THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 349 February 14 - 20, 2005
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February 14, 2004
LUPERCALIA, Fertility Festival, and St. Valentine's Day
There is a long piece on the global "hockey stick" in today's Wall Street Journal that explains something I didn't understand: Mann, who generated the "hockey stick" curve purporting to show that the last century was unique in all recorded history with its sharp climb in temperature, has released neither the algorithm that generated his curve nor the data on which it was based.
I had refrained from commenting on the "hockey stick" because I couldn't understand how it was derived. I've done statistical analysis and prediction from uncertainty much of my life. My first job in aerospace was as part of the Human Factors and Reliability Group at Boeing, where we were expected to deal with such matters as predicting component failures, and deriving maintenance schedules (replace it before it fails, but not so long before it fails that the costs including the cost of the maintenance crew and the costs of taking the airplane out of service are prohibitive) and other such matters. I used to live with Incomplete Gamma Functions and other complex integrals; and I could not for the life of me understand how Mann derived his famous curve. Now I know: he hasn't told anyone. He says that telling people how he generated it would be tantamount to giving in to his critics.
More on this after my walk, but the one thing we may conclude for sure is that this is not science. His curve has been distributed as part of the Canadian government's literature on why Canada supports Kyoto, and is said to have been influential in causing the "Kyoto Consensus" so it is certainly effective propaganda; but IT IS NOT SCIENCE. Science deals with repeatability and openness. When I took Philosophy of Science from Gustav Bergmann at the University of Iowa a very long time ago, our seminar came to a one-sentence "practical definition" of science: Science is what you can put in a letter to a colleague and he'll get the same results you did. Now I don't claim that as original for it wasn't even me who came up with it in the seminar; but I do claim Bergmann liked that formulation, and it certainly appealed to me, and I haven't seen a better one-sentence practical definition of science. Mann's work doesn't meet that definition, and those who use Mann's curve in their arguments are not making a scientific argument.
One of Pournelle's Laws states "You can prove anything if you can make up your data." I will now add another Pournelle's Law: "You can prove anything if you can keep your algorithms secret."
|This week:||Tuesday, February
Are we overlooking the real revolution in Iraq? It will take me a while to get to the point. Bear with me. First, from a recent TV show, a popular misconception that must be corrected:
AMY GOODMAN: We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Why don't we start off with Christopher Hitchens. Your assessment, Christopher, right now, of what's happening in Iraq.
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: I think that the United States and coalition forces are not militarily defeatable in Iraq.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain what you mean?
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: Yes. I mean, I think it's important to know first what can't happen. I've been mocked for saying this in an earlier report from Iraq, but I'm reprinting it in my upcoming collection. Military superiority is something you have to see to -- to believe. Unless the United States chooses to be defeated in Iraq, it cannot be. Therefore, the insurgency, so-called, will be defeated. And all logical and moral conclusions you want to draw from that, should be drawn.
TARIQ ALI:Well, I think Christopher is right on this, that militarily, it is virtually impossible to defeat the United States. After all, they were not defeated militarily in Vietnam, either. It was a big military offensive by the Vietnamese. But had there not been a growing opposition to the war in the United States, a big anti-war movement which penetrated and percolated into the heart of the American army, that war could have gone on.
What brought the Vietnam War to an end was the combination of the Vietnamese military offensive and just a refusal by the American public, and in large sectors of the army to accept that this war was winnable. The question is this: The United States army cannot be defeated militarily; they're incredibly powerful, but can the Iraqi people be defeated? Can Iraq be anything else but a lame colony mixture of Gaza and Guantanamo under foreign occupation?
Actually what brought the Viet Nam War to an end was a second massive invasion from the North employing more armor than the Wehrmacht had at Kursk. This was the second such: the first, 1n 1973, was soundly defeated, with fewer than 20,000 of the invading 150,000 North Vietnamese troops who came south ever getting back home again. All the armor and mechanized invasion equipment was captured or destroyed: and this by ARVN, with about 400 US casualties for the entire year. The US supported the Army of the Republic of Viet Nam with supplies and US air assets; we didn't send in the ground forces.
In 1975 there was a repeat of the invasion, but the Democratic Party in Congress decided that it was better to show up Nixon than to defend the land into which we had poured so much blood and treasure. The Congress voted 20 cartridges and 2 hand grenades per man in ARVN and forbade the use of US air assets. South Viet Nam accordingly fell. After that came reeducation camps, purges, Boat People, and the US got a new cuisine in Orange County.
The US Army didn't accept that the war was unwinnable: IT HAD BEEN WON. The Viet Nam War was over and the US and ARVN had WON it. That victory was confirmed with the second war begun in 1973 ending with the utter defeat of the North and its Soviet allies. So the Soviet Union patiently rebuilt the North Vietnamese Army, sending in armor and trucks and ammunition and supplies, and a new Third Vietnamese War was begun in 1975, and this time the Democrats declined to fight it. South Viet Nam, having been abandoned by its allies, accordingly fell to North Viet Nam which had not been abandoned by its allies.
In another conference someone recently used the Viet Nam War as an example of how the insurgents always win. This is nonsense. The insurgents generally lose, even given assets like sanctuary areas and the support of a major power. Insurgents won in Algeria. In Afghanistan the Soviet puppet regime held on for a couple of years after the USSR bugged out, despite insurgents supported by the US from sanctuary areas. In Palestine the insurgents haven't won yet. In Viet Nam the insurgents were destroyed, wiped out, finished, annihilated, killed to the last man; Viet Nam fell to an old fashioned across the border invasion by a large armored army, and that only on the second attempt. It is not an example of successful insurgency, and those who repeat that canard are either trying to steal a point in support of their own agenda, or are willfully ignorant of the facts but insist on "being entitled to an opinion" without regard to any knowledge of the subject.
In Iraq the insurgents can win only if we abandon the newly elected government. Now true: pacification of the Sunni Triangle is going to take a while. However, the Sunni insurgents have not helped their cause by their ceaseless murder of Shiites all over Iraq; they have enraged the majority Shiites. The Arab Shiites of Iraq do not have a long military tradition; the Turks used Sunni plus Turkish officials to govern Iraq. And of course the Iranian Shiites are not Arabs at all being, like the Kurds, Indo-Europeans (Aryan; Iran == Aryiana, but use of those terms is not politically correct in some circles). The Shiites are used to being second class, and have been since the Sunni slaughtered their Imam Ali way back in the early days of Islam. This doesn't mean they can't learn how to govern themselves, and to occupy the Sunni areas. It will take time and help from allies. And of course it is likely to be bloody, hard cheese on the Sunni. But it is nonsense to say the insurgents inevitably will win. The best prediction is that absent massive support from powerful allies they will lose: and the US certainly has the power to discourage any nation from helping the Sunni insurgents.
Now understand: I did not advise going into Iraq. Given $300 billion to spend I would have put the money into nuclear power plants, alternate energy sources, fuel cell research and development, and other means of getting the US out of its dependency on anything going on in the Middle East. "We are the friends of liberty everywhere, but the guardians only of our own," and now that that Cold War is over we do not need armies stationed in Korea and the Middle East and Europe. But we are there now, we did not spend that money on energy sources, and we are as dependent on Middle Eastern oil as ever if not more so. We have bet so heavily on changing the entire course of Middle Eastern politics that we have far fewer choices than we had in 1989 or 2002.
I still prefer that we spend money on developing our scientific and engineering resources, on developing American technology, than in pouring money and blood into the Middle East as payment for oil; but it is getting harder and harder to see how we get out of Iraq without staying long enough to leave a new kind of government in Iraq. I am sure that is possible. I am not sure that a Shiite government strong enough to suppress the Sunni insurgency will be very grateful to us, or indeed all that preferable to Saddam; but perhaps so, perhaps it will. At least we are giving women the vote in Iraq, and that itself is a major, major revolution in the Middle East. Its implications are not easily foreseen, but that is the real revolution we have exported on the tips of our bayonets (or fired through the muzzles of our Abrams tanks...)
Between them Microsoft and Adelphia are going to drive me mad. And certainly waste enough of my time.
I am connected to the Internet by satellite; the Adelphi Cable Modem was working but their DNS servers were not. The result was that until I reset the machine I could do mail and view my own web site because those addresses were cached, but once that cache was lost I was cut off entirely. I do not know how long it will take Adelphia to fix all this. If they bother.
When Cable Modem works well it works really well. Of course this morning all the servers here reset themselves having downloaded a ton of Microsoft updates. Whether that is part of the problem with Adelphia -- it does seem an odd coincidence -- I don't know. Satellite works but the latency is infuriating. Ah well.
There are times when I really hate computers and all the problems with keeping them going. This is one of those times.
February 16, 2005
OK: the problem was not Adelphia, whose technical support people were exemplary. First a young lady named Larissa (she didn't understand why I called her Miranda), then when she realized that walking me through simple tests and resets did not solve the problem, a second echelon young man who laughed like crazy when I said "So they have switched me from Miranda to Greg. Do I get Pitr next?" We did some things including one I should have done, to wit connecting one computer directly to the cable modem without the router in the loop; and Lo! it worked. The DI-604 seems to be at fault; it simply stopped resolving DNS inquiries. It has now been replaced by a DLINK DI-624 (with the wireless capability disabled) with the same exact settings that the DI-604 had; and that did it. All my internet problems went away.
DLINK wants me to send them the non-working DI-604 and I will do that. Note that these problems came just after Microsoft sent out some upgrades to the servers, and after a power failure that lasted longer than the UPS could sustain the router. Whether either of those events had anything to do with the problems I do not know. But all is well and there is a happy ending, and we'll hear from DLINK as to what happened. I do wish the router had failed utterly rather than just losing its DNS capabilities. I'll have the whole story in the column, including diagnostics.
I am writing all this Tuesday night because Wednesday AM I am off to Brigham Young University for some lectures and a convention on futurism and general merriment. Back Sunday. I may or may not be keeping this place up to date from the road. The likelihood is high that I will be able to do file some reports from Utah.
on the airplane: Ran across this observation:
(Remember, my working definition of a "liberal" is a "person who presses for motorcycle helmet laws, and then bemoans the shortage of donor organs.")
Well I am in Provo, Utah. They get me up early tomorrow.
February 17, 2005
Book signing at a Barnes and Noble last night. Not, alas, many people buying BURNING TOWER. We had a crackerjack signing in Glendale last Saturday. And perhaps there will be more on the BYU campus today. I am off to lecture or discuss or pontificate or just plain blather in a few moments. If you pretend to know everything for a living, you get asked to do this sometiimes.
There are some reflections on software patents and intellectual property in general from Peter Glaskowsky over in mail. Worth some reflection, which I haven't time to do this being 8 AM Utah time with someone scheduled to pick me up shortly.
February 18, 2005
Probably you've already seen this, but . . .
In fact I had not seen it. The headline is dramatic as is the conclusion stated in the first paragraph. This, then is the definitive answer--
Only as I read this I am puzzled. There are no numbers concerning temperatures. There are the usual references to computer models whose nature is not specified nor are they described. There is the flat statement about statistical significance emerging from a computer model, and I do not know what that means. It may be the early hour at which I am pondering this, but I don't find much to ponder.
I begin with considerable respect for Scripps, but I do not much respect this press release, which doesn't tell me anything other than that a vague computer model has found a new mechanism for man-made warming to affect the oceans.
Questions arise: why is a computer model needed? If the oceans are warmer, would that not be a matter for observation? If so, what are the observations? What are the data? Obtained from whence? Why is the word "observed" in quotes? If something is observed, it is observed, not "observed". Is the observation itself actually a result of a computer model? If not, is not the observation far more important than the computer model that "explains" it? But this is not what we see: what we see is a conclusion, that "observed" data are explained by a computer model, so that we know from whence the "observed" phenomenon derives -- yet we are told little about the "Observed" data. HOW MUCH WARMER are the oceans? What was observed?
And why is not the observation the important announcement? Why is there so little about the "observed" data in the announcement. It is my understanding that the theorists all see global warming and predict more, while the observational scientists say they expect to see global warming with more in the future, but they have not found unambiguous warming. They find "signals" but they don't observe what they expect to find. If I am wrong on this I am ready to be corrected; but certainly this was the case not all that long ago, according to direct answers to direct questions I put myself in interviews with both computational and observational climatologists.
I think I will wait for more details before pushing the panic button.
Another observation. While I have great respect for AAAS meetings, this is an odd venue at which to break a story of this magnitude. I often go to AAAS meetings, and I wish I had gone to this one, so I could ask some questions at the press conference. What is the magnitude of the observed warming? How does El Nino affect this? I think of other things I would like to know which were not in the press release.
Perhaps someone who was there can tell us?
HOW CAN I KILL THE MESSENGER?
Microsoft has taken to sending me, unwanted, repeated messages that a later version of Messenger is available and trying to get me to download it. I do not want Messenger -- I have run Steve Gibson's Shoot The Messenger: http://grc.com/stm/shootthemessenger.htm
and I do not want repeated offers to download a new version of Messenger. Can anyone tell me how to make this stop other than abandoning Windows and going to Linux?
February 19, 2005
Strenuous day. I go home tomorrow.
I have much mail on GPS and time, and I have forwarded much of that to Mr. Walters; I'll get the rest summarized and posted when I calm down. There is also some interesting mail on the Global Warming stuff from Scripps. All is not perhaps as clear cut as the press releases would have you believe.
Now to go walk my dog between showers.
Incidentally, she is a Husky, not a Collie, despite her coloring. Red Huskies are less usual than black or silver. According to the breeders, "The red ones are said to be more spirited." Now there is the understatement of the year! Huskies are cooperative, not obedient, and consider themselves full members of the pack, subordinate only to the alphas and on their own when the alphas are not around...
I have been told in no uncertain terms that I should withdraw my remarks about the TSA. I have done so. It is probably not a good idea to record one's views of those honorable people. However, I cannot resist saying this much:
I had a very pleasant experience at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah: it was very pleasant to encounter students who are deferential and call their elders "sir" as if they meant it, not as the TSA does; and who ask difficult questions motivated by a desire to learn the answer, and resolve some of the conflicts between what they are told to believe and what they see around them. An island of order; and a place where you are astonished at rudeness because everyone is so polite, as opposed to much of the world now where you are astonished when anyone is polite. It is a pity that my last memories of Utah are of a grown man telling me I don't have to fly, and making it clear that treating him with the contempt he deserved for that remark would be punished by making me miss my flight.
It was a good trip until the final hour, and that was somewhat redeemed by the competence of the Delta Crown Room staff, who apparently are accustomed to people upset by the TSA and who don't feel much safer for all the harassment.
If Americans will continue to put up with the TSA we will continue to put up with anything; it is a test, and we are failing. We will shortly be fit only to be Imperial, for we will be unable to conceive of self government and the needs of a genuine republic.
Another view was:
Subject: The gatestapo...
Jerry, I couldn't agree more with the sentiment you expressed as:
"If Americans will continue to put up with the TSA we will continue to put up with anything; it is a test, and we are failing. We will shortly be fit only to be Imperial, for we will be unable to conceive of self government and the needs of a genuine republic"
I have never taken the imposition of the TSA with good grace; what is alarming to me is how fast *I* have become an obedient subject. I still grumble -- but do so out of the hearing of the Border Guards. My business requires me to travel often -- and there is little more precious than my time. They steal less of my time when I submit abjectly than they do when I grumble. That is the insidious aspect of the TransportSturmAbteilung -- they are cultivating an attitude among the traveling public that submission is the easy way out. All they are lacking is shoulder boards or brown shirts.
Yet I see few options. There is no practical alternative to air travel. I have never felt so little hope for our country's future as the TSA makes me feel. Never mind "it can't happen here" -- it *is* happening here -- we are being trained to be "good Germans". Any ideas on what to do about it? The public debate seems to consider only the question of security vs. individual privacy -- the deleterious effects on civic society aren't even a subject of debate.
Well, enough. But see mail.
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