But Wait – There’s More Science! Headlines: Climate Study

Last post talked about how the headline writers misrepresented the contents of the study of temperatures, how a commentary on what current climate models say is appended incoherently to end of  the study (evidently – no link given), and how a scientist (Mann) not associated with the study but famous for promoting the ‘hockey stick’ graph provides all the commentary. Not saying global warming isn’t real, here, but am saying this approach – not distinguishing between fundamental data and the models that flow from and must account for data, then handing over the commentary to someone who wasn’t even involved in the study and whose objectivity is at least questionable – is dishonest and fundamentally anti-science. 

But, today, it gets worse. It’s almost as if somebody somewhere read criticisms like mine and a light bulb went off: That study – I do not think it says what you think it says. So, we get a rewrite that quotes even more heavily from Mann and ignores a fundamental  aspect of the data reported yesterday – that current temperatures are only warmer than 75% of the temperatures over the last 11,500 years. These are not the warmest times since human culture arose. Climate change enthusiasts need to explain what mechanisms accounted for the previous warmer periods and then show why they can be dismissed as causes of current increases in temperature *before* they can credibly assert that human activity is the sole or major cause of the current uptick in temperature.

So, let’s ignore that aspect, and give Mann a pulpit and a microphone, and assert that not only does this study not raise basic science questions (How can you say you’ve modeled climate when some of the data you would have to have wasn’t even available until this study? How come it used to be warmer sometimes without human intervention? How come you append model results onto the end of a basic data-gathering study?) but it reinforces the position your publication has taken.

Here you go:

Scientists: Earth is warmer today than any time in the past 11,300 Years

Which happens to be exactly what the study, at least as reported yesterday, did not say.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave.

And check this action out:

The evidence shows a downward trend of temperatures that reversed 100 years ago, indicating Earth was either heading toward a mild ice age  in the years 1550 to 1850, or it was continuing to cool naturally. Then the advent of the industrial revolution and the emission of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels seemed to reverse the trend.

Sooo – how was a trend that happened between 460 and 160 years ago reversed by a trend that started 100 years ago? A reporter wrote that and an editor read that and they both thought ‘good to go’?  This is simply incoherent. Also notice how the risk of an ice age is minimized – “mild”? That reminds me of Bill Walton’s quip: minor surgery is surgery on somebody else. To sum up: Ice sheets covering huge portions of currently populated or farmed land? Mild problem. Sea levels rising to flood low-lying coastal areas? Major problem that calls for a world government with totalitarian police powers.

More Headlines from Settled Science!

Study of centuries of weather suggests record warming ahead

Funny, the actual study suggests nothing of the sort. What it suggests is that climate scientists have a whole lotta ‘splainin’ to do.

The gist of the nub:

After the retreat of vast ice sheets in the Northern Hemisphere, global average temperature rose roughly 1 degree from the start of the Holocene to about 9,500 years ago, authors found. Average temperatures then plateaued for roughly 4,000 years, with the exception of two relatively short-lived spikes.

After that, things began to cool again. From about 5,500 years ago to roughly a century ago, average global surface temperature dropped 1.3 degrees.

But what concerns many scientists is what occurred next: In just the last 100 years, the average temperature has increased by 1.3 degrees. Although global temperatures of the last decade have not exceeded peak Holocene highs, they are warmer than 75% of the epoch.

Now, this is just a newspaper story, so we can’t expect much detail, but, wouldn’t it be pertinent to talk about how it came to be as warm or warmer than it is now for about 3,000 years out of the last 11.500? Because if it’s now warmer than it has been for 75% of the period, then it seems  that, for 25% of the time over the past 11,500, global temperatures have been as warm or warmer than they are now. So, inquiring minds want to know: what mechanism is proposed as a cause for those past warm years, which seem to predate the current warming trend by millennia. Because those causes can’t be man-made carbon dioxide. Yet, whatever they were, we have ‘settled’ that they are not behind what’s happening now?

To be more blunt: this study shows wide enough fluctuations in global temperature during this current interglacial period to easily bracket current temperature trends – some or all of what’s going on now could be completely ‘natural’ in the sense of caused by whatever caused high temperatures in the past. So, the way science works, it is on the scientists to explain 1) what caused the warming and cooling in the past; and 2) account for how those causes are not at work in the present.* Of course, if we don’t know, then the science by definition is not settled, but most definitely unsettled. The most common truthful answer to almost all scientific questions is: we don’t know – no shame in that, that’s why we keep at it.

By the end of the century, climate warming models predict an additional increase of 2 to 11.5 degrees, due largely to carbon emissions, the study noted.

OK. That may be fascinating, but it has absolutely nothing to do with this study, which is not about models, but rather about the data that any scientifically interesting model would have to account for. But wait – the models have existed for years, sometimes decades, *before* the data they would need to account for was collected. That’s what one would, strictly speaking, call a ‘flaw’. Of the fatal variety.

“We know that there were periods in the past that were warmer than today — for example, the Cretaceous period 100 million years ago,” he said. “The real issue is the rate of change, because that’s what challenges our adaptive capacity.”

So true. When the next ice age hits, it’s going to be tough, as it seems they come and go very quickly, in less than a century, or even a decade. This quote comes from Michael Mann, who had no involvement with the study, but is the go-to guy for ‘hockey-stick’ quotes. He’s sure, the article concludes, that the deniers will dispute this. Well, as an educated layman, all I know is that a model is only as good as the assumptions built into it, and that it better account for the past before it claims to predict the future – no ‘denial’ there, just asking for science a solid high school science teacher wouldn’t flunk you on.

Compare and contrast:

Global Temperatures Highest in 4,000 Years

This is the NYT’s coverage of the same study. This is like reporting that the Celtics beat the Heat in the second quarter – what you want to know is who won the game.

Now, headline writing is admittedly an art, but that art should be something more than uncut propaganda. For an equally valid headline would be: Study shows global temperatures often warmer than they are now over last 11,500 years. Or better and more scientific: New climate data calls models into question. and then have a real scientist explain how modeling differs and proceeds from data collection, and how building models before collecting the relevant data is not science, and that data outranks models so that models must account for them, not the other way around.

It’s almost like they’re not playing fair here.

* as Aristotle put it, what has happened is possible – so, unless we can explain otherwise, whatever has happened is in play as a possible cause of what is happening.

And We’re OK With This.

At least, the vast bulk of us are, if polls are to be believed.

H/T to Mark Shea

Since this is such a good idea – we’re so much safer with the President able to order the deaths of bad guys without all that pesky arrest, habeas corpus,  and trial mishegas getting in the way, imagine how much safer we would be if the police had this power. After all, they spend day after day hunting down bad guys, only to see them get off due to technicalities like lack of evidence or failure of the police to follow the rules. If they could just *shoot* bad guys on the spot, the gains in efficiency and safety would be astronomical!

I can’t imagine a problem with this.

Seven Quick Takes (Am I Actually Doing This?)


As the #1 daughter pursues adventures in college, the #2 daughter, 15, has taken up the culinary mantle:

050 054

Top pic is of Day 4’s entry into the Lemon Curd and Scones extravaganza, with the variation that, on that day, she made some sort of coconut sweet bread in place of the scones. Bottom pic is a chocolate cream pie she just whipped up to she if she could.

Not to exclude male offspring – the #2 son, 17, made bacon-mushroom-blue cheese burgers for son #3’s 9th birthday today.

Why, yes, I am overweight. Why do you ask?


Speaking of daughters, wrote recently What do we tell our daughters? Because we are sending them out into a world that very much does not have their happiness in mind, yet is very much interested in influencing how they see themselves and what they do. I’m thinking about if what it is we tell our sons should be any different – I think not.

All I would add is that we should teach our sons and daughters to respect, honor and support the roles other sons and daughters have honorably embraced. Example is not only the best, but most likely the only teacher here.


Today’s conundrum: I can really understand how a certain friend of mine came to identify himself as a Liberal (Note: I’m of the ‘A Pox on Both Your Houses’ party). I mean, when you parents and grand parents, your ethnic group in America, your city, your friends and business associates have been liberal Democrats for your entire life, and have united around the unshakeable conviction that your team is the good guys and the other team is the bad guys – well, that’s hard to shake. But, by the same token, I’ve watched another good friend slowly come to grips with what the party of his loyal affiliation (same story as my first friend – parents, ethnic group, friends and coworkers, etc, have almost exclusively been liberal democrats, and he’s lived in worked in San Francisco his entire life) actually DO and support, and tried to square that with being Catholic, and run into some serious difficulties.

This is not to condemn either friend or even either party – it’s to condemn the idea of party loyalty. Sure, in the old days, as an immigrant, if you wanted a job in a place like San Francisco or Chicago, it sure helped to hitch your fortunes to the Democratic party. Political machines are always friends of the people – if the people play along. But now, that cultural and historic loyalty keeps many Catholics in line when there party does things like assert the right to assassinate Americans on American soil (It’s all theory! It’s not gonna happen! ) attack religious freedom (hey, even Catholics don’t agree on birth control) and promote free and unhindered access to abortion as the essential, rock bottom basis of any civil rights program for women (um…). My liberal catholic Democratic friends only very timidly offer even the slightest resistance to these ideas – because vigorous criticism, including the ultimate criticism of refusing to vote for candidates who espouse these ideas, is not only disloyal, but, as is pounded into them relentlessly, is a vote for the other guys. Who, by the way, are irredeemably EVIL.

How about we take a deep breath, and say – with feeling – ‘it’s a free country’ – and MEAN it? In the form of making it publicly known that if a candidate wants our vote, there are certain positions he or she must not take?


That was heavy. On a lighter note:

This is my youngest son’s corn snake. He’s (she’s?) about 20″ long now, and, in a most moving ‘circle of life’ way, devours 2 little newborn mice alive every week. It perhaps says something about human nature how fast this fact went from ‘horrifying’ to ‘fascinating’.

Further, speaking of Darwin and all that, it is likewise informative how people react to snakes. Some people have a deep reflexive fear, almost loathing, of snakes. Other, like me, are surprised at how much we like them, once we actually see them and hold them. This snake here is a totally beautiful animal, and watching it move is fascinating. Yet, even though I know it’s harmless, I practically jump out of my skin when it feigns striking at me – guess the evolutionary wiring is still intact.

The real learning curve is getting my son to be calm and patient with holding the snake, which, as a still small and young snake, is still very skittish about being picked up – the boy, understandably, get nervous and wants to put him down immediately. But the snake will have a hard time getting used to being handled if we don’t calmly handle him. Progress is being made.


Greek is really hard. But fun. Had a discussion with the professor at the end of the last class about Aristotle’s notion that ‘a This’ is something that separates itself out from the background and presents itself as a unit to our senses, perception and understanding. I offered that this concept contains within itself the rebuttal to the mind-body ‘problem’ – we would know nothing if a ratio did not exist between the thing understood and the understanding logically prior to the act of perception. This notion is lost from Descartes up through Kant, and then shrouded in epic mystery by Hegel, who cements the fog by removing logic as a method of clearing it.

But I digress. And I need to get those noun declensions down.


Speaking of learning: as both my loyal readers are aware, our 5 kids attended no classes of any kind until they chose to attend classes a the local community college. We put no pressure on them to learn anything. First two learned to read, do math, and got into 4 year colleges with little difficulty. Next three are still in process, but look to be doing well. 9 year old just now getting around to learning to read.

So, why do this? Why horrify friends and family, and bring opprobrium onto ourselves and our children? What’s so bad about cracking the whip a little, any way?

– we can set aside ‘they won’t learn!’ as manifestly and demonstrably false.

– we can set aside ‘how will they learn discipline if they always get to choose for themselves?’ as manifestly false as well. Note how many children of ‘helicopter parents’, kids who did all the homework, took all the AP classes, had their lives completely structured for them are now social cripples of one sort or another, waiting around for somebody else to tell them what to do or, conversely, refusing to do anything anybody wants.

– That whole teen-age rebellion thing? Guess what – it’s not natural and inevitable. We had 4 teenagers at once in our house for a couple years, and – we all got along great. That time will be a happy memory for me – and, I trust, for the kids – until I die.  What, after all, would they be rebelling against? They have always been trusted to do the right thing, to choose their own paths. Our household rules are few, reasonable, clearly defined and consistently applied: we all go to Mass on Sunday – non-negotiable. We all help with the cleaning and cooking and laundry. We tell people where we’re going, and show up when we say we will.

Now it could be that we got a batch of freakishly well-behaved kids by some wholly unmerited extraordinary blessing. But I tend to think not. One fatal flaw I often see: telling kids they are responsible and trusted, but not really meaning it. Kids will see through that *instantly* and push back in a variety of inventive ways.

–  by avoiding homework (except for college-level self chosen stuff – and we aren’t enforcing that), we reduce tension, free up time for family, and help the kids learn the difference between busywork imposed by little conformity droids and real learning – a valuable life lesson.


More Quick Takes at Conversion Diary. This is a girl thing, isn’t it? I’m like loosing serious guy points for doing this. It’s OK, I can take it. But it is a girl thing, right?

Is It Just Me, or is There Too Much Going on Today?

– Rand Paul Goes to Washington. Judge Barack Dredd. Grand Moff Brennan. Newspeak versus Double Plus Ungood Oldspeak. Business as usual.

– Beautiful pieces like this, from one of my favorite bloggers, confirms me in my belief that I have no business forming an opinion on any potential Pope. Except Not Mahoney. Because I’m like a fanboy these days, rejoicing in the overwhelming high general quality of the cardinals. Sure, there’s some duds. Jesus chose to work with 11 cowards, including a violent liar (that would Pope 1, Peter, who was busy fibbing about his association with Christ when wasn’t hacking people’s ears off) and one out-and-our traitor. I think He was purposely setting the bar low, so that the Mahoneys of the world would not cause us to lose faith. It bears keeping in mind that Mahoney would almost surely be *better* than some of the men who actually became Pope. (But dear God, please don’t! I admire a wicked sense of humor, but – please don’t.)

– Hey, there’s going to be a comet next week! But my heart, still broken by Halley’s, is unable to get as excited as appropriate. It’s going to be a barely-perceptible smudge, I just know it.



In Public Safety Related News…

Take this:

Lethal force against Americans in U.S.? No, unless imminent threat, Holder says

“No” in this case meaning, of course, “Yes”, as the power to determine an imminent threat is held by the same people who have the power to determine if you or I ought to die. Therefore, the Bush, oops, I mean the Obama administration is asserting the right to summarily execute anyone anywhere in the world with no independent review just so long as they think it’s a good idea. This includes not merely Pakistani families in the neighborhood of somebody who we are pretty sure had impure thoughts at some point about doing something bad to America – nope, it means *you* and *me*. Here’s Holder’s acceptance speech for his induction into the Newspeak Hall of Fame, oops again! I mean his clarification of our dear President’s totally not arbitrary and  tyrannical powers:

“It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States For example, the President could conceivably have no choice but to authorize the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the circumstances of a catastrophic attack like the ones suffered on December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001.”


Just a couple things to note:

– So, hate to be a pedant and all, but *where* exactly are the “applicable laws of the United States” that would give the President the right to kill an American citizen on American soil without trial or any independent legal process or chance for appeal and all that crap that differentiates the rule of law from mere tyranny?

– I note that in the 2 examples given, there would have been no cause or opportunity to murder American citizens on American soil so as to stop an act of war – the Japanese were not American citizens and were not in America. There is no reality-based scenario for 9/11 whereby the prudent move would have been for the President to somehow have murdered the conspirators – arrested them before they got on the plane, maybe, but kill them?

So, again, we have ’24’ level fantasy scenarios in mind for the use of this power. If it were truly a fantasy, then the Executive would not be arguing for its existence.

– “It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance…” Note the steps taken to make the issue of summary execution of Americans on American soil  seem like a fever dream, to seem like the issue is just so crazy that it had just never occurred to anyone at the White House before Paul had the unbalanced nerve to raise it – even though the less enthralled reporters have been saying this for years ever since the justification for the drone strikes was first offered.  Further, the easiest and most politically opportunistic thing to do would be to say: Oh, no! We never meant *that*! we’ll close that loophole lickety-split! – if in fact, you really didn’t mean it. But you did. So the whole ‘Rand is on drugs’ spin is a not so subtle lie.

Take all this, and add it to this and this: what we have here are little tiny remote control robot helicopters.

The first link is to a commercially available model designed to carry a camera, and capable, in skilled hands, of zipping around at high speeds and taking pictures. They retail for around 2 grand. There are cheaper models.

The second link is to a group of really smart people who have taken cheap tri-rotor micro copters and ‘trained’ them to do all sorts of fancy stuff – in this video, to throw and catch a little white ball.

Skipping right past the issue of how our own government might use such devices, now add the concept of asymmetrical warfare. Just like insurgents scrape together roadside bombs and take out our Humvees for pennies on the dollar, it has probably occurred to our enemies that, for a small investment in tiny programmable helicopters, they could have their own drone air force.  I’m sure the smart guys who program the tri-copters to catch balls could easily program them to find and fly at military brass or, heck, elected officials. And put a small but lethal explosive along side the cameras.

It. Could. Work!

Oh, what a tangled web we weave.

UPDATE: The Washington Post reports:

Just hours before Mr. Paul began his filibuster, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. testified to a Senate committee that he believed it would be illegal for the government to kill an American who was not actively engaged in an imminent threat to security.

Well, that’s a relief! Who in the hell would ever even think to say something that stupid? The administration is attempting to limit its right to unilaterally murder American citizens to  ONLY those American citizens on American soil who, in the sole, unchallengable opinion of the Executive, are ‘actively engaged in an imminent threat to security’. And, pray tell, who has the sole, unquestionable authority to determine what qualifies as actively engaged in an imminent threat to security? So, cutting through the B.S. – the Executive claims the right to kill anyone anywhere in the world at its sole discretion. Period. No review. No appeal.

Report on the Current State of Public Education

From (whistling past the existential question of if it’s possible to have a steady-state) Crisis via New Advent, we get the following discouraging report on what it’s like to be a teacher in a public school if you have any grip on logic, history or culture (let alone religious beliefs). I’m curious if people – meaning here both my regular readers – find this report surprising in any way.

Here’s a recap:

The grandfather of public education, John Dewey, had a great hand in effectively purging the Great Western Tradition, human nature and the human soul from the developing reductionist algorithms the schools formulate to craft the modern citizen.

In this respect, Dewey was merely continuing in the tradition established by Fichte in the early 18oo’s, which in turn was based on Luther and, less directly, on Plato, with stops along the way at Hobbes and Locke and others. According to this tradition, the primary purpose of schools is to create the kind of subjects the state wants. Just as a mafia don describes what he does in terms of providing needed order and stability in a violent world, people like Dewey describe what they are doing  in terms of egalitarianism and justice. It is not discussed that the price and method of this more just world is the destruction of  the inherited culture of their students, who are thereby generally turned against their parents. Any existing culture is replaced it with a culture of conformity to the state. It’s just business, nothing personal.

That’s why schools have to be mandatory, and why the heavy artillery these days is directed at homeschoolers and unschoolers – because some people will figure this out, and decide that, no, they don’t want their culture destroyed, and they don’t see their highest calling as being useful tools of the state.

The teachers themselves, who are products of a process – education certification – designed to select out or break down any subversive enough to think for themselves, are taught to think of themselves as saviors and martyrs, not as enforcers of cultural conformity.

The public schools have been systematically eliminating real standards for decades.  The vertical order of things in the real world is artificially and forcefully turned to horizontal. Research shows that when one group excels, the rest of the student body may suffer attacks of envy and low self-esteem.  This response to excellence is not tolerated.

Yes. And? I’ve elsewhere argued that the success of public schools now recalled fondly by those who attended them prior to the 1960’s was due to the existence of millions of graduates from locally controlled one-room schools. As long as that competing model – graded classroom schooling is about as far as you can get from the age-blended peer-to-peer teaching of the one-room schools – kept producing better ‘output’ at lower costs, the factory school model had to at least pretend to care about actual learning. Once the one-room schools were closed, and the numbers of their graduates started falling, then factory schools could dispense with the charade of caring about actual learning. Thus, after a couple transitional decades, we reach our current state.

It must occur to us all that there really isn’t such a thing as a teacher that doesn’t reference at least some kind of standard of truth; even if that standard is one’s own mind. This is the case for the modern relativists who must comprise nearly the entire body of public school teachers.

Yep. Sometimes, in our ‘you can be anything you want to be’ society, we fail to notice just exactly how much filtering goes on. Some filtering is based on nature and objective reality – you want to play professional football? That’s a career choice not open to slow, clumsy out-of-shape people.* But increasingly, the filters are based on certification, which doesn’t necessarily correspond to any special talent or aptitude, but rather to ability to play the game, whatever the game is.** So, you very often hear or read teachers talking about how nothing in their education degrees prepared them for the reality of teaching in a classroom.

I’ve often wondered if an education degree doesn’t render a large segment of its recipients effectively unemployable in the real world. If you really and truly bought in to what they’re selling, would anyone outside of government ever hire you? A related question higher up the educational food chain: there is clearly no demand for, say, critical theory practitioners outside of academia. Insofar as any of the millions of kids exposed to such ‘thinking’ took it seriously, they, too, would be unemployable – except by government, where certification precedes and often obviates skill.

So, Mr. Mazzeo is stuck working in an environment peopled by educators, who, in addition to any personal allegiance they may have for the whole public school project, probably suspect on some level that they are all but unemployable outside the education bubble.

There are only two really radical protests left to most people: 1) get married, stay married and have a bunch of kids; 2) don’t send them to public schools, or any private schools based on the public school model. Do that, and you’ll really tick of a lot of people.

*Oddly, professional football is open to women – just as soon as a 300 lbs woman who can bench 250 lbs 25 times and run a sub 5 second 40 with the skill to apply crushing blocks to 250 lbs linebackers come along, every team in the NFL will want to talk to her. The barrier isn’t being female.

** In my case, I noticed early on in getting my MBA that the goal was not so much to teach anything concrete as to filter out anyone who wasn’t willing to play the corporate game. Hiring a freshly minted MBA is a significant investment for any company. They want to know, first and foremost, that their new hire isn’t likely to find corporate life intolerable or decide to pursue a career in chaining themselves to trees as a professional protester. The math and accounting and marketing you can pick up.

Newly spotted miles-wide comet bearing down on Mars


Can I secretly admit that I hope it does hit Mars and make a 10-mile across crater? C’mon, you don’t even have to be a guy to admit that that would be pretty cool. But I’m sure it helps.

However, gotta wonder about this:

A comet spotted earlier this year may pass close enough for Mars to feel the rock’s hot breath down its neck, according to new reports that surfaced Monday and Tuesday.

“Hot breath”? Now, I imagine a comet close to the sun – much closer than Mars’s mean distance of 142 million miles – could, in fact, have its tail or corona heated up enough to be considered ‘hot’. But, out by Mars? Doubt it. But, hey, I could be wrong.

Of course I understand the writer was just being dramatic. It’s just that given the current state of science reporting, it would be a good idea to go easy on the anthropomorphic metaphors.