Skragnon's Blog

Civil disobedience

December 31, 2009
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Some light reading for the new year.  Does one wish to make a resolution?

Civil Disobedience

By Henry David Thoreau
I heartily accept the motto, — “That government is best which governs least”; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe — “That government is best which governs not at all”; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have. Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient. The objections which have been brought against a standing army, and they are many and weighty, and deserve to prevail, may also at last be brought against a standing government. The standing army is only an arm of the standing government. The government itself, which is only the mode which the people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it. Witness the present Mexican war, the work of comparatively a few individuals using the standing government as their tool; for in the outset, the people would not have consented to this measure.

This American government — what is it but a tradition, though a recent one, endeavoring to transmit itself unimpaired to posterity, but each instant losing some of its integrity? It has not the vitality and force of a single living man; for a single man can bend it to his will. It is a sort of wooden gun to the people themselves. But it is not the less necessary for this; for the people must have some complicated machinery or other, and hear its din, to satisfy that idea of government which they have. Governments show thus how successfully men can be imposed upon, even impose on themselves, for their own advantage. It is excellent, we must all allow. Yet this government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way. It does not keep the country free. It does not settle the West. It does not educate. The character inherent in the American people has done all that has been accomplished; and it would have done somewhat more, if the government had not sometimes got in its way. For government is an expedient, by which men would fain succeed in letting one another alone; and, as has been said, when it is most expedient, the governed are most let alone by it. Trade and commerce, if they were not made of india-rubber, would never manage to bounce over obstacles which legislators are continually putting in their way; and if one were to judge these men wholly by the effects of their actions and not partly by their intentions, they would deserve to be classed and punished with those mischievous persons who put obstructions on the railroads.

But, to speak practically and as a citizen, unlike those who call themselves no-government men, I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government. Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it.

After all, the practical reason why, when the power is once in the hands of the people, a majority are permitted, and for a long period continue, to rule is not because they are most likely to be in the right, nor because this seems fairest to the minority, but because they are physically the strongest. But government in which the majority rule in all cases can not be based on justice, even as far as men understand it. Can there not be a government in which the majorities do not virtually decide right and wrong, but conscience? — in which majorities decide only those questions to which the rule of expediency is applicable? Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right. It is truly enough said that a corporation has no conscience; but a corporation of conscientious men is a corporation with a conscience. Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice. A common and natural result of an undue respect for the law is, that you may see a file of soldiers, colonel, captain, corporal, privates, powder-monkeys, and all, marching in admirable order over hill and dale to the wars, against their wills, ay, against their common sense and consciences, which makes it very steep marching indeed, and produces a palpitation of the heart. They have no doubt that it is a damnable business in which they are concerned; they are all peaceably inclined. Now, what are they? Men at all? or small movable forts and magazines, at the service of some unscrupulous man in power? Visit the Navy Yard, and behold a marine, such a man as an American government can make, or such as it can make a man with its black arts — a mere shadow and reminiscence of humanity, a man laid out alive and standing, and already, as one may say, buried under arms with funeral accompaniment, though it may be,

“Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note,
As his corse to the rampart we hurried;
Not a soldier discharged his farewell shot
O’er the grave where our hero was buried.”

The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailers, constables, posse comitatus, etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt. They have the same sort of worth only as horses and dogs. Yet such as these even are commonly esteemed good citizens. Others — as most legislators, politicians, lawyers, ministers, and office-holders — serve the state chiefly with their heads; and, as they rarely make any moral distinctions, they are as likely to serve the devil, without intending it, as God. A very few — as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men — serve the state with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part; and they are commonly treated as enemies by it. A wise man will only be useful as a man, and will not submit to be “clay,” and “stop a hole to keep the wind away,” but leave that office to his dust at least:

“I am too high-born to be propertied,
To be a second at control,
Or useful serving-man and instrument
To any sovereign state throughout the world.”

He who gives himself entirely to his fellow men appears to them useless and selfish; but he who gives himself partially to them is pronounced a benefactor and philanthropist.

How does it become a man to behave toward the American government today? I answer, that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it. I cannot for an instant recognize that political organization as my government which is the slave’s government also.

All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable. But almost all say that such is not the case now. But such was the case, they think, in the Revolution of ‘75. If one were to tell me that this was a bad government because it taxed certain foreign commodities brought to its ports, it is most probable that I should not make an ado about it, for I can do without them. All machines have their friction; and possibly this does enough good to counter-balance the evil. At any rate, it is a great evil to make a stir about it. But when the friction comes to have its machine, and oppression and robbery are organized, I say, let us not have such a machine any longer. In other words, when a sixth of the population of a nation which has undertaken to be the refuge of liberty are slaves, and a whole country is unjustly overrun and conquered by a foreign army, and subjected to military law, I think that it is not too soon for honest men to rebel and revolutionize. What makes this duty the more urgent is that fact that the country so overrun is not our own, but ours is the invading army.

— Henry David Thoreau

Originally published 1849


I regret to inform you …

December 27, 2009
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that needing to reconstruct your computer after having to do a format and reinstall of your operating system is probably the closest thing a man will ever experience to giving childbirth.

The emotional pain wracks one’s soul as you try to wring out all of your most common bookmarks from the recesses of your mind.  The rooting around looking for those discs (or otherwise) to reinstall your software gnaws at the bottom of your gut.  Did I get them all?  I couldn’t have, the list was much longer before the *(&*%)&^)*&%(&*^ system had to be redone.  ARRGHH!

Ah, well.  Hundreds of bookmarks gone, but a silver lining was to be found.  I had transferred all my e-mail contacts to my Blackberry a couple of weeks ago.  Salvation!  I would have dug out the straight razor if I had to try and reconstruct that nightmare.


Posted in Random Thoughts

The coming Christmas

December 19, 2009
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As we once again roll into the final stretch of the Christmas season we will soon find ourselves surrounded by our family, loving and otherwise.

I’ve found these last couple of years that Christmas is a holiday with mixed feelings.  As a Catholic I am joyful that we will shortly be celebrating the birth of our Savior, yet I am also saddened by the absence of friends or family that we have lost in the several years past.  Lost through distance or being welcomed into the loving arms of God himself.  Joy and sorrow.  Two sides of the same coin.  Can I strive to not let the sadness permeate the joy?  All I can do is try, despite the melancholy surroundings of the seasons here in the Upper Midwest.

Truth be told, I prefer the snow over the rain.  Yeah, it may be cold and wet, but it is also beautiful.  Silent snowflakes falling in the moonlit darkness, a silent whisper on the wind of a coming chill, the crunch of the snow beneath your feet as you walk amongst the fragrant pines of the woods in search of that perfect tree.  Glittering snow off in the distance reflecting the moon’s glow from high above revealing all that is about you.  A feeling of being watched?  Of course, the owl in the tree aloft is looking over its shoulder and considering the nature of the intrusion.  In a flurry of wings and drifting flakes it is gone, a silent hunter of the night.

Ah, magic is all about us in nature.  We merely need to let our eyes remain open and be receptive of God’s creation.


Posted in Random Thoughts

Climategate summarized

December 2, 2009
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I claim no credit for the below beyond reprinting it.  I stole this off the Daily Express website located here.  It is one of the responses to an article that I thought would provide some perspective on the Climategate scandal.

HERE IS HOW CLIMATEGATE WORKED

An easy explanation of what ClimateGate means,

ClimateGate emails and computer programs were taken from a main server at the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia. It is not known if this was a theft or the actions of a whistleblower, disgusted with what the lead scientists at CRU were doing.

ClimateGate exposed the cabal of 20 – 30 scientists (not just at CRU) that peer reviewed each others papers, strong-armed scientific journals to only print their views, and then sat on the IPCC panels as authors judging which published studies go into the IPCC final reports. This is why they always keep shouting “peer reviewed studies, peer reviewed studies, peer reviewed studies”. They owned the peer review process.

ClimateGate exposed that this small group has been adding positive corrections to the raw global temperature data, inflating the amount of published temperature rise over the last 50 years. Both CRU in the UK and NASA-GISS in the US add these biases. At CRU, the programmers did not even know what and why some corrections were added every month. Only since satellite monitoring for comparison have the amounts of biasing leveled off.

ClimateGate exposed the leaders of this cabal instructing each other to delete emails, data files, and data analysis programs ahead of already filed Freedom Of Information Act requests for raw data and computer codes, clearly a crime.

ClimateGate exposed the “trick” about the Hockey stick figure and other studies that performed proxy construction of past temperatures. After all, reconstruction of the last 1,000 years of climate is the first step in predicting the future with super computer programs as explained below:

Everything about all 21 super computer programs used by the IPCC to determine future global warming rely on best-determined past sensitivities to solar and volcanic effects (climate forcings) from the proxy temperature record.

1. The elimination of the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age (the handle of the hockey stick) was necessary so that past solar effects could be minimized, thereby allowing almost all of the warming in the last 75 years to be blamed on Greenhouse Gasses. Raw data (like tree-ring thickness, radioisotope of mud layers in a lake bottom, ice core analyses, etc.) are used as a proxy for reconstruction of the temperature record for 1000 AD to 1960 AD. To ensure desired results, statistical manipulation of the raw data and selecting only supporting data, cherry-picking, was suspected and later proved to make the hockey stick graph. Look closely at the plot here where the hockey stick is one of the plots:
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/11/16/cern_cloud_experiment/

2. The slope of long-term 10-year running average global temperature using thermometers from 1900 to present (the blade of the hockey stick) was maximized with the sloppy gridding code, Urban Heat Island effects, hiding the declines, and even fabricating data (documented in the leaked source code comments revealed with ClimateGate). This ensured that the Greenhouse Gas sensitivity coefficients in all 21 of the super computers was maximized, and that maximizes the temperature result at year 2100 based on Greenhouse Gas increases. This thermometer data was used to replace the tree ring-divergence after 1960 and plot this over the climate history data of (1) above giving the false impression that the reconstructed 1000 AD to 1960 AD results are more accurate than they are.

3. Because tuning of the super computer programs uses back casting, the computer outputs could always replicate the 20th Century (by design); therefore it was assumed that the models had almost everything in them. Because of (1) and (2) above, nearly all climate change predicted by the models was due to CO2 and positive feedbacks and hardly any of the climate change was for other reasons like solar, understood or not.

4. Over the years, when better numbers for volcanic effects, black carbon, aerosols, land use, ocean and atmospheric multi-decadal cycles, etc. became available, it appears that CRU made revisions to refit the back cast, but could hardly understand what the code was doing due to previous correction factor fudging and outright fabricating, as documented in the released code as part of ClimateGate.

5. After the IPCC averages the 21 super computer outputs of future projected warming (anywhere from 2-degrees to 7-degrees, not very precise), that output is used to predict all manner of catastrophes. (Fires, floods, droughts, blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, insects, extinctions, diseases, civil wars, cats & dogs sleeping together, etc.)

So shut-up or be called a denier,
live the way we tell you to live,
pay more for everything, and
just send money for my research on the effects of global climate change on horseshoe crabs (which have been around for about 440 million years through all possible temperature ranges).

I hope that this makes the ClimateGate controversy easier to understand.

• Posted by: NucEngineer


Posted in Global Warming

    The profundity continues …

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