Stephen W. Browne Rants and Raves

December 30, 2009

Lesley Stahl on Huckabee

Filed under: Media bias,Op-eds,Social Science & History — Stephen W. Browne @ 9:00 am

Note: This is my weekend op-ed for VCTR.

“Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm — but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.”
T.S. Eliot

As we ring in the New Year, the news is full of accounts of the High and the Mighty and their great plans to do us good in an awful hurry. The question of whether we want good done to us is regarded as of no consequence.

The more of life I see, the more I appreciate the truth of Eliot’s observation.

In national politics, importance means accomplishing Great Reforms, or eliminating Great Evils. Nobody promises just to be a capable executive, frugally administer public funds, and cautiously tweak the system to see if some improvements can be made. Indeed it’s doubtful if anyone could get elected running on such a platform.

In journalism, importance means breaking The Story of the Century. (How many have we read in the first decade of this century so far?) Nowadays big time journalism regards itself as the fourth branch of government and a mighty Force for Good, rather than the watchdog of a free people.

Case in point. Last week I watched journalism goddess Lesley Stahl on former Republican Governor Mike Huckbee’s show on FOX. They were commemorating the life of legendary journalist/producer Don Hewitt, who founded the “television news magazine” 60 Minutes in 1968.

Stahl described how she started at 60 Minutes in 1991. A few years ago she had to take a $500,000 pay cut so CBS could afford Katie Couric ($15 million per year,) but still makes a reported $1.8 million per year.

Stahl’s first journalistic coup was an expose of the baby selling market in Romania. She posed as an American woman trying to buy two handsome boys, ages six and eight years, from their mother for $2,000. Huckabee ran clips of the piece, showing Stahl and a middleman haggling with the mother, right in front of the kids.

Baby selling! The very words invoke horror. As opposed to a civilized American adoption where the agency gets exorbitant fees and the mother nothing.

“We shut them down,” Stahl crowed, as Huckabee nodded appreciatively.

I had a different reaction. You see, I’ve been to Romania too.

Five years after that broadcast I relocated from Poland to Bulgaria by train. The trip included a four-hour stopover in Bucharest. By the time I got on the train to Sofia, I didn’t know whether to get out of the country and never come back, or stay and join a religious order.

Because communist dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu mandated high birth rates while impoverishing the country, the capitol was full of abandoned children. For blocks around the train station, no manhole had a cover, because the children where living in the tunnels under the streets.

I saw legions of filthy children begging. Some showing off hideous orthopedic deformities, some sniffing glue in corners. many reportedly HIV positive.

Though I lean lukewarm against the death penalty, I’m glad they killed that monster and his wife. (Yes I know, the trial was a farce and the verdict a forgone conclusion. Guess what? I don’t care.)

When I went back a few years later, the children were gone. I like to think they’re being cared for. But I didn’t ask.

Any mother in those circumstances who loved her children would joyfully send them to America with a loving family, even at the cost of never seeing them again. I’ve known two lovely, healthy, and intelligent young women raised by American families who found them abandoned on their doorsteps, in India and Korea respectively. They bless the mothers they never knew.

But you shut them down Lesley, you and 60 Minutes.


December 23, 2009

Christmas time is hear by golly

Filed under: Humor/satire — Stephen W. Browne @ 12:28 pm

Note: An abbreviated version of this appeared as the Christmas weekend op-ed in the Valley City Times-Record.

Christmas time is here again, and in the words of that great songwriter Tom Lehrer, time to reflect on what we deeply and truly believe in.

Lehrer was referring of course, to money.

“Christmas time is here, by golly,
Disapproval would be folly,
Deck the halls with hunks of holly,
Fill the cup and don’t say “when.”
Kill the turkeys, ducks and chickens,
Mix the punch, drag out the Dickens,
Even though the prospect sickens,
Brother, here we go again.

On Christmas day you can’t get sore,
Your fellow man you must adore,
There’s time to rob him all the more
The other three hundred and sixty-four.

Relations, sparing no expense’ll
Send some useless old utensil,
Or a matching pen and pencil.
“Just the thing I need! how nice!”
It doesn’t matter how sincere it
Is, nor how heartfelt the spirit,
Sentiment will not endear it,
What’s important is the price.

Hark the herald tribune sings,
Advertising wondrous things.
God rest ye merry, merchants,
May you make the yuletide pay.
Angels we have heard on high
Tell us to go out and buy!

So let the raucous sleigh bells jingle,
Hail our dear old friend Kris Kringle,
Driving his reindeer across the sky.
Don’t stand underneath when they fly by.”

It’s difficult to say when the tradition of the Christmas Carol Parody started. In 1955, Don Charles, from Copenhagen, Denmark, recorded a version of “Jingle Bells” sung by barking dogs. It sold a million copies.

In 1958, “Christmas Don’t Be Late,” by Alvin and The Chipmunks (a.k.a. Ross Bagdasarian, a.k.a. Dave Seville,) won three Grammys.

If it weren’t sung funny with interruptions by Dave and Alvin, it would actually be a rather touching carol.

In 1979 Elmo & Patsy released Grandma Got Run over by a Reindeer, written by Randy Brooks. Elmo Shropshire, a professional veterinarian and amateur musician, funded the recording out of his own pocket. Which turned out to be a good investment, the record made him a millionaire. In 2002 he released a sequel, “Grandpa’s Gonna Sue the Pants Offa’ Santa,” but lightning doesn’t seem to have struck twice.

In 1939, Robert L. May, an employee of Montgomery Ward, added a ninth reindeer to the canonical eight pulling Santa’s sleigh, as part of an ad campaign. Johnny Marks adapted May’s story into a song which, recorded in 1949 by cowboy star Gene Autry made recording history by hitting number one on the charts on Christmas week – and falling entirely off the charts the week after.

Since then, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer has been the inspiration for many a pun and parody. Notable among those that actually made it onto vinyl was, “Leroy the Redneck Reindeer,” by Joe Diffie, released in 1995.

Fertile ground for parody is the Christmas tradition of, “Complaining About the Commercialization of Christmas.”

In 1958, Stan Freberg released, “Green Chri$tma$” a satirical dialog between Ad agency president, Mr. Scrooge, and spice shop owner, Bob Cratchit.

Scrooge addresses a group of clients about tying their products into Christmas. Cratchit wants to send his customers cards with a picture of the Three Wise Men and the message, “Peace on Earth.”

“And they’re bearing your spices, right?” Scrooge says.

Turns out Cratchit just wants to remind them of, “whose birthday we’re celebrating.”

But what carol compares when commemorating commercialization of Christmas than, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”?

Allan Sherman, who with Tom Lehrer proved that not only are the best Christmas songs written by Jews, but the best parodies as well, recorded “The Twelve Gifts of Christmas” in 1964.

“On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a Japanese transistor radio.
On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Green polka-dot pajamas,
And a Japanese transistor radio.
(It’s a Nakashuma.)
On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
A calendar book with the name of my insurance man,
Green polka-dot pajamas,
And a Japanese transistor radio.
(It’s the Mark IV model. That’s the one that’s discontinued.)
On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
A simulated alligator wallet,
A calendar book with the name of my insurance man,
Green polka-dot pajamas,
And a Japanese transistor radio.
(And it comes in a leatherette case with holes in it,
so you can listen right through the case.)
On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
A statue of a lady, with a clock where her stomach ought to be,
A simulated alligator wallet,
A calendar book with the name of my insurance man,
Green polka-dot pajamas,
And a Japanese transistor radio.
(And it has a wire with a thing on one end that you
can stick in your ear, and a thing on the other end
that you can’t stick anywhere, because it’s bent.)
On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
A hammered aluminum nutcracker,
And all that other stuff,
And a Japanese transistor radio.
On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
A pink satin pillow that says San Diego, with fringe all around it,
And all that other stuff,
And a Japanese transistor radio.
On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
An indoor plastic birdbath,
And all that other stuff,
And a Japanese transistor radio.
On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
A pair of teakwood shower clogs,
And a Japanese transistor radio.
On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
A chromium combination manicure scissors and cigarette lighter,
And a Japanese transistor radio.
On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
An automatic vegetable slicer that works when you see it on television,
but not when you get it home,
And a Japanese transistor radio.
On the twelfth day of Christmas, although it may seem strange,
On the twelfth day of Christmas, I’m going to exchange:
An automatic vegetable slicer that works when you see it on television,
but not when you get it home,
A chromium combination manicure scissors and cigarette lighter,
A pair of teakwood shower clogs,
An indoor plastic birdbath,
A pink satin pillow that says San Diego, with fringe all around it,
A hammered aluminum nutcracker,
A statue of a lady, with a clock where her stomach ought to be,
A simulated alligator wallet,
A calendar book with the name of my insurance man,
Green polka-dot pajamas,
And a Japanese transistor radio.
Merry Christmas everybody!”

In 1996, Jeff Foxworthy evoked the joy of simple things with, “The Twelve Redneck Days of Christmas,” receiving:
“12 pack of bud
11 wrestlin’ tickets
Tin a’ Copenhagen
9 years probation
8 table dancers
7 packs of Redman
6 cans of spam
5 flannel shirts
4 big mud tires
3 shot gun shells
2 huntin’ dogs
and some parts to a Mustang GT!”

You can’t keep a good redneck down. Merry Christmas y’all.

December 20, 2009

Martial arts and combatives, Part 1: What’s out there?

Filed under: Martial arts — Tags: , , — Stephen W. Browne @ 9:11 am

I’ve written here about the study of one of my two primary martial arts styles Pekiti Tirsia Kali , and about the new fad for the study of “combatives” based on the training for soldiers and OSS operatives that evolved in the Second World War.

I wrote about the three foci of combatives for military, civilian and law enforcement, and how putting together a combatives training program tends to arrive at a new martial arts style.

Pardon the length between posts on the subject. What I’ve been doing in my copious free time is reviewing classic and modern texts on military combatives, and modern videos on the subject. It’s a very limited subset of what’s out there, but I think I’ve go a representative enough sample.

One of the classics I was already familiar with from the well-equipped library on the Navy base I grew up around, such as Rex Applegate. I read Fairbairn’s Get Tough years ago, and recently read his more detailed
book ‘Defendu.’

I also picked up the classic Jack Dempsey manual he wrote for the Coast Guard in WWII, a reprint of Charles Nelson’s, ‘The Red and Gray Manuals,’ and Cosneck’s 1959 manual of ‘American Combat Judo.’

For moderns I’ve read some of Peyton Quinn’s stuff, a scenario-based book by Larry Jordan, and most everything by Marc “Animal” MacYoung.

Currently I’m going over Mark Hatmaker’s, ‘No Second Chance,’ Complete Krav Maga and Kevin O’Hagan’s, ‘Special Forces Close Quarters Combat Systems’ on DVD.

I got the set of DVDs from a used DVD sale at Goldstar Video Rentals, a treasure beyond price for serious martial artists wanting to research different approaches to the age-old philosophical problem of, “How do I get out of this $#!+?”

Another treasure for the serious martial arts researcher is SmartFlix. Go to both, there is a difference in emphasis in what they carry and not a lot of overlap. Rental fees are very reasonable, especially since you’re probably only interested in watching most of them once, and Goldstar has a buy option.

I should mention Nakayama and Draeger’s, ‘Practical Karate’ series. Though this is not “combatives” per se, it’s about the practical application of Japanese Karate with scenario-based illustrations.

Scenario-based training is something I’m going to develop further. If you’ll have a look here, you’ll find a kind of scenario-based training that is very intriguing, in a terrifying sort of way. I’ve trained a very little bit in Russian Systema and will have more to say about it.

An example of scenario training in Systema for a more likely scenarios can be found here.

Please note I am not trying to slight anyone by omission. There is a lot of interesting-looking product out there I simply do not have the cash to check out, or the time for that matter.

One warrior I’ve heard referenced with respect and awe is Geoff Thompson of the UK. I haven’t seen his videos or books, but I’m dying to.

When I win the lottery. First thing. Him and about a hundred other DVD sets.

Next: Martial arts and combatives, Part 2: What can you get out of it?

December 17, 2009

The magic wand and the club; a political fable

Filed under: Humor/satire,Politics — Tags: , , — Stephen W. Browne @ 8:43 am

Note: My weekend op-ed. I’ve been working on this little fable for about 10 years now. This is the final form (I hope.)

“Government is not reason. It is not eloquence. It is force, and like fire, a dangerous servant and a terrible master.”
–George Washington

Two brothers were walking through a dark forest one day, when they came upon an object lying on the path. It was a length of polished hardwood, about as long as your arm and half as thick as your wrist.

The older brother picked it up and said, “It’s a billy club. Someone must have dropped it.”
This was an understandable conclusion, because the forest was very dark and gloomy, with many robbers and wild animals.

“No it isn’t,” cried the younger, “it’s a magic wand!”

“Here,” said the older brother, “try it out and see for yourself. Do some magic.”

The younger brother took the object and shouted, “I wish you’d stop contradicting me!” and hit his older brother on the head with it, who fell stunned.

“See, it works!” the boy shouted jubilantly.

Now in possession of the magic wand and determined to do good to all the poor and unfortunate people of the kingdom, the boy set off to town. The first person he met was a crippled beggar.

“Here,” he said, “I can fix you,” and tapped the beggar on the head.

“Ouch!” yelped the beggar. “Stop that and leave me alone!”

“Hold still you ungrateful wretch!” said the boy and tapped again. And again, harder and harder as the beggar begged, not for alms, but for the boy to stop hitting him.

“Hmmm, that didn’t work,” said the boy to himself. “Perhaps I need to tap harder.”

Well, it wasn’t too long before the beggar stopped complaining altogether.

“I wonder why the magic wand didn’t work on him?” thought the boy. “Perhaps a small wand wasn’t up to such a big job.”

Just then the boy spied a baseball bat lying on the ground…

By now you will have realized this is a fable about two different ways people see government: as a magic wand, or a club. Two views that in one form or another, lie behind all our political differences.

Both sides see the same thing. They differ in their opinion of what it is and what can be done with it. One side sees a tool for the use of power, dangerous even in best of hands. The other sees a cornucopia of all good things, when in the right hands.

A club is a useful instrument for a limited number of purposes that revolve around hitting people, or threatening to hit people. It can be very versatile in the ways you can hit with it, depending on whether you wish to do serious harm or merely get someone to do something, or stop doing something. This is called “pain compliance” in use-of-force training. And it’s why police still carry clubs, man’s oldest weapon, alongside modern firearms.

Likewise, a government is a handy thing to have around to discourage foreigners who want your country or criminals who want your wallet, and to enforce court decisions so they mean something more than, “Pretty please do this.”

But a club is not much use when you want to heal the sick, uplift the poor, cultivate the arts and sciences, or educate youth. (Though some teachers might disagree.)

To accomplish these worthwhile things, you need the willing cooperation of free men – or a magic wand.

That’s the simplest way of looking at political differences. And of course, people’s views are most often mixed. Everybody believes in magic at least a little.

But it’s a difference that matters. Because after all, there are such things as clubs.

Note: all events and persons depicted in this fable are entirely real, and bear a startling resemblance to quite a few individuals, living and dead, and their plans to put the world to rights. However the author wishes to assure readers that no big brothers or beggars were harmed in the making of this fable.

December 14, 2009

Doing the police report in a small town

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Stephen W. Browne @ 9:39 am

“Qui custodiet ipsos custodies?” (“Who shall guard the guardians themselves?”)

The professions of law enforcement and journalism are alike in one way and different in another.

They are alike in that neither of us could do our jobs without the cooperation of the public.

They are different in, a good day for the cops is a day when nothing much happens.

When I first took over the police report I was told, “You’ll get to know some of the names on these reports like old friends.”

Sure have. So here’s a big “Hi” to all you guys and gals who feel like family now. The kind of family you accidentally forget to invite to reunions.

The police report appears every day in the paper, usually on page three. I come in early at 7:00 a.m. every day to collect the statistics. It doesn’t take that long to collect, write up, and file, but I have to allow more time than I generally need because every now and then something comes up I have to write about at length.

Some days the stack of report slips; yellow for police, white for the Sheriff’s office, is thick, some days thin. Thick doesn’t necessarily mean an exciting 24 hours. There might be a lot of routine traffic stops, perhaps connected to an ongoing enforcement campaign for seat belts, child restraints or whatever.

However, one of the two most common situations cops get killed in is – routine traffic stops. The other is domestic disturbance calls.

There are some differences you find in the yellow and white slips. In the city, an “animal call” usually refers to a stray dog. Outside of town an animal call is more often cattle or horses on the road.

Another difference is, within town car accidents never involve fatalities (knock wood,) outside town that’s not the case.

The sheriff’s office stack is generally thinner than the police. But you’d expect that when you routinely have with four deputies patrolling a county 20 percent larger than the state of Rhode Island. Which is also why you have so many complaints about unwanted persons or reckless drivers end with, “negative contact.” Long gone before anyone can get to the area.

There doesn’t appear to be a strong pattern to illegal activity. Holidays can be pretty busy, especially those associated with drinking to excess. But mostly, busy times and boring times just come and go.

The recent cold weather (down to minus 15, wind chill minus 30) has coincided with a quiet period with short police reports. Nobody expects that to last long. Perhaps there’s a period of acclimatization for scofflaws.

Some officers say a long period of bad weather when many people are housebound, means a busy time afterwards, as the anti-social who’ve been cooped up just have to let off steam.

Doing the police report can be a depressing experience, sometimes a hilarious one.
I’ve been told more than once it’s sad we only print bad news. With respect, I think that’s backwards. What’s sad is how often people behave badly to each other, and it isn’t news.

The sad un-news items include desperate parents who call the cops on their kids (“unruly juvenile” or “juvenile issues,”) family members who call the cops on each other (remember “domestic disturbance”?) and the truly heartbreaking “custody issues.”

Sometimes you get to follow an ongoing soap opera that makes you laugh out loud. For example, the marital misadventures of a pair of newlyweds starting to realize the truth of the old adage, “Marry in haste, repent at leisure.”

But there’s a nervous edge to the laugh. That’s the kind of thing that every now and again ends in a multiple homicide, or murder-suicide.

And you find cops have a sense of humor that sometimes shows up in the reports.

“Caller reports 10-10 (fight in progress) outside bar on Main St. No weapons involved. 10-76 (en route.) 10-23 (arrived at scene.) They’re hugging each other. Awwwwwww.”

December 13, 2009

Separation of Sport and State

Filed under: Uncategorized — Stephen W. Browne @ 8:15 am

George Will, who’s more of a baseball guy, published a column on the Bowl Championship Series, and what Re. Joe Barton (R-TX) wants to do to fix it.

“Rep. Joe Barton, who considers the BCS part of the axis of evil, is incandescent, and prepared. Last January, this 13-term Republican, whose district includes Cowboys Stadium and nearly nuzzles TCU in Fort Worth, introduced the College Football Playoff Act of 2009, which says: It shall be unlawful to “promote, market, or advertise” a postseason Division I football game as a national championship game unless it is “the final game of a single elimination post-season playoff system” for which all Division I teams are, at the beginning of the season, equally eligible.

Barton believes in limited government, but not so limited that it cannot right outrageous wrongs, such as the absence of a playoff.

Bipartisanship lives: Barack Obama, who wants to fix everything — health care, the climate, the pothole on your street, college football — also wants a playoff.”

I posted this comment (I seem to be doing this a lot lately): “And a Republican wants the federal government to regulate pro football…

And they’re the ones who are going to turn the country around on its march to socialism if we only give them another chance in 2010?”

Does anyone else see how seriously weird it is the federal government is actually proposing to meddle in the organization of professional sports? Can anyone show me exactly where in the U.S. Constitution the word “sport” even appears?

We the People of the United States didn’t rise up when the fed attacked our religions and our cars, two of the things we hold most sacred in this country. But this is football!

Where’s the outrage? Where are the mobs with torches, pitchforks, and hemp ropes?

John Derbyshire is right We Are Doomed.

December 12, 2009

On the cover of Rolling Stone

Filed under: Uncategorized — Stephen W. Browne @ 7:23 am

OK, not on the cover, in the comments section of an online article. Just couldn’t resist the allusion.

I recently got an email from a friend that read as follows:

“I think they’re finally beginning to get it. Maybe….”

(With this link.)
> > **Please excuse the expletives. **

The article is by Matt Taibbi a founder of the underground expat pub The eXile in Moscow. It was a wonderful, hilariously obscene romp through the world of “Sex, Drugs, and libel in the new Russia.”

I corresponded briefly with the staff there (can’t remember if it was Taibbi) when a Romanian professor and I were applying for a grant to study the English-language expat press abroad. The eXile made me want to take my long-delayed trip to the heartland of Russia.

However, I was married by then – to a fierce Polish girl. If she’d caught me tomcatting around, she’d kill me. If she caught me tomcatting around with Russian women – it would be so much worse than that!

The first few paragraphs of the article (and I urge you to read the rest.) The go to this article in The American Spectator where Joseph Lawler tears it apart for inaccuracy. Then you can go to Tim Fernholz’s piece in The American Prospect, where a “Progressive” takes it apart. You can make up your own mind – the point is, Obama is losing his own constituency.

“Barack Obama ran for president as a man of the people, standing up to Wall Street as the global economy melted down in that fateful fall of 2008. He pushed a tax plan to soak the rich, ripped NAFTA for hurting the middle class and tore into John McCain for supporting a bankruptcy bill that sided with wealthy bankers “at the expense of hardworking Americans.” Obama may not have run to the left of Samuel Gompers or Cesar Chavez, but it’s not like you saw him on the campaign trail flanked by bankers from Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. (Actually you did – Ed.) What inspired supporters who pushed him to his historic win was the sense that a genuine outsider was finally breaking into an exclusive club, that walls were being torn down, that things were, for lack of a better or more specific term, changing.

Then he got elected.

What’s taken place in the year since Obama won the presidency has turned out to be one of the most dramatic political about-faces in our history. Elected in the midst of a crushing economic crisis brought on by a decade of orgiastic deregulation and unchecked greed, Obama had a clear mandate to rein in Wall Street and remake the entire structure of the American economy. What he did instead was ship even his most marginally progressive campaign advisers off to various bureaucratic Siberias, while packing the key economic positions in his White House with the very people who caused the crisis in the first place. This new team of bubble-fattened ex-bankers and laissez-faire intellectuals then proceeded to sell us all out, instituting a massive, trickle-up bailout and systematically gutting regulatory reform from the inside.

How could Obama let this happen? Is he just a rookie in the political big leagues, hoodwinked by Beltway old-timers? Or is the vacillating, ineffectual servant of banking interests we’ve been seeing on TV this fall who Obama really is?

Whatever the president’s real motives are, the extensive series of loophole-rich financial “reforms” that the Democrats are currently pushing may ultimately do more harm than good. In fact, some parts of the new reforms border on insanity, threatening to vastly amplify Wall Street’s political power by institutionalizing the taxpayer’s role as a welfare provider for the financial-services industry. At one point in the debate, Obama’s top economic advisers demanded the power to award future bailouts without even going to Congress for approval — and without providing taxpayers a single dime in equity on the deals.

My response to the friend who sent me the link, “I was inspired to go through the hassle of registering for comments at the Rolling Stone website.”

The comment I posted:

“You poor daft hippies. You expected an “outsider” – from Columbia,
Harvard and Chicago? I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.”

My friend commented, “Ya think mebbe they figured that partly-black = “outsider”? Gee,
could liberals be closet racists?”

No, actually I think they’re racist racists, but that’s another story. What these poor sods are is naive, and they haven’t quite grasped the lesson of the American Revolution.

“One of the peculiarities of the American Revolution was that its leaders pinned their hopes on the organization of decision-making units, the structuring of their incentives, and the counterbalancing of the units against one another, rather than on the more usual (and more exciting) principle of substituting “the good guys” for “the bad guys.”
Thomas Sowell

December 4, 2009

Climategate, a new record in scientific fraud

Filed under: Hard Science,Politics — Tags: , — Stephen W. Browne @ 8:45 am

Note: My weekend op-ed. This has got to be a record for the greatest scientific fraud ever, by any criteria you care to name: number of people involved in falsifying data, the amount of money involved, the consequences of acting on the doctored data, the number of people who fell for it, etc.

“If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it.”
– Richard Feynman, Nobel Laureate in physics, on scientific integrity

The greatest scandal in the history of science is breaking, and I’m standing aghast while the world spins around me merrily unconcerned.

A hacker, or internal whistle-blower at the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit in England, published on-line over 1,000 emails and about 3,500 files from the CRU. These show the world’s most prominent climate scientists promoting the Global Warming hypothesis have engaged in deliberate manipulation of the evidence. They’ve conspired to suppress data that doesn’t support their conclusions, exclude contrary opinions from scientific journals, destroy records before they could be revealed, slander and get global warming dissenters dismissed from their jobs.

And, they destroyed the raw research data. That is never done in respectable science. Not. Ever.

Some involved have offered explanations – which hold water like a sieve.

So what? Why should you care if you’re not a scientist?

Well, consider Joyce Gilchrist, a former forensic chemist for 21 years at the Oklahoma City police department, who provided evidence in over 3,000 criminal cases. Gilchrist falsified evidence – lots of it. Her testimony got 23 people sentenced to death. Eleven of them were executed. At least one of the dead is all-but-proven innocent. Another was released after 10 years on death row. You see, she just knew those people were guilty, and that justified “improving” uncertain evidence.

Now imagine your police department has Joyce Gilchrist running the crime lab.

From 1999 to 2003 Jayson Blair wrote hundreds of stories for the New York times which were error-ridden, blatantly plagiarized, or just plain made up.

From 1995 to 1998, Stephen Glass, writer for the prestigious magazine The New Republic, fabricated quotations, sources, and entire events out of the whole cloth for articles.

Janet Cooke, reporter for the Washington Post, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1980 for a story later found to be a total fabrication.

Now imagine every third journalist is Jayson Blair. The first and second are Stephen Glass and Janet Cooke.

This is worse. This affects all of us.

But why would any scientist risk their reputation and credibility by committing fraud?

One reason, lying because they sincerely believe the world is in danger. The data stubbornly doesn’t provide convincing proof. We laymen are too dumb to appreciate the uncertainty in any scientific conclusion and have to be scared into supporting necessary action, etc.

Two, sheer self-interest: jobs, money, and power. A looming disaster requires further study. Which requires lots of grant money. The government needs the power to force people to do something about it. Which means jobs for enforcers, etc.

According to the Global Warming establishment:
1)The average temperature of the earth is increasing rapidly.
2)The increase is not caused by natural climate cycles but by human industrial activity.
3)The increase will result in world-wide catastrophe and the deaths of millions or billions of people.
4)Preventing this demands a huge expansion of regulation and taxation worldwide. An expansion that would admittedly raise the cost of everything from food to consumer goods, cripple the economy of industrialized nations, and kill any chance for Third World nations to rise out of backwardness and poverty.
5)There is no scientifically respectable disagreement with any of the above.

If this is true, then we obviously have to bite the bullet and accept the price. But what if it’s not?

Claim five is a flat-out lie. There is plenty of dispute by reputable scientists in the relevant fields about claims one through four. They haven’t gotten as much press because, 1) disaster is sexy for the media, and 2) Global Warming skeptics have to be very, very careful about what they say because dissent is dangerous to careers.

But what if Global Warming is real? Then these dishonest “scientists” have poisoned any rational discussion of the problem and damaged public trust in the credibility of all science.

Note: The emails and documents referred to can be searched here .

Without an index, you’ll have to dig.

December 2, 2009

A martial artist looks at the White House party crashers

Filed under: Martial arts — Tags: , , — Stephen W. Browne @ 1:29 pm

Tareq and Michaele Salahi, in hot water for crashing the White House party, are now saying they had applied for invitations and showed up, “to just check in, in case it got approved since we didn’t know, and our name was indeed on the list!”

Oh God, I hope it’s not true!

Crashing a White House party is major cool! and the Salahis got some face time with President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden. Double cool! I so hope this was a prank and not just dumb luck.

I know the President’s guards have security concerns and are catching hell for this. But damn, what bragging rights!

I’ve got an observation about this from the point of view of a martial artist, and it doesn’t matter if it was planned or dumb luck.

Presidential security, any security organization charged with protecting life and property, is trained to perceive and deal with threats. A threat, to bodyguards, is most often a person or persons nearby with the intent to do harm. That intent creates in an aggressor, certain subtle patterns of behavior that people with experience and competent use-of-force training learn to recognize.

The below-consciousness interior dialog in a trained man’s mind might sound something like, “Why’s that guy wearing a long coat in warm weather? Why’s that guy roaming around the periphery of the crowd so purposefully? Why’s that guy got shifty eyes?”

One can be trained to avoid giving these signals to a target’s security, but it’s difficult at best, especially under stress.

The Secret Service fell asleep on this one precisely because Salahis weren’t assassins, spies, or saboteurs. They weren’t on a mission – they were on a lark.

The Salahis were completely without malice, and thus failed to alarm the trained “instincts” of the President’s bodyguards.

The most skilled interloper will, when up close, run afoul of what the Japanese call “wa,” often translated as “group harmony.” PODJAPAN defines it, “Wa is a feeling close to perfection: a group situation in which everything goes smoothly, without contestation or ill will, everyone knows their place and acts accordingly.”

Pros like the Secret Service can feel when there’s someone in the group with ill intentions – but try explaining that. I have no idea what the investigation into security lapses is going to reveal about procedures not followed, or which need to be revised. But I’d bet the most important factor isn’t going into the report.

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