Archive for May, 2007
31 May 2007

New Loch Ness Monster Video

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The Surgeon’s photo (1934). –a hoax.


An amateur scientist has captured what Loch Ness Monster watchers say is among the finest footage ever taken of the elusive mythical creature reputed to swim beneath the waters of Scotland’s most mysterious lake.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this jet black thing, about 45-feet (15 meters) long, moving fairly fast in the water,” said Gordon Holmes, the 55-year-old a lab technician from Shipley, Yorkshire, who took the video this past Saturday.

He said it moved at about 6 mph (10 kph) and kept a fairly straight course.

“My initial thought is it could be a very big eel, they have serpent-like features and they may explain all the sightings in Loch Ness over the years.”

Loch Ness is surrounded by myth and mystery, as it is the largest and deepest inland expanse of water in Britain. About 750 feet (230 meters) to the bottom, it’s even deeper than the North Sea.

Nessie watcher and marine biologist Adrian Shine of the Loch Ness 2000 center in Drumnadrochit, on the shores of the lake, viewed the video and hopes to properly analyze it in the coming months.

“I see myself as a skeptical interpreter of what happens in the loch, but I do keep an open mind about these things and there is no doubt this is some of the best footage I have seen,” Shine said.

He said the video is particularly useful because Holmes panned back to get the background shore into the shot. That means it was less likely to be a fake and provided geographical bearings allowing one to calculate how big the creature was and how fast it was traveling.

ABC7 0:24 video


Toyota has its own 0:30 Loch Ness video

31 May 2007

Those Recent US-Iran Talks

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Reva Bhalla, director of geopolitical analysis at Stratfor, offers the perspective of a dove and insider on the recent US-Iran talks.

Pat Dollard, however, takes a considerably more hawkish perspective in interpreting exactly what brought Iran to the negotiating table.

Watching the pundits discuss our historic meeting with Iran, you would have mostly heard despair at the notion that we have no leverage in these talks, and so therefor why would Iran give on anything? Why would they stop waging war against us in iraq if they have nothing to fear? To all the experts in the media, the whole thing seemed like some grand puzzlement. Was it just an attempt to appease the administration’s domestic critics who have been chiding it for not engaging in diplomacy ( a vaguery if there ever was one ) with the world’s top terrorist? No one you heard from could really quite grasp what was going on.

For some reason, no one told you that just 5 days before Monday’s talks, an entire floating army, with nearly 20,000 men, comprising the world’s largest naval strike force, led by the USS Nimitz and the USS Stennis, and also comprising the largest U.S. Naval armada in the Persian Gulf since 2003, came floating up unnanounced through the Straight of Hormuz, and rested right on Iran’s back doorstep, guns pointed at them. The demonstration of leverage was clear. And it also came on the exact date of the expiration of the 60 day grace period the U.N. had granted Iran.

And it came just a few weeks after Vice President Dick Cheney had swept through the region and delivered a very clear and pointed message to the Saudi King Abdullah and others: George Bush has unequivocally decided to attack Iran’s nuclear, military and economic infrastructure if they do not abandon their drive for military nuclear capability. Plain and simple. Iran heard the message as well, and although a lack of leverage may seem clear to America’s retired military tv talking heads, it is not so clear to the government in Tehran.

The message to both Iran and Syria is that if the talks in Baghdad fail, the military option is ready to go.

The US warships entering

    Arabian Sea

3:56 video – A very impressive sight.

Hat tip to Charles Johnson.

31 May 2007

When Marines Find IEDs in Your House

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0:59 video

31 May 2007

Global Warming “Science” Based on Popular Paradigms

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Josie Appleton, in the course of reviewing Mark Lynas’ new book Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet identifies the influence of the Zeitgeist’s changing paradigms in the social construction of (supposedly) scientific theory.

If you look at the dates on the citations in Six Degrees that deal with carbon feedback cycles, global emissions scenarios or the impact of temperature rises on agriculture and ecosystems, then you’ll see that the majority of them date from 2004-2006. It was only very recently that scientists started running the models on which Six Degrees is based, predicting the collapse of ecosystems and wild feedback loops that would take us from two degrees to apocalypse. Why was this? If we trace the development of scientific theories about global climate, we can see how they shift in predictable relation to the preoccupations of the time – which suggests that a similar thing could be occurring now.

The assumption for much of the twentieth century was that the climate system was stable, and that it would adjust to absorb imbalances. One past director general of the UK meteorology office stated: ‘The atmosphere is a robust system with a built-in capacity to counteract any perturbation.’ Where opinion differed from this, it did so in highly predictable ways, in direct relationship not to the shiftings of the planet but to the shiftings of the political zeitgeist.

We find that in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, as the world seemed to be poised on a knife’s edge and total destruction a possibility, a number of climate scientists – at the same time and independently of each other – discovered instabilities in the climate system. In 1964, one ice expert discovered instability in the Antarctic, which he said ‘provides the “flip-flop” mechanism to drive the Earth into and out of an ice age.’ Others came to the same conclusion, and the ‘flip-flop mechanism’ was the subject of scientific meetings and conferences.

In the 1970s, in the context of the global slowdown and the end of the easy years of the postwar boom, climate scientists started to predict that the climate would become harsher in future. One oceanographer predicted that the ‘amiable climate’ we had been used to would give way to a new ice age. A Time magazine article summed up that scientists disagreed over whether there would be ‘runaway glaciation’ or ‘runaway deglaciation’, but what was certain was that ‘the world’s prolonged streak of exceptionally good climate has probably come to an end – meaning that mankind will find it harder to grow food.’ So a society in the grip of the energy crisis finds that in the future it will be ‘harder to grow food’.

We can also see political concerns imprinted on scientists’ theories of the Earth’s past. In the 1980s, scientists formulated the theory that the dinosaurs had been wiped out by the striking of a giant asteroid. One scientist at the time noted that such theories should be measured not just by the facts of nature, but also against the concerns of the age. ‘[The asteroid theory] commanded belief because it fit with what we are prepared to believe.… Like everyone else…I carry within my consciousness the images of mushroom clouds…. [It] feels right because it fits so neatly into the nightmares that project our own demise.’

Fast forward to the early twenty-first century, when scientists decided that the climate system was fragile and subject to dramatic and irreversible shifts. In 2001, one academy declared: ‘Geoscientists are just beginning to accept and adapt to the new paradigm of highly variable climate systems.’ The phrase everybody started to use was ‘tipping point’, meaning the point where the Earth’s system would reach its ‘limit’ and tip over into an irreversible change. (This was particularly the case after the 2004 Hollywood hit, The Day After Tomorrow, which envisaged the onset of a global freeze in a matter of hours.) The question many scientists started asking of nature was ‘what is its tipping point?’. At what point would the Arctic and Antarctic go into irreversible meltdown? At what point would the carbon cycle go into reverse? At what point would this or that ecosystem collapse? When would extreme weather events start to increase?

Scientists started to carry out impact studies, and they started to look at feedback cycles. These are loaded concepts: impact – showing the damaging effect of temperature rise on ecosystems – and feedback – the inbuilt instabilities that could lead to ‘runaway’ change. Nature was viewed as fragile, interconnected, and liable to spin away dramatically beyond our control. In 2005, one Russian scientist predicted an ‘ecological landslide that is probably irreversible and is undoubtedly connected to climactic warming.’ It is these studies, then, that form the references at the back of Lynas’ book, and which provide the basis for his claims of the meltdown that will occur at two degrees.

You don’t have to be Thomas Kuhn to read the (mixed) metaphors here. We’re hitting the ‘ecological buffers’, says Lynas, ‘fiddling with the earth’s thermostat’. Once feedback starts, ‘the accelerator will be jammed, and there will be nothing we can do to cut the speed of climate change’. ‘[N]o one can say for sure where this tipping point might lie, but it stands to reason that the harder we push the climate, the closer we are likely to get to the edge of this particular cliff.’ Just as in the 1980s asteroid theories felt ‘right’ because of the images scientists carried in their consciousnesses, so now, too, the political climate colours models of nature. We can see how social anxieties – a fear of change, a sense of the fragility of things – guide the questions that scientists ask, and the kinds of theories that ring true.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that these theories are incorrect. Every theory of nature to some extent draws its metaphors from the society of the time. In Darwin’s theories of natural selection we see something of the individualistic market society of the nineteenth century, with individual organisms fighting it out and the ‘fittest’ surviving. In the early twentieth century, when political opinion shifted away from competition and towards social reform, biologists started to focus on the cooperative relationships between organisms, founding the science of ecology and posing theories of selection ‘for the good of the species’. Science must draw its models from society, because after all scientists are human beings not machines; science is a model of nature reconstructed in our heads. This is not a source of inaccuracy, but the essence of intellectual enterprise: nature cannot be accessed ‘in the raw’ but always must be described with words and reconstituted in thought.

As a rule of thumb, the more self-critical the science, and the more it tests itself against reality, the more accurate it will be. If all theories draw their metaphors from society, some do so justifiably – in a way that grasps nature’s real operation – and some do in a way that merely distorts and mystifies. So, as it happens, Darwin was right and the ‘good of the species’ theorists were wrong: their theory was based merely on wishful thinking, on how they wanted nature to behave rather than how it really did. The thing that separated Darwin from others was his systematic testing: he spent years closely scrutinising species, measuring his ideas against the evidence before his eyes. Even in his Origin of Species he raised all the facts that did not fit into his theory, and sought to adapt his ideas in order to explain them.

The less self-reflective the science, and the more it is founded on political and moral campaigns, the less reliable it is likely to be. And in Lynas, we see how global warming science has become a foil for a whole series of political and moral agendas, a way of discussing everything from the sins of consumerism to human arrogance. Outlining the effects of a four degrees rise in temperature, Lynas writes: ‘Poseidon [God of the sea] is angered by arrogant affronts from mere mortals like us. We have woken him from a thousand-year slumber, and this time his wrath will know no bounds.’ Not only Poseidon and Gaia but also terms such as ‘Mother Nature’ and ‘nature’s revenge’ have slipped into everyday discussion about climate change. Darwin did not, so far as we know, give names of Gods to his finches. When scientific concepts start to be discussed in such emotional terms, it suggests that they say more about wish than reality.

The scope for climatology to slip into fantasy is heightened by the fact that it is a relatively open and uncertain field. Time and again in the twentieth century, climate scientists noted how shaky their art was. It was a case of one man, one model, and everybody thought that theirs was the right one. Today’s models include many interacting factors that are incompletely understood, and different models can produce drastically different results. Lynas quotes a couple of studies that found that global warming will lead to increased rainfall in the Sahel, meaning higher crop yields, but another study that found severe drought. (Needless to say, he favours the drought scenario.)

Read the whole review.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

31 May 2007

Bomb Squad Blows Up Organ Pipe

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Rhode Island News reports that in Pawtucket:

The suspicious-looking object that forced the evacuation of Tolman High School on Thursday wasn’t a pipe bomb — it was part of a pipe organ.

Tolman Principal Frederick W. Silva said yesterday that a couple of students had pried the pipe loose from the school’s circa 1927 pipe organ, which was walled off in a recent renovation of the high school auditorium and forgotten.

Tolman’s 1,300 students were sent home and the state fire marshal’s bomb squad was called in after a teacher spotted the object in a second-floor locker and alerted school officials.

Bomb squad members couldn’t figure out what the object was. They destroyed it as a precaution, applying a small explosive charge.

Because the detonation wasn’t followed by a bigger explosion, officials concluded that the object probably wasn’t a bomb. But because it looked so sinister, Pawtucket police officials asked the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to get involved, handing the fragments over to a BATF agent late Thursday afternoon.

Silva said school officials learned the object was part of Tolman’s decommissioned pipe organ when the two students who took it confessed, saying they had stuck the object in the locker for safekeeping.

Isn’t it marvellous that we have all these public agencies staffed with trained experts and professionals to protect us?

When I read this kind of thing, I inevitably reflect that there was a time when America had high schools with organs which they actually used, and when nincompoops were not empowered and placed in charge of public safety. But we don’t live in that time. Sigh.

31 May 2007

Email Humor of the Day: Newspaper Demographics

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1. The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who run the country.

2. The Washington Post is read by people who think they run the country.

3. The New York Times is read by people who think they should run the country and who are very good at crossword puzzles.

4. USA Today is read by people who think they ought to run the country, but don’t really understand The New York Times. They do, however, like their statistics shown in pie charts.

5. The Los Angeles Times is read by people who wouldn’t mind running the country — if they could find the time — and if they didn’t have to leave Southern California to do it.

6. The Boston Globe is read by people whose parents used to run the country and did a far superior job of it, thank you very much.

7. The New York Daily News is read by people who aren’t too sure who’s running the country and don’t really care as long as they can get a seat on the train.

8. The New York Post is read by people who don’t care who’s running the country as long as they do something really scandalous, preferably while intoxicated.

9. The Miami Herald is read by people who are running another country but need the baseball scores.

10. The San Francisco Chronicle is read by people who aren’t sure there is a country . . . or that anyone is running it; but if so, they oppose all that they stand for. There are occasional exceptions if the leaders are handicapped minority feminist atheist dwarfs who also happen to be illegal aliens from any other country or galaxy, provided of course, that they are not Republicans.

11. The National Enquirer is read by people trapped in line at the grocery store.

12. The Pensacola News Journal is read by people who have recently caught a fish and need something in which to wrap it.

30 May 2007

Sailing With the Duke

photo:Al Satterwhite

In commemoration of John Wayne’s 100th birthday (May 26, 1907 – June 11, 1979) last weekend, Iain Johnstone published an affectionate reminiscence in the Spectator.

When Duke showed Marcia and me to our cabin we were somewhat surprised to find it had only a double bed — we were not romantically involved — but I suppose he thought that all real men slept with their PAs [Personal Assistant]. He certainly did.

30 May 2007

Animal Lover Eats Corgi To Protest Hunting

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A British artist has eaten chunks of a Corgi dog, the breed favored by Queen Elizabeth II, live on radio to protest against the royal family’s treatment of animals.

Mark McGowan, 37, said he ate “about three bites” of the dog meat, cooked with apples, onions and seasoning, to highlight what he called Prince Philip’s mistreatment of a fox during a hunt by the Queen’s husband in January.

“It was pretty disgusting,” McGowan said of the meal, which he ate while appearing on a London radio station on Tuesday. Yoko Ono, another guest on the show, also tried the meat. …

Corgis are the favored dogs of the queen, who has owned more than 30 of them during her reign.

McGowan’s Corgi had evidently died of natural causes. One likes to hope of some particularly loathesome and communicable disease able to survive cooking.

Let’s hope that Prince Phillip will soon hunt another bold fox, and that the nincompoop McGowan will consequently get to consume some more dead dog.

And don’t forget to save some for Yoko!

Photo gallery

1:01 MSM video

1:21 YouTube video lets you hear this idiot’s vulgar accent and see his hostility.

His web-site announcing the event.

Wikipedia entry detailing this great artist’s other contributions to civilization.

30 May 2007

Cognitive Biases


26 ways of deluding yourself are detailed here. A highly practical instruction manual explaining exactly how to think like a liberal.

30 May 2007

Global Warming Inventor Strikes Again

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“The sky is falling, the sky is falling,” warns James Hansen, the Iowa-educated physicist who has successfully parleyed the astute recognition of a slightly warmer recent weather pattern into a chair at Columbia.

Repent, sinners. Give up your material comfort and prosperity (or, at the very least, pay weregeld to Government and Al Gore), or the big, bad environmentalist bogeyman will punish you with catastrophe unimaginable.

ABC News:

Even “moderate additional” greenhouse emissions are likely to push Earth past “critical tipping points” with “dangerous consequences for the planet,” according to research conducted by NASA and the Columbia University Earth Institute.

With just 10 more years of “business as usual” emissions from the burning of coal, oil and gas, says the NASA/Columbia paper, “it becomes impractical” to avoid “disastrous effects.”

The study appears in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. Its lead author is James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York.

The forecast effects include “increasingly rapid sea-level rise, increased frequency of droughts and floods, and increased stress on wildlife and plants due to rapidly shifting climate zones,” according to the NASA announcement. ….

The new NASA release emphasizes the danger of “strong amplifying feedbacks” pushing Earth past “dangerous tipping points.”

Scientists have been warning for several years that such tipping points are the greatest threat from manmade global warming — and what makes it potentially catastrophic for civilization.

As the tipping points pass, “there is an acceleration, potentially uncontrollable, of emissions of vast natural stores of greenhouse gas,” according to Hansen, who reviewed the study for ABC News today.

Hansen explains that dangerous feedback loops are being tracked in various regions of the planet.

Many studies have reported feedback loops already observed in thawing tundra, seabeds and drying forests.

This malarkey would be a lot more impressive if Mr. Hansen could actually tell me how much it’s going to rain next month.

30 May 2007

No, Patrick Fitzgerald Merely Says Valerie Plame Was Covert

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The MSM is reporting that Valerie Plame’s status as a covert CIA agent has been confirmed (and the left blogosphere is howling in triumph), but all that has really happened is that Patrick Fitzgerald reiterated in his sentencing brief the same leap of logic he has been using all along to justify his meritless prosecution.

The relevant law is the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, which makes it a crime intentionally to reveal the identity of a US covert Intelligence agent.

US CODE TITLE 50 > CHAPTER 15 > SUBCHAPTER IV > § 426 defines the term “covert agent:”

4) The term “covert agent” means—
(A) a present or retired officer or employee of an intelligence agency or a present or retired member of the Armed Forces assigned to duty with an intelligence agency—
(i) whose identity as such an officer, employee, or member is classified information, and
(ii) who is serving outside the United States or has within the last five years served outside the United States.

Fitzgerald’s summary says:

While assigned to CPD [Counterproliferation Division], Ms. Wilson engaged in Temporary Duty (TDY) travel overseas on official business. She traveled at least seven times to more than ten countries. When traveling overseas, Ms. Wilson always traveled under a cover identity–sometimes in true name and sometimes in alias–but always using cover–whether official or non-official cover (NOC)–with no ostensible relationship to the CIA.

Fitzgerald is attempting to conflate a business trip abroad with “serving outside the United States,” and conventional casual procedure with “affirmative measures to conceal her intelligence relationship to the United States.”

Victoria Toensing, who as Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the time helped draft the 1982 Act, has testified before Congress that Valerie Plame was not covert under the definition of the Act.

Pouting Spook Larry Johnson inadvertently reveals the pretext being employed by Fitzgerald:

Valerie Plame was undercover until the day she was identified in Robert Novak’s column. I entered on duty with Valerie in September of 1985. Every single member of our class–which was comprised of Case Officers, Analysts, Scientists, and Admin folks–were undercover.

Everybody employed by the CIA above the rank of janitor is supposed to make modest pro forma efforts to avoid disclosing the identity of his employer and the nature of his employment. That does not make every CIA-employed “Analyst, Scientist, or Administrator” a “covert agent” under the definition of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. Nor should routine non-disclosure or pro forma use of cover, on the level of James Bond’s supposed employment at “Universal Export,” be considered to rise to the level of the “affirmative measures” meantioned in the Act.

Patrick Fitzgerald is employing a crucial leap of interpretation to get to where he wants to go, and he wants to go there for partisan political advantage, not for reasons having anything to do with National Security or Justice.

29 May 2007

Stand and Deliver!

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Elephas maximus indicus

Reuters reports an epidemic of highway robbery in India.

An elephant in eastern India has sparked complaints from motorists who accuse it of blocking traffic and refusing to allow vehicles to pass unless drivers give it food, a newspaper reported on Monday.

The Hindustan Times said the elephant was scouting for food on a highway in the eastern state of Orissa, forcing motorists to roll down their windows and get out of the car.

“The tusker then inserts its trunk inside the vehicle and sniffs for food,” local resident Prabodh Mohanty, who has come across the elephant twice, was quoted as saying.

“If you are carrying vegetables and banana inside your vehicle, then it will gulp them and allow you to go.”

If a commuter does not wind down his window or resists opening the vehicle door, the elephant stands in front of the car until the driver allows him to carry out his routine inspection.

Forestry officials told the newspaper that the elephant is old and is therefore looking for easy food.

“So far, it has not harmed anybody,” said Sirish Mohanty, a forest ranger working in the state.

“We are telling commuters regularly not to tease the elephant. But if people don’t heed to our advice and harass the tusker, then it can retaliate.”

Elephants are a protected and endangered species in India, which has nearly half of the world’s 60,000 Asian elephants.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

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