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Email From An Engineer



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I am a college professor (forgive me) who teaches environmental
engineering. I got into this field in the early 70s because I am an environmentalist. I totally agree with the premise of your column on Lomborg and with most of the details. He is now my hero. I feel truly sorry for Lomborg because I am sure that he had no idea what he was getting into. The scientific community in the U. S. has
been almost totally politicized, with severely detrimental effects on scientific progress and on those who question the litany. We have a modern word for those scientists who persecuted Gallileo and who are persecuting Lomborg: fascist. If I were him, I would hire a bodyguard. Seriously.

My own field, engineering, has been relatively free of this nonsense until recently. I now find that more and more of my students come from public schools to college brainwashed with these myths. Like a good engineer, I present them with the facts and expect them to react rationally like engineers. No. It is virtually impossible to change someone’s mind when it has been shaped from the beginning with emotional
messages and brainwashing.

I despair.

Websites For The Blind



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I missed this one when it came round, but just spotted it in a back
number — the date is 11/11/02 — of COMPUTERWORLD. Opening graf: “A federal judge in Miami last month rejected a lawsuit contending that Southwest Airlines Co. violated the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) because its website was inaccessible to blind users. At issue in the case is whether corporate websites fall under the aegis of the ADA…” Without yielding on my belief that the ADA was an atrocity for which Poppie Bush should be publicly hanged, drawn and quartered, it seems to me that with broadband access now general, it would be very little extra effort, at least for big organizations, to stick a spoken soundtrack on important websites. I might even have a crack on it with my own site. Any Corner readers with connections to the world of the blind have any input here? How much do blind people use the Web? Should NRO add soundtracks? Er, well… I see the NRO accountants choking on their coffee at that last… But still, I’m curious about this. Do we have blind readers?

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Australia’s Doctor Death



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Currently touring the U.S.; Here’s an NRO interview with him.

Web Briefing: Nvember 27, 2014

At The Gate



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Someone has asked me whether the Huns hired themselves out as mercenaries.
Yes, they did, but insisted on being paid up front. This is the origin of
the phrase: “No money, no Hunny.”

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Fyi



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Doing “Showdown Iraq” on CNN today around 12:30 EST. I’m on with someone from Pacifica Radio.

Conservative Science



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Wow, thanks for the high praise Derb. Another point on conservative science from Nisbet. He argues that for all of the ethics and rules of the scientific establishment, the most effective insurance against group-think is competition between scientists and scientific institutions. Arranging self-interest against self-interest is the most sure-fired way to keep scientists motivated to debunk the work of other scientists. I think this highlights what is so dangerous about the current global warming debate; the “mainstream” scientific community is so overwhelmingly encouraged to compete only in one direction. Scientists who question the assumptions of the whole endeavor are locked out of the process, ridiculed or censored through impoverishment.

Lieberman’s Hat Is in The Ring



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The Death Penalty



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Rod makes the case for Gov. Ryan on NRO today. I was a little surprised to see Rod refer to “the death-penalty convictions of inmates later exonerated by DNA testing” as though there were more than a handful of such cases; perhaps he was misled by the webpage to which he links, which talks about all kinds of convictions later exonerated by DNA testing, not just death-penalty convictions. (The factors mentioned on the linked page, by the way, do not include the ones Rod mentions–e.g., race, geography, class, etc. The way race affects the death penalty is a much-disputed question, and Rod breezes by it way too quickly.) Second, I wonder if he is right to assume, as apparently the governor did too, that the misconduct by police and prosecutors in Illinois in the past is representative of the nation as a whole. A disproportionate number of death-row exonerations (I mean real exonerations, not the phony kind the anti-d.p. people tout) have been in Illinois. Third, what is this “evidence” that Rod says “suggests” that the death penalty has no effect on the murder rate? I’ve seen studies on both sides of that issue, enough to suggest that it’s at least an open question.

Townshend Keeps At It



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Pete Townshend continues adamantly to deny that he’s a child-porn enthusiast. He’s now saying that he stumbled onto a child-porn site by “accident” once, and only visited them three or four times, and then only to see how horrid the things were. But why did that one site have his credit-card information? Townshend says he foolishly provided his credit card to the site. An honest mistake. Look, I’m in no position to judge whether or not Pete Townshend is a pedophile, but this alibi is pathetic. What kind of legitimately curious rich and famous celebrity gives his credit-card number to child pornographers on a lark? Pete Townshend didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday; you’d have to be really stupid to believe that he didn’t understand that child pornography is and was illegal, and that his purchasing child porn — which is what he did — could possibly be on the up and up. If his credit-card number had been found in the records of a drug dealer, and he admitted that he had once purchased cocaine “just to see what was out there,” would that get him off the hook? Puh-leeze.

Hypotheses Non Fingo



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I agree with Jonah’s reader that the Galileo column was brilliant. That
reader is right, though, that there were excellent reasons for opposition to
the Copernican system. This illustrates a general truth, I think: that
science needs to be conservative. Scientific truths are hard-won, and
upstart revolutionary theories should be regarded with utmost suspicion
until they have proved themselves by force of argument and evidence.
Hindsight is wonderful, and we all have fun scoffing at the fuddy-duddies
who refused to believe in Continental Drift, Natural Selection or Action at
a Distance. The only thing that counts in the long run in science is the
weight of evidence. Hypotheses non fingo.

Election in Israel



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I’m doing my best to follow this, but boy, what a mess of a political system
they have over there. Does Proportional Representation offer a foolproof
guarantee of permanent political instability, or what? Even Noah Millman can’t make sense of what’s going on.
If (which is not certain) I understand Noah’s analysis, the most likely
result of the election will be another election. I do agree that, in a
region that has enjoyed no significant constitutional progress since the 7th
century, the existence of Israel and its parliamentary system is a kind of
miracle. Still it would be nice to see a robust two-party system in place,
with the Silly Party and the Very Silly Party banished to the basement
meeting rooms of public libraries, where they belong, instead of making
policy in a nation whose policies drive major world events.

Computer Geek Found Dead At Computer



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Interesting Email



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In response to today’s column:

Your column on Galileo and the Lomborg case was excellent and very enjoyable. As a practicing planetary scientist, I can certainly attest to your proposition that science is a very human (and often, a very ugly) business. Your point that L’Affaire Galileo is more complicated than a simple “bigoted-church-stifles-dissent” story is quite true. It will probably not surprise you to learn that your replacement concept of “bigoted-scientists-stiffle-innovation” is also not the full story.

The scientists of Galileo’s day had good reason to embrace the Ptolemaic system of the universe – it worked. Ptolemy’s Earth-centered universe, in which the sun, Moon, planets, and celestial sphere rotated around the Earth, with ‘wheels within wheels,” of cycles and epicycles, was used to navigate around the world for centuries. To a first order, it explained otherwise apparently inexplicable phenomena, such as the reversing (“retrograde motion”) of Mars in the night sky. And, if it seems silly and ad hoc to modern minds, a solid crystalline celestial sphere is conceptually no sillier than our current ideas about superstrings and the nature of matter. Both are theoretical concepts, untestable by current technology.

Moreover, the Copernican system did NOT work. Planetary paths predicted by Copernicus were found to be in serious error. The system did not work for a very good reason: it’s not the way the Solar System is put together. Copernicus said that Earth and the other planets orbited the sun in circular orbits. But they do not: they revolve in ELLIPTICAL orbits, with the sun at one focus. It took years of painstaking planetary observation by Tycho and years of menial number-crunching by Kepler to establish the laws of planetary motion, all well after Galileo published his astonishing findings. Finally, it took an Isaac Newton to take what were basically empirical “laws” and explain to everybody what they actually meant, with his Principia, published almost 100 years after Galileo lived.

The cartoon history that depicts centuries of the most brilliant of human minds stupidly embracing the “obvious idiocies” of Ptolemy’s “wrong” model of the universe is itself oversimplified and slathered with retrospective. We all do the best we can. No doubt personal pique and jealousy motivated some of the animus against Galileo. And you yourself pointed out that he was not an easy guy to get along with (for starters, he was arrogantly convinced of his own intellectual superiority. Even if true, that’s not an attitude that encourages friendship). But some of the “opposition” to the Copernican model of the universe had roots in a very different motivation – they were right about its being wrong. That they embraced an alternative that was equally wrong does not change the basic facts of the case.


Lind Strikes Again



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Michael Lind has written a clever little essay on James Burnham—or rather, using James Burnham as a way to trash contemporary conservatives. Burnham was elegantly “wrong about everything,” while today’s conservatives are “surly, demagogic and wrong about everything.” I’d have to waste my whole day to correct all the absurdities in Lind’s account, so let me hit him on his strongest point—to wit, that the end of the Soviet Union was a vindication for liberal anti-communism and its strategy of containment, not to conservative anti-communism and its strategy (designed by Burnham) of rollback.

1) Liberals had abandoned containment by at least halfway through the Cold War, and the social democrats whom Lind also lauds largely did so earlier. By the 1970s and 1980s, only conservatives could really be counted on to favor resistance to Soviet aggression. 2) The Reagan administration’s policies included a strong rollback element, lest we forget the economic and ideological warfare and Grenada. 3) Although containment didn’t strictly have to entail acceptance of peaceful co-existence, it went along with it a lot easier than rollback did. Reagan never accepted peaceful co-existence. Lind could, of course, argue, as many do, that Reagan’s distinctive policies were incidental to the Soviet collapse. But that argument is counter-intuitive and, in any case, not made here.

Okay, one more point. Lind says that George Wallace, Richard Nixon, and Jerry Falwell are more important figures in the history of the American Right than Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, or James Burnham. If that were the case, the Right would be considerably less free-market in orientation than it is today. We know Lind is aware of the Right’s support for free markets, since he’s written hundreds of essays, of varying cleverness, denouncing us for it.

Damn



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This is the transcript of my appearance with the human shield guy. But they don’t include the part at the end where I yell, “You’re a lemming!” I was afraid they’d cut me off before then and they did.

Supernova



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On March 25, 1944, an American bomber took off from the tiny island of Attu, in the Aleutian chain, to strike the Japanese in the Kuril Islands. Like so many planes from that time, Bomber 31 simply vanished. Unlike the most of the others, however, this one reappeared more than half a century later, at a crash site in the wilds of Kamchatka. Tomorrow night, the PBS show Nova will debut an excellent one-hour program on Bomber 31 and its mysterious fate. (Nova’s PR people kindly sent me an advance tape.) Investigators try to piece together what happened to the plane on its last flight, examine evidence that the KGB interfered with the wreckage 30 years ago, and scratch their heads over whether any of the seven crew members survived the crash. The filmmakers also followed the son of Bomber 31’s radioman–the boy was just 10 months old when the plane went down, and he visits the site on a quest to find a fragment of human remains that can be linked to his dad, so that a man he never knew can receive a proper burial at Arlington National Cemetry. It’s a fascinating and moving hour of TV.

Jonah Just Called to Get Me Out of Bed...



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…just kidding. Actually: Did anyone see the TBS movie on JFK Jr.? I heartell there was an NR mention. Anyone know?

Just Try...



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…not to murder your entire office with your stapler after watching this.

G-File Is In



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I mostly finished it on Friday, but forgot about until late Sunday. It’s absurdly long. I have no idea whether peole will like it, but I kind of enjoyed writing it. If you’d like something shorter, here’s my syndicated column on that human shield yutz.

Dr Pepper and Me



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Well, Andrew, you mucked up my weekend a bit with your anti-Dr Pepper rants. My Texan wife came to me yesterday afternoon, mad as a wet hen, saying, “You get on The Corner right now and give that Andrew Stuttaford what-for!”

“Huh?” said I.

“He’s insulting Dr Pepper!”

So I read your entry, in which you testified, accurately, to its vileness. I told Julie: “Well…he’s right, you know.”

“What?! What?!”

Thanks, man. I was putting on my boots to go to mass this morning, and she was going on about the time she went to the Dr Pepper Museum in Waco. You don’t mess with Texans and their Dr Pepper. You really don’t.

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