12 December 2010

Trader Rog.

St. Gaudens double eagle ($20) first minted in 1907.
Gold and silver enthusiasts may be familiar with Roger Wiegand whose columns appear every few months at Kitco.com. Kitco publishes a variety of perspectives on the precious metals market — they also sell the stuff — ranging from bullish (gold though the roof) to bearish (it's got to come down). Wiegand falls into the former camp, in which regard, readers may find it interesting to compare his apocalyptic prognostications with the more measured predictions of Jon Nadler, Kitco's Senior Analyst. In brief, Wiegand preaches economic and political instability (you ain't seen nothing yet); Nadler, the fundamentals (diminishing Indian demand for gold jewelry, etc.), which he believes cannot in the long (medium? short?) term support current prices. Both gentlemen are far more knowledgeable about precious metals than your humble correspondent who can only observe that for the past couple of years, Wiegand has been more often right than wrong; Nadler, more often wrong than right. Eventually, of course, what goes up will come down. The questions are when and from what level. For gold, the answers range from "we've already seen the top," to "a lot higher."

Bearing in mind the uncertainties, we turn to "Trader Rog's" latest column, "Phase Two Of Greater Depression II Begins Now." Here are some tidbits (emphasis per the original).
"If you thought Lehman was fun get ready to see new price controls and acceleration of existing capital controls, with inflation that will knock your socks off. We have at least two to five more years of crash and burn in the financial markets before a new base is found.

Many of the very large global banks will be nationalized and some will fold into insolvency or merger. Roughly 90% of the derivatives and real estate toxic paper trash remains hidden on banker balance sheets. Not only was the problem never fixed, they’ve been piling on more bad loans-paper at a furious pace.

Corporate insiders, CEO’S, presidents, and other officers have been selling gobs of stock at a rate we last heard of as 1600 to 1. That’s 1600 shares sold for each one purchased. Mr. Ballmer, chief honcho at Microsoft is dumping well over $1 billion as we speak…that is only one example.

The next big government taking will be to steal the pension pools of national and international corporations. This is the last remaining honeypot for government theft and has already been practiced in South America.

Individuals holding pensions and government paper will wake-up one morning to find its all been seized and piled into 30-year USA bonds, which are sinking like the Titanic. There will be no buyers and no exits for those assets. The owners could get totally wiped out."

For retirees and those nearing retirement, the last is perhaps the most appalling. And it's been bruited about for some time. Something to think about as the year winds down.
Read more ...

28 September 2010

Doing the Math.

Ruth McClung is running for Congress in Arizona's 7th congressional district against ORP lapdog, Raul Grijalva. You can learn more about Ruth here. Please support her if you can.
More often than not, TEA party candidates committed to rolling back the disastrous policies of Obama-Reid-Pelosi (ORP) are characterized as moonbat whack jobs devoid of education and intelligence. Ruth McClung, candidate for the House inArizona CD7, is anything but. With a degree in physics and work experience at an engineering firm, McClung brings to the table credentials that are both uncommon and difficult to disparage. Her background sets her apart from members of both the political and chattering classes, most of of whom wouldn't know the divergence of a vector field if it hit them in the face.

First Things First.
  1. McClung's positions are solidly conservative: anti-big giovernment; pro-free enterprise; pro-liberty; pro-national security; pro-"border sanity"; pro-school vouchers; pro-life and pro-family. With regard to health care, she favors health insurance tax deductions for individuals, health savings account tax incentives, out-of-state insurance purchases and tort reform.

  2. Her opponent, Raul Grijalva, is an ORP lapdog who attracted national attention by calling for a boycott of Arizona businesses in response to HB1070. Putting him out to pasture is a worthy objective.

  3. CD7 is 45% Democratic. But, with a significant number of independents in the district, internal polling — both Democrat and Republican — suggests that the race is winnable — go here (starts at 3:00 minutes). Supporting McClung is a chance to make a difference.
Exception to the Rule. Generally speaking, credentialed intellectuals sort into two categories: the hopelessly naive, and the promoters of self-serving agendas. But to every generalization there are exceptions. Ruth is one of these. She complements professional training with good sense and a love of country. If elected, she will bring to Washington, an understanding of issues such as cap and trade that is sorely lacking. Ask supporters (Democrat and Republican) of carbon abatement about the physics of climate change and you'll get talking points, gibberish or both. Ask Ruth, and you'll get an explanation.

Doing the Math. For the obvious reasons, it's important that at least some of people voting on issues related to science know what they're talking about; that they understand what's known, and more important, what's not. That means being able to read the scientific literature for yourself, as opposed to relying on advisors to do it for you. McClung's training in math and physics will allow her to do that. What she doesn't already know, she can learn.

Contribute to Ruth's campaign if you can, and spread the word.

Read more ...

25 September 2010

And She Doesn't Even Believe in Evolution!

While internet contributions role in, cycical secularists paint Christine O'Donnell as a whack job.
Bill Maher has been going after Christine O'Donnell, most recently replaying a dozen year-old clip in which she characterized evolution as a "myth." Maher's object is to paint O'Donnell as a wack job. Like many liberals, he views evolution as a litmus test. According to this, expressed doubts as to its explanatory power are proof positive of the doubter's having been endowed, as Shakespeare so deliciously put it, with "a paucity of headpiece."

The paucity, of course, is Maher's, his dearth, being one of probity, not of intelligence. Like über-evolutionists Dennett and Dawkins, Maher is driven by a hatred for religion. And O'Donnell is a believer. Hate the belief; hate the believer. It's all very simple. And intellectually dishonest.

Facts. The author of The Origin was fond of pointing to his "facts," observations that "the view given by me … connects … by an intelligible thread of reasoning" [Darwin, 1863]. Here follow four facts of my own:
  1. There are two theories of evolution, the pattern, what Darwin called "descent with modification," and the mechanism, often reduced to "variation plus selection," by which change transpires.

  2. Since Darwin's day, evidence for common descent has accumulated steadily. It is in the hard parts and the soft, the physiology and the biochemistry, most fundamentally, in the genes. To deny the derivation of amphibians from lobe fin fish, of stem reptiles from labyrinthodont amphibians, of mammals from cynodonts, of humans from non-human primates, etc., is a prescription for looking foolish. The pattern is clear. Either new species have descended from old, or they have "come into existence coincident both in space and time with a pre-existing closely allied species" [Wallace, 1855].

  3. With regard to evolutionary mechanisms, the situation is different. Over the years, there has been a succession of ideas, and these ideas continue to change. The now not so Modern Synthesis, which is still taught in freshman biology classes, identified small variations as the "stuff" of evolution. But as more is learned about gene regulation and development [Carroll, 2005], this view increasingly is seen as incomplete. Even the "Lamarckian heresy," the inheritance of acquired characters, may be headed for a comeback, though this remains a minority opinion.

  4. Importantly, no one has been able to "predict," retrospectively, of course, the broad outlines of life's history on this planet. Variation plus selection does not predict the pre-eminance of microbes during the first four billion years of earth’s history, i.e., as opposed to the first three, two or one billion. It does not predict the skeletization, if not the origin, of the major taxonomic groups some half a billion years ago. Nor does it necessitate the dominance of early Paleozoic seas by invertebrates, nor the subsequent and essentially simultaneous colonization of the land by insects and the limbed descendants of rhipidistian lungfish. It cannot tell us that dinosaurs and mammals would come into being at about the same time, and, regarding the latter’s 100 million year eclipse by the former, it says nothing. It is unable to tell us what would have transpired had the Chicxulub asteroid missed. And, of course, it cannot predict the emergence of man, much less the fact that humans would one day compose symphonies and argue as to whether or not God really does play dice with the universe.

    Referring to Lamarck's changing views on transmutation, Steve Gould [1999] obsrved that
    "Nature, to cite a modern cliche, always bats last. She will not succumb to the simplicities of our hopes or mental foibles, but she remains eminently comprehensible. Evolution follows the syncopated drumbeats of complex and contingent histories, shaped by the vagaries and uniquenesses of time, place, and environment. Simple laws with predictable outcomes cannot fully describe the pageant and pathways of life. A linear march of progress must raft as a model for evolution, but a luxuriantly branching tree does capture the basic geometry of history.”
    Implicit in Gould's analysis is the presumption that, contingency notwithstanding, the history of life is explicable in purely materialist terms. But that is an article of faith, no less than the belief thatCreation requires a Creator. For those so inclined, there remains plenty of room for divine "tweaking."

Queerer Than One Can Suppose.
J. B. S. Haldane, himself an atheist, observed that
"my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose."
Of course, what is "queer" depends on time and place. To the 18th century naturalists who studied Nature in order to better understand Nature's God, the idea that new species are a consequence of secondary laws was unacceptable; likewise, the prospect that Nature's Supreme Author plays a direct role in the unfolding of events, to contemporary materialists. But who can say which belief will be deemed commonsensical a hundred years down the road?

Wiseguys like Maher have every right to go after O'Donnell for her political positions. When they trash her faith, they reveal themselves for what they are: politically correct bigots.


Carroll, S. B. 2005. Endless Forms Most Beautiful. The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom. W. W. Norton. NY.

Darwin, C. 1863. The doctrine of heterogeny and modification of species. Athenaeum. No. 1852, (25 April): 554-55.

Gould, S. J. 1999. Branching Through a Wormhole. Lamarck’s ladder collapses. Natural History. 108: (March): 24-27, 76-81.

Wallace, A. R. 1855. On the law which has regulated the introduction of new species. Ann. Mag. Natural History. 16: 184-196.

Read more ...

15 September 2010

A Stitch in Time.

Time Magazine's gift to the Jewish people for the year 5771.
If you have access to a Hebrew calendar, you will discover that the world was created on the 25th day of Elul. At sundown the fourth day following, on the eve of Tishrei 1, begins the festival of Rosh Hashanah, commonly known as "Jewish New Year." Unlike the civil New Year, Rosh Hashanah is a religious holiday. It celebrates the Creation. Children are taught that Rosh Hashanah is the "Birthday of the World."

Coming a week before the "Day of Atonement," Rosh Hashanah is a time for reflection and repentance. It is also a time for celebration. Traditionally, Jews wish each other a "sweet and happy year." But it has not always been thus. In 1943, the Gestapo began rounding up of Danish Jews the night of Tishrei 1, the date having been chosen because it was assumed that they would be in their homes celebrating.1

This year's New Year gift to the Jewish people is an article, "Why Israel Doesn't Care About Peace," that appeared in Time Magazine on Tishrei 3 (September 11). The author's premise is that Israelis are too secure, too busy making money to bother about peace with their Palestinian neighbors, a latter day twist on the traditional "evil Jewish bankers" canard — go here for discussion.

Neither Karl Vick, the article's author, nor the editors of Time, who approved it, are Nazis, of course. They just wish that Israel would be more accommodating, neglecting for the sake of convenience the fact that continuing accommodation is an almost certain recipe for disaster. More precisely, the folks for whom Vick et al. carry water desire "peace" in the sense that the word applies to the cessation of violence that follows destruction of a hated foe. Hamas, the "more moderate" Palestinian Authority and the Arab world generally long for the destruction of the Jewish state and the expulsion, if not the outright slaughter, of its citizens. Should these dreams be realized, the folks at Time will have been as culpable as any Danish collaborator who provided names and addresses to the Germans in 5704.

No man, of course, is an island, and no magazine is published in a vacuum. The editorial proclivities of Time reflect the Left's view of Israel as a colonial state oppressing indigenous people. This view can be disputed, convincingly I believe, but that is not the subject of today's post. Rather, I wish to consider why a majority of American Jews continue to support those who would recreate the world as it was before 1948.

One answer is that American Jews are too comfortable, too secure to care about co-religionists half a world away; a second, that leftist secularism has replaced religion as their "moral" (I use the word advisedly) compass. Finally, there is habit, reinforced by an all too human reluctance to disavow past belief.

With regard to Jewish comfort and security, the increasingly out in the open alliance between Leftists and Islamists will prove salubrious. For the past decade, this association has been most in evident on college campuses. More recently, it has spilled into the public square as indoctrinated graduates made their way into politics and the media. That the President himself is one of these will further accelerate the process.

Regarding ascendant secularism within the Jewish community (I except the Orthodox), hard times tend to encourage traditional ways of thinking about man and his place in the universe. And it is hard times that have been amassed, bit by self-indulgent bit, these many years.

As to habit, generational turnover, if nothing else, will provide the remedy.

So there is no question that American Jews will get it eventually — "it" being the fact that the secular Left is their foe, and the Christian Right, their natural ally. "Eventually," however, can be a long time. And time is just as much an enemy of the Jewish people as any Jihadist intent on slitting an infidel's throat. "Tempora mutantur et mutamur" — "times change and we change." Indeed. But sooner is better than later. Best to stop, look and listen. Best to resolve this year, before the Book of Life is sealed, that conventional ways of thinking can be self-destructive.


1. The round-up was largely unsuccessful. Tipped off several days in advance, the Danish resistance and Jewish community leaders arranged for the escape and eventual transport to Sweden of nearly all of Denmark's 8000 Jews. A charming account, albeit with some not so subtle proselytizing, from the perspective of two Danish teenagers can be had in Robert Elmer's A Way Through the Sea.
Read more ...

06 September 2010

Dogs Drool.

"I love dogs. Really. Got one myself. See. Right here. Good doggy! And he don't drool. Just like a cat — nice 'n clean. Yup. Give me a dog any day. Just don't call me one. OK?"
Millions of Americans believe President Obama's a closet Muslim — which opinion raises two questions: Is he? and So what if he is? Regarding the first, here's a straw in the wind.

Speaking in Milwaukee this morning, the President went off teleprompter — never a swift move for the intellectually challenged — and unburdened himself:
"Some powerful interests who had been dominating the agenda in Washington for a very long time and they're not always happy with me. They talk about me like a dog. That's not in my prepared remarks, but it's true." [Emphasis added]
Hmm. There's been no dearth of insults directed the President's way, true. But I rather doubt that "dog" is one of them. And even if it were, it would pale in comparison with some of the others. So what's with the dog business?

I sought out Muriel, the "bodacious lady shrink" who spurned my friend Phil's advances way back when (see here), for advice. "What the President's saying," she explained, "is that he's been the object of unspeakable invective, poor dear! To prove it, he hauls out an extreme example."

"But calling someone a dog is hardly an insult extraordinaire, unless, of course, you're a cat."

"Or a Muslim!" My attempt at humor had fallen flat. "Muslims don't like dogs," she continued. "They think they're unclean, especially their saliva. Having them in the house is like displaying animate pictures — keeps the angels away."

Ah the perils of ad libbing when you've got so much to hide.

"You think Obama unintentionally dropped another hint, you know, like his 'Muslim faith,' as to his true proclivities? Is that why Bo flies solus?" I asked.

She shrugged. "Hard to say. But, like I said, Muslims don't like dogs. Mohammad was a cat man."

And, indeed, they don't. Consider, for example, the counsel offered by Mufti Ebrahim Desai to a young Muslim concerned that her mother might purchase a dog:
"You can share this answer with your mother, since it is she who has to make the decision. You must be very polite in talking to her about this issue and let your love and concern persuade her to the right action. If she still insists you may have to live with it. In that case make sure you understand the issue of purity and take necessary precautions." [Emphasis added]
The "issue of purity" refers to the matter of saliva.
"The saliva of a dog is Najis (impure). If it touches the clothes or body, that portion also becomes impure and must be washed."
Also go here.

Read more ...

05 September 2010

Never Gonna Stand For This.

"Never Gonna Stand For This." Fine. But just what is it we ain't gonna stand for? The Feds running amuck? Intolerable governmental intrusion into everyday life? Corruption? Recently, William Curtis offered an alternative answer.
President Obama's critics divide into two broad categories: those who imagine his intentions for the republic to be benign and those who do not. The former marvel at his ineptitude; the latter decry his radical agenda, his Marxist proclivities, his all too obvious desire to punish these United States for historical sins committed principally against people of color. To the latter view, William Curtis, a retired real estate developer writing at IBD Editorials, offers a novel twist. I say "novel," but truth be told, one imagines that others have had similar thoughts as the specifics of hope and change have become manifest.

Curtis suggests
"that Obama's goal as president is to further what some have stated to be one of the goals of the Muslim world: 'to destroy America from the inside without firing a shot.'

"Why would he want to do that? Perhaps because he really sees himself down the road as becoming the leader of an America that twice a day kneels down facing Mecca — perhaps even the leader of a Muslim-dominated world!"
To support this conjecture, Curtis enumerates familiar facts consistent with Obama as restorer of the Caliphate. Among them:
  1. His Muslim upbringing.

  2. His association with Trinity Church and the Reverend Wright.

  3. His various foreign and domestic policy initiatives.

  4. His comments on the proposed "Victory Mosque."
To these, one might add Obama's disdain for a large segment of the population he governs, which segment, it just so happens, clings "bitterly" to a religion with which Islam has been at war for 1300 years. One might also note that whereas past American presidents have made nice to Islamic nations for the sake of oil, Obama's commitment to reducing America's carbon footprint suggests genuine affection.

None of this is confirmatory, of course. But for those willing to look, a pattern is emerging. And that pattern is deeply disturbing.

To summarize: Curtis expands the list of possible "truths" about this President:
  1. Social democrat in the European mold.

  2. Marxist radical, "a peoples' republic sort of guy," who views Islamists as natural, albeit temporary, allies.

  3. Would-be leader of a restored caliphate who views the social justice crowd as useful idiots to be dealt with in due course.
Of these, the first has become increasingly implausible. Both the people with whom Obama surrounds himself and the methods he employs to advance his agenda suggest a commitment to democracy that will endure only as long it serves his purpose. That leaves Marxist radical and aspiring Caliph, neither of which is particularly attractive. Time, of course, will tell, even as it settled discussions on 7 December, 1941, as to the nature of Imperial Japan's true intentions. Meanwhile, look for extraordinary actions by this president and his lame duck Congressional minions should November bring the widely predicted Democrat debacle.

And enjoy the video linked to above.
Read more ...

14 August 2010

Refusing to Name the Enemy.

Steven Simpson has a powerful article over at American Thinker regarding our leaders' continuing refusal to identify the Mohammedan religion as prime motivator of what we euphemistically call "terrorism." Even more interesting than the article itself are some of the comments, several of which I reproduce here:
"As long as we are going to speak straight, why not refer to the challenge as that of "Islam". It is understood that not every Muslim is a suicide bomber, and that any generality can be attacked as being imperfect. Yet nobody denies that the Crusades were carried on by Christians. Here we do not address what the true interpretation of a doctrine is, but how it has operated. ... Today Islam is at war with all civilization, and aims at establishing Dar al Islam (the world of Islam) over Dar al Harb (the non-Islamic world). It makes no more sense to deny the terminology of Islam, jihad, or sharia, than it did to deny the terminology of communism, fascism, Russians, or Germans. Nor is it sensible to place Islam in the same category as Judaism or Christianity, but as their antithesis." — Allen777.

"Here in England I remember our big terrorist attack-7/7- on London's buses and underground trains.Victims were still being pulled out of the wreckage, when the chief of police and the Prime Minister appeared, seeming most concerned that, above all, we should not link these events with any particular religious group-certainly not Islam, f or as we know, it is a peace-loving religion ... However at the same time ... ''moderate'' Muslims warned us that if we in the West carried on with our foreign policies then we would suffer more and more outrages!" — Mike Harris.

"Islam is on the move again after a long quiescence and they have the numbers and, much more importantly, the will to remake the world. The liberal/progressive/socialist left in North America and Europe no longer has the will to defend Western civilization, having been for so long ambivalent about its value. While those on the left desperately seek to find some accommodating middle ground, no such common ground exists where the two such diametrically opposing civilizations could easily blend together. They are mutually exclusive and over time only one will prevail. One side realizes this, and the other side, our side, does not and has its proverbial head in the sand. ... . It certainly does not help to have a president who, if not a practicing Muslim, is certainly an active sympathizer and by extension basically anti-western." — Redhawk.

"As Andrew McCarthy and others have reported, there seems to be no doctrinal line of separation between "radical" and "moderate" branches of Islam. The Koran calls all the faithful to spread the rule of Islam throughout the world. The people we think of as "moderate" are merely among that branch of humanity as a whole that prefers not to murder. But there appears to be no ideological distinction from radicals, nor have we seen any willingness among the moderates to "police" their religion. Indeed, what doctrinal basis would govern such self-regulation? There appears to be none." — Rightman.

"Even the term "radical Islam", which is not PC, is too soft a term. Islam is the enemy, because wherever it goes, the radicals are there because the proportion of muslims who are radical is too high. It's a highly bigoted, intolerant, controlling, manipulative, and conformist religion, far more so than Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, or Buddhism. It recognizes no difference between religion, government, politics, military, and society." — AvgDude.

"The war on terrorism should have been an Air Force mission over Mecca September 12, 2001." — Standing Wolf.
Some, as the expression goes, "get it" — The question is whether enough of us will get it individually ere we all get it collectively. Tick, tick, tick.

Read more ...

02 July 2010

Divining the Climate: Update.

In our previous post, it was noted that seven of the fourteen "experts" surveyed by Zickfeld et al. are slatted to participate in AR5 in every case save one as Coordinating Lead or Lead Authors.

Now the Sydney Morning herald reports that the IPCC
will 'almost inevitably' make an increase in its predictions of sea-level rises due to global warming in its next landmark report in 2014."
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
Read more ...

The 'Imp,' Rick Barber and the Two Hundred Buses.

The 'Imp,' Phil's 1951 Imperial — presently in hock.
From time to time, this site posts (heavily edited) correspondence from your humble servant's old college buddy, Phil (here). Phil's a character, whose missives contain roughly equal amounts of wisdom and profanity — hence, the need for editing. A native Tennessean, he resides in southern Arizona where he rails against universities (in his senior year, Phil was expelled for mooning the Chaplain's wife), therapists (Phil was shot down by "a bodacious lady shrink" after "the incident"), global warming ("it's all UHI"), and so on.

Over the year's, Phil's been given to abrupt "career changes" — most recently from promoting "of course, it's legal" investment schemes to working as a "consultant" for an incumbent senator who should know better, but apparently doesn't. Is that Solon ever screwed!

Recently, Phil and I spoke on the telephone. "Had to hock the car," he informed me, referring to his beloved, 1951 Imperial ['built like a tank'] that guzzles 2-3 gallons per mile in traffic, but 'makes up for it on the road.' "Should be able to buy it back next month. The fillies love it, you know." [Hope so. Phil and that monster go way back. Totaled a VW bug once, back in the days when they sold for $1599. Came through without a scratch. A self-proclaimed protectionist, Phil was pleased — 'Sorta like an import tariff.'] "Besides," he continued, "I figured it was time to see the rest of the country." [Is Phil avoiding local law enforcement? Did one of those investment schemes turn out to have been not quite legal after all?]

A week or so later, a letter showed up. I reproduce it below — edits (for the sake of decorum), clarifications, my reactions, etc., in square brackets.
"Hey, T. A. --

"Whoa! Excess! [Phil's favorite way of evincing enthusiasm.]

"How's that blog of yours? Any hits yet? Not many, I bet. [Sigh!] Told you before, the name's all wrong. Sounds like you're pushing woofers 'n tweeters. [Double sigh!] Told you so. You need pictures — [deleted] N [deleted]. Give the guys something to look at -- maybe that Russian spy dame. You know, the redhead. They still won't read the crap you write, but at least you'll get some hits! Or she will -- Get it? Ha! Ha! [Triple sigh!]

"[Deleted] still thinks I'm working for him. Whoa! In six weeks, he'll be cooked like a trout on a grill. Or flappin['] like a fryin['] flounder! Won't have a nickel to his name. [I believe that. Associates of Phil inevitably wind up poorer for the experience.]

"You see the election in Alabama? Guy named Barber -- class act. Gave him 100 bucks. Didn't ask for more. Whoa! Just said thanks. Great psi-op! Actually thought of sending him more. Excess! [Phil giving money? This is amazing.]

"Got [deleted]. Wants us to get out of the [deleted] UN. Birchers right all along. We thought [']em crazier than a [deleted]. Remember? [Deleted]s want to take over the world.

"Wants to get rid of the IRS! Whoa! My kind of guy [Phil's had a thing about taxes for years, which is odd, because he rarely pays any.]

"You know, they're heapin a whole lot of [deleted] on the Gov here. Bodacious lady! And Zero wants to make 'em all citizens -- so they can vote for him. [Deleted]!

"Do the math. School bus holds 60 - say 50. Round trip to Mexico from Nogales / Douglas takes maybe an hour. Run it 10 hours [a day]. That's 500 illegals. Take a hundred buses -- get 'em from that fraud, Nagin. That's 5000. Three million in the state. Six hundred days to send 'em back. Two hundred buses, less than a year! And once you start, half leave on their own. Whoa! Problem solved! Cheaper than the [deleted] fence -- they'll never build it anyway. [Is Phil on to something?]

"Gotta run. Absentee ballots. Maybe Breitbart will pay for the story. [Someone always pays when Phil's involved.] Buy back the Imp.

"Say Hello to the Missis. Fine lady. [Agreed] Can't see what she sees in you. [Sigh!]

Good old Phil. As always, he's more right — in a "Phillish" sort of way — than wrong. Barber is a class act, and with the courage of his convictions. As to the school bus scheme, it's hard to imagine the Mexican government's going along. But getting serious would surely result in considerable self-deportation. Maybe we should try it — if not as Phil suggests, at least by putting some large, prominent employers in jail.

Read more ...

29 June 2010

Divining the Climate.

Figure 1. Dr. Kirsten Zickfeld, lead author of "Divinations."
PNAS is at it again. Fresh from its publication of a truly despicable article on the credentials of consensus climatologists vis-à-vis those of their skeptical colleagues, the official organ of The National Academy of Sciences is now offering up Expert judgments about transient climate response to alternative future trajectories of radiative forcing (June 28, 2010. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0908906107) — a production to which we will here refer as "Divinations" — short for "Divining the Climate: A Survey of Oracular Opinion."

The lead author, Kirsten Zickfeld (Figure 1), works for Environment Canada. Don't be fooled by the blond hair and the baby blues. Zickfeld's got smarts. Among other things, she studies mathematical models of "thermohaline circulation" (THC), which is the scientific name (because both temperature and salinity are involved) for currents such as the Gulf Stream that deliver tropical warmth to higher latitudes — see , for example, the The Two Mile Time Machine by Richard Alley for an accessible introduction and here for an update.

Cursory review of Zickfeld's publications yields the following conclusions:
  1. She's a serious scientist with considerable expertise in computers and modeling.

  2. In contrast to "all-but-the-kitchen-sink" simulations, Zickfeld's models are phenomenological — she calls them "reduced form models." They consist of a relatively small number (< 10), of differential equations, something this site views as a plus.

  3. Zickfeld's views her models as subroutines that can be plugged into larger schemes , so-called "integrated assessment models" (IAMs), that estimate the combined consequences of climatological processes and social policies .

  4. She's a true believer. Early on in her doctoral dissertation, we read the following:
    "Consequences of this [increased] rate of warming [since 1860], which is unprecedented at the human time-scale, are being observed in natural systems worldwide: glaciers shrink, sea-ice extent and thickness decrease, plants flower and birds breed earlier, and a number of plant and animal species extend their ranges northwards or upwards (for a review cf. Walther et al. 2003). ... [A]s long as anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are not effectively reduced, climate will continue to change. The most recent IPCC report projects a global mean temperature increase by 1.4–5.8 ±C relative to 1990 at the end of this century (Houghton et al. 2001). ... . [T]hese changes will mainly be felt through local modifications in other climate variables including precipitation, soil moisture, storminess and annual or diurnal temperature ranges. Extreme occurrences in most of these variables, i.e., droughts, floods and storms are likely to increase in magnitude and frequency in a warmer world (Houghton et al. 2001)." [References in the original]
That was in 2003. Since then, Zickfeld has continued to beat the drum. Interestingly, but not surprising given her research interests, her truth criterion is the output of more complicated simulations — general circulation models (GCMs) and the like. To this end, she parameterizes her models (adjusts the constants) to maximize concordance with the more detailed schemes. There is nothing wrong with this, of course. But it is important to note that what she is doing in no way makes independent contact with the real world.

Divinations. As summarized by The Independent,
"The 14 scientists, all experts in ... climate research, were asked about the probability of a tipping point [irreversible change] being reached some time before 2200 if global warming continued on the course of the worst-case scenarios predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Nine ... said that the chances of a tipping point ... were greater than 90 per cent, with only one saying that the chances were less than 50:50. "
Figure 2. Searching on "recovery act" at nsf.gov yields 6350 hits.
And the Joke's On Whom? Climate Depot is having fun with this, characterizing it as a "laugh riot" — the joke being that the due dates of tipping points past have come and gone absent catastrophe. But really, the joke's on us. These days, scientific research costs big bucks. You think it's coincidental, that
  1. A good chunk of stimulus change (Figure 2) went to research projects, and

  2. Scientists overwhelmingly favor the growth of government?
If you do, I've got a deal for you on a bridge.

A Non-representative Sample. The authors of "Divinations" went to considerable lengths (here) to achieve a common focus among interviewees. This is commendable. But like Zickfeld's truth criterion (above), their definition of "experts" is arguably myopic. All fourteen are associated with the IPCC (Table I). Nine were "Lead Authors" of one or more chapters of AR3 or AR4 (Third and Fourth Assessment Reports); the remainder, "authors," save for one, who was a "Reviewer." Additionally, six of the interviewees (Allen, Collins, Flato, Forest, Knutti and Weaver) are slated to participate in AR5 as Coordinating Lead or Lead Authors, and a seventh (Karl), as a Review Editor.

With rare exceptions, IPCC authors subscribe to the Panel's contention that anthropogenic increases (that's us) in atmospheric carbon is the principal driver of climate warming. To suggest that the experts polled by Zickfeld et al. represent anything more than the views of the converted is therefore equivalent to suggesting that the views of Roman Catholics, for example, represent those of all monotheists, or for that matter, of all Christians. Or, as Tom Lehrer put it in his inimitable characterization of existence, "Life is like a sewer. What you get out of it depends on what you put into it!"

Table I. Experts Interviewed by Zickfeld et al.
NameInstitutionIPCC Role1
Allen, M.University of Oxford, Oxford, UKL2
Collins, M.Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, Exeter, UKL
Flato, G.Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis, Victoria, BC, CanadaL
Forest, C.Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USAA3
Karl, T.National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, NC, USAL
Knutti, R.National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder,CO, USAL
Rahmstorf, S.Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research,Potsdam, GermanyL
Schlesinger, M.University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL, USAL
Schneider, S.H.Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA, USAL
Senior, C.Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, Exeter, UKA
Stainforth, D.University of Oxford, Oxford, UKA
Stone, P.Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USAR4
Weaver, A.J.University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, CanadaL
Wigley, T. National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, USAA

1. Contributions to Third and Fourth Assessment Reports - Working Group I (The Physical Science Basis). AR3 authors taken from http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/tar/wg1/pdf/TAR-APPENDICES.PDF; AR 4 authors, from List of authors from Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis and http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg1/ar4-wg1-annexes.pdf.
2. Lead author of one or more chapters. May also have been a co-author of additional chapters.
3. Co-author of one or more chapters.
4. Reviewer.
Read more ...

28 June 2010

Gather Your Armies II.

Rick Barber's latest "Gather Your Armies" video focuses on slavery. Donate to his campaign here.

Rick Barber has just released another campaign ad video. Gather Your Armies-II focuses on slavery, the contention being that a metastasizing federal government is making slaves of us all. The first third of the video has Barber once again conversing with resurrected American heroes. Of Lincoln, Barber asks, "What do you call it when one man's is forced to work for another?" The reply, soto voce as in GYA-I, is of course the "peculiar institution," as slavery's apologists used to call it, the abolition of which was the cause for which Union soldiers shed buckets of blood. No, Virginia. The Civil War wasn't about economics; it was about "social justice — the real kind. It was about erasing a stain on the American soul.

GYA-II identifies the "armies" of the first video as "armies of voters," some of whom we see being led by Lewis Schaeffer who sings a verse of "The Star Spangled Banner." Schaeffer, a former marine like Barber, has become a celebrity in TEA Party circles. Whatever his performances may lack in virtuosity, they make up for with palpable sincerity.

In this reviewer's opinion, GYA-II lacks the focused punch of its predecessor. This is a pity. Barber's point is spot on: Tyranny is on the march. Even were the present administration's intentions benign, what is being assembled is a machine that will surely turn free men into slaves — if not sooner, then later — most likely, sooner. Those inclined to dismiss this contention should dip into the The Federalist Papers. They should also revisit Huxley and Orwell.

Opinion polls commissioned back in February show the Democrat, Bobby Bright, defeating both Barber and his run-off opponent. But anger against Democrats has since been on the rise. Barber merits conservative support — now and in the general election. Donate if you can.

Read more ...

26 June 2010

Gather Your Armies.

Rick Barber's "Gather Your Armies" video. You can donate to his campaign here. Please consider doing so.

Rick Barber is an ex-marine, a small businessman, and a candidate for the House of Representatives (AL CD02) . In the June 1 Republican primary, he finished a distant second to Martha Roby, but was nonetheless able to force a runoff election on July 13. Roby had been endorsed by party regulars; Barber by Pamela Geller of Atlas Shrugs (see also here) and a few others. Roby's supporters claim she's a conservative; Barber's supporters charge RINO.

Roby's most recent posting (June 23) on her website announces the creation of a "Job Creator's Coalition," which to this correspondent's olfactory tissue, does, in fact, suggest the stench of an odd-toed, armored ungulate.

By way of contrast, Barber's positions are unimpeachable:
  • Immigration. While America is certainly a melting pot, our laws require that immigrants sign the guestbook on their way in.

  • The State of Israel. Israel is an island of democracy in the middle east and one of America’s closest allies in the world.

  • The Economy Small businesses create the vast majority of jobs in America. In a free market society like ours, the government should not be the engine of job creation.

  • Tax Reform. I fully support and will co-sponsor the FairTax bill.

  • etc.
Roby outspent Barber 7:1 in the primary, and Batber's website hasn't seen a new post since June 2. So is Barber's campaign out of gas? Perhaps. But even if it is, he's already done the country a service with his "Gather Your Armies" campaign ad (above) that attracted national attention and 330,000+ views on You Tube.. In the video, Barber is talking to a resurrected gathering of Revolutionary heroes: Sam Adams, Ben Franklin and George Washington. Pointing to a copy of the Constitution, he declares, "I took an oath to defend that. ... You gentlemen revolted over a tea tax. A tea tax! Are you with me?" To which, Washington replies soto voce "Gather your armies."

Critics, Repair_Man_Jack , for example, over at Red State, point to the ad as evidence that Barber is deranged — not his exact words, but read the article for yourself.
Perhaps. Whatever the nature of the armies to be gathered, the ad can certainly be viewed as inflammatory.

But there is a larger point. This site believes that Barber has put his finger on something important: Bit by incremental bit, the lobster — that's us — in the pot is being cooked, the temperature of the water having been increased so gradually that he's only just now beginning to realize what's happening.

This nation has come a long, long way since the Founders established a government with limited powers. And the shackles intended to limit those powers have been mostly shattered. If Barber's sense of melodrama can help rouse the lobster from his heat-induced stupor, if it can inspire him to heave his denaturing proteins out of the pot, Barber will have done the country invaluable service.

That's Beck's message, and Beck's no nut job. As the poet wrote:
"For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere."
Read more ...

25 June 2010


Figure 1. An English garden now (top) and with 2° (middle), and 4° C (bottom) warming. Note the changing the natural landscape in the background.
The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty looks after Britain's historic houses, gardens, natural areas and so forth. Back in March, Mail Online published an article about the Trust's campaign to call attention to climate change. The campaign was based on computer modeling by the Met Office ("we're usually wrong , but we keep crunching the numbers") Hadley Center.

The Mail article quotes Mike Calnan, the Trust's head of gardens and parks.
'We looked at gardens in southern France and southern Portugal and, bearing in mind what we can grow in this country in mild locations, we came up with a list of probably things we could grow in the future.'
Calnan adds the requisite note of caution:
'All of this is unknown and there are a lot of ifs and coulds. We are not saying that this is what the future will look like, but we are asking whether it could look like this. It is a bit of an eye opener.'
Calnan's disclaimer will, of course, be generally ignored, and that, one imagines, is the intent. Still, the paintings (Figure 1) commissioned to support the Trust's fantasy are lovely. In the interest of aesthetics, and by way of illustrating principles of good propaganda, we reproduce them here.

Awful Changes. One is reminded of a passage in Volume I of Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology — the book that Darwin took with him on his famous voyage. In 1831, Lyell imagined time without end, an endless cycle in which the earth and the creatures inhabiting it changed, but never really progressed — hence his delight at the discovery of the first Mesozoic mammals. Regarding a future warming of the climate, he wrote as follows:
Figure 2. Paleontology in a future age as imagined by Henry De la Beche in 1830. The famous cartoon lampoons Lyell’s view of geological history. Standing above a human skull (below the rock supporting the lectern) Professor Ichthyosaurus addresses an assemblage of conspecifics. The title and caption read as follows: "Awful Changes. Man Found only in a Fossil State – Reappearance of Ichthyosauri. 'You will at once perceive ... that the skull before us belonged to some of the lower order of animals; the teeth are very insignificant, the power of the jaws trifling, and altogether it seems wonderful how the creature could have procured food.’ " [emphasis added]
"Then might those genera of animals return, of which the memorials are preserved in the ancient rocks of our continents. The huge Iguanodon might reappear in the woods, and the ichthyosaur in the sea, while the pterodactyle [sic] might flit again through umbrageous groves of tree-ferns. Coral reefs might be prolonged beyond the arctic circle, where the whale and the narwal [sic] now abound. Turtles might deposit their eggs in the sand of the sea beach, where now the walrus sleeps, and where the seal is drifted on the ice-flow." [page 67 of the Penguin edition now available electronically]
Lyell was, of course, spectacularly wrong, not in predicting the eventual return of Mesozoic warmth — who can say about that? — but in his denial of biological progress. In the face of accumulating evidence, he eventually abandoned his views but not before a contemporary geologist had produced the cartoon reproduced in Figure 2. Here a future Professor Icthyosaurus addresses a toothy audience on the inadequacies of human jaws and teeth.

Peter Ward. Enter Peter Ward, a paleontologist at the University of Washington. In addition to his technical publications, Ward also writes popular books, one of which, The Flooded Earth: Our Future in a World Without Ice Caps, is discussed over at An Objectivist Individualist. According to the review, which is actually a review of a review — the original having been published in Scientific American — the book focuses on the social and economic chaos consequent to climate warming and rising sea levels.

I haven't read Flooded; nor am I likely to, my previous experience with Ward's popular productions having been disappointing. Since Ward writes well and with authority, let me clarify this criticism with reference to one of his other books, Out of Thin Air, which I have read, and which is sitting on the shelf in front of me as I write.

Tidal and Continuous Flow Respiration. Out of Thin Air focuses on changing concentrations of atmospheric oxygen down through the millenia. One topic treated in considerable detail is the evolution of "continuous flow" respiration in birds and their dinosaur ancestors. Most land vertebrates have what is called "tidal" respiration — air into the lungs on the first breath; out on the second. But in birds, inspired air goes first to a series of air sacs at the back of the animal, then to the lungs and then to another set of air sacs (at the front of the animal) from which it is finally exhaled. The result is that four breaths (as opposed to two) are required to move a volume of air into, through, and finally out of the animal. More importantly, each breath (in or out) delivers fresh air to the lungs. This is more efficient than "in and out." It' s the reason the mountain climber atop Mt. Everest uses an oxygen pack, while the eagle overhead does not.

Ward's thesis is that declining levels of atmospheric oxygen towards the end of the Paleozoic selected for increased respiratory efficiency in the line that led to birds, which contention bears on the "active dinosaur" question. Active dinosaurs, in turn, bear on the contingent nature of evolution — if not for the impact that ended the Cretaceous, would H. sapiens be here to read and argue about blogs? Probably not — see, for example, Steve Gould's essay, "Dinosaur in a Haystack".

What is exasperating about Ward's exposition is the manner in which it is referenced. To be sure, there are citations for each chapter, but assertions in the text are not tied to specific references. That makes it difficult for the interested, dare I say "skeptical," reader to assess the credibility of particular claims.

Science in the Service of Ideology. Back to Flooded. The problem is not, as suggested by the poster at Objectivist, that Ward is "no scientist." As noted above, he is a paleontologist, whose principal interest is mass extinctions — those much argued about events that periodically wipe the biotic plate clean, thereby setting the stage for the next round of evolutionary diversification. Rather, the problem is that, like many contemporary members of his profession, Ward puts science to the service of ideology. In recent years, this proclivity has become increasingly common. The May 7 letter to Science by 255 (mostly non-climatologist) scientists defending their climatologist brethren (go here for discussion and links) is a case in point. Likewise, the despicable article by Andregg et al. on the relative credentials of anthropogenic global warming proponents and skeptics. That the latter, which effectively establishes a "black list" of "non-believers," should have been published by the National Academy of Sciences gives you some idea as to just how far we've traveled down the road of politicizing science. As noted here, an important contributing factor to this development is money in the form of government grants; another, the new priesthood's defense of proprietary knowledge and its claims to secular authority — go here for historical perspective.

Will the climate warm and the ice caps eventually melt? If we wait long enough, the answer is "probably yes." But then the sun will eventually go nova and incinerate the planet, which is to say that "long enough" may be very long time, indeed.
Read more ...

04 June 2010

National Brotherhood Week.

Lehrer sings "National Brotherhood Week."
Tom Lehrer started out as a mathematics student at Harvard, [1] only to discover that he could have more fun, and make more money, singing satirical songs on the night club circuit. He was (still is, I suppose) a very talented musician whose oeuvres include "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park" (composed before tree huggers became a threat to humanity) and "National Brotherhood Week," the third verse of which brings us to today's post. (Listen now.)

Yup. "Everybody hates the Jews." Well, not quite everybody. Conservative Christians regularly speak out for God's People. There's also a fair sized cadre of mostly conservative Jewish columnists who stand up for for their own. And there's the Big Guy upstairs who, rumor has it, is inclined to help those who help themselves.

Yesterday, this correspondent did some "sloggin' through the bloggin'." Oink! [2] Even when the article was reasonable, a goodly fraction of the comments were not. The Jews this; the Jews that. Never has so much harm been done to so many by so few — to coin a not so original phrase. Then there was the "we stand with Israel" site that links to another featuring the anti-Semitic bilge of the intellectual class, tucked out, of course, as humanitarian concern — wonder what those clowns will say when an Iranian nuke goes off in Tel Aviv — "Tisk, tisk," I imagine.

Rounding things out were the effluvia of self-loathing Jews like Daniel Luban, who wrote a "thoughtful" piece on his transition from "liberal Zionist" to just plain "liberal." Thoughtful, my tush. Hey Danny boy! What you think them Islamists have in mind for you? A medal for being so stupid you don't know which side of your bread's buttered? Or maybe you figure it's just them Israeli Jews that's in their cross hairs?

Gentle Reader — when your faithful correspondent sat down to write this piece, he imagined something more erudite — about mankind's innate tribalism; how it's been selected for since before we were human; maybe an uplifting observation about our ability to do the right thing nonetheless. Appologies.
What needs saying is this:
"If the Rachel Corrie sails south, put a torpedo in her belly. If the Turks send a naval escort, sink their bones to Davy Jones. If "Hopey Changey" menaces, ignore him. If go down you must, go down fighting, and if you fight, you mayn't go down after all."


1. Lehrer taught mathematics as graduate student at Harvard and later as an instructor elsewhere. This author's "Lehrer Number" (inside joke) is 2 — I studied analytic geometry with a Prof. whose college classes included at least one in which Lehrer had been a teaching assistant.

2. There are good things out there, of course. I especially recommend Luboš Motl's remarks and Sarah Palin's — God bless her! Him too!
Read more ...

01 June 2010

Rock 'em. Sock 'em.

"Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time. ... That's why Americans have never lost and will never lose a war. Because the very thought of losing is hateful to Americans." — General George S. Patton, 31 May, 1944 [1].

As Israel attempts to counter the predictable condemnation [2] of what is widely being reported as a bloody fiasco at sea, a disproportionate response in which "peace activists" were unconscionably murdered, her leaders would do well to consider the words quoted above.

Historically, admiration for Israel owed much to the derring-do of its military — Entebbe, Osirak, the Six Days War, crossing the Suez Canal and the encirclement of the Egyptian Third Army. Sadly, that admiration is a thing of the past — sadly, because developments in the U.S. and the Middle East are conjoining to make Israel's strategic position increasingly vulnerable.

Advice from the armchair is easily given, and the armchair being removed from the facts on the ground, often of dubious worth. Still, this site suggests that Israeli tentativeness — the start-stop, advance-withdraw campaigns of recent years — far from placating the nation's foes, has simply emboldened them. With the Obama administration tilting toward her enemies, Israel had better get used to standing alone. As noted previously,
"... the question is not if Obama will stand with Israel, but rather if Israel will stand with the American people who are just now beginning to appreciate the true nature of 'Hope and Change.' Israel can do this by being brave, strong and independent, above all, by surviving. The inspiration afforded thereby will allow the real America to again one day be 'a light unto the nations.' For the present, that task defaults to others."
For starters, Israel's leaders should read Patton's speech in its entirety, which, and with respect to a great general, can be summarized thusly:

"Rock 'em, sock 'em. Don't look back."

The alternative is death by a thousand cuts.


1. Patton's famous speech was delivered to soldiers of the American Third Army as they prepared to embark on the Channel crossing that would end with the D-Day assaults. Searching on "Americans love a winner" yields different versions, apparently because the original is no longer extant — see here.

2. Noteworthy among exceptions to the general howl are Sarah Palin's remarks posted on Facebook.
Read more ...

30 May 2010

Mr. Credit Card.

American flag$25.00
Cigarette lighter:$ 1.95
1/2 litre petrol.$ 2.50
Setting yourself on fire when burning the American flag.Priceless!
Some things, money
just can't buy.
For everything else, there's

Mr. Credit Card!
John Brennan is is an Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, On May 26, he addressed the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Conservative commentators, the folks at IBD Editorials, for example, seized on his remarks as evidence of political correctness run amuck. For the complete text of Mr. Bennan's speech, go here. The remarks that caused the fuss are as follows:
"Our enemy is not terrorism because terrorism is but a tactic. Our enemy is not terror because terror is a state of mind and, as Americans, we refuse to live in fear. Nor do we describe our enemy as jihadists or Islamists because jihad is holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam meaning to purify oneself of [or] one’s community.

And there is nothing holy or legitimate or Islamic about murdering innocent men, women and children."
What does one make of this? The phrase, "religion of peace" is widely viewed as laughable. Yet here is Brennan, nine years after 9/11, and with all that has happened since, making the same claim.

The IBD editorialist believes that Brennan was duped Citing one of the more explicit, "smite the infidels" exhortations in the Koran, he writes,

"It's plain that Brennan has been told by Muslim leaders what jihad does or doesn't mean without finding out for himself."
That "Muslim leaders" could pull the wool over Brennan's eyes is difficult to swallow. Brennan's been around. He's a career CIA officer; has a masters degree in government, with concentration in Middle Eastern Studies. Surely he remembers Palestinians dancing in the streets after 9/11; surely he recalls the American flag being burned in the streets. Surely he's seen pictures memorializing suicide bombers in West Bank homes. Surely he knows the history of Islam, the meaning of the word "dhimmi", the "rights of the Rayah", etc. Surely he knows that there is enormous sympathy for jihad in the Muslim world — not the inner struggle kind of jihad, but the "smite their necks" variety.

So what's going on? The answer is in the words that follow those quoted above. "[C]haracterizing our adversaries this way [as jihadists]," Brennan writes,
"would actually be counterproductive. It would play into the false perception that they [the terrorists] are religious leaders defending a holy cause when in fact, they are nothing more than murderers, including the murder of thousands upon thousands of Muslims. ...

"Moreover, describing our enemy in religious terms would lend credence to the lie propagated by al-Qaida and its affiliates to justify terrorism, that the United States is somehow at war against Islam. The reality, of course, is that we have never been and will never be at war with Islam. After all, Islam, like so many faiths, is part of America." [Emphasis added]
Brennan believes that characterizing Muslim terrorists as jihadists legitimizes their acts in the minds of Muslims disinclined to violence. At best, this is a pious hope. What workaday Muslims think about the people we call "terrorists" depends on many things. But the words non-Muslims use to describe such individuals isn't one of them. In recent years, European governments, France's proscription of the veil notwithstanding, have been nothing if not sensitive to Muslim sensibilities. And the result has been what? "Immigrant" violence on a massive scale; "Asian" youth on the prowl for women to assault; "suburbs" so dangerous that municipal authorities dare not enter; neighborhoods where "weekend entertainment" means "carbeque." This is in addition to the organized violence that periodically erupts in spectacular bombings.

Brennan argues that criminality is distinguishable from the "real" Islam." In effect, he sets himself up as an authority on the Muslim religion. This is presumptuous. Only Muslims can, will and should be the ones to decide what their religion is about. Brennan's conceit is also laughable. Imagine, if you will, an eleventh or twelfth century imam distinguishing Crusaders from the "real Christians" who practice a "religion of love." Imagine him telling the faithful that they should distinguish those who "hijack a religion" from the religion itself. I doubt such a preacher would have had much of following. To be sure, only a fraction of Europe's population set out for the Holy Land. But, at least initially, the Crusades were enormously popular. To have claimed that the Crusaders were anything but agents of Christendom would have been viewed as preposterous — because that's what it would have been.

The comparison is worth pursuing. At the time of the Crusades, Muslims of the Levant, were in no position to take the fight to the infidels' homeland. But they could resist the invaders. Eventually, they drove them out, and, when circumstances changed, Muslim armies swept into Europe itself. The Eastern Roman Empire fell; Constantinople became Istanbul; Suleiman the Magnificent laid siege to Vienna. Anyone who sees the "War on Terror," a term of admittedly dubious distinction, as anything other than one more battle in the centuries old struggle between Islam and the non-Islamic world is kidding himself.

By and large, the governing class, the academics, the media don't get it. For the most part, they are secular. "For God, for country and for Yale" is still the final verse of the Yale alma mater, but to most graduates of that school and other elite universities, the words mean little. The idea of killing, to say nothing of risking death, for religion is alien to their view of the world. The best they can come up with is that poverty breeds despair; despair, rage and rage, violence.

The American public, as distinct from their leaders, is more inclined to take religion seriously. The public understands commitment to God. They recognize that from such commitment both good things and bad can follow. Whether or not bin Laden's "Letter to Muslims" represents the "true" nature of Islam is beside the point. What's important is what the followers of Islam believe that nature to be. And the available evidence suggests that many subscribe to an "us-them" view of the world. How many? Enough. Enough to prevent a level of revulsion within the Muslim community that would shut the terrorists down. For ultimately, they depend on that community for cover and support. It is a worrisome state of affairs. It is not something that can be fixed from without. It is not something that can be massaged away by aid, collaboration and sensitivity. Nor will acquiescing to small assaults on American values and traditions forestall larger assaults in the future. To the contrary, it will encourage them.

Surely, Brennan must know these things. This site therefore agrees with the IBD editorialist when he wrote that Brennan was told what to say. But we doubt that the instructions came from "Muslim leaders."

Elsewhere in his speech, Brennan speaks of the importance of maintaining a strong economy. "Prosperity," he writes,
"a strong, innovative and growing U.S. economy in an open international economic system that promotes opportunity and prosperity is essential to our future and the future of generations yet to come."
The American economy, of course, is in the toilet, and the man Brennan works for is doing everything he can to see that it stays there. As we run up the bill on Mr. Credit Card, we compromise our ability to meet the dangers against which Brennan is tasked with protecting us. Some things, indeed, are priceless — the survival of America as we know it, among them.
Read more ...

26 May 2010

How Overhead Corrupts Science and Promotes the Radical Agenda.

Turtle and elephants supporting the world. Go here for commentary.
Dr. Jones. Consider the case of Dr. Jeremiah Jones, "Jerry" to his friends, an up and coming herpetologist (snakes, lizards, etc.) at the University of the Antipodes (UTA). Dr. Jones wants to study the Great Turtle (right) on whose back, he believes, the world really does rest. Brushing aside objections that there is no such beast, that the earth is a sphere, not a plate nor even a hemisphere, orbiting the sun sans Turtle, he submits a grant proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF) [1]. The proposal is well crafted, and to his colleagues' amazement, mirabile dictu, the Foundation awards Jones $250 K for a year's preliminary investigation. If the results are promising, he is encouraged to submit a follow-up proposal requesting the standard 3-5 years' funding.

Figure 1. The overhead scam. When Professor Jones was awarded an NSF grant, the University of the Antipodes took 35% off the top. Graduate student salaries and fringe benefits (2 × $25K) included in "Research;" Dr. Jones' summer salary, $18K, and fringe benefits, in "Dr. Jones."

Figure 2. The overhead scam as shown in Figure 1, but with UTA incentives and NSF award criteria added. Incentives encourage Dr. Jones to jump through whatever hoops the foundation decides upon. These include promoting social engineering under the rubric of "Broader Impacts."
Indirect Costs. UTA's administrators are, of course, delighted by Dr. Jones' success. They should be. For every dollar (excluding major equipment) Dr. Jones requested, they added an additional 55¢ as "indirect costs" (Figure 1) [2]. In the present case, UTA's take was about $88 K, more than enough to pay Dr. Jones' salary for the year in question. Since he will continue to teach, UTA in effect will secure his services as an instructor gratis.

"Overhead," as indirect costs are often referred to, was originally envisaged as a way of encouraging universities to promote faculty research, essentially by defraying the cost of maintaining their laboratories. That was the theory. In practice, indirect costs effectively go into the general operating fund. By "effectively," I mean that, while there are activities upon which overhead cannot be expended, bricks and mortar, for example, the uses to which it can be put are gratifyingly numerous. UTA consequently encourages its employees to seek extra-mural support. The incentives (Figure 2) are both positive and negative: pay raises, promotions and reduced teaching loads for those who bring back the bacon; stagnant salaries, increased teaching and, in some cases, outright dismissal for those who don't.

In recent years, and like most other public universities, UTA has had to deal with shrinking state appropriations. As a consequence, overhead returns have become increasingly important. As on many other campuses, a fraction of the total is returned to individual departments. These returns can be critical, serving to supplement university allocations that for many departments cover little beyond salary line items. In short, what began as a device to facilitate research has become a sine qua non. Or, to put it another way, overhead is the crack cocaine of the academy. It is highly addictive, and it distorts everything.

Dr. Jones' Budget. It comes as no surprise that Dr. Jones' award (Figure 1) includes money for research: transportation to the Edge of the Earth (and access to the Turtle), salary for two graduate student assistants, equipment, publication page charges, reimbursement for monies expended (travel, registration, food, lodging) while attending the annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles (SSAR), and so forth.

Because Dr. Jones' appointment at UTA is for the academic year, the grant also includes summer salary, which he otherwise would not receive. Summer salary is calculated as 2/9 of what he draws for the ten months he is officially on campus. To this, and to the salaries of his graduate students, UTA tacks on an additional 30% to cover fringe benefits, a figure previously negotiated with the Foundation.

Outreach. Dr Jones' award also includes funds for "Outreach." From the ranks of UTA's "underrepresented" (women, blacks, Hispanics) undergraduates, Dr. Jones will select individuals to work in his lab as interns. Along with his graduate students, they will also participate in presentations at inner city schools and at the local community college that minority high school graduates often attend before transferring to UTA. The message will be that science is for the "underrepresented;" the objective, to increase their presence in UTA's biology program. Pursuant to this objective, Dr. Jones and his high school / junior college faculty counterparts will establish a formal program with a suitably catchy acronym. For the moment, his colleagues' participation is stricty pro bono. But down the road ..., visions of government funding dance in their heads. Likewise, at the SSAR meeting, Dr. Jones and his students will man a table touting minority / female opportunities in biology at UTA. Convenient to these efforts is the fact that one of Dr. Jones' graduate students is Hispanic; the other, female.

Broader Impacts. Given a choice, Dr. Jones would not have included Outreach in his proposal. If pressed, he will tell you he thinks affirmative action is a good idea. Like most of his colleagues, Dr. Jones is a good liberal and, being white and male, feels a not inconsiderable obligation to help to right the wrongs of generations past. However, he will also tell you that studying theTurtle will be difficult (and dangerous) enough without the added burden of Outreach. But Dr. Jones had no choice. His proposal, like most others, was evaluated according to two very different criteria: "intellectual merit" and "broader impacts." The latter, he understands from Chapter III of the NSF's 2009 Proposal Guide, divides broadly into two categories:
  1. "Integration of Research and Education."

  2. "Integrating Diversity into NSF programs, projects and activities."
Regarding the extent to which proposals address these categories, the Guide poses the following questions:
  1. "How well does the activity advance discovery and understanding while promoting teaching, training, and learning?

  2. "How well does the proposed activity broaden the participation of underrepresented groups (e.g., gender, ethnicity, disability, geographic, etc.)?

  3. "To what extent will it enhance the infrastructure for research and education, such as facilities, instrumentation, networks, and partnerships?

  4. "Will the results be disseminated broadly to enhance scientific and technological understanding? What may be the benefits of the proposed activity to society?" [Emphasis added]
Elsewhere on the Foundation's website, Dr. Jones finds a document listing specific activities [3] that "broaden the participation of underrepresented groups."

Dr. Jones knows that the trick is to address as many of these objectives as possible in a way that relates naturally to his research. Initially, Dr. Jones will focus on items #1-3 above, and, in the case of #3, on educational partnerships. In the future, he intends to add scientific partnerships to his quiver.

As everyone knows, the Edge of the Earth is ringed by the Great Arabian Desert. To the north, half way round the world from UTA, lies the city of Al Arabica. With the local university, Dr. Jones hopes to initiate a collaborative relationship that will involve faculty and student exchanges. Not just the Great Turtle, but reptiles generally, and desert ecology, more generally still, will be the partnership's focus. Dr. Jones imagines that he can tie this part of next year's proposal to global warming. Sex determination in reptiles is known to be temperature-dependent (Janzen, 1994). As the world warms, male/female ratios will decline. But what about species in environments that are always hot? Perhaps desert reptiles can offer clues as to how this adverse consequence of climate change can be countered? An added bonus, Jones hopes, will be the international nature of the collaboration, and with a nation upon whose friendship (and petroleum) the United States depends. This year, he will lay the necessary groundwork by having a University of Al Arabica biologist join him en route to their historic encounter with the Turtle.

Summary. Overhead anables government acting through the funding agencies to coerce research grant recipients into engaging in social engineering. These activities have nothing to do with the proper purpose of research grants, which should be to promote scholarly activity — period. The universities, to which the contracts are awarded, have a tangible financial interest in seeing to it that their faculty apply for such funding and further that the latter jump through whatever hoops the funding agencies require. Let me put this more precisely with reference to Figure 2. Increasing university incentives to secure funding (because of overhead) feeds back to increase the diversion of time, effort and dollars from research to Broader Impacts.

Three related points in closing:
  1. NSF's mandate is defined by Congress. "Increased participation of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics]" is the third of eight items [4] describing the Broader Impact Criterion in this year's NSF authorization (H.R. 4097). Responsibility for using research grants for unrelated societal purposes thus lies with the politicians.

  2. One consequence of promoting "underrepresented groups," as opposed to worthy individuals who happen to belong to such groups, is that it politicizes scientific inquiry in ways that historically have led to bad science and outright abuse. Trofim Denisovich Lysenko, the "barefoot professor," having been promoted by the Soviet establishment because of his peasant origins, was, in effect, a product of affirmative action — in a different place, at a different time and under a different name — but affirmative action nonetheless (Roll-Hansen, 2005). And it is worth remembering that the traditional academics who sponsored him eventually reaped the whirlwind. In addition, Soviet genetics was destroyed utterly. In the U.S. today, promoting "underrepresented groups" feeds the radicalism already rampant on the nation's campuses.

  3. Governmental manipulation of science is not confined to social engineering. It can also involve the promotion of specific hypotheses that are politically / ideologically congenial to the politicians. Regarding the leaked East Anglia emails, Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen, the doughty editor of Energy and Environment, had this to say in a memorandum submitted to the British Parliament:
    "The CRU [Climate Research Unit] case is not unique. Recent exposures have taken the lid off similar issues in the USA, the Netherlands, Australia, and possibly in Germany and Canada. There may be a systemic problem here, and it would be neither fair nor helpful to make CRU and the UK Meteorological Office the sole fall-guys. It is at least arguable that the real culprit is the theme- and project-based research funding system put in place in the 1980s and subsequently strengthened and tightened in the name of 'policy relevance'. This system, in making research funding conditional on demonstrating such relevance, has encouraged close ties with central Government bureaucracy. Some university research units have almost become wholly-owned subsidiaries of Government Departments. Their survival, and the livelihoods of their employees, depends on delivering what policy makers think they want. It becomes hazardous to speak truth to power." [Emphasis added]"
Boehmer-Christiansen could just as easily have been speaking of Lysenkoism, which stood in opposition to the "bourgeois science" of Morgan and Mendel.

Dr. Jones and his Great Turtle project are, of course, "fig newtons" of this author's imagination. But the NSF policies referred to are real, as the reader can readily confirm by following the links. Americans are just now awakening to the fact that government has for decades been betraying their interests in every possible way, squandering their money, in particular. The excesses of the apparatchiks who dole out research dollars are no exception. Just another entry in a list that is both long and depressing.


1. At the Foundation's website, one learns that
"The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 'to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…' With an annual budget of about $6.9 billion (FY 2010), we are the funding source for approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities. In many fields such as mathematics, computer science and the social sciences, NSF is the major source of federal backing."
As of this writing, NSF's budget is projected to rise to $10.7 billion by FY 2015.

2.Indirect cost rates (modified total direct costs — excludes capital equipment) are negotiated individually between individual universities and the Foundation, and therefore vary from one institution to the next. Noll and Rogerson (1997) provide rates for a representative sample. For the 70+ (I didn't count) schools listed, the rates ranged from 31.5% to 77%. The data are for the year 1992. Since then, rates have come down a bit, but not by much. For example, in 1992, the University of Michigan rate was 59%; in 2009-2011, 54.5%. In 2012, it will increase to 55.5%

3. Among activities addressing the Broader Impacts requirement, the Foundation lists the following:
  • "Establish research and education collaborations with students and/or faculty who are members of underrepresented groups.

  • "Include students from underrepresented groups as participants in the proposed research and education activities.
  • .
  • "Establish research and education collaborations with students and faculty from non-Ph.D.-granting institutions and those serving underrepresented groups.

  • "Make campus visits and presentations at institutions that serve underrepresented groups.

  • "Establish research and education collaborations with faculty and students at community colleges, colleges for women, undergraduate institutions, and EPSCoR [Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research] institutions.

  • "Mentor early-career scientists and engineers from underrepresented groups who are submitting NSF proposals.

  • "Participate in developing new approaches (e.g., use of information technology and connectivity) to engage underserved individuals, groups, and communities in science and engineering.

  • "Participate in conferences, workshops and field activities where diversity is a priority."
4. The complete description of the Broader Impact Criterion in H.R. 4897 is as follows:
  1. Increased economic competitiveness of the United States.

  2. Development of a globally competitive STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] workforce.

  3. Increased participation of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM.

  4. Increased partnerships between academia and industry.

  5. Improved K-12 STEM education and teacher development.

  6. Improved undergraduate STEM education.

  7. Increased public scientific literacy.

  8. Increased national security.
Note that #8, national security, replaces “How well does the activity advance discovery and understanding while promoting teaching, training and learning?”


Janzen, F. J. 1994. Climate change and temperature-dependent sex determination in reptiles. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA. 91: 7487-7490.

Roger G. Noll, R. G. and W. P. Rogerson. 1997. The Economics of University Indirect Cost Reimbursement in Federal Research Grants. Northwestern University - Department of Economics. Stanford University Department of Economics WP 97-039.

Roll-Hansen, N. 2005. The Lysenko Effect: The Politics of Science. Humanity Books. NY.

Read more ...