The Dismal Junk Scientist

October 31, 2006

Splendid detective work by blogger Drinking From Home reveals the Brit economist providing “scientific” cover for global warming taxes has a record of lousy forecasting – he “scientifically” predicted Margaret Thatcher would doom the Brit economy!

DfH notes this piece by Ruth Lea in London’s Daily Telegraph:

Economics, albeit more prosaically, has also been subject to fads, whims and consensus views to which history has not been kind.

Twenty-five years ago Britain was at an economic crossroads. The credibility of the British economy was collapsing as inflation and unemployment soared, manufacturing output slumped and the national debt spiralled upwards.

Margaret Thatcher and her Chancellor, Sir Geoffrey Howe, concluded that drastic action was required. Taxes were raised by £4bn (then a huge sum) in the 1981 Budget in order to provide scope for lower interest rates and tackle public sector borrowing. There was, unsurprisingly, substantial political opposition.

But, of more interest, 364 economists signed a letter to The Times stating that there was “no basis in economic theory or supporting evidence” for Sir Geoffrey’s policy and that it threatened Britain’s “social and political stability”. An alternative course of action must be pursued, these savants insisted.

Almost the entire academic economic establishment stood against the Government with a mere handful of brave “mavericks” dissenting from the consensus view.

But, as we now know, the letter’s signatories were wrong because they believed in the then ubiquitous, but faulty, Keynesian consensus of the time.

Moreover, not only did the economics establishment regard Sir Geoffrey’s Budget as fundamentally flawed, they also took the same view of the mavericks’ judgments. This is instructive. Many in academia seem to believe that “peer-reviewed” research guarantees impartial, sound and independent assessment. It does not. Mavericks can be marked down and dismissed by their consensus-minded peers. Dissension is rarely popular.

The story of the 364 economists should be a warning to all who give the impression that the consensus view is an impregnable fortress of truth.

DfH’s splendid detective work reveals:

One of the 364 signatories was a certain professor from Warwick University:

Busted!

Still, Stern – like his role models Heath & Carter – provides a useful function to society by being uniformly wrong. We can now drive our SUVs, fly, and keep warm in winter safe in the knowledge that it won’t make a blind bit of difference to global warming.


Starting The World’s Next Depression

October 30, 2006

A Brit economist says human-induced global warming is a scientific fact, and both Brit political parties plan to fix the problem by – shock! – raising taxes. They’re all talking nonsense, and they’ll just tank the Brit economy. More seriously a Dem Congress will follow the same route, taking down the entire world.

The set-up (my ellipsis):

The world cannot afford to wait before tackling climate change, Tony Blair said today at the launch of a report preparing the way for new green taxes.

Tony Blair said the Stern Review showed the scientific evidence of global warming was “overwhelming” and its consequences for the planet “disastrous”.

Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, announcing he had recruited the former US Vice President Al Gore as an environment adviser, promised the UK would lead the international response to tackle climate change.

But he warned that consumers would have to play their part, saying there would have to be a “cultural shift” in people’s lifestyles – and that would include new environmental taxes.

The opposition Tories are equally obsessed with global warming taxes – their leader bikes to Parliament with his Lexus following with his paperwork (Greens haven’t discovered laptops).

The much lamented Diplomad observed “Human-induced global warming is bullshit, and you know it”. Here’s why:

1. The Professor of Atmospheric Physics at MIT (a physicist like me, but rather more distinguished) says of the new Brit adviser:

“A general characteristic of Mr. Gore’s approach is to assiduously ignore the fact that the earth and its climate are dynamic; they are always changing even without any external forcing. To treat all change as something to fear is bad enough; to do so in order to exploit that fear is much worse.”

Our inability to model atmospheric complexity is what makes long range weather forecasting so useless.

2. The global warming models fail the basic sanity check – they don’t predict history. If you run them for the period 1880-2000, they predict an increase of 1.8 – 2.4 degrees centigrade, whereas the actual increase was 0.4 – 0.8 degrees. And there are potential natural causes for this actual warming.

3. Taxes harm economies by diverting expenditure from the efficient mechanism of people spending their own cash on their own needs to the grossly inefficient mechanism of governments spending other peoples’ cash on other peoples’ needs. That’s why the Brit economy took off when Maggie Thatcher dumped its socialist tax regime, which had marginal rates up to 98%.

Nevertheless, the decline of the Brit economy under “green” taxes won’t do a lot of harm to the rest of the world – its mainspring is finance, and that can easily migrate to NYC or Frankfurt. The big risk is the US following the same model, as this Brit journo hopes it will under a Dem Congress (my emphasis):

Turning to particular industries and sectors, fears about a Democratic victory also seem overblown…

The one important exception may be oil. An energy tax, offset by increased benefits and tax credits for low-income families, appears to be an idea whose time has come.

Even those Americans who care little about climate change now see the concentration of energy resources in potentially hostile Islamic countries as one of the greatest threats to their long-term security.

But America’s willingness to embrace European-style energy taxation would be very bullish for most non-oil assets around the world — and also probably for the dollar.

Non-oil assets around the world would benefit because any serious prospect of the sort of vast reduction in American oil consumption that would result from an energy or carbon tax, would dramatically shift the balance of global supply and demand.

Of course if the US wants to switch to nuke power (as I believe it should), it just has to ease the regulatory burden – the new plants won’t cost taxpayers a cent.

But if there really is a “vast reduction in American oil consumption” before alternatives are available, the US economy will tank. And since the US props up the rest of the world with its trade deficits, the rest of the world will tank too.

This global depression will dwarf the dishonestly projected impact of global warming.


To AP, Muslim Rapists Are Radicals

October 29, 2006

Here’s an peek into AP’s dark soul.

On the Muslim Rape Apologist (my emphasis):

Relations between Australia’s 300,000-strong Muslim minority, among the country’s 20 million mostly Christian population, and the government has (sic) been tested by Howard’s complaints that Islamic leaders are failing to condemn radicals.

AP thinks its radical to encourage this:

A 16-year-old girl was brought to Gosling Park…by her friend, 17-year-old Mohammed Skaf. At the park she was raped by Mohammed’s brother…and one other man, with twelve other men present who were “standing around, laughing and talking in their own language”. The second man held a gun to her head and kicked her in the stomach, before she was able to escape.

Or this:

Two women, both 16, were taken by the attackers from Beverly Hills train station to a house in another suburb, where three men repeatedly raped them over a period of five hours. The attackers told one of the victims at one point that “You deserve it because you’re an Australian”.

And in AP’s world, it’s Howard’s fault for upsetting Muslims by asking them to condemn the “spiritual leader” who tells them this is OK.


Autumn In The Southern Med

October 29, 2006

Autumn in the Southern Med is full of surprises – on today’s run I was almost felled by a large grasshopper.

The creature hopped in front of me during a sprint (training for a 1/2M), forcing a drastic course change to avoid squishing it. It was shaken but unhurt.

The onset of rains and cooler weather (81 today, down from summer’s high 90s) has triggered a second spring. Not just grasshoppers, but lizards, butterflies, and cute yellow flowers covering all the field boundaries. And the farmers have planted their fields for the winter growing season.

All of which is a reminder why Northerners fight their wars in the winter, and Southerners in the summer – you stay home during the growing season and fight when there’s nothing else to do.


Fisked!

October 28, 2006

Innocently following a Drudge link, I just read my first Robert Fisk piece – so Fisked it.

He writes (my emphasis of weasel words):

Did Israel use a secret new uranium-based weapon in southern Lebanon this summer in the 34-day assault that cost more than 1,300 Lebanese lives, most of them civilians?

scientific evidence gathered from at least two bomb craters in Khiam and At-Tiri, the scene of fierce fighting between Hizbollah guerrillas and Israeli troops last July and August, suggests that uranium – based munitions may now also be included in Israel’s weapons inventory – and were used against targets in Lebanon… two soil samples thrown up by Israeli heavy or guided bombs showed “elevated radiation signatures”.

(An) initial report states that there are two possible reasons for the contamination. “The first is that the weapon was some novel small experimental nuclear fission device or other experimental weapon (eg, a thermobaric weapon) based on the high temperature of a uranium oxidation flash … The second is that the weapon was a bunker-busting conventional uranium penetrator weapon employing enriched uranium rather than depleted uranium.” A photograph of the explosion of the first bomb shows large clouds of black smoke that might result from burning uranium.

Fisking his theories in turn:

1. Mini-nuke
Even a tiny 1 kiloton weapon would be picked up on seismographs worldwide – witness the NoKo fizzle. And a groundburst would leave a very big hole and lots of highly radioactive fallout.

2. Thermobaric trigger
Such triggers are made of cheap high explosive. Still, he’s prescient – Israel will use thermobarics a lot in the next war with Hizbollah because:

Asphyxiation and internal damage can also occur to personnel…in deeper tunnels, as a result of the blast wave, the heat, or the following air draw.

3. Bunker Buster
Conventional bunker busters don’t use DU. And the Israelis are putting all their enriched uranium into H-Bomb initiators for operation Bestow additional Blessings.

Fisk misses the most important clue – the photo of black smoke. This tells us Reuters created the “scientific evidence”. Nuff said.


Mark Your Calendars!

October 28, 2006

AP dolefully reports a fall in murders of Iraqis. Struggling not to ascribe this to the efforts of government or coalition forces, it inadvertently leaks the timing for the take-down of Iran.

The report (my emphasis):

Diminished Violence in Baghdad Holding
By SAMEER N. YACOUB Associated Press

The five-day trend toward diminished violence in the Iraqi capital was holding Friday, the Muslim day of prayer, as a curfew kept vehicles off the streets through the middle of the day…

Attacks typically rise during Ramadan, in part because some Muslims believe dying during the holiday bestows additional blessings in the afterlife.

Presumably “some Muslims” expect extra rations of immodestly dressed virgins.

So look for Israel and the US to respectfully bestow blessings on the Mullahs during Ramadan 2007.


Fixing Islam

October 27, 2006

Australia’s top Muslim preacher gets a wrist slap from his fellows for telling Muslim men to rape women they consider immodest. That suggests rape is at the heart of Islam, explaining why Islamic societies are such failures, and how we can help them modernize.

The report (hat tip Tim Blair here, here, and here):

The nation’s most senior Muslim cleric has blamed immodestly dressed women who don’t wear Islamic headdress for being preyed on by men and likened them to abandoned “meat” that attracts voracious animals.

In a Ramadan sermon that has outraged Muslim women leaders, Sydney-based Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali also alluded to the infamous Sydney gang rapes, suggesting the attackers were not entirely to blame.

While not specifically referring to the rapes, brutal attacks on four women for which a group of young Lebanese men received long jail sentences, Sheik Hilali said there were women who “sway suggestively” and wore make-up and immodest dress … “and then you get a judge without mercy(rahma) and gives you 65 years”.

He’s referring to these Lebanese pack rapists:

Skaf is the young man who led a gang of young men in multiple pack rapes in Sydney in the weeks before the 2000 Olympics.

Skaf summoned his mates by mobile phone for the attacks. In August 2002, he was convicted on 21 counts of aggravated rape, assault and kidnapping.

Rape is punished severely in most human societies. According to evolutionary biologists, that’s because women invest much more capital than men in bearing and raising the next generation and so have to be much more choosy about their partners. Rape overrides their choice and enables the less fit to propagate themselves (assuming the raped woman can’t abort the child). A rapist society breeds more rapists and competes poorly against societies where mothers choose their kids’ fathers.

The evolutionary consequence is that humans are hardwired to reduce their propensity to rape, with behaviors such as reciprocity, trust, altruism, and the ability to recognize dishonesty.

These hardwired behaviors have enabled us to build industrialized economies driven by teams of creative engineers and scientists and defended by disciplined and well-equipped armies.

Societies that promote rape override this hardwiring, so not only do they brutalize half of their members but they also make themselves unable to build, create or fight. And that would explain why Muslims can only attack us by subterfuge and using our own technologies, why their societies are the least productive and must corrupt in the world, and their armies are easily beaten.

The good news is that we can help Islam modernize simply by encouraging it to abandon its brutalization of women. The despised French seem to be doing the best job (WSJ, $, my ellipsis):

According to a Pew Global Attitudes survey published in July, 42% of French Muslims consider themselves French first; 47%, Muslim first…In Britain, the numbers are 7% British first; 81%, Muslim first.

France’s anti-terrorism laws are the toughest anywhere in the Western world. French prosecutors can hold terror suspects for years without charge; the definition of “links to terrorism” is loose. Every mosque in France is monitored. Since 9/11, the government has cracked down on foreign financing and moved to train “French imams.”

The Australian government should follow the French lead, and prosecute the rape-advocate & deport him to his native Egypt at the end of his sentence.


London Airport Security Is Tolerable

October 26, 2006

We just flew back to the Southern Med from London’s Heathrow and found the security experience annoying but tolerable.

Unlike the rest of Europe, the Brits only allow one IATA-size carry on bag – that’s so security can search a higher percentage of bags. Mrs G crammed her handbag (purse) into her carry on.

The line for security was only about 15 minutes long. But people weren’t amused by an apparently Arab couple (man in white robes, woman in top-to-toe black outfit) jumping the line. The guy was in a wheelchair, and the airport official pushing him said they were late for their flight. Nobody around us believed this, and there was much muttering as the female breezed through security, so far as we could see without removing the mask.

Passengers had to discard all liquids or gels – the small girl in front of us wailed piteously when she had to surrender her little tube of toothpaste.

Otherwise the security people were sensible – they allowed a woman carrying an enormous stuffed toy plus her purse to break the one case rule.

Many Americans put their shoes on the x-ray belt and walked through the metal detector in their socks, although this practice isn’t mandated by the Brits.

We weren’t wanded, our bags weren’t searched, and the security team wasn’t bothered by my having two laptops.

The only odd experience was being asked my destination by the clerk at the newspaper vendor (W H Smith). She asked this of every customer and said this was part of a survey, but since she didn’t record the replies that’s unlikely.

Maybe possession of a Wall Street Journal is risky at some destinations and the clerks are primed to warn customers? Or maybe Heathrow Management has decreed its customers must be asked weird questions at every touch point?

Bottom line: other than the single bag limit, the daft restrictions on toothpaste and cosmetics, and the weird newspaper experience, flying from Heathrow is tolerable again. So I wouldn’t be put off visiting London – just don’t buy any big items you don’t want to risk checking (or go ahead and buy them, then FedEx them home).

And if you want to breeze through security, just wear full Arab dress, check in late, and demand a wheelchair.


Fortitude Wins Wars

October 25, 2006

Wars for freedom are always close run things – the foe is invariably brutal and unprincipled, and supported by appeasers nesting in the safety of free societies. But throughout their histories free nations have found reserves of fortitude to carry them from their darkest to their finest hours. So I predict the Republicans will hold Congress and the US and Brits will stay the course in the GWOT.

Victories are only easy in retrospect – here are some examples.

America’s War Of Independence

Almost failed:

After a grueling march…Washington’s troops arrived at the hills at Valley Forge on December 19, 1777. The Army was reeling from defeats at Brandywine and Germantown.

The British had occupied the revolutionary capital of Philadelphia…(the) American Army was weak, poorly supplied, and ill. An estimated 2,500 men (out of 10,000) died over the winter.


Defeating Napoleon

In spite of Trafalgar, by 1809 Napoleon had defeated all Britain’s allies, occupying the whole of Europe, and its economy was in tailspin. The king was mad (again), and much of the political class was ready to throw in the towel. So Brit pols adapted, firing all their old generals and sending the 40 year old Arthur Wellesley to attack the French in tiny Portugal. After successes and reverses, he won Portugal and most of Spain, and in 1813 (my ellipsis):

He personally led a small force in a feint against the French centre, while the main army…looped around the French right, leading to the the French abandoning Madrid and Burgos.

A few months later, after taking the small fortresses of Pamplona and San Sebastián, Wellington invaded France and defeated the French army under Marshal Soult at the Battle of Toulouse.

The Brit WW2

After losing the battle for France and much of their army and airforce, the Brits just stopped the Nazis invading – although of thousands of Londoners died. Then they struggled to keep the Nazis from the Middle East’s oil, holding on to strategic Malta (which almost starved) until a youngish (55) general finally defeating Rommel in late 1942.

While battling the Nazis they suffered stunning defeats when the Japanese attacked their Far Eastern possessions after Pearl Harbor. At Singapore:

About 80,000 Indian, Australian and British troops became prisoners of war, joining 50,000 taken in the Japanese invasion of Malaya.

The allies didn’t turn the tide until 1944.

There are plenty of other examples of close run wars including the near loss in Korea, and Israel’s near defeat in 1973.

In each case the ultimate victors found the will to persist in the face of adversity, and this history shapes the character of free peoples.

They’ve always had the equivalent of today’s MSM – although until now none achieved the depravity of CNN. But only once has it achieved a US defeat, from which America’s enemies within and without still draw their strength – hence their frenzied attacks as the election draws near.

But Iraq and Afghanistan are too important to lose – if we don’t find a way to help Islam modernize, our kids will be faced with an existential war that will kill billions.

I think Americans are too smart to hand this problem on, so expect a Republican Congress in after the elections.

That’s not to say that we don’t need better generals and a sharper strategy – a topic for a future discussion.


A Pair Of Lancets

October 24, 2006

The noun Lancet means a blatantly false statistical claim – here are two examples.

First, it seems we need to kill off about a quarter of mankind (my ellipsis):

The Earth’s natural resources are being used 25 per cent faster than the planet can renew them, analysis by WWF indicates.

Measurements of crop yields, carbon-dioxide emissions, fishing and the use of forests suggest that Mankind’s ecological footprint is too big to be sustained.

This rests on the premise that technology doesn’t improve productivity – which it clearly does since Brit society is rich enough to pay these two zoologists to Lancet:

By tracking the fortunes of 1,313 species of vertebrates from around the world, the report indicated that there had been a 30 per cent slump in wildlife since 1970.

Tropical species, including mammals, reptiles and birds, were the most badly hit of the 695 land-based animals monitored. They declined by an average of 55 per cent, while the populations of temperate creatures have, overall, remained stable since 1970.

But weren’t the creatures declining by 55% just paying the penalty for being intemperate? Anyway, the authors save the killer fact until the end:

Wildebeest have declined by 20 per cent in the past 30 years because of encroachments on their migration routes by farmers.

Slam dunk – we’re doomed.

The other Lancet is closer to home:

Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phone Use, Low Sperm Count

If you’re a man thinking about having kids, you might want to cut back on your cell phone use.That’s the preliminary finding of a study done by The Cleveland Clinic, which found statistically that men who used their cell phones the most had poorer sperm quality than those who used them the least.

The lowest average sperm counts seemed to be in men who had the most cell phone use (more than four hours a day); those who didn’t use cell phones seemed to have the highest. Although the sperm count appears to go down with increasing cell phone use, the difference in numbers wasn’t significant.

We all know that correlation doesn’t imply causality, so it’s just as likely that men with low sperm counts use cell phones more. I can thing of several reasons why, none suitable for a family blog. But more likely the sampling was screwed by this (my ellipsis):

The new study (exclusively) included 364 men being evaluated for infertility between September 2004 and October 2005.

So this correlation has been found for men being treated for infertility, hence the study tells us nothing about men in the general population.

This means that if you’re not being treated for infertility, it’s fine to engage in cellphone abuse. Just lay off the Wildebeests.


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