Thursday, February 22, 2007

BLATHER 22.II.2007

A Diary by John McCaughey

Blather [magazine] is here. As we advance to make our bow, you will look in vain for signs of servility or for any evidence of a slavish desire to please. We are an arrogant and depraved body of men. Blather doesn't care. A sardonic laugh escapes us as we bow, cruel and cynical hounds that we are. It is a terrible laugh, the laugh of lost men. Do you get the smell of porter?

---Flann O'Brien, Dublin, 1934
None of us can really be sure that we exist. My whole life, as this Diary shows, is a lie. All the characters in it are invented, none bears any resemblance to anyone living or dead. People who claim to find themselves here must know that the only real existence we can any of us claim is in the imagination of God.

---Auberon Waugh, Diaries 1972-1985

Last Exit to Brooklyn

David Lochbaum, a safety engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists (it has few scientists and is concerned mostly about dues income), claims to have identified a serious new radiation threat.

This is the ubiquitous and seemingly-harmless "Exit" signs seen on any American highway.

Prodnose Lochbaum has discovered that the signs contain radioactive tritium which allows them to glow in the dark. And also that they are disposed off in ordinary landfills.

This means, he explains, that high levels of tritium could be contained in the water leaking from landfills---water that is technically called "leachate". So Prodnose wants the NRC, EPA and other fed regulators to monitor landfill sites and to solve the problem.

Just how this can be done remains a mystery. As is the mystery of who, in any case, drinks "leachate".

Lie Back and Enjoy It

The cant word of the moment is "resource nationalism". But in various forms it has been around for a long time: the practice of governments nationalizing foreign-owned enterprises on their soil, invariably at a low price (sometimes approaching zero). Confiscation, expropriation or theft might be better words for it, because, as it usually an oil facility or a coal mine or the like, the foreign owner is unable to pick up his marbles and run.

The current champion of the art is Venezuelan President Hugo "Fidel Light" Chavez who a month or so ago announced that he would nationalize key telecommunications, utility and oil ventures in his socialist Banana Republic, which now has an inflation rate of nearly 20 percent and is, in any case, seeing a huge flight from the country of oil industry professionals and drilling rigs.

Nothing unusual about the confiscations: in the trade it's called a "political risk" that a foreign buyer should have evaluated and taken into consideration before making his investment.

Thus, Arlington-based AES had little choice but to sell its 82 percent stake in EDC, Venezuela's largest private electric utility, back to Chavez's entirely-corrupt government for $739 million.

Sounds like a lot of money? Er, not quite. It is less than half of the $1.7 billion that AES spent to acquire the shares some seven years ago.

What is, perhaps, a trifle unusual is the saintly forebearance of AES chief executive Paul Hanrahan.

"I think this deal is a fair one," he told a news conference in Caracas shown on state-owned Globovision. He added that the deal had "respected the rights of investors....It's with a heavy heart that we part with EDC. We understand that it was a strategic decision of the Venezuelan government and we respect that."

It's difficult to negotiate with a gun at your head so Hanrahan's forebearance may perhaps be understood (and bugger the AES shareholders). But it does remind one rather of the anxious upper-class English woman who enquired what she should do if the island were invaded by Hitler and she was about to be raped by a Nazi storm-trooper.

"Oh, I shouldn't worry about that," replied her companion. "If you're going to be raped, just lie back and enjoy it."

Heatwave in Tibet

To Tibet, land of 46,000 glaciers and the world's highest mountains, for a weekend break. There, in the Karo-la Pass, our old friend Tsawang Dumi, the shepherd, reports delightedly that global warming has arrived. As a result, far fewer of his sheep and goats have died this winter. Tsawang lives on the 24,000 foot mountain of Nozing Kangtsang between the Tibetan capital city of Lhasa and Mount Everest.

To celebrate the global warming, Tsawang and Blather mount their yaks and descend a few thousand feet to the nearest public house, known as The Himalayan Hillside, where we partake of Hot Toddies made with fermented yak milk.

"I have heard of global warming," says Tsawang, "although I don't really understand what it means." Solemnly, we drink to this. Better to remain in ignorance.

The Answer is Blowing in the Wind

Czechoslovakia, previously only known as a country that gave the world the beautiful city of Prague, has now achieved new fame. Visiting the city the other day, we dined with Czech president Vaclav Klaus (Blather always makes a point of meeting with political leaders when travelling abroad) and we were delighted when Vaclav told us that fears of catastrophic man-made global warming were "a myth" and that the UN IPCC process was just gotten up by a bunch of politicised hacks who are in it for the money.

It is good to know that Czechoslovakia is in such sensible hands. Perhaps too the pendulum is beginning to swing and the steam to go out of the global warming scare, as it went out of alar on apples, EMF fields and a score of other scares in recent decades.

Next to Rome to ask dear old Joe Ratzinger what are his views on the issue.

Unhappy Valentine's Day

British enviros marked Valentine's Day by complaining that air-freighting flowers to the country (they claim that the average bunch has flown 33,800 miles to reach Blighty) has "serious implications" for climate change in terms of carbon dioxide emissions from aeroplanes.

"We don't want to be killjoys, because receiving flowers can be lovely. But why not grow your own gift?" says Vicky Hird of Friends of the Earth.

Because roses don't grow in Britain in winter, you silly girl.

Here Comes the Sun

The little town of Viganella in Italy (close to the Swiss border) has a problem. It lives in the shadow of a steep mountain that blocks the sun's rays for most of the winter months.

Enter Emilio Barlocco, an engineer. At his suggestion, a 430-square-foot mirror was placed on the mountainside 2,900 feet above the town to deflect the sun's rays into the town square in winter.

The mirror is motorised, controlled by a computer in the town hall and is so versatile that the rays can be directed specifically---at the church for a baptism, for example, or the local bar for a wedding feast. It doesn't generate a lot of heat, Mayor Pierfranco Midali admits, but it may be helping the few hundred town inhabitants to lose their customary ghastly winter pallor.

It is also helping the local economy and is offsetting its $130,000 cost by attracting tourists, the media and the curious to the town. "More persons have passed through Viganella in the last two years than in the past two centuries," says the Mayor.

Aren't our engineers wonderful?


"The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a slim summary today trimming down thousands of pages of its massive overall Fourth Scientific Assessment on global warming, which will be released in May...Hundreds of scientists have been involved in the review process, and it is safe to say that means hundreds of bored scientists, because there is very little in it that is scientifically new....In summary, what's not new in today's IPCC report---that humans are warming the planet---will be treated as big news, while what is new--that sea levels are not likely to rise as much as previously predicted---will be ignored, at least by everyone except the extremist fringe."

----Patrick J. Michaels, The Cato Institute

"When a lover once complained to him that, for a poet, he was not very romantic, Auden replied: 'If it's romance you're looking for, go f--- a journalist...' "

-----James Fenton, London Guardian newspaper, February 2007, on the English poet W.H. Auden. The poet was a bachelor.

"The loudest voices are those of the hardcore alarmists, with their 'moral' urge to compel us to consume less and fly less. H.L. Mencken observed astutely that 'The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the population alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.'

"Where aviation and emissions are concerned, we should be very wary of politicians who brandish moralistic arguments to justify taxes which will ultimately yield few gains to us or to the environment."

----Kendra Okonski, environment program director, International Policy Network, London, on why punitive taxes on air fares and fuel will do little or nothing to save the planet.

"In the time of Henry Luce, information wasn't dispersed as quickly. Now, everyone has turned into a news reporter. It really is a different world and these legacy businesses are going through a wrenching transition. They have to run the old business while building the new one."

-----Harold Vogel, Vogel Capital Management, New York on the news that Time Inc is eliminating nearly 300 magazine jobs and closing numerous bureaux in big cities.

"Exercitatio optimus es magister"

Practice is the best teacher.

"Diabolus me coegit peccare!"

The Devil made me do it {always a good excuse when you've screwed up}.

"Procrastina rem nunc"

Procrastinate now...

"Industriae nil impossibile"

Nothing is impossible with industry...

-----from Blather's "Bluffer's Guide to Latin."

Our Hispanic Cousins

"There is nothing to say of Murillo* but that his pictures are very good furniture for sacred buildings. From any other standpoint they are profoundly insignificant. He has a pleasing talent for composition, his colour is soft and pretty; he is loose, sentimental, graceful and superficial. And yet when you see these paintings in the places for which they were painted, dimly lit and magnificently framed, in a chapel of which the rich tones complete their colour, you cannot deny that they have something. They appeal to an over-wrought, sickly devotion, the other side of the Spanish violence, crudity and brutishness. They appeal to the faculty of shedding abundant tears, the love of children, the casual admiration of a pretty girl and the half superstitious charitableness, which are to be found in the average Spaniard."

----W. Somerset Maugham "A Writer's Notebook" 1933

*Bartolome Esteban Murillo (1617-1682), a Spanish painter who believed in God and worked for the Franciscans.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Chinese horde menaces IPCC

The highly touted IPCC opinion that humanistic climate change is very (90%) likely masks a non-consensual reality. Seems there was a 5 hour debate behind the closed green doors before this compromise figure was settled on. The usual suspects wanted an even higher figure -- 99% or virtually certain. (While this no doubt accurately measures their conviction it does not reflect the dramatically divided science, but that is another story.)

The Chinese, who were massed at the border of sanity, wanted a simple likely, or 66%. This was the first time the Red Horde had appeared in numbers and the Greens, like the US Army in Korea, were unprepared for the onslaught. Hence the 5 hour battle.

What makes this little fight tantalizing is two facts. First, the Chinese have embarked on an aggressive campaign to become a scientific superpower. They have invested large portions of their new found coal-fired prosperity in this effort. In fact the Chinese are estimated to have 800,000 research workers on the ground, second only to the US's 1.2 million and well ahead of the Japanese 650,000. Numerous scientific journals have been overrun by squads and companies of Chinese authors. Several hosts of Chinese scholars who came to the US to study and stayed have returned to the Eastern Empire, at least part time. It is a grand parade and science is that much better for it.

Second, China recently announced that climate science would be a new focus of this great effort, a major stop on its long march to scientific supremacy. Given its IPCC troublemaking, dare we hope that Chinese climate science will take a more skeptical route? It would certainly fit with the Chinese passion for coal. It would also break the Green stranglehold on national science.

On the other hand the Russians tried this rocky route and wound up being bought off with the promise of untold billions for carbon credits (presently worthless but the EU is working on it). The Chinese have now said that they have not the money or technology to reduce emissions, but it is for sale of course.

All things considered this looks to be a strong field position for the Chinese. Threatening massive scientific skepticism while holding out for much money. Since the Green Barbarians have never had to retreat it could be a Clash of Titans. Stay tuned and enjoy the show.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

IPCC's Artful Bias

Every trial lawyer will tell you that the key to presenting a strong case lies in carefully omitting the evidence against you. This is not lying, it is artful bias. Advocacy is the heart of our adversarial judicial system. Each side presents its case in the strongest possible terms, as though the other side's case did not exist. The jury hears both sides, puts the whole story together, then decides.

Anyone who doubts that the new IPCC Summary for Policy Makers is an advocacy document is ineligible for duty on the jury of reason. So what ain't they saying? Unfortunately the other side does not seem to be represented. We have looked in vain for the minority report. You would think that for $18 million they could afford one, but that just measures the advocationality of the thing. One side fits all.

Here is just a graphic peek at the missing side to give you the flavor of the game. Figure 2 shows a bunch of bars. Each represents one of the factors that is thought to have influenced global temperature. We see at once that all but one of these bars is human. Most are pretty big, especially the really big red one labeled CO2. There is one tiny natural bar labeled Solar.

There it is. Case closed. The jury can go home, no need to hear from the other side, it will only confuse them. We did it. The prosecution rests, let the persecution begin.

Well not really, as always in these proceedings. A big pile of contrary science is missing here. Good science, interesting science, being carried on by a whole lot of real scientists.

For simplicity let's divide this mountain of contrary science into three high heaps.

The first heap has to do with this little bitty solar bar. This bar is based on the relatively small amount of variable, direct radiant energy coming from the sun. What is omitted is a huge amount of research going on into indirect and amplified solar mechanisms. The reason for this research is the close correlation between solar variation and global temperature, seen over a lot of time scales. Something is going on but we don't know what and there are a lot of theories. Google Scholar lists over 500,000 scientific papers on solar variability. The IPCC omits this research because it does not help their case.

The second heap includes little things like the ocean, earth wobbles, etc., that are also thought to heavily influence climate. They get no bar at all, because we can't measure their influence either, even though we know it is there.

The third heap is ugly but very real. It is research into natural climate variability per se, something that has received a lot of attention. We now know that climate varies all the time, for reasons we do not understand. It has varied quite naturally a lot more than the little bit we are fussing with today. So today's warming may well be simply the emergence of mother earth from the famous Little Ice Age. But you can't put a bar on the LIA because we don't know what causes it. Looking at the IPCC bar chart you would never know there was a LIA, just a lot of human stuff and a bitty bit of sun. That is the truly artful part of their bias, simply ignore what we don't understand, like it did not exist.

In short, it is easy to argue that humans control climate, if you omit nature. That is just what the IPCC does, and it is very good advocacy. It's just not good science.

The Washington Pest

Friday, February 2, 2007


A Diary by John McCaughey

Blather [magazine] is here. As we advance to make our bow, you will look in vain for signs of servility or for any evidence of a slavish desire to please. We are an arrogant and depraved body of men. Blather doesn't care. A sardonic laugh escapes us as we bow, cruel and cynical hounds that we are. It is a terrible laugh, the laugh of lost men. Do you get the smell of porter?

---Flann O'Brien, Dublin, 1934

None of us can really be sure that we exist. My whole life, as this Diary shows, is a lie. All the characters in it are invented, none bears any resemblance to anyone living or dead. People who claim to find themselves here must know that the only real existence we can any of us claim is in the imagination of God.

---Auberon Waugh, Diaries 1972-1985

Department of Weasel Words

Blather thought that it had heard all of the many euphemisms for a tax increase: "revenue enhancement" and "solidarity payments" are two of our favorites.

But California Ubergovernor Arnold Schwarzenegger came up with an imaginative new one the other day. He proposes to tax California doctors, hospitals and employers to raise money for his new $12 billion statewide health plan.

However "It's not a tax, just a loan," he told the Sacramento Bee, "because it does not go for general [expenditures]. It goes back to health care."

When and where, the Californians may well ask, can they obtain repayment of their loan. And will they be paid interest? Even by Californian standards, this does not pass the straight face test.

Who elected him anyway?

Casino not so Royale?

Oops, short your shares in the Nice, Cannes and Monaco casinos. A new European Commission report foresees chilly Northern Europe benefiting greatly from global warming while the Mediterranean (not to mention Spain, Greece and Italy) face shortages of water and tourists by mid-21st Century. The North Sea coast may become the new Riviera. Crops there would blossom and boom. Tourist spending in the South (an estimated $130 billion a year) would be drastically reduced.

Of course, all of this is thumb-sucking forecasting and almost certainly balls. But it is pleasant to contemplate, nevertheless. When we were staying at the Negresco Hotel on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice the other week, it was scandalous what they were charging for a simple cocktail. Serves the Frogs jolly well right.

Loonspuddery: A Delightful Word

We spotted "loonspuddery" in a letter printed in Britain's "New Science" magazine recently. Essentially, it appears from the context to mean "arrant nonsense". It is perhaps a combination of "loon" ( a silly or foolish person) and "spudder" which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as fuss or disturbance.

In "New Scientist", the letter writer employed it in a discussion of how to detect that one's correspondent is a crackpot. In journalism, the old rule was that if the letter was handwritten in various colors of ink (especially green) and with no margins, the writer clearly was off his rocker.

This brings pleasurably to mind another amusing old story. Margins are more commonly referred to as "borders" in America. The late J. Edgar Hoover of FBI fame had a peculiar fetish (one of many) that all reports sent to him by agents in the field should have copious margins or borders so that Hoover would have space to scribble his comments alongside the text.

One agent in New Mexico neglected this injunction and sent in his report filling the entire page. Hoover angrily scribbled at the top: "Let's watch the borders, please".

As a result, it is said, hundreds of extra agents were dispatched for many months fruitlessly to watch the borders with Mexico and Canada.

A New Dingellgram

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's bold (and almost certainly doomed) decision to create a non-legislative committee dedicated to global warming and thus to intrude into the turf of the Energy and Commerce Committee (chairman: the legendary John Dingell, D-Mich.) has produced a magisterial rebuke from that great man.

Dingell is no passionate believer in climate change or global warming---possibly because many of his supporters work in the ailing Detroit auto industry. Nonetheless, he is planning to smother the whole issue with kindness: that is, to hold endless hearings, even if this entails listening for hours to the tiresome and stupid Al Gore.

"I recognize that there is a wide range of opinion on climate change and it is my intention that we hear the full spectrum of views," says Dingell blandly and with only just a hint of sarcasm.

But then he tore off his whiskers and got down to business. Pelosi's "kind of committees are as useful in relevance as feathers on a fish", added the veteran old hunter and politician.

Nancy may have made a formidable enemy.


"Alas, I fear that there is no truth in the rumour that the two brothers* are thinking of joining the Roman Catholic Church. At any rate, it seems most unlikely that there is any truth in the rumour as I have just this moment invented it. But history is often moulded by poetic visions of this sort and I think I will send Lord Longford** round to see them.

"For myself, I propose to make a pilgrimage along the path of the old Crusades, lighting candles in all the churches on the way to advance this pleasant idea.

"First to St. Mark's in Venice where two huge candles burn side by side in honour of these unfortunate brothers, one for Toady, one for Slimy. Then to Ravenna where I light another two in the church of S. Apollinare in Classe under the wonderful Bzyantine mosaic of sheep on a green background.

"Soon candles will be burning all over the Adriatic and eastern Mediterranean, that God may see fit to lighten their sad lives and fill their poor shrivelled hearts with His love, giving them the fortitude to face the misfortunes and personal tragedies still in store for them..."

---Auberon Waugh: "Diaries" October 1980

*The brothers Toady and Slimy Shrimsley were two prominent Fleet Street journalists with whom Waugh had a feud on. Toady had insulted Waugh and Slimy had sued him for libel (an action subsequently and ignominiously withdrawn).

Waugh's Candle-Burning Campaign spectacularly succeeded. Within a short while, Toady died and Slimy was sacked from the editorship of a high-circulation (if smutty) British Sunday newspaper called "News of the Screws."

Neither brother was received into the Roman Catholic Church.

**Lord Longford was a well-known Roman Catholic peer engaged in a crusade for morality and public decency. This required assiduous research and for that reason he could often be seen in the front row at various London strip-tease bars.


I have spoken. I will say no more.

"But whatever the source of the individual words, in the domains of botany and zoology Latin is a language which guarantees that the terminology is correct and consistent. The system which Linnaeus* introduced has turned out to be so good that it does not just live on but is continuously being extended and added to. For Linnaeus, as we have seen, it was a matter of course to use Latin for his names, as it was the only scientific language available in his day. Latin may have disappeared from most other sciences, but when it comes to the naming of species it is most probably going to stay on for the foreseeable future. There is simply nothing else that works as well."

----Tore Janson, "A Natural History of Latin" {Oxford 2004}

*Carl Linnaeus, a Swede. Created the system of classifying living organisms based upon their reproductive systems. His famous book "Systema Naturae" classified 4,400 species of animals and 7,700 species of plants. He was born 300 years ago. Often called the Father of Taxonomy, his face appears on Swedish currency and several places on the Moon are named after him.

From Blather's "Bluffer's Guide to Latin."

"Jules Renard was very honest, and he does not draw a pretty picture of himself in his 'Journal'. He was malignant, cold, selfish, narrow, envious and ungrateful. His only redeeming feature was his love for his wife; she is the only person in all these volumes of whom he consistently speaks with kindness. He was immensely susceptible to any fancied affront, and his vanity was outrageous. He had neither charity nor good will. He splashes with his angry contempt everything he doesn't understand, and the possibility never occurs to him that if he doesn't [understand] the fault may lie in himself. He was odious, incapable of a generous gesture, and almost incapable of a generous emotion. But for all that the 'Journal' is wonderfully good reading. It is extremely amusing. It is witty and subtle and often wise...."

---"A Writer's Notebook" by W. Somerset Maugham (1949)

"How to be rude: It is easy to be rude on the Continent. You just shout and call people names of a zoological character...In England, rudeness has quite a different technique. If someone tells you an obviously-untrue story on the Continent, you would remark: 'You are a liar, Sir, and a rather dirty one at that.' In England you just say: 'Oh, is that so?'. Or 'That's rather an unusual story, isn't it?'."

Georges Mikes "How To Be an Alien" 1947. {Mikes was a Hungarian immigrant to Britain who enjoyed satirising the English. He died in 1987.}