Johnny Cash and the Democrats

I rarely listen to Country & Western music but when I do my favorite singer is, unsurprisingly, Johnny Cash.  And I am far from alone in that.  He was very popular for most of his life.  And that is what I want to talk about.  But a few preliminary comments first:

I have no information on how he voted while he was alive but his close friendship with Jimmy Carter suggests at least some Democrat sympathies. Plus he was a Southerner and the South in his early days  mostly voted Democrat.

But if he was a Democrat he was a sincere one.  Leftist politicians are just parasites in compassionate clothing but in the general population, many Leftist voters probably do have some real compassion for various groups.  The Leftist appeal to compassion would not work otherwise.

Although he was himself never sent to jail, the group that Johnny Cash had compassion for was prisoners.  And, as most will know, he put his money where his mouth was, or, more precisely, he put his mouth where the money was not.  He did many jailhouse concerts and charged nothing for them, even though he could have got big money for them elsewhere. He used his talent to do whatever he could for prisoners.

So what was the secret of his popularity?  There are a number of possible reasons: His marvellous bass-baritone voice plus he was quite good looking in his youth.  He looked a lot like Elvis, in fact.  And the intense romanticism of his songs no doubt helped a lot.

My favorite two songs of his are "Walk the Line" and "ring of fire".  In the first he promises fidelity to his wife and in the second he compares being in love to being surrounded by fire.  Those two songs would probably have some claim to being the greatest love songs ever written, with only "My love is like a red, red rose" by Robert Burns being clearly more deserving of that title.

But the lesson I draw from his work is the great simplicity of his writing.   Each song has simple words that are repeated a lot.  I give the words of both below:

Ring Of Fire Lyrics

Love is a burnin' thing
And it makes a fiery ring
Bound by wild desire
I fell into a ring of fire

I fell into a burnin' ring of fire
I went down, down, down
And the flames went higher
And it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire, the ring of fire

I fell into a burnin' ring of fire
I went down, down, down
And the flames went higher
And it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire, the ring of fire

The taste of love is sweet
When hearts like ours meet
I fell for you like a child
Oh, but the fire went wild

I fell into a burnin' ring of fire
I went down, down, down
And the flames went higher
And it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire, the ring of fire

I fell into a burnin' ring of fire
I went down, down, down
And the flames went higher
And it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire, the ring of fire
And it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire, the ring of fire
The ring of fire, the ring of fire
The ring of fire

"I Walk The Line"

I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because you're mine, I walk the line

I find it very, very easy to be true
I find myself alone when each day is through
Yes, I'll admit that I'm a fool for you
Because you're mine, I walk the line

As sure as night is dark and day is light
I keep you on my mind both day and night
And happiness I've known proves that it's right
Because you're mine, I walk the line

You've got a way to keep me on your side
You give me cause for love that I can't hide
For you I know I'd even try to turn the tide
Because you're mine, I walk the line

I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because you're mine, I walk the line

And the "freight-train" rhythm of both songs is simple too.  So when extremely simple words and thoughts are immensely popular, can we learn something about politics from that?  I think we can but it is a hard lesson:  Simplicity is attractive.  And the Democrat message is simple indeed.  Listen to Bernie Sanders saying how bad many things are but without making any serious attempt at explaining why they are so or advancing any ideas to fix them that would in fact work.  The Leftist message is simple but wrong.  The conservative message is complex but right.  It's not a happy thought for conservatives.

What can we do about it?  I think we need a great communicator.  Reagan was one and Trump seems to be another.  His messages are simple too, way too simple for policy wonks, but maybe simple enough to win elections.  He is a smart man so if he does win he would almost certainly take well-argued advice and not do anything too foolish


Australia should do more for Aborigines?  If so how?

The self-righteous bleat below is an editorial from the Left-leaning Melbourne "Age".  It exhibits all the brains of a flea.  It shows no awareness of Aboriginal life or of the unending stream of government efforts that have been made to better the lot of Aborigines.  I would be surprised if the writer had ever set foot in a black's camp. I have.  I grew up with Aborigines around the place.  They were in my Primary school and down the end of the street where I lived.

So the writer below has only his self-righteousness to put forward. He puts forward not a single suggestion about what to do to help Aborigines.  He doesn't know what has happened and has no idea what should happen.  He is just a brainless Leftist fool

The best he can do is end up with an unsubstantiated accusation.  He speaks of "The disadvantage foisted on Indigenous Australians by ignorance or prejudice."  Where is his evidence that the poor situation of Aborigines is due to "ignorance or prejudice".  He has none.  It's just a verbal fart.

There are many ethnic groups in Australia and many of them came here when there was indeed prejudice against them.  My mother's father told her when she was young that he would cut her off if she married an Italian.  So did that hold Italians back?  Hardly.  Not long ago, Australia's most populous State -- NSW -- was run by second generation Italians and Greeks -- the Iemma administration.  And they were put there by the NSW voters.

And note that most Italians who migrated to Australia in the early to mid 20th century were poor peasant people trying to escape poverty.  They were by most criteria very "disadvantaged" people.  But they thrived in Australia, as they did in the USA. In one generation they leapt to prosperity.

And look at the Jews.  Can any group ever have been more hated than the Jews?  If you want to talk about prejudice and discrimination, look at the experience of the Jews.  Yet Jews ride high wherever they are.  Israel even prospers despite constant attacks on it by Muslims.

Plainly, there is no systematic disadvantage inflicted on anyone by prejudice and discrimination.  One could more plausibly argue that it spurs people on to a high level of achievement.

So our brainless Lefty editor is plain WRONG in his explanation  of Aboriginal backwardness.  That leaves Aborigines responsible for themselves.  Self-responsibility?  What a horrible thought to a Leftist!  The State is their solution to everything.

Over 40,000 years, Aborigines evolved to lead a hunter-gatherer life and they are superbly adapted to that life.  They are NOT however adapted to modern life and nothing will make them that.  There are however some ways that they can be helped.

I see it in the contrast between elderly Aborigines and young Aborigines.  The older ones are much better adapted to white society.  They lead reasonably clean, orderly and sober lives while the young ones are plagued by every conceivable problem.  Why?  Because when the older ones were growing up, the Aboriginal settlements were run by missionaries.  And Aborigines are a very spiritual people so religion has a big effect on them.  It gave the missionaries the leverage to teach Aborigines habits that would be to their advantage.

But there is no political will to bring back the missionaries so is there anything else to be done?  Just about everything that could be tried has been tried by successive State and Federal governments of all political stripes so there is really only one possibility left:  Better policing.

The casual violence towards women and children by Aboriginal males is horrific. I have seen it.  But if the women had somewhere to run to in their settlements, many could escape that violence.  Most settlements already have a police presence but it is woefully inadequate.  More cops are what is needed but I am quite sure that would not suit our brainless Leftist editor.  Where would he get a warm glow out of that?

If you are yet to take the 8½ minutes to watch journalist Stan Grant speak on the topic of "racism destroying the Australian dream," make the time. His words are searing, a much-needed jolt to national complacency towards Aboriginal Australia, and a powerful statement of reality, both historical and present day.

But more than words, the accompanying passion – Grant's face and tone deeply imbued with sorrow, anger, hope and regret from personal experience as an Indigenous man – points to the emotional toll of unfinished business on the first people of this country. We must all strive to better acknowledge this suffering, even if it remains a lived experience most people can never truly understand.

Grant's speech, delivered in October, won prominence last week when released as an online video during a traditional time of introspection, both for the community and in our personal lives.

The new year is often a moment when people choose to take stock of goals, to resolve a fresh beginning, or rededicate themselves to cherished dreams. The symbols of nationhood are put on overt display just as languid summer weeks are about to be swamped by the reality of busy lives. As if to warm up dozing political muscles, we have developed a habit of adorning Australia Day with a ritual debate about changing the flag and becoming a republic.

But Grant's speech challenges the country to do more. Much more. His is a reminder that the personal and national experience is deeply intertwined for Indigenous Australians. The "Invasion Day" protests to mark the anniversary of the arrival of white settlers are illustrative, but cannot alone convey the discrimination felt each and every day in the Indigenous community.

"My people die young in this country," Grant reminds us. "We die 10 years younger than average Australians and we are far from free. We are fewer than 3 per cent of the Australian population and yet we are 25 per cent, a quarter of those Australians locked up in our prisons .hs.hs. If you are a juvenile, it is worse, it is 50 per cent."

Statistics that alone are distressing, but in what stands as a national shame, Grant observes "an Indigenous child is more likely to be locked up in prison than they are to finish high school." What a indictment on the supposed ethos of a fair go.

Australia can do and must do better. The steep difference in Victoria, where Indigenous children are more than 12 times as likely as non-Indigenous children to be placed in state care is another indicator of woeful disadvantage. We have become far too comfortable with pledges to "close the gap" that the action necessary to make this a reality is rarely a priority.

Complacency also marks our debate about the place of Indigenous culture in our national story. We have become fixated on a slogan, "recognition", too often ignoring the concepts many Aborigines would prefer be debated, such as "self-determination", "sovereignty" and "treaty".

It is not that the proposal to change the constitution to acknowledge Indigenous culture is without merit. But the country must properly decide what such a change is meant to achieve. Megan Davis, a legal professor and member of the Prime Minister's Expert Panel on recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the constitution, has warned the idea has become mired in "bipartisan stage-managed process". We should be aspiring to more than piecemeal reform, but justice.

Like Grant's speech, Davis' essay "Listening but not hearing", published in the latest edition of Griffith Review, is a further reminder the country can grow from a frank, and importantly, inclusive debate about the life of Indigenous Australians. The disadvantage foisted on Indigenous Australians by ignorance or prejudice is holding the nation back. To do better, the voices of the Aboriginal community must be listened to, and heard.



Free Speech and Pharmaceutical Regulation

The FDA kills more Americans every year than motor vehicle accidents do, so it was good to see its grip loosened a little recently. Because of the FDA, it takes something like 10 years and half a billion dollars to get a new drug approved.  In that ten years many people who would have been helped by the drug die.  Additionally, drugs for uncommon illnesses are not even researched, let alone approved, because not enough of them would be sold to recoup the half a billion needed to get them approved.  So the FDA is a huge millstone around the neck of new drug development and a rational government would kill it off

The reason it survives is because the *intentions* behind it are good.  It aims to make sure drugs are safe before people start to use them. But the question is how many lives does it in fact save?  Probably only a few as there is always a great uproar when a drug is found to have adverse effects.  Fear of being sued causes companies to take a drug off the market rapidly.  Vioxx was taken off the market in that way.

So we have to weigh the chance of a few deaths from adverse reactions against the large and steady stream of people who die because their doctors cannot get the best drug for their condition to them.

A better system would be to put in the place of the FDA a "Drug Safety Authority" which would have authority to advise only.  Individual doctors could then make up their own minds and take any risks that might flow from that.  But the article below is from a medical journal and the author just defends the existing system with the usual corny arguments

It should be noted that the drug in contention below has already been certified by the FDA as safe.  After that point the FDA  should surely need strong reasons for further interventions.  Such reasons would not seem to exist in the case discussed below

Recent research has not been kind to fish oil salesmen, or the value of ω-3 fatty acid supplements for the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease.  Amarin Corporation, in particular, has been hit hard. The company’s only approved product is icosapent ethyl (Vascepa), a prescription-based derivative of fish oil. In 2012, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug to treat patients with very high triglyceride levels, but the company has long wanted to promote its use in a much larger group of patients: those with lower triglyceride levels and cardiovascular disease who were already being treated with statins.

In 2013, an FDA advisory committee voted 9 to 2 against approval for this use, in part because several recent studies of other drugs with similar effects on blood lipids showed no clinical benefit when they were added to statins.  Amarin’s stock price plummeted, and investors brought suit claiming that they had been misled about the promise of the drug.

In May 2015, Amarin struck back, suing the FDA in US district court in Manhattan, arguing that the First Amendment gives the company the right to market its drug for this broader group of people despite the lack of regulatory approval and the lack of evidence of an outcomes benefit for patients. The company's argument hit at the heart of the drug regulatory system in the United States. For decades, that system has required companies that want to promote pharmaceutical products for new uses to first prove to the FDA that the drugs are safe and effective for these uses.

Amarin argued that this system is unconstitutional, and that companies should instead be allowed to market their products in any way that a judge would consider to be neither false nor misleading. Amarin relied in particular on a recent and much criticized judgment from a federal appeals court, US v Caronia.  That 2012 decision came close to declaring the FDA’s prohibition of off-label marketing unconstitutional, citing recent Supreme Court cases that have strengthened constitutional protections for commercial speech.

In August 2015, the judge in the Amarin case, relying largely on the Caronia ruling, handed the company a major victory. He ruled that the company could market Vascepa for the desired broader population, and make many of the very claims that the FDA views as misleading —claims such as “supportive but not conclusive research” shows that the drug “may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.” As of December 2015, the FDA had not decided whether to appeal or settle the case.

The stakes are high indeed: the Amarin precedent, if it holds, has the potential to unleash a flood of misleading marketing to physicians. Under Amarin, if a company wants to market its drug off-label, it need only convince a judge, not the FDA, that its claims are not “false or misleading.” In effect, the decision replaces drug regulators with judges—whose expertise in science and medical research varies considerably —when off-label promotion is concerned. The judge in Amarin saw the problem clearly: “You're talking to somebody who has difficulty using a toaster,” he said at the hearing. “I’m the last person who should opine on this.”

It is not merely that most judges lack the requisite training to effectively assess complex drug claims. They also lack access to the necessary data, and the tools that regulators have to evaluate and shape that data. When a company seeks approval from the FDA for a new indication for a marketed drug, it must submit extensive clinical research and trial data, as well as details about the trial design. FDA scientists can therefore reanalyze the data, detect flaws in protocols and case reports, and, when necessary, reject trial results or require more information. A recent FDA review conducted after safety concerns were raised about rosiglitazone (Avandia), for example, involved manual reviews of forms and efforts to collect additional data for hundreds of trial participants and revealed important new facts, including 8 deaths that had not previously been recorded.

The most insidious aspect of the Amarin decision, therefore, is that it undermines the structures that encourage companies to produce high-quality clinical evidence to support new uses of drugs. If the decision stands, companies with a drug approved for one use will have to produce only enough evidence to convince a judge, not the FDA, to market it for additional indications. To be effective, a company’s marketing must also influence the prescribing patterns of physicians.

Although physicians are a more sophisticated audience, they are not in a position to substitute for regulators. Relatively few have training in research methods. Those who do have such training lack access to comprehensive clinical trial data and rely heavily on the published literature, which is skewed toward positive results. In addition, there is a strong and specific association between pharmaceutical marketing and physician behavior, independent of the evidence supporting the products.

The Amarin decision—if it is neither modified nor reversed—may well put patients, and the evidence base for medical practice, at risk. Drugs that are prescribed for unproven indications can cause serious harm. For example, tiagabine (Gabitril), a medication to reduce the frequency of seizures in patients with epilepsy, can cause seizures when used off-label for other indications. Risk-benefit ratios also shift when new uses are contemplated: a drug whose adverse effects may be acceptable when used to treat patients with serious illness may cause more harm than benefit if used to treat healthier patients. Even a drug that is safe, but ineffective, can be harmful, for example if it is used instead of an effective intervention. Because health care budgets are limited, spending on ineffective treatments also squanders money that might be better spent elsewhere.

Does our constitutional commitment to free speech really require this result? Not if the traditional legal standard for commercial speech protection prevails. Commercial speech serves an “informational function” and can be regulated to ensure that the public has access to accurate information. The FDA serves exactly this end. The agency aims not to censor company speech, but to foster the development of accurate and reliable information, and channel that information into settings where it can be rigorously evaluated.

For example, companies are not prohibited from marketing outright. They may make marketing claims if they provide adequate supportive evidence to the FDA. Nor are companies prohibited from conducting research, and publishing such research —whether meeting FDA standards or not —in the medical literature. Indeed, this is encouraged, and companies can distribute reprints of studies directly to physicians, if the publications have certain indicia of reliability, such as having undergone peer review.

The FDA did not appeal the ruling in the Caronia case. The ongoing settlement negotiations in Amarin suggest that the agency may not yet wish to take its chances in the higher courts in this case. At some point, however, the FDA will have to either take the underlying issue about off-label marketing up the chain, to the Supreme Court itself, or lose a key aspect of its regulatory authority by a thousand cuts.

If and when the FDA finally takes a stand, it will need the help of experts who can help judges understand our drug regulatory system and render vivid the acute dangers of deregulation where medicines are concerned.



If ifs and ans were pots and pans, there'd be no room for tinkers

My heading above is an old English proverb expressing skepticism about all sorts of theories, prophecies and maybes.  It dates from the time when the Middle English word "an" (meaning "if") was still understood in the Middle English sense.

Tinkers were itinerant handymen who fixed up damaged pots and pans -- as pots and pans were valuable household goods in those days. Few people reading this will have seen a saucepan with a hole in it -- but I have.  A couple of my mother's saucepans developed holes in them at one time when I was just a lad.  Being a handy kid, however I went to Woolworths and bought a set of "Mendets" -- which I used to fix the saucepans concerned.  So tinkering in its original sense existed within living memory.

I tell that little story because the article below immediately brought that old proverb to my mind.  Putting it in modern English, I might have said:  "More useless speculation".  All it tells us is what would happen IF one of the hot periods of the earth's past were to be repeated.  They assign no probability to that occurring, however.  I wonder why?

They do however pop in a little bit of deceit.  They talk of global warming "continuing".  But it is not ongoing so it cannot continue.

Warming stopped over 18 years ago so all that can continue is stasis. And they claim that Antarctica is losing mass, when it isn't.  It is gaining mass.  Even Warmist scientists such as Zwally admit that. See here and here

Just the usual Warmist claptrap but it will worry some people

If the West Antarctic ice sheet was to melt in response to increasing global temperatures, sea levels could swamp coastal towns and cities around the world.

That's the warning from Scottish researchers who have plotted how the ice sheet is expected to respond to global warming.

In particular, they claim that loss of ice in West Antarctica caused by a warming ocean could raise sea levels by a staggering 10ft (3 metres).

In the first study of its kind, researchers were able to gauge how levels of ice covering the land have changed over hundreds of thousands of years.

They did this by studying peaks protruding through ice in the Ellsworth Mountains, on the Atlantic flank of Antarctica.

The team assessed changes on slopes at various heights on the mountainside, which indicate levels previously reached by the ice sheet.

They also mapped the distribution of boulders on the mountainside, which were deposited by melting glaciers.

Chemical technology - known as exposure dating - showed how long rocks had been exposed to the atmosphere, and their age.

Their results indicate that during previous warm periods, a substantial amount of ice would have been lost from the West Antarctic ice sheet by ocean melting, but it would not have melted entirely.

This suggests ice would have been lost from areas below sea level, but not on upland areas.

The study shows that parts of the West Antarctic ice sheet have existed continuously for at least 1.4 million years.

However, if global temperatures continue to rise, causing the oceans to become warmer, the a substantial amount of ice could be lost from the sheet.

This could see sea levels rise by as much as 10ft (3 metres).

Dr Andrew Hein, of the University of Edinburgh's School of GeoSciences, joint leader of the study, said: 'Our findings narrow the margin of uncertainty around the likely impact of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet on sea level rise.

'This remains a troubling forecast since all signs suggest the ice from West Antarctica could disappear relatively quickly.'

Professor John Woodward of the University of Northumbria, who co-led the study, said: 'It is possible that the ice sheet has passed the point of no return and, if so, the big question is how much will go and how much will sea levels rise.'

The study, published in Nature Communications, was carried out by researchers at the University of Edinburgh with Northumbria University and the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre.



Still no success in measuring ocean heat

A good laugh today.  Below we have an article from Prof. John Abraham, famous for taking on Lord Monckton and getting a scarifying reply.  He repeats the usual claim that all the greenhouse heat is being gobbled up by the oceans.  And he tells us that it is therefore very important to measure the heat in the oceans.  And he creates the impression that we can measure it and have confirmed the Warmist claim

He finds temperature measurements old hat however.  He wants to measure heat. That is his academic specialty so no surprises there.  What he thinks tells the tale about global warming is the "earth's energy imbalance" (EEI).  And to measure that you have to measure the heat in the oceans.  The oceans are proposed as the place where the EEI is to be found. He then gives a long and thoroughly persuasive account of just how difficult measuring ocean heat is.

But he takes heart from a recent study by Schuckman et al. (2016) which, he says, gives us the answers we need.  So has Schuckman in fact given us an accurate measure of ocean heat content?  From what Abraham says, you would think so.  He uses weasel words but that is the impression.

In my usual pesky way, however, I went back to the original academic journal article and had a good look at it.  And the result is hilarious.  I reproduce below two snippets from towards the end of the article.

They are a complete confession of failure to measure EEI -- and the oceans are the alleged chief repository of EEI.   So the Schuckman article too says we cannot yet  measure ocean heat content. So we now have it from Warmist experts that the  claim about heat-gobbling oceans is just theory, not fact.  LOL.

There is a word for Prof. Abraham in Australian slang.  He is a Galah.  A Galah is a pretty but very foolish Australian parrot that sometimes kills itself by dive-bombing cars etc.  Prof. Abraham is about that silly.

Human emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are causing the Earth to warm. We know this, and we have known about the heat-trapping nature of these gases for over 100 years. But scientists want to know how fast the Earth is warming and how much extra energy is being added to the climate because of human activities.

If you want to know about global warming and its future effects, you really need to answer these questions. Whether this year was hotter than last year or whether next year breaks a new record are merely one symptom of a warming world. Sure, we expect records to be broken, but they are not the most compelling evidence.

The most compelling evidence we have that global warming is happening is that we can measure how much extra heat comes in to the Earth’s climate system each year. Think of it like a bank account. Money comes in and money goes out each month. At the end of the month, do you have more funds than at the beginning? That is the global warming analogy. Each year, do we have more or less energy in the system compared to the prior year?

The answer to this question is clear, unassailable and unequivocal: the Earth is warming because the energy is increasing. We know this because the heat shows up in our measurements, mainly in the oceans. Indeed the oceans take up more than 92% of the extra heat. The rest goes into melting Arctic sea ice, land ice, and warming the land and atmosphere. Accordingly, to measure global warming, we have to measure ocean warming. Results for 2015 were recently published by Noaa and are available here.

A recent paper by Karina von Schuckmann and her colleagues appeared in Nature Climate Change, and provides an excellent summary of our knowledge of the energy balance of the Earth and recent advances that have been made. The article describes the complexity of the situation. The Earth is continuously gaining energy from greenhouse gases, but there are also natural fluctuations that cause both increases and decreases to the energy flows.

For instance, volcanic eruptions may temporarily reflect some solar energy back to space. Natural variability like the El Niño/La Niña cycle can change heat flows and how deep the heat is buried in the ocean. The energy from the sun isn’t constant either; it varies on an 11-year cycle, but by less than 0.01%. With all of this and more happening, how do we know if an energy imbalance is natural or human caused? How do we separate these effects?

The effort to separate human from natural effects is seen to be possible when one considers how the imbalance is measured in the first place. There are multiple complementary ways to make these measurements. Each technique has advantages and disadvantages and they have to be considered together.

One way is through satellites that orbit the Earth. These satellites can measure the heat entering the atmosphere and the heat leaving the system. The difference between them is the imbalance. Currently, the longest operating satellite measurement for this is from Nasa and is named Ceres (Clouds and Earth’s Radiation Energy System). The difficulty is that the energy imbalance is only about 0.1% of the actual energy flows in and out, and while the changes can be tracked, their exact values are uncertain.

Another way to measure the imbalance is to actually take the ocean’s temperature. Temperature tells us how much heat a system has. If the temperature is increasing, it means the energy within the system is increasing as well – the system is out of balance. Not only do we have to measure the ocean temperatures accurately, but there is a need to measure the temperatures year after year after year exceedingly accurately to much better than a 0.1°C margin. What really matters is how the temperature is changing over long periods of time.

While it may sound easy to measure the oceans, it is actually quite challenging. The oceans are huge (and deep) and difficult to access. The need is for enough measurement locations at enough depths and with enough precision to get an accurate temperature.

In recent years, we have relied upon a system of automated ocean measurement devices called the Argo fleet. These devices are scattered across the globe and they autonomously rise and sink (down to 2,000 meters) and record temperatures and salinity during their travels. Because of the Argo fleet, we know a lot more about our oceans, and this new knowledge helps us ask better questions. But the fleet could be made even better. They do not measure the bottom half of the ocean (below 2,000m depth) and they do not fully cover regions near or under ice or near shores.

Furthermore, a 10-year trend is much too short to make long-term climate conclusions. We have to stitch Argo temperatures to other instruments, which have been measuring the oceans for decades. That stitching process has to be done carefully so that a false cooling or warming trend is not introduced.

Another way is through ocean levels. As the oceans warm, the water expands and sea levels rise. So, just by measuring the changing water levels, it is possible to assess how much heat the oceans are absorbing. The drawback to this method is that oceans are also rising because ice around with world is melting, particularly in Greenland and Antarctica. As this melted ice water flows into the oceans, it too causes sea levels to rise. So, it’s important to separate how much of ocean level rise is from heat-expansion and how much is from ice melting.

And another way is through the use of climate models, which are computer simulations of the environment. Very powerful computers are used to calculate the state of the climate at millions of locations across the globe, in both the oceans and in the atmosphere. The calculations use basic physics and thermodynamics equations to track the thermal energy at each of the locations.

So, there are many ways to measure the Earth’s energy imbalance. While all methods are telling us the Earth has a fever, they differ in details and better synthesis of all the information is essential to improve the knowledge of what Earth’s energy imbalance is. Right now, the Earth is gaining perhaps as much as 1 Watt of heat (a Joule per second) for every square meter of surface area. Considering how large the Earth is, this is an incredible amount of heat being gained day and night year after year. This is over 1 zettaJoules (sextillion Joules) per year.

What I like about this new paper is the recommendations for the future. Perhaps the most important recommendation is that we need to continue to make accurate measurements of the Earth’s temperatures, especially in the oceans. We need to extend those temperate measurements to deeper locations (below 2,000 m) and make measurements near shores, in the Polar Regions, underneath ice, etc. This will require a sustained funding of our measurement systems and a long-term view of the Earth’s changing climate.

Fully understanding where the excess heat is going in the Earth system is a first step to making good predictions as to what its consequences are for the future climate and the oceans.



Some new/old findings about IQ

A paper titled "Top 10 Replicated Findings From Behavioral Genetics" has just come out with Robert Plomin as lead author.  The finding of the paper is an embarrassment to most psychologists.  We now know that most findings from psychological research are NOT replicable.  They are a flash in the pan with no generalizability.  They tell us nothing. So the fact that findings about the influence of genetics on behavior ARE replicable makes them stand out from other research.  It is putting it a little to strongly to say that it is the only sort of psychological research that it worth bothering with, but it gets close to that. I say here why I gave up on survey research after 20 years of doing it.

I have always noted that the heritability of IQ is by far the best replicated finding in psychology but Plomin shows that other effects of genetics on behaviour are highy replicable too.  Leftists hate all mention of genetics so on that issue, as on many others, they are on the wrong side of history.  And how ironic that is precisely the most well substantiated findings in psychology that are too politically incorrect for general mention.

So why are studies in the genetics of behaviour so robust?  Plomin suggests five sensible reasons but let me give a more impressionist reason:  It is because genetic effects on  behaviour are REAL.  There really is something going on there.  And, as Plomin's other findings show, what is going on is that genetics have a strong and pervasive effect on ALL behaviour.  As Plomin points out, even family environment is not an influence in its own right.  It too is affected by genetics.  I am reminded of something Hans Eysenck said to me around a quarter of a century ago:  "It's ALL genetics".  Already in his time, he had seen how pervasive genetic influences were.

My days as an active psychological researcher are long gone and I read very little in the psychological research literature these days.  I have however kept a watching brief on research on IQ.  So I was well aware of one of Plomin's more surprising findings:  The influence of IQ GROWS as the person grows up.  IQ is only a small influence of behaviour in early childhood but a large influence on the same person's behaviour in adulthood.  The genetic infuence in fact seems to keep growing until about age 30.  That can be seen as rather counterintuitive.  One would think that a small child had ONLY genetic influences to guide his behaviours but as he grew up he would come under all sorts of additional influences on his behaviour.

Plomin explores some possible reasons behind that finding but I think he misses the obvious:  A child is very heavily regulated whilst growing up.  He is pushed in all sorts of directions by parents, teachers and others.  It is only in adulthood that he is reasonably free to "be himself".  And that is exactly what happens.  He throws off most of his environmental influences and behaves in a way that feels good or right to himself.


Is sugar good for you after all?

Now that the accumulation of evidence has forced even myopic medical researchers and bureaucrats to abandon their demonization of salt and fat in the diet, the solons have reached back to an old scare popularized obsessively by Dr. Robert Lustig. Lustig claims that sugar is bad for you.  The health establishment ridiculed Lustig's "evidence" for many years but they were desperate when salt and fat were taken away from them so Lustig and his theories are suddenly now in good odor.  They particularly demonize a very simple sugar -- fructose -- because it is widely used in American fizzy drinks.  

But the evidence for the demonization of sugar is mostly just epidemiological speculation and it is an easy bet that sugar will one day be comprehensively exonerated too.

More importantly, however, fat was eventually found actually to be GOOD for you.  Will the same be found for sugar?  A straw in the wind below.  The article concerns fucose, not fructose but both are sugars.   Science has just recently figured out that fucose is one of the essential sugars that the body needs to function properly.  Below is one of several recent reports which find that fucose helps fight cancer!

Dietary Fucose Helps Attenuate Metastatic Melanoma in Mice

Tracy Hampton, PhD

Investigators have identified a mechanism that’s blocked during melanoma metastasis but can be restored in mice by adding the sugar fucose to the diet (Lau E et al. Sci Signal. 2015;8[406]:ra124).

Led by researchers at the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in La Jolla, California, the team found that activating transcription factor 2 (ATF2), which is abundant in advanced stages of melanoma, blunts expression of the gene encoding fucokinase (FUK), an enzyme that attaches fucose to target molecules. The findings suggest FUK repression promotes melanoma motility and invasiveness in vitro.

JAMA. 2016;315(5):455. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.19343


Wotta lotta bull...

England had a lot of flooding last year, caused mainly by neglect of flood defences during 13 years of Labour party rule.  But Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all below are determined to say it was all caused by global warming.  You immediately begin to wonder why they bother.  Since there has been no global warming for many years it can't have caused ANYTHING! See the graph below

So the article is solid BS from beginning to end.  But it's just modelling anyway, which proves nothing.  Actual data were obviously too boring for them.

The sad thing is that some people have taken the trash seriously. One of Britain's Left-leaning papers has a big splash on it.  So the myths about the flooding will grow

Human influence on climate in the 2014 southern England winter floods and their impacts

By  Nathalie Schaller and many others


A succession of storms reaching southern England in the winter of 2013/2014 caused severe floods and £451 million insured losses. In a large ensemble of climate model simulations, we find that, as well as increasing the amount of moisture the atmosphere can hold, anthropogenic warming caused a small but significant increase in the number of January days with westerly flow, both of which increased extreme precipitation. Hydrological modelling indicates this increased extreme 30-day-average Thames river flows, and slightly increased daily peak flows, consistent with the understanding of the catchment’s sensitivity to longer-duration precipitation and changes in the role of snowmelt. Consequently, flood risk mapping shows a small increase in properties in the Thames catchment potentially at risk of riverine flooding, with a substantial range of uncertainty, demonstrating the importance of explicit modelling of impacts and relatively subtle changes in weather-related risks when quantifying present-day effects of human influence on climate.

Nature Climate Change. (2016).  doi:10.1038/nclimate2927


Poorly-based official wisdom once again

More evidence that statins are bad for you.  The official enthusiasm for statins was so great that it was even proposed that they put statins into the water supply. Sadly, official health advice  is often so wrong that it should never be accepted without scrutiny.  It is as likely to do you harm as good.  The bureaucracy is not wise.  It is invariably captive to the intellectual fashions of its day 

So the power of the State should never be used to enforce any form of health compliance.  In addition to the example below, consider the case of Jehovah's Witnesses and their refusal to accept blood transfusions.  In some cases laws have been passed to force transfusions on them.  But a study of survival after heart surgery showed that no Jehovah's Witness died of it but many others did.  They have certainly had the last laugh -- and in consequence blood transfusions are now much more sparingly prescribed than they once were

That Jehovah is clearly one heck of a clever guy.  Maybe more people should heed his advice

Healthy patients taking the heart drug statins have a significantly higher risk of new diabetes and a very high risk of serious diabetic complications, a study has found.

The research, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine in May 2015, tracked individuals in a database for almost ten years. It discovered statin users had a higher incidence of diabetes and also weight gain.

Patients using the drugs were also more likely than the others to develop diabetes with complications including eye, nerve and kidney damage.

Professor Ishak Mansi, a heart specialist at the University of Texas who led the study, said the association between statin use and diabetes complications 'was never shown before.

Users of statins were more than twice as likely to develop diabetes and were 250 percent more likely than their non-statin-using counterparts to develop diabetes with complications.

Patients included in the study were identified as healthy adults and researchers assessed of 3982 statin users and 21,988 non users over the decade.

'The risk of diabetes with statins has been known, but until now it was thought that this might be due to the fact that people who were prescribed statins had greater medical risks to begin with,' said Dr Mansi in a statement.

Mansi told the Express that those results are 'alarming'.

He added that drugs may be doing more harm than good for people at low risk of heart disease: 'I am sceptical about the prescribing guidelines for people at lower risk (of heart disease). I am concerned about the long term effects on the huge population of healthy people on these drugs who continue for many years.'



IQ and health:  More discomfort for the Left

The Left hate IQ because it conflicts with their crazy "all men are equal" gospel.  So they never give up hope of discrediting the whole concept.  They have tried all sorts of arguments but the phenomenon is so robust and so pervasive that it has easily survived all the assaults aimed at it. It cannot be explained away.

But the unending stream of scientific findings showing how important IQ is to one's life chances has now mostly driven Leftists back to their most basic defence-mechanism:  Denial.  They just refuse to think or talk about it. They act as it doesn't exist -- with results that range from the hilarious to the disastrous.

For those of us who think reality is important, however, the recent report below should be of interest.  The basic finding -- that high IQ people are healthier -- actually dates back to the 1920s but it is nice to see current research coming to the same conclusion.  That's the pesky thing about IQ:  Careful research into it always leads to the same conclusion

The findings below in fact support something I have been saying for a long time:  That high IQ is an index of general biological fitness.  The brain is just one of the body's organs and if it is functioning well, it is likely that the rest of the body is functioning well too.  As a great Rabbi once said:  "To him that hath, more will be given him" (Matthew 13:12). Jesus was not an egalitarian

Clever people are more likely to be healthier than those with a lower IQ due to a genetic link between how our bodies manage diseases and intelligence.

Researchers from Scotland analysed data from around 100,000 people held in the UK Biobank.

They compared each person's mental test data with their genome and found that traits linked to disease and thinking skills shared the same genetic influences.

In particular, the international team of scientists led by the University of Edinburgh found 'significant negative genetic correlations' between a person's education and verbal-numerical reasoning skills and Alzheimer's disease, coronary artery disease and strokes.

In other words, well-educated people who excel at problem solving are less likely to contract the conditions.

Clever people were also less likely to be overweight.  [I like that one]

The team found there was a negative genetic correlation between body mass index and verbal-numerical reasoning, while a greater risk of high blood pressure was associated with lower education.

The researchers explained: 'Our results provide comprehensive new findings on the overlaps between cognitive ability levels, genetic bases for health-related characteristics such as height and blood pressure, and physical and psychiatric disorders even in mostly healthy, non-diagnosed individuals.

'They make important steps toward understanding the specific patterns of overlap between biological influences on health and their consequences for key cognitive abilities.

'For example, some of the association between educational attainment - often used as a social background indicator - and health appears to have a genetic [cause].'

However, the team added: 'It has not escaped our notice that there are multiple possible interpretations of these genetic correlations.

The results of the latest Edinburgh-based study build on previous research that found 95% of the link between intelligence and life expectancy is genetic.

Using a study on twins, experts from the London School of Economics found brighter twins tend to live longer and noted the pattern was much more pronounced in fraternal - non identical - twins, than identical pairs.

By looking at both fraternal twins - who only share half their twin's DNA - with identical twins, researchers were also able to distinguish between genetic effects and environmental factors, including housing, schooling and childhood nutrition.

'Not only might particular genes contribute both to cognitive and health-related traits, but genetic variants relating to health conditions could have indirect effects on cognitive ability and vice versa, [on] lifestyle choices.'

As an example, poorly educated people may be less likely to make informed choices about what they eat and how much they drink.

The study is not all good news for intelligent people, though.

The team did find that the genetic variants associated with obtaining a degree were also related to a higher genetic risk of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and autism.

Edinburgh University Professor Ian Deary, who led the research, said the study could help in understanding some of the links between low levels of cognitive function and poor health.

Psychologist Saskia Hagenaars, who worked on the research, added: 'The study supports an existing theory which says that those with better overall health are likely to have higher levels of intelligence.'

The UK Biobank, launched in 2007, is a major long-term investigation into the respective contributions of genetic predisposition and environmental exposure in the development of disease.

The findings are published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.



The Left are still obsessed with race

The report below is from  Boston.  It is race-obsessed.  The carefully set-out categorization of students by race is reminiscent of apartheid South Africa.  But why does race matter? The school is an academically selective one, which is why its students get good results. So the students who are there are there because of their ability.  And blacks are simply less able as judged by the school's admission criteria.  So admitting less able black students would simply destroy the basis of the school's success and do nothing for the blacks concerned.

And there is nothing even slightly surprising in fewer black enrollees in a selective school.  The "gap" between black and white educational achievement is well-known. And that gap too is totally unsurprising in view of a century of research which regularly shows very low average IQs among blacks.  It would be surprising if blacks regularly did well at school.  Their educational performance validates the IQ test figures.

But the Left dream of all men being equal so repeatedly refuse to accept the obvious -- and look for something other than IQ as an explanation for low black educational aptitude.  They have never found one -- despite decades of trying.

And the decline in black enrollments is no mystery either.  The school is not allowed to implement "affirmative action" now.  Only blatant racism will let you get around low black average IQ.

And I must say that I find the emphasis on the school "supporting" students rather wrong-headed.  The students are there to be taught, not to be "supported".  They won't be "supported" when they go out into the workforce.  "Supporting" them gives them altogether the wrong life-lessons.  Families are the place for support, not schools

And I am quite sure that the incidents of "racism" reported below are very few and far-between at the school. And such incidents as there are would be more likely to be a product of hyper-sensitivity among blacks rather than anything intentional by the white speaker.  There is such huge censoriousness about any mention of race in conversation throughout American society that any overtly "racist" student would be taking great risks

Twenty years ago, some 23 percent of students at Boston Latin School were black, giving hundreds of African-American teenagers access to the city’s top public high school and a springboard to elite colleges.

Today, just 9 percent of Latin students are black, and only 12 percent are Hispanic, levels far lower than the city’s other two exam schools — Boston Latin Academy and O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science — and markedly out of step with the district as a whole.

The percentage of black students who attend Latin School has declined each year since 2010, state data show, reaching its lowest mark since at least the mid-1990s.

The disparity lends context to recent complaints of racism that have roiled the school, prompted a School Department investigation, and raised questions about the cause — and consequences — of low enrollment of students of color at the competitive exam school.

Some Latin School students and alumni say the decline has contributed to a climate where students of color are marginalized and racial epithets are thrown around all too casually.

Boston school officials will look at whether administrators did not discipline students who harassed black classmates.

In the 13 days since a student group launched a social media campaign to raise awareness of alleged racism at the school, some parents, alumni, and close observers of the school system have said the issues are longstanding and have even deterred some students from enrolling.

“I know of parents of color [whose children] will score high enough to get into Latin, but will choose Latin Academy because they are concerned about the culture, a feeling that their students won’t be supported in the way that they need,” said Kim Janey, senior project director at Massachusetts Advocates for Children, a Boston nonprofit.

Larger demographic trends have also played a role in reducing diversity at the school. The percentage of black students who attend Boston public schools has dropped from 48 percent in 1996 to 32 percent this year.

That citywide decline appears to be one cause of the long-term decline in black enrollment at Latin School, where seats are coveted due to high academic performance that makes it among the top feeder schools to Harvard and other prestigious colleges. Last year, every student at the school scored proficient or advanced on the English and math sections of the MCAS tests.

Another cause of shrinking black enrollment at the school is a 1995 lawsuit that led the Boston School Committee the following year to eliminate racial quotas that had, since the era of court-mandated school desegregation, reserved 35 percent of exam school seats for black and Hispanic students.

Since then, the number of black students at Latin School has dropped by 60 percent. Over the same period, the school’s Hispanic population has grown by less than 1 percent, even as the percentage of Hispanic students across the district has increased by almost 70 percent.

The school is a magnet for white and Asian students, which is unusual in the Boston system. Nearly half of Latin School students are white, compared to 14 percent districtwide. The number of white students at the school has declined slightly over the past 20 years, but not nearly as quickly as their representation in the district as a whole.

Almost 30 percent of Latin School students are Asian, compared to 9 percent across the city. That portion has swelled from just 17 percent two decades ago, when the district had over 1,100 more Asian students.

Boston public school officials said in a statement Thursday that although a 1998 court order banned the district from considering race in exam-school admittance, it is working to “increase diversity and cultural proficiency at these schools and those across the district.”

Under Superintendent Tommy Chang, the district is trying to close achievement gaps and increase the acceptance of black and Hispanic students into exam schools, in part by offering more preparation courses for the entrance exam, the statement said. Currently, only one is offered.

Scores on the exam, which students can take in the sixth and eighth grade, are combined with grade-point averages to determine admission into the three schools.

The present controversy surfaced last week, when two [black] Latin School seniors — Meggie Noel and Kylie Webster-Cazeau — said in a YouTube video that black students are routinely subjected to racial slurs and insensitive remarks.

They accused administrators of failing to discipline students for racist behavior and called on classmates to share stories of racist experiences on social media, using the hashtag #BlackAtBls. The social media campaign has since expanded to high schools across the district.

In response, school officials said they would investigate the students’ charges and provide mandatory training for school leaders on how to respond to reports of bias.

This week, Chang and Mayor Martin J. Walsh met separately with students to discuss their concerns and praised the students for sparking a discussion about diversity and inclusion.

“This struggle is not new to Boston,” Chang said at Wednesday’s School Committee meeting, where Noel and Webster-Cazeau spoke. “We are ready to listen and act on [the student advocates’] behalf.”

Omékongo Dibinga, who teaches at American University in Washington, D.C., said in an interview that he experienced racism when he attended Latin School in the 1990s.

Dibinga said there were times he was disciplined more harshly than white students for the same offenses, and that when he ran for senior class president some white students wore white sheets in protest. They were not disciplined, he said.

Dibinga said he wasn’t surprised such issues have persisted. Declining black enrollment, he said, may have made matters worse and discouraged parents from choosing the school.

“Black families are very sensitive about how their children are going to be perceived,” Dibinga said. “If parents feel like nothing has changed, or maybe even gotten worse, why would they subject their child to that?”

Janey, of the children’s advocacy group, said her sister was one of many black students of their generation who entered the Latin School in the 1980s but eventually transferred because they did not find a nurturing environment.

“There is, from the people I know personally, a feeling that there wasn’t the support there needed to help navigate through,” she said.

But Ernani DeAraujo, an attorney and former city official, said he saw high attrition among students of all backgrounds, and he did not remember feeling isolated or experiencing racism as one of few Latino students at the school in the 1990s. At the time, he said, Latin School warned incoming students to expect three hours of homework each night.

With more than 2,400 students, Latin School is the largest public school in Boston. And because of its high academic expectations, it is widely considered one of the most difficult.

But for many students, especially those of limited means, the exam school provides a route to top colleges and career paths that would have otherwise been closed, DeAraujo said.

“A year at Phillips Andover or at Choate costs more than my mom’s annual income at that time,” he said, naming two top private schools. “So to get that quality of education at a public school is just amazing. I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.”

Complaints of racism at Latin School are not new, said Rosann Tung, a Brown University researcher who has studied Boston’s public schools. Tung said black and Hispanic students are substantially underrepresented at the prestigious school.

“It’s a systemic opportunity gap,” she said.



As the ‘blue Arctic’ expands thanks to global warming, an icebreaker finds no ice to break (?)

A large excerpt below from an article by Tom Yulsman, an old Warmist from wayback.  The climategate emails shook him for a while but he soon got back on track. And as is often the case with  Greenies, what he does not say is what you need to know.  Let's start with this graph from Cryosphere Today, the Polar Research Group at the University of Illinois. It's too big to be put up legibly on this blog but you can click on the link to see it. It shows no trend in global sea ice area from 1979 to today.

But what about Tom's pretty graphs showing ice area today being much below average?  The graphs seem to be right but they are not graphs of anything remotely global.  And we are supposed to be talking about GLOBAL warming, are we not?  The graph I link to is a graph of global sea ice but Tom ignores that and puts up a graph of Arctic ice only.  Are we now expecting catastrophic warming in the Arctic only?  That seems to be where Tom is going.

Do I need to say anything more about Tom's BS?  Probably not but just one point.  Nobody seems to know why but there is substantial subsurface vulcanism at both poles.  The earth is flattened at the poles so that may be it.  The magma could well be closer to the surface there.

And the volcanoes underneath the Arctic sea ice are huge, particularly along the Gakkel ridge.   And you would melt if you had a volcano under you too.  So the melting in the Arctic is just what is to be expected from  known volcanic activity.  In the Antarctic only a small part of the area is affected by volcanoes so the Antarctic is in fact now gaining ice overall -- which balances out the loss in the Arctic.

Warmists are such crooks!

During a recent mission off the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, a Norwegian Coast Guard icebreaker encountered unusual winter conditions for an area just 800 miles from the North Pole.

Open water.

At this time of year, sea ice usually closes in around Svalbard’s northern and eastern coasts. But not this year. The sturdy 340-foot-long, 6,375-ton KV Svalbard had no ice to break, reports Oddvar Larsen, the ship’s First Engineer.

I spoke with Larsen and other sailors on board the icebreaker during the kickoff event of the 10th Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromsø, Norway on Jan. 24, 2016. This is the first post of several I have planned based on reporting I did at the conference.

Larsen told me that he has observed “big changes” in the Arctic during his nearly 25 years at sea. In addition to shrinking in extent, “most of the ice we encounter now is young — just one year old.”

In the past, thicker, multi-year ice was dominant, including old ice greater than nine years of age. Today that oldest ice is almost gone.

The lack of sea ice that Oddvar Larsen and his crewmates experienced around Svalbard this winter wasn’t just a small geographical anomaly. At 301,000 square miles below the long-term average, Arctic sea ice extent in December was the fourth lowest for the month in the satellite record.

To give you a sense of just how much below average that extent was, consider that 301,000 square miles is almost the size of California, Oregon and Washington combined.

Since December, conditions have not improved. In fact, the extent of Arctic sea ice overall now is at record low levels for this time of year:

As Oddvar Larsen’s experience suggests, the lack of sea ice that his icebreaker recently encountered around Svalbard comprises just one data point in a broader, long-term trend. Since satellite monitoring began in 1979, Arctic sea ice extent in December has declined at a rate of 3.4 percent per decade.

That’s in winter, when the region is typically gripped by polar cold. In September, when Arctic sea ice reaches it’s lowest annual extent after the relatively warm months of summer, the decline has been much more rapid: 13.4% per decade.

The shrinking geographic extent of Arctic sea ice is just one measure of the impact of human activities on Earth’s climate. Its total volume is another — and that has been declining over the long run too.

If you pay too much attention to data cherrypickers looking to cast doubt on global warming, you’ll hear a different story. But the full data record, backed up by the personal experiences of sailors like Oddvar Larsen and others (keep reading; more to come below…), show conclusively that Arctic sea ice continues to decline.

Given the heat energy building up in Earth’s natural systems from greenhouse gas emissions, we shouldn’t expect anything different. In the end, it’s really just a matter of physics.

Moreover, fully 90 percent of the heat energy our activities are generating has been going into the oceans. How much energy are we talking about?

To help Arctic Frontiers’ conferees wrap their heads around that question, a geoscientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory offered a startling comparison. Citing recent research, Peter Schlosser noted that since 1997, the heat energy going into the oceans has been equivalent to “one Hiroshima-sized atom bomb being exploded every second for 75 years.”

The result: an increasingly “blue Arctic” whose relatively dark waters (compared to white sea ice) are helping to amplify warming in the high north even further. And this, in turn, is possibly contributing to extreme events like the brutal winter weather that parts of the United States have endured in recent years.

In her own talk at the conference, NASA’s chief scientist, Ellen Stofan, explained the process this way: “As we expose more ocean, the dark water absorbs more heat, and that heat is pumped back into the climate system as added energy.” This Arctic amplification process, she added, could be implicated in “a lot of the extreme weather events that have been occurring.”

A connection between shrinking Arctic sea ice, Arctic amplification, and extreme weather is supported by research conducted by Jennifer Francis at Rutgers University, including a paper published last June.  Here’s how the connection works, at least theoretically:

The disproportionate warming experienced in the Arctic has weakened the difference in temperature between the lower and higher latitudes, causing the jet stream to become wavier for longer periods of time. The result: deep meteorological ridges and troughs that tend to be more persistent.

“As emissions of greenhouse gases continue unabated, therefore, the continued amplification of Arctic warming should favor an increased occurrence of extreme events caused by prolonged weather conditions,” Francis and her colleague concluded in their recent paper.

It’s an intriguing theory. But it’s also still the subject of a robust scientific debate.



Statistician Briggs savages the latest Michael Mann paper

I have commented about this paper before but the Briggs comments were not out at the time I wrote.  The Mann et al. paper says that the known pattern of global temperature changes is consistent with human influences and that the pattern of temperature changes is unlikely to have happened without human influences.

Briggs takes us on a tour of statistical theory with common-sense examples to help us understand.  He shows that the Mann et al. paper makes a lot of assumptions that are just that: assumptions, and wrong assumptions at that.

I will not try to further explain or simplify what Briggs has written because he himself has probably gone as far as one can in that direction.  Very broadly, however, I will note that what Mann et al have written about is probabilities only -- and the probable does not always happen.

And, if there are sufficient uniformities in events, we can know probabilities and thus make accurate predictions from them without understanding anything about the causes of the events concerned.  Probability is not causation. So Mann et al. could in theory make accurate predictions but still be totally wrong about the causes of the events concerned.  As it happens, however, Mann & Co. have never even been able  to make accurate predictions.  So it is quite clear that they do NOT know what caused the observed temperature fluctuations.

Thinking about all that, I had a closer look at the journal abstract (reproduced again below).  And it seems their reasoning is circular.  They clearly assume some figure for human influence in doing their modelling.  But it is the extent of human influence that they have to prove!  They get the conclusion they do because they assume what they have to prove!  The usual high intellectual standards of Warmists.

The Likelihood of Recent Record Warmth

Michael E. Mann, Stefan Rahmstorf, Byron A. Steinman, Martin Tingley & Sonya K. Miller


2014 was nominally the warmest year on record for both the globe and northern hemisphere based on historical records spanning the past one and a half centuries1,2. It was the latest in a recent run of record temperatures spanning the past decade and a half. Press accounts reported odds as low as one-in-650 million that the observed run of global temperature records would be expected to occur in the absence of human-caused global warming. Press reports notwithstanding, the question of how likely observed temperature records may have have been both with and without human influence is interesting in its own right. Here we attempt to address that question using a semi-empirical approach that combines the latest (CMIP53) climate model simulations with observations of global and hemispheric mean temperature. We find that individual record years and the observed runs of record-setting temperatures were extremely unlikely to have occurred in the absence of human-caused climate change, though not nearly as unlikely as press reports have suggested. These same record temperatures were, by contrast, quite likely to have occurred in the presence of anthropogenic climate forcing.

Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 19831 (2016) doi:10.1038/srep19831


Germany bans far-right website for spreading 'racist, xenophobic, homophobic, anti-Semitic and anti-Islamic content' and arrests two people in clampdown on hate crime

This is ridiculous.  Why is Muslim supremacism not also banned?  Muslims are the biggest source of hate speech in the world today.

Also ridiculous is that criticizing any group of people is routinely said to make you "Far-Right".  In fact, most of these people are socialists, just as Hitler was.  But you don't see individual critics interviewed about their beliefs.  It is just assumed that their beliefs are Rightist.  Where the individuals are part of some organization, however, you do normally get some sort of manifesto about what they believe.  

Three current examples are Britain's BNP, Germany's NDP and "Golden Dawn" in Greece.  All have many socialist policies.  And the KKK in America was comprised of Democrats who ATTACKED Republicans. So there you have four "Racist" organizations who were and are Leftists.  And are the raving antisemites of Islam "Far Right"? 

Such people might reasonably be called "prejudiced" but calling  them "Far Right" is wrong.  They could in fact better be called "Far Left".  From Karl Marx onwards racism has been primarily Leftist.  Karl hated Jews even though he was one!

Germany has banned a far-right website for spreading 'racist, xenophobic, homophobic, anti-Semitic and anti-Islamic content' and arrested two people in a clampdown on hate crime.

The ban on the Altermedia Deutschland platform came as raids were carried out in homes in four German states as well as in the northeastern Spanish town of Lloret de Mar.

Germany's Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the clampdown was 'a clear sign that the rule of law doesn't allow hate crime'. 

The prosecutors' office said that two Germans, identified only as Jutta V. and Ralph Thomas K. in line with German privacy rules, were arrested on suspicion of founding a criminal organisation and incitement. Three other suspects weren't arrested. 

The two arrested people were the administrators of the Altermedia website and therefore responsible for its content.

Material included banned Nazi slogans and the denial of the Holocaust as well as incitement of violence against foreigners, the prosecutors' office said.

The server was located in Russia to prevent German authorities gaining access, it added. German officials asked Russia to switch it off in the coming days.

German security officials say that the far right has become much more savvy in using of the Internet and social media to push its message to a broader audience.

The head of Germany's domestic intelligence, Hans-Georg Maassen, told reporters on Tuesday that 'there is the danger of a gray zone developing between far-right extremists, right-wing conservatives and citizen protesters with significant potential for violence.'


Warmists and the decline in trust of science:  The flat earth movement

The one thing that is clear about Warmism is that it is heavily politicized.  Most Leftists accept the theory as fact and most conservatives doubt it. Certainly, most GOP Congressmen are firmly against doing anything about it.  And almost all the scientific voices we hear in the media are Warmist.

So roughly half the population think the scientists are fooling us, which they demonstrably are.  So Warmism has clearly disrupted people's trust in science.

But Warmism is not the only disrupter of trust in science.  The way official food and diet recommendations periodically go into reverse must also incite cynicism about scientific wisdom. Many conservatives say that the government has no business trying to dictate what people should put in their mouths and, if that dictum had been followed, medical science might have been spared the ignominy it has suffered.

So what happens when large numbers of people mistrust science?  It throws everything into doubt.  People tend to look for what makes sense to them personally and go by that alone.

And there are two well established scientific facts that were once virtually unquestioned but which have recently gained many doubters:  The benefits of vaccinations and the shape of the earth.  The antivaxxers risk the lives of their children by refusing all vaccinations and there are now once again people who believe the earth is flat.

Of these, the anti-vaxxers are the big problem.  If there are enough of them they destroy herd immunity and thus take away the only protections newborns have from various serious and life threatening illnesses.  Anti-vaxxers kill not only their own children but also other babies too young to be vaccinated.

Leftists, of course, don't worry about killing.  They cry compassion but are happy to kill millions with "incorrect" beliefs and allow killing of unborn  babies with no compunction at all. Conservatives, however, tend to value life greatly -- so from a conservative viewpoint very stern measures against anti-vaxxers could be justified.

But how can we justify such measures when their only clear justification is a scientific one and people have good reasons to distrust science?  How can we ask people to trust science when science is so obviously flawed?  So distrust of science is in fact killing babies.

But the distrust of science becomes really stark when we find that there really is now a flat earth movement.  There are now an evidently considerable number of people who do believe the earth is flat. They are in no way as dangerous as the anti-vaxers but just by their existence they show how seriously the reputation of science has been damaged.

The flat earthers are sometimes called an Alt-Right movement but I can't see that they have much in common with mainstream conservatives.  They seem mainly to be believers in spirituality and the occult -- and such beliefs tend to be strongest among Leftist voters.  I reproduce below an excerpt from one of the more prominent flat-earthers, Makia Freeman.:

Socrates, the father of philosophy, showed that questions are more powerful than answers; indeed, his questions were so powerful that the leaders of Athens put him to death for them. So, let us never be afraid to ask questions – it is the only way we can learn and be truly sure of things.

Whatever the answer turns out to be, the idea that the Earth on which we all live could indeed be flat has ignited intense curiosity and healthy debate – and has already shaken people out of their apathy and generated some genuine critical thinking. This in itself is a victory for freedom, because once enough people start to question their reality in every way, the global conspiracy being only held up by deception and subterfuge will collapse.

It Sounds Crazy, But Open Your Mind …

Virtually everyone who first comes to the subject of flat earth (myself included) is thinking: “Flat earth? Are you serious? You must be kidding. That’s crazy! Don’t waste my time. That Makia Freeman guy has really gone off the deep end this time …” I know, I know. That’s how I first reacted to this topic. Let’s face it: we’re all conditioned to believe the world is arranged in a certain way. Right from the moment we go to school around age 5, we are shown miniature globes of the world and told the Earth is a ball. Our society makes fun of people we perceive to be crazy or behind the times by deriding them as “people who still think the world is flat.”

But how do you know the Earth is a globe? Only because you were told so by your teacher, who was told by someone else, who was told by someone else, who was told by someone else, who was told by some “authority” or “expert”. We already know the tendency humanity has for worshipping those outside of itself, for unquestioning obedience to authority, especially other people in uniform, white coats or black robes. Somewhere along the way as a child, you were probably shown some books with photographs, but as has been well exposed, space photos and videos are easily faked, as NASA knows very well. Those at the very top of the pyramid, who control the media, publishing houses and the education curriculum, do have the means to pull of such a grand deception.

Is the Flat Earth the Mother of All Conspiracies?

The question of whether we live on a flat earth or globe-shaped earth is not some passing fad of little importance. If we have been deceived into thinking the earth is a globe when it is really flat, it conclusively proves just how easily we can be hoodwinked into believing lies and absurdities on a colossal scale. If we have been massively fooled about the very planet on which we live, we could have been fooled on any other topic in existence.

Is the debate over the flat earth the “Mother of all Conspiracies”? Not quite, in my opinion. If it’s true, it’s huge: I’d call it the second biggest conspiracy. The biggest conspiracy, though, is forgetting Who We Are – infinitely creative, spiritual beings having a brief human journey – and allowing other entities to siphon off our life energy. This includes the issue of what happens when we die (ie. whether we are forcibly recycled at the point of death through a soul net?)

In my opinion, flat earth is a close second, but ultimately, the two issues are connected; authors such as James of the Wing Makers have joined the two in their work — by describing our world as the Hologram of Deception and describing the phenomenon of forced reincarnation. The notion that we are entrapped in some kind of holographic quarantine is highly disturbing, yet deserves our full attention.



John Cook, the crook Cook

Shearer's cooks tend to be a rough lot and an old shearer once told me that there are three types of shearer's cook:  Cooks, crook cooks and wilful murderers. John Cook is not a wilful murderer.

He has written a number of articles (e.g. here) in which he explores the apparent mystery that a lot of people don't believe that dangerous global warming is going on.

He thinks the science is settled (even though his own research shows two thirds of climate scientists taking no position on global warming) so everybody should believe it.  He therefore puts forward various explanations for why some people do not believe it.  In effect he treats climate skepticism as a form of mental illness that needs to be diagnosed and cured.  Leftists have of course been calling conservatives maladjusted at least as far back as 1950 so Cook is offensive but hardly novel in his approach.

I can find nothing in Cook's writings that gives a reason why one should believe that catastrophic warming is imminent.  The known temperature facts are not at issue.  There was an overall warming during the 20th century of about two thirds of one degree Celsius and no statistically significant warming in the 21st century. That's what the Warmist data shows and I agree with it. So the warming we did have was trivial and even that has now stopped.  I would like Mr Cook to tell me what there is to worry about in that situation.

I live only about 15 minutes from where Mr Cook works so he could even come and tell me in person.  I in fact challenge him to do that.  What scientific fact have I overlooked?  I have not found such a fact so far yet but I am always open to new information. He wants to persuade people of the truth of his beliefs so let him start with me. My email address is jonjayray@hotmail.com

He will probably find out, however, that I taught research methods and statistics at a major Australian university for a number of years, so will run like a scalded cat from any contact with me.


We just had the hottest year on record – where does that leave climate denial?

Asks dodgy psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky.  I think I have addressed all his points before but a new lucubration from him is too much fun to ignore.  Lewandowski is the very strange social scientist who thinks you can make valid generalizations about a population without at first obtaining a representative sample of that population.  So his venture into climate science was bound to be amusing.

It is difficult to know  where to start but I was amused by this: "satellites don’t actually measure temperature. Instead, they measure the microwave emissions of oxygen molecules in very broad bands of the atmosphere"

One might as well say that thermometers don't measure temperatures either.  All they measure is the volume in a thin column of mercury or alcohol.

And even his most basic point -- embodied in his heading, which I reproduce above -- is amusing:  He condemns cherrypicking, as well he might, but does exactly that himself.  He takes the fact that the keepers of the terrestrial temperature record show a slight warming in 2015.  But he ignores the fact that any 2015 rise is best accounted for as an El Nino effect.  Even Warmist scientists concede a strong El Nino effect in 2015.

And if you adjusted for the El Nino effect, there may well be no warming from other causes at all. Such an adjustment could rather simply be done by using the atypical warming during the 1998 El Nino as a proxy for 2015.  Is Lewandowsky not curious about why no such adjustment has been done by the adjustment kings at NOAA, NASA and elsewhere? Why is that the one adjustment they have not made?  To ask the question is to answer it, I think.

And, in fact Warmist guru Kevin Trenberth does admit the unrepresentativeness of 2015: “My guess is that 2016 may not be warmer than 2015."  Trenberth, a climate change and El Niño expert at the National Center for Atmospheric Research thinks the current El Niño may already have begun to peak (or have peaked) and thus that the second half of 2016 may cool down again somewhat.

So Lewandowsky's whole argument is a straw house built on sand.  To answer the question in his article title:  "Alive, well and thriving". Lewandowsky is quite simply an ignoramus.

And his boring and quite silly old claim, that a consensus must  be right, is wrong in two ways.  1). The century-long consensus about the causes of peptic ulcers now stands demolished after the discovery of helicobacter pylori. Why is a consensus about warming more robust than that?  2). There is no consensus.  Even "Mr 97%" John Cook showed that only a minority of climate scientists take any position on anthropogenic global warming.  See here.  Once again, an apparent inability to read in Lewandowsky.

And he really gets hilarious when he compares climate scientist predictions  to stockmaket investor decisions.  Is he unaware of how badly unstuck stockmarket investors came in 2008?  By his own analogy, Warmists are in for big predictive failure too.  Lewandowsky must also be the man without a memory.

I think I will leave it at that. I may already have been too unkind to an obviously very limited man.  And I have twice before (here and here) shown that Warmist aspersions on the satellite data don't hold up

At a news conference announcing that 2015 broke all previous heat records by a wide margin, one journalist started a question with “If this trend continues…” The response by the Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Gavin Schmidt, summed up the physics of climate change succinctly: “It’s not a question of if…”

Even if global emissions begin to decline, as now appears possible after the agreement signed in Paris last December, there is no reasonable scientific doubt that the upward trends in global temperature, sea levels, and extreme weather events will continue for quite some time.

Politically and ideologically motivated denial will nonetheless continue for a little while longer, until it ceases to be politically opportune.

So how does one deny that climate change is upon us and that 2015 was by far the hottest year on record? What misinformation will be disseminated to confuse the public?

Research has identified several telltale signs that differentiate denial from scepticism, whether it is denial of the link between smoking and lung cancer or between CO2 emissions and climate change.

One technique of denial involves “cherry-picking”, best described as wilfully ignoring a mountain of inconvenient evidence in favour of a small molehill that serves a desired purpose. Cherry-picking is already in full swing in response to the record-breaking temperatures of 2015.

Political operatives such as James Taylor of the Heartland Institute – which once compared acceptance of the science of climate change to the Unabomber in an ill-fated billboard campaign – have already denied 2015 set a record by pointing to satellite data, which ostensibly shows no warming for the last umpteen years and which purportedly relegates 2015 to third place.

So what about the satellite data?

If you cannot remember when you last checked the satellites to decide whether to go for a picnic, that’s probably because the satellites don’t actually measure temperature. Instead, they measure the microwave emissions of oxygen molecules in very broad bands of the atmosphere, for example ranging from the surface to about 18km above the earth. Those microwave soundings are converted into estimates of temperature using highly-complex models. Different teams of researchers use different models and they come up with fairly different answers, although they all agree that there has been ongoing warming since records began in 1979.

There is nothing wrong with using models, such as those required to interpret satellite data, for their intended purpose – namely to detect a trend in temperatures at high altitudes, far away from the surface where we grow our crops and make decisions about picnics.

But to use high-altitude data with its large uncertainties to determine whether 2015 is the hottest year on record is like trying to determine whether it’s safe to cross the road by firmly shutting your eyes and ears and then standing on your head to detect passing vehicles from their seismic vibrations. Yes, a big truck might be detectable that way, but most of us would rather just have a look and see whether it’s safe to cross the road.

And if you just look at the surface-based climate data with your own eyes, then you will see that NASA, the US NOAA, the UK Met Office, the Berkeley Earth group, the Japan Meteorological Agency, and many other researchers around the world, all independently arrived at one consistent and certain end result – namely that 2015 was by far the hottest year globally since records began more than a century ago.

Enter denial strategy two: that if every scientific agency around the world agrees on global warming, they must be engaging in a conspiracy! Far from being an incidental ornament, conspiratorial thinking is central to denial. When a scientific fact has been as thoroughly examined as global warming being caused by greenhouse gases or the link between HIV and AIDS, then no contrary position can claim much intellectual or scholarly respectability because it is so overwhelmingly at odds with the evidence.

That’s why politicians such as Republican Congressman Lamar Smith need to accuse the NOAA of having “altered the [climate] data to get the results they needed to advance this administration’s extreme climate change agenda”. If the evidence is against you, then it has to be manipulated by mysterious forces in pursuit of a nefarious agenda.

This is like saying that you shouldn’t cross the road by just looking because the several dozen optometrists who have independently attested to your 20/20 vision have manipulated the results because … World Government! Taxation! … and therefore you’d better stand on your head blindfolded with tinfoil.

So do the people who disseminate misinformation about climate actually believe what they are saying?

The question can be answered by considering the stock market. Investors decide on which stock to buy based on their best estimates of a company’s future potential. In other words, investors place an educated bet on a company’s future based on their constant reading of odds that are determined by myriad factors.

Investors put their money where their beliefs are.

Likewise, climate scientists put their money where their knowledge is: physicist Mark Boslough recently offered a $25,000 bet on future temperature increases. It has not been taken up. Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt similarly offered a bet to an Australian “skeptic” on climate change. It was not taken up.

People who deny climate science do not put their money where their mouth is. And when they very occasionally do, they lose.

This is not altogether surprising: in a recent peer-reviewed paper, with James Risbey as first author, we showed that wagering on global surface warming would have won a bet every year since 1970. We therefore suggested that denial may be “… largely posturing on the part of the contrarians. Bets against greenhouse warming are largely hopeless now and that is widely understood.”

So the cherry-picking and conspiracy-theorising will continue while it is politically opportune, but the people behind it won’t put their money where their mouth is. They probably know better.