporarily sending extra troops, as the loya jirga meets to debate a constitution for Afghanistan.

The loya jirga, or grand assembly, is a traditional gathering of representatives of Afghanistan’s various tribes and factions. This is the second time that a loya jirga has been convened since the ousting of the Taleban, with the first one meeting last year to select an interim government for Afghanistan.

This loya jirga numbers over 500 representatives, including – for the first time ever - women delegates. It will discuss a proposed draft text for a constitution for Afghanistan. The meeting began on Sunday, 14 December, and can last several weeks.

So NATO had a priority operation in Kabul that called for extra men, and would take up the entirety of December. The same article also points out,

On 11 August this year NATO took over command of the UN-mandated 5,500-strong International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF), which is responsible for providing security in and around Kabul.

The Alliance is currently preparing for a gradual expansion of the peacekeeping beyond Kabul.

In fact, NATO doesn't expand its mission outside of Kabul until early January, 2004, and those folks are hardly special forces:

A ceremony held in Kunduz on 6 January marked the transfer of command of the Kunduz Provincial Reconstruction Team to NATO and a first step in the expansion of the Alliance’s mission in the country.

Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) are small teams of civilian and military personnel working in Afghanistan’s provinces to provide security for aid workers and help with reconstruction work. There are currently six, under the command of the US-led coalition forces.

To say the least it seems doubtful that the timeline expressed in the article is accurate.

Gee, I wonder what else they got wrong....

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Proposal For Our Times

Over at The Warren they have come up with a novel solution for all of those who find that they are just too tender hearted to want to arrest illegals for identity theft.

How about we set up a national registry, kind of like the Do Not Call list, that lists the social security numbers of those bleeding-hearts who see nothing wrong with immigrants using fraudulent identification to get a job? It would be a type of consent form, stating that the person is cool with the idea of some Poor Oppressed Prole using his SSN to live the American Dream. Everyone would benefit: The immigrants could legally get their jobs, the companies could get their workers, and the Bleeding Hearts could get their smug sense of moral superiority. Yeah, they'd have to eventually clear up their credit rating, but hey, it's all for a good cause, right?

Big Bad Free Speech

It stuns me that the first amendment still pisses so many people off. (See here and here.)

Over at The Moderate Voice someone wrote: "Corporate control of politics and media are the leading threats to democracy."

To which I HAD to respond: " I love the assumption that the average American (or the average American voter) is such a blithering idiot that they need to be protected from political speech.

I think the biggest threat to democracy is the low opinion many seem to have of their fellow citizens."

Jimmy Carter. Idiot?

Alan Dershowitz sure thinks so:

YOU CAN ALWAYS tell when a public figure has written an indefensible book: when he refuses to debate it in the court of public opinion. And you can always tell when he's a hypocrite to boot: when he says he wrote a book in order to stimulate a debate, and then he refuses to participate in any such debate. I'm talking about former president Jimmy Carter and his new book "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid."

Carter's book has been condemned as "moronic" (Slate), "anti-historical" (The Washington Post), "laughable" (San Francisco Chronicle), and riddled with errors and bias in reviews across the country. Many of the reviews have been written by non-Jewish as well as Jewish critics, and not by "representatives of Jewish organizations" as Carter has claimed. Carter has gone even beyond the errors of his book in interviews, in which he has said that the situation in Israel is worse than the crimes committed in Apartheid South Africa. When asked whether he believed that Israel's "persecution" of Palestinians was "[e]ven worse . . . than a place like Rwanda," Carter answered, "Yes. I think -- yes."


Nor is Carter the unbiased observer of the Middle East that he claims to be. He has accepted money and an award from Sheik Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan , saying in 2001: "This award has special significance for me because it is named for my personal friend, Sheik Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan." This is the same Zayed, the long-time ruler of the United Arab Emirates, whose $2.5 million gift to the Harvard Divinity School was returned in 2004 due to Zayed's rampant Jew-hatred. Zayed's personal foundation, the Zayed Center, claims that it was Zionists, rather than Nazis, who "were the people who killed the Jews in Europe" during the Holocaust. It has held lectures on the blood libel and conspiracy theories about Jews and America perpetrating Sept. 11. Carter's acceptance of money from this biased group casts real doubt on his objectivity and creates an obvious conflict of interest.

Carter's refusal to debate wouldn't be so strange if it weren't for the fact that he claims that he wrote the book precisely so as to start debate over the issue of the Israel-Palestine peace process. If that were really true, Carter would be thrilled to have the opportunity to debate. Authors should be accountable for their ideas and their facts. Books shouldn't be like chapel, delivered from on high and believed on faith.

Carter seems to be hell-bent on destroying any credibility he had built up during his many years as a former president. Although, it hasn't all been building homes for Habitat. His inexplicable love for every two-bit thug in the world was always a little odd. (Sort of like Bush claiming he could "see into Putin's soul," which to this day gives me the willies.)

Carter's intimation that Jews, (not every Jew, but a cadre of "behind the scene Jews") are out to get him really makes me question what century we are living in.

Another View

For what it is worth, here is a drawing from the Tropical Graciology Group at Innsbruck university showing the difference in the Elena glacier between 1906 and 1990.

Obviously the 1906 photo we saw earlier is the basis for this drawing. It makes you wonder about how much of a photographic record we have from the pre-1950 era. It doesn't seem to be much. (I looked around and couldn't find another on the net.)

The Illusionists

I've been reading over the research on tropical glaciers of late ("Good God man, why?), and I've come to one inescapable conclusion; both of the die hard camps are full of it. It seems clear that temperature change is not to blame for the retreat of glaciers like the one found on Kilimanjaro. No one really disagrees with that point (particularly since the glacier has been retreating since the late 19th century.) Factors like precipitation levels and humidity seem to be of primary importance. The question becomes, is global warming causing changes in those two factors?

Neither side seems to be able to look at this question in a scientific manner. (See here and here for typical garbage from both sides.)

On balance I would say that the global warming side comes off worse, but that is mainly due to their "fundamentalistic" approach to every question. Dissent is strictly verboten. Any data that doesn't confirm dogma in ANY particular is basically spun out of existence.

Besides they are masters of misdirection and deception. For example, to show how dastardly global warming is they present this image:

Real dramatic "proof", right?

Although there is something strange about the photos. Obviously there is more snow in the 1960 photo. It is very obvious in the unglaciated sections of the mountain, while the 1906 and 1994 photos have little to none. Would the earlier and later photos have given a different impression if they were taken immediately after a snowfall? Most probably. So lets stick to an apples to apples comparison, the 1906 and 1994 photos.

Can't get more conclusive than that...or can you. One thing you notice about the two photos is how much more of the mountain you can see in the 1994 photo. Is there a chance that showing more bare mountain gives a false impression here? Well, lets see!

and the 1994 cropped:

There you finally have an apples to apples that show unmistakably that the glacier is smaller, and by exactly how much. Right?

Well yes and no. Look at the photos and tell me if anything looks odd about them. No? Well pick out any narrow feature on the 1906 photo and compare it to the 1994 photo. Do they seem broader in the 1994 photo? They sure do to me. Look at the notch in the ridge line to the right of the peak in the 1906 photo. That notch is no where to be seen in my cropping of the 1994 photo (which kept the aspect ratio of the photo posted online), even though it shows the same amount of mountain top to bottom (as best as I could approximate it). In other words the 1994 photo looks stretched compared to the 1906. Look at the non-cropped 1994 photo for the same notch and tell me how different it looks, even though the photos seem to be taken from a similar vantage point. (The ridge line even rises at a dramatically reduced angle!)

It seems obvious that these two photos have very different aspect ratios vis-a-vis the originals. I'd say that the 1994 is stretched around 20% or so.

This is the 1994 photo less 20% on the width. It looks a hell of a lot more like the mountain in the 1906 photo, and the glacier (still noticeably smaller) seems to extend further down the mountain.

Now, I have no way of knowing if this was done on purpose. Maybe somebody goofed up when these older photos were scanned for the first time, or maybe the lens used in the 1906 photo was sufficiently different to cause the effect. In any event, the idea seems to be to get everyone to dismiss the possibility that the glacier here could be in its current state through natural agency.

I haven't seen anything that makes me think that natural agency isn't the probable reason for tropical glacier retreats. I can be convinced otherwise, but not by anybody's dogma.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Was It Something I Said??

The Iconic Midwest has seemingly been banished from the Blogroll over at The Moderate Voice. (Funny, I was still on it three days ago.)

Maybe somebody didn't like my castigating a commentator who claimed that Republicans single handedly destroyed public education. (Lent a hand, sure....but all by themselves? PUHLEEEEEESE!)

In any event it's too bad. TMV maybe a little unwieldy these days (far too many writers IMO), but it is still one of the better blogs out there.


I emailed a copy of this to Joe Gandelman over at TMV and the IM is back on the blogroll without a question. I'm glad. Joe is one of the first bloggers to have ever sent me a note saying he enjoyed what I did. That encouragement was enough to keep me going for the first few months, when I seemed to be writing purely for an audience of one, i.e. myself.

As always, Joe's a gentleman.

Dawkins Unhinged

After sucha length of time that I've been inactive today has turned into a veritable orgy of posting....but I had to quote a bit from Michael Fitzpatrick at Spiked: The Dawkins Delusion:

There is an old Irish joke, retold here by Richard Dawkins, about somebody in Northern Ireland who responded to a survey question about religious affiliation by declaring himself an atheist. ‘Would that be a Protestant atheist or a Catholic atheist?’ came the insistent reply. Faced with a similar inquiry, I would be obliged to declare myself a Catholic atheist. By this I mean that I am an atheist by conviction, but a Catholic by upbringing and tribal affiliation.

I know that some people raised as Catholics blame the Church of Rome for their difficulties in later life, nourishing a particularly degenerate literary genre. As a child taught by nuns and brothers, I endured a fair amount of pious claptrap and casual corporal punishment and some inappropriate sexual interest. But any detriment suffered was far outweighed by a sound education and by exposure to a rich cultural heritage – of art and music, scripture and ritual. For this I retain gratitude, affection and respect.

Though as an atheist I feel I should welcome Dawkins’ diatribe against religion, as a Catholic atheist, I find myself repelled by his crass polemic – and I am not alone. In his comments on Catholicism, Dawkins reveals a combination of old-fashioned Protestant anti-Popery with the fashionable contempt of the liberal intelligentsia for any kind of religious faith. Thus he refers to the ‘semi-permanent state of morbid guilt suffered by a Roman Catholic possessed of normal human frailty and less than normal intelligence’ (p167). Discussing the consequences of clerical sexual abuse in Ireland, he suggests that ‘horrible as sexual abuse no doubt was, the damage was arguably less than the long-term psychological damage inflicted by bringing the child up Catholic in the first place’ (p317). These are statements of such unmitigated prejudice – and indeed absurdity – that it is shocking to find them in a serious book by a reputable author.

It is amazing how some things come full circle. One of the earliest posts at The Iconic Midwest dealt with a similar type of pig ignorance from someone who ought to be able to know better. (See Evolving Faith) Of course Dawkins has been a little nuts for awhile now. Like a lot of people I knew him mostly from his book The Selfish Gene, which remains one of the best introductions to the Darwinian sythesis out there. So I was horrified when I saw Dawkins in an interview with Charlie Rose where the only thing more shocking than his intellectual dishonesty was his deeply rooted bigotry.

Radio, Radio

I got a chukle over this coverage of the difficulties at Air America:

At Air America, business and politics always mixed, and that was the problem, critics contend…Detractors label the liberal network’s programming as combative, one-note and emotional. At least its business dealings seem to fit that last description…The search for new investors and managers has been marred by infighting among those who want the network to succeed, according to people in the organization.

Hmmm. You mean extreme liberal ideology can interfere with a corporation’s ability to succeed? Who’d of thunk it?

Fortunately for us, the chuckles in this article hadn’t ended: "This is only the latest twist in the short but contentious history of Air America. At the root of its problems, some critics and competitors say, has been an inability to negotiate a middle path between its political mission and its business.”

Another element that won’t be at all surprising to some was how poorly these folks managed the finances of the network:

Air America ran into financial trouble within days of its appearance on March 31, 2004, when it turned out that its original chairman, Evan Cohen, did not have the backing he said he did. […]

Some people at Air America assert that, under Mr. Glaser and the team he put in place, the network was top-heavy with management, inept at selling ads, unwilling to make program compromises that veered from the liberal message and overstaffed with more than 100 employees when two dozen would have sufficed.

“What they did for $45 million they could have done for $10 million,” said Sheldon Drobny, an investor with a contentious relationship with the network.

Hmmm. Liberals overspending. What a shock.

Ever since I got my XM radio a couple of months back I've actually listed to quite a bit of Air America (channel 167). Its main problem is its lack of professionalism. While sounding a little bit like a college radio station can lend a "Hey, let's put a show on in the barn!" sense of fun, sounding ALOT like a college radio station just comes across as inept. But even at its best it Air America winds up sounding like a less interesting NPR.

Which brings another difficulty. Liberal folks love NPR. You have to be better than them to get the listeners to switch over. With the format and programming as is that is never gonna happen.

I Dont Want To Go Off On A Rant Here...

but I just can't help myself. Actually, I'll let other do most of the talking.

The real climate change catastrophe :Misguided energy policies are harming the world’s poor by Paul K. Driessen:

Our planet is again warming slightly, and the weather keeps taking unexpected turns. Many scientists say this is hardly unprecedented, cause for alarm, or proof that humans are now the dominant factor in climate change. Others disagree strongly, and point to every snowstorm, hurricane, deluge or drought as proof that urgent action is needed to avoid imminent climate catastrophe.

Britain’s Royal Society wants ExxonMobil to further squelch debate, by ending its funding of researchers who say natural forces are the primary factor in climate change. (The Society didn’t mention the $250,000 award that scientist James Hansen received from Teresa Heinz Kerry for insisting that humans are the cause.) Others have threatened climate alarmism skeptics with “Nuremberg-style war crimes trials.”

“Socially responsible” investor services refuse to list or recommend corporations they deem insufficiently sensitive on climate change. Companies have brought climate activists into their board rooms, lobbied Congress for climate and ethanol legislation, and retooled to produce new product lines that they hope will boost tax subsidies, profits and favorable PR. Meanwhile, headlines hype every scary scenario.

Asserting “the science is settled” ignores the debate that still rages. Proclaiming that “climate change is real,” ignores Earth’s constant, natural warming, cooling and weather anomalies. Most important, our current knowledge simply does not warrant imposing alarmist policies on the world’s poorest citizens.

Four times, mile-thick ice sheets smothered Europe and North America. A thousand years ago, Vikings raised crops and cattle in Greenland. Four centuries later, the Norsemen were frozen out by the Little Ice Age, and priests performed exorcisms on glaciers advancing toward Swiss villages. The globe warmed in 1850-1940, cooled for the next 35 years, then warmed slightly again.

Detroit experienced six snowstorms in April 1868, frosts in August 1869, a 98-degree heat wave in June 1874, and ice-free lakes in January 1877. Wisconsin’s record high of 114 degrees F in July 1936 was followed five years later by a record July low of 46. In 1980, five years after Newsweek’s “new little ice age” cover story, Washington, DC endured 67 days above 90 degrees.

Studies by National Academy of Sciences, NOAA, Danish and other scientists raise additional inconvenient truths that contradict catastrophic climate change hypotheses, computer models and predictions. The Southern Hemisphere has not warmed in the past 25 years. The “hockey stick” temperature graph (which claimed 1990-2000 was the hottest decade in 1000 years) broke under scrutiny.

The sun’s radiant heat and cosmic ray levels affect planetary temperatures and cloud formation more strongly than most climate alarmists and computer models acknowledge. Contrary to 2005 assertions and predictions, interior Greenland and Antarctica are gaining ice mass, not losing it; Gulf Stream circulation has not slowed; and the US is yet to be hit by a major hurricane in 2006.

All in all, nothing suggests that predominantly human influences have suddenly supplanted the natural forces that clearly caused climate and weather cycles in past centuries. Yet, many still demand immediate action to prevent future climate change that they insist will be due mostly or solely to humans.


Climate alarmists demand that we handcuff modern economies, to promote solutions that won’t solve a problem which extensive evidence suggests is moderate, manageable and primarily natural in origin.

Infinitely worse, they use faulty models and exaggerated fears of climate cataclysm to justify depriving Earth’s most impoverished citizens of electricity, water purification and other modern technologies that would improve and save countless lives.

That is unconscionable and immoral. It is the real climate catastrophe.

Or there is this from Dr. Roy Spencer:
("Dr. Roy Spencer is a principal research scientist for the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR-E) on NASA’s Aqua satellite.")

Climate change alarmists sink to new lows in attacking those who doubt catastrophe theories

As part of the current media frenzy over the “imminent demise” of Planet Earth from global warming, it has become fashionable to demonize global warming skeptics through a variety of tactics. This has recently been accomplished by comparing scientists who don’t believe in a global climate catastrophe to “flat-Earthers,” those who denied cigarettes cause cancer, or even those who deny the Holocaust.

It is interesting that it is not the scientists who are making the comparisons to Holocaust-deniers, but members of the media. For instance, Scott Pelley, who recently interviewed NASA’s James Hansen for CBS’s “60 Minutes,” has been quoted on the CBS News PublicEye blog saying:

“There is virtually no disagreement in the scientific community any longer about ‘global warming.’ … The science that has been done in the last three to five years has been conclusive.”

Pelley also posted this quote to the same blog:

“If I do an interview with [Holocaust survivor] Elie Wiesel, am I required as a journalist to find a Holocaust denier?”

This comparison between global warming skeptics and Holocaust-deniers illustrates the upside-down worldview that makes the public increasingly distrustful of the media. The photographs, movie footage, concentration camps, artifacts, death showers, ovens, human bones.

What does manmade global warming have? The theory that mankind has caused the globally averaged temperature to be 1 degree F warmer than it was a century ago. (I’m sure holocaust survivors appreciate the minimization of their ordeal through use of this analogy.)

In stark contrast, what we do have as a direct result of the environmentalist-led restrictions on the use of DDT is tens of millions of deaths, and hundreds of millions of cases of severe illness, from malaria in Africa. The silence from scientists and many in the media on this is remarkable. Thankfully, the trend against DDT bans is finally changing, with countries like South Africa virtually eliminating malaria with DDT. Is mankind really ready for another major policy catastrophe based upon environmentalist (and media) rhetoric?

Whenever you see any media statement that “the science is settled” on global warming, you will observe that there is no mention of what exactly is “settled” about global warming. If something specific were mentioned, the statement would either be false, or at least it would not convey the necessary urgency that we much “do something immediately about global warming.” Of course, it might also be that today’s journalists cannot deal with that level of complexity. However, for the time being, I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt.

So, just what part of “the science is settled on global warming” is really settled? Well, I would say that our current period of globally-averaged warmth is pretty indisputable, though possibly over-estimated. I say “globally-averaged” because some areas have actually cooled in the last 100 years. Furthermore, the majority of climate scientists would probably agree that some part of that warmth is manmade. But in contrast to the warmth itself, which has actually been measured with thermometers, attributing some or all of that warming to mankind’s greenhouse gas emissions is only one possible explanation among many.

A number of us would suggest that we really don’t know how much of the current warmth is manmade versus natural. I suspect we are the Holocaust-denying, cancer-ignoring, flat-Earthers who still think the Moon landing was staged.

And then there is this from Bendan O'Neill at Spiked:

Whoever thought that serious commentators would want it made illegal to have a row about the weather? One Australian columnist has proposed outlawing ‘climate change denial’. ‘David Irving is under arrest in Austria for Holocaust denial’, she wrote. ‘Perhaps there is a case for making climate change denial an offence. It is a crime against humanity, after all.’ Others have suggested that climate change deniers should be put on trial in the future, Nuremberg-style, and made to account for their attempts to cover up the ‘global warming…Holocaust’.

The message is clear: climate change deniers are scum. Their words are so wicked and dangerous that they must be silenced, or criminalised, or forced beyond the pale alongside those other crackpots who claim there was no Nazi Holocaust against the Jews. Perhaps climate change deniers should even be killed off, hanged like those evil men who were tried Nuremberg-style the first time around.

Whatever the truth about our warming planet, it is clear there is a tidal wave of intolerance in the debate about climate change which is eroding free speech and melting rational debate. There has been no decree from on high or piece of legislation outlawing climate change denial, and indeed there is no need to criminalise it, as the Australian columnist suggests. Because in recent months it has been turned into a taboo, chased out of polite society by a wink and a nod, letters of complaint, newspaper articles continually comparing climate change denial to Holocaust denial. An attitude of ‘You can’t say that!’ now surrounds debates about climate change, which in many ways is more powerful and pernicious than an outright ban. I am not a scientist or an expert on climate change, but I know what I don’t like - and this demonisation of certain words and ideas is an affront to freedom of speech and open, rational debate.

Isn't consensus wonderful?

Something Fishy?

In an article outlining some questionable economic assumptions about global warming, Alan Wood in the Australian makes the following observations:

Despite claims of overwhelming consensus, crystal clarity and so on, there is no shortage of dissenting voices.

The truth is the debate about the science of global warming has been taken over by the politicians and their placemen.

There are too many of examples of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change trying to suppress dissenting voices, and it isn't the only one.

Recently, Britain's Royal Society wrote to Exxon Mobil demanding that it cease funding for groups that "misrepresented" the science of climate change by denying the evidence. This is appalling behaviour by a supposed premier scientific academy. Since when has science proceeded by enforced consensus, other than when controlled by the church or state? Too often the dissenters have proved right.

Particularly objectionable is the use of the term climate change denier to describe dissenting voices: a deliberate attempt to draw a parallel with Holocaust deniers. Indeed, the parallel has been made explicit by various green extremists.

The truth is neither the science nor the economics of global warming is settled. The increasingly shrill attempts to suppress critics suggests a rising insecurity in the carriages of the global warming gravy train, and the exposure of the dubious economics of the Stern review can only increase it.

Maybe more folks will get on the bandwagon and back the radical notion of free inquiry, but in this day where everything is viewed as an extension of politics I tend to doubt it.

Just chalk it down to another wonderful legacy left to us all by the Baby Boomers.

Yeah, thanks a lot.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

"Consensus Science"

I will rarely make the case that anything I come up with is "original," at least in any absolute sense. We all take our different paths to different places, and after awhile you get used to the idea that where ever you go someone has been there before you. So I wasn't surprised to read this take on "Consensus Science" by Michael Crichton (taken from a talk he gave at the California Institute of Technology back in 2003):

I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you're being had.

Let's be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

There is no such thing as consensus science. If it's consensus, it isn't science. If it's science, it isn't consensus. Period.

I wish I had said that.

Monday, December 18, 2006

To Be Fair....

In my post on Lord Monckton's letter I quote a stat that, upon second thought, I think might be total BS. "Last winter’s cold snap in the UK killed 25,000."

I did some reserch on this number and found a couple of difficulties with it. For starters the number relates to 2003, not last year. But that isn't my major issue with the number. I take this from a BBC story that quotes the statistic:

A spokeswoman for Help the Aged warned that many older people would not live through the cold snap.

She said bad housing and insufficient heating aggravated circulatory diseases, which lead to strokes or heart attacks and respiratory diseases such as bronchitis or pneumonia.

The charity estimated that last winter more than 25,000 older people died from preventable causes.

"Broadly put, for each degree colder it becomes, mortality rises by one to two per cent, underlining the urgent need to prevent such needless deaths," the spokeswoman added.

The problem with such "stats" is that they are so nebulous that there is no way to say for certain if you are measuring what you claim to be measuring or not. Sure, when you have a cold snap (or a heat wave) those who are already ill will be more at risk, but how can you come up with a number that accurately describes what happened? You really can't. I think I'd rather have the number of people who died specifically from hypothermia (or heat stroke), than just take a percentage of the numbers of total deaths and claiming that is reality.

This being said, the numbers form the French heat wave are just as suspect.

Senators Rockefeller & Snowe: "Freedom of Speech Is Great... long as we agree with it."

Lord Monckton, Viscount of Brenchley, has sent an open letter to Senators Rockefeller (D-WV) and Snowe (R-Maine) in response to their recent open letter telling the CEO of ExxonMobil to cease funding climate-skeptic scientists.

Lord Monckton, former policy adviser to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, writes: "You defy every tenet of democracy when you invite ExxonMobil to deny itself the right to provide information to 'senior elected and appointed government officials' who disagree with your opinion."

In what The Charleston (WV) Daily Mail has called "an intemperate attempt to squelch debate with a hint of political consequences," Senators Rockefeller and Snowe released an open letter dated October 30 to ExxonMobil CEO, Rex Tillerson, insisting he end Exxon's funding of a "climate change denial campaign." The Senators labeled scientists with whom they disagree as "deniers," a term usually directed at "Holocaust deniers." Some voices on the political left have called for the arrest and prosecution of skeptical scientists. The British Foreign Secretary has said skeptics should be treated like advocates of Islamic terror and must be denied access to the media.

Responds Lord Monckton, "Sceptics and those who have the courage to support them are actually helpful in getting the science right. They do not, as you improperly suggest, 'obfuscate' the issue: they assist in clarifying it by challenging weaknesses in the 'consensus' argument and they compel necessary corrections ... "

Lord Monckton's Churchillian reproof continues, "You acknowledge the effectiveness of the climate sceptics. In so doing, you pay a compliment to the courage of those free-thinking scientists who continue to research climate change independently despite the likelihood of refusal of publication in journals that have taken preconceived positions; the hate mail and vilification from ignorant environmentalists; and the threat of loss of tenure in institutions of learning which no longer make any pretence to uphold or cherish academic freedom."

Let's hear it for Lord Monckton. It is sort of sad when sitting U.S. Senators have to be taught a lesson in fundamental freedoms by the nobility of the nation we fought for our own freedoms. It amazes me that sitting Senators can engage in not so veiled campaigns of political intimidation and no one says a thing.

There are many people who think that just because what they think might happen in the future is bad, no one is allowed to gainsay them in any fashion whatsoever. Science doesn't work that way. It also doesn't work by consensus either. Just because you can get a quorum of scientists to claim "X" is the gospel truth, it doesn't follow that people shouldn't be allowed to question "X". Science is the committment to follow a method. Therefore it is NOT acceptable to dismiss someone's work on the basis that it was funded by this or that organization. That is irrelevant to the soundness of the research IN EVERY CASE. For example, the problem with the tobacco research of the 60's and 70's was the lousy scientific standards employed and NOT the fact that Phillip Morris helped pay for it.

The truth is the scientific consensus of just 18 months ago has been shown to be wrong. (From Lord Monckton's letter):

The UN will also reduce its high-end estimate of sea-level rise to 2100 from 3 feet to just 17 inches. Morner (2004), a lifelong student of sea level changes, says: “There is a total absence of any recent‘acceleration in sea level rise’ as often claimed by IPCC and related groups. … our best estimate of possible future sea-level changes is +10 +/- 10cm in a century, or, maybe, even +5 +/- 15cm.” that is a maximum of 8 inches in 100 years.

When you consider that the average rate of sea level rise for the last 15,000 years has been 7 inches a century, it turns out that the skeptics had it right 18 months ago and the "consensus" had it wrong.

That is one of the reasons you allow unpopular speech in the first place. It allows for unpopular (but right and beneficial) thoughts to win folks over in the long run. Stifiling expression for whatever reason works against societies. Did all of these people get through college without reading J.S. Mill's "On Liberty"???

Monckton's letter has a few other tidbit I found fascinating. Especially this:

An unusual heatwave in France a couple of years ago killed 3,000 old people. As is now customary, global warming was blamed, though the real cause was a naturally occurring “blocking high”. Last winter’s cold snap in the UK killed 25,000. The former event attracted many times more publicity than the latter.

Was this really not reported? I certainly hadn't heard about it and I live with about as big an anglophile there is, and watch BBC World news a couple times a week. It doesn't fit in with the espoused orthodoxy so we just pretend it didn't happen?

I'm sure that is exactly how Newton and Einstein operated.

(Thanks to Jim Rose for pointing to this.)

A Good Thing To See

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Muslim leaders here denounce conference of Holocaust deniers

Local Muslim leaders denounced on Sunday the recent international conference in Iran attended by many who deny the existence of the Holocaust.Spokeswoman Ghazala Hayat read a statement at the annual general body meeting at Daar ul Islam mosque in West County. "We, the community of the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis, denounce questioning the authenticity of the number of Jewish deaths in the Holocaust. … Unimaginable crimes were committed by the Nazis during World War II. Denying the pain endured by millions of human beings only intensifies it," she said.About 100 participants listened while she read the statement.

Erbab Majeed, principal of the Sunday school at the mosque, said the statement was necessary to distinguish between the views of Muslims here from those in other parts of the world. "They made their statement, and we're making ours," he said.

Good for them. Let's hope such statements are repeated all over the world.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Political Science Redux

The American Political Science Review has a special Centennial issue with 24 essays covering the varied developments in the discipline since the publication began in 1906. Some of you may know that I went to grad school, getting an M.A. in Political Science from the University of Illinois and another masters in political philosophy from The Catholic University of America in D.C., so it is interesting to see these types of discussions that I am generally (and thankfully) removed from. I'm still working through the essays, or I should say the dozen or so essays that peak my interest, but I see the authors have come more to praise Ceasar than to bury him. That's fine I suppose....but it might have been nice to see an essay that dealt with some of the less savory aspects of the story that is American Political Science; for example, the early advocation of eugenics and even the use of psychopharmalogical agents to "control" the masses. (There is a veiled reference to some of this in an essay by John Dryzek, "Revolutions without Enemies: Transformations in Political Science" , but the early days of the discipline are largely left in a murky light.)

More to come?

(Thanks to Daniel Drezner for pointing this APRS pub.)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Putting Your Money Where Your Idiotic Ideals Are

A few years ago the Onion (America's Finest News Source) did a story about academics blasting a white family from Iowa for lacking "diversity." It was your garden variety reductio ad absurdum joke, nicely done and to the point.

The question I have is, does it still count as a joke when people actually start going out to make a "racially diverse family" ala Angelina Jolie and Co.?

Don't get me wrong, I have good friends who have two children they adopted from the Phillipines. It was a beautiful thing to do and a better or happier family you can't imagine. However, if I heard them say something like, "Well, we already have an asian, maybe we better get a black baby next time.....hmm...or do you think it might be possible to scare up an eskimo child?" I'd think they were sounding pretty damn goofy. Not to mention it kinda treats these children as some sort of expensive accessory, like folks who have two of the same model sports cars only painted differently.....that always struck me as tacky.

Doing the same thing with children sort of creeps me out.

Housekeeping (I Do So Hate)

I've been perusing over my links to other blogs and news sites and I have seen that I am not the only one to start running silently. I was surprised to see that Left2Right , basically the David Vellman Project ("I am the academic in the sky, looking for neo-cons, I can call them names!") is looking a little green around the gills. (How is THAT for mixed metaphors! HA!) It was released with such fan fare just two years ago. Here was the ivory tower coming down from their heady heights to enlighten the great unwashed! How could they have failed??

They just couldn't get everyone to Michigan State......

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Where's The Closest Re-Education Camp?

Turns out it is at Michigan State University. Really there is no way I can summarize the jaw dropping sense of horror this "program" instills in me. Go over to FIRE and read about it. And if you are planning to attend MSU any time soon don't forget your copy of The Little Red Book.

Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty!

It seems that the mountain lion is reestablishing itself in my old home state of Missouri. I'm of two minds when I hear about such things. On the one hand, it is nice to see species return after so long absent. (Although, I'm not sure if the mountain lion was ever an officially designated "endangered" species as such.)

One the other side, most of us are used to the "wilds" of Missouri being pretty benign. It will take some doing to get used to sharing the state with an animal that can and has caused problems when it crosses paths with us humans. Besides, I'd hate to get eaten at my next family reunion. (Hmmm...sounds like the beginning of a dirty joke there....something to do with the Ozarks I'm sure.)

Of course Missouri is simply crawling with deer, so the mountain lions can do us all a big favor by doing a little feasting. We have the same trouble in my new home state of Wisconsin, although I've heard nothing about mountain lions here. However, Wisconsin DOES have the bearwolf (or so it is said.) That being said I think I'd rather run into this... opposed to this...

Wouldn't you?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Making Things Too Easy

Well, they are updating the interface on the old Blogger system. The upshoot of it seems to be that it will be even easier to throw random thoughts down on the world wide web (as if it was a real trek through the Sahara before.) But...when you get out of the habit of doing something, little things can entice you back in. It hasn't helped that there has been a positive dearth of interesting things to talk about....or the interesting thing to talk about have already been talked about ad nausem. Elections are usually good fodder, but the '06 vote was so obviously over before it started it gets nothing but a yawn from yours truly. (In fact I called the '06 election correctly on the night of the '04 election. If you knew my wife she would verify that fact. You probably don't know her, so just take my word for it.)

On the other hand my life as a sports fan has had the thrill of victory (bless you Tony LaRussa), and the utter ignominy of wretched defeat.......(I'm a Blues fan. Sadly.) However, this wasn't meant to be a "sports blog." The occasional post on the subject will have to suffice.

I've no idea if this post marks the beginning of a more active blog or not. For me, inspiration striking is not the lead pipe cinch that the Dems were in '06.