THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 602 December 21 = 27, 2009
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December 21, 2009
This is the shortest day of the year. Last night the Senate gave us all a Christmas Present, setting in motion the inevitable path to -- to what? It must reduce costs. "Anyone who says otherwise simply hasn't read the bills," says President Barrack Obama. The reporter didn't ask if the President had read the bills, but it's a safe bet that neither he nor anyone else has done so. No one really understands what's in there, nor even how many Easter eggs there are buried in there like a new hospital for Senator Dodd. There are other party favors, all intended to get the voters to return these people to office in gratitude for getting some Obama Stash Cash for their states or districts. Since the government has no money, the way it will pay for these favors is to borrow the money by selling Treasury Bills at 3.5%; the banks that buy the bills will borrow the money from the Fed at 0 to 0.1% interest, thus handing free money -- and bonuses -- to the banks fortunate enough to get in on it, which is to say those that make the right political donations.
It's national politics Chicago Style, which was the one Change You Can Believe In that was certain from the night of Obama's election. Is anyone surprised?
In the real world, there will be some benefits to be paid out before 2012, but 98% of the costs don't happen until 2014, which is why the vote has to happen Right Now, This Week, Before Christmas, lest someone actually read what's going on in there.
Apparently we have answered the question: your health problems are not your problems, they are everyone's problems; you don't have to pay for the bad break you got at birth, nor the bad breaks you got when scarlet fever came around, nor the bad breaks you got from the salmonella you contracted at the local hospital you went to for voluntary surgery, nor the streptococcus you contracted from the emergency room you were taken to when your car skidded on the ice, nor the diabetes you contracted because you like cupcakes and ice cream, nor the emphysema you contracted from smoking, nor the broken leg you get from slipping while jogging for your health -- well, you get the idea. Your fault or no one's fault, it's not your responsibility to pay for it. It's the responsibility of everyone who lives here.
Fortunately, there are lots of Christmas presents in the bills, like psychiatric care, acupuncture, naturopathy, sweat lodge therapy, goose grease therapy -- actually I am making that up, since I don't know what medical practices got funded through the efforts of the lobbyists; I do know that the lobbyists were out in force, and not all Senators know what items were inserted in their names by staffers looking forward to being hired as PR directors in the industries favored. That one I am not making up: the DMCA had an item favoring recording studios and companies over performing artists that not one Senator or Member of Congress will admit knowing was there, and few of them will admit favoring. Not one. The staffer who probably inserted it into the DMCA is now a VP of RIAA. So it goes. These things happen. I doubt that it will be different now that we have Change You Can Believe In.
But it's coming: the Change You Can Believe In, which relieves you of the responsibility for paying for your health care -- and gives you what the government can afford, while taxing medical devices like walkers and diabetic meters and blood pressure meters and sterilized shunts and crutches and -- well, you get the idea. I'm not making that one up. What other goodies are in there? And Medicare will be stronger, and costs will be lower. Change you can bloody well believe in. This time for sure.
"Fighting a Smarter War in Afghanistan" by Ann Marlowe is worth your time, although you may have mixed feelings about it when you're done with it. Ms. Marlowe advocates statistical analysis -- Operations Research, we called it when I was in the OR business -- of the intelligence painfully gathered by our troops on the scene. She also shows just what we're trying to accomplish: building a national police that is responsible to the Mayor of Kabul, who sends out national policemen who do not speak the language of the districts to which they are sent. And one wonders why the locals continue to believe the US is on the wrong side.
For those who want to understand the McCarthy era need to read William F. Buckley's The Red Hunter, but you will have problems finding it: Amazon shows almost none. Like a number of such books, they are destroyed by partisans if found in libraries (rarely since librarians don't buy such books). Any book that attempts to show what McCarthy thought he was doing is treated as if it were a favorable evaluation of Hitler. You can find plenty of copies of Edgar Snow's adulatory Red Star Over China, of course.
John Service, the US Foreign Service Officer who sold Mao to the State Department, and gave Philip Jaffe, editor of Amerasia and a known communist sympathizer a Top Secret US State Department document giving Chiang' order of battle and detailed deployments in his war against Mao, was another of McCarthy's targets; a new, mostly sympathetic, biography of Service by his friend Lynne Joiner, makes it clear that Service really did give Jaffe the document, and undoubtedly understood what it would happen to it. Service wanted Mao to win.
Amerasia was a supposedly scholarly magazine that apparently served as a headquarters for disseminating US documents to unauthorized people. Wild Bill Donovan eventually raided the place (without a warrant and without real authority, OSS supposedly not being operative in the US and the Caribbean) and found a camera setup for photographing documents (recall this is before Xerox), and according to his testimony to the Senate Internal Security Committee, over 2,000 classified documents. Some were OSS documents, and Donovan seized them; he photographed others.
The story drive McCarthy wild. The Senator was a ham-handed showoff who drank far too much, and his attempts to expose what he thought as a communist plot in the State Department led to his denouncing the entire Democratic establishment. McCarthy was a disaster to the national security of the US.
Today's Wall Street Journal reviews Ms. Joiner's biography of Service; the reviewer affirms that Service admitted being ashamed of his giving documents obtained in confidence from the Republic of China to Mao's informants.
It was a frightening time. I was in those days one of McCarthy's most vocal opponents (as a young student I was hardly influential except among some of my fellow students) and cheered with the rest when McCarthy was shamed.
The Republic survived those times. We'll survive these.
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|This week:||Tuesday, December
Today's Wall Street Journal has an editorial worth your attention. There is no better term for the ObamaCare Bill than Despotism. It's all very well for Congressmen and Senators to look out for their states, but this bill is a pure transfer payment from Republicans to Democrats. There is built into the bill a 40% tax on the most comprehensive -- and thus most expensive -- health care plans: But it does not apply to everyone. Longshoremen, for instance, are exempt -- and of course their unions have negotiated some of the most comprehensive healthcare short of what Congress gets. Other lines of work, nearly all heavily unionized, are exempt from the 40% tax (which will pretty well eliminate these plans for those who aren't exempt from the tax). Also, 17 States will be exempt; for the rest it's just too bad. There is no attempt at an explanation for these arbitrary transfers from those taxed to those not taxed. There is no logical reason why some are taxed and some are not. It's simply a set of earmarks, rewards to those supporting the "plan" and punishment for those who don't.
It's exactly what the Constitution was designed to prevent, a despotic transfer of wealth from one group to another.
Change you can believe in.
Those interested in Climate Change should read "Time for a Climate Change Plan B".
Two relevant paragraphs:
I've thought this obvious for a long time.
Charles Lodge, Chris Casper, Dave Hammond, Charles Stillings, if you're still out there please send me your latest address. Mail to you has been returned as undeliverable.
Add David.Schierholz, Daniel Peterson, and Tony Barban. Please let me know your email address.
December 23, 2009
From another conference:
So: we have a serious statement by a serious person, who wants to discard the skeptics and get on with it since the science is settled.
My first critique is simple:
Historically, warming precedes rises in CO2. This is in accord with normal theory. While it is certainly true that a 'greenhouse effect" influences climate, historically, CO2 levels have not caused warming; the CO2 levels follow a temperature rise, not precede it.
(1) that temperatures were rising and had been since 1800. Correct. Historical data. Not a prediction. Observed through through the 1800's.
(2) They would continue to rise as they had been rising. This was more or less projection of an existing trend. That would be about a degree per century. As it happened, the observed temperature rise decelerated (and had been decelerating for a few years) when Arrhenius made that prediction, but temperatures did rise. The NOAA data show 1880 as -.2 below the 1940 "normal" of 0, and "normal" or 0 in 1940. That's not the 0.5 predicted but the trend is in the right direction.
(3) Arrhenius predicted that there would be an "extra" rise of about 2 degrees over a century if CO2 levels doubled. This is theory. It is now 110 years since he made that projection. We have had under 2 degrees rise in that time period according to the NOAA data. That is, from 1940 to 2003 it went up about 0.4 degrees. There is a sort of "hockey stick" sharp rise from 2000 to 2009 but these data are a bit controversial. We can agree on about 0.7 C rise =~ to 1.7 F from Arrhenius to now. It's less than expected, but it is a rise. Call it a full degree C (1.7 F) rise if you like.
(4) you may ascribe that 1 C rise to CO2 if you like, in which case you have to throw out the projection of a continued "normal" 1 C rise that would have happened without CO2. You may ascribe that 1 C rise to the "normal trend" that has been taking place since the end of the Little Ice Age. You don't get both, because the data show only the 1 C rise, at least as close as I can read the NOAA charts.
Why? We don't have a good theory as to why; but those are the data, and the usual practice in science is that theory has to account for data, not data have to be forced to fit the theory.
Now about the simple back of the envelope accounts: As Dyson points out, CO2 can have an effect only in COLD DRY AREAS. There isn't much room for "greenhouse" warming in moist areas. Greenhouse effects may -- indeed must -- be involved in the temperature of the Earth, but clearly we don't have a good quantitative handle on which ones do what: but surely we can agree that CO2 isn't what's happening.
Or: if it is CO2, then the fears of the 1970-1984 doomsters who feared a coming Ice Age are very well founded and the CO2 is what saved us. This is sort of what Niven, Flynn, and I projected in Fallen Angels. That was a work of fiction, and as I have often said, novelists need only be plausible: we don't have to marshal all the arguments for our case as do advocates, and we certainly do not have to account for all the data. Scientists, however, do have to account for all the data, and none of the current models do that.
One theory common in the 1970's was that warming brought out more moisture, which moved more water vapors around, which was increasing snow falls and that was what was causing the new disastrous coming New Ice Age and Global Cooling that had scared Schneider and Margaret Meade and others, and dominated big science conferences during the 70's and early 80's.
What we must conclude is that the models have not predicted what we have observed; nor have we found the stratospheric hot spots that CO2 driven warming predicts we will find. This is not a confirmation of the accuracy of the theories, all of which more or less predict the same results -- which results have not been found so far.
For decades we have had two kinds of climate scientists: theorists and observers. The theorists are all pretty strong Global Warming advocates. The observers are a mixed lot, but none of them see what the models predict. The believers among them say "we have not seen them yet."
More theory: if I want to put CO2 into the atmosphere, I can burn coal and oil, but if I really want to run the CO2 levels up I should warm the seas. I want to bring up a lot of cold water to the surface and warm that. Warming the oceans will really raise the CO2 levels; how much CO2 for how much temperature rise is calculable, but getting that circulation going is a bit more complicated, and we don't seem to be able to predict El Nino and La Nina events which have great effects on ocean surface temperatures. As a first cut, I will not try to warm the seas by blowing warm air over them. If I want more cold water to come higher, I'll turn on the heat down at the bottom -- otherwise known as volcanic events. Those of course are unpredictable, at least at present.
But if I want something to worry about, I'll worry about how to remove a great big lot of CO2 that we could get if the oceans do warm. That could really cause a runaway hockey stick temperature rise. Could. It's not inevitable. I'd think some investment in developing engineering methods to really clean out CO2 from the atmosphere would be prudent. We may not need the techniques, but if we do, we are going to need them bad.
So: I don't think Dyson and Baliunas and Singer and the other skeptics are ignoring the back of the envelope calculations: but they are pointing out that the data don't seem to be reconciled with the theory. As to "-they dismiss all the detailed numberical-integration atmospheric models" perhaps they should until the detailed numerical models can take a set of initial conditions and generate a good fit to what actually happened.
As to the greenhouse effect itself, who ever thought there wasn't one? And perhaps that is what is saving us from living on a ball of ice. Perhaps not. But I fail to see how investing in better models -- they get better when questioned, and I doubt they get better by setting up "peer review" so that anything that doesn't approve of the -the detailed numberical-integration atmospheric models gets ignored.
Present policy seems to be to spend billions in ways that will have a pretty small effect on the CO2 released into the atmosphere and even less effect on the actual warming -- this according to the detailed numberical-integration atmospheric models which show that Kyoto would have had the effect of preventing well under 1 C of the projected temperature rise. The costs run to the trillions.
That's not good policy. Prudent policy would try to understand what is going on before spending big money to change the entire economy.
Ursula LeGuin resigns from Author's Guild, citing Google Settlement.
I need to think on this one. Meanwhile
I am thinking about this one -- well, translate, my advisors are discussing it and I'm listening. More to come.
December 24, 2009
Two Christmas presents:
And indeed that may be the best performance of that carol I have ever seen and heard. Thank you.
And a Merry Christmas to all. For more music suggestions see mail.
December 25, 2009
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
beneath life's crushing load,
For glad and golden hours
the woes of sin and strife,
at war with man, hears not
I took the day off.
December 27, 2009
The big news of the weekend is the crotch bomber. I suppose there is a more delicate way to describe him, but that's where he hid his bomb. When the shoe bomber failed to detonate his bomb, we responded, not by being more careful about who we let on airplanes, but by making passengers take off their shoes. The crotch bomber was on a terrorist watch list, but not on the no-fly list. The obvious response would be not to let likely terrorists fly, but the probable response will be -- what? What will prospective passengers have to take off now?
The US Secretary of Homeland Security says that the system worked, and all is well. Others wonder what she was thinking. (Clownish thoughts?) Janet Napolitano said:
What happened is that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a third year engineering student, was unable to get his weapon to detonate properly, and thus managed to win a Darwin Award for removing himself from the gene pool without actually killing himself. The passengers on the Christmas Day flight were incredibly lucky (or one or more had a particularly effective guardian angel). There was enough explosive in that man's pants to down the airplane had it gone off.* It didn't go off because he wasn't competent enough to manage on his first attempt at detonation, and he may have been prevented from trying a second time by passengers. Either way it doesn't look much like "the system" had anything to do with it, and asserting that "the system worked" is probably not the most intelligent thing our Secretary of Homeland Security has ever said.
I have always said that if an intelligent person wants to bring down an airplane and doesn't mind being killed doing it, there are many ways to accomplish it, and many of my readers know of multiple ways to accomplish it with little chance of detection. This incident is a good illustration of that. We aren't really going to make all airline passengers strip to their underwear, and even if we did, that wouldn't do it.
What we can do is be more discriminating on who gets to fly on US aircraft to US airports, particularly on international flights. Of course that would mean paying more attention to foreign nationals. It would also mean making profiles of potential terrorists, and searching all those that fit the top profile as well as random samples of those fitting smaller probability profiles. We can do risk analysis and cost/benefit models -- but only if we allow profiling.
This one was particularly easy to spot given his association with Yemen in general and Yemen extremists in particular. Once again US authorities had enough information; and once again political correctness prevented any action. Unlike the Fort Hood murders, this politically correct failure didn't cost any lives. Next time we're unlikely to be so blessed.
This is a day book. It's not all that well edited. I try to keep this up daily, but sometimes I can't. I'll keep trying. See also the weekly COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 8,000 - 12,000 words, depending. (Older columns here.) For more on what this page is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE. If you have never read the explanatory material on that page, please do so. If you got here through a link that didn't take you to the front page of this site, click here for a better explanation of what we're trying to do here. This site is run on the "public radio" model; see below.
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