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Saturday, January 24, 2009


Some time ago I fell for an alarmist hoax which included the suggestion that scientists were being leaned on "We have been warned, collectively and individually, that in bringing our findings to public attention we are not only likely to be deprived of all future sources of funding". When it came out as a hoax & not before, it got coverage from Reuters, BBC, Guardian & other honest & impartial news disseminators.

Well scientists are being leaned on. Strangely enough all the above mentioned impartial sources have decided not to report on this letter from Dr Joanne Simpson, the first female meteorologist to receive her doctorate, she received the American Meteorological Society’s highest honor, the Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Award. She went on to become that same organization’s first female president. NASA has recognized her as well, bestowing its Exceptional Scientific Achievement Award upon her. She even has one of NASA’s CRAY T3E supercomputers named after her. So quite high powered. Now she has retired & says:

Since I am no longer affiliated with any organization nor receive any funding, I can speak quite frankly..... the main basis of the claim that man’s release of greenhouse gases is the cause of the warming is based almost entirely upon climate models. We all know the frailty of models concerning the air-surface system.......Few of these people seem to have any skeptical self-criticism left, although virtually all of the claims are derived from either flawed data sets or imperfect models or both. The term “global warming” itself is very vague. Where and what scales of response are measurable? One distinguished scientist has shown that many aspects of climate change are regional, some of the most harmful caused by changes in human land use. No one seems to have properly factored in population growth and land use, particularly in tropical and coastal areas.

.... as a scientist I remain skeptical. I decided to keep quiet in this controversy until I had a positive contribution to make. That point is to be celebrated in the TRMM 10 year anniversary in a Conference in February, 2008.....These patterns can be compared over the past ten years with the patterns predicted ten years ago by the climate models..... The modelers say that higher greenhouse warming produces recognizable changes in the Walker circulation. What better data is there to test such model results than the tropical rain products from TRMM? ....useful information for the several ocean basins relating the rainfall to claimed and observed storm structure can be made if dedicated work is committed. I would be most interested to find out how the distribution of hot towers relates to storm intensity and rain production. Examining the data already posted on the TRMM Website shows that such projects are tractable....

If somebody of such reputation cannot speak frankly while working for NASA (& thus James Hansen) then there is no question that massive intimidation is taking place. The lack of coverage by our media cannot be accidental. Note, by comparison, the BBC coverage when Hansen himself, advisor & close ally to Saint Al, fraudulently claimed to be being censored. If so his call for the "trial" of people expressing scepticism let alone his recent perjury in court would certainly have got him fired.

Still when Stalin made Lysenkoism compulsory he had scientists shot for scepticism so, though the warming scam has cost the world far more financially they haven't yet actually started the show trials.

PS I suspect Dr Simpson has a fair idea what the TRMM data, due at the February Conference will say.

Friday, January 23, 2009


A few days ago I put up an item on the claim by Labour MP Graham Stringer that dyslexia as a medical condition was nonexistent being merely an excuse by the education establishment for them letting so many kids leave school functionally illiterate.

This was reported by Jerry Pournelle which produced a discussion from which excerpts are put below. It is clear he exaggerated but not by much - there are very occasional medical conditions but it could be thousandths as many as claimed.

Note the extent & manner of coverage. At least 90% of it has been openly opposing him as a Google-search shows. It has been filled with quotes from the educational mafia but, with the exception of his original remarks, none from him. Certainly no hint of debate, impartiality or anything but denigration on the grounds that it is "absurd & offensive", or “plain wrong” or "shows this ignorance exists at the very highest levels in the country" without any real attempt to say why (though the last does explain of dyslexia
"The cross party group on dyslexia has been working hard on coming up with a definition of dyslexia that all 32 local authorities across Scotland will recognise,” Colin said.

“Because no two people are the same it makes it very hard to define it.
Apparently I am not alone in thinking that is not a useful definition of any illness but just a grab-bag excuse. This seems a common response because the article then explains "“When you tell them that no two dyslexics are the same it raises eyebrows.”

What we are seeing is the establishment & their trained media mobbing a politician doing what is his plain duty - to try to improve our educational system.

Here is a letter I sent to the Herald (& a couple of variants to others). Despite having published 2 letters attacking Stringer they published neither mine nor any other disagreeing.
Graham Stringer MP's brave (one might say suicidal) decision to say that dyslexia is a fraud used to provide protection for incompetent "educators" brings out 2 letters today (Friday) disagreeing. Both are from educators & neither explains why dyslexia is so relatively unknown in Nicaragua & Korea, the examples Mr Stringer uses.

I heard a long & sympathetic interview on BBC radio on Wednesday with an educator answering that precise point. She said Mr Stringer's point that dyslexia could not be inherent because it doesn't occur (at least at anything approaching our rates) in Nicaragua & Korea was wrong because Korean & Spanish are so structured that that, among their speakers alone, dyslexia is impossible. While the interviewer accepted this without question I must admit I found it unconvincing.

The alternative would be that he is right and that, however hysterical the "educators" get the facts are against them
Now maybe that letter isn't up to the usual literary standard og Heral letters or as logically argued but I don't think so. The only other option is that they decided not to print anything siding with Stringer quite deliberately.
From Pournelle's blog:

"There have also been some interesting studies which purported to show genetic markers associated with specific kinds of dyslexia. It's far too early to say categorically that any of the types of dyslexia are genetic in origin (or rather, that individuals are genetically pre-disposed to dyslexia), but it's a promising area of research. There's a good overview at
Of course, that's not to say "oh, he's dyslexic" isn't used as an excuse from parents for the poor reading skills of their children. But Mr Stringer's assertion that it's a "fictional malady" invented by teachers to cover up poor teaching is, basically, bunk."

"Actual neurological dyslexia exists and there are varieties as well as a distribution of severities. The simplest is difficulty in distinguishing between the letter p and q, and d and b. There are training techniques which will allow many of those which this difficulty to learn how to overcome it. The prevalence of actual physiological dyslexia is not certain but one study found a fairly small number of such in examining a large number of students diagnosed as dyslexic. Mrs. Pournelle as the reading teacher of last resort in the LA County juvenile justice system received hundreds of "dyslexic" students. They all learned to read. Some of those cases took hard work. Others were a bit simpler: the child needed spectacles. One could call poor but correctable eyesight "dyslexia" and be perfectly correct, in that the cause was physiological and the student couldn't read, but I don't see how that's useful.

Roberta would receive inch thick files showing that the school system had not failed: this kid couldn't read because the kid "had" dyslexia. The diagnosis is of course a self-fulfilling prophecy: since the child is dyslexic he can't learn to read, so it would be a waste of time to try to teach him, so -- The fortunate ones were incarcerated by the courts and ended up in Roberta's classroom where they learned to read."

"the "diagnosis: dyslexia means nothing other than "he can't read." If there were some "disease" called dyslexia you did nothing to cure it, yet the student made progress. While true neurological dyslexia exists, it is rare, and requires different techniques from teaching reading to other students........ Dyslexia is not a useful diagnosis because it says nothing about why the student can't read (in your case the problem was letter discrimination -- was his eyesight tested?)"

"My quarrel is not with the concept that there are physiological factors in failure to learn to read, but with the term "dyslexia" which says the kid can't read, but it can't possibly be because the kid was never taught to read. It's not the teacher's fault that this kid is poor protoplasm."

Mrs Pournelle's reading programme which, since it can teach virtually all these kids in prison to read must be the real deal.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


On Tuesday the record's commentator made a typically disparaging attack on the £22 million spent on the Beagle 2, which for all that money didn't even manage to find life on Mars. I wrote this which appears today with the philosophical bits [] taken out. Though it is not the first letter printed it is the longest today. I slightly cheat in accusing him of wanting to spend £500 billion on bank bailouts - what he said was on business bailouts & then included banks on the list, on the other hand that will implicitly cost more than the £500 bn so it evens out. I also don't mention that ESA have now taken over the Beagle project & with the help of a Parliamentary Committee who accused them of inefficiency, now intend to spend 10 times as much next time. Left in its originator's hands they could indeed deliver a better probe for the same cost & if necessary do so 10 times but this would run the risk of succeeding without producing more jobs for ESA bureaucrats, which is what ESA does even more successfully than NASA.

John McKie says he prefers spending £500 billion on bailing out banks to £22 million on the Beagle 2 [venture (Tuesday). His choice, but] may I point out that it is only attempts to push the technological envelope which ultimately create new wealth. [Banking is just a way of keeping score & the present mess is because, as a society, we have not been pushing that envelope indeed, while subsidising windmill we drive our best GM scientists to Singapore.]

OK the Beagle spacecraft didn't work but that is the nature of trying new things. The design work has already been done & producing an improved duplicate would cost far less. [Finding out whether we are alone in the universe may not interest him but it is the question behind all religions so it has been of some interest to most of humanity for thousands of years.]

Going to the Moon is pretty much the only government programme which has paid for itself. Without it we would have no telecom satellites or weather satellites & it is easy to prove that it cost much less than the billions saved (let alone lives) solely by early forecasting of where hurricanes strike. The shameful thing is that Britain has done so little. It has been calculated that a prize of £700 million would be likely to succeed (& cost zero if it wasn't won) in delivering a fleet of orbital craft able to put people in orbit for a price comparable to flying to Australia. I suggest that that would be better way out of recession & cost barely 1000th as John's preferred bank bail outs.

Neil Craig

Ref the cost of an X-Prize for a commercial orbital vehicle

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


From a Financial Post review of Sex, Science & Profits, by British Academic Terence Kealey:

The book deals with the nature of science, the history of technology and the role of governments in promoting economic growth. It provides a devastating critique of states' failure to fund economically useful knowledge, and suggests that all spending on "technologies of the future" is likely to wind up down the drain.

Professor Kealey is not promoting some off-the-wall, right-wing economic theory. A comprehensive 2003 study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development titled "The Sources of Economic Growth in OECD Countries," found that the only useful R&D came from private sources and that public R&D funding tended to have negative consequences.

Professor Kealey provides the history and psychology behind this inconvenient truth, and sets out to explode the pervasive notion -- first propounded by the prototypical 17th-century English policy wonk, Sir Francis Bacon -- that science is a "public good" that needs to be promoted by governments.

In a sweeping analysis, Professor Kealey notes that advances in both science and technology have -- from the steam engine to radio astronomy -- come overwhelmingly from the private sector. "Powerful" states, from Egypt through China to modern Russia, have held up technological advance rather than promoted it. (why I am against the EU & possibly even for dissolving the United States) The vast U. S. expenditure on research in the wake of the Sputnik scare in the 1950s managed to put a man on the moon, but has (strategic considerations to one side) done little or nothing for the well-being of the average American.

Professor Kealey supports the wisdom of Adam Smith, the 18th-century Scottish economist, who suggested that technological advance was a natural consequence of market specialization which could not be improved by governments.

The Industrial Revolution in Britain was promoted by the political freedom's emerging from the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688. Its agents were eminently practical private tinkerers who had little or nothing to do with government or the educational institutions of the day. France, by contrast, was dripping with state-funded organizations to promote agriculture and science, but lagged Britain severely.

Professor Kealey explodes the notion of private "underinvestment" in R&D, which is based on flawed economic theory rather than industrial fact. He also highlights the counterproductive-ness of government technological promotion, using two prominent British examples. Before he became Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, in the early 1960s, promoted the "White Heat" of technological revolution, using the Soviet Union as a model. His Labour government greatly increased public R&D spending, which yielded the first commercial nuclear reactor, the first jet passenger aircraft, the first commercial computer and (half of) the first supersonic commercial aircraft. But what all these "achievements" had in common was that they were financial disasters, and accompanied a precipitous decline in the British economy.

Margaret Thatcher, by contrast, was castigated for cutting government R&D, but her cuts were more than compensated for by private spending, suggesting that government R&D merely "crowds out" the private version. Government R&D also tends to be counterproductive because it emphasizes political priorities and corrals companies into failing consortia.

One of Professor Kealey's most fascinating revelations is the astonishing success of promoters of publicly-funded science and technology in bending history to suit their prejudices (an example of Pournelle's Iron Law). The advance of privately-funded British science has for two hundred years gone hand in hand with constant predictions of decline. The experience of post-war Japan was comprehensively falsified. In fact, Japanese government support for R&D has almost everywhere proved counterproductive. State agencies opposed the development of cars, electronics and cameras, while government promotion of "fifth generation" computers, and the space and nuclear industries have been a bust. To the extent that Japan was successful, it was due to private R&D.

Again, Germany's post-war success was not due to government but to the state's abandonment of so-called "Rhenish capitalism," with its cartels, tariffs and subsidies, and the adoption of the "Ordoliberalism" of Ludwig Erhard, who established an independent central bank, reduced government controls and liberalized trade.

Professor Kealey notes that government funding tends to corrupt science, but unfortunately does not go into the currently most dangerous example: that of state-funded "climate science" -- although he does refer to the establishment pogrom against the environmental skepticism of Bjorn Lomborg.
I have elsewhere shown how British science funding is in the hands of a dishonest warming alarmist.

I wouldn't automatically credit an OECD report on the effectiveness of government but the rule is that no organisation, no matter how biased lies in a manner to its disadvantage. (The only slight exception to this is when the villain talking before a similarly inclined audience exaggerates his own cunning.) So if a big government organisation says big government is crap at organising research you can bet on it.

This has a slightly equivocal effect on X-Prizes. On the one hand it makes prizes infinitely more useful than conventional research grants. On the other hand it supports those libertarians who say even that much government involvement is wasteful. I think that patent rights do not & probably cannot, fully reflect the value added to society by successful research so X-Prizes simply slightly level the playing field.

As in the example of Tesla having to give up the rights to AC generation for a pittance.

During the financial panic of 1907, the Westinghouse Co. was caught in a takeover bid from financier J.P. Morgan. Westinghouse's company was financially weakened, and he had to rescind on the royalty contract he had signed with Tesla.

Westinghouse explained that his company would not survive if it had to pay Tesla his full royalties, so he persuaded Tesla to accept a buyout of his patents for $216,000. This was much less than the $12 million the patents were worth at the time.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I do not believe that we are simply in the hands of immutable social forces. Individuals can & often have affected the destiny of nations.
Obama, in only his second major policy commitment, & it is on Global warming "the science is beyond dispute and the facts are clear". "Sea levels, are rising, coastlines are shrinking, we've seen record drought, spreading famine and storms that are growing stronger with each passing hurricane season."

There are a lot of people who do deny it & virtually all of them are smarter & more honest than him. Drought, famine & storms can be measured & aren't growing.

"Starting in January, in a McCain-Palin administration, we’re going to lay more pipelines … build more nuclear plants …!

If that happened the US would be out of recession in March.

Hilary Clinton "landing under sniper fire"


Monday, January 19, 2009


Mark Wadsworth highlighted an FT reader's letter on the smoking ban:

... A loss of 50 or so pubs per week in the UK and Ireland translates into a five-year loss of roughly 100,000 jobs if we assume the average pub employs 10 people.

The general impact on the economy of these people being forced to go on the dole or work at menial jobs has severe health consequences in and of itself. A British Medical Journal study several years ago examined income inequality and its effect on mortality. It estimated that a 1 per cent difference in income translated into 21 deaths per 100,000 per year.

If we assume that the estimated 100,000 workers who lose their jobs over five years had their income cut by 50 per cent, that would be over 1,000 extra deaths per year caused by the smoking bans. That's 1,000 per year, right now, as opposed to 100 claimed/theorised to [die of cancer from passive smoking] 40 years from now without a ban. Sure, it is all statistics, and with some juggling things might not seem quite so dire, but it is clear that no amount of juggling could ever eliminate such a massive disparity.

The smoking bans in the UK and Ireland are killing people, not saving them. Those bans need to be reversed and the people who promoted them and the politicians who voted them in, knowing the consequences, need to be held responsible.

Michael J McFadden, Philadelphia, PA, US, Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains".

The arithmetic & methodology of this is quite correct. One could argue that most of those who lose bar jobs get something else, but then would have to argue that they thereby displace somebody else merely passing the problem along. Could also argue that those who don't spend on pubs spend on something else, but certainly their quality of life (which is what poverty is) declines by not being able to choose what to spend their "money" on. I put money in parentheses because money is merely a way of representing the value of what you want to buy & if you can only use it for something else you are thereby impoverished whatever is printed on the note.

In any case such complexities apply to any survey & are ignored because they tend to even out.

By comparison how many allegedly die from passive smoking? Well the entire passive smoking hysteria was set off by American EPA "research" of an extremely dubious nature, ignoring the small size of the sample & thus likelihood that any effect was purely random, which decided that US passive smoking deaths were around 3,000 per year. No "better" proof has been made though the original figures have been multiplied by whatever number some politician or scientist first thought of & any other figures do not even have that much scientific justification.

So 3,000 a year in the US. On population basis that is 600 in Britain. And by better methodology the smoking ban kills 1,000 a year.

So that is it officially & indisputably on their own calculations - the smoking ban kills 400 people a year in Britain net by its effect of increasing poverty.

A BBC which will tell absolutely any lie whatsoever (such as that passive smoking hospitalises 17,000 asthmatic children annually when they know for certain that childhood asthma cannot be caused by that. It is rising while exposure is falling) can be expected to censor such inconvenient facts.

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