By JR on Wednesday, March 04, 2015
Magna Carta lit the way
I add my comments on this article below it -- JR
For many, the Magna Carta is a beacon of liberty, protecting us from the arbitrary tyranny of our governments, even today.
Lord Denning, the celebrated English judge, once called the ancient peace treaty between King John and his barons - which is celebrating its 800th anniversary this year - "the greatest constitutional document of all time."
But how are those 800-year-old pieces of English calfskin still relevant to us?
After all, most of the charter was not filled with the sweeping rhetoric that we have come to expect of important political documents, but spoke of debtor's sureties, scutage, socage, burkage, paying money for castleward, and removing fish weirs from the Thames.
As a peace treaty, it lasted less than six weeks, ushering in a two-year civil war that devastated England, led to an attempted French invasion, and ended with King John dead, a 9-year-old boy on the throne, and the English significantly poorer, after paying off the French king to leave them alone.
Why then do we celebrate it?
Because the Magna Carta has come to stand for more than its provisions. Its impact has reverberated through the centuries.
No, it did not bring about democratic government in England. No, it did not end the venality of the English Crown. No, it did not guarantee trial by jury.
But it was cited by Henry VIII's Catholic opponents in the sixteenth century, by Sir Edward Coke, and other opponents of the grasping Stuart monarchy, in the seventeenth century, by the American Founding Fathers in the eighteenth century, and so on.
These reverberations are important.
Remembering the whole story of the Magna Carta might encourage us to play our own part in fostering liberty with greater humility. Rome was not built in a day, nor the rule of law established with one international human rights convention, or a UN General Assembly Resolution.
It's great to hear the bits of history that are not usually mentioned. And it is good to see that someone has actually read the document.
But the comments above go a bit too far in negativity. For instance, the first provision of the document was very similar to America' treasured First Amendment -- though not as concisely expressed. The MC could be said to contain the very first First Amendment. And it was first by a long way.
And the writer above complains that the MC is mainly concerned with minor matters like laws of inheritance. It is. It could be said in fact to be England's first systematic law of intestacy. And that is important to many people. If someone close to you has died without leaving a will, you will know all about that.
And America's revered Declaration of Independence is also mainly concerned with minor details, as anyone who has actually read it will know. People remember the few grand bits and ignore the rest. Much the same can be asked of the MC.
There is also in it a lot about setting up courts of justice and specifying the rules they are to follow. And the rules are surprisingly humane -- nothing like the atrocities Muslims perform in the name of justice to this day.
And how modern is this clause? "There shall be standard measures of wine, ale, and corn (the London quarter), throughout the kingdom. There shall also be a standard width of dyed cloth, russet, and haberject, namely two ells within the selvedges. Weights are to be standardised similarly"
I could go on but I think there is much to admire in the MC and I very much urge people to read it for themselves. There is a modern English translation here
By JR on Tuesday, March 03, 2015
Nutrition and IQ
One of the oldest claims about low IQ by Leftists is that it's all due to poverty. Sound familiar? More specifically, they say that low IQ just reflects poor nutrition. Considering that African Americans are on the whole even more overweight than Caucasian Americans, that rather clearly flies in the face of the facts. African Americans are on average 15 points behind white Americans but they aren't going hungry.
And in any case, if it were all due to nutrition, feeding up the children of poor people should make them all into Einsteins, should it not? There is no known example of anything like that being achieved, however.
Aha! But it's not the quantity alone that matters. It's quality too. People need to eat "healthily" rather than eat more. And the prime candidate for a "healthy" diet is the Mediterranean diet. We all know that, don't we? If we all ate like the Greeks with plenty of vegetables, plenty of garlic and plenty of olive oil we would be so much healthier -- and slimmer to boot. The main reason the Mediterranean diet is lauded is that accords with Ancel Keys' famous demonstration that red meat it bad for you (high red meat consumption is correlated with shorter lifespan).
Pesky fact: Keys only looked at death from cardiovascular events (heart attacks and strokes). He did not look at overall mortality. When you include all causes of death in the correlation, the correlation with red meat consumption vanishes.
Pesky fact: The traditional Australian diet (beef, beef and more beef in various forms) is about as opposite to the Mediterranean diet as you can imagine yet Australians live longer than any people of any Mediterranean nation -- so scrub the Mediterranean diet idea once and for all.
Another pesky fact: Eskimos eating a traditional diet eat little else than meat and blubber. It's hard to grow vegetables near the North Pole. Yet at any age point, Eskimos have LESS cardiovascular disease than we do.
So: There may be such a thing as a healthy diet but nobody so far has been able to track it down convincingly. Maybe some day somebody will find a magic vegetable that will make blacks as smart as whites but I wouldn't hold my breath.
Funnily enough, however, there is a SMALL element of truth in what Leftists say. In very nutritionally deprived people -- such as Africans whose dietary staple is "Mealie-pap" (corn-porridge) -- adding micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) to the diet of their children does bring about an IQ gain -- but only of about 5 points. On better nourished people, there is no such gain, however.
Some reinforcement of that story can be found here. The amount of red meat eaten by different nations is tabulated. And amount of red meat is a pretty good proxy for a high quality food supply generally.
And we find, of course, that the nations of Africa all have a low per capita meat consumption. They are too poor for anything else. And they are also nations that show very low IQs, as tabulated by Lynn and VanHanen. Compared to Africans, African Americans (who are about 20% white genetically) are an intellectual elite. So a largely vegetarian diet has not helped Africans much.
But there are some black countries that do have a high meat consumption. Saint Lucia in the Caribbean lives well off the back of American tourism so has one of the highest meat consumptions per capita (though not nearly as high as the New Zealanders with their seven tasty sheep per person). Yet the average IQ in St Lucia is an abysmal 62, very similar to what we see in Africa.
So vegetables are not the magic cure for low IQ in blacks nor is a rich diet. What else is there? Can we concede that diet is essentially irrelevant to IQ?
By JR on Monday, March 02, 2015
New article hailed as "proof" of climate change
It does support the notion that CO2 has some effect but how much? The answer to that lies in the term "incredibly precise" below. They had to use research instrumentation and methods that could detect incredibly small changes. And that the effects of CO2 are incredibly small is just what skeptics have been saying! The work vindicates skeptics, if anything.
Beware of the sentence below "This increase is about ten percent of the trend from all sources of infrared energy". It does NOT say "This increase is about ten percent of all sources of infrared energy". Ten percent of a TREND was a tiny amount.
So I am giving this study a big tick. If I were in a critical mood I might mention that it critically involves the assumption that correlation is causation but I am inclined to be big-souled about that on this occasion
I add the journal abstract below
Scientists have witnessed carbon dioxide trapping heat in the atmosphere above the United States, showing human-made climate change 'in the wild' for the first time.
A new study in the journal Nature demonstrates in real-time field measurements what scientists already knew from basic physics, lab tests, numerous simulations, temperature records and dozens of other climatic indicators.
They say it confirms the science of climate change and the amount of heat-trapping previously blamed on carbon dioxide. 'We see, for the first time in the field, the amplification of the greenhouse effect because there's more CO2 in the atmosphere to absorb what the Earth emits in response to incoming solar radiation,' said Daniel Feldman, a scientist in Berkeley Lab's Earth Sciences Division and lead author of the Nature paper.
'Numerous studies show rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations, but our study provides the critical link between those concentrations and the addition of energy to the system, or the greenhouse effect,' Feldman adds. He said no one before had quite looked in the atmosphere for this type of specific proof of climate change.
The scientists used incredibly precise spectroscopic instruments operated by the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Climate Research Facility, a DOE Office of Science User Facility.
These instruments, located at ARM research sites in Oklahoma and Alaska, measure thermal infrared energy that travels down through the atmosphere to the surface. They can detect the unique spectral signature of infrared energy from CO2.
Other instruments at the two locations detect the unique signatures of phenomena that can also emit infrared energy, such as clouds and water vapor.
The result is two time-series from two very different locations. Each series spans from 2000 to the end of 2010, and includes 3300 measurements from Alaska and 8300 measurements from Oklahoma obtained on a near-daily basis.
Both series showed the same trend: atmospheric CO2 emitted an increasing amount of infrared energy, to the tune of 0.2 Watts per square meter per decade. This increase is about ten percent of the trend from all sources of infrared energy such as clouds and water vapor.
Based on an analysis of data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s CarbonTracker system, the scientists linked this upswing in CO2-attributed radiative forcing to fossil fuel emissions and fires.
The measurements also enabled the scientists to detect, for the first time, the influence of photosynthesis on the balance of energy at the surface.
They found that CO2-attributed radiative forcing dipped in the spring as flourishing photosynthetic activity pulled more of the greenhouse gas from the air....
The study is good technical work, said climate scientist Andrew Dessler of Texas A&M University, but it is expected — sort of like confirming gravity with a falling rock.
Observational determination of surface radiative forcing by CO2 from 2000 to 2010
By D. R. Feldman et al.
The climatic impact of CO2 and other greenhouse gases is usually quantified in terms of radiative forcing1, calculated as the difference between estimates of the Earth’s radiation field from pre-industrial and present-day concentrations of these gases. Radiative transfer models calculate that the increase in CO2 since 1750 corresponds to a global annual-mean radiative forcing at the tropopause of 1.82 ± 0.19 W m−2 (ref. 2). However, despite widespread scientific discussion and modelling of the climate impacts of well-mixed greenhouse gases, there is little direct observational evidence of the radiative impact of increasing atmospheric CO2. Here we present observationally based evidence of clear-sky CO2 surface radiative forcing that is directly attributable to the increase, between 2000 and 2010, of 22 parts per million atmospheric CO2. The time series of this forcing at the two locations—the Southern Great Plains and the North Slope of Alaska —are derived from Atmospheric Emitted Radiance Interferometer spectra3 together with ancillary measurements and thoroughly corroborated radiative transfer calculations4. The time series both show statistically significant trends of 0.2 W m−2 per decade (with respective uncertainties of ±0.06 W m−2 per decade and ±0.07 W m−2 per decade) and have seasonal ranges of 0.1–0.2 W m−2. This is approximately ten per cent of the trend in downwelling longwave radiation5, 6, 7. These results confirm theoretical predictions of the atmospheric greenhouse effect due to anthropogenic emissions, and provide empirical evidence of how rising CO2 levels, mediated by temporal variations due to photosynthesis and respiration, are affecting the surface energy balance.
UPDATE: Rog Tallbloke Has even more fun with the above study than I did. He points out that in Alaska over the study period, the average temperature actually FELL by four degrees. So rising CO2 must cause cooling, Right?
Another point I did not mention because I saw no point in beating a dead horse concerns the graph below. It appeared with the original story.
It shows two nicely matching curves, does it not? But what are the quantities being graphed? One is CO2 but the other is NOT temperature. It is a theoretically derived construct called forcing. Not so impressive.
By JR on Sunday, March 01, 2015
Meat consumption causes global warming?
I think I missed this article when it came out 6 years ago but it is amusing. It is actually part of the war on meat that health freaks, vegetarians and others have long been waging -- with very little success -- as the article itself shows. There is a table attached to the article that allows a comparison of consumption betweeen 1961 and 2002. And with the exception of hopelessly misgoverned countries such as Argentina, meat consumption has risen markedly in most countries over that time.
So the article is in fact a desperate attempt to get the global warming religion to help with the crusade against meat. It assumes the truth of global warming without question. And there is certainly zero data on the relationship between global temperature and meat consumption.
Between 1961 and 2002, meat consumption has seen a large increase virtually worldwide and a corresponding jump in its environmental impact.
Links between meat consumption and climate change have been widely known for many years, partly due to deforestation in the Amazon rainforest to make room for the livestock. Clearing these forests is estimated to produce a staggering 17% of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than the entire transport sector.
Increased meat-eating has followed rising affluence in many parts of the world. China's levels doubled between 1990 and 2002. Back in 1961, the Chinese consumed a mere 3.6kg per person, while in 2002 they reached 52.4kg each; half of the world's pork is now consumed in China.
The US and the UK are among the few countries whose meat consumption levels have remained relatively stable. Surprisingly, it is not the US with the largest consumption (124.8), but Denmark with a shocking 145.9kg per person in 2002
By JR on Saturday, February 28, 2015
Muslim "lone wolves"
I don't entirely agree with the above graphic. It is true that there has been something of an epidemic of terrorist attacks from Muslims acting alone or nearly alone recently -- in the USA (e.g. Boston), Denmark, France, England, Canada and Australia. But they hardly add up to an army. There are many Muslim armies but their great enthusiasm is for attacking one-another, which is rather neat.
What is clear is that all the attacks have been carried out by losers -- men on the margins of society. The only organized Muslim terrorist body was Al Qaeda and they were on the wane even before Osama bin Laden was eliminated. Osama was certainly not living the high life when he was tracked down. It's possible that the Islamic State might take up where Al Qaeda left off but it hasn't happened yet. And a big one dropped on Raqqa would shut them up for a long time.
Meanwhile. ISIS seems to have its uses. Lots of Jihad-inclined young males from Muslim families in the West go there to join up and fight other Muslims, which is a big improvement on them attacking us. It seems to be a sort of fly-paper for attracting and trapping young Muslim misfits.
So it seems that all the recent attacks have been motivated by Jihad preaching but that Jihad preaching is overall a huge failure. Jihad motivation was only strong enough to move people to attack us who already had little to lose. But one man with a firearm can do a lot of harm for a short while. So it seems to me that we have strong reasons to stop such attacks even if they not systemically threatening. Life will go on much as it otherwise would for 99% of the population despite the misdirected anger of a few misfits.
And although it is desperately "incorrect" to mention it, the killings by Muslims pale into insignificance compared with the plague of killings by blacks. If we want to stop killings, it is blacks who should have our priority attention. But it's not going to happen, of course. Jim Crow is dead and not likely to be resurrected in the near future.
So there is some point in the Leftist contention that Muslim attacks should be dealt with solely as a police matter. Police deal with shootings all the time and the race or religion of the shooter doesn't matter much.
But I think we can do better than that. I think we should criminalize Jihad preaching. Not all speech is free speech and there is already a precedent saying that incitement to violence is not covered by free speech protections. So I think all we need to do is to formally classify Jihad preaching as incitement to violence -- which it largely is anyhow -- and put a few mullahs in prison. Without the incitement, the attacks should at least diminish in frequency. Without the incitement, the losers would probably just continue to bomb themselves out with drugs, which is mostly what they do already
By JR on Friday, February 27, 2015
"The pirates of Penzance" as satire
And some surprising political implications
If the above title sounds very much like the title for a Ph.D. dissertation I suppose my academic background is to blame for that. Unlike a Ph.D. dissertation, however, all I want to set down here are a few comments.
I first saw "Pirates" when I took my (then) teenage son to see a well-reviewed production of it here in Brisbane. I am not at all a Gilbert & Sullivan devotee -- the profundity of Bach is my musical home -- but I know the G&S works as classics of entertainment. So I felt that I should help along my son's musical education. I remember another occasion in that connection. In his early teens I recommended Stravinsky to him but he said that he didn't like Stravinsky. I said to him: "Don't worry. You will". He came to me some years later and said: "John, you were right. I do like Stravinsky".
Anyway, you see far more of any Singspiel on DVD than you do in a theatre audience so I recently acquired a DVD of "Pirates". And, watching it, I did see that it had elements of satire. "Pirates" is not of course satire an sich. It is simply the madcap humour of W.S. Gilbert ably abetted by the great musical abilities of Arthur Sullivan. I see it as a forerunner of other madcap British comedies such as those of Mr. Bean, the Goons and the Pythons.
What differentiates comedy and satire is of course that satire is humour targeted at someone as a form of criticism. It is deliberately didactic. But straight comedy can teach lessons too, if only in an incidental way. And I see some of that in "Pirates". Perhaps a surprising one that I see is in the song of the "modern major general", now a widely treasured bit of fun. What Gilbert was doing in that song was referring to something that no Leftist would believe: That British military officers were and are often quite scholarly in various ways. That's not at all universal but not infrequent either. Even an RSM will often be a man of unexpected depths. The Sergeant Major of my old army unit was/is in fact a fan of Bach and Palestrina (nothing to do with Palestine). And the only Wing Commander (airforce) I know is a voracious reader with a wide knowledge of history.
Captain Cook, the 18th century British discoverer of much in the Pacific is a very good example of a scholarly military man. His discovery of the cure for scurvy alone ranks him as a distinguished scientist and his practice of quarantine was exemplary for the times.
But a much less well known but quite commendable 18th century military man with scientific interests was Watkin Tench, an officer in His Majesty's Marine Forces. He was posted to the new British colony in Australia in its very earliest days, then a hardship posting. You could lose your life just getting there and back. So he was no elite soldier and was actually from a rather humble background. His interest was meteorology and he brought with him the latest Fahrenheit thermometer. He kept a meteorological diary that included observations from his thermometer taken four times daily in a sheltered spot -- exemplary practice even today.
And his record of the Sydney summer of 1790 is particularly interesting. It was very hot. There were even bats and birds falling out of the trees from the heat. And his thermometer readings tell us exactly how hot. So we have both readings from a scientific instrument and behavioural observations that validate the readings: Very hard to question. And the solidity of his data is very useful in exposing the liars of Australia's current Bureau of Meteorology. They have got the virus of Warmism in their heads and are always claiming that Australia in whole or in part is currently experiencing a "hottest" year. And they exploit the fact that Sydney does occasionally have some very hot summers. But Tench's data show that such summers go back a long way in Sydney and hence cannot be attrributed to nonsense about the current CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. The only additions to atmospheric CO2 from the Australia of Tench's days would have been the product of breathing by various living creatures. There was not even any reticulated electricity anywhere in Australia or anywhere else at that time.
So in the famous song of the modern Major General, Gilbert was simply doing an amusing exaggeration of a real phenomenon, a military man with scientific interests, probably one better known to the British public when Gilbert wrote around 100 years ago.
I actually find prophetic Gilbert's treatment of the police ("When the foeman bares his steel"). The police have always been greatly respected in Britain -- though that must have eroded in the last two decades -- but Gilbert defies that. He makes fun of the police and portrays them as cowards. As a portrayal of modern British police forces that would not be too far astray. Did Gilbert have some experience of police to lead him to the derogatory view he took of them? I suspect it. In Strange Justice and Political Correctness Watch you will certainly find a wealth of instances of reprehensible behavior by the British police of today.
And the other police song ("A Policeman's Lot Is not a Happy One") is also very modern, expressing sympathy for offenders and a reluctance to arrest them. Gilbert is actually a rather good prophet. Warmists eat your heart out!
And the pirate King's assertion that "compared with respectability, piracy is comparatively honest" is also refeshingly cynical. Commenters on modern-day "crony capitalism" in America will nod approval. And the decision of the daughters to "talk about the weather" rather than pry is quintessentially British. And the homage to Queen Victoria was also an appropriate contemporary reference but greatly exaggerated, of course. It too could be seen as mocking by a modern audience
And I must pay tribute to the performance (in the production I have) to the singing of Linda Ronstadt. Better known as a popular singer she is also a superb soprano and greatly ornaments the role of the Major General's daughter Mabel.
FOOTNOTE: I use the German word Singspiel above because there is no equivalent in English. It means a "sung play" and refers to any musical performance (from Mozart's Zauberfloete ("Magic Flute") to Benatzky's beloved Im Weissen Roessl ("White Horse Inn")) that includes both spoken and sung dialogue. A Hollywood musical such as "Showboat" is also a Singspiel. English has a horde of words borrowed from other languages so it seems regrettable that a useful word like Singspiel has not been borrowed too.
By JR on Thursday, February 26, 2015
Training dummies as teachers is not the way to get good teaching
I agree with Christopher Bantick below but he fails to ask WHY dummies are being accepted as teachers. It's because most really capable people have a fair idea, if only from their own education, that teaching in many government schools is not a pleasant experience. The low standards of discipline that are allowed to prevail these days can even be dangerous to teachers. So a requirement for high standards in teachers would simply mean that not enough of them would be recruited. "Child-centered" approaches sound wonderful but can result in bedlam in the classroom.
I once taught in a "progressive" (no overt discipline) High School (Chiron College) so I saw what happens. The brighter half of the pupils did well enough -- mainly due to parental encouragement to learn, I gather -- and the less bright half learned nothing at all, though their skill at playing cards improved. Like so many of its ilk, Chiron college is no longer in business.
I note that the "Summer Hill" school founded by A.S. Neill along "progressive" lines is still surviving -- but as a boarding school only. So the parents would generally be affluent and like the parents of the students who did well at the school where I taught. So the big lesson is that "progressive" education is not suitable as a mass system but rather something that can work for the children of elite families with a strong interest in education.
So there are two solutions to low standards in government schools: Return to traditional standards of discipline and traditional ("chalk and talk") teaching methods. Only then will the teaching experience once again be positive enough to attract brighter teachers.
In the meantime, there is a tried and proven but mightily resisted strategy that does work: Large classes. There are SOME good teachers and large classes would allow them to spread the benefit of their talents more widely. Small classes are the holy grail of teaching unions but the research shows that they are beneficial only at the very earliest ages. See here and here and here and here and here. By contrast, many Australian Catholic schools in the past had class sizes as big as 60 and yet got results that would be envied today.
ANOTHER report into teaching and another missed opportunity. The report by the Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group, tabled last week, repeats the well-worn mantra that teachers are not good enough. The way to improve teaching is to insist on high academic ability on entry. This is not one of the report’s recommendations.
Instead, you have the head of the review into teacher training, Australian Catholic University vice-chancellor Greg Craven, saying the problem is in the university training of teachers. This is disingenuous in the extreme.
Universities can only educate those they accept. If students are admitted with low Australian Tertiary Admission Rank scores to universities, then this is who they educate. Harsh as it may sound, academically, you can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. You can’t make a great teacher out of someone who is not academically excellent.
Why teachers fail in the classroom is because they are not, bluntly, bright enough to cope with academic subjects and able students. To this end, the universities have not failed in their preparation of teachers, but they have failed spectacularly in permitting teachers to be trained with substandard ATAR scores.
Only NSW has set a benchmark for teacher entry of at least 70 per cent in three subjects including English before they can qualify for registration.
The Australian Education Union, the peak representative body of teachers nationally, has argued sensibly for a clear lifting of entry requirements. The AEU’s criticism of the review’s failure to recommend high ATAR scores is wholly correct.
“An ATAR score is not the only thing that makes a good teacher, but we need to recognise that a teacher’s academic ability is important and that we need some minimum requirements,” AEU federal president Correna Haythorpe says of the review’s shortcomings.
The AEU is not alone in sharing its disquiet. The Australian Primary Principals Association — a long-time critic of low reception academic standards for teachers — says in a submission to the review that the applications for education degrees need to be “in the top 20 per cent of the population” in terms of academic performance. In other words, a minimum ATAR of 80 before admission is considered.
Moreover, the Office of the Chief Scientist, in a submission to the TEMAG review, was explicit, saying — rightly — that “teaching was not an attractive option” for the “top school-leavers”.
The comparison is damning when teacher applicants with ATAR scores of more than 80 are compared to science and engineering. Teaching draws less than a fifth of Year 12 offers to top ATAR achievers. Science and engineering achieve upwards of 70 per cent.
If this was not enough evidence, an Australian Council for Education Research report found the top-performing systems internationally depend on the entry cohort: “All high-performing education systems recruit their teachers from the ablest students.”
It makes no sense that outstanding teachers can be produced if they are academically incompetent. It also makes no sense that the TEMAG review recommends new teachers “pass a national test placing them in the top 30 per cent of the country for literacy and numeracy”.
This is absurd. If ATAR scores were high, then clearly the students accepted into teacher training would already be adequately literate and numerate.
But what worries me as a teacher heading towards four decades in the classroom is the federal government’s persistence in blaming teachers for its own failings in handling teacher education.
Teachers are the easy beats of education policy. It is an emotive argument and a good one — if your main game is to divert attention away from issues such as funding and family breakdown, and a generation that has difficulty reading anything longer than a tweet.
No matter, the TEMAG review has put accountability squarely back at the universities’ door and has threatened closure of substandard courses. It is quite comfortable about substandard students applying.
Craven, palpably avoiding the critical issue of entrance requirements, says: “We are laying down a huge gauntlet here. There is no doubt that some courses are substandard and will have to improve to survive.”
Craven is chairman of the review and vice-chancellor of the ACU, which has one of the lowest entry requirements for teacher education in the country.
This in itself raises a significant concern. Teaching has become a milch cow for commentators and critics who have either never spent time in a school or whose experience of schools is outdated and ossified.
Everyone has a view, but few have actual present classroom experience.
Independent schools, the system where I work, have always looked for the best teachers academically. It is no accident that independent schools dominate university entrance in courses such as law and medicine.
It is an indictment on Education Minister Christopher Pyne’s competence to handle his troubled portfolio that he has endorsed the review’s recommendations and simply ignored the pressing and obvious need for higher ATAR scores for teachers who enter universities.
It beggars belief that Pyne, at the Australian Council for Educational Leaders’ inaugural Hedley Beare Memorial Lecture, said he is demanding “more rigorous selection” to teaching courses but this does not include minimum academic standards. So misguided is the Minister for Education in his ideas on teacher education that he has sullied Hedley Beare’s place in educational thinking, saying standards are “just not good enough” and that some teaching courses “lag way behind in quality”.
The central issue for both the review under the misguided chairmanship of Craven and the recommendations parroted by Pyne is just how they are going to produce not just good teachers but truly great teachers who are dumb bottom feeders on ATAR scores.
By JR on Wednesday, February 25, 2015
The final nail in the coffin of the NYT witchhunt against Dr. Willie Soon?
I was one of the earliest writers to respond to the NYT article by hack NYT journalist Justin Gillis in which astrophysicist Willie Soon was accused of writing for hire. A quite amusing accusation when you realize that Gillis himself was doing exactly that. As always, you just have to look at what Leftists say about conservatives to see what is true of Leftists themselves.
An article just up on Anthony Watts' site does I think blow the whole nasty campaign out of the water. It points out, as I have done, that the money allegedly coming from business to Soon was in fact paid to the Smithsonian so was in no way clandestine and was part of normal academic procedures. Far from the money being "undeclared" income that the Smithsonian should look into it was in fact money given to the Smithsonian itself. If they were to investigate anything they would be investigating themselves!
Unlike what I wrote, however, the latest post has dug up the actual contractual documents and posted photocopies on the web for all to see.
Perhaps most amusing, however is the revelation about what "deliverables" meant. Gillis found that word very sinister and implied that Soon had contracted to come to a certain conclusion in his writings. The photocopies show what was really meant and it was in fact perfectly routine and innocuous. See below.
By JR on Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Massachusetts Democrat Senator goes "ad hominem"
Senator Edward J. Markey has jumped on the bandwagon set in motion by the recent NYT article about Dr Willie Soon. He's got nothing intelligent to say about climate change so is attacking those who do. But a debate about persons tells us nothing about the truth or falsehood of what those persons say. The test of truth its agreement with reality and 18 years of global temperature stasis is a reality that heavily favors the skeptics, not the Warmists.
The fact is that a small minority of skeptics do receive some funding from business. But pro-Warming organizatons receive much larger sums from business. For instance early in this century Exxon gave Stanford $100 million and BP gave Princeton $20 million. So why is funding from business wrong when it goes to skeptics but right when it goes to the Green/Left? There is no intelligent answer to that question. It is just tribalism at work
Senator Edward J. Markey is calling on coal and oil companies to reveal whether they are funding scientific climate change studies after his staff reviewed newly obtained documents illuminating the relationship between a researcher for a Cambridge-based institution and energy interests.
The Massachusetts Democrat will send letters to fossil fuel companies, trade organizations, and others with a stake in carbon fuels, aiming to reveal other climate-change-skeptical scientists whose work has been subsidized by those parties, a Markey spokesman said via e-mail.
“For years, fossil fuel interests and front groups have attacked climate scientists and legislation to cut carbon pollution using junk science and debunked arguments,” Markey said in a statement. “The American public deserve an honest debate that isn’t polluted by the best junk science fossil fuel interests can buy. That’s why I will be launching this investigation to see how widespread this denial-for-hire scheme stretches within the anti-climate action cabal.”
The documents reviewed by Markey’s staff were obtained by Greenpeace, the environmental group, through the Freedom of Information Act. They show a relationship between Dr. Willie Soon, a solar researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and several fossil fuel companies who’ve funded his research on climate change. The Cambridge-based center is a joint project of Harvard University and the Smithsonian Institution, though Soon is employed by the Smithsonian side. The center has previously said that Soon’s views are his alone and not reflective of the institution.
In 2013, the Boston Globe profiled Soon, who has spent much of the past decade studying the sun’s effect on climate change and downplaying the role of carbon emissions. Some climate scientists and environmental groups have questioned the scientific basis of his work.
Willie Soon, a Harvard-Smithsonian Center astrophysicist, has established himself as a front-line combatant in the partisan crossfire over the climate.
Since 2001, Soon has received more than $1 million in grants from the ExxonMobil Foundation, Southern Company, the Texaco Foundation, the American Petroleum Institute, and other organizations either affiliated with fossil fuel companies or active in undermining carbon’s role in climate change, according to documents that have been previously reported. Soon also is affiliated with the Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank known for its conferences on climate change skepticism.
By JR on Monday, February 23, 2015
NYT Smears Scientist Willie Soon for Telling the Truth About ‘Global Warming’
James Delingpole responds below to the latest bit of deception from hack journalist Justin Gillis of the NYT.
Most of what the NYT claims has also been dealt with here. One quote: "Regarding Dr. Soon’s supposed “track record of accepting energy-industry grants,” the $1 million over a period of years went to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, which took around 40% of the total off the top, for “overhead.” The details are all open public records"
And when you consider that around 200 billion of TAXPAYER MONEY has been spent to support "climate change" you have to marvel that this guy is upset that someone is funding a study to look at the other side. What a joke!
And I don't think I am imagining it in seeing the use of Soon's Chinese cognomen -- Wei-Hock -- instead of the usual English "Willie" as racist. I think it is a deliberate attempt to make Prof. Soon sound alien
Another day, another attack on the integrity of the Harvard-Smithsonian astrophysicist Dr. Willie Soon, this time in the New York Times.
I first became aware of Soon in 2009 when reading through the Climategate emails. One of them was a jocular suggestion by a warmist called Tom Wigley as to how best to smear Soon and his co-author Sallie Baliunas.
"Might be interesting to see how frequently Soon and Baliunas, individually, are cited (as astronomers). Are they any good in their own fields? Perhaps we could start referring to them as astrologers (excusable as…’oops, just a typo’)".
You might be wondering what Soon and Baliunas had done to incur the wrath of the climate alarmist establishment. Well, they’d just published a meta-analysis of all the papers which had been written on the Medieval Warm Period (MWP). What their paper showed is that contrary to claims by one Michael Mann (the name may be familiar), the MWP was not a small, localised event but global, big and widespread.
So the memo went out from the Hockey Team (the uber-vindictive Mann and his lickspittle posse) to get Soon, and they’ve been going at him ever since: not by criticising the quality of his science — that would be too difficult because his science is impeccable — but simply by trying to make his life miserable, deny him tenure, and to smear him as compromised and corrupt.
The reason for the latest attack on Soon is that he is the co-author, with Christopher Monckton et al, of a paper published earlier this year in the prestigious Chinese Academy of Sciences journal Science Bulletin.
This study — Why Models Run Hot — infuriated the alarmist establishment, first because it was unusually popular (receiving over 10,000 views — thousands more than most scientific papers get) and second because it made a mockery of their cherished computer models.
As Paul Driessen explains:
"Results from an irreducibly simple climate model,” concluded that, once discrepancies in IPCC computer models are taken into account, the impact of CO2-driven manmade global warming over the next century (and beyond) is likely to be “no more than one-third to one-half of the IPCC’s current projections” – that is, just 1-2 degrees C (2-4 deg F) by 2100! That’s akin to the Roman and Medieval Warm Periods and would be beneficial, not harmful."
Rather than attack the substance of the paper, the warmists reverted to their usual tricks, lead by Kert Davies, an activist lawyer who works for a Greenpeace front organisation called Climate Investigations Center.
"Climate Investigations Center executive director (and former top Greenpeace official) Kert Davies told the Boston Globe it “simply cannot be true” that the authors have no conflict of interest over their study, considering their alleged industry funding sources and outside consulting fees. Davies singled out Dr. Willie Soon, saying the Harvard researcher received more than $1 million from companies that support studies critical of manmade climate change claims. An allied group launched a petition drive to have Dr. Soon fired.
"Davies’ libelous assertions have no basis in fact. Not one of these four authors received a dime in grants or other payments for researching and writing their climate models paper. Every one of them did the work on his own time. The only money contributed to the Science Bulletin effort went to paying the “public access” fees, so that people could read their study for free."
I spoke to Soon last night. He told me that of course he receives private funding for his research: he has to because it’s his only way of making ends meet, especially since the Alarmist establishment launched its vendetta against him when, from 2009 onwards, he became more outspoken in his critiques of global warming theory.
Harvard-Smithsonian strove to make his life harder and harder, first by banning him from working on anything even remotely connected with issues like climate change or CO2, then by moving his office away from the astrophysics department to a remote area Soon calls Siberia. What the faculty couldn’t quite do was actually sack Soon because it had no cause: he was producing too many quality papers, and he was also bringing in too much money (40 per cent of which goes straight into the faculty coffers).
So there’s nothing new or scandalous about this latest New York Times hit job on poor Willie Soon. It’s just a continuation of a vendetta which has been waged for years against an honest, decent, hardworking — and incredibly brave — scientist who refuses to toe the official (and increasingly discredited) line on man-made global warming.
What most definitely is scandalous is the vile hypocrisy of Soon’s harrassment by the warmist establishment, which receives billions every year from the US government, left-wing charities, and billionaire activists like Tom Steyer and George Soros to prop up their bankrupt cause by promoting exactly the kind of junk science which Soon (and similarly principled scientists) have made it their business to shred.
The warmists are losing their argument. Their desperation is beginning to show.
By JR on Sunday, February 22, 2015
School nurses in Queensland
It has just come to my attention that Annastacia Palaszczuk made a big thing during her election campaign of her intention to reinstate the school nursing service. See a report from 29 January below. She was silent about who axed the service but all the commentary on the matter that I have been able to find implied that it was the conservative Newman government who abolished the service. But it was nothing of the sort. The axing was in 2011 and who was in charge then? Anna Bligh, a Labor party premier. She was defeated in 2012. See here for what I wrote about it at the time.
Leftists very rarely take responsibility for their stuff-ups. All follies are blamed on the other side and the other side's triumphs are claimed by them. Note how the abolition of the White Australia Policy is routinely attributed to Gough Whitlam when it was in fact abolished by the Liberal Party's Harold Holt. And in the eulogies accompanying the death of Whitlam, I saw nobody admit that Whitlam's eulogized free university policy was abolished not by the conservatives but by Bob Hawke, a Labor party Prime Minister. And so on ...
And here's some fun: the 2011 floods in Brisbane were clearly caused by bureaucratic mismanagement of Brisbane's big flood-control dam -- Wivenhoe. And that mismanagement happened under the Bligh Labor government. The resultant huge claim for compensation has been wending its way through the courts for some time now so should come to a head under Annastacia's time in office. Where will she find the money to pay the billion-dollar bill? It's going to be amusing. Major backflip on asset sales predicted
Campbell Newman had been faced with the unpleasant task of defending Labor party folly. He is now off that hook. The Labor party will have to face the consequences of its own mismanagement. Background: To save money, the Bligh Labor government was using the dam for water storage -- thus leaving little reserve capacity for flood control.
The vacant Anna Bligh had lots of money to pay an army of bureaucrats but for water storage and flood control, not so much
State Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk has blitzed eight electorates in one day, releasing one policy and promising another will be unveiled on Thursday.
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman, meantime, has rolled out more promises in the lead-up to Saturday's state election, pledging to spend $295 million on level crossing upgrades.
Ms Palaszczuk said a Labor government would spend $12 million on hiring specialist school nurses over four years if elected.
She said the nurses would help identify any hearing and vision problems in schoolchildren.
"These are specialist nurses so they are not just your standard nurses that you would have in the hospital, so they are specialist, they provide testing in relation to hearing and vision, also provide advice on nutrition and some stages can provide early diagnosis that then can be referred to the hospital," she said.
"This is about getting in early, this is about tackling the issue to make sure our kids get the best start in life.
"We have been listening to what the parents have had to say and they have been absolutely furious that the school nurses have been axed in this state."
By JR on Saturday, February 21, 2015
Why is the Diet of Worms not a diet of worms?
Forgive the riddle
The Diet of Worms of 1521 was of course one of the major turning points in the development of Western civilization. It has nothing to do with either food or invertebrates. How come?
The Diet of Worms (Reichstag zu Worms in German) was set up to try Martin Luther (1483 - 1546) for heresy. He did appear there to defend his claims but when he saw the way the wind was blowing he escaped. He was however very popular in his native Saxony and among his fans was his King, Frederick "The Wise". So his King hid him in the old Wartburg castle until the heat had gone off the hunt for him. So Luther became the first Protestant reformer not to lose his head. Giordano Bruno (1548 – 1600), Savonarola (1452 - 1498) and Jan Hus (1369 - 1415) were not so lucky.
So why do we call the Reichstag zu Worms ("National assembly at Worms") the Diet of Worms? The last part is easy. Worms is a German city pronounced as "Vorms", where the "or" is pronounced as the "or" in "horse". The name is ancient and goes back to the Latin. It is just a coincidence that the name also means something in English.
"Diet" is more interesting. The German word "Tag" can mean either "day" or "assembly", perhaps because early assemblies tended to last only one day. But the language of scholarship at the time of the Reichstag zu Worms was Latin. So the Reichstag zu Worms had to be translated into Latin if it was to be discussed at all. And the Latin translators got it wrong. They translated the "Tag" in "Reichstag" as if it meant "day" rather than as if it meant "assembly". And the Latin for "day" is "Dies" (Pronunciation varies but "dee-ayz" is common). So the assembly came to be called a "diet" as a variant of "dies".
And the usage stuck. An important gathering can to this day be called a Diet. The Japanese Diet, for instance is not rice and fish but the Japanese Parliament.
Footnote: I imagine some readers may object to my calling Luther "The first Protestant reformer not to lose his head". What about Wycliffe (1320 - 1384)? It is true that he was a severe critic of the church but he did not create a schism and was saying mass in his church until the end. He died in his bed.
The church would certainly have liked to excommunicate him but, like Luther, he was popular, and people of all ranks, including the monarchy, protected him. Any move against him got howled down. He was a great man.
Another footnote: The mistranslation of "Tag" was not original to the Reichstag zu Worms. The names of much earlier assemblies had also been mistranslated into Latin that way.
And Latin in fact was affected by the mistranslation too. People realized that it was more than a day that was being referred to so a new Latin word -- dieta -- arose in medieval times to mean a public meeting.
By JR on Friday, February 20, 2015
The totally unscientific ocean acidification fraud lives on
CO2 dissolved in water produces carbonic acid and the Warmists ride that for all they're worth. But warming seas would OUTGAS CO2. That's what warm water does with dissolved CO2. Open a warm bottle of Coke and see it happening for yourself. And less CO2 means there is less carbonic acid, so if warming happens we will have LESS acidic oceans.
If acidity levels are in fact rising, that proves that there is NO warming going on and probably some cooling. And the ocean is quite alkaline so what warmists call acidification is in fact just a small reduction in alkalinity.
So it is no wonder that the prophesied damage to the shells of marine creatures just is not happening. Marine creatures can in fact benefit from the "acidification". See also here on the harmlessness of more acid seas. And another report on the benefit of such seas.
All the studies mentioned above were observations of events in nature, whereas the harm observed in the study below was NOT found in the natural world but only in a tank with artificially high levels of acidity
It's a great theory that more acid seas will harm marine life but it is also a sophomoric oversimplification that has no regard for the complexity of the natural world. Warmism could be summarized as "Lies, damn lies and no statistics"
Satellite images are being used to monitor how ocean acidification is changing the world's seas.
For the first time, scientists have been able to obtain a global picture of how rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are affecting the oceans.
Using thermal cameras and microwave sensors mounted on satellites orbiting 435 miles above Earth, the experts said it's possible to assess which areas of the ocean are most at risk of acidification.
As the acidity of seawater rises, it can change the chemistry of the oceans and is expected to have a profound affect on marine animals.
A recent study funded by the European Union found that ocean acidification is already having a profound impact on herring in the Baltic Sea. This heavily fished area has already seen pH values of 7.2 being recorded, so scientists wanted to see what impact it was having.
They hatched eggs taken from herring caught off the coast of Norway and reared them in outdoor tanks with different levels of aciditiy.
Those reared in tanks with pH values of 7.45 and 7.07 showed more signs of organ damage than those in low acidity water. They had more damage in the liver, kidneys and their fins were often abnormally shaped while they tended to develop more slowly.
After 39 days, the fish larvae in the medium acidity tank weighed 30 per cent less than those in normal waters while those in the high acidity tank weighted 40 per cent less.
The researchers said that these smaller fish would be more at risk of being preyed upon and are less able to survive.
Shellfish will struggle to find enough of the minerals they use to make their shells while the fish that feed on them will also suffer.
It is estimated that around a quarter of the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean.
By JR on Thursday, February 19, 2015
The wicked Tom Harris
Canadian Tom Harris of the International Climate Science Coalition is roundly criticised for his advocacy of open discussion of climate matters in the article excerpted below. It is a rather long article so I reproduce only the preamble to it. The thing that stands out both in the preamble and in the full article is that it is totally "ad hominem". It is a discussion of persons, not of science. Not a single scientific datum on climate is discussed. It is one long logical fallacy if it is meant as support for Warmism.
It is true that Harris did not present any scientific data either but that was not the point of what he was doing. He was simply calling for open and unhindered debate on climate matters. That the writer below does his best to undermine that speaks volumes of itself.
And the writer would seem to be the sort of hack he claims to deplore. He appears not to know the difference between "censor" and "censure". Harris called for censorship to be censured. The writer below seems to think he wanted it censored! In his last paragraph he says of Harris: "And he demonstrates his own hypocrisy by accusing climate realists of censorship while explicitly calling for censorship himself". What a dummy!
The rather arcane terminology is amusing too. Warmists are called "climate realists" and skeptics are called "climate disruption deniers". All the persons involved are thereby prejudged. Terminology is used in an attempt to dictate the conclusions. The writer is obviously deeply committed to the conclusion he aims to reach. Objectivity? Not even aimed at, it seems. Prejudicing the reader from the beginning is obviously much preferred
Starting in the middle of December, 2014 and continuing through February, 2015, Tom Harris, Executive Director of the industrial climate disruptionA denying International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC), wrote at least eight nearly identical commentaries. They were published mostly in small local newspapers and websites around the United States, Canada, and South Africa. The stated purpose of the commentaries was to call for scholars and philosophers to engage in the public argument over climate disruption (aka global warming or climate change), and Harris wrote that “philosophers and other intellectuals have an ethical obligation to speak out loudly when they see fundamental errors in thinking6.” As S&R hosts an occasional feature called “Climate Illogic,” we accepted Harris’ invitation and looked through his own commentaries for illogical arguments as well as other issues of concern.
As a result of our review, S&R identified five major areas of concern and a troubling observation. First, Harris engages in what is known as “tone trolling,” attempting to distract from an argument by complaining that the language or tactics used by the debaters is offensive. Second, Harris misidentifies many logical errors he alleges are made by others and he commits several logical fallacies of his own. Third, he misunderstands how science can legitimately draw conclusions that are “unequivocal” and discover “truth.” Fourth, he demonstrates a significant lack of understanding of the scientific method in general, the state of climate science in particular, and the differing levels of expertise between climate disruption deniers and climate realists. Fifth, Harris’ commentaries are found to be less about fixing the tone of a supposedly broken debate and more about undermining climate scientists, poisoning the well against any logic experts who actually engage in the discussion, and derailing the discussion as much as possible. Finally, S&R reviews the fundamental asymmetries between climate realists and climate disruption deniers and how those asymmetries enable Harris and his peers to regularly produce distortion-filled commentaries like these.
By JR on Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Another attempt to whitewash Hitler's socialism
Comments on Musolff, Andreas. "Metaphor, Nation and the Holocaust: The Concept of the Body Politic". New York, NY: Routledge, 2010
There have been many attempts to explain the evils of Nazism and they almost invariably end up with a confession of failure. They find Nazism inexplicable. The best that they can usually do is to say that Hitler resented being rejected by the Jewish Rector of the Vienna art school. So he then took it out on all Jews. But that is pretty laughable if one reads Hitler's own account of the matter in Mein Kampf. He reports that the Rector told him that his real talent was in architecture so he should concentrate on that. And Hitler agreed enthusiastically with that!
The latest work by Musolff -- a German employed at an English university -- also ends with a confession of failure. He claims that Hitler's clever use of popular language lies behind the popularity of Nazism. His book is of course not available online but his book is essentially an expansion of a 2008 essay so I think the abstract from that essay gives a fair idea of Musolff's thinking:
Over the past decade several studies have been published that investigate the metaphors employed in Nazi racist ideology from the combined perspectives of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and Cognitive Semantics . The paper reviews these studies, and discusses their differences to earlier studies that were based on traditional rhetorical definitions of metaphor . Particular attention is paid to comparisons between Hitler’s metaphors and recent discriminatory propaganda, as well as to the interpretation of such ideological metaphors as 'viruses of the mind', and to the relationship between Hitler’s use of the Great Chain of Being and classical versions of this concept . In conclusion, it is argued that cognitively oriented CDA studies of metaphor use can contribute significantly not only to the conceptual reconstruction of metaphoric mappings but also to understanding their discursive history.
Distinguished psychohistorian Liah Greenfeld has written a scathing demolition of Musolff's ideas so I will refer readers to that rather than wade any further into Musolff myself.
Interestingly, however, Greenfield too cannot place Nazism within any general psychological and historical framework. From her conclusion:
It must be kept in mind that the only way to account for the Holocaust in the framework of the fundamental understandings of the Western civilization, within which it was committed, is to regard it as an aberration, a totally implausible, horrific episode due to the German cultural exceptionalism (which prevented Germany from being fully a part of this civilization, despite its location smack in the middle of Europe), an aberration which other countries allowed to happen precisely because they could not ever imagine and bring themselves to believe that something like that could be happening.
To explain it otherwise is to reject these fundamental understandings altogether and, with them, reject the Western civilization. This is simple logic; there is nothing more to it. The Holocaust has forever undermined this civilization’s self-confidence, and it is quite possible, judging by the political events of the last quarter century (after the fall of Communism which, while it lasted, kept the Western world’s fomenting sense of self-betrayal in check) that this rejection is already happening. The civilization is evidently under a relentless attack – from within, and it well may be in its death throes. But dying civilizations do not evolve new fundamental understandings, and our logical possibilities for making sense of the realities, including historical realities, around us, remain limited to what we have.
One has to agree with her that the Holocaust has undermined our civilization’s self-confidence but the claim that Nazism and the holocaust were an "aberration" is witting blindness. There was NOTHING aberrant about Hitler. Socialists like him littered the 20th century with mass murder -- from Lenin to Pol Pot. Hitler's ideas -- including his antisemitism -- were typical of the Leftist ideas of his day. He just applied German thoroughness to implementing them. The hate that motivates the Left makes mass murder easy for them.
It is only because they close their minds to what Hitler actually preached that historians find Nazism inexplicable. They cannot afford to admit his socialism so will forever fail at their avowed objective of understanding Nazism in a way that will prevent similar outbreaks of horror in the future. It is only an understanding of the inherent evil of Leftism that could prevent such outbreaks in the future.
The latest evidence of that evil is the way the Left whitewash Islamic supremacism. Obama even refuses to utter the words "Islam" or "Muslim" in his responses to the latest episodes of Islamic horror in Syria and elsewhere. Mass murder has just never bothered the Left and that is still so.
Islam too is largely hate-motivated. Leftists hate a world that they do not understand and Muslims hate a world that is not wholly Muslim. Borrow a copy of the Koran and start your reading of it from Surah 9. You will find there how much Mohammed hated unbelievers and how he instructed his followers to attack them. Hate breeds horror. It is as simple as that.
Footnote: The psychohistorians attach great significance to Hitler's use of the human body as an analogy for the German Volk. And it is certainly true that Hitler did indeed describe the German people as a living body infected by dangerous bacteria -- the Jews.
And the psychohistorians are aware that other people have used that sort of thinking. What they do not in my reading seem to do is connect that analogy with prewar Leftism. The organic theory of the state in fact goes back to Hegel, the founding philosopher of the Left, and is well represented in the writings of a man very prominent worldwide during Hitler's youth -- American Democrat president Woodrow Wilson, the great world government dreamer. Wilson claimed that the U.S. government was "not a machine, but a living thing. It falls, not under the theory of the universe, but under the theory of organic life..."
By JR on Tuesday, February 17, 2015
You couldn't make this up
The Australian Academy of Science has just issued an updated "explanation" of global warming. They note that "Most available material ... usually omits some of the basics, such as how scientists know humans are causing global warming and what future projections are based on". So in their latest "explanation", what did they do to remedy that deficiency? Below is their full "explanation" of how human activities enhance the ‘greenhouse effect’:
"Today, human activities are directly increasing atmospheric concentrations of CO2, methane and nitrous oxide, plus some chemically manufactured greenhouse gases such as halocarbons. These human-generated gases enhance the natural greenhouse effect and further warm the surface. In addition to the direct effect, the warming that results from increased concentrations of long-lived greenhouse gases can be amplified by other processes. Human activities are also increasing aerosols in the atmosphere, which reflect some incoming sunlight. This human-induced change offsets some of the warming from greenhouse gases"
In short, they have done NOTHING to fill the gap they identified. Their screed is all just assertion and in any case completely ignores the key question of climate sensitivity -- i.e. even if we accept everything they say above about the greenhouse effect, how do we know HOW BIG the effect will be? Most skeptics do believe that there is some human effect but can see neither theoretical nor empirical grounds for expecting it to be anything but trivial. It is the Warmists who shriek about it not being trivial but what is their evidence for that? There is none. It is all just poorly founded speculation
If that's the best that the scientific establishment can do to explain Warmist beliefs, then the explanation is an utter failure. One wonders if they really believe in Warmism themselves.
Australia's leading science body has reissued its climate change booklet in a bid to improve public understanding of the contentious subject.
The Australian Academy of Science was prompted to update the information based on new research and public questions since its original release in 2010.
Most available material is either too technical for the lay reader and usually omits some of the basics, such as how scientists know humans are causing global warming and what future projections are based on, said Steven Sherwood, a climate scientist at the University of NSW.
"There is so much misinformation or confusing information out there, that we thought it would be nice to gather in one place an accessible explanation," Professor Sherwood said.
About 97 per cent of scientists who study the climate accept that humans are having an impact, with carbon dioxide – mostly emitted from humans burning fossil fuels – the primary driver.
"Even though carbon dioxide is not the only influence on climate, over the long term it will have such a large effect, it has to be brought under control no matter what else we do," Professor Sherwood said.
The academy report notes global carbon dioxide emissions rose at an average annual rate of 3.2 per cent between 2000 and 2012, at the top end of previous projections. These emissions, though, will have to start falling at a pace between 5.5 and 8 per cent for the planet to have a 50-50 chance of keeping temperature increases to within 2 degrees of pre-industrial levels.
World leaders will gather in Paris in December to thrash out a global climate treaty aimed at reducing carbon emissions beyond 2020. Countries, including Australia, are expected to announce their targets by the end of next month.
The heads of Britain's three main political parties agreed at the weekend to phase out all coal-fired power plants unless their emissions can be captured.
The academy report notes average surface warming had slowed since 2001 despite rising carbon emissions but said decadal variability in how oceans and the atmosphere exchange heat meant extra warmth had been absorbed by the seas. Other changes such as the increasing incidence of heat extremes, shrinking Arctic sea ice – its thickness dropping 30 per cent in 30 years – and rising sea levels had all continued unabated.
It is well known that the greenhouse effect is important for sustaining life on Earth – temperatures would be 33 degrees cooler without it. Perhaps less well known is the role rising temperatures have on concentrations of water vapour, a key greenhouse gas.
"When global average atmospheric temperatures rise, global water vapour concentrations increase, amplifying the initial warming through an enhanced greenhouse effect," the report says. "[T]his feedback approximately doubles the sensitivity of climate to human activities."
"For Australia, a warmer future will likely mean that extreme precipitation is more intense and more frequent, interspersed with longer dry spells," the report says.
By the end of the century, a high temperature event that would now occur only once in every 20 years would be occurring annually or once every two years on our current emissions trajectory, the academy says.
While societies and nations will face varying challenges to cope with climate change, many natural ecosystems are likely to face extinction.
Native animals that depend on cooler mountain habitats, for instance, will be particularly vulnerable. Scientists examining the fate of 50 species in the Wet Tropics bioregion in north Queensland found they would be all but wiped out with a 5-degree temperature increase.
By JR on Monday, February 16, 2015
Racism: FBI director calls it like it is
Comey has been praised for admitting that police often react differently to blacks and whites. Everybody seem to have been impressed by that -- while at the same time conveniently overlooking what he said is the cause of that: Black behavior
In an unusually frank and personal speech, FBI Director James B. Comey on Thursday addressed “hard truths” about policing, acknowledging racial bias among law enforcement officers and lamenting a “disconnect” between police agencies and communities of color.
Police “often work in environments where a hugely disproportionate percentage of street crime is committed by young men of color,” Comey said. “Something happens to people of goodwill working in that environment. After years of police work, officers often can’t help but be influenced by the cynicism they feel.”
A police officer, whether “white or black,” has a different reaction to two young black men on the side of a street than he does to two white men, Comey said, because the black men “look like so many others the officer has locked up.”
At one point in his remarks, Comey cited the song “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” from the Broadway musical “Avenue Q” in making the case that everyone makes judgments based on race.
“Look around and you will find,” Comey said, quoting the lyrics, “no one’s really colorblind.”
Adolphus Pruitt, president of the St. Louis branch of the NAACP, which has been deeply involved in the response to the shooting in Ferguson last year, applauded Comey’s remarks.
“It is extremely profound and timely that the folks at the highest level of the justice system and law enforcement are beginning to talk publicly about what they know and we have always suspected,” Pruitt said.
By JR on Sunday, February 15, 2015
Another silly prophecy
"US faces mega-drought future: Global warming will cause the worst dry spells in more than 1,000 years". You wonder why anybody takes any notice of such Warmist prophecies now that none have so far succeeded and many have clearly failed. And this prophecy ignores basic science anyway. Warmer oceans would give off more evaporation, which falls as rain. So a warmer world would be WETTER, not drier
The western US will face increasingly severe mega-droughts later this century if no action is taken to curb climate change, researchers have warned.
They say that 'unprecedented drought conditions' - the worst in more than 1,000 years - are likely to come to the Southwest and Central Plains after 2050 and persist because of global warming.
It is the first study to predict that the coming intense dry spells could exceed the decades-long mega-droughts that occurred centuries ago and are blamed for the demise of certain civilisations in the late 13th century.
'Nearly every year is going to be dry toward the end of the 21st century compared to what we think of as normal conditions now,' said study lead author Dr Benjamin Cook, a Nasa atmospheric scientist. 'We're going to have to think about a much drier future in western North America.'
According to the study, published in the journal Science Advances, there is a more than 80 per cent chance that much of central and the western US will have a mega-drought lasting at least 35 years later this century.
Since the year 2000, seven western states in the US has seen their driest periods in centuries. [Indicating that the climate where the rain forms has been COOLER!]
These states are Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming
And scientists in California have warned that the region may be experiencing a century-long 'mega-drought'.
The warnings came after sediment studies showed California is currently experiencing the driest spell since 1580, and that the regular rainfall seen during the last century is likely to have been a temporary deviation in a cycle of droughts and very occasional rainfall over the last 3,000 years.
In 2013, California received less rain than in any year since its formation as a state in 1850.
However droughts lasting more than 100 years are far from unheard of in the state.
Looking back over several thousand years, droughts have been known to last over a decade, and in some cases they can last a century.
And the patterns tend to repeat, meaning another drought of this length will probably happen again in the future. [From natural causes]
By JR on Saturday, February 14, 2015
Conservative and liberal brains again
Ever since the first twin studies of the matter came out in the '80s, I have been pointing out that political orientation has a substantial inherited component and hence arises from inborn differences in the brains of liberals and conservatives. That is not at all a popular proposition among either the right or on the Left but the scientific evidence for it continues to accumulate. We can now specify to a degree the actual brain regions involved.
The Left endeavour to "spin" the findings concerned in a way favorable to themselves so I do occasionally take a little time to "unspin" such claims. Below is another example. It was reported as "Liberals have more tolerance to uncertainty (bigger anterior cingulate cortex), and conservatives have more sensitivity to fear (bigger right amygdala)". So conservatives are scaredy cats and liberals are fine tolerant people.
They base that on the following excerpt from the original research report:
"...[O]ur findings are consistent with the proposal that political orientation is associated with psychological processes for managing fear and uncertainty. The amygdala has many functions, including fear processing. Individuals with a larger amygdala are more sensitive to fear, which, taken together with our findings, might suggest the testable hypothesis that individuals with larger amagdala are more inclined to integrate conservative views into their belief systems... our finding of an association between anterior cingulate cortex [ACC] may be linked with tolerance to uncertainty. One of the functions of the anterior cingulate cortex is to monitor uncertainty and conflicts. Thus it is conceivable that individuals with a larger ACC have a higher capacity to tolerate uncertainty and conflicts, allowing them to accept more liberal views."
As you can see, the report authors were much more tentative in interpreting their findings than were the commentators on it. The commentators have turned maybes into definite statements.
Most such reports are however parsimoniously interpreted as conservatives being more cautious, which is hardly a discovery. And if there is something wrong with caution then there is everything wrong with a lot of things. Science, for instance, is a sustained exercise in caution. So conservatives are born more cautious and Leftist brains miss most of that out. So the "sensitive to fear" report above could be equally well restated as "cautious". And the finding that liberals "have a higher capacity to tolerate uncertainty and conflicts" is pure guesswork. As the report authors note, that is just "one of the functions of the anterior cingulate cortex".
I give the journal abstract below, paragraphed to make it easier to follow:
Political Orientations Are Correlated with Brain Structure in Young Adults
By Ryota Kanai et al.
Substantial differences exist in the cognitive styles of liberals and conservatives on psychological measures . Variability in political attitudes reflects genetic influences and their interaction with environmental factors [2, 3].
Recent work has shown a correlation between liberalism and conflict-related activity measured by event-related potentials originating in the anterior cingulate cortex . Here we show that this functional correlate of political attitudes has a counterpart in brain structure.
In a large sample of young adults, we related self-reported political attitudes to gray matter volume using structural MRI. We found that greater liberalism was associated with increased gray matter volume in the anterior cingulate cortex, whereas greater conservatism was associated with increased volume of the right amygdala. These results were replicated in an independent sample of additional participants.
Our findings extend previous observations that political attitudes reflect differences in self-regulatory conflict monitoring  and recognition of emotional faces  by showing that such attitudes are reflected in human brain structure.
Although our data do not determine whether these regions play a causal role in the formation of political attitudes, they converge with previous work [4, 6] to suggest a possible link between brain structure and psychological mechanisms that mediate political attitudes.
Current Biology 21, 677–680, April 26, 2011 ª2011. DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2011.03.017
By JR on Friday, February 13, 2015
Tanks in WWI
Tanks are now only a minor feature of WWI propaganda but I think it is important to combat propaganda wherever we see it.
The still widely-believed myth is that the invention of tanks by the British was a major factor in the defeat of Germany. It wasn't.
It is true that the allies did produce and field large numbers of tanks, whereas Germany did not. So it is clear that the allies at the time believed their own propaganda. Estimates vary but it is generally said that Britain produced around 2000 tanks and the French over 3000 while Germany produced only around 50. And the French Renault tanks were in many ways actually superior to the British designs.
The big flaws in WWI tank deployment were light armour, slow speed and a tendency to get bogged in the lush agricultural lands of Belgium and Northern France. Even tracked vehicles could not traverse that ground whenever it was wet, and that was often.
The light armour was actually penetrable by rifle and machine gun fire in the early stages and up to the end was an easy kill for German field guns. And Germany had a lot of those.
This handicap was greatly amplified by the slow speed of the tanks -- 5mph for British heavy tanks. It certainly gave German field gunners easy targeting. So the tanks that did not get bogged were generally knocked out without too much trouble.
The British light tanks ("Whippets") did rather better than the heavy tanks but there were only about 200 of them fielded and the British themselves considered them as enough of a failure to cut the numbers they had ordered. They were designed as "fast" tanks but that was only 8mph.
But the tanks did have some engagements in which they helped so how can I be sure that they did not make a crucial difference overall?
I can be sure because almost up to the end Ludendorff was advancing. In his last great push, German troops got to within 50 miles of Paris. But that push cost Ludenfdorff over half a million men and that left Germany with nothing like enough troops to take on the great wave of American troops that began arriving at that time. The American troops did not play a large role in the actual fighting but the sheer number of them told Ludendorff that he was finished and so he asked for an armistice. It was the arrival of the Americans that defeated Germany. Just the prospect of fighting so many fresh and carefully-trained troops led to the surrender.