Quiescent sun

April 22, 2009


An interesting post at Watts Up With That about the continuing dearth of sunspot activity: the International Sunspot Number has dropped below a mean of 1.0:

…running mean of the International Sunspot Number for 2009 just dipped below 1.00.  For anything comparable you now need to go back before 1913 (which scored a 1.43) which could mean we’re now competing directly with the Dalton Minimum.

Just in case you’d like another tidbit, here is something that puts our 20 to 30 day spotless runs in perspective… the mother of all spotless runs (in the heart of the Maunder Minimum, of course!) was from October 15, 1661 to August 2, 1671.  It totaled 3579 consecutive spotless days, all of which had obs.

The Dalton Minimum was a low in sunspot activity that lasted roughly from 1790-1830, coinciding with a period of global cooling within the overall Little Ice Age, which lasted from the beginning of the 17th century to the middle of the 19th. The year 1816 was called the "year without summer." And now, in this supposed crisis of anthropogenic global warming, we're competing with one of the lowest sunspot periods of one of the colder epochs in recent centuries.

Why is this significant? I think it is because I'm firmly of the belief that Earth's changing climate is more a result of cyclic fluctuations in the activity of the Sun than anything to do with "greenhouse gases." In fact, it is the theory of Danish physicist Henrik Svensmark that variability in the Sun's magnetic field influences the amount of cosmic rays reaching the Earth, thus affecting cloud formation and our planet's climate. The waxing and waning of the magnetic field correlates with the amount of sunspot production: strong when there are many sunspots being created, weak when there are few or none, as now. I do not think it a coincidence that the Earth has been in decade-long cooling period that has coincided with declining solar activity.

(Svensmark's arguments and evidence are detailed in his book, The Chilling Stars.)

It of course could be that climate change is driven by mankind's activities and we're heading for disaster, but I think the weight of evidence is against it and that the evidence for natural cycles being responsible grows more convincing with each passing day. And clearly we should not undertake any of the draconian, economy-killing regimes advocated by global-warming alarmists until they can produce something more than faulty computer models, bad temperature data, and predictions that don't pan out.

RELATED READING: Another good work for climate change skeptics is Singer and Avery's Unstoppable Global Warming: every 1,500 years. I'm awaiting with interest the US publication of Ian Plimer's Heaven And Earth: Global Warming – The Missing Science.

UPDATE: WUWT has posted asking for a name for what appears to be a new minimum, and provides links to articles showing that the MSM has finally begun to notice this inconvenient truth.

I’m glad they tortured him

April 22, 2009

By now anyone reading this blog has likely heard of the so-called torture memos, memoranda written by Justice Department lawyers soon after the 9/11 attacks and released several days ago by the Obama administration.  They were commissioned to determine the boundaries of permissible interrogation techniques to be used on captured terrorists. Included among these methods was waterboarding, which, when revealed, was widely decried as torture. For the record, I agree with Ed Morrissey that the argument regarding waterboarding in the relevant memo is strained and forced to fit a desired conclusion: interrogators wanted a proven, last-ditch method available. However, a thoughtful reading of the relevant statute strongly suggests that waterboarding violates US law.

For the record, however, I’m glad they did it; they likely saved my life:

Specifically, interrogation with enhanced techniques “led to the discovery of a KSM plot, the ‘Second Wave,’ ‘to use East Asian operatives to crash a hijacked airliner into’ a building in Los Angeles.” KSM later acknowledged before a military commission at Guantanamo Bay that the target was the Library Tower, the tallest building on the West Coast. The memo explains that “information obtained from KSM also led to the capture of Riduan bin Isomuddin, better known as Hambali, and the discovery of the Guraba Cell, a 17-member Jemmah Islamiyah cell tasked with executing the ‘Second Wave.’ ” In other words, without enhanced interrogations, there could be a hole in the ground in Los Angeles to match the one in New York.

(hat tip: Sister Toldjah)

I live in Los Angeles. So do many people I work with, call “friend,” and care deeply about. While Khalid Sheikh Mohammed says the target was the downtown library tower, hijacked planes could have been crashed anywhere. I can easily imagine a plane commandeered at LAX turning north and flying straight up the San Diego Freeway to Westwood — plenty of tall buildings there, with thousands of infidels to kill for Allah. Or maybe Century City, or the Port of Los Angeles. Those unholy warriors could have struck anywhere, and thousands more would have died.

I’m glad they waterboarded them.

Oh, I can hear it now. Some starry-eyed do-gooder will whine that torture is immoral, that it lowers us to the enemy’s level. Or maybe some sanctimonious prat will sniff and remind us that torture is against international law. To both of them I say “pull your heads out of your backsides and join the real world.”

The immorality argument is just plain stupid. Let me pose this question. If you have reason to believe a catastrophic attack could take place at any time and that someone you’re holding has information that could prevent it, and that you have no other way to get that information before the attack takes place, what would you do: would you keep your conscience lily-white and run the real risk of thousands of dead innocents, or would you subject your suspect to a few minutes of agony to save those lives, knowing that he would not die or suffer permanent harm? That is the choice faced by American interrogators in the weeks and months after 9/11, and the choice they made saved many, many people from horrible deaths.

Probably including me.

If, on the other hand, you chose to protect your conscience, I put it to you that your refusal to torture in this kind of a situation is rank immorality. You would prefer your peace of mind to the lives of everyone else around you? You’re no better than the guy flying the plane.

And the fool hiding behind the letter of the law? Same problem. You would rather people die than see your precious law broken, law that is meant to be a reflection of our morality, not supersede it. If the law says we can’t use “enhanced techniques” to save lives in imminent danger, then the law is an ass. And the law needs to be changed to reflect the real world, not some fantasyland that exists only in movies or novels — or law review articles.

Bear in mind, I’m not saying torture should be used in all cases, nor even many. But, in a lit-fuse scenario when we have a technique of proven effectiveness available — yes, waterboard him, and keep doing it until he talks. It isn’t nice, it isn’t pleasant, it won’t make us liked in the world, but it would be the only moral thing to do.

Like I said, I’m grateful they tortured him. You should be, too.

UPDATE 11/12/10: While I say above that waterboarding seems to cross the line of legality, I’ve been persuaded by the arguments made by Marc Thiessen in his book Courting Disaster, specifically Chapter 5: the “enhanced techniques” used, including waterboarding, are not torture as defined by the law. I highly recommend his book for anyone who wants to be informed in this debate.