New Study: Two Thousand Years of Northern European Summer Temperatures Show a Downward Trend

December 18, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

Bad news for the Warmist cult: Empirical evidence shows not only a millennia-long cooling trend, but that prior warming periods were warmer than the late-20th century peaks. Darn those “inconvenient truths.”

Originally posted on Watts Up With That?:

In a paper published in the Journal of Quaternary Science, Esper et al. (2014) write that tree-ring chronologies of maximum latewood density (MXD) “are most suitable to reconstruct annually resolved summer temperature variations of the late Holocene.” And working with what they call “the world’s two longest MXD-based climate reconstructions” – those of Melvin et al. (2013) and Esper et al. (2012) – they combined portions of each to produce a new-and-improved summer temperature history for northern Europe that stretches all the way “from 17 BC to the present.” And what did they thereby learn?

As the international team of researchers from the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Greece, Sweden and Switzerland describes it, this history depicts “a long-term cooling trend of -0.30°C per 1,000 years over the Common Era in northern Europe” (see figure below). Most important of all, however, they note that their temperature reconstruction…

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Theater of the Absurd: taxes force Spanish theater to sell porn to stay open

December 5, 2014

“Detrás de la puerta verde?”

Here’s another wonderful example of the ridiculous situations created when a bloated, unsustainable social welfare state forces politicians to tax anything and everything they can think of in order to feed the beast. In this case, a Spanish theater that presents the plays of Spain’s “Shakespeare” has to sell pornography to reduce its crippling tax burden:

Crippled by colossal tax rates and falling ticket sales, the Spanish cultural sector is taking creative action to cut its tax bill, including one theatre which has changed its main business to pornography to avoid having to pay high taxes.

The tax charged on cultural performances in Spain has shot up from eight to twenty-one percent since 2011 as the government attempts to balance the books, and has drawn a broader range of products into the local VAT-like ‘sales tax’. Some have noted the uneven application of the new higher taxes, which have hit high culture but not erotica and magazines.

Theatre director Karina Garantivá said: “It’s scandalous when cultural heritage is being taxed at 21 percent and porn at only at 4 percent. Something is wrong”. Her company, which performs works by the “Spanish Shakespeare” Pedro Calderón de la Barca has decided to circumvent the new, punitive taxes by registering as a distributor of pornographic magazines – and is offering free performances.

Punters buying €16 worth of hardcore-swingers magazine Gente Libre from the company receive a ‘free’ ticket to a performance of the highly regarded 17th century comic drama El Mágico Prodigioso.

Garantivá said the law as it stands made theatres feel as if they were “in a straitjacket, suffocated”, and that “We want people to ask what kind of a society makes this kind of decision. That they compare pornography and Calderón … and reach their own conclusions”.

A tax on “cultural performances?” That might make even gentry liberals here howl in outrage.

Ms. Garantivá asks the right question in the above highlight, but I have to wonder if someone raised in Spain’s all-encompassing social welfare system could easily come to the right answer? The problem is welfare statism itself, which spends far more than it can afford and faces continual pressure to spend even more to support an aging population, while dealing with a declining birth rate. The government’s increasing tax demands thus fall on a shrinking tax base, taking more per person. It’s a recipe for economic stagnation at best and collapse at worst. It’s a growing problem confronting much of Europe, but the people most burdened by the taxes often shriek the loudest at any effort to cut taxes and benefits to more rational levels. And we’re not all that far behind.

Meanwhile, you also have to wonder about politicians who tax “Shakespeare” more than smut.


Is Russia behind the European anti-fracking demonstrations?

December 2, 2014
Drill, baby, drill!

Drill, baby, drill!

Plunging oil prices are hurting Russia natural-resources-dependent economy, threatening to throw it into recession along with a collapsing ruble. That’s not a good thing to have happen, but especially not when Moscow’s aggressive behavior has brought them into conflict with the West and earned them economic sanctions.

Part of the problem (from the Kremlin’s point of view) is that the hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) technological revolution has lead to a renaissance in US oil production — we’re now one of the largest oil producers in the world, with vast reserves. We even export more than we import. And this revolution has just begun. Other nations are very interested in using fracking to bring down drilling costs, promising a larger supply on the market and concomitantly bringing crude prices down, to almost everyone’s benefit.

Well, everyone except Vladimir Putin, that is. A deep fall in Russian revenues thanks to fracking would threaten his glorious plans, the Russian economy, and maybe the stability of his rule. Consequently, we shouldn’t be surprised when people start to wonder if those anti-fracking demonstrations in Europe aren’t being ginned up in Moscow:

PUNGESTI, Romania — Vlasa Mircia, the mayor of this destitute village in eastern Romania, thought he had struck it rich when the American energy giant Chevron showed up here last year and leased a plot of land he owned for exploratory shale gas drilling.

But the encounter between big business and rural Romania quickly turned into a nightmare. The village became a magnet for activists from across the country opposed to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Violent clashes broke out between the police and protesters. The mayor, one of the few locals who sided openly with Chevron, was run out of town, reviled as a corrupt sellout in what activists presented as a David versus Goliath struggle between impoverished farmers and corporate America.

“I was really shocked,” recalled the mayor, who is now back at his office on Pungesti’s main, in fact only, street. “We never had protesters here and suddenly they were everywhere.”

Pointing to a mysteriously well-financed and well-organized campaign of protest, Romanian officials including the prime minister say that the struggle over fracking in Europe does feature a Goliath, but it is the Russian company Gazprom, not the American Chevron.

Gazprom, a state-controlled energy giant, has a clear interest in preventing countries dependent on Russian natural gas from developing their own alternative supplies of energy, they say, preserving a lucrative market for itself — and a potent foreign policy tool for the Kremlin.

“Everything that has gone wrong is from Gazprom,” Mr. Mircia said.

This belief that Russia is fueling the protests, shared by officials in Lithuania, where Chevron also ran into a wave of unusually fervent protests and then decided to pull out, has not yet been backed up by any clear proof. And Gazprom has denied accusations that it has bankrolled anti-fracking protests. But circumstantial evidence, plus large dollops of Cold War-style suspicion, have added to mounting alarm over covert Russian meddling to block threats to its energy stranglehold on Europe.

Via Power Line, where you can read a healthy reminder that this wouldn’t be new behavior for the Russians, as anyone who remembers the nuclear freeze movement of the 1980s knows.  (Hint: All those innocent no-war types were being played for suckers by the KGB.)

If we had an administration interested in the intelligent development of America’s resources and also undercutting Putin where’s he’s most vulnerable –and hopefully we will in a couple of years– we could do a lot to jump-start our own economy and “encourage” Vlad to settle down by shutting off his money at the tap.

Still, that the Russians feel a need to break out the old KGB playbook shows how worried they are. And that sound you hear is me weeping in sympathy.

No, wait. It’s not. Not at all.

What you hear is me laughing.


Conservative party to kill free speech in Great Britain?

November 11, 2014
And he's driving, too.

So speak only approved thoughts.

First it was the police raiding your home for telling politically incorrect jokes on the Internet.

Now, under a law proposed by Home Secretary Theresa May to control “extremist speech,” people who say things others find offensive could be served with an “Extremism Disruption Order” and be forced to clear with the police first anything they want to publish online or say in a public forum — even a simple tweet or a Facebook post:

Last month, May unveiled her ambition to “eliminate extremism in all its forms.” Whether you’re a neo-Nazi or an Islamist, or just someone who says things which betray, in May’s words, a lack of “respect for the rule of law” and “respect for minorities”, then you could be served with an extremism disruption order (EDO).

Strikingly, EDOs will target even individuals who do not espouse or promote violence, which is already a crime in the U.K. As May says, “The problem that we have had is this distinction of saying we will only go after you if you are an extremist that directly supports violence. [This] has left the field open for extremists who know how not to step over the line.” How telling that a leading British politician should be snotty about “this distinction” between speech and violence, between words and actions, which isn’t actually some glitch in the legal system, as she seems to think, but rather is the foundation stone on which every free, democratic society ought to be built.

Once served with an EDO, you will be banned from publishing on the Internet, speaking in a public forum, or appearing on TV. To say something online, including just tweeting or posting on Facebook, you will need the permission of the police. There will be a “requirement to submit to the police in advance any proposed publication on the web, social media or print.” That is, you will effectively need a licence from the state to speak, to publish, even to tweet, just as writers and poets did in the 1600s before the licensing of the press was swept away and modern, enlightened Britain was born (or so we thought).

What sort of people might find themselves branded “extremists” and thus forbidden from speaking in public? Anyone, really. The definition of extremist being bandied about by May and her colleagues is so sweeping that pretty much all individuals with outré or edgy views could potentially find themselves served with an EDO and no longer allowed to make any public utterance without government approval.

So you won’t have to incite violence to be labelled an extremist —in May’s words, these extremism-disrupting orders will go “beyond terrorism.” May says far-right activists and Islamist hotheads who have not committed any crime or incited violence could be served with an order to shut the hell up. She has also talked about people who think “a woman’s intellect [is] deficient,” or who have “denounced people on the basis of their religious beliefs,” or who have “rejected democracy”—these folk, too, could potentially be branded extremists and silenced. In short, it could become a crime punishable by gagging to be a sexist or a religion-hater or someone who despises democracy.

In other words, say or write something someone in government (or who can pressure government) doesn’t like, and you’ll find yourself smacked with a “Speak Only When Allowed” order. This in the land from which we inherited our beliefs in free speech as a natural right of all humans, the dogma that no person could truly be free without the ability to speak their mind without fear of reprisal, regardless of the subject and regardless of how offensively put. Once you set government up as the arbitrator of what may and may not be said, you’ve then gone from being a free-born citizen to a servant of the State, speaking only when Master gives leave.

I can see why the Conservative (1) government might want to do this; they have a hell of a problem on their hands with radical imams recruiting for jihad against Britain and the West, as well as encouraging young Muslims to go join ISIS. But you don’t deal with the problem by threatening everyone for speaking their minds. All that does is force people to guard their thoughts and “go underground.” It’s the same flaw –the criminalization of thought and opinion– that lies behind so-called “hate crime” legislation here in the United States.

Rather, the way to deal with so-called extremist, hateful speech is to expose it in the marketplace of ideas and show how fallacious it is. Tolerating people saying things we don’t like is a small price to pay when compared to what we lose when we repress the right to speak freely at all.

Great Britain is the land that gave birth to free speech; it would be a shame if she were also the first Anglospheric nation to put a stake in its heart.

Footnote:
(1) The irony is knee-deep here.


Bookshelf update: Dupes — How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century

November 7, 2014

Renaissance scholar astrologer

I’ve updated the “What I’m reading” widget to the right to reflect the latest item on the Public Secrets lectern, Paul Kengor’s “Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.”

book cover kengor dupes

I’m only a few chapters into it, so far, but it has been an interesting discussion of how Communists in the 20th century targeted non-communist liberals and progressives to be suckered into supporting the USSR and the Communist movement against the United States. Kengor notes that the efforts of the duped were not nearly as often aimed at conservatives as they were at anti-communist liberal Democrats and progressives, Harry Truman being a  particular target.

The author seems fair in his treatment of the Democrats, reminding us that there were many who, while liberal or progressive, were staunchly anti-communist — including those who had once been duped, but saw the light. You’ll be surprised at the names that appear in the book, both  “recovered” dupes and those who played the fool till the day they died. The work is extensively footnoted with references to primary sources (both Soviet and American), and Kengor has an easy writing style. The book is available in both Kindle (1) and hardcover formats.

PS: Why, yes. This is a shameless bit of shilling on my part. I like getting the occasional gift certificate that comes from people buying stuff via my link. But I still think it’s a good book.

Footnote:
(1) I’m happy to say I’ve found very few typos or formatting errors, so far. These are all too common in Kindle e-books.


Is a Top American Diplomat a Russian Agent?

November 3, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

Helluva scandal, if true. And a dramatic story, regardless.

Originally posted on The XX Committee:

Today the Ukrainian news website GORDON ran an interview with the Russian businessman and sometime politician Konstantin Borovoy. A harsh critic of Vladimir Putin — he recently said Russia’s president is “mentally unstable” while a year ago he pronounced the collapse of Putin’s corrupt dictatorship to be “inevitable” — Borovoy is something of a gadfly. A parliamentarian of independent views in the Yeltsin era, he served as an intermediary between Moscow and the rebels in the First Chechen War, and was assessed as “a respected and influential Duma deputy” by one savvy Western expert, in part due to his staunch opposition to the takeover of Russia by the “special services,” especially the Federal Security Service (FSB), during the Putin years.

Hence Borovoy’s statements are not to be rejected out of hand as the ravings of a madman. In the GORDON interview, he lambasts Ukraine’s government for having faith…

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Poland Prepares for Russian Invasion

October 30, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

Poland has had sad experience of Russian aggression several times over the centuries, and now again they’re worried — with justification. But it’s not just Putin who worries them: read through to the end for absolutely brutal comments from Polish officials about Obama and his administration.

Originally posted on The XX Committee:

As Vladimir Putin’s Russia continues to threaten Ukraine, having stolen Crimea in the spring and exerted de facto Kremlin control over much of the Donbas this summer, war worries are mounting on NATO’s eastern frontier. New reports of Russian troop movements on the Ukrainian border this week are not reassuring to those Atlantic Alliance members who suffered Soviet occupation for decades, and still live in Moscow’s neighborhood.

Neither are Russian air force incursions into Western airspace calming nerves with their reborn Cold War antics: yesterday, NATO fighters intercepted no less than nineteen Russian combat aircraft, including several heavy bombers. No NATO countries are more worried about Kremlin aggression than the Baltic states, with their small militaries and lack of strategic depth, which are frankly indefensible in any conventional sense without significant and timely Alliance assistance.

But Poland is the real issue when it comes to defending NATO’s exposed Eastern…

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