Jan 18

Reading racism into pulp fiction

I have a scholarly interest in the historical roots of science fiction and related genres. For this reason, I sometimes seek out and read late 19th and early 20th-century fiction, both classic and “pulp”, that I have reason to believe was formative for these genres. Nowadays I read such books critically, trying to understand what they reveal about the assumptions and world-views of the authors as well as appreciating what the authors were intending as artists.

My recent readings in this category have have included some rediscovery of the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs (which I read much less critically as a child). I’m presently reading for the first time the Cossack stories of Harold Lamb, rousing tales of battle and derring-do set in Russia and India and Northern Asia around the turn of the 17th century that are at least as well constructed as anything Robert Louis Stevenson or Alexandre Dumas ever wrote. As I’ve been reading, I’ve been comparing Burroughs and Lamb to Rudyard Kipling’s tales of India, and H. Rider Haggard’s lost-worlds tales of Africa, and to Talbot Mundy’s adventure stories also set in India.

One of the obligatory features of modern reactions to these books is to tut-tut at racist and colonialist stereotyping in them. This Wall Street Journal review of Lamb is typical, waxing a bit sententious about “brushes with anti-semitism” in the Cossack stories. But I’m learning to be critical about that sort of reaction, too — because, in rereading Burroughs, I began to understand that ascriptions of “racism” are an oversimplification of Burroughs every bit as crude as the stereotypes he’s often accused of trafficking in. And now, reading Lamb, I find that these “brushes with anti-Semitism” are raising more questions in my mind about the comfortable prejudices of my own time than they are about Harold Lamb’s.

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Jan 14

The Devil in Haiti

There’s a great deal of ridicule being aimed at Pat Robertson for describing the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti as God’s retribution on the country for a deal with the Devil supposedly made by the leaders of the 1791 slave revolt in which they threw off French control. And Robertson is a foaming loon, to be sure…but when I dug for the source of the legend I found a curiously plausible account:

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Jan 13

Twenty Four Million New Socialist Men = War

A silly webzine posts some serious news:

A new study released Monday by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences found that more than 24 million Chinese men of marrying age are likely to find themselves unable to find women to marry come 2020. The reason? There just aren’t enough females to go around, because Chinese mothers often abort their baby girls.

This raises a question what do you do with 24 million excess New Socialist Men?

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Jan 12

Beyond root causes

One of the consequences of the Great Recession we’ve been in since 2008 may be the long-overdue death of the “root causes” theory of crime and criminality. In A Crime Theory Demolished Heather McDonald points out that crime rates are dropping to 50-year lows even as unemployment hits a 70-year high.

While she is right to point out that this makes a joke of “root causes” theory, she doesn’t really propose an alternative to it, other than by waving a hand in the direction of rising incarceration rates. And I don’t believe that explanation; too many of our prisoners are nonviolent drug offenders. In fact that category alone seems to account for most of the prison population growth over the last couple of decades, which suggests that increased incarceration is suppressing other sorts of crime very little or not at all. (See the update below.)

It’s also been noted recently that the trends in crime rates make nonsense of the notion that civilian firearms cause crime — even so reliable a bellwether of bland bien-pensant liberalism as the Christian Science Monitor has remarked upon this.

Mind you, the continuing fall in crime also falsifies some of the pet theories of social conservatives. They’re prone to chunter on about “defining deviance down” and the coarsening of popular culture as though sales of Grand Theft Auto actually had something to do with rates of grand theft auto. Given that there has been no sign of pop culture reverting to the 1950s (or whatever other era they imagine to have been ideal), this too seems an unsustainable explanation.

So what is actually going on here?

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Jan 05

Escalating Complexity and the Collapse of Elite Authority

In yesterday’s New York Times, David Brooks wrote perceptively about the burgeoning populist revolt against the “educated classes”. Brooks was promptly slapped around by various blogosphere essayists such as Will Collier, who noted that Brooks’s column reads like a weaselly apologia for the dismal failures of the “educated classes” in the last couple of decades.

Our “educated classes” cannot bring themselves to come to grips with the fact that fundamentalist Islam has proclaimed war on us. They have run the economy onto recessionary rocks with overly-clever financial speculation and ham-handed political interventions, and run up a government deficit of a magnitude that has never historically resulted in consequences less disastrous than hyperinflation. And I’m not taking conventional political sides when I say these things; Republicans have been scarcely less guilty than Democrats.

In the first month of a new decade, unemployment among young Americans has cracked 52% and we’re being officially urged to believe that an Islamic suicide bomber trained by Al-Qaeda in Yemen was an “isolated extremist”.

One shakes one’s head in disbelief. Is there anything our “educated classes” can’t fuck up, any reality they won’t deny? Will Collier fails, however to ask the next question: why did they fail?

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Dec 30

A no-shit Sherlock

Instapundit and John Nolte are quite right: the new Sherlock Holmes movie was better than we had a right to expect from the trailers. We were led to anticipate a fun, mindless action comedy – a sort of reprise of Iron Man in Victorian drag, with Robert Downey Jr. in full scenery-chewing mode.

I would have enjoyed watching that movie just fine, thank you. I’ve read the entire Holmes canon, but I don’t worship it any more than Arthur Conan Doyle did, and having Guy Ritchie reprocess it into a mere popcorn flick wouldn’t particularly have bothered me. But…to my pleased surprise, Ritchie aimed for — and achieved — something much better.

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Dec 28

Terrorism and the militia obligation

Section 311 of US Code Title 10, entitled, “Militia: composition and classes” reads:

“(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.

(b) The classes of the militia are —

(1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and

(2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.”

That is, all males of military age who are or intend to become citizens of the United States are under federal statute the “unorganized militia”, and have the duty of the militia to defend the Constitution of the United States against enemies foreign and domestic (as both naturalizing citizens and members of the armed forces swear to do).

This is always worth remembering, but never more than when prompt and violent action by civilians has recently prevented the murder by bombing of an entire planeload of passengers, as occurred on December 25th 2009 on Northwest flight 253.

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Dec 22

‘Twas the Chinese did the deed

Now, this is interesting. Mark Lynas writes this: Copenhagen climate conference How do I know China wrecked the Copenhagen deal? I was in the room.

I had a strong hunch that it was going to turn out that the Chinese had trashed any hope of an agreement in Copenhagen, and Mr. Lynas mostly duplicates my reasoning — well, except for the part where I’m inclined to feel grateful to the Chinese for their obstructionism; he isn’t.

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Dec 19

Copenhagen Conference Crashes

Well, it’s happened. The Copenhagen climate conference has concluded with a three-page fig-leaf over its naked failure that even the New York Times can’t spin as good news for the AGW alarmists. It’s kind of entertaining to watch them try, actually, but the glum tone of the report is palpable.

The best laugh line from the article is that President Obama left before the vote on the document because he wanted to get back to Washington ahead of a major snowstorm. Yeah, I know, weather not climate, but it’s still funny. Good thing Al Gore cancelled or they’d probably be trying to dig out from under record accumulation.

I won’t say this was the best possible outcome from Copenhagen; the best possible outcome would have been an outright PR disaster that wrecked the careers of everyone even remotely connected with this boondoggle. And yes, on a sane planet the fact that they invited Robert Mugabe, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez to speak would have been that PR disaster; cripes, were they trying for the thug-tyrant trifecta? But having all that sound and fury add up to a big fat nothing is excellent.

It’s excellent because, by the time the kleptocrat gang at the UN can wind up for another try, the likelihood is that the “scientific” support for their AGW scam will have been entirely exposed as a tissue of fraud. That’s the way things seem to be heading, anyway. Faster, please!

Dec 16

Crazy in Copenhagen

Two days before the deadline for an agreement at the 2009 Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change, Mother Nature is demonstrating the same sly sense of humor that Al Gore, el jefe of the global-warming bloviators, often seems to elicit from the old gal. That is to say, it’s snowing like a a sonovabitch and there’s no hiding the decline in temperatures…

While the weather outside is frightful, the prospect inside is delightful: it looks as though the negotiations are going to collapse in a welter of incompatible agendas, mutual finger-pointing, and much talk of high-handedness and betrayal. If we are really lucky, the wreck will cause such lasting bitterness that nothing like this three-ring circus of purblind idiocy will ever be seriously attempted again.

But wait…difficult though it may be to credit from the news coverage, there’s at least one person in Copenhagen today who sounds like neither an unctuous Orwellian gusher of transnational-progressive newspeak nor an outright spluttering loon. And who might that be?

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Dec 06

“The scientists have been tied up and gagged in the back room”

The unravelling of the AGW fraud continues to provide an entertaining mix of high drama and low comedy. My favorite recent entry on the CRU mob is a screed from a professor of mathematics in Canada: “All of my colleagues have had to endure these bullies and criminals for a very long time.”

Then there’s David Bellamy’s tale of being canned from a very successful science-popularizer gig on the BBC because he dared to speak anti-AGW heresy.

That’s a theme in a lot of recent revelations. As long as the lid was on the CRU’s fraud, nobody dared speak up about for fear of being dismissed as a crank. Now that the AGW crowd’s power to suppress dissent has been broken, expect to hear a lot more actual scientists — not politicians, but scientists — coming forward to confirm that the emperor has no clothes.

For the “low comedy” part, return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear when Time Magazine was predicting catastrophic global cooling. And Newsweek, too. It’s hilarious how easy it is to substitute “warning” for “cooling” and have an article that could have been written last week.

For more low comedy, at least one news story alleges that the IPCC intends to investigate the allegations of CRU misconduct. Yup, I’m sure; the kleptocrats in our permanent political class don’t like it when their plans for a power grab go awry, and the U.N.’s contingent doubtless wants to know who’s to blame for this debacle. For some reason, the phrase “the prisoner was shot while attempting to escape” keeps running through my head.

Dec 04

GPSD and Code Excellence

There’s a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek project called the The Alliance for Code Excellence (“Building a better tomorrow — one line of code at a time.”) that sells Bad Code Offset certificates. They fund open source projects to produce good code that will, in theory, offset all the bad code out there and mitigate the environmental harm it does. They’ve asked software authors to write essays on how their projects drive out bad code, offering $500 dollar prizes.

I sat down to write an essay about GPSD in the same vein of high drollery as the Alliance’s site, then realized that GPSD actually has a serious case to make. We really do drive out bad code, in both direct and indirect ways, and we supply examples of good practice for emulation.

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Nov 29

Facts to fit the theory? Actually, no facts at all!

It just keeps getting better and better. Now we learn that the CRU has admitted to throwing away the primary data on which their climate models were based. I quote: “We do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added (quality controlled and homogenised) data.”

This means that even the CRU itself has no idea how accidentally corrupt or fraudulently altered its data might be. And the IPCC reports used the CRU’s temperature reconstructions as a gold standard. So did other climatologists all over the world. And now they can’t be verified! Without a chain of provenance tieing them back to actual measurements, every single figure and trendline in the CRU reconstructions might as well be PDOOMA, a fine old engineering acronym expanding to “Pulled Directly Out Of My Ass”.

Words don’t often fail me, but this is beyond ridiculous. How could anyone who calls himself a scientist allow the primary data and metadata to be destroyed? I’ve long thought the AGW case was built on sand, but it’s worse – it’s built on utter vacuum. Somebody will have to do the work of collating raw historical data from the weather stations and time periods the CRU mined all over again before we will know anything about the quality of their results. A significant portion of the climatological literature — everything that used CRU reconstructions or models as an input — will have to be outright scrapped.

While I still think the leaked emails and code make a strong case for active fraud, the scale of this disclosure makes that almost irrelevant. It is, at the very least, procedural incompetence on a breathtaking scale — the most astounding case of my lifetime, and I’m hard-put to think of a parallel in the entire history of science.

UPDATE: High drama! There’s a strong argument, based on the CRU dump, that the CRU’s claim to have lost the data in the 1980s has to be a falsehood. If so, we’ve moved from an incompetence-centered explanation back to a fraud-centered one. But then, a counterclaim that the reporting was bad and they’ve only destroyed 5% of their data. Pass the popcorn…

Nov 28

AGW fraud unravels at an accelerating pace

AGW alarmists, led by the “hockey team”, have dismissed criticisms that urban heat-island effects have been distorting surface temperature measurements upwards. Now Vincent Gray, a reviewer of the 2007 IPCC report, says this: not only is the single paper on which this dismissal is based fraudulent, the hockey team knows it’s fraudulent and keeps citing it anyway!

Paleoclimatologist Eduardo Zorita writes: “I may confirm what has been written in other places: research in some areas of climate science has been and is full of machination, conspiracies, and collusion, as any reader can interpret from the CRU-files.”

A Franco-Russian geomagnetics research group who was rebuffed when it tried to get primary temperature datasets from the CRU has assembled its own series of average temperature efforts by going back to ground-station measurements that the hockey team has never had an opportunity to “correct”. The result?

Aside from a very cold spell in 1940, temperatures were flat for most of the 20th century, showing no warming while fossil fuel use grew. Then in 1987 they shot up by about 1 C and have not shown any warming since. This pattern cannot be explained by rising carbon dioxide concentrations, unless some critical threshold was reached in 1987; nor can it be explained by climate models.

The report on this is well worth reading, as it goes into some detail on how the geomagneticians’ statistical methods produced a different — and much higher quality — result than the IPCC did. Among other things, they used daily rather than monthly averaging and avoided suspect techniques for statistically inferring temperature at places it hadn’t actually been measured.

Interestingly, their calculation of average temperature in the U.S. says “The warmest period was in 1930, slightly above the temperatures at the end of the 20th century. “. Could this inconvenient warm spell be what the VERY ARTIFICAL correction was intended to suppress?

I can almost pity the poor AGW spinmeisters. Perhaps they still think they can put a political fix in to limit the damage from the CRU leak. But what’s happening now is that other scientists who have seen the business end of the hockey team’s fraud, stonewalling, and bullying are beginning to speak out. The rate of collapse is accelerating.

Nov 26

Facts to fit the theory

On 12 Oct 2009, climatologist and “hockey-team” member Kevin Trenberth wrote:

The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong.

Eyebrows have quite rightly been raised over this quote. It is indeed a travesty that AGW theory cannot account for the lack of warming, and bears out what I and other AGW critics have been saying for years about the fallaciousness and lack of predictive power of AGW models.

But the second sentence is actually far more damning. “The data is surely wrong.” This is how and where most scientific fraud begins.

Scientific fraudsters are not, in general, people pushing theories they know to be false. Outright charlatanism is not actually common, because it’s relatively easy to detect. Humans are evolved for a social competitive environernt
and are rather good at spotting lies, except when they’re fooling themselves because they want to believe.

In general, scientific fraudsters are people who are overinvested in a theory that they believe. Because they know it must be true, they interpret predictive failures as “The data is surely wrong”. It is only a short step from “The data is surely wrong” to fixing the pesky data until it looks right — see my previous post for an immediate example.

It’s only slightly longer step after that to destroying the inconvenient data that fails to fit your theory — something one of the hockey-teamers actually called for and there is strong reason to suspect they actually did.

Sometimes, actually, the data is wrong. Occasionally, experimental error will appear to falsify a theory that is actually correct. But research groups are entitled to the benefit of that doubt only when they meet the most rigorous standards of full disclosure about the “wrong” data. Not when their reaction is to conceal and destroy it.

Nov 25

Will the AGW fraud discredit science?

In response to the mounting evidence of fraud, data falsification, and criminal conspiracy by the “hockey team” clique of climatologists pushing anthropogenic-global-warming (AGW) theory, there has been serious and concerned speculation that the collapse of this scam may damage the credibility of science in general.

This is a reasonable thing to be concerned about, given that the species of toxic slime mold known as “creationists” have been oozing all over the blogosphere with suggestions that evolutionary biology is just as bogus. I think there are three important lessons to be drawn here: one is some reassurance from the history of major scientific frauds, another is a heuristic about when we should be suspicious of “science”, and a third is the importance of transparency.

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Nov 24

Hiding the Decline: Part 1 – The Adventure Begins

From the CRU code file osborn-tree6/briffa_sep98_d.pro , used to prepare a graph purported to be of Northern Hemisphere temperatures and reconstructions.

;
; Apply a VERY ARTIFICAL correction for decline!!
;
yrloc=[1400,findgen(19)*5.+1904]
valadj=[0.,0.,0.,0.,0.,-0.1,-0.25,-0.3,0.,- 0.1,0.3,0.8,1.2,1.7,2.5,2.6,2.6,$
2.6,2.6,2.6]*0.75 ; fudge factor
if n_elements(yrloc) ne n_elements(valadj) then message,’Oooops!’
;
yearlyadj=interpol(valadj,yrloc,timey)

This, people, is blatant data-cooking, with no pretense otherwise. It flattens a period of warm temperatures in the 1940s 1930s — see those negative coefficients? Then, later on, it applies a positive multiplier so you get a nice dramatic hockey stick at the end of the century.

All you apologists weakly protesting that this is research business as usual and there are plausible explanations for everything in the emails? Sackcloth and ashes time for you. This isn’t just a smoking gun, it’s a siege cannon with the barrel still hot.

UPDATE2: Now the data is 0.75 scaled. I think I interpreted the yrloc entry incorrectly last time, introducing an off-by-one. The 1400 point (same as the 1904) is omitted as it confuses gnuplot. These are details; the basic hockey-stick shape is unaltered.

UPDATE3: Graphic is tenmporily unavailable due to a server glitch. I’m contacting the site admins about this.