Friday, December 11, 2015

The reason why climate science is controversial is that it is both a science and a religion; Belief is strong, even when scientific evidence is weak

The physicist, mathematician and author, most recently, of “Dreams of Earth and Sky” says the best books he knows about mathematics and physics are nearly a hundred years old. 
Earlier this year, Freeman Dyson was asked a few questions in the New York Times Sunday Book Review.
Whom do you consider the best contemporary writers on science and mathematics?

On science, my favorite is Edward Wilson. In “The Ants” (with Bert Hölldobler) and “On Human Nature,” he describes ants and humans with equal insight. On mathematics, my favorite is Robert Kanigel, who wrote “The Man Who Knew Infinity,” a biography of the Indian mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan. It is impossible to write a readable book about real mathematics for nonmathematical readers. The best anybody can do is to write about a real mathematician.

What are the best books about mathematics for the lay reader? The best books about physics?

The best books that I know about mathematics and physics are almost a hundred years old: “Men of Mathematics,” by Eric Bell, published in 1937, and “Space, Time and Gravitation,” by Arthur Eddington, published in 1920. Bell’s book seduced a large number of kids of my generation, including me, into becoming mathematicians. Eddington’s book was the main reason why Einstein was better understood and admired by the general public in Britain and America than he was in Germany. No comparably clear account of Einstein’s ideas existed in German.

On to controversial topics: What books would you recommend on climate science? On the relationship between science and religion?

On climate science, I recommend “Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming,” by Bjorn Lomborg. On science and religion, “The Varieties of Religious Experience,” by William James. Lomborg is an economist, and James was a psychologist. Both books were written by skeptics, with understanding and respect for the beliefs that they were questioning. The reason why climate science is controversial is that it is both a science and a religion. Belief is strong, even when scientific evidence is weak.

 … What books do you find yourself returning to again and again?

I return again and again to “Dreams of Earth and Sky,” by the Russian space pioneer Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. It was published in 1895 and gave us the first accurate account of the problems of moving life from Earth into space. He understood, long before anyone else, that the engineering problems of space travel are simple compared with the biological problems of living in space. This year I borrowed his title for a book of my own.
More here: The Civil Heretic (thanks to Larry Elder)

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Bureaucrats should not be allowed to get away with creative (mis)interpretations that clearly depart from the spirit and the letter of the law

Township High School District 211 in suburban Chicago settled its ongoing dispute last week with the federal Department of Education (DoE)
writes Benny Huang regarding the biologically male student who (in a story similar to the Lila Perry melodrama) wants to use the girls’ changing room because he thinks he’s a she.
Though the school district had already substantially indulged the boy’s delusions it was until recently insisting that the boy use a “privacy curtain” when disrobing, a compromise which the student and the federal government found unconscionable.

The recent agreement reached between the school district and the feds stipulates that “the school district will provide multiple changing areas with privacy curtains, for the student and any others who want privacy.” So now everyone gets a privacy curtain and it’s up to each student whether to use it.

It should come as no surprise that the student and the ACLU still aren’t happy with the resolution. Though the school district can now claim that it’s providing all the “girls”—both real and imagined—equal access to private changing areas, the transgender “girl’s” mere presence in the locker room has precipitated a policy change that falls short of full victory for transgender “rights.” Clearly, the school district is still treating him as a different kind of girl—which he is, of course. He’s a “girl” with a penis—a make-believe girl. “Girls” with penises tend to be treated differently than girls without them and that makes “girls” with penises feel marginalized. Boo hoo.

Just how did we reach this crescendo of madness? We “interpreted” ourselves here, of course! There is no law on the books that requires any school district to allow a boy access to the girls’ locker room no matter how he “identifies.” The Obama Administration has nonetheless conjured up a novel interpretation from an old and undeservedly venerated law to achieve his policy goal.

 … Separate locker rooms are in and of themselves sex discriminatory—further proof that discrimination is not always bad and that we all do it every day. Unless it’s the DoEt’s position that male and female locker rooms should be integrated, they’re also supportive of sex discrimination. But that’s not their position, nor is it the student’s position or that of the ACLU. They support keeping boys out of the girls’ room but they insist that the student in question is a girl like any other and deserves to be treated as such. Anything less is a violation of “her” rights under Title IX, they argue.

Except it isn’t. Title IX was never intended to shield gender dysphoric people from reality. It addresses discrimination based on sex. Even today, “sex” is understood to be assigned at birth as either male or female, with “gender”—a much more fluid concept—being used to describe how one feels about that reality.

 … Nondiscrimination laws lend themselves to this kind of abuse. As I have written in previous columns, I stand in opposition to all private sector nondiscrimination laws. Granted, the aforementioned locker room controversy is found completely within the realm of government so I will also add that even public sector nondiscrimination laws should be carefully considered, narrowly focused, and strictly adhered to. Bureaucrats should not be allowed to get away with creative (mis)interpretations that clearly depart from the spirit and the letter of the law.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 offers an excellent example of a law that was twisted after its passage into something very different than what Americans were sold on.

 … In the wrong person’s hands, nondiscrimination laws can be “interpreted” to mean almost anything. They nearly always become leviathans of big government—and probably not by accident.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

T'is easy to tout the success of gun control laws in the rest of the Western world when you ignore certain pertinent facts from Europe

Today, the International New York Times published my response to the Gray Lady's
front-page editorial, End the Gun Epidemic in America. (Are their any readers in the Big Apple who can confirm whether it was published in the domestic version of the newspaper?)
It is easy to tout the success of gun control laws in the rest of the Western world and to say that "this just doesn’t happen in other countries” when you ignore : the 1996 massacre of 16 children at a Scottish primary school; the 2000 killing of eight kids in Japan; the 2002 deaths of eight people in Nanterre, France; the 2002 killing of 16 kids in Erfurt, Germany; the 2007 shootings to death of eight people in Tuusula, Finland; the killing of 10 people at a Finnish university less than a year later; the 2009 killing of 15 people in Winnenden, Germany; and, needless to say, Anders Breivik's 2011 mass murder of 77 Norwegians, most of them teenagers.

Is it unrealistic to wonder whether the tolls would have been lesser had a few of the adults in each place — as well as in Paris's Bataclan
a couple of weeks ago — carried a weapon and tried to shoot back at the respective killers?
FYI, that couple of sentences is a tiny outtake from my in-depth (and dispassionate) study on the issue of gun control. (Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the Instapundit link.)

Related: Jon Gabriel's version of the editorial (End the Islamist Epidemic in America)

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Republicans Called "Reptilian" Again, Just Like They Were Some… Uh, Years Ago

Will Ferrell’s site isn’t just a repository of comedy clips
writes Hollywood in Toto (thanks to Ed Driscoll).
It doubles as a political weapon, a cudgel meant to smite Obama’s enemies.
As a recipient of a similar service,'s Political Humor emails, I can testify that for months, for years, I believe, after the 2008 election, the service's top meme in their every email was "Sarah Palin Jokes." Don't you think that after the election was over, that would drop down, if not drop out entirely, in favor of, I don't know, say, uh, the Man in the White House Jokes, i.e., Barack Obama Jokes?!

Recently, had a(n only slightly tongue-in-cheek) pictorial of (I kid you not) Photos of Obama Being Awesome (Funny, Playful and Cool Photos of President Barack Obama)!

Christian Toto goes on:
The worst part of the propaganda? The clips are rarely funny. The same holds true here, particularly when [Jeff Goldblum] describes EPA critics as “some of the worst, most execrable, selfish, reptilian nincompoops with whom I’ve ever had the distinct displeasure of working.”
"Reptilian"?! They've also been called lizards, haven't they? Plus ça change… Regarding "schmucko supremos", and to recap from a No Pasarán post of five years ago, James Taranto then pointed out (thanks to Instapundit) that
former Clinton aide James Carville, raising money for the Democratic National Campaign Committee, put his name to an email titled "reptiles," which insults Republicans in a way some see as invidious:
First there was Sarah Palin. Now we can add another Republican reptile from the past trying to help the GOP win House races this year--former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.
Not much has changed since a few, uh, years before that, when a Republican politician complained, to the Democrat castigators he was trying to address, that
when you speak of us Republicans, you do so only to denounce us as reptiles, or, at the best, as no better than outlaws. You will grant a hearing to pirates or murderers, but nothing like it to [Republicans]. In all your contentions with one another, each of you deems an unconditional condemnation of [Republicanism] as the first thing to be attended to. Indeed, such condemnation of us seems to be an indispensable prerequisite — license, so to speak — among you to be admitted or permitted to speak at all. Now, can you, or not, be prevailed upon to pause and to consider whether this is quite just to us, or even to yourselves? Bring forward your charges and specifications, and then be patient long enough to hear us deny or justify.
How many years ago was that?

And who was the politician?

Abraham Lincoln

One hundred and fifty-five years ago…

Monday, December 07, 2015

"The terrorist threat has evolved into a new phase" says POTUS; Uh no, Obama, "less complicated acts of violence" started… way back, on Sept 12, 2001

The terrorist threat has evolved into a new phase
said Barack Obama from the West Wing, as reported by Washington Post's Chico Harlan, Elise Viebeck, and Katie Zezima (thanks to Instapundit), explaining that
As we’ve become better at preventing complex multifaceted attacks like 9/11, terrorists turn to less complicated acts of violence like the mass shootings that are all too common in our society.
Uh, no, Mr. Obama, those less complicated acts of violence were — of necessity — turned to way back, as long ago, in fact, as September 12, 2001, to be precise (i.e, before Dubya had even completed his first year in the White House). Just about every attempted act of terrorism (sorry, of work-related violence) since then, both in America and abroad, has — again, of necessity — been carried out in exactly that relatively "low-key" fashion.

In other words, "a new phase" is suggesting that all Obama's actions until now were fine and appropriate with the old(er) phase allegedly in existence until December 2015.

But there's more: with "the mass shootings that are all too common in our society", Obama gets to direct his attacks away from foreigners and towards America and the country's inhabitants.

Here are the additional messages from the Oval Office:

• I am (as usual) doing everything possible as Commander-in-Chief. Too bad that the Republicans in Congress are holding me — are holding us — back.

• We must not let Americans' racism get out of control.

Hardly anything out of the ordinary, huh?

Harkin has more:
His main objective in this speech appeared to be disassociate Islam entirely from ISIS/ISIL and make sure that people on a list that included Ted Kennedy were prevented from buying a gun.

He contradicted himself on the SB shooters. First he said there was no evidence they had been directed by others and 10 minutes later he cautioned that they were radicalized by others.

And oh btw - he very slyly admitted that Ft Hood was a terrorist attack after six years of calling it workplace violence.

Also - it only took him seven years to ask Muslims to help police.

And claiming he's the man to protect America and never once mentioning illegals coming in droves over an uncontrolled

The clown has no shame.
In the comments, Eagle Soars asks:
Did you catch it? The shooters were 'victims'.

And even as we work to prevent attacks, all of us—government, law enforcement, communities, faith leaders—need to work together to prevent people from falling victim to these hateful ideologies.

I think to some extent the speech was directed to the next election, telling whatever is left of his base what they want to hear.

As the FN Wins Big in the France's Regional Elections, the Question Arises: Is the Le Pen Party Extreme Rightist or Is It Actually a Reincarnation of the Communist Party?

As the Le Pen family's National Front emerges victorious from the first ballot in France's regional elections (check out Anne-Elisabeth Moutet's report in The Daily Telegraph), the head of a libertarian think tank warns that the Front National is not extreme right, as commonly depicted, but actually the direct opposite, i.e., nothing less than a modernized rehash of the Communist Party (merci à Carine). (Needless to say, outside of the United States, the word "liberal" retains its original meaning…)

GenerationLibre's Gaspard Koenig in Les Échos:
If one is to believe the polls, the Communist Party is poised this weekend to surpass its historic high-water score of 28% reached in the parliamentary elections of October 1946. Seventy years after "Red Autumn", here she comes again, up to the gates of power, even if by a trick hardly novel to the course history, it is slipping in under a borrowed skin: that of the National Front.

I am one of those candid voters who actually reads the programs of political parties. The one that can be read on the website of the Front National, rejecting "ultra-liberal globalization" as well as "the dictatorship of the market" or "the dogma of competition", could be signed Maurice Thorez [leader of the French Communist Party for 34 years]. Beyond the occasional promises on keeping the 35-hour workweek, returning the retirement age to 60, or the alignment of taxation of capital and labor, beyond rhetorical outbursts against big capital for not sharing profits, what the FN is proposing, in a coherent and detailed manner, is nothing less than a total nationalization of France.

 … Spearheading this takeover will be the civil servants, whose numbers will be stabilized, and whose status will be preserved — provided, however, that they follow the party line: Thus the ENA civil servant school will see to the "recruitment of bureaucrats who are highly patriotic" (sic). Finally, in a tragicomic wink to history, the FN promises to reorient French foreign policy in order to work towards an "in-depth strategic alliance" with… Russia!

 … The tragedy is that all of France's major parries, left as well as right, remain marked by a faint nostalgia for the planned economy, and are careful not to criticize the FN on this matter. One can find all sorts of explanations. In his book, La Grande Parade, Jean-François Revel considers that the vocabulary derived from socialism held by the ruling élites has been the fertile ground that has given birth to the "illiberal single-thought narrative". More radical still, the historian Robert Paxton, in pages from his book on Vichy that were not studied enough, sees in the Pétain government the birth of le dirigisme à la française, which has continued to permeate all governments since the war. Whatever the case, it seems that the FN is doing little but saying out loud what other members of the élite think in secret: that everything in life would be rosier under the sunshine of the State.
Marine Le Pen, 4 Years Ago: France Should Leave NATO, "Turn Its Back" on the American "Hyper-Power", and "Turn Towards Russia"

Related: “Obama is way to the right of us”

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Dukakis at 82: Heart-Warming Holiday Story About a Retired Democrat Politician Unwittingly Reveals Unsavory Details

Even a funny, and rather heart-warming, story about a retired Democrat politician leads to unintended information of a slightly less savory and definitely far from uncommon type (which makes it even more unsavory), as the Boston Globe's Matt Viser (via James Taranto) writes about Michael Dukakis and his love for… turkey carcasses.

First, the fun, cutesy part:
In his tidy Brookline kitchen, the state’s former governor and onetime Democratic presidential nominee has had a quirky but endearing tradition legendary among family and friends. He collects Thanksgiving turkey carcasses to make soup for his extended family for the year to come.

 … “Throwing out a turkey carcass is sinful. Absolutely sinful,” Dukakis says, in all seriousness. “It’s a terrible thing to do. There’s so much richness and goodness in a turkey carcass, God.”

So eager is Dukakis to gather turkey carcasses that he offers his home address (see below) for anyone who wants to drop one off.
Besides the recipe for Dukakis turkey soup, we are then treated to the cute reaction of the 82-year-old ex-governor's grand-children.
“For some reason my grandkids just love this,’’ he says. “They eat bowls and bowls of it.”

The grandkids confirm part of this.

“We roll our eyes and laugh,” says Ali Dukakis, who is one of a dozen grandchildren. “Any wincing that we have is not reflected on him. He could not care less. That’s why he’s a special person.”
So you think that Ali is a little kid, right, running around the house?

That's where you are wrong.

(Okay, so she's older, an adult? So what's the big deal?! Wait a second.)
Two years ago, Dukakis went to Washington, where Ali works at ABC News, and insisted on buying a turkey to carve up in her studio apartment. 
Okay, sure, the turkey story is cute and family-friendly, and so on. But hold on a minute — There you go again: once more, a family member of a Democrat politician has been hired to work for an outlet of the mainstream media (and that in the nation's capital, no less), and, just as typically, Democrats and the media alike (but I repeat myself) see so little of a problem with this that it doesn't even register when it's mentioned in a news story.

And with that there is not much more to say, and that brings this post to an end.

However… if you were thinking of chucking your Thanksgiving remains, read on:
And just as it has become a Dukakis tradition to preserve turkey carcasses, it has become a tradition for some of his friends to drop off their picked-over turkeys at his house.

“I’m collecting if you know anybody. People throw this thing out — it’s crazy!” he says.

“Tell your readers under no circumstances should they do that,” he adds. “They should use the carcass. And if they don’t want to, tell them to come to 85 Perry Street in Brookline. We’ll make full use of it, believe me.”