Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Climategate MkII

So, here we are on what might in grand sweeping terms be considered the eve of the Durban Climate Change Conference, and behold from the depths of the internet comes more of what rose up to entertain us just before Copenhagen.

I won't go into nauseating detail on what's going on, except to post one link to a relevant site, because I assume that anyone who follows this blog also follows the ebb and flow of politics in general and has not been living under a rock since I started posting here. I also make no apologies for the site posted to - I'm sure everyone knows where I stand on the matter.

There is a difference between then and now - in Copenhagen, the Forces Underpinning Climate Change (for want of a better term, and FUCC is certainly what I want to scream whenever they open their mouths these days) were seemingly on the rise to their zenith. In my (then) country of residence, the government was on a roll to push an emissions trading scheme through Parliament with the IMO craven assent of the Leader of the Opposition - who it was alleged was once a merchant banker, always a merchant banker, and saw in the ETS the pot of gold at the end of the merchant banking rainbow.

It didn't work out that way. Climategate erupted, the Australian Liberal Party grassroots erupted (after which said ex-merchant-banker was no longer the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Reps), and the Copenhagen conference which was to have been the crystal-goblet-smashing high note of the F.U.C.C. thus far, degenerated into a farce in which nothing was accomplished and in the course of which dozens of screaming young zealots interrupted sub-conferences of a more skeptical bent and one of them later thrust one of the conferees (Viscount Monckton) into the gutter. The Emissions Trading Scheme likewise died, its champion seemingly unwilling to go into the double-dissolution election he had threatened the Opposition with before his predecessor's chief headkicker became his official opponent.

Since then, a fair bit more has come out that puts the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis in doubt - or at least the assertion that "the science is settled" - and it could justifiably be said to be in retreat, with emission trading schemes everywhere proving vulnerable to rorting, wind turbines having severe maintainability problems (that have been known for some time), and nations which attempted to switch to a "green economy" instead haemorrhaging green banknotes (and productive jobs) at a rate of knots. Unfortunately it did not stop the Australian government pushing through the Carbon Tax that Prime Minister Gillard unequivocally stated would never happen under a government she led (so who, if she is not to be called a liar or at least grossly misleading, is leading that government?), nor from apparently doing its best to ensure that tax could never, ever, ever be repealed without ruinous cost.

That small victory for the anthropogenic warmists notwithstanding, the whole deal could generally be said to be in retreat now. China has always been loath to embrace "decarbonisation", India likewise, and the US is backing away at a rate of knots. Britain may be swallowing the kool-aid, but at least expansion of nuclear power is part of the formula (if you're going to shut down fossil-fired power, replacing at least some of it with another 24/7 baseload system goes a way towards proving you're still half sane), while France already draws 80% of its electricity from nuclear power and could probably "decarbonise" without plunging its people into the horror of perpetual rolling power shortages (pity the Australians, whose government will not even let a private concern contemplate setting up a single reactor, and whose fringe elements want to dismantle the research reactor which supplies Australian cancer sufferers with much of their diagnostic and treatment radioactives).

So as we go into Durban, with AGW/CC in retreat, along comes Climategate II - I shall say very little except that from the content of what I have read, one or two people did have the honesty to say that what the rest of them appear to have been doing was at best grossly foolish and at worst scientifically indefensible... and one of them raised the possibility that it really might all be a natural variation they hadn't explained yet.

There is a great deal of correspondence indicating the failure of "the models" to work as expected, and once more I detect the suggestion that data were being smoothed and corrected in very creative ways. Much that is slanderous appears to have been said about skeptics of the AGW/CC theory, and there are hints that a great deal of fobbing off was taking place with regard to raw data. Deletion of correspondence is advised at one point, as is waiting until the very end of a Freedom of Information request period to refuse (in hope of wearing the applicant down, perhaps?).

This is, allegedly, nothing new - much of whatever is here was apparently also in the possession of the leaker(s) before Copenhagen - but it seems to confirm the pattern and to strengthen what many have been thinking since. One can hardly blame the leaker(s) for holding something critical back against the hour of need, and indeed it probably pays them well not to have put all their eggs in one basket.

AGW/CC is clomping into Durban with proverbial concrete boots on its feet. The IPCC, formerly AGW/CC's authority of choice for appeals to authority, is itself backing away from the claims and wondering if it's all just noise in the natural variation of weather and climate. And now this.

I am beginning to think the skeptics may have won.

IN BREAKING NEWS - the (Labor) Speaker of the House of Representatives has announced he is standing down, and a Liberal Party politician will take his place. This moves Labor, formerly with one foot in the grave and the other on the slippery edge, back from the brink: either Adam Bandt or Andrew Wilkie can pull out of the Labor-Green-Independent alliance without bringing the government down at once. This may mean that Gillard is about to lose one MP and knows it - either a certain Mr Craig Thomson (facing allegations of malfeasance in his previous role as a union heavyweight, successful prosecution of which would see him in prison and out of Parliament) or - given that Gillard has been repositioning herself towards the centre, perhaps in a bid to make herself electable - even Mr Bandt, if she angers the Greens sufficiently. But Bandt will never side with the Liberal-National coalition, partly because they are anathema to him and partly because the election that follows will wipe him out and quite possibly decimate his party in the Senate. In the end, it makes no difference - there must be an election in 2013, and all the indications are that the ALP and probably the Greens as well will be given the hammering of their lives.


Sunday, 20 November 2011

Inventiveness, with reflections upon today's society.

For some time now, I've had an interest in dabbling in electronics. This got to the point where I'd bought myself an oscilloscope and was ready to invest in some breadboards and a huge pile of components. Three things got in the way - a small and very time-consuming little squawky creature of the human variety came into my life, I got seriously into target shooting and rabbit hunting, and all of a sudden the local electronics store stopped stocking resistors, capacitors, LEDs, diodes and what-have-you. JUST LIKE THAT.

Following my move to another country far, far away, I decided in a moment of what little totally free time I have from my TWO squawky little creatures of the human variety, that it might be nice to start dabbling again. Well blow me down if the electronics store which is round the corner from me now also has a dearth of electronics components. This bothers me a fair bit, because now almost everything in an electronics store is something that someone else has put together, rather than something you yourself can buy the pieces for. It would seem to be a demand-side effect - fewer and fewer people are dabbling in their own electronic inventiveness and drawing stuff up from scratch - but demand feeds through to supply, and it worries me that in time we will have advanced (???) to the point where these things are no longer available at all.

I've probably already linked to Mark Steyn's article in which he bemoans the death of inventiveness and inquisitiveness in kids. The child who takes a screwdriver to his or her toys is, in the words of Christ, a pearl of great price. It is these kids - the combined thinkers and doers - who grow up to make a nation great.

It's interesting, in that context, to have a look at what's happening in the Occupy movement. This article from Victor Davis Hanson is of interest, and I hope he shall excuse me for quoting verbatim a large chunk, the choicest and most relevant part for comment.

, for much of the 20th century, college was not that exorbitantly expensive (my hardscrabble grandfather farmer sent all three of his daughters to college, two to Stanford, on the meager profits from 100 acres of raisins in the midst of the Depression). Students emerged literate and mostly disinterested and inductive.
 By "disinterested" here, I am pretty sure he means "ideologically unbiased". It's an old, but very legitimate use of that word for that purpose (compare "disinterested friendship" as a synonym for "platonic"). As an aside, Hanson is not a young man - that his grandfather would consider it worthwhile to send three daughters to university is worth noting. It's a shame that he doesn't mention what degrees they did.

The most impressive degrees, of course, were not history or English (much less environmental studies). Instead the palm went to engineering, physics, mathematics, and biology. These were the hard sciences and skills that few of us could master. Social sciences were relatively small enclaves. And while science majors got As in their gut GE anthropology, sociology, and psychology courses, the opposite was not true: the latter majors panicked when forced to take a basic physics or physiology class to graduate.
It's little wonder, if standards to get into the sciences are generally high, that science majors will do relatively well in other fields. To what extent the humanities were a flight from the demand to do well or the last resting place of those who couldn't measure up is a question I can't answer.
I note in passing that not only were there no black, Latino, gender, green, film, gay, peace, or leisure studies courses, programs, and empires, but also a general impression that no one would wish to pay for such classes that imparted little real knowledge about the inductive method or the necessary referents of literature, history, and science. 
 In other words, nobody was willing to fork out for something which would not, in the long run, enhance their prospects of employment. 

So many of these classes were therapeutic. Some were downright accusatory: go back through history and as melodrama point out the bad and good guys (based on present-day liberal standards), or study how modern capitalism should be replaced by a more humane model — in environmental, financial, religious, racial, class, and gender terms.

Hanson nails his ideological colours firmly to the mast here. It's probably worth taking all this with a hefty handful of salt, but underneath it all what we have is disciplines where everything is interpreted through an ideological filter that is imposed by the first people into the game, and there is no objective standard to which the 'teaching' can be nailed down. And at the end of the day, what do any of these things actually prepare the graduate for? What are his or her marketable skills, besides aspiring to faculty and tenure? But with every "useless course" that is added to the community colleges and the universities, and every tenured professor or lecturer, there is a dollar cost - and that must be recouped from the students.

So here is where the last thirty years all led: to too many students who are indebted, poorly educated, and without skills like high-tech engineering, sophisticated medicine, or computer design that the country needs. They are consumed with contemporary furor as the education bubble of nearly a trillion dollars in debt is about to burst. They are mad at the system that they were taught oppresses them, but also at themselves. Who would not be after spending so much money for something of so little value? 
 It's valueless because ultimately it leads nowhere - one may go into faculty, if there's enough room for one more lecturer or assistant professor, or one may try for a cosy sinecure in some Department of Ethnocultural Diversity or what-have-you as Advisor or staffer to the Minister of Touchy-Feely Subjects, or one may (if one is lucky and one has a journalism co-major or sufficiently powerful minor) find a paid niche within the media in which one may regurgitate that which one has learned. The trouble is, all these things are ultimately dead ends. The left-wing governments - whether at state/provincial or federal level - which have spent the last four to ten years establishing and empowering all this have either fallen or are due to fall, and the nations, universities (some of which are no more than overpromoted technical colleges) and even media outlets which support these people in paid employment are increasingly broke.

Nothing is more embarrassing to watch than arrogance coupled with ignorance — and spiced with occasional glibness and the slow realization that they’ve been had.
One wonders by whom. While it is to a certain extent true to tell a child "You can be anything you want to be", there was always in the past an understanding that the "anything" ought to be something that would lead to some sort of paid, productive employment. Here is a case in point, and the closing comment by the gentleman the article is about should give the "Occupy" crowd pause for thought.

"I'm qualified enough now that I'll always have a job," he said. "Without mining, I'd be an auto mechanic making $600 a week. I love mining, mate."

This man is making $200,000 a year; he is part of the 1% the Occupy crowd love to despise. He is also a working-class high-school dropout - hardly a spoiled scion of the rich. The Occupy crowd could do worse than take a look at how he got where he is today, though perhaps their movement could do with a whole lot less of the reason why. The reason why some of them would never contemplate such a career might be the subject of a subsequent post, when I have the time.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

The "Occupy" movement update, and other news.

In Zucotti Park, the love may be free; however, the consequences are anything but, as the New York Post bluntly reports:

Occupy Wall Street protesters are flocking to nearby health clinics for STD and HIV testing after getting their freak on in ’60s-style hookups with crusty strangers, sources told The Post yesterday.

Crusty strangers? No, thank you. Meanwhile, in Australia, Tim Blair gives us the lowdown on a bunch of Occupiers who won't be dissuaded by typographical and grammatical errors that stand out like dogs' balls.

The first most of us learnt of this was at the Treasury Gardens on the 29th when Jeff from the Logistics Working Group gave a report back to the crows what marched there with the intention of re-occupying.
Blair points out quite correctly that the Spelling Working Group might have been consulted:
On Sunday night and Monday during the day, the State Library Occupation limjped on only due to the persistence and tenacity of those present in the face of ongoing harassment and threats made by the management of the State Library and without the presence of structures.  

I suspect they mean "limped". When someone's literacy is this poor, their failure to find adequate employment ceases to be a mystery. In fact, all sorts of other things cease to be a mystery too - they have a Logistics Working Group and a Kitchen Working Group, and God only knows how many other Working Groups, all sitting around making decisions... but are any of these Groups actually achieving anything? Or are they living up to John Howard's assessment of the current Labor government - that there is an obsession with the process of governing which overshadows the actual task? I'm also reminded of the saying that one should not mistake effort for achievement.

In other news, the sharp-tongued but rarely inaccurate Professor Bunyip gives the lowdown on one man's efforts to shape the news. And not for the better. This is very serious and extremely worrying, as this chap, his fellow travellers and his political enablers are basically working towards the "right" to control, at least within Australia's borders, who publishes or comments on the news and in what way. That includes personal blogs. Combine that with a national broadband network owned and operated by the government, the removal of parallel infrastructure (the good old copper wire, some of which has already been ripped up), and the same government's desire to filter the entire nation's internet access, and you have the recipe for a slippery slide towards totalitarianism.

Gay Republicans, you say.  Surely they're in the closet? No, they're very much out and about, proving that what you are is irrelevant so long as you bring the right ideas to the GOP table:

During a press gaggle as McDonnell was about to depart the fundraiser, another reporter asked the governor if supporting an openly gay candidate like Forrest will hurt him or other Republicans in rural parts of Virginia.
“No,” said McDonnell emphatically, pointing out that “Patrick Forrest is all about creating jobs, controlling government spending.  He’s a fiscal conservative.  He has his finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the Fairfax and Arlington communities.  He’s a great messenger for the fiscal conservative message and that’s what people care about right now.”

Unfortunately, it appears that there are some people for whom his homosexuality is everything. Moving on from the sexuality and concentrating on the policies, the article continues:

“ would be nice to see a current or former governor be the next president, people who know how to balance budgets, create jobs, and get stuff done on time without making excuses.  That’s exactly the kind of leadership we need in Washington.”

No wonder some people are eagerly backing Herman Cain, irrespective of his outsider status. So now we have openly gay Republicans, presidential-hopeful black Republicans, and in my mind at least, an erosion of the stereotype that the GOP is automatically racist and homophobic. We must also remember that George W. Bush appointed the first two black Secretaries of State in US history, one of them a woman. It's interesting and heartening to note that where I've seen conservatives pick Cain's candidacy to bits and think him unfit for the office (or at least, less fit than other candidates), the one thing they have not attacked him on is the colour of his skin. The general gist of their criticisms, as I understand it, seems to be that while he has a fine record as an economic manager in the cut-and-thrust of real world business, and is good at turning financial basket cases off the road to perdition, he is weak on policy at a level that really matters. There are of course other things being said about him, but how much of this is truth and how much is smear will need time to sort out.