The New Terrapin Gazette

Number 295
27 February, 2013

…hardly anyone wishes for the return of old-style capitalism. Faced with the choice between serfdom and economic insecurity the masses everywhere would probably choose outright serfdom, at least if it were called by some other name.

Computer Espionage And Sabotage: Fending Off The Chinese

In Numbers 218 and 294, this newsletter referred to Chinese efforts to use the internet to crack into the computer networks of US firms and governmental agencies. That raised the question of why this is possible, for it makes no sense that vitally important computers be as easy to dial up as is your cousin in Oklahoma. The possibility that China might use a telephone and a browser to shut down the electric grids of the USA, incapacitate military communications and wreck the national economy is chilling — and not at all the stuff of science fiction. After all, the US and Israel tried, with considerable success, to cripple Iranian efforts to produce a nuclear weapon; the “Stuxnet” program was introduced into the SCADA (System Control And Data Acquisition) network running the machines refining uranium. The result was chaos.

This newsletter consulted an expert. The question was phrased as a declaration of incredulity: it’s wretched to realize that the people running the country are so stupid that they hook all computers up to each other, allowing crafty crackers to worm their way into places they should never be able to visit. Why are the nation’s vital networks so idiotically designed and maintained — or are they?

Here are the responses:

…the serious energy companies do not have their operational SCADA systems directly connected to their corporate networks, i.e., external internet websites.

In many new systems, any SCADA information (real time or historical) that needs to be provided to non-operations (corporate) people is fed through a so-called Decision Support Server (DSS), which is basically a database that replicates the historical database (i.e., maybe anything relevant that is older than five minutes). The operational SCADA feeds these data on a one-way basis to the DSS, which is located outside the operational network and protected by a firewall. If any corporate user needs (or cracker wants) information, he can get it only from the DSS; he cannot go through the DSS and get to the operational SCADA. As far as I know, this system has been tested and certified by Idaho National Labs. It might be a good idea for the DOT and HSA to review the configuration of all new SCADA systems to ensure that they are INL-certified and properly configured.

From my experience, the Fortune 500 Energy Companies have pretty tough security policies in place to prevent people from using operational computers to do administrative and non-SCADA tasks. Many control rooms have a completely separate PC in the control room (or nearby) that connected to the internet so that operators can handle their day-to-day business (checking personal e-mail, social networking, etc.) without compromising the operational network.

Of course, the SCADA systems in the USA are not universally secure. But you can be sure that INL, DOT, HSA and a myriad of other 3-letter organizations are fully aware of the threat and are taking steps to close the gap, either through legislation or working with industry groups that focus on this subject.

The Resort To Science Is Imperative

The regulation of human behavior begins with value judgments: proposals regarding what should happen and what should exist are made, and some are accepted; these become law (or custom, policy, prohibitions, mandates, and so on). Consider, for example, claims that anthropogenic global warming exists, and that governments must do something about it. That means lecturing, taxing, controlling and rewarding/punishing the public in order to keep the earth from heating up. In order to get its laws and policies right, a good government should resort to reason. It should, in other words, call on science.

Obviously things can go wrong. Science is a human endeavor, eternally infested with charlatans and ideologues; it is not inerrant. The realization, for example, that the hockey stick graph is incorrect has been slow to arrive. Its author violated prime canons of science by refusing to provide his original data and expose the statistical methods he used to derive his conclusions; today he seeks to abuse the justice system to punish those who have expressed their opinions of his work.

None of those misbehaviors invalidates the fact that science should be employed in this controversy. In fact the unbiased and objective truth debunks anthropogenic global warming. One need not and does not argue against carbon offsets and Cap’n Trade as ethical issues, or matters of taste; the best enemy of fraudulent science is honest science. Facts trump propaganda and cultic mumbo-jumbo. If the science had been rational and ethically procedural from the first, Al Gore would never have been able to make his deceitful film.

Still…when it comes to the formulation of policy, there are some proposals that have nothing to do with science, aren’t there? An example would be the Islamic demand that any Muslim who converts to Christianity must be killed. Clearly, that is a religious, spiritual and ethical requirement that has been (allegedly) imposed on Muslims by the supernatural entity that created the universe and mankind (and told the Archangel Gabriel to tell Mohammed what to dictate to all of humanity). Science is not involved, now is it?

That is exactly the problem.

If science were involved, the researchers would reply that they cannot validate the claims and commandments found in all the holy books of Islam, nor can they validate any of the cosmogeny or prophetic pronouncements of Mohammed and all his successors who today lead the faith that calls itself “Submission”. Science can not endorse the totalitarianism of the Koran. End of report.

A rational government will refuse to enact legislation that has no scientific basis, in other words. Therefore no government should impose Islamic law.

Hold it! What about the unscientific claims of the USA’s constitution? All that “endowed by their creator with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” junk, and the absurd claim that the government can’t prevent the knuckle-draggers from arming themselves, and the babble about this “free press” baloney when everybody knows the journalists who refuse to participate in progressively-oriented solidarity must be muzzled?

Science is still the first resort when it comes to setting up law and policy. The “pursuit of happiness” bit is spiritual, yes, but it’s not part of the law — it’s in the Declaration, which was an explanation to the world of why the British Colonials were cutting themselves free. It’s propaganda, not law, and you are not required to believe it.

The rest of it, such as that hated second amendment to the constitution, is based on bitter experience. Science, in the form of historical studies, can confirm that the Colonials were much put upon and had to fight to shake off tyranny. And science can endorse the truth behind Jillette’s statement, “We need the government to be afraid of its citizens.” A scholarly review of history will show that where the government does not fear its citizens, the citizens are in trouble: they are less healthy, less prosperous, and less creative. Tyranny is bad for you, and that’s a fact.

Ownership of firearms is indeed a subject that will submit to scientific analysis, and answers can be derived from objective facts. This newsletter has provided a small amount of this material, and those facts accurately represent the truth, just as the revelations republished here regarding anthropogenic global warming are clear indications of the facts.

Should same-sex marriage be permitted? Science can offer no reason why not, nor can it validate claims that a supposed supreme deity considers that form of marriage naughty.

And so it goes. You may think it improper to eat pork, or speak in church, or cheat on your spouse, but science can’t back you up on any of that, so you have no business trying to impose laws that force others (who do not agree with you) to follow your example. Never mind; practice your faith and enjoy life.

When pondering legislation or policy, go to science first. Don’t ignore facts, and don’t base your notions of how others should behave and when and how they should be punished on assertions of supernatural authority. Science does not deal in the supernatural, so realize that from the first, all your proposed laws that force everyone to live according to the dictates of your faith are simply out of bounds — and should be ignored.

Make your decisions on the basis of science whenever possible, and do your part to keep science from going off the rails (as it too often has). Humans live in an imperfect world, so do what you can to clean it up and keep it clean.

And the point? Well…the motive behind all this bloviation is to get you to reconsider the legalization of marijuana.

(Heavy sigh from the reading audience.)

Too right; but…should the demon weed be legal? Ask science.

As part of that process, view this video.

Remember: facts are all that matters. It’s up to you to decide whether science has the facts, and whether it is working on getting more of them. It is also up to you to decide whether you are being lied to, as well as what is rational and what is not.

It’s not easy. The best, most valuable things never are. A case in point: sometimes the science is presented badly, and its advice is so difficult to understand that one can lose confidence in highly-educated specialists; a horrible example is vivisected in the next item. Press on regardless!

Consensus On Anthropogenic Global Warming In The Scientific Community

Introduction

It’s a mantra worn thin by constant repetition: the scientists agree that the earth is heating up, and that mankind is responsible; measures must be taken to control technology and slow, stop or reverse the trend, for catastrophe approaches.

For years, this newsletter has been doing its best to replace this ignorant expression of species self-hatred with facts, and it’s time to see how the struggle is going. Do qualified scientists agree on AGW? A recent paper sheds considerable light on the question, and brings up a second but unrelated issue. Both are dealt with below.

Percentages and Predictions

Scientists who should know have not come to a consensus. The percentages:

Thirty-six percent believe the Kyoto Protocol should be followed because AGW is real and dangerous.

Twenty-four percent contradict the AGW claims, arguing that nature is doing what nature always does, and man plays no significant role in climate.

Ten percent have no idea what is going on. They don’t know who or what determines the properties of the global climate.

Seventeen percent are trying to hedge their bet, saying it appears as if humanity and nature both influence climate.

Five percent say that while the situation is grave, there seems to be nothing mankind can do about it. These folks might be called the deeply depressed dropouts. They agree that AGW exists, but look upon it as irreversible.

There you have it, and from a team of authors who appear, to this newsletter at least, to be highly sympathetic to the AGW dogma.

There is no consensus.

The actual figures are: forty-one percent believe in AGW, and fifty-one percent can’t go along with that view. Ignore the seventeen percent who waffle on the issue, and you still have forty-one percent against thirty-four percent. Again, that is anything but a consensus.

So what about the IPCC? It’s yet another in the long line of disgraces that have proceeded from the United Nations. Have a look at the academic qualifications of the incredibly wealthy and well-connected rascal who heads it.

End of report!

Now you do not have to read the rest of this item, for what follows deals with the nature of the long, complex paper that presented those percentages to the world, and most of you won’t be interested in that.

Abuse of Language and Lack of Respect for Logic

Science and academia are burdened by pretentious, sloppy and irrational prose.

In the interests of improving not only science writing itself, but the ability of scientists to convey their concepts to the public, this newsletter presents a partial critique of the article that revealed the above percentages to the world.

The target here is not the methodology used by the authors, but their way of expressing their notions. It’s pretty much a matter of rhetoric — plus the occasional objection to a false claim.

These examples were drawn virtually at random from the text; many more could have been quoted, unfortunately.

Number One: a fast ball, high and inside

Climate change profoundly challenges governmental, non-governmental and private organizations (Hoffman & Woody, 2008) by creating pressure for emission reduction goals and adaptation measures.

This is rubbish. Climate change challenges nobody. It exists, period (or full stop, as the Brits say). The challenge comes from groups and individuals who are alarmed by their understanding and interpretation of the fact that climate is never static. They have assumed (not demonstrated) a causal link between human activity (technology) and climate; that’s a prime example of the post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy. The false attribution of a cause to an observed phenomenon is an inexcusable mistake for any scientist or scholar to make.

There is also a hint here that a second logical fallacy has been introduced. Some claim — in spite of considerable evidence to the contrary — that global temperatures are rising, which means next year will be warmer still. This illogic is an instance of the fundamental misconception that one can predict the future based on the distribution of past events. It’s the gambler’s downfall: “Look, in the last five races, horse number four has never won. Four is overdue.” Or, “The roulette wheel has produced three reds in a row. Bet on black!”

Be rational: climate change does not create pressure for emission reduction. People do. The authors’ slippery, imprecise language implies a superstitious mindset: a force of nature is whispering in mankind’s collective ear. This is one of the reasons why this newsletter years ago pronounced AGW a religious concept: it’s dogma proclaimed by True Believers who assume they commune with Gaia, if only because they are gifted with a kind of spiritual sensitivity. In truth, AGW is an abstract concept inspired and driven by intense guilty discomfort with mankind’s supposed hubris; it explains next to nothing that is going on in the atmosphere.

Number Two: stuffy, wordy and self-important deceit

Our study demonstrates that the majority of “command posts” (Zald & Lounsbury, 2010, p. 963) within organizations, especially in the petroleum industry, seem to be manned with opponents to the IPCC and anthropogenic climate science who are actively engaged in defensive institutional work.

That’s an irritating way of saying something like, “We note that most of the folks who work for Big Oil feel that AGW is bunk. That’s probably due to their perception of AGW as a threat to their jobs.”

Have you ever said, “I am an opponent to corruption”? No, one is an opponent of and is opposed (or in opposition) to.

Now read the sample paragraph again, and slowly this time. It suggests two things that simply are not true: first, that the oil industry is the natural opponent of the IPCC. This is not a fact; if the oil industry is upset with the IPCC (and everybody should be), it’s because of what the IPCC is doing. There is a difference between that animosity and distaste for the committee per se. The IPCC, if it were properly staffed and informed, could be of immense benefit to all industry, the Big Oil folks included. As the Christians say, “Hate the sin, not the sinner”.

Second, the authors tacitly assert that something called “anthropogenic climate science” exists. Is there such a thing? No. What would the word anthropogenic be modifying here, climate or science? Neither, clearly. This is just sloppy, careless writing that should have been spotted and cleaned up by an editor.

Crafting a paper to be cogent, compact, rational and correctly written is intensely difficult for many scholars. Consequently they might not make an effort; perhaps they are not suited to that mundane task. It might be beneath their august dignity. The problem here could be the result of a too common mindset that is smug, supercilious, and elitist.

Number Three: the wrong word

Prognostic framing attempts to propose ameliorative action and possible solutions, while humbling, undermining or neutralizing existing counter-framings.

You will have to read the first part of the paper to understand what the authors mean by “framing”, but you can skip that. The problem is that they don’t seem to know what prognostication is. It does not involve proposing anything, whether actions or solutions, and it certainly has nothing to do with pulling the rug out from under one’s opponents in a debate. It means predicting, based on some facts, how things are likely to go. That’s all.

Dreaming up ad hoc expanded meanings for words that are (a) already precise and clear and (b) used in science because of their precision and clarity is a bad idea.

Number Four: rampant verbosity

Due to the complex nature of the phenomenon, policy-makers and organizational decision-makers are dependent on scientists and other professional experts to define what evidence is to be seen as relevant and to provide rationales for action. Besides being the experts responsible for delivering technical interpretation for decision-making, in the aggregate, professions are an institution (Thornton, 2002) granted the right to self-regulate in return for their support in establishing and maintaining the social order of the state (Larson, 1977).

This misbegotten monster belongs in a workbook for a high school composition class. Any halfway literate English speaker can probably edit it down to eighty percent of its size, thereby improving its clarity. Then there is that shift from singular (an institution) to plural (their support). Some will add, “What in the world does the social order of the state have to do with AGW? And what the hell IS the social order of the state, anyhow? Does a state have a social order? The authors are trying to snow us under with babble, and it’s insulting.”

Too right. Further, you cannot be granted a right; you can only be granted a privilege. Then there’s the idea that someone is needed to “provide rationales for action”. Is that the case? Can’t just about anybody see and rationally describe a problem? The next step, talking to the pros and finding out what you can and should do, does not seem to this newsletter to be seeking “rationales for action”, whatever that silly phrase might mean. Experts tell you how, and give you additional information. If you don’t have a rationale to begin with, you are acting randomly — and your enterprise is doomed.

Number Four is an example of the tendency to spew empty concepts and technical-sounding words (that are not technical at all) in order to try to impress everybody. It’s a manipulation of intellectual snobs. You tell them that as they plow through your egregious jargon they will be able to think to themselves, “Look what I’m reading — boy, it’s sure technical and only for the elite!”

That may seem harmless enough, but…the more you appeal to your readers’ vanity by using and adding to the slanguage of the Elect, the greater the risk that people will be ashamed to admit they can’t quite understand you. That does not bode well for communication, cooperative effort, efficiency, productivity and congenial working conditions.

Number Five: is this English?

…the continuing scientific disagreement regarding anthropogenic climate change together with the increasing weariness and fatigue about the subject on the part of the electorate is unlikely to increase policy-makers’ inclination to further regulate GHG emissions.

Perhaps you could come up with a less graceful, longer and more irritating way to express the meaning of these words, but it would be a challenge. Why “weariness and fatigue” when only one noun is needed? What vital concept falls away if you drop either synonym? Where did fatigue about come from, the Ninth Circle of Hades? “…on the part of he public”? Why not “…the public’s boredom with….” or “…the public’s intolerance for….”?

Then there is that split infinitive…yes, this newsletter knows it is permitted now. So are the uses of contact, critique, and (shudder) text as verbs. Piffle. None of that need be adopted by folks who respect English. In a formal scientific paper, it is best — in only TNG’s opinion, perhaps — to restrict oneself to indisputably correct usage.

The Point

There is no concept in the paper linked at the beginning of this item that cannot be expressed in ordinary, clear and unambiguous English. Not one. But look at the gooey mess you have to slog through to get some very simple ideas and facts!

English does need to be emptied of lexical junk such as “technical interpretation” (explanation); “decision-making” (choice, choosing, selecting, decision, deciding); “self-regulate” (professional), and “organizational decision-makers” (executives). Good grief.

Elites prefer to use argots that are exclusionary. Esoteric vocabulary functions as a shibboleth, both setting one apart and linking one to the elect. Scientists should resist this segregation for two reasons: lexical isolation is counterproductive (that is, unscientific), and if you put on airs by attempting a gratuitous reorganization of English, you also confess your semi-literacy: standard English is a huge language, rich in ordinary (though sometimes seldom-seen) words that convey a universe of meanings. Why ignore that resource? Inventing words because one’s vocabulary is inadequate should be excruciatingly embarrassing for an educated person. Show some self-respect, scholars: work at your compositions.

Making up unnecessary words — neology run amok — is childish. Plain, clear, standard English should be reinstated.

Links

The Sequester explained. You might find this surprising.

As you know (because you read it here), those spending cuts that The One whines about (he says they will “devastate” national defense and a lot of other stuff) are really trivial. Well, the liar is lying again, trying to create the impression that if his lunatic spending is even slightly curtailed, the sky will fall. Yes, it is indeed “ON”, as the withdrawn video clearly said.

Two from Breitbart: Hagel made a stunningly harebrained proposal (the man’s a nut), and the US Senate shows signs of life.

Slavery and the United Nations. Nauseating.

In the USA, restrictions on the ownership of firearms were originally based on race. Gun control was intended to give “night riders” and the Ku Klux Klan power over black citizens. Some folks have not forgotten that fact, and they know that “gun free zones” actually means “areas in which the locals are defenseless”.

Elitism: Team Obama is not unique.

Finally, a fitting video for the harridan. Let the healing begin.

Have you ever thought that there must be an ideological connection between the concepts behind both a “war on drugs” and legislated firearms restriction? Well, Obamoid and “progressive” political programs do depend on the ability of government to control the populace. The ruling elite must curtail Liberty, thereby rendering government safe from the citizenry. There is a thoughtful examination of this general theme on line.

Jews in France must cope with two irrational enemies, and the prospects are driving emigration.

Some believe the Republican party is about to be abandoned by the voters: “the closer one gets to the Republican Party’s voters, the more the Party looks like Goldwater and Reagan. The closer one gets to its top, the more it looks like the ghost of Rockefeller. Consider 2012: the party chose for President someone preferred by only one fourth of its voters — Mitt Romney, whose first youthful venture in politics had been to take part in the political blackballing of Barry Goldwater.” That’s from a long essay that appears to be trying to set the stage for a new political party.

The sheer intellectual and elocutionary candlepower of the man is…well, shocking. But that was to be expected.

The economy is a mess because of what collectivist politicians and ideologues have done, and the solutions these charlatans offer will only make things worse. It takes a little attention to details to see that. There is a video that can help you understand what happened and what is happening now; unfortunately it is a sales pitch as well as a presentation of facts. Turn it off when you get to the “Send us your money” part. The first segment of the advertisement, while a bit wordy and smarmy, contains solid information.

Recent second amendment news.

If you are interested in the economy of Iran, you are in luck. And how! The linked article is detailed, lengthy, and appears superbly informed as well as current.

The National Rifle Association of America is basing its recent propaganda on fundamentals, which makes its points less vulnerable to refutation. Of course if confiscation and total disarmament of the private citizens is your goal, everything else is meaningless to you.

The elite politician: “conformist, risk averse, obedient, and good at echoing the opinions of authority”. Note that this does not describe the ideal statesman. See the relevant commentary.

Stephanie demonstrates beautifully how to accomplish one of life’s signal tasks. She’s very clever. Watch carefully.

Doubtless the party faithful will be scandalized to learn that some folks are accusing Team Obama of crony capitalism. They should just think of it as a crisis that won’t go to waste; or perhaps they could resort to Hillary-speak: “The money’s gone, and maybe it was lost through corruption, maybe it wasn’t. What difference at this point does it make?”

I got no fear of falling
And I got no fear to fly
I believe my soul will live
Although my body die

Maybe I am right in that
And maybe I am wrong
I just keep on climbing
And sometimes I make a song

This is not the way I chose
The way has chosen me
Dangling to the muddy road
Beneath the banyan tree

The masthead includes a quote from the works of Eric Arthur Blair.

The staff of The New Terrapin Gazette expresses its sincere gratitude to the many people who have gifted the world with Slackware Linux, Emacs, and Firefox.

Publisher: The Eagle Wing Palace of The Queen Chinee.