Archive for May, 2008

Destruction of value as a battle tactic

TechDirt describes an example of modern battle technique in a look Inside Craigslist’s Increasingly Complicated Battle Against Spammers???????? ????? ????????. The strategy is the destruction of value. The tactic is obfuscation. The goal is often no more than just the thrill of battle and a perverse enjoyment of the suffering of others. The collateral damage is the value of the links we have to communicate common needs.

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What do climate models tell us – and how?

Julie J. Rehmeyer provides an overview to answer the question Can We Trust Climate Models?
(Stats April 24, 2008).

The short answer is that the models are very reliable about some things and not very reliable about others.

How do we know what things are reliable and what aren’t? How do we measure that reliability? How confident can we be about things the models tell us?

Climate scientists have a problem: They can’t do experiments. To perform the experiments they’d like, scientists would need a few million Earths, billions of years, and omnipotence. Then they could pump extra greenhouse gases into the atmosphere of one Earth, prod volcanoes into mad eruptions on another, summon up sunspots to stream extra radiation to the third. They could stop the oceans from circulating, cover the sky with clouds, melt the polar ice. Then they’d sit back and watch what happened, deducing from the consequences how climate works.

What can be done is to play with simulations. These take a set of conditions, squash and manipulate them in ways that reflect the operation of the laws of thermal dynamics, fluid mechanics, and other fields, and then see what happens.

The original goal wasn’t to predict climate change … The goal instead was to understand how the different aspects of climate interrelate. How does temperature affect precipitation? How do changes in ocean currents impact storms? Modelers hoped that understanding these dynamics would also help them predict large-scale climate events like El Niños, which occur every few years and affect weather around the world.

Over the last several decades, the models have grown into fantastically complex creations, built by hundreds of scientists working in parallel. By the mid-1990s, scientists were able to produce climate simulations that looked similar to the climate we actually experience, and they’ve continued to improve rapidly since then.

The complexity is due to increased understanding of mechanisms that influence weather and climate and to a more realistic picture of the starting conditions. What if ‘games’ are played to experiment with the model. See what happens when the number for atmospheric carbon dioxide is moved up and down and how the model says the climate will respond. Compare that to what can be observed. Look at a lot of things and figure out which starting conditions cause the most difference at the other end of the model.

A key part of all of this is to gain some information about much slop there is in the system. What can cause errors and how big might these errors be?

The models aren’t capable of serving as crystal balls, telling us our climate future; nevertheless, scientists are able to use the models as a tool to help them get a reasonable sense of how climate is likely to change, and how big a difference action now may make in the future.

A “reasonable sense” is the tough part.

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Implications of a giant pool of money.

One of the messages that needs to be heard in all of the advertisements trying to loan you money is that there are a lot of investors trying to find a return on their wealth. There is a giant global pool of money (GGPM) looking for a good investment. Get Rich Slowly will get you up to speed on this describing The Giant Pool of Money: Anatomy of the Subprime Mortgage Mess.

In the early 2000s, there were $70,000,000,000,000 ($70 trillion) of global capital looking for low-risk, high-return investments. This giant pool of money discovered the U.S. mortgage market, which drove demand, which led to relaxed rules, which led to a boom in subprime lending. And here we are today.

Why did the crisis occur? Because all along the financial chain — from bankers to brokers to borrowers to investors — people deluded themselves. They thought they could throw out the old rules of money. They thought they could cut corners to make a quick buck.

The old family value was to purchase a house one could afford and then build up equity in that home until retirement. If career advances provided for being able to pay more for housing, you might upgrade the house. You did not depend upon inflation of the house value to help you with your cash flow. You made sure you could handle your lifestyle cash flow needs with career income.

The new family value, for some, is to buy more house than one can really afford by taking advantage of the GGPM and an expectation of gains in the house value. As the gains occurred, refinancing and home equity loans were used to supplement a lifestyle more extravagant than the career income would otherwise allowed. Building equity was sacrificed for lifestyle. That worked as long as the house value continued to appreciate at a good rate.

That GGPM seeking a secure and high rate of return investment ‘bought’ into some people’s dreams. Those dreams were for housing they could not really afford. The result was in reducing the number of people per household and also in the luxury of the housing for those people owning houses. Eventually the investments started seeking actual cash returns and when that occurred, the ability provide it was found not to exist for many who overextended their risks.

So now we have a market adjustment that provides the media the opportunity to highlight the misery and misfortune of a few plus the business losses of those who helped them get into that position. It’s a two’fer for the doom and gloom propagandists! Be sure to see through the hype, provide appropriate reference, and avoid being mislead yourself.

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5th Column use of lawfare

Categorization comes after recognition of existence. Frank Gaffney describes four categories of fifth columnists against the GWOT in Shielding official leakers. The subject is the “Free Flow of Information Act (FFIA) of 2007” (S. 2035) perhaps better known as the “media shield” law. “It would be more accurate to call it the Leaker and Other Enemies Shield Act.”

It uses the rubric of openness and freedom of the press to rationalize its barriers to prosecuting the divulging of information that government would rather not be paraded on headlines.

In short, the Free Flow of Information Act is not about freedom of the press. It is about freeing government officials of their legal responsibilities and enabling those who would do us all harm — whether intentionally or in the name of “the people’s right to know.”

You cannot conduct any sort of successful operation against criminals, terrorists, or other enemies if you broadcast the details and intent first. This proposed bill is another example of pushing the line between the need for accountability of government action and the, sometimes competing, need for governmental effectiveness. The effort is particularly hypocritical when it is attempting to protect leaks that have impaired effectiveness so that the lack of effectiveness could then be used as a political weapon.

Paranoia and suspicion can only go so far before they become an illness. The US government structure was formed as a balance between the reality of human frailty and the need for effective governance. It may be that the paranoia and suspicion that motivates bills such as S2035 may be getting a bit too far.

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Triage hype and reality

There have been recent news reports about guidelines prepared for medical staff in emergency situations with a lot of casualties. The issue is triage. The headlines are about how those at the tail end of the line are going to be neglected.

Planning for the unthinkable is critical for successful planning. Having guidelines to follow promotes making decisions based on factors that may get shoved aside in the heat of the moment.

One of the consequences of prior planning and preparation is that, like all good management, it makes the extra-ordinary seem ordinary. Scalpel or Sword describes how this was the case with emergency medical management in the 9/11 and Katrina disasters.

mebelifurniture VidenovmebeliRead the details here, Dr. Mattox explains how it’s done:

“The local response to any disaster is more a function of management of people, ideas, supplies, and strategies, and less a matter of practiced drills for chemical, biologic, radiologic, and blast conditions.”

Besides taking some comfort in the invisible success of recent episodes, one should also note how the media reported the triage guidelines and how events such as hurricane Katrina get used for political purposes by playing up fault finding and hiding effect reference frames. Perhaps the Burma disaster, another hurricane situation like in New Orleans, can serve as a reference.

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What is this war on science?

Yuval Levin in the New Atlantis

But if this notion of a “war on science” tells us little about the right, it does tell us something important about the American left and its self-understanding. That liberals take attacks against their own political preferences to be attacks against science helps us see the degree to which they identify themselves—their ideals, their means, their ends, their cause, and their culture—with the modern scientific enterprise.

In other words, we struggle with dissonance about how we understand ourselves and the world in which we live.

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Oil and energy supply in perspective

The notion that this planet is running out of oil is one of the great misnomers of our age

Vasko Kohlmayer explains why in The Truth about Oil (

As time passes, we learn more about how to find oil; we learn more about how to get oil from the ground; and we learn more about how to make the most of what we can produce. Pressure on supply makes the price go up and that opens options that were not cost effective with lower prices.

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Us or Them? Does it make a difference?

One of the fundamental distinctions any living entity needs to make is whether it is dealing with ‘us’ or with ‘them.’ Who is the self and who is not? When dealing with the self we follow one set of rules. When dealing with others we follow different rules.

It is precisely because of Andy McCarthy’s experience in that capacity that he understands — in a way others can’t — the crippling limitations of law enforcement and criminal prosecutions in combating global terrorism.

The entire orientation of the criminal justice system is to protect the rights of innocents, affording the accused due process and a litany of other constitutional protections.

But we are at war with an enemy who doesn’t fight wars according to conventional rules. If we
continue to treat them as criminal suspects rather than enemy combatants, they’ll always be many steps ahead of us in a war only they are fighting. While our government frets over their constitutional
rights — rights to which enemy combatants have never been historically entitled — it abdicates its duty to protect American lives. (D. Limbaugh, Washington Times)

The inability to separate self from other is inherent in the terrorist lawfare and propaganda fronts. It is seen by the difficulty in some news agencies about using the word ‘terrorist’ and in the emphasis on missteps. We know how awful ‘self’ can be. It is difficult to understand just how awful ‘other’ can be. We lead sheltered lives and do not experience the lives of others except as aberration.

This is exacerbated by the FUD mongering and false crisis assertions – like the fairy tale about crying wolf unnecessarily. We get enured to things we cannot really imagine happening. We loose sight of the fact that it does happen, whether 9/11 or Venezuela or, just recently, Burma. We have trouble grasping that there are criminals (a ‘social self’ concept) and then there are malfeasant leaders that can lead a whole cohort awry.

As with anything human, there is no clear line. When does a criminal gang become organized crime? When does a criminal organization become a terrorist organization? When is social unrest a civil war? We have police for problems within the social self and a military for problems with other. When the cancer takes advantage of the blurring of the line it becomes ever more difficult to treat and the treatments will have ever greater risk of collateral damage.

This is why it is every more critical for everyone in the society to know just what the ‘social self’ is and to contribute towards the segregation of self from other. Without this discrimination, the society eats its own values and culture. That makes it weaker. That makes it less able to convey its benefits. That can lead to its death. That is what we face in the preservation of fundamental personal freedoms in this era.

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Michael Yon’s Moment of Truth

At Redstate it is a bit more than a review, it is a testimonial.

Yon’s new book, Moment of Truth in Iraq,
reads as this conversation would: the unflinching staccato of a man who
has seen more than almost anyone else of this war, this absolutely
necessary but unquestionably mismanaged war, and the men and women who
fought and died to win it.

Michael Yon has a lot of his reports online. His reporting effort has been compared to that of Ernie Pyle, the well known WW II front line journalist. That war did not have quite the problem with destructive media bias that exists in this one. Yon is of the new, I’net, era of independent journalism supported by the grass roots. He provides a needed glimpse through the fog of mass media.

This book is a must read for anyone seeking the ‘been there, done that’ perspective that is needed for a proper understanding of the action in Iraq.

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