Archive for Global Warming

20 May 2013: Read this frightening future history … if you dare!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on May 20, 2013 by spinoza1111

Here is a stunning “virtual” yet highly likely history of the near future. As many intelligent people are aware, other folks down the road increasingly believe nonsense and refuse to believe scientific fact such as global warming’s high probability: the authors of this study blame neo-liberalism and its idiot, quasi-religious faith in markets.

While using the trappings of rationality, neo-liberalism’s “fundamentalist” denial of the utility of any government intervention is supported by increasingly ignorant individuals in a neat reversal of enlightenment, where “logic” means “believe me or else”.

Read the PDF and then my comments since my comments contain “spoilers”.

In this virtual history Western civilization collapses along with the seacoasts of Europe and the Americas: England becomes a rump state dominated by Scotland, probably a bit of luck: Canada and the USA merge so US citizens can escape killer heat. If I am still alive at this time (2030? 2020? 2015?) my lack of mobility and cancer will cause me, I hope, to simply sit still and pray, not only Catholic prayers but also Lakota death-songs: songs of gratitude. But if I can rescue my grand-daughters I should probably try.

At the worst of it The Second Black Death, with mortality levels of 50% plus, matching those of the Black Death of the 1340s, lays waste to Europe. Governance, scientific data-gathering, local authority, all collapse in a way that could only please dirtbags such as neo-liberals and “anarchists”. Dazed mothers carry babies dead for several weeks through howling storms…

China survives because it isn’t committed to neo-liberalism and (perhaps for the same reason I have not been allowed to die and rot of prostate cancer and its side effects in my apartment) Chinese authorities are able to vacate China’s coasts in a humane fashion.

This virtual history is quite factual up to 2012 and its drafting. It reports things not found in the media in the USA, whether liberal (MSNBC?) or conservative (Fox). Was 2012 in the USA the year without a winter as 1815 in Europe was the year without a summer? I do remember a series of balmy winters in the 1990s whereas back in the 1950s one could count on snowy winters, uncertain springs, hot summers and glorious “Indian summers” in each of the respective seasons. Today nobody knows what to expect.

These authors also wrote “Merchants of Doubt”, how the tobacco firms retained public relations firms and Mad Men to assert “doubt” about the health effects of smoking. Had they not been permitted to do this, my Mom, so easily frightened yet so paradoxically daring in her smoking, would probably have quit, there being NO voice whispering that maybe she’d get away with smoking; she did not, she died at the relatively young age of 72, whereas most well-to-do American and international women die in their eighties, their nineties, past 100: Mme Chiang Kai Shek died in 2003 at the age of 105.

“Truth is an absolute defense”: on behalf of our tobacco lords, the Mad Men spoke demonstrable truth. Many people do smoke and live until their nineties. The Mad Men never dared to contradict the testimony of data sets, such as the British data set that showed a spike in a disease previously rare in British WWI vets, the first British soldiers to smoke heavily: lung cancer. They simply said, with respect to the assertion “the association you show us is doubtful: perhaps the cancers were caused by another delayed reaction, to the conditions of the Front in the war, or those of the General Strike and depression”. This is to say of x, doubt(x), and this is always “analytically” true: true by virtue of its form and knowably never false when x is any meaningful scientific assertion.

It takes only a reading of Hume to understand this: but as the chair of my undergraduate philosophy department, E. D. Klemke, told me in the 1990s, increasingly students were being directed by “pastors” and homeschoolers to avoid philosophy and demand classes in comparative religion to satisfy accreditation requirements. Hume is considered perniciously skeptical whereas the taxonomy he introduced of statements is a form of knowledge and a highly useful tool.

Hume’s taxonomy should be identified here precisely because it will be unfamiliar to many educated people: analytic a priori, synthetic a priori (an empty class to Hume), analytic a posteriori (JS Mill’s mathematics, to some, although Mills may have not agreed) and synthetic a posteriori (scientific claims outside math).

Because “synthetic a posteriori” assertions such as “smoking causes lung cancer” and “mankind’s economic activity is producing greenhouse gas in the troposphere such that the planet is absorbing and retaining more of the sun’s energy, leading to runaway global warming, and, possibly, the ‘Sagan effect’ which would transform our climate to that of the unlivable climate of Venus in as short as a year or less” can be doubted as in “I rather doubt that smoking causes lung cancer” or “I doubt global warming” which statements are analytic apriori and as such true by virtue of their form.

Lawyers are trained to spot such assertions which must be admissible because true. The law bows to such assertions if made in a court of law by a lawyer in a nice suit, and while the PR men, the Mad Men, may not have majored in philosophy, they knew from the streets that doubt works.

The PDF is a hell of a read, especially if you like science fiction and virtual history. The original 1960s concerns about the environment and overpopulation inspired a spate of scary novels including Phillip “Generation of Vipers” Wylie’s “The End of the Dream”. These books caused many frightened people to get active in environmental causes over the last fifty years which may have delayed our doom.

The common mind delights in fictions like these. I used to, wasting hours at the library reading virtual future histories of nuclear war and environmental crash but never becoming active as a result. Whereas a 1983 TV program about a nuclear war inspired Dad to join Physicians for Social Responsibility. Its far more graphic and frightening BBC counterpart was Threads, available on You Tube for the very, very brave and strong of stomach; please don’t watch it if you’re not.

But we refused to listen to VP Al Gore and his far more factual warning in 2000, preferring several years of dirtbag pseudo-prosperity.

Learn logic, math and rhetoric to avoid being manipulated. Demand that your child’s high school incorporate the International Baccalaureate’s tutelage in critical thinking in which logic and rhetorical studies are used to expose false claims such as are made by global warming denialists; Texas recently forbad such material in its schools which is probably a recommendation.

Only French high schools world-wide teach philosophy, with its strong demand for critical thinking, and when “critical thinking” is taught in American universities, it is taught too often in the outdated Modernist register where the student is assumed to be in need of tutelage in doubt. This is true, but having destroyed foundations, the class (in logic or philosophy) should demonstrate new paths to knowledge.

Students must be required to at a minimum be able to read, check and understand proofs in logic and geometry, but ideally, she’d construct such proofs. Along with the usual crop of true believers who believe positive nonsense based on faith, or an overdose of comic books (“graphic novels”, indeed) and counterfactual TV, we have only slightly less devolved individuals who regard themselves as “skeptics” because they literally don’t understand the mathematics of exponential or “hockey stick” curves. These people have never constructed a proof and as a result they are “skeptical” children, lost in the wood.

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All Conspiracy Theories Considered Absurd

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 27, 2012 by spinoza1111

For the philosopher, who’s not an “analytic” philosopher, but has analytic training, the set of causes which I’ll call “denialism” (but are usually known by the somewhat more negatively charged, lengthier and more general phrase “conspiracy theory”) present an interesting challenge. In this article I shall prove that no species of denialism can ever be true or meaningful, using a very basic form of the logic of statements.

I shall restrict my attention to denialism, which I’ll define as a conspiracy theory that negates a received truth or opinion. A pure conspiracy theory, such as “the world wide Jewish conspiracy” doesn’t do this. A denialist conspiracy theory often “piggybacks” on the received truth-opinion, gaining currency from the popularity of the truth-opinion. For example, if all the toffs and their women are talking about Shakespeare or Michelangelo

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo

– TS Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

The insecure Prufrock can say that Bramante sculpted the Pieta as a short cut to sounding deep.

Then a strategy to regain cultural capital (what Bourdieu calls Distinction) would be to put the boot in by saying that “Shakespeare” didn’t write Shakespeare, where “anti-Stratfordianism”, the belief that a miller’s and alderman’s son did not write the “Shakespeare” of the First Folio is an example of Denialism.

But first of all, what are some “denialisms”? Here are some of my “favorites”, arranged in an order that will be obvious.

Lo Thus Quoth Dighton, Lay those Tender Babes: The Ricardian Denial

The tyrannous and bloodie Act is done,
The most arch deed of pittious massacre
That euer yet this Land was guilty of:
Dighton and Forrest, who I did suborne
To do this peece of ruthfull Butchery,
Albeit they were flesht Villaines, bloody Dogges,
Melted with tendernesse, and milde compassion,
Wept like to Children, in their deaths sad Story.
O thus (quoth Dighton) lay the gentle Babes:
Thus, thus (quoth Forrest) girdling one another
Within their Alablaster innocent Armes:
Their lips were foure red Roses on a stalke,
And in their Summer Beauty kist each other.
A Booke of Prayers on their pillow lay,
Which one (quoth Forrest) almost chang’d my minde:
But oh the Diuell, there the Villaine stopt:
When Dighton thus told on, we smothered
The most replenished sweet worke of Nature,
That from the prime Creation ere she framed.
Hence both are gone with Conscience and Remorse,
They could not speake, and so I left them both,
To beare this tydings to the bloody King.


Shakespeare: Richard III

The “received” account of the deaths of Edward V and his brother is that they were slaughtered by hired thugs, Dighton and Forrest, in the pay of Sir James Tyrell and that Tyrell was furthermore in the pay of Richard III, who engaged Tyrell when Richard’s buddy Buckingham wimped out of the caper.

This account appears in Shakespeare’s Richard III but that play was sourced on Sir Thomas More’s The History of King Richard III:

For Sir Iames Tirel deuised that thei shold be murthered in their beddes. To the execucion wherof, he appointed Miles Forest one of the foure that kept them, a felowe fleshed in murther before time. To him he ioyned one Iohn Dighton his own horsekeper, a big brode square strong knaue. Then al the other beeing remoued from them, thys Miles Forest and Iohn Dighton, about midnight (the sely children lying in their beddes) came into the chamber, and sodainly lapped them vp among the clothes so be wrapped them and entangled them keping down by force the fetherbed and pillowes hard vnto their mouthes, that within a while smored and stifled, theyr breath failing, thei gaue vp to god their innocent soules into the ioyes of heauen, leauing to the tormentors their bodyes dead in the bed.

The denialist account originates in a work of detective fiction, Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time and it purports to prove the denial or the dubiety of the received story, found in both Shakespeare (who wasn’t writing history) and his source Thomas More (who was, but in a primitive police state in which it was convenient to establish Richard’s illegitimacy, given that More’s sovereign was the son of Henry VII, who settled Richard’s hash at Bosworth).

But chances are More was telling the truth: chap certainly spoke truth to power later on in the matter of Anne Boleyn: would such a one be quite so willing to tell a lie in his History here?

More’s compassion for real victims shines through in his use of the unusual word “sely” to refer to the children; for “sely” derives from “saelig”, a Middle (or Old) English word that managed to mean three simultaneous things: “silly happy holy”, like the Christ Child or John Dunbar’s “baby full of benignity”, at his “mothers breast sowkand”, or sucking at her tits. The meaning has disappeared in a world where it is hard to be all three things together. It also came through in Sir or Saint Thomas More’s actions in the matter of Anne Boleyn.

But note how the conspiracy theorist has essentially to reduce people to a subcritical level. Sir, or Saint Thomas More has become a propagandist hack even and the Shakespeare denier cannot imagine anything higher than a hack. The Ricardian conspiracy theorist relies on ignorance of Sir or Saint Thomas More’s martyrdom.

And later in the book in which this poppycock is bruited, a male interlocutor (chosen, I think, to be male to give him a voice of authority) deflates claims that British soldiers killed striking British miners at Tonypandy in 1910 by introducing Tey’s readership to watered down Hume: for as to most callow reader of philosophy should know, empirical claims can be doubted, Tey’s male character “shows” by way of the fact that “the material record can be doubted” that “no miners died at Tonypandy” when in fact the oral record indicates that they did…and the slaughter nine years on of Indians peacefully assembled to air their grievances at Amritsar confirms that British soldiers could and would open fire on civilians.

Anonymous: Shakespeare Didn’t Write the Plays

The recent film Anonymous, directed by Roland Emmerich, hasn’t done well at the box office. It is based on the denial or the claim of dubiety of the “received” account of the authorship of the plays collected by Hemyngs and Condell in the First Folio and attributed to Shakespeare, a glover’s and alderman’s son from Stratford and actor-manager in addition (according to nearly all actual Shakespeare authorities) to being a playwright.

Many amateur and self-appointed sleuths cannot imagine that a mere middle class man with a grammar school education (that seems to have been remarkably thorough) could have written about kings, and queens, and stuff, possibly because the typical amateur or self-appointed sleuth cannot.

The American Civil War Was Not About the Slavery, Stupid

Reputable historians do emphasize that the South made broader claims on the North before our American Civil War than simply the right of Southerners to own slaves. Somewhat apart from the fact that Northern states emancipated their slaves in the early 19th century, the South was also reluctant to approve high tariffs on imports in order to finance infrastructure (notably, the Erie Canal linking Albany with the Great Lakes) that benefited only the North or projects the South did not want.

But mainstream historians do not deny that the South developed the theory that the states could individually and unilaterally “nullify” Federal laws not only to avoid tariffs but also to prevent the free states, which were gradually outnumbering slave states due to Western expansion, from eventually gaining a Congressional majority, banning slavery nationwide.

Perhaps shamed by the heritage and their peculiar institution, Southern apologists in recent years have been claiming, on the basis of Nullification’s economic purpose, that the Civil War was not about slavery, rather about states’ rights.

Thie is the denial or the claim of dubiety of a story accepted by mainstream historians of the left such as Howard Zinn, and of the right, including Charles Johnson and Winston Churchill.

Americans Never Landed On the Moon

I lost my virginity in Wisconsin as the astronauts landed on the Moon, so perhaps this denial, or the claim of dubiety, that the Moon landings occurred is especially offensive to me.

It is theorized that the entire adventure was filmed on a sound stage.

Death of a President

Next we have the denial or the claim of dubiety of the official story of John F. Kennedy’s assassination on 22 November 1963.

The official story is that the assassination was performed using rather right wing methods (a bullet) by a malcontent loner with a checkered, expatriate past and a young, beautiful Russian wife, with left-wing sympathies but no real friends among the American left of the time. As is well known there are a vast number of alternate theories.

They were popularized by Oliver Stone’s film JFK. They are collected and rejected in a great whacking book by former Los Angeles District Attorney Vince Bugliosi, Reclaiming History.

I have read this book in its entirety. It is a monument to the legal insight and moral seriousness of Bugliosi, the Los Angeles district attorney who nailed Manson. It demonstrates not only that Oswald, acting alone, killed the President but also that historical “certainty” is possible where historical “certainty” is P(x)=1 “for all practical purposes”.

I was 14 at the time of the assasination and, just prior to the announcement that the President had been shot, I’d been disciplined for retaliating against a bully whose father had established the first McDonald’s outlet in Des Plaines, Illinois.

9-11

Comes now the denial or the claim of dubiety of the official story of 9-11. The official story is that it was the work of hired suicide killers engaged by Osama bin Laden, the scion of oil wealth who’d been enraged by the continuing presence of American soldiers in Saudi Arabia after the Gulf War and the American abandonment of Afghanistan after its people had effectively won the Cold War. Some alternate stories claim it was staged by American spy agencies to mobilize the country against Israel’s enemies, etc.

Creationism

This is the denial or the claim of dubiety of Darwin’s theory of Evolution and its modern restatements. In recent years this has been on the face of it a claim of dubiety in the form of claims that people who believe scientific authority are being excessively credulous, and that in the interest of fairness, the Creationist and “Intelligent Design” “theories” deserve “equal time”.

Global Maybe Not Warmingism

This is the denial or the claim of dubiety that “global warming”, most conveniently former Vice President Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth”: that the world is getting warmer, that this is due to the properties of additional carbon dioxide in the upper atmosphere, that the increase is due to human activity and finally, that this will have bad effects, some of them with positive feedback such that, caused by global warming, the effects (notably release of methane from melting sub-arctic permafrost) will be magnified.

The Nadir: Holocaust Denial

The denial or the claim of dubiety that Hitler killed the Jews is the most tragic form of Denialism. It often takes the form of denying the most extreme parts of the Holocaust; for example, some “respectable” Holocaust deniers concede that German Einsatzgruppen shot Jews in Russia during the Nazi offensive, but deny, for reasons known only to them, that Jews were gassed by design.

Truth or Consequences

All of the above Denialisms are issues of truth, but the first and most trivial (the “Ricardian” denial of Richard III’s guilt) has no “pragmatic”, no corresponding actions to be taken if either side is “proven”: since the United Kingdom is ruled by the descendants of an elector of Hanover and not by a Tudor monarch, the discovery of proof that Richard III did not kill Edward V and the Duke of York would have no effects, whatsoever, save on the Beefeaters’ morale, which I’m sure they’d restore by insisting upon retailing the old story and quaffing ale, or something like that.

The pragmatics of the Shakespeare authorship dispute are more serious, since quite a lot of Shakespeare analysis and interpretation, especially but not exclusively Marxist, accounts him to be a representative of a rising middle class empowered by technology (printing) and the Reformation (and the abandonment of the mediaeval Mystery play, leaving an initially unmet demand for idle entertainments) to make money and create works of art without being beholden to princes and magnates. Most of the Shakespeare Denialists prefer to say that an aristo (such as the Earl of Oxford, who inconveniently died in 1604) or at least a man with university training (such as Marlowe) wrote the plays, which denies the story of the self-made man of which the received biography of Shakespeare is an example.

The pragmatics of the American Civil War question are quite serious, since an official, Northern and “liberal” account powered the American Civil Rights movement: Dr Martin Luther King presented the need for equality as an “uncashed check” dating to the Civil War in which slaves were formally freed and enabled until 1876 (the end of “Reconstruction”) to use their formal freedoms practically. While latter day slavery Denialists deny they are racists, their cause is for this reason offensive to many African Americans. And as opposed, say, to Brazil, there remains at least a perception of racism in renarratives of the Civil War as being about “states’ rights”, and in cases like that of Trayvon Martin, whose shooting by a white-Hispanic security guard was not investigated by local authorities.

Moon landing Denialism has few pragmatic consequences because very few people believe it. The American moon landings were, according to some philosophers of science, the first real confirmation of Galileo’s heliocentric astronomy but very few disbelieve Galileo at any rate.

The JFK assassination Denialism has had mostly consequences in the form of a lot of wasted time, although it did trigger a separate investigation beyond the official investigation, in the House of Representatives.

The consequences of 9-11 denial have been equally small.

Evolution denialism and Global Warming denialism have had very, very serious consequences, in the USA as regards Evolution (where school systems have had to teach either the Biblical story of Creationism, or more commonly the “doubt”) and world-wide, especially in the USA, as regards Global Warming denialism: Republicans in Congress will not pass any laws that treat Global Warming as a possibility and as a result, no countermeasures were taken last winter against the possibility of high-strength EF4 and EF5 tornados recurring in 2012, where such large tornados had damaged large parts of the USA.

I believe that I can prove all conspiracy theories false, first by showing how they are logically false or meaningless (which I shall together call “absurd” to best express both ideas) and then showing how they cannot guide pragmatic action. To do so, I shall present the special case proof as regards Global Warming denialism.

Refutation of Not Warmingism

Here are Gore’s “inconvenient truths”, again: “the planet is warming, it is warming as a result of industrial activity by way of a known mechanism called the ‘greenhouse effect’, this will have bad effects, some of which will interact in positive feedbacks with warming, possibly creating a permanent change in our planet’s habitability”.

Mainstream climate scientists assert these Inconvenient Truths as a scientific statement: roughly, all of them taken together using “logical and” as a single Inconvenient Truth: mainstream scientists do so as scientists. Now this of course is to go out on the empirical limb, since this claim, as science, has a certain probability of being true, and a complementary probability of being false.

Let’s symbolize Gore’s Inconvenient Truth as IT.

If P(IT) is its probability, P(IT) is between 0 and 1 (0<P(IT)<1). It cannot be, as Hume discovered, exactly 0 (false with certainty) or exactly 1 (true, with certainty). The logical denial of the Inconvenient Truth, ~IT (not IT) has 1-P(IT) probability and it can’t be 0 or 1 in truth value, either: 0<P(~IT)<1 because 0<1-P(IT)<1.

But this is the logical denial of the Inconvenient Truth in English: “the planet is not warming (baby, it’s cold outside), or it is warming but owing primarily to sunspots or something, or the greenhouse effect isn’t real (CO2 is good for you), or all the foregoing is false but baby, Global Warming is good for you, or, anyhow, we could use a new planet. Might be cool. Or warm. Or something.” Logically, the sequence of individual claims connected by “and” is negated by a logically weak series of the negations connected by “or”: where IT is (A & B & C …), ~IT is (~A | ~B | ~C …).

Now this shows that Al Gore was making a remarkably strong claim, as is any claim that uses a lot of “ands”, and the denier is apparently more humble, since an “or” claim is logically weaker.

Logically strong claims are hard but brittle and easy to refute with one counterexample, whereas logically weaker claims are hard to refute, since they are refuted by the refutation of all their terms.

But, the logically weak or claim is not consistently asserted by the Denialists; their assertion is that they doubt the Inconvenient Truth. They do not claim “not IT” they say “IT is doubtful”…if we let ? be a doubt operator, the GW Denialists claim ?IT.

Now, this ordinarily seems both quite Enlightened and easy to prove.

To prove the or as opposed to the doubt, all the Denier has to do is disprove (but not to certainty, this cannot be done) any “link in the chain”. He needs to show that globally as opposed to local conditions (where it’s easy to show that global warming, in activating the movements of air, can create, chaotically, dramatic instances of local cooling), it’s not getting warmer, or that the greenhouse effect isn’t occurring, or another denial.

But: consistently, the Denialists do not do this. They speak as individuals (with an interesting pose of the vox clamant in deserto) or as members of foundations whose main goal is not to prove anything but to prove the doubt.

Now, as it happens, this is “nice work if you can get it”. We already know that when R is any empirical proposition whatsoever, its probability is 0<P(R)<1 but this is almost exactly the same thing as saying that the probability of ?R (“R is dubious as hell”) is unity: P(?R)=1.

Not only is no proof of the Denialist’s case needed (nice work if you can get it) it also allows the GW Denialist (who’s actually a Doubterist) to strike poses and quote Oliver Cromwell: “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.” It makes him seem to himself and his pals as a brave, Enlightened skeptic like Galileo.

Or something.

But, Houston, we have a problem.

As scientists, who only as part of their professional remit assert empirical propositions with probability P between 0 (certainly false) and 1 (certainly true), the Inconvenient Truthers already know that they may be mistaken!

This has two serious problems. The first is that insofar as the dubiety of IT is used as a call for debate, it’s a strange debate. Rather than a debate over an assertion and its negation, it is a debate between a climate scientist who asserts, taking the risk that she may be wrong, a claim, and someone else who asserts, without taking the risk that he may be wrong, that the IT assertion is doubtful. The second party can never be wrong because all scientific statements are asserted with implicit probability between 0 and 1 but expressions of doubt are, per Hume, always true, assertions about language guaranteed to be so.

Now, this sounds pretty nifty to the Denialist. “I can never be wrong, wow”. Guys love that when that happens.

But by way of Sir Karl Popper’s well-known “unfalsifiability” critique of Marxism and psychoanalysis, the Inconvenient Truth Denialist is not as he usually claims doing science and does not belong in “open scientific debate”.

Worse than asserting that the sun goes ‘round the earth theory when that’s been finally confirmed false (probability close to 1, perhaps .9999999, but not 1), most recently in the Moon landings (oops, aren’t they bogus? NO), the Denialists “argue” for a proposition as necessarily true as 1+1=2…the tautology that the Inconvenient Truth is doubtful. Of course it is.

Worse than the Indiana legislature of the 19th century that asserted that pi, the ratio of the radius to the circumference of a circle, is exactly 3.14 as opposed to its unclosed continuing value (3.1487…), the Denialists want to “argue” that 1+1=2 in arguing that a scientific statement can be doubted.

It is noble and heroic to do so when arguing as does Winston Smith with O’Brien that five fingers remain five fingers, in 1984, and recreationally, the denialists like to pretend that world science is in cahoots with world government. But O’Brien asserts that four is five, an assertion of probability 0, whereas the climate scientists assert IT, equivalent to 0<P(IT)<1, and this is logically consistent with the claims of the Denialists.

Policy

Let’s now move to pragmatics. The Inconvenient Truth has serious policy implications, therefore the next step is analyzing the costs and benefits of acting as if it is true, or false.

Now, this analysis was made informally by the Bush administration at the time of the non-signature, by the USA, of the Kyoto accords in 2000. Basically, the administration said that Kyoto would retard economic growth in the developed countries.

However, their linkage is weak and uses a curious American axiom. This is that the profits of existing large firms and the incomes of their first set of benefactors (the wealthy majority stockholders and the bondholders of energy companies) will benefit ordinary Americans, indirectly but automatically, through job creation.

We Americans often believe (but I do not) that if the rich get richer, they will go crazy and start companies, creating jobs. But, of course, and as Keynes noted, sometimes if you’re rich, you prefer to just punch in your ID at an ATM and admire the numbers. Sometimes you like to take a girl along to help you admire them. Sometimes you flash your wad. Sometimes you light cigars with one hundred dollar bills and overtip snooty headwaiters.

We are encouraged to believe along with Milton Friedman that all the rich rise at the crack of dawn to run ten miles and, during their run, hatch schemes for spending their money on job creation. But Thorstein Veblen would ask about the idlers and wastrels who rise at noon, providing at best jobs for manicurists, barbers and bartenders.

Call the rich who create jobs the “productive rich”, it’s quite possible that deregulation and globalization increased their ranks in the 1980s by creating opportunities to spend money on investment as opposed to consumption.

It is unquestionable based on anecdotal, literary sources that in the 1930s and 1940s, there were fewer outlets for productive investment as a result of a global flight to autarky, which was why the rich of the 1930s were very different from the rich of the 1980s.

But, and this is a key point, this has nothing to do with today’s rich. The rich of 2013 may be job creators, or wastrels.

In terms of what we hear on the media…it’s as if Thorstein Veblen never lived.

To philosophy, which is well aware (probably more so than the actual players) of undecidability, there are two open questions. The first is, how much money handed over to the wealthy investors in existing energy companies, which rely in some measure on global warming inaction, flows into productive reinvestment. The second is whether Keynes was right, and if you redirected the money hose at the poor, whether they would create immediate sales numbers for existing companies by immediately spending their money on common household appliances…and stuff.

Philosophy, without having to decide, knows that in this case, a golden mean might be the way to go. And, global warming Affirmationists want as it happens policies that are Keynesian.

Rather than preserve the incomes of existing energy companies invested in doing things they will fund startup businesses in alternatives, and redirect through carbon taxing the profits of the energy firms.

The cute thing about philosophy is that it teaches you to keep on thinking when you do not know, at least with the certainty most people like, and what we’ve discovered is that in one minor way, the Denialists, who are mostly conservative in the rest of their politics, are Hayekian, and believers in the free market (especially as currently jury rigged in favor of the big shots…excuse me, that wasn’t philosophy, it was me channeling Tony Benn and Michael Foot, not germane, an aside) whereas the Affirmationists are Keynesian or socialist. Which means that as scientists making a pragmatic recommendation based on what they have discovered, the climate boys are well advised to argue for the Golden Mean.

If we do a cost and benefit analysis the cost of the truth of IT is probably high enough to the least well off to justify a pragmatic acting on its truth. The people most impacted by global warming, if it is occurring, are poor, they live on flood plains, they live on prairies, they live in forests, or they live in teeming cities where “austerity” has recently caused cutbacks in emergency services, or has prevented them from being instituted in the first place.

In the pragmatic cost-benefit calculation, the opponents of the Inconvenient Truth use as stakeholders the wealthy who benefit from existing corporations through bonds and equity. Its proponents worry more about the “99%”.

We can conclude that in the known absence of certainty, we should act on Global Warming.

The Proof Generalized

Now, let’s generalize the proof of the falsity or meaninglessness of IT denial to that of all conspiracy theories.

A scientific or legal conclusion is made about states of affairs, let it be C. The Denialist doesn’t assert ~C (not C) he asserts !C (C is doubtful pronounce it “bang, C”). But because any meaningful official or legal conclusion as to a state of affairs has probability P(C) where 0<P(C)<1, the probability of ~C is 1-P(C) and the probability of this is also between 0 and 1.

The received story of Kennedy’s assassination, while never having P=0, has a probability less than 1, and its denial has 1-P which is also between 0 and 1.

But the “probability” of !C is unity.

But this means that !C is not science. Jibber jabber can consist of false statements ("jibber jabber the earth is flat"), meaningless statements ("jibber jabber the current regnant King of France is bald") or even, as here, true statements ("jibber jabber Global Warming is doubtful"): Mr Jibber Jabber, funded as you may be by the Heartland Institute to raise doubts and impede, you are still talking nonsense.

The “Ricardian” who seeks to re-open debate about the disposition of the two Princes, the JFK assassination buff who seeks to re-open debate about Kennedy’s assassination, and the Holocaust denier do not strongly argue for their alternative claims, rather they argue for the dubiety of the mainstream story.

This is because as conspiracy theorists, they also argue for the corruption of the documentary record when it presents evidence confirming the mainstream story. Perhaps Sir James Tyrell was paid to confess (and endure the usual 15th century torture? Oh well): perhaps Thomas More wrote what Henry VIII told him to write (and later on stood up to the King in the matter of Boleyn? Oh well): perhaps an odd lot of men like Hemyngs, Condell, Ben Jonson, a variety of ink-stained printer’s devils and who knows who else were in on the First Folio caper.

This indeed is Josephine Tey’s main idea in The Daughter of Time: the gullibility of the sort of people who believe documentary records. It’s a popular form of what philosophy students learn, hopefully in their first course: the fourfold division of statements into analytic versus synthetic, and apriori versus aposteriori.

But it ignores the radically different logical status of “P is doubtful” and “P” or “not-P”. All meaningful scientific statements are doubtful, and as Popper knew, if they are not, if they are not in his view “falsifiable”, they are jibber-jabber mumbo-jumbo, like Marxism or Psychoanalysis. The question is pragmatic: without even knowing the specific numerical value of the probability of P we must decide what is to be done.

Implications

In the past, conspiracy theory and denialism were at the shadows and in the margins, a sort of B-level. However, the Internet has nearly destroyed the distinction between high Culture and low. It makes people feel that they are “just as good as anyone else” for today, they do not have to visit the Bodleian Library to find a copy of Thomas More’s History of King Richard III.

Reading science fiction has long been a way for people to feel as if they participate in the glamor of science without having to do math or think very hard. Likewise, being a Denialist makes you feel, I’d guess, that you’re an authority. If some twerp, poolside, has read every play by Shakespeare several times over, you can recapture the attention of the ladies by announcing in a weary, superior tone, “did you know, my dear boy, that Shakespeare did not write the plays”?

But there is something worse, that emerges in Holocaust denial most plainly but even occurs in trivial “Ricardianism”. In Tey’s book, a male protagonist (where Tey may have selected that gender to provide authority) is equally dismissive of the claim that British troops, in 1910, fired upon striking miners in Tonypandy.

I know the Holocaust occurred as a direct result of Hitler’s intentions mediated through a society without rule of law.

I do not know what happened at Tonypandy, in part because miners’ families in Britain then, and perhaps even now, have an oral and not a written culture. Any government support for a continuing written working class record is now ancient history for this is considered, in Britain and my own country, to be lunatic leftism. I spoke to a British man from mining families and he strongly believes that the shootings occurred. He does so because his great grandfather was there and told his son, and so forth. But this testimony is not to be found at the Bodleian, and as a Yank, I have no opinion.

But the common feature of Holocaust and Tonypandy Denialism (if there is such a thing as Tonypandy denialism) is the denial of suffering and the normalization of daily life as nonviolent and safe.

If Shakespeare in fact made a name for himself in a primitive police state where every word he wrote had to be approved by censors, in the teeth of opposition of envious men like Robert Greene who used Shakespeare’s own lines to mock him, while supporting a family long-distance, this is a tale of suffering and triumph. Its denial erases this.

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin went to the Moon at the risk of their lives. Moon landing denialism erases this.

People sat on roofs in Katrina begging for help for days. Global warming denialism makes the disaster just a case of “shit happens”, not something that may have been avoidable.

Holocaust denialism doesn’t in most cases deny that Jews and others were rounded up and ethnically cleansed, it merely seeks to deny that Jews were deliberately gassed; it is asserted that the Jews died of cholera. Some forms assert that while Jews were shot by Einsatzgruppen they were not gassed as if all the Denialist sought was to deny the apex of evil.

Now, this shows how Denialism is a Pop culture phenomenon if the purpose of media that at least in the past was labeled “B level”, “middlebrow” or “escapist” is essentially to reconcile the exhausted office worker with a daily pain of existence which cannot be squarely faced.

If Shakespeare didn’t struggle to write the plays and become a successful businessman, this excuses us from doing much of anything. If we can only deny climate change, we can return to daily existence and not worry so much. And if the Holocaust was in part not true, this is an anodyne of a sort.

Yeats said it best, in “The Stare’s Nest by My Window”, a poem about the way in which the Irish, to Yeats, habit of spinning stories can help us to avoid pain by selecting the most pleasant, or least unpleasant, story from the media…which now falls over itself, and not only in the USA, to retail pleasant stories.

We had fed the heart on fantasies,
The heart’s grown brutal from the fare;
More substance in our enmities
Than in our love; O honey-bees,
Come build in the empty house of the stare.

Denying suffering is a form of hatred. Mass media entertainment techniques persuaded the people of my country to support a lie about WMD, so the denial in this case was not a denial of suffering in the direct sense, yet it was used to deny Iraqi suffering, for if Iraq had had WMDs the brutalizing ten year period of sanctions and the brutalizing war may even have been justified. If the Holocaust denier can “prove” that there was no “proof” than eight million died, he is content that one or two million died, for he’s shown how we can feed on fantasies.

We can deny suffering on order. Certainly, part of the reception of Shakespeare’s Richard III was pity and terror based on the belief, in the contemporaneous audience, that two kids were destroyed, accompanied by relief that Elizabeth had put an end to religious wars that had succeeded the dynastic wars of the 15th century and the reigns of Henry VII and VIII.

Deaths of children such as the nine day Queen Jane were known to have happened in the living memories of Shakespeare’s audience who it may be said was anxious, in a way we of course are not, that England return to the undecidability of religious conflict, an undecidability in which kids got killed. Denialism uses a strange, but comforting, logic: that because the Holocaust may not have happened (or did not happen) then our fears of being Holocausted in turn (say by our Serbian friends and neighbors) are silly.

But (as Fight Club seemed to imply) the office worker trades her autonomy for security which renders her relations superficial and insensitive to pain in a virtual reality of media in which violence is so ultra as not to be believed.

Philosophy’s job is here to open a door to some disturbing possibilities, and a disturbing way in which popular media can numb us to some real problems far more serious than the deaths of the Princes. Sometimes the fly has to be shown how to get back into the fly bottle.

Global Warming and Tornado Numbers: letter to International Herald Tribune

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on March 5, 2012 by spinoza1111

To whom it may concern: 

In Steven Yaccino’s “Winds of Destruction Lash US” (5 March 2012) the article appears to be written from a preapproved editorial template for tornado-related content.

In it, “plucky survivors” “pick up the pieces” and call upon Jesus to save them. The reporting makes things out of these people who cannot analyze why increasingly violent storms are victimizing them, because they don’t matter to the International Herald Tribune. Yaccino is apparently under orders not to mention “global warming” as a possible-to-probable cause of violent storms, and this is due to a well-funded KulturKampf conducted by The Heartland Institute and other “think tanks” which adopt a “skeptical” attitude towards global warming as part of a wider right-wing assault on science, teachers and the General Welfare. 

Let “IT” be the package of propositions that constitute “An Inconvenient Truth”: “warming occurs as a result of human activity, and among other unpleasant things it causes violent storms.” Irrespective of its truth, this is an empirical proposition which is true with probability P, where 0<P<1.

The KulturKampf does not assert ~IT (“not” IT). It does not claim that the Inconvenient Truth is known to be false with P=0. It asserts that “we doubt IT”. It claims that its own claim, symbolize it as !IT, is a solid scientific proposition.

But this means that IT is itself a possibility/probability, because if any proposition r has P between zero and 1, the probability of ~r is 1-P which is also between zero and 1. If IT is 25% probable, then ~IT is 75% probable. 

IT is advanced by scientists who in their own emails, writing as scientists, know that IT might be false and therefore have to decide at different points whether to get behind IT, because unlike a proposition in pure mathematics, IT has serious real-world implications.

These scientists, like the “father of the atomic bomb”, Oppenheimer, who had reservations about the fusion bomb, are also “citizens”, a curiously outdated word in which our identity is far more defined, and defined at-will, by our employers. In transitioning from the science to deontological claims these scientists found themselves to be targets, as do climate scientists today. 

But note that the Heartland Institute does not claim ~IT, it claims !IT. Now, !IT, the doubt, is itself a true proposition with P=1. It is meaningless to assign a probability to one’s doubt because the doubt is the assignment of an unmentioned low probability. Which to the untrained mind, and worse the mind perverted in business school, is a virtue. Gee, I am always right which means you is always wrong. Bullies and the thugs of the corporations love that. 

But this has a problem, for !~IT has the identical property. It’s always true.

The denialists have seized in their ignorance on fool’s gold, because as Karl Popper pointed out some time ago, an “unfalsifiable” set of propositions (for him, Communism and psychoanalysis) is not a scientific theory. The Logical Positivists just prior to Popper had said that to be meaningful, a proposition had to be “verifiable”: Popper’s insight was that while verifiability cannot always be a property of a proposition, it is a virtue of a scientific theory that it can be falsifiable. The IT proposition, the Inconvenient Truth, is falsifiable, but not the separate assertion that it can be doubted. That it can be doubted is dog bites man. 

In a childish duh-bate which revives what Adorno called “the nightmare of childhood”, that is, the revival of childhood patterns that he saw in Nazi propaganda, the corporate thug and bully calls upon the climate scientist to “prove it”, lengthening the vowel of prove in an ugly way and reducing adult dignity to a game in which wagers are made by discredited academics, and Gleick is invited to a roast which he declines. This is because “skepticism”, the last refuge of the ignorant can never be disproved.

But if IT is a possibility alongside ~IT, the next step is risk analysis to assess the value of countermeasures, including even newspaper articles written by reporters who talk to real scientists, or an Environment page in the International Herald Tribune, replacing the Anorexic Fashion Model page or the Recycled Funnies page. 

Now, if the risk analysis is conducted using the standards of business schools, we have to measure the costs to the wealthy, that is, the major stockholders and executives of energy firms. Job One of Don Draper is to show how his ideas add to the wealth of the owners of his firm. 

We discover that the risk of IT being true is to the wealthy, existential. It would mean an end to their income insofar as it consists in equities and bonds in energy firms.

Therefore their “rationality” consists in public relations countermeasures that assert !IT, including, it appears, getting editors at the International Herald Tribune to terrorize their reporters. Whereas if risk analysis measures the costs to all of us, we need to assume the worst case, which is IT. 

In the case of tornados, this would be upgrading shelters and warning systems. This is, however, a complete non-starter. Not only has the current Congress repeatedly stopped investment in infrastructure, it has explicitly asserted !IT with the result that the rationale for the investment  would be unmentionable. 

In the work of the Heartland Institute, which is as I write focused on further damaging the reputation of Peter Gleick, a climate scientist who admitted his wrongdoing, one finds a strange logic. Essentially, any confirmation of their case is seized upon and any contrary evidence is explained away.

For example and as regards tornado trends, they seized upon a chart of EF3-EF5 tornados from the NOAA which showed a large number of 118 EF3-5 tornados in an anomaly, outlier year (1974), much larger than the years around it and inferred from the right hand side of the chart that “tornados are declining!” 

Image

But to a trained eye, the “standard deviation” of the data, which shows considerable variation, does not indicate any trend at all; the NOAA’s web site said that the chart shows “little trend”. Sure, if you use Excel to create trendlines, there will be a “decline” in the trendline from 1974 and a smaller decline since the start year of 1950. Spreadsheets, perhaps even more than Powerpoint, are great if you don’t want to think critically.

However, the data is too noisy, deviates too much, for a trend to be inferred save by the same wishful thinking and dishonesty with which business thugs use data in presentations to get their way; as is well known, the night before the Big Presentation you change the charts and remove data to show the trend. In Don Draper’s day as seen in Mad Men, you made the secretary work late. Today, you use Excel and Powerpoint. 

Furthermore, the chart was used throughout and after 2011, in which there were 85 EF3-5 tornados including one that almost erased a significant part of Joplin Missouri. Some of the towns visited last year by large tornados were revisited this month, presumably as God’s punishment for their failure to kill gay people or outlaw sodomy. 85 makes 2011 an outlier year similar to 1974. 

As a part of the Tea Party and Ron Paul white male backlash against the 2008 election of Obama, the claims made by the denialists are so outlandish as to make “liberals” loth to “duh-bate” with the denialists. But the elite journalists of the Times, while bored by the issue and perhaps convinced of global warming are also unwilling to incur editorial and managerial wrath by interviewing scientists on these tornado swarms. Nobody wants to return to Mom’s basement especially in Tornado Alley. 

I accuse the Times of enabling this repeal of the twentieth century, this repeal of the Enlightenment, this ongoing reversion to the seventeenth century and the nightmare of childhood. Not only have storms become increasingly violent, there’s two masses of garbage floating in the Pacific Ocean: one is the Pacific Garbage Gyre, a slowly rotating collection of non-biodegradable plastic waste, and the other consists of wreckage from the March 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami. 

The right has made doing absolutely nothing a priority. To quote myself:

They don’t say much but they say it loud
O come see the boiling cloud

They try to calm the madding crowd
Cover your mother with a trash bag shroud

Sincerely

Edward G. Nilges

Notes

1. Many “skeptic” sites are funded by the reverse of skepticism, gullibility and wishful thinking in the form of touts who promise fools that they’ve found a surefire way to beat the stock market by haruspicating charts.

Of course, smart investors know that losers publish these books, since if they had a surefire way of haruspication, they’d use it to quietly get rich, not write books.

But they seem to be taken from the same mathematically illiterate part of the population from which the deniers are taken. They see things in equity price charts that are not there, here, where the area underneath the points in the tornado chart is indeed smaller to the right of 1974 than it is to the left (and to be fair to these bozos, prior to 1974, it is likely that the sort of destructive EF3-4 tornados seen this month, that aren’t photographed because they occur at night, and that are experienced as violent storms, were under-reported; but, another possibility is that given less energy, night time tornados did not occur).

It is generally admitted that there’s no alternative to a qualitative analysis of the stock market such as Warren Buffett recommends, in which the investor judges that a company has real potential value and/or safety. The “surefire” haruspicator, on the other hand, ignores details and focuses only on the numbers.

The same science-worship combined with studied ignorance of science, mathematics and the logic here of doubt informs the cheap thugs of investment markets. The hope (to get rich quick) is made out of the same shit as the fear of Divine punishment which global warming represents.

2. I make no apology for my symbolic argument:

a. 0<P(IT)<1 "the probability of An Inconvenient Truth is between 0 and 1, but neither 0 (impossible) nor 1 (certain)."

b. P(~IT) = 1-P(IT): the probability of the denial of an empirical proposition such as IT is 1-p (this also holds for certainties and impossibilities). If An Inconvenient Truth is 40% probable, the probability of its denial (that human activity is not the cause of warming OR warming does not occur OR it does not cause violent storms) is 60% probable.

c. P(!IT)=1 and P(!~IT)=1: the "probability" of skepticism with regards to any empirical proposition is unity. We may always doubt, but for every doubt, there exists the corresponding "doubt of the doubt", that is, the doubt of the contrary, with equivalent truth value.

d. The non-denying climate scientists are not asserting !~IT, for this would be to claim that An Inconvenient Truth is “probably a certainty”; while they doubt denialism (of course) this isn't their case, which preceded denialism. Instead they see IT as a probability. They assert IT. However, the denialists are asserting !IT with arrogance and vanity, thinking their doubt unassailable.

It sounds (to morons) somehow smarter to assert doubt. And methodologically we must always doubt assertions…especially our own, which the climate scientists have done in their private emails, only to be abused by thugs who never assert the doubt of their own certainties, only of others’ assertions, especially when those assertions aren’t made by thugs.

But science basically asserts without certainty. Galileo’s contribution wasn’t to doubt Copernicus it was to whisper “muove”, it still moves, when externally recanting is view. The Denialists in their unassailable (and therefore unscientific) doubt want us to admire them as truly Enlightened for the same silly reason they claim to admire Dr King. They want scientific and political prestige.

The denialists not only have unassailable doubt, they also have more fun than the scientists. They can agree with any part of IT and draw different conclusions: "it isn't happening, and if it is, it is good for you".

But as we'll see in the next step, denialism is foolish as a guide to policy.

e. To apply IT, ~IT, !IT or !~IT to policy, we need to do risk analysis. The risk of IT's being true to the oil companies and the considerable but not large number of people, all or part of whose incomes come not from a paycheck but from interest on bonds and dividends from equities and the sale of equities and bonds is existential; these people face ruination if IT holds.

Their rational strategy is to assert !IT, and more than that attack government itself, by tax starvation, and convincing their USA followers that the Constitution forbids steps by the Federal government to provide for the General Welfare.

But the risk to the population of the US or the world is much larger, since it means either larger or more frequent violent storms. Poor people can least defend themselves against these consequences of global warming.

The problem is that in the USA, business thinking has so saturated the public sphere that people do not notice whose behalf this implicit risk analysis is being made.

A further proposition (which manages to be a perversion both of utilitarianism and Rawls' "Theory of Justice" statement of liberalism) is that the greatest good for the smallest number will make those guys all happy, and they will "create jobs". This, along with the claim of unfairness to developed countries, was the reason the Bush administration refused to sign the Kyoto accords at the beginning of the last decade.

It's a bonafide perversion of utilitarianism as a form of greatest-good theories more usually used to justify welfare states, and it perverts Rawls's belief that "inequalities of income should be allowed if they redound to the good of the least well off but working members of society".

But its "proof" was negative when in the welfare-state era, the inverse of the policy of reducing taxes and controlling inflation was found to create "stagflation", whereupon it was decided to see if Friedman and Hayek were right (as least as understood by the sort of people who bought Hayek's major works and found them less readable than useful for whacking desks with them, as did Baroness Thatcher).

It was however found that the release of capital in the USA under Reagan made investment highly mobile. It deserted the "Rust Belt" and Rust Belt industry and sought high-tech outlets, 99% of which were a complete dud per Gresham's Law. In my own particular case, Canadians, notably risk averse, nonetheless fell for the fashion and funded Bell Northern Research but failed notably to tell me what a Member of the Scientific Staff should do, and when I suggested that he (I) might rewrite their crap SL/1 compiler, they nixed the idea.

The money thus released by tax cuts then flowed to China. Meanwhile, back at the ranch as it were, illusory booms were created by lowering interest rates all the time until this became pushing on a string. Unfortunately, the Fed never got to the point of paying me negative interest to borrow cash.

So…it's never been actually confirmed that removing John Rawls' ceiling on differences in income would create prosperity. In the current climate, it turns out to be rather pleasant for both banks and the wealthy to sit on piles of cash, like the lottery-winning couple in Frank Norris' McTeague. Since monetary authorities take such pains to prevent inflation, there's no danger in such passivity as regards investment and luxury spending.

Indeed, this is the danger in Ron Paul's idiot schemes. A gold standard would indeed make saving attractive because as in the 19th century, a bourgeois could build solid companies over time…in some scenarios. But if the money isn't inflating there's also a human tendency to just admire it, sitting in one's bank account. It's fun to go to the ATM and just check your balance, without taking money out, when you are flush. The velocity of investment slows down as compared to more worker-friendly times of higher inflation. Global warming even if not admitted could see a flight to safety by the sort of slobs who like to say "he who dies with the most toys wins" and need to fund bunkers and gated communities.

Poetically,

All those tax cuts and all that useless Beauty
Did not really create any jobs:
Instead it's become all this useless Brutality
And the duh-bate of the brutal slobs.
They didn't say much but they said it loud
O come see the boiling cloud.

The Heartland Institute v Gleick: some of my comments

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on February 29, 2012 by spinoza1111

Dr James Gleick is the climate scientist who penetrated the Heartland Institute to swipe documents and confessed on 24 Feb to his wrongdoing. This brought my attention to THI, which claims to be a group of concerned “experts” but which is in actuality a front man for corporations and the wealthy. I started writing answers to the truly astonishing lies and half-truths I found at their Web site, and I need to assemble them here lest they be removed.

 

 

“ClimateGate” Memos

Here’s my comment on their claims about what internal “climate gate” memos reveal (note that they don’t have any compunction about revealing the other side’s secrets but are screaming bloody murder about Gleick’s stunts): 

The memos “reveal doubt” because any substantive, informative scientific proposition has probability 0<P<1, where 0 is “known with certainty to be false” and 1 is “known with certainty to be true”. CF. Karl Popper.

The memos “reveal doubt” because unlike lawyers, engineers who’ve long whored out their degrees in hydrology, and “communications” majors, scientists (like competent software developers in my experience) are cautious not to draw unwarranted conclusions and like Gleick on 24 Feb, admit when in the wrong.

But on South Wacker Drive, corporate thugs cannot by the nature of things admit they are wrong.

In the 17th century, Pierre de Fermat conjectured that “no three positive integers a, b, and c can satisfy the equation an + bn = cn for any integer value of n greater than two”. In the 1990s, Andrew Wiles of Princeton published a proof of this conjecture. The proof contained an error when it was reviewed by Wiles’ referees on the Internet. 

Wiles repaired the proof.

If he’d been working, however, on Wack Wack Wacker drive, he would have been subject to childish mockery for “making a mistake” (even as Gleick received no credit for a voluntary confession).

This is because the sort of people who go to work for the Heartland Institute coast through college telling professors what they think the prof wants to hear, never speaking out, never risking being in the wrong. They then get these little corporate shill jobs where one can never admit error.

There inner weakness? They know they don’t “get it”. They know that they can’t do the math.

They assume nobody else can.

Bird calls to bird, and is answered with sweet: 
Turd calls to turd, and is answered alike:
Bird calls to turd and no reply doth meet:
Turd calls to bird, and bird taketh to flight.
Turd assumeth a generalized curse.
Seeks naught higher than the corporation:
Turd figures he could do a lot worse.
Than to sing the song of the copro-nation.
But take a warning from me, coprophage.
With heart grown brutal and terribly small:
The swift arrival of sickness and age.
Shall cause you to dust and silence fall.
In your brilliant career you’ve done nothing more.
Than trash knowledge to doubt, cruelty and a bore.

 

James M Taylor’s Tornado Graph Interpretation Found Incorrect

In James M Taylor’s Forbes Magazine reply to Gleick, he presented a graph of the numbers of tornados between 1950 and 2010 which he said showed a declining trend. Let’s look at that claim.
 
James M. Taylor, your statements in your Forbes article of 12 January are not only deeply unprofessional as regards your standing as a lawyer (because you appear to be trying to do science without credentials) they are also positively dishonest.

In that article you’ve cherry picked a chart from NOAA which in the article you claim shows “long-term trend in declining frequency of strong tornadoes” at http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/img/climate/research/tornado/tornadotrend.jpg. This “chart”, however, is only a jpeg, and its parent Internet locale is private.

When I saw it, I could in fact discern no “trend”: the standard deviation is just too large, and, since the numbers only go back to the 1950s, there’s not enough data to show a geological trend: geological trends emerge in the hundreds of years and not over decades. 

Fortunately the interpretation of the chart appears at http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/severeweather/tornadoes.html#history. In that location, the data providers say “The bar chart below indicates there has been little trend in the frequency of the strongest tornadoes over the past 55 years.”. Not a “declining” trend.

Also, the chart indicates only the raw count of EF3-EF5 tornadoes. The possibility is that the number of EF3-EF5 tornadoes could be declining as (owing to higher heat energy due to GW), smaller “funnel cloud” tornadoes and potentially EF3 merge to create the mile-wide EF4/5 tornadoes that were unseen (or, to be fair to you, unrecorded) in the old days. I’d observe that the typical tornado on You Tube today is unlike the old “funnel clouds” photographed in the 1950s, and last year, especially, a number of tornadoes failed to display the narrow paths of destruction that were characteristic of tornadoes before 2000. Joplin looked like it had been bombed over an enormous area.

But I am prepared to admit, as the NOAA article warns, that the You Tube monsters (but not the scale of destruction seen in Joplin MO last year) are artifacts of You Tube itself and young dudes with cellphone cameras, a case of beer and time on their hands.

The problem I got with YOU, Counselor, is the fact that in the Forbes article, you want that cherry picked data point to be generalized into a moral claim: that all climate scientists are liars. It’s adversarial logic, Counselor, like that of the attorney for the rich guy that from one contradiction in the poor rape victim’s testimony, gets the rich guy off at the cost of her reputation.

The graph shows a stunning leap in 1974, before many people were born. That could be a pure anomaly, or, since tornados are a primarily North American phenomenon, it could be the result of a localized warming, where in the 1970s the effects of our postwar boom were emerging locally, especially as “acid rain”, and perhaps as heating of our air sheds. Just like gold prices, these leaps can be the storm before the calm…before the storm, where the longer term trend shows increasing spikes. In geological time, 1974 could repeat at twice the magnitude.

I would remind you of the calm before the storm, or of the Lisbon tsunami of 1755, a dual-phase tsunami that first emptied the bay of Lisbon, attracting idiots to the treasures revealed on the sea floor.

The public policy question is whether we take steps to protect people who shop at convenience stores in Kansas and get walloped every year by EF1-EF5 tornadoes, and Africans who suffer drought, or the interests of major stockholders in energy companies. Global warming’s bad effects, if they are real, affect the least well off. I conclude that it’s best to assume it’s real, Counselor.

 
In addition, when you published the Forbes article, the number of 2011 tornadoes was known. It was eighty four, second only to 1974, Counselor. Hope you don’t mind if I call you Counselor.

 

 

Sonnet 29 Feb 2012 Edward G. Nilges. Moral Rights asserted

With hearts grown brutal…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on May 28, 2011 by spinoza1111

Less than seven days after the very destructive Joplin tornado, part of an unprecedented tornado swarm caused by global warming, the major newspaper in St Louis contains no discussion of global warming.

In the distant past, a reporter would seek out a university meteorologist who would then tell the truth:

1. These “mile wide tornadoes” are without precedent: in the past, most tornadoes were funnel clouds.

2. Weighted by intensity and multiplied by the number of tornadoes, this year’s “swarm” is unprecedented. Youtube is filling up with more and more videos of these storms.

3. Unprecedented and violent weather involving the heat-induced transfer of air and water is occuring all over the world. The Earth is becoming a planet radically different from that which saw the rise of civilization.

4. Global warming is a reality.

But, of course, no university faculty in today’s world dares to speak out in this way.

Sure, blogs, Facebook pages, and even some print newspapers have no end of opinion columns, like Bill McKibben’s Op-Ed in the Washington Post which will make prestige space available to some. But note that most newspapers in the USA, now owned, for the most part, by media conglomerates, will relegate these opinions to online comments where, of course, they must needs be corralled with the views of the local zanies.

And, even the Washington Post labels McKibben’s piece as “opinion” when in fact, global warming is now known as factual as “cigarettes aren’t good for you.” That’s because it’s always safe, in the repressive tolerance of a First Amendment society, to have an opinion. For, as they say in the Army, opinions are like assholes. Everyone’s got one. If you express an opinion in this climate, it will for the most part be ignored and/or disbelieved, for ordinary people, having lost the capacity to have or defend opinions, prefer Fundamentalist belief and conspiracy theories.

McKibben himself shoots himself in the foot.,The title of the piece is “A link between climate change and Joplin tornadoes? Never!”. This is a flaccid and disempowering irony, which protects the ironist by making it seem more important to mock the disbeliever in climate change than to do something about climate change itself.

Instead of containing a news story about what we know (that, for example, CO2 is now considered to be above the levels that made the earth habitable for thousands of years), the St Louis Post-Dispatch leads with a story about an African American mother who it is claimed killed her baby. That’s because a growing, if under-reported, panic is occuring over these storms and the search for scapegoats has begun.

The diversion (and a diversion it is, because to report the “crime” of the mother as if it is known before trial that she is guilty is news as sick and perverted entertainment) shall, I predict, become witch trials in a few years if flooding and tornadoes continue, communication between communities breaks down, and the Republicans defund emergency services.

Americans will get the Mad Max life they’ve been fantasizing about for too many years, and revert to the barbarism they lust for. And China will become the center of the next civilization…badly damaged by its own environmental problems including the worst drought in fifty years.

I rarely socialize with the many Americans here. One was a manager who announced on the Internet that English teachers in Asia (whom she supervised at the time) were a lower life form, and then proceeded to humiliate one of her reports online. She was so full of herself, so certain that every one of her choices was maximal, that it was impossible to have a normal, human conversation with her.

Another was a lawyer who calmly and with a smirk announced that to get an A in his Constitutional law class at Harvard, he simply parroted what his professor, Lawrence Tribe had said…despite the fact that he was a conservative (and a racist, it was plain during our one and only conversation) and Tribe a liberal.

Now, these two characters are very different from the rural folks in Missouri who can’t be bothered with global warming and prefer Jesus. But in all three cases there’s a sort of Dorothy. All you need is not love but a lie.

In the first case, the person who thought that English teachers are a lower life form was herself an English teacher in Asia. In the second, the lie was palpable. In the case of Fundamentalism and waiting for the End of Days (rather than doing something about global warming) the lie is also obvious.

My own ex-wife says that my grown children have a free choice to ignore me which isn’t quite true. It’s passive-aggressive brutality and strikes at the root of what makes us human. I honor a father who abused me for the same reason Bill Clinton went to Duke Medical Center to hold his step-father’s (not his natural father’s) hand as his abusive step-father died of cancer, but the Lie is that we’re morally free (or even free in the sense of preserving our long term emotional health) when we’re free in Hobbes’ sense of “can”=”ought”. The kids “can” ignore me but they’re playing with fire, for loving a parent means forgiveness.

But our Lie is now what makes us half-human. The lie that I was “abandoning” my kids in 1981 when in fact I was on the verge of a Nash-style breakdown that, I knew, would render me unemployable and thus unable to support my children, and took steps to remedy that situation. The American lie that this gives my kids a right to ignore me today and treat my loving emails as Nigerian spam.

“Believe my fantasy as the price of my friendship: enter my reality distortion field as the price of my love”

“Sell our garbage with enthusiasm: write the code any old how as long as you make me look good.”

“For there are no facts, only opinions, and, opinions are like assholes, asshole: everyone’s got one.”

“Make me a reality in which I am cherished and you come home at five o’clock to a house with a white picket fence, and there’s never any need to work until three to meet a deadline.”

Or, in Yeats:

We had fed the heart on fantasies,
The heart’s grown brutal from the fare,
More substance in our enmities
Than in our love; O honey-bees,
Come build in the empty house of the stare.

Or as I wrote last year:

We don’t say much but we say it loud
O come see the boiling cloud.

When the Ice Came to Hong Kong

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on February 27, 2010 by spinoza1111

When the ice came to Hong Kong
Weeping tears of water,
People raised their cellphones in supplication and to take pictures
And shouted, OMG,
And shouted, delay no more.
Is this the end of the world?

Steaming it sailed silent into Victoria Harbour
A mesa of ice melting, calved off from Ross,
It had been unseen as it snuck round Australia
And created its own cold winter as it sailed.

There was Kung Fu Fighting on the ice
And just when we got used to it,
And when it had become, like Godzilla, a friend,
We mourned its passing.

Is a major story being ignored on purpose?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on February 15, 2009 by spinoza1111

As of its update at 1:10 AM Eastern Time, the New York Times appears to be ignoring a major story released by the Associated Press about nine hours before that.

Christopher Field, speaking officially, has told a conference in Chicago that the effects of global warming are increasing dramatically and in such a way that they must be addressed this year. “Feedback” effects, including the addition of carbon to the atmosphere by loss of permafrost, are stronger than expected.

The New York Times is apparently ignoring the story although it broke in Chicago. The Chicago Tribune is also ignoring this story.

However, it was this morning the lead story on the BBC World Service.

Since I get my “daily briefing” from the BBC, have a paid subscription to the online New York Times, and I daily read the International Herald Tribune, I have noticed an increasing lack of “fit” between frameworks and what’s considered a story between US media and world media. Although the BBC refused to carry an appeal for the people of Gaza, its coverage has been balanced, showing consistently a difference between the rocket attacks on Israel and the massive attacks on Gaza.

To the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times, Chris Field is “just” a science nerd who is running his mouth, giving his opinion. Their journalists have no ability to make a simple distinction between an official statement of a scientific body, a scientist speaking officially at some risk, and ordinary language, and they justify this laziness by claiming a tolerance that they do not exhibit at all when it comes to the question of what’s news.

I am familiar with the used of the dismissive category of the “nerd” in a variety of different fields, where the people who do their homework, whether as climate scientists or mere computer programmers, are made to appear to the man in the street as naively retrograde by a debased Hollywood-media elite.

Again: the Platonism of higher education, its bias in favor of the uninstantiated Idea, has created a generation of people who actually believe that Ideas can be manipulated at a grand high “executive” level, which “doesn’t mistake the forest for the tree” while sweeping on to the grand fallacy and the death of the tree.

It operates as a “structuralism”: this is to say that the language game operates at any differential of perceived power. Relative to the editors of the Tribune, the climate scientists meeting in Chicago were perceived as a bunch of nerds doing their thang, so a low-wattage science nerd, herself scared witless for her job, was sent to the meeting.

It is of course a Hollywood fantasy that she’d come back to the newsroom, and say, “stop the presses”. The dream factory, in Adorno’s words, produces dreams that do not dream. The cinematic dream, of living in dark times and making a dramatic difference, is reified into a commodity thereby producing its very own antibodies: in the vortex, “a crowd of people turned away”, alienated from alienation but still, well, alienated.

Instead of the Field story, we read on the New York Times site that a rise in jobless is a threat to the United States.

What the hell is this framework?

A rise in misery is an absolute evil which we do something about because it’s the right thing to do: yet to the Baby Boomer nomenklatura, people more like Hilary and less like Barack (who want Barack to be one of them), we should only worry about what affects us.

As an expatriate, I am familiar with another class of expats. They are very strange people for, having money, they fly all over the world…without knowing any geography, and without learning any either. I was on a flight from Chicago to China a few years ago: we went due north from O’Hare and although this was clear on a display nobody knew or seemed to care why we would do so, since my immediate neighbors, high-level corporate types, don’t “do” maps.

There are many things about which I am ignorant. For one, I have never been comfortable or satisfactory in using a foreign language, even French, with any facility.

But I have never learned that it’s a Good Thing to tune out. As an art student, I agreed with Mies: God is in the details. But the New York Times and Tribune are putting their readers, I think, in a coma.

Well, I’m gonna Do Something about global warming. I already observe a Buy Nothing day every week.

Furthermore, given the danger to the environment, we need to ask ourselves if the depression is a bad thing or the mercy of God. If we could provide a safety net for the truly needy and have a socialistic depression in which the rich “suffered” the most, this might save the Earth!

Be sure you have enough to live on for six months without a job and try to keep at least 500.00 in accessible cash. Don’t stockpile, because stockpiles run out and provide targets for theives. Instead, plan on cooperating with your neighbors. Sure, learn how to use a gun, but only in societies where gun ownership is widespread and your gun is legal.