Ice Age vs. Heat Miser: Climate Alarmists’ Unscientific Presumptions

The first “Earth Day” was declared and held in 1970, long before my attention had widened enough to notice matters of politics and policy. We humans, it was said repeatedly by ecologists and “scientists” that day, were destroying the planet. The industial pollution we were churning out was choking everything off and would result in many, many Bad Things happening to us. Included in that list was famine (that would be killing off 100-200 million people in the year 2000), riots and civilizational collapse across Asia, Europe, and Central and South America, and the descent into an ice age that would kill off a huge percentage of the human population as well as between 70-85% of all species of plant and animal life.

You read that right: Man’s industial activity, if not immediately curtailed, would hasten the chilling of the planet enough to push us into an ice age. I give you Kenneth Watt, Earth Day 1970:

The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.

(I’d love to link to a YouTube of that but… you know… it hadn’t been invented yet.) Somewhere about the time when the “present trends” were to have dropped the global temperature by 4 degrees, these same climate alarmists had actually checked the thermometer enough to realize it wasn’t chilling down out there, it was heating up. Global cooling – the onset of our collective suicide – suddenly turned into global warming. Same cause, mind you (the industrial activity of the developed world, America in particular), but a diametrically opposite outcome. Except the whole “we’re all gonna die” thing. That stayed the same of, course. As did the panicked recommendations about what to do about it, that being “give us ‘scientists’ more money and power to dictate policy without being questioned.

There’s been an awful lot written about the predictions of these same alarmists, in UN reports and elsewhere, that stated beyond doubt that we were going to have temperatures globally higher by 1-2 degrees celsius by now. Large scale hurricanes and tornados were going to be common. Snowfall would be a thing of history, never to be seen again. And the Arctic Ocean would be ice-free completely year-round. (For those keeping score: wrong, wrong, wrong, and really wrong.) The march of global temperatures in an accelerating fashion upward stopped roughly 18 years ago, something the models displayed as if they were graven-in-stone truth utterly failed to even mention, let alone predict. Carbon dioxide, it seems, isn’t actually the hiddeously toxic substance, best entirely eradicated, that we were told. And now, actual scientific studies are suggesting that the levels of CO2 we’re seeing might not be the end of life condition it’s being claimed. From the BBC, reporting on a study published in Nature:

The new study is published in the journal Nature Climate Change by a team of 32 authors from 24 institutions in eight countries.

It is called Greening of the Earth and its Drivers, and it is based on data from the Modis and AVHRR instruments which have been carried on American satellites over the past 33 years.The sensors show significant greening of something between 25% and 50% of the Earth’s vegetated land, which in turn is slowing the pace of climate change as the plants are drawing CO2 from the atmosphere.

Just 4% of vegetated land has suffered from plant loss.

The biosphere of the planet, as a system, reacts to events. Higher concentrations of CO2 result in elevated plant growth. More plans pull more CO2 out of air. It’s a feedback system and it appears to be working. I realize the authors of the study are still cautioning that the benefits of higher CO2 in the atmosphere are “unlikely” to outweigh the negatives, but I’d gently point out that the negatives to which they refer are the standard list of items (such as increased hurricanes and storms, ice cap melting, coastal flooding, etc.) that have not manifested as they claimed they would. Which brings me to my point.

The climate system of the Earth is a very complicated one. The fact of the matter is that we clearly do not understand it well enough to say that this or that activity will absolutely result in this or that cataclysm. Insisting that it will, in the absence of any evidence that things work like you think it works, is the very definition of unscientific. The longer these people do it, the more they give the rest of us reason to doubt both their expertise and their motives.

Consciousness Quantified: Does this offer a glimpse into human operating systems?

A fascinating article came up during my normal blog-walk where a scientific hypothesis dealing with human consciousness has been raised. Most people tend not to think about it at all and live life in the perspective that they are witnessing events and responding to them in real time. That’s perfectly fine but there’s been a line of inquiry that calls the literal truth of that into question. In brief, the concept that our observation of events takes time – that what you are viewing at this precise instant takes another instant or two for you to actually process – leads to the notion that we live just a hair behind the actual events of the world. A pair of scientists are theorizing that our consciousness actually occurs not as a stream, but as a series of individual “slices” of time.

According to a new study by Swiss psychophysicists, neither hypothesis is truly correct. Rather, they propose a new two-stage model for how we process information, which they say reconciles the ‘continuous vs discrete‘ debate.

In their model, ‘time slices’ consisting of unconscious processing of stimuli last for up to 400 milliseconds (ms), and are immediately followed by the conscious perception of events.

“According to our model, the elements of a visual scene are first unconsciously analysed. This period can last up to 400 ms and involves, amongst other processes, the analysis of stimulus features such as the orientation or colour of elements and temporal features such as object duration and object simultaneity,” the authors write in PLOS Biology.

After this analysis is complete, the researchers say the features we’ve detected are integrated into our conscious perception, compressing all the unconscious recording into something we’re actually aware of.

In other words, while we’re taking the world in, we’re not actually consciously perceiving it. Instead, we’re just mutely using our senses to record data for up to 400 ms at a time. Then, in what could be called a moment of clarity, we consciously perceive the stimuli that our senses have detected.

The team thinks this presentation of information to our consciousness lasts for about 50 milliseconds, during which we also stop taking new sensory information in. And then repeat.

Interesting concept. As I read this, I had a thought of my own. This hypothesis, if true, could explain a phenomenon many of us have experienced: the perception that “time slowed down” during an event that was exciting or traumatic in some way. Take, for instance, a car crash. We’ve heard it over and over from people that as they became aware that a crash was imminent it seemed, from their perspective, that everything went into slow motion. The same thing happens quite often to people involved in a fight. Now time, as we understand it, doesn’t really slow down. While the events I’ve mentioned appear to be in slow motion for those involved, outside observers and video recordings show that things happened pretty much at the same speed as anything else. So why the difference?

What if, in line with this new hypothesis, our mental “operating systems” have the ability to significantly shorten the observation window of 400 milliseconds (ms)? As in the car crash example above, a person recognizes the event and suddenly shifts from a 400 ms window to a 100 ms window, with a corresponding drop in the presentation to consciousness from 50 ms to, say, 15 ms. Rather than taking in and processing over a period of 450 ms, this person is now perceiving the world in slices of 115 ms. Objects move a much smaller distance in a quarter of the time and this would make the object appear to be moving much more slowly. We already know that the rush of adrenaline into a person’s system, among other physical changes, improves reaction times. What if this is how the human mind improves a person’s ability to react to a life-threatening situation? Going back to the stone age, this might be the difference between dodging aside and getting a spear between you and a lion and becoming lion chow.

I believe this ability is also trainable, albeit extremely difficult to hone. I know several martial artists who have developed reaction times that are astoundingly small. The ability to shift the mind’s operating system into this shorter cycle might explain that.

This is certainly an interesting insight and I’m glad there are people looking into these things.

Thunderdome Quatro

So, I just wanted to get this out there before this 3rd “Super Tuesday” night is over and we find out how the GOP candidates did. A few weeks ago I was looking at the state of the political races and, like many, I’ve seen the parallels between the GOP race and the Democrats’ race. Over here on the GOP side we have a situation of Trump vs. just about everyone with the GOP establishment pulling for Marco Rubio with John Kasich as a distant second. As far as they’re concerned, it appears to be a toss-up whether they’d like to see Trump win or Cruz – and I think they’re actually pulling for Trump if it comes to that. Over on the Dem side of the aisle they’ve got Hillary Clinton against Bernie Sanders.

Trump and Sander appear to be the choices for people on the right and the left who are itching to flip the big old bird into the faces of the party elites who have lied over and over to their party membership. Clinton is obviously the choice of the Dem establishment. Rubio is the choice of Republican establishment types while actual conservative Republicans are supporting Ted Cruz.

Trump and his supporters have made a lot of noise about Trump running as a 3rd-party/Independent if he’s “not treated fairly” by the process. To my ears, it sounds like they consider any outcome but Trump getting the nomination to be unfair treatment. The Trump supporters are already laying the groundwork for the blame-game should Trump get the nomination and then lose badly to the Democrat, as so many polls are indicating he will. At this stage, though, the Trump supporters have been so crass and up in all of the rest of our faces that they’re running the serious risk of Republicans who didn’t support Trump with full-throated vigor – and that would include me, in case you’re wondering – simply returning the favor and sitting this one out. Of course, if Trump loses, they’ll accuse all of us of doing that, anyway, completely absent any evidence so, hey, why not? I have no confidence at all that Trump’s supporters will actually support any GOP candidate that’s not Trump and Trump himself is all too obviously willing to run as an Indy. So how does that play out?

Trump loses the nomination. (Let’s just say it goes to Cruz, for argument’s sake.) Trump harumphs off stage, announces that the nomination was rigged, then announces his Indy candidacy. His supporters curse loudly at the rest of us and cast their votes for Trump, splitting the GOP vote and opening up the lane for Hillary to waltz into the White House.


The mood and energy over in the Dem house is actually very similar to ours. Bernie Sanders has a large following and, given his performances in the primaries so far, I do believe those followers are smelling blood in the water. Hillary ain’t looking as undeniable as she used to, and there’s still this FBI thing she seems so keen to blow off. To make matters worse, if the GOP process is looking potentially rigged, you need to get a load of the Dems’ process. These super-delegates that the party just handed out to their faithful and who get to cast vote for whomever they like (read that: Hillary) can single-handedly negate the votes of hundreds or thousands of Dem voters and they are not answerable to anyone. If Bernie winds up winning more of the primary, regular delegates than Hillary but she takes the nomination on the strength of those super-delegates, you could have a mutiny over there, too. Bernie, you recall, is not a Democrat. Never was. He’s an Indy who has caucused with the Dems in Congress because they’re closer to his views than Republicans, yes, but he’s still an Indy. Running as one is no real stretch. He could answer the thundering call of his supporters and decide to run as the Indy he is.

And, my goodness gracious, kids, what do we have then? We have 4 separate contenders for the presidency, each with a fairly significant chunk of the American electorate. I would remind everyone that in 1992, BIll Clinton was running against the GOP’s George Bush and an Independent Ross Perot. Clinton won that election, but do you recall what percentage of the popular vote he got? It was 43%. That’s right – almost 2 of 3 Americans did not want him to be the President but he won with a plurality anyway. If we have 4 roughly even candidates in the race, one of them could win with as little as 27% of the vote. Sure, the Electoral College is in play, but the concept stands.

In the year 2000 George W. Bush won the election with a helluva lot more than that figure and people are still calling his win illegitimate. If Donald Trump won with, say, 29% of the American voting public voting for him and the rest – over 2/3rds – voting for Not-Trump, just how legit do you think he’s going to look?

May we live in interesting times, indeed.

Clinton’s e-mail scandal *is* a big deal, and more.

The ongoing scandal regarding Hillary Clinton’s actions during her tenure as the Secretary of State under President Barack Obama centers of a coupe of large matters. The first is her role in the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi, Libya, where US Ambassador Chris Stevens and 3 other men were killed. The facts surrounding this issue remain unknown and will likely stay that way until Obama leaves office just under a year from now. Uncovered during this investigation was the use by Secretary Clinton of a personal e-mail system for her government business and communications. A Wikipedia article on the topic (with all of the normal caveats about the precision of such articles) is located here.

The usual suspects in the Obama administration, in Clinton’s own staff, and in the closely-allied mainstream media (MSM) have all trotted out the tired “right-wing conspiracy” accusations and, in all fairness, the incompetence of the GOP congressional leadership running the investigations prior to the appointment of Congressman Gowdy has allowed Ms. Clinton to skate along basically untouched in this. While I do firmly believe that Obama will instruct his Justice Department to do whatever they need to to avoid holding Clinton accountable under the law, I feel the need to come right out and say what’s on my mind on this.

I hold a federal clearance and I’ve had one for about 15 years, now. I’ve personally used both classified and unclassified communications networks and I’ve had a “.gov” e-mail address for most of my time working in any contact with the federal government. Here is what I can tell you with absolute certainty, as can any other person who’s had a government e-mail account if they are honest:

Every person who is granted access to government e-mail systems is trained, from day 1 and repeated at least once every 6 months, to understand what the do’s and don’ts of using said system entail. We are told, explicitly and emphatically, that the use of personal e-mail systems to conduct government business is absolutely, positively forbidden. Period.

Every person with a clearance that might possibly access actual classified information is also given repeated training on the handling of that information – who can access it, where, how, and what to do if they find that classified data has “spilled” into a system with a lower classification. We are, every one of us, required to sign documentation that we’ve gotten that training and that we’re responsible for the information.

There is no chance – none whatever – that Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State of the United States of America, didn’t get that briefing. She knew full well that what she was doing was explicitly forbidden. And that’s just using that personal e-mail server for her government business. The presence of classified data in those e-mails (and on a system we’re now finding out allowed users to share passwords and access without detection) is no accident. There’s no cut-and-paste between classified systems and unclassified.

If I or any one of the other people I know that work on federal systems had done a tenth of what we already know she’s done, we’d be in jail and there’s no question of that. And this person running for the highest public office we have, who willingly did what was necessary to allow this massive breach of information security, is to be considered a serious contender for even more access to even more sensitive data?

Preposterous. This *is*a big deal and it should be treated like the felony it is.

We’re 2 state primaries and 1 caucus into this process and it’s already done?

See, this is what pisses me off about our nomination process:

They say it’s not over until the fat lady sings. Well,  the Republican fat lady was definitely vocalizing in South Carolina this Saturday and I think I can hear her warming up  Götterdämmerung right now – or is it “Hail to the Chief”?

Truth is, there’s only the slightest hope Donald Trump didn’t essentially wrap up the nomination in this primary.

Seriously? Three states out of 50 have had their say and that’s it? When did Republicans become the bunch of mindless sheep this kind of sentiment implies they are? As I’ve said and written elsewhere, I consider Carly Fiorina to have been the best choice among all of the Republican candidates this year. And, just like in 2008 when I was supporting the late Fred  Thompson, we in Virginia didn’t even get to weigh in on the matter before Carly suspended her campaign. I’m not very happy that so much power in the process is just handed over to the same groups – IA, NH, SC – every damn time. And I’m not buying it this year. Until one of the candidates has won so many delegates that it’s mathematically impossible for another candidate to overtake them, the “Fat Lady” has not started warming up, not for this voter.

Apple’s situation with the FBI is not as you’ve heard it

When the terrorists who attacked America at San Bernardino were neutralized the FBI began an investigation, as they are supposed to. There’s been much said about how that investigation has progressed but the latest bit deals with an Apple iPhone used by the terrorists and left behind in the wake of their own shooting by police. Apple’s iOS software running on the phone contains a number of security features, not the least of which is the ability for the user to encrypt all of the data on the phone. (We in the industry refer to encrypting the data on a device as “data at rest” encryption. “Data in motion” refers to encrypting a data connection, like you do when you have WPA2 running on your wifi router at home.) The FBI is seeking access to the data on that phone, but it’s encrypted. They have asked – and now the courts have ordered – Apple to assist them in getting that access. Apple is resisting. And here’s where the facts are likely not as you’ve been told.

Apple and others who support them are saying that the FBI is telling Apple that they need to develop for the FBI a method of breaking that encryption. Various accounts in the media have suggested that the government is wanting Apple to build for them a “skeleton key” that, while directed at this 1 phone today, could be used at will against any iPhone tomorrow. This is simply not true. As explained by people in the legal profession who have taken the time to actually read the order issued by the court (PDF), the FBI isn’t asking Apple to break any encryption whatsoever. They also aren’t asking Apple to develop something new. According to the order, they telling Apple to do what’s needed to:

  1. Bypass the auto-erase function, whether enabled on the phone or not. The auto-erase function will wipe the phone if a number of failed password attempts is exceeded, and I think that number is 10. Once you’ve blown the password entry that many times, the phone clears its data out. The court wants Apple to keep the phone from doing that.
  2. Enable the FBI to enter passcodes via the device port or Bluetooth or WiFi as opposed to having to enter it by hand onto the screen.
  3. Remove the software-introduced delay between password attempts. When a password is attempted and fails, the software basically starts a clock for a few seconds and won’t allow another code to be entered until that timer runs down. The court wants Apple to remove that timer and allow new passcodes to be entered immediately.

And that, ladies & gentlemen, is it. The FBI has not asked for Apple to break the passcode or crack the encryption on that device. They are perfectly OK with doing that on their own and they clearly understand that the burden is on them to break into the phone.

Apple and their supporters are resisting, too, because they are certain that once the government has this capability they will use it again, presumably on their own, and that the technique won’t stay secret. They are sure the government won’t be able to keep the technique from leaking out. As to the latter of those concerns, I completely agree. I do work at federal agencies. I need no better example of the care and competence they exhibit in keeping their information secure than to point to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). If they can’t keep the background investigation data they are using to grant Secret and Top Secret clearances to people secure, then I would have no confidence they would be able to keep the programming efforts needed to comply with this court order secure. Both of these concerns – that the government will use the technique over and over and that they wouldn’t be able to keep a lid on it – are addressed in the court order. Specifically:

  1. The court order references this one phone and this one phone only. It explicitly states that the work is to be tailored to apply to this phone and no other.
  2. The order permits Apple to perform the work at their facility and, thereby, keep the work done on the phone completely under their control.

So, what is the order  asking for them to do, exactly. It asks that Apple build a version of their iOS, signed and specified for this phone only, that turns off the features I listed above. In my past career work, I did a fair amount of application development of my own. What this order is asking for is for Apple to simply turn off features they implemented in the code. In other words, no one’s asking Apple to develop anything new at all. They want Apple to get into their own source code, make a special-purpose copy aimed at this 1 phone, and put statements into the code that when those 3 features I referenced above are called upon by the operating system, that those features just simply don’t do anything. In programming parlance, they’re asking that the subroutines in question simply return operating flow back to whatever called upon them without doing anything else. I can assure you that’s nowhere near being rocket science nor is it new development. And while I’ve never seen the code for iOS, I am confident that making those changes is no big deal for the application team who wrote the code in the first place.

The government won’t have the source code. Apple can perform the process at their offices and set up access to the phone – once they’ve performed the iOS update being ordered – and then sit back and watch the FBI do their thing. Hell, they could use it in their next advertising campaign: Hey, folks, look how easy someone could get into your phone if we weren’t as diligent about security as we have been! The court order could be construed to allow Apple to comply with the order, let the FBI crack the passcode, change it to something they like better, and then re-update the phone to put the original iOS back on it. The phone doesn’t leave Apple with the modified code. Apple can then make a big deal about destroying the separate coding environment they used to comply with the order and wipe the modifications out of existence.

Sure, the court could make such an order again. So what? The court demands that banks give access to safety deposit boxes, that offices give access to warehouses and file cabinets, and that telecom companies give access to phone metadata all the time. With a proper warrant that’s called due process. This entire situation has been made to sound like the government wants a back door into every device. That is not what the order is about and Apple is not being asked to do any such thing. While I was initially supportive of Apple, the facts of the matter have changed my mind.

ABC should bring Carly Fiorina on stage for the debate

Carly Fiorina is, and has been, my first pick among the GOP nomination contenders. She’s clearly smart and a capable leader of large organizations. We need someone with her experience in that field. She’s also pretty solidly conservative and she’s far more focused on getting our federal government’s operations fixed than anyone I’ve run into for a long time. She entered the arena well and generated a lot of interest in that first debate. For reasons I can’t clearly divine, she’s not catching fire like I think should ought to be and it’s not speaking out to turn to say that she’s not running at the head of the pack right now. However, she’s doing better than half of the remaining candidates and that’s why it’s puzzling and irritating that ABC has decided to not invite her to the debate they’re holding this evening. There’s a lot of support for her to be there:

Here’s the back story: Fiorina is up in arms because ABC News is excluding her from Saturday night’s Republican presidential primary debate. According to the criteria, candidates must place among the top six Republican candidates either nationally or in New Hampshire (calculated by polling averages) or have placed first, second or third in Monday night’s Iowa caucuses. Fiorina didn’t do these things, which means she won’t be on the stage. John Kasich and Chris Christie did, however, which means they will be — even though Fiorina technically beat them in Iowa.

Technically? No, no… not “technically.” She did beat them. She got more votes and more delegates than either Kasich or Christie and tied with the GOP establishment’s beknighted Jeb Bush in delegate count. She belongs on that stage because she belongs in the debate as to which candidate best meets the Republican Party’s approval as the standard-bearer into the general election in November. ABC should #LetCarlyDebate!

And with that, I turn the floor over to the Carly for President Campaign: