Biography

RWP was born in Manchester, in the north of England, in the late 1950s, so he is very old. He really liked the north of England, which by 1965 was hip and had three TV channels, and where he went to a coed school. His parents, for reasons best known to themselves, then yanked him away, to Belfast and then Dublin, which had one TV channel that started up at 6 pm with the Angelus (Catholic call to prayer). He also had to go to an all boys school, where he realized he really missed girls. This probably let him focus on schoolwork, though, and at age 19, after he had finished college, he set off for America, where he still resides. He has a bachelors degree in biochemistry and a Ph.D. from Harvard in biophysics, and has lived also in Mainz, Germany, Setauket NY, and Richland WA. He currently divides his time between Nebraska, Rosslyn VA, and Florida.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ken Haar, untruthful about climate

Ken Haar, a former computer programmer who represents the Sierra Club in the State Legislature while pretending to represent his district, wrote a column in the Lincoln Journal Star today which contains the following.
But recently we have experienced something with far greater impact than just the natural variability we're famous for. We're seeing extreme weather events — one after another — that are unprecedented in the historical record.
In 2011, we had the devastating Missouri River flood stemming from record snowmelt in the Rockies. In 2012, we had a heat wave and a drought worse than the Dust Bowl. And this year, we had a record cold spring, followed by resumed drought, flooding in the west, followed by record tornado winds in several parts of the state and a devastating, earlier-than-usual record blizzard in the Panhandle
Scientists say it's almost impossible to blame any one of these weather events directly on climate change. But they do unequivocally say a warming climate makes extreme weather events more likely and exacerbates the impact.
Really? Why don't we look at the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report AR5 (Climate Change 2013), probably the best summary of the scientific consensus.
In summary, the current assessment concludes that there is not enough evidence at present to suggest more than low confidence in a global-scale observed trend in drought or dryness (lack of rainfall) since the middle of the 20th century due to lack of direct observations, geographical inconsistencies in the trends, and dependencies of inferred trends on the index choice. Based on updated studies, AR4 conclusions regarding global increasing trends in drought since the 1970s were probably overstated. However, it is likely that the frequency and intensity of drought has increased in the Mediterranean and West Africa and decreased in central North America and north-west Australia since 1950
(Emphasis mine)
In summary, there is low confidence in observed trends in small-scale severe weather phenomena such as hail and thunderstorms because of historical data inhomogeneities and inadequacies in monitoring systems
In summary, there continues to be a lack of evidence and thus low confidence regarding the sign of trend in the magnitude and/or frequency of floods on a global scale
Is Senator Haar ignorant or a liar? I've never been able to plumb the Green Mind, other than to detect a fascination with controlling the lives of other people, so I wouldn't presume to say. I do know that Haar is completely misrepresenting the science.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Sympathy for the Devil

Lots of people are astonished, or are feigning astonishment, that Antonin Scalia believes in the Devil. This is either disingenuousness or ignorance. The existence of the Devil is part of the teaching of the Catholic Church, and any orthodox Catholic (and Scalia is certainly that) is obliged to believe in him. Moreover 6 of 9 current Supreme Court justices are nominally Catholic, and should also believe in the Devil; I suspect several of them actually don't, but all that means is that they are cafeteria Catholics.

Why belief in the Devil should be considered especially odd escapes me anyway. If Jesus Christ was the personification of good, why shouldn't there be a personification of evil?

In case the sidebar isn't clear enough, I believe in neither. But what I find curious are atheists who pick and choose what parts of Christianity are stranger than others. It all starts with a talking snake, for heavens' sake. If you don't accept what's in the Catholic catechism, but instead in some sort of amorphous universal love thingy, you're not actually a Catholic, and I see no reason why you should be acknowledged as one. Conversely, if you pick and choose some parts of the doctrine to be sneered at as especially odd, be prepared to be branded intolerant of Catholicism. Me, I think all religion is odd, but it would be foolish to consider embrace of religion as a irremediable personal flaw.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Thank you!

A lot of people my age are pretty rough on the millenials, but I'm not. In fact, I'd like to take this moment to thank them for everything they're going to do for me.

I'm getting close to retirement, and very soon I'm going to be drawing Social Security. Now, I suppose I could argue that I've paid into SocSec for 35 years, and I'm just collecting what I'm owed, but we all know that's crap. All my FICA is gone, paid out to the last set of deadbeats, or used to finance the gummint's Chinese borrowings. So my payout will be coming from the millenials, who in ten years will mostly have gotten jobs and be contributing. They will finance my bumming around the Caribbean on a sailboat. By the time the millenials themselves have come along, of course, there will be not much left. But meantime, they voted for Obama and the Democrats, who are dead set against anything that limits Social Security payouts. Thanks!

And then there's Medicare. Ditto. I'm going to draw out far more than I paid. And, while my own GOP want means-testing of Medicare, the Dems are dead set against it. So, although I could probably pay out of pocket for all but the most expensive medical care, I won't have to, thanks to poorly-compensated 20-somethings.

And now I get ObamaCare. I won't be eligible for Medicare for 10 years, and in the interim I might get fired for sassing Harvey Perlman a little too hard, or I might just quit (see sailboat, above). My job has really fantastic medical insurance, but it's good to know that if I decide to leave it, I still have ObamaCare. ObamaCare will probably cost me $10,000 a year, but when you've just beaten your second bout of cancer, it's a bargain. And, of course, the $10 K I pay in will scarcely begin to cover the cost of insuring me; most of the rest will be paid by the same barely-solvent twenty-somethings. A good half-dozen of them will be signing up for insurance they really don't need, and pay far too much for, just to keep me in regular checkups, preserving my cancerous carcass for sailboat adventures. What can I say, guys? I'd say I owe you, but by the time it comes to pay you back, I'll be gone!

Do I feel guilty? Nah. I voted for Bush, and supported Social Security privatization. I voted for McCain and Romney, and therefore against ObamaCare. All I really want is my money back from FICA and Medicare. But if someone gives you something you didn't ask for, well, the gracious thing is not to reject it, but to thank the donor, and keep it.

So thank you, guys, and I hope that somehow it's not as stinky for you, when you get old, as I very much suspect it will be. In return, i'd like to give you some free advice. Save a lot of money, because you'll need it!

Why doesn't Richard Dawkins push to fix his own National Health Service, instead of lobbying for ObamaCare?

British hospitals experience a phenomenon they call Monday Mayhem; the London Sunday Times has an article about it today. Quoting the ST:
Professor Norman Williams, president of the Royal College of Surgeons and author of the report, said the changes needed to be implemented to prevent the “mayhem” consultants found on Monday morning when patients had been left to deteriorate over the weekend. “There is absolute mayhem sometimes in certain trusts on Mondays where patients haven’t been seen. You do not know what you are going to find. Some have become quite unwell,” he said.
The National Health Service (NHS) is so broke, they won't pay senior doctors to work on weekends. As a result patients 'become quite unwell', classic British understatement for 'sometimes die'.

Meanwhile, the previous Secretary of State for Health, Andy Burnham, is gearing up to sue the current Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, because Hunt uncovered internal NHS documents that said Burnham had ordered news unfavorable to the NHS be suppressed, and tweeted about them.

The lunatic reach of British libel laws is a whole other matter of course; imagine Condoleeza Rice suing Hillary Clinton for criticizing Rice's job as Secretary of State!

The UK state-run health system is an underfunded, chaotic and frequently fatal mess. And it's no secret; it's universally acknowledged. What isn't so acknowledged is that if they tried to spend the money needed to do more than apply bandaids to the NHS, the British Government would go broke, Greek style.

So what does a prominent British skeptic intellectual with a distinguished record in the biological sciences do? Why, he lobbies for Obama's efforts to inflict a state-run health care system in the US!

While US approval of Obama has dwindled to a 41% hard core of partisan Democrats, and the rest of us see him as an administratively-challendged, hyper-political and ultra-sensitive overgrown adolescent who spends too much time on the golf course, most members of the British Left are still Trve Believers in the ObamaCult.

Idol-worship is so ironic in a de facto spokesman for skepticism.