Day By Day

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Have they no shame? Of course not, when hundreds of billions of dollars and careers are on the line global warming alarmists pull out all the stops. Fortunately there are scientists with integrity to expose the frauds. The Daily Mail has the story:

It was hailed as the scientific study that ended the global warming debate once and for all – the research that, in the words of its director, ‘proved you should not be a sceptic, at least not any longer’.

Professor Richard Muller, of Berkeley University in California, and his colleagues from the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperatures project team (BEST) claimed to have shown that the planet has warmed by almost a degree  centigrade since 1950 and is warming continually.

Published last week ahead of a major United Nations climate summit in Durban, South Africa, next month, their work was cited around the world as irrefutable evidence that only the most stringent measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions can save civilisation as we know it.

It was cited uncritically by, among others, reporters and commentators from the BBC, The Independent, The Guardian, The Economist and numerous media outlets in America.

The Washington Post said the BEST study had ‘settled the climate change debate’ and showed that anyone who remained a sceptic was committing a ‘cynical fraud’.

But today The Mail on Sunday can reveal that a leading member of Prof Muller’s team has accused him of  trying to mislead the public by hiding the fact that BEST’s research shows global warming has stopped.

Prof Judith Curry, who chairs the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at America’s prestigious Georgia Institute of Technology, said that Prof Muller’s claim that he has proven global warming sceptics wrong was also a ‘huge mistake’, with no  scientific basis.

Prof Curry is a distinguished climate researcher with more than 30 years experience and the second named co-author of the BEST project’s four research papers.
Read the whole thing here.

UPDATE: Charlie Martin over at PJ Media discusses this and surrounding controversies and links to Dr. Curry's blog posting on the subject [here]. It appears that the WSJ article cites Dr. Curry accurately, but couches her comments in terms that are more inflammatory than those with which she is comfortable. The essential point is that the data set is good, but that the interpretation placed on it by the lead investigator is not supportable. The published interpretation does indeed "hide" the recent decline in temperatures, but she in no way attributes that to a conspiracy. Such attributions, she suggests, are due to journalistic excess.

Spuds and the Modern World

There's a really nice piece in the latest Smithsonian Magazine by Charles Mann on how the introduction of potatoes to Europe changed history. It's a good introduction to some aspects of what historians call "the Columbian Exchange" -- the transfer of peoples, plants, animals, and diseases between the Americas and Eurasia that in a very real sense produced the modern world.

Read it here.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Left/Right Divide

Mark Schmitt and Kevin Williamson lay out the rational liberal and conservative positions on a number of issues  -- something that you almost never get from the shouting heads on broadcast and cable TV. For the record, I think Williamson wins easily, especially on the subject of public education, but you might view things differently.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sowell on Bullying

Tom Sowell points out the staggering hypocrisy of the media's campaign against bullying:

The current media and political crusade against "bullying" in schools seems... to be based on what groups are in vogue at the moment. For years, there have been local newspaper stories about black kids in schools in New York and Philadelphia beating up Asian classmates, some beaten so badly as to require medical treatment.

But the national media hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil. Asian Americans are not in vogue today, just as blacks were not in vogue in the 1920s.
Meanwhile, the media are focused on bullying directed against youngsters who are homosexual. Gays are in vogue.

Most of the stories about the bullying of gays in schools are about words directed against them, not about their suffering the violence that has long been directed against Asian youngsters or about the failure of the authorities to do anything serious to stop black kids from beating up Asian kids.
An excellent point. He makes some more important ones when he notes that extending the definition of bullying to include speech threatens fundamental rights and that the anti-bullying activists are themselves acting frequently like bullies. Read the whole article here.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Another Story You Might Have Missed

Because it got little attention from the MSM.

Over the weekend the people of Tunisia held their first election after the deposition of dictator Ben Ali. This was not big news in this country because there was no political advantage for Obama in it. The Tunisians sparked the series of uprisings in the Arab world and carried through their revolt without Western interference, so we can't take credit for any of it. Now the Tunisians have created an interim government charged with crafting a new constitution for their country. What about the outcome of the elections, the final results of which will not be known for several days? What does it mean? Well, it depends on where you get your information.

The NY Times reports the election as a win for "moderates".
[A] moderate Islamic party, Ennahda, is expected to win at least a plurality of seats in the Tunisian assembly. The party’s leaders have vowed to create another kind of new model for the Arab world, one reconciling Islamic principles with Western-style democracy.
Of course they would -- they have consistently tried to cast the wave of revolutions, which they call the "Arab Spring" in the most favorable terms possible.

The BBC agrees that "Ennahda" is polling well, but characterizes it quite differently from the NYT:
Islamist party Ennahda is expected to win the most votes, though it is not clear if it will gain a majority.
Reuters splits the difference, referring to Ennahda as a moderately Islamist Ennahda party.

USA Today also adopts the moderate Islamist designation for Ennahda but notes that heretofore Tunisia has been a determinedly secular and tolerant society and that Ennahda's rise is a major victory for the Islamist forces in the region.They also note that the "Progressive Democratic Party" a secular party which is receptive to Western culture did poorly. So, even if the Islamists have not overwhelmed the opposition, the election seems to represent a broad rejection of secularism.

So what does it mean? Who knows at this point. The fact that the elections were broadly supported and carried out with no disturbance is a hopeful sign, but the rise of Islamism might be troubling. One thing is sure -- the biggest source of discontent in Tunisia is widespread unemployment, and since the country's economy depends greatly on Western tourism whatever government is finally installed will be careful not to take any actions that would permanently undermine that lucrative business and that consideration is likely to put limits on Islamic radicalism.

Stories You Might Have Missed

Because the MSM has generally ignored them. Over the weekend Louisiana held an open primary that Gov. Bobby Jindal won in an overwhelming landslide. Against a field of nine opponents he won two-thirds of the vote. Jindal is a rising star in the Republican Party and one to keep an eye on.

Read about this most excellent governor's win here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

When Was The Best Time And Place To Be Alive?

I have always thought that I and my contemporaries were blessed to live in the best of times and places, America in the second half of the Twentieth Century, and nothing has shaken that belief, but still it is interesting to wonder what other times and places would be desirable. Patrick Dillon considers a number of alternatives and in doing so makes us think about what constitutes a good life. Read his essay here.

His choice, late Seventeenth-Century London. You can visit that time and locale in Neil Stephenson's long, long Baroque Cycle. I did so a few years ago, and must admit Dillon has a point. If you have the patience to read through 3,000 pages of whimsical historical fiction, by all means to so. It's quite an experience.

Imagine being a young Puritan lad who goes off to college and finds that his roommate is Isaac Newton.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sexual Assault and Occupy Baltimore

Earlier I noted that the Occupy Baltimore farce is not attracting very many people -- maybe this is one of the reasons:

Cliff Notes version: if you've been sexually assaulted, contact one of our counselors for help and support, not the police. Derek Hunter of Big Government visited the Occupy Baltimore demonstration and picked up some of the literature laying down the rules:
Sexual abuse or assault at Occupy Baltimore is in violation of our values, and will not be tolerated. It is an explicit policy of Occupy Baltimore to prohibit abuse by any members of the community upon another person. Violation of this policy will result in the abuser no longer being welcome at the occupation.
So sexual abuse or assault are against "explicit policy" and will get you shunned? What about arrested
 Read the whole thing here.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Thing From Another Perspective

Peter Watts, marine biologist and brilliant SF author who gives away much of his best work for free [see here], has written the story of John Carpenter's classic monster flick, "The Thing", from the viewpoint of the alien. You can read Watt's story for free at Clarkesworld here. Since the most recent remake of John W. Campbell's original story "Who Goes There?" [read for free here] hits the screens today, you might want to take a look at the original story and its most recent literary offspring.

History, The Customer Reviews

What if participants could write internet reviews of historical phenomena the way they rate restaurants? Patricia Pearson, writing in the New Yorker, tells us. An example:

I took my daughter to see the Oracle for her sixteenth birthday, and, really, I did not feel that the visit was worth sacrificing a whole goat. If you’re going to predict the fall of Lydia, there should be better music. Also, the food at the entrance to the underground chamber was very substandard. The figs were withered, and I’ve found better-tasting olives under corpses. We definitely don’t plan to go back.
Read more here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Verdict of History

Time and again you hear people say that history will render judgment -- will vindicate, condemn, celebrate, etc. -- the people, policies, movements or other phenomena that compel our attention in the present. In a certain sense that is true. Historians of the future will, according to their various biases and interests, simultaneously praise, condemn, ignore, celebrate, etc. our contemporaries, and there most likely there will be no permanent consensus. History is an interpretive art, and the practice of history takes the form of an endless argument.

Endless indeed! Witness a recent review article by British classical scholar, Mary Beard. She surveys a number of recent books on Alexander the Great and notes that there is little agreement among them. More than 2300 years after his death, scholars are still arguing about the Macedonian conqueror and his exploits. What is more, as Beard notes, the main contours of the debate have not changed in more than twenty centuries. Sure, from time to time new points of argument have been introduced that reflect contemporary concerns -- British historians at the height of empire tended to interpret Alexanders conquests as a civilizing mission, reflecting their preferred understanding of their own imperial project; recently some scholars have focused on Alexander's sexuality, etc. -- but such nuances come and go and the basic arguments remain. And there is no final judgment -- no resolution to the debate -- and there never will be.

So it is likely to be with our contemporary concerns. Future historians will argue, revision will follow revision, and the dialogue will continue to the end of time. So much for the verdict of history.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Clarifying the Situation in Harrisburg

Read it and weep:

(Reuters) - Pennsylvania's capital, Harrisburg, filed for a rare Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy on Wednesday after it was unable to resolve its debt crisis with creditors and faced a possible takeover by the state.
Harrisburg becomes one of the biggest cities to opt for the little-used chapter of the U.S. bankruptcy code.
Harrisburg said in a court filing it was unable to continue paying for critical services as well as roughly $300 million in debt that funded an incinerator project.....

Pennsylvania's legislature is considering a bill that would call for an eventual takeover of Harrisburg and the forced implementation of a fiscal rescue plan.

In July, the city council rejected a state-approved rescue plan, which called on it to renegotiate labor deals, cut jobs, and sell or lease its most valuable assets, including the incinerator and parking garages.
In August, the council rejected a similar approach crafted by Mayor Linda Thompson, saying that both plans were overly burdensome for Harrisburg residents and did not ask enough of the county, bondholders and the bond insurer, Assured Guaranty.

At least the filing has made it clear for all to see that the position of the Council, which has rejected all proposed solutions to the crisis, boils down to the protection of government jobs and labor deals.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Revisiting Pinker

A few days ago I wrote on this blog about Steven Pinker's latest book in which he discusses one of my favorite themes -- the progress of peace in the modern world. Here's the author himself talking about the book and its very important subject.

Occupy Baltimore Fizzles

Walking past the "Occupy Baltimore" site at the Inner Harbor on a Saturday Afternoon.

I have to say there's not much interest being shown. I understand that the evening crowd was better -- up to about fifty people, but that's still not much of a turnout, especially given all the media hype this stuff has gotten. Apparently not very many people here want to "live communism, spread anarchy".


The small turnout in the evening is confirmed by the pictures at the "Occupy Baltimore" facebook page here.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Are Things Really That Bad?

With the exception of a few decades toward the end of the Nineteenth Century, American elites have lived in fear of foreign domination. From the "Founding Fathers'" fears of British, Spanish or French domination to today's worries about China and the emerging Muslim world, those who shape American policy and popular consciousness have fretted about foreign threats to our independence, our way of life, or even our existence. Joseph Nye confronts the most recent of these declinist fantasies, those regarding China's ascendency, and argues that things are not nearly so bad as our leadership suggests:
Americans have a long history of incorrectly estimating their power. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, after Sputnik, many thought that the Soviets might get the better of America; in the 1980’s, it was the Japanese. Now it is the Chinese. But, with America’s debt on a path to equaling its national income in a decade, and a fumbling political system that cannot seem to address the country’s fundamental challenges, are the “declinists” finally right?

Much will depend on the uncertainties – often underestimated – brought about by future political change in China. Economic growth will bring China closer to the US in power resources, but that doesn't necessarily mean that China will surpass the US as the most powerful country.

[E]ven if China suffers no major domestic political setback, many current projections are based simply on GDP growth. They ignore US military and soft-power advantages, as well as China’s geopolitical disadvantages....

[T]he US has very real problems, but the American economy remains highly productive. America remains first in total R&D expenditure, first in university rankings, first in Nobel prizes, and first on indices of entrepreneurship. According to the World Economic Forum, which released its annual report on economic competitiveness last month, the US is the fifth most competitive economy in the world (behind the small economies of Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, and Singapore). China ranks only 26th.

Moreover, the US remains at the forefront of such cutting-edge technologies as biotech and nanotechnology. This is hardly a picture of absolute economic decline.
Read the whole thing here.

Declinism is just part of a more general phenomenon -- a persistent apocalyptic sensibility on the part of America's elites. The republic, it seems, has always been in peril. This sensibility has good aspects -- it has informed important reform movements [Horace Mann's insistence that "we must educate or we shall perish", for instance] -- but it has also led the country into some foolish and destructive ventures, such as our entry into the "war to make the world safe for democracy." Where will today's apocalyptic delusions take us? Who knows, but I personally find much more to fear in our own technocratic leadership than I do in any foreign threat.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

An Interesting Experiment

I'm not sure how I feel about this one. The Robert Glasper Trio fuses smooth jazz stylings with hip-hop rhythms and then overlays it with Bilal's vocals. Interesting, especially since Chris Daddy Dave is providing the rhythm. All in all it's a remarkably restrained performance, especially for Bilal, who usually ignores pitch and seems to like atonality and Chis Daddy Dave who often isn't much interested in the constraints of time signatures. I like it, I guess. It could have been a real mess, but isn't.