People Unclear on the Concept

I live in a large city in Texas, and, like most, mine has a number of codes of construction to prevent the creation of safety hazards. Here is one:

See, the steel barricades installed into the sidewalk keep pedestrians from accidentally stepping off or falling into the storm drains on either side. Pretty neat, eh?

Here’s another:

See, the steel barricades keep pedestrians from stepping falling off the sidewalk into the storm drains on either side. However, in this case I do believe the builder missed a key point. Am I the only one who thinks there is too much a thing of following strictly the letter of the code?

By the way, there are multiple instances like this.

Advertisements

American Hero

The 70th anniversary of the Allied attack on Northern France is coming up this year, and I am starting to post on the events leading up to the event. I just finished reading Winston Churchill’s account in his fifth volume from The Second World War series, Closing the Ring, which takes us up to the launch of the Normandy Invasion. I have also acquired Desmond Young’s Rommel, about the famous German field commander, and I have obtained Patton, Ordeal and Triumph, by Ladislas Farago.

Many years ago I read Crusade in Europe, by Dwight D. Eisenhower. It’s time to read that again, so I acquired the Kindle edition.

Eisenhower’s career is remarkable, and it’s a story interesting in itself. He was born in Denison, Texas, and was raised in Wichita, Kansas. At the time the Second World War broke out he was an army lieutenant colonel working for General Douglas MacArthur in the Philippines to build up the Philippine army. The island nation was scheduled to leave United States custody in 1946.

When news came that the German army had invaded Poland, Eisenhower immediately requested transfer back to the United States. It was a fortunate move for him, since most of MacArthur’s remaining ground troops were destined to be killed or captured by the Japanese two years later.

Back in the United States, Eisenhower worked on helping to convert the peacetime United States Army to a war footing. He quickly moved through the rank of army colonel to brigadier general. What happened next illustrates how his career rocketed as events of the war unfolded:

On the afternoon of December 7 at Fort Sam Houston , Texas, tired out from the long and exhausting staff work of the maneuvers and their aftermath, I went to bed with orders that under no circumstances was I to be disturbed. My dreams were of a two weeks’ leave I was going to take, during which my wife and I were going to West Point to spend Christmas with our plebe son, John. But even dreams like these— and my strict orders— could be shattered with impunity by the aide who brought the news that we were at war.

Within an hour of the Pearl Harbor attack orders began pouring into Third Army Headquarters from the War Department. There were orders for the immediate transfer of anti-aircraft units to the West Coast, where the terrified citizens hourly detected phantom bombers in the sky; orders for the establishment of anti -sabotage measures; orders for careful guarding of industrial plants; orders for reconnaissance along our Southern border to prevent the entrance of spies; and orders to insure the safety of ports along the Gulf of Mexico. There were orders for rushing heavy bodies of troops to the West in anticipation of any attacks the Japanese might contemplate. In turn General Krueger’s headquarters had to send out instructions to a hundred stations as rapidly as they could be prepared and checked. It was a period of intense activity.

Immediacy of movement was the keynote. The normal channels of administration were abandoned; the chain of command was compressed at meetings where all echelons got their instructions in a single briefing; the slow and methodical process of drawing up detailed movement orders that specified to the last jot of equipment what should be taken with the troops, how it should be crated and marked , was ignored. A single telephone call would start an infantry unit across the continent; troops and equipment entrained with nothing in writing to show by what authority they moved. Guns were loaded on flatcars, if flatcars were available; on gondolas if they could be had; in freight cars if nothing else was at hand. The men traveled in de luxe Pullmans, in troop sleepers, in modern coaches, and in day cars that had been obsolete and sidetracked in the yards for a generation and were now drafted for emergency troop movements.

I had five days of this. Early in the morning of December 12 the telephone connecting us directly to the War Department in Washington began to jangle. I answered and someone inquired, “Is that you, Ike?”

“Yes.”

“The Chief says for you to hop a plane and get up here right away. Tell your boss that formal orders will come through later.” The “Chief” was General Marshall, and the man at the other end of the line was Colonel Walter Bedell Smith, who was later to become my close friend and chief of staff throughout the European operations.

Eisenhower, Dwight D. (2013-01-02). Crusade in Europe (Kindle Locations 353-374). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

There followed close work with Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall in Washington, culminating in a few months with another swift and critical action:

Our inspection team spent ten days in the United Kingdom . I returned home to report to the Chief of Staff that in my opinion the individual to take charge of the American effort in Europe should be someone thoroughly indoctrinated in the plans of the United States Government, with a working knowledge of our capabilities in the production of land, air, and naval units and materials to support them in offensive fighting. In his quick way General Marshall asked me who should take the job, and this time I had my answer ready. I recommended General McNarney. I knew that McNarney had previously served some months in London, was thoroughly familiar with the workings of the British service departments, and was acquainted with many of the key officers therein. Moreover, it was apparent that the earliest operations of the United States out of Great Britain would be limited to air raids, because the building up of the great air forces visualized in the invasion plan would have as a first result the initiation of a long and vigorous bombing campaign. Finally, I knew that General McNarney firmly believed in the Air Force’s ability to make ground invasion of France possible.

The Chief of Staff rejected this recommendation. He had just appointed McNarney Deputy Chief of Staff for the War Department and there was no other suitable officer to take over the post. 3 To insure integration and to build up mutual confidence, General Marshall felt it essential that, at that time, his deputy should be from the Air Corps.

On June 8, I submitted to the Chief of Staff a draft of a “Directive for the Commanding General, European Theater of Operations,” which provided for unified command of all American forces allocated to the European area. 4 I remarked to General Marshall that this was one paper he should read in detail before it went out because it was likely to be an important document in the further waging of the war. His reply still lives in my memory: “I certainly do want to read it. You may be the man who executes it. If that’s the case, when can you leave?” Three days later General Marshall told me definitely that I would command the European theater.

Eisenhower, Dwight D. (2013-01-02). Crusade in Europe (Kindle Locations 1013-1029). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Eisenhower would never command troops in battle. His contribution to the war effort was his organization of the forces of an alliance between Great Britain and the United States, a task that many of great wisdom loudly advised was unworkable. His success in keeping the alliance running smoothly and in making the critical strategic decisions contributed immensely to the defeat of Axis forces in Europe.

This book came out in 1948, and immediately Twentieth Century Fox acquired the rights to make a documentary. It aired on the ABC television network, and is now in the public domain. It was the first major documentary produced for television.

I have not finished my (second) reading of the book, but as I make progress I will post highlights of interest about this remarkable American hero and the events that careened around him.

Political Science

Science is a wholesome and beneficial enterprise, and it serves us well in figuring out how the universe works and what’s going on. We may not always like the answers we get from science, but we ignore the results of science at our own peril.

The conservative mindset has long had issues with scientific results. Back when the tobacco lobby held larger sway they wooed conservatives with campaign contributions. Politicians so entranced with this largess were inclined to shave points in the government’s battle to educate the public on the hazards of tobacco. What scientific research there was showed that tobacco smoking was addictive and that there was a strong positive correlation between smoking tobacco and lung cancer. Tobacco industry executives came before Congress and perjured themselves denying these findings, this despite knowing their own research had confirmed them:

Tobacco Chiefs Say Cigarettes Aren’t Addictive

By PHILIP J. HILTS,
Published: April 15, 1994

The top executives of the seven largest American tobacco companies testified in Congress today that they did not believe that cigarettes were addictive, but that they would rather their own children did not smoke.

The executives, sitting side by side at a conference table in what seemed to many a counterpoint to the growing antismoking sentiment in Congress, faced more than six hours of sharp questioning by members of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health and the Environment.

Under persistent questioning, each of the executives agreed to give Congress extensive, previously unpublicized research on humans and animals that their companies had done concerning nicotine and addiction.

Democratic Congressmen on the panel, inspired by recent news reports, pressed the executives on whether their companies manipulated the content of nicotine to keep smokers addicted to cigarettes. The executives acknowledged that nicotine levels could be and were controlled by altering the blends of tobacco, but they said this was done to enhance flavor, not to insure addiction.

Elsewhere we have seen a decades-long parade of conservative politicians defending the teaching of creationism (including the faddish Intelligent Design formulation) at public expense. In many cases it has been hard to tell whether these advocates are scientifically challenged or merely blinded by the lure of religious-based government.

Twenty years back I carried on a running dispute with a fellow (conservative) member of The North Texas Skeptics. This person was at odds with a lot of science relating to environmental issues. Environmental issues may sometimes require government action, and I get the idea talking to my conservative friends that government intervention is a bad thing and must be avoided. It also became apparent to me that because the scientific findings pointed to government action, the findings must be suspect. The hot topic twenty years ago was atmospheric ozone depletion.

Serious scientists had identified a problem, and politicians had determined a solution:

  • Ozone high in the stratosphere blocks harmful ultra-violet radiation, thus protecting those of us living on the earth’s surface.
  • This ozone layer was continuously formed by the action of that same ultra-violet radiation.
  • Chlorinated fluorocarbon compounds that migrate to the stratosphere become dissociated (the molecules broke up), releasing free chlorine, which precipitates the disintegration of ozone molecules.
  • The ozone layer is being thus depleted. Harmful effects were already apparent and would worsen if the process continued.
  • The culprit chlorinated fluorocarbons come exclusive from human activity, since we manufacture these substances, which do not normally appear in nature on the earth.
  • We were responsible for this calamity, and we needed to change our activities to eliminate the problem.
  • Government regulations were put into place to limit the production of chlorinated fluorocarbons.

My conservative friends vigorously denied the validity of the scientific findings, and this dialectic went on for a number of years, until…

Press Release

11 October 1995

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to

Professor Paul Crutzen, Max-Planck-Institute for Chemistry, Mainz, Germany (Dutch citizen),

Professor Mario Molina, Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences and Department of Chemistry, MIT, Cambridge, MA, USA and

Professor F. Sherwood Rowland, Department of Chemistry, University of California, Irvine, CA, USA

for their work in atmospheric chemistry, particularly concerning the formation and decomposition of ozone.

The ozone layer – The Achilles heel of the biosphere

The atmosphere surrounding the earth contains small quantities of ozone – a gas with molecules consisting of three oxygen atoms (O3). If all the ozone in the atmosphere were compressed to a pressure corresponding to that at the earth’s surface, the layer would be only 3 mm thick. But even though ozone occurs in such small quantities, it plays an exceptionally fundamental part in life on earth. This is because ozone, together with ordinary molecular oxygen (O2), is able to absorb the major part of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation and therefore prevent this dangerous radiation from reaching the surface. Without a protective ozone layer in the atmosphere, animals and plants could not exist, at least upon land. It is therefore of the greatest importance to understand the processes that regulate the atmosphere’s ozone content.

I have not heard about this too much since from my conservative friends. They have moved on to other topics, including anthropogenic global warming. I picked up on this recently. A link was posted on Facebook by a vocal conservative advocate. The item is by John Hawkins, and it appeared last week on RightWingNews.com. I am re-posting the entire piece for analysis:

5 Scientific Reasons That Global Warming Isn’t Happening

Written By : John Hawkins
February 18, 2014

How did global warming discussions end up hinging on what’s happening with polar bears, unverifiable predictions of what will happen in a hundred years and whether people are “climate deniers” or “global warming cultists?” If this is a scientific topic, why aren’t we spending more time discussing the science involved? Why aren’t we talking about the evidence and the actual data involved? Why aren’t we looking at the predictions that were made and seeing if they match up to the results? If this is such an open and shut case, why are so many people who care about science skeptical? Many Americans have long since thought that the best scientific evidence available suggested that man wasn’t causing any sort of global warming. However now, we can go even further and suggest that the planet isn’t warming at all.

1) There hasn’t been any global warming since 1997: If nothing changes in the next year, we’re going to have kids who graduate from high school who will have never seen any “global warming” during their lifetimes. That’s right, the temperature of the planet has essentially been flat for 17 years. This isn’t a controversial assertion either. Even the former director of the Climate Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, Phil Jones, admits that it’s true. Since the planet was cooling from 1940-1975 and the upswing in temperature afterwards only lasted 23 years, a 17 year pause is a big deal. It also begs an obvious question: How can we be experiencing global warming if there’s no actual “global warming?”

2) There is no scientific consensus that global warming is occurring and caused by man: Questions are not decided by “consensus.” In fact, many scientific theories that were once widely believed to be true were made irrelevant by new evidence. Just to name one of many, many examples, in the early seventies, scientists believed global cooling was occurring. However, once the planet started to warm up, they changed their minds. Yet, the primary “scientific” argument for global warming is that there is a “scientific consensus” that it’s occurring. Setting aside the fact that’s not a scientific argument, even if that ever was true (and it’s really wasn’t), it’s certainly not true any more. Over 31,000 scientists have signed on to a petition saying humans aren’t causing global warming. More than 1000 scientists signed on to another report saying there is no global warming at all. There are tens of thousands of well-educated, mainstream scientists who do not agree that global warming is occurring at all and people who share their opinion are taking a position grounded in science.

3) Arctic ice is up 50% since 2012: The loss of Arctic ice has been a big talking point for people who believe global warming is occurring. Some people have even predicted that all of the Arctic ice would melt by now because of global warming. Yet, Arctic ice is up 50% since 2012. How much Arctic ice really matters is an open question since the very limited evidence we have suggests that a few decades ago, there was less ice than there is today, but the same people who thought the drop in ice was noteworthy should at least agree that the increase is important as well.

4) Climate models showing global warming have been wrong over and over: These future projections of what global warming will do to the planet have been based on climate models. Essentially, scientists make assumptions about how much of an impact different factors will have, they guess how much of a change there will be and then they project changes over time. Unfortunately, almost all of these models showing huge temperature gains have turned out to be wrong.

Former NASA scientist Dr. Roy Spencer says that climate models used by government agencies to create policies “have failed miserably.” Spencer analyzed 90 climate models against surface temperature and satellite temperature data, and found that more than 95 percent of the models “have over-forecast the warming trend since 1979, whether we use their own surface temperature dataset (HadCRUT4), or our satellite dataset of lower tropospheric temperatures (UAH).”

There’s an old saying in programming that goes, “Garbage in, garbage out.” In other words, if the assumptions and data you put into the models are faulty, then the results will be worthless. If the climate models that show a dire impact because of global warming aren’t reliable — and they’re not — then the long term projections they make are meaningless.

5) Predictions about the impact of global warming have already been proven wrong: The debate over global warming has been going on long enough that we’ve had time to see whether some of the predictions people made about it have panned out in the real world. For example, Al Gore predicted all the Arctic ice would be gone by 2013. In 2005, the Independent ran an article saying that the Artic had entered a death spiral.

Scientists fear that the Arctic has now entered an irreversible phase of warming which will accelerate the loss of the polar sea ice that has helped to keep the climate stable for thousands of years….The greatest fear is that the Arctic has reached a “tipping point” beyond which nothing can reverse the continual loss of sea ice and with it the massive land glaciers of Greenland, which will raise sea levels dramatically.

Meanwhile, Arctic ice is up 50% since 2012. James Hansen of NASA fame predicted that the The West Side Highway in New York would be under water by now because of global warming.

If the climate models and the predictions about global warming aren’t even close to being correct, wouldn’t it be more scientific to reject hasty action based on faulty data so that we can further study the issue and find out what’s really going on?

I will start with Hawkins’ statement of the problem: “How did global warming discussions end up hinging on what’s happening with polar bears, unverifiable predictions…”

That’s probably the best point he makes in the entire piece. There are a lot of people out there who, while possessing an earnest belief in the basis for global warming, have no real knowledge about the science. There are alarmists making unverifiable predictions, predictions that are almost certainly baseless. It’s good that Hawkins brings this up. Unfortunately for him it does nothing toward making his case, namely that he is presenting “5 Scientific Reasons That Global Warming Isn’t Happening.

Let’s move on to Hawkins’ first point:

1) There hasn’t been any global warming since 1997:

This is a good statement for Hawkins to start with, because it has the possibility of real science. It makes a definite claim, and the claim has the possibility of invalidating the theory of global warming. The problem with this statement is merely that it is false. I have in the past posted the following figure:

It’s from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Goddard Institute for Space Studies Web site. The line representing the 5-year running mean climbs up through 2005 at least. If you look at the remainder of the plot, there has been a progressive increase in the temperature index since 1900, with a dip following 1940 and a steady climb since about 1970. There have been periods since 1960 that the index has not increased, but Hawkins’ statement (hasn’t been any global warming since 1997) is technically not true, and the hiatus of the past few years is not inconsistent with the trend of global warming.

Hawkins’ point number 1 is invalid and is definitely not a Scientific Reason That Global Warming Isn’t Happening.

2) There is no scientific consensus that global warming is occurring and caused by man:

Hawkins wants to make the point that “Questions are not decided by consensus.” Actually, in real science they are. If a scientist has a new idea, a new theory for example, this idea gets kicked around and studied by other scientists knowledgeable in the subject. When a reasonable consensus is obtained, the idea or theory gets incorporated into the body of science, and others begin to use it as a basis for additional study. Here are some interesting histories of theories that went through the process:

  • Phlogiston was thought to be a substance associated with heat. It sounded good, and scientists attempted to use it for years. Eventually they came across instances that were in contradiction, and the theory was discarded.
  • Aether was supposed to be a substance that permeated all of space and was he vehicle for the transmission of light waves. An experiment about 150 years ago by Albert Michelson and Edward Morley attempted to use the concept to measure the absolute motion of the earth through the aether. They achieved negative results (the aether theory did not work), and the aether theory was discarded.
  • On the other hand the theory of continental drift was proposed about 100 years ago by Alfred Wegener. Wegener had a lot going for his theory, there was the appearance that continents had moved. However, Wegener’s proposal did not include a workable mechanism for continental movement, and it was rejected until well after he was dead from a polar exploration accident. In the 1960s scientists established conclusively that the continents were moving, and they further formulated a model of the earth’s interior that accounted for the movement. The scientific consensus now is that continents are moving. This movement can be measured by GPS, and measurements show that North America and Europe are separating at about one inch per year.

That is scientific consensus. It’s formed by real scientists doing real science. It’s not formed by passing around a petition for people to sign as Hawkins alludes to: “Over 31,000 scientists have signed on to a petition saying humans aren’t causing global warming.”

I have seen this kind of thing before. The National Center for Science Education came up with Project Steve to counter a list of 500 (the number varies) scientists who dispute the fact of biological evolution:

Project Steve

October 17th, 2008

NCSE’s “Project Steve” is a tongue-in-cheek parody of a long-standing creationist tradition of amassing lists of “scientists who doubt evolution” or “scientists who dissent from Darwinism.”Creationists draw up these lists to try to convince the public that evolution is somehow being rejected by scientists, that it is a “theory in crisis.” Not everyone realizes that this claim is unfounded. NCSE has been asked numerous times to compile a list of thousands of scientists affirming the validity of the theory of evolution. Although we easily could have done so, we have resisted. We did not wish to mislead the public into thinking that scientific issues are decided by who has the longer list of scientists!

Project Steve pokes fun at this practice and, because “Steves” are only about 1% of scientists, it also makes the point that tens of thousands of scientists support evolution. And it honors the late Stephen Jay Gould, evolutionary biologist, NCSE supporter, and friend.

We’d like to think that after Project Steve, we’ll have seen the last of bogus “scientists doubting evolution” lists, but it’s probably too much to ask. We hope that when such lists are proposed, reporters and other citizens will ask, “How many Steves are on your list!?”

What the NCSE did was to come up with a list of scientists who back the theory of biological evolution, but they limited their list to only people named Steve or variations of the name, e.g., Stephanie. The NCSE list easily trumped  the creationists’ list.

A few years ago I took the creationists’ list of 500 and picked one at random. When I tracked the guy down I found out he was not really associated with the ccollege/university listed, and he was not a working scientist.

The EcoGeek has done something similar with the Global Warming Petition Project:

31,000 “Scientists” (Some Dead) Refute Global Warming

Written by Dave Loos on 20/05/08

In keeping with the amount of virtual ink this item deserves, we’re going to try and keep this short. The Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine held a press conference this morning to announce that 31,000 “scientists” have signed apetition rejecting claims of human-caused global warming.

According to OISM officials, the purpose of the Petition Project is to demonstrate that “the claim of ‘settled science’ and an overwhelming ‘consensus’ in favor of the hypothesis of human-caused global warming and consequent climate damage is wrong.”

So what does it take to be included among the 31,000 “experts” on the petition? Well, according to the OISM criteria, any undergraduate science degree will do just fine. Bet you never thought that BS you earned 20 years ago made you a qualified climatologist. Congratulations!

OISM also wants to let you know that 9,021 of the signers hold PhDs. They don’t specify what the doctorates are in, but they repeat that figure quite a bit, as if it means something. Since the group was nice enough to list all 31,000 signers, including the dead people, let’s take a look at the qualifications of three randomly-selected “climate experts.”

  • W. Kline Bolton, M.D. is a professor of medicine and Nephrology Division Chief at the University of Virginia. Nephrology deals with the study of the function and diseases of the  kidney.
  • Zhonggang Zeng is one of the 9,000 with a PhD. He is a professor of mathematics at Northeastern Illinois University. His most recent publication is entitled “Computing multiple roots of inexact polynomials.”
  • Hub Hougland is a dentist in Muncie, Indiana. He was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame last year.

We have encountered the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine before. Robert Park is a physicist who has long written a “What’s New” on skeptical and anti-religious issues. Not allowing the scent of plagiarism to bother me, I have regularly re-posted his comments. Here’s one:

Political climate: what’s right for the American people?
One of the purported abuses cited in the minority staff report involved the insertion into an EPA report of a reference to a paper by Soon and Baliunas that denies global warming (WN 1 Aug 03). To appreciate its significance, we need to go back to March of 1998. We all got a petition card in the mail urging the government to reject the Kyoto accord (WN 13 Mar 98). The cover letter was signed by “Frederick Seitz, Past President, National Academy of Sciences.” Enclosed was what seemed to be a reprint of a journal article, in the style and font of Proceedings of the NAS. But it had not been published in PNAS, or anywhere else. The reprint was a fake. Two of the four authors of this non- article were Soon and Baliunas. The other authors, both named Robinson, were from the tiny Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine in Cave Junction, OR. The article claimed that the environmental effects of increased CO2 are all beneficial. There was also a copy of Wall Street Journal op-ed by the Robinsons (father and son) that described increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere as “a wonderful and unexpected gift of the industrial revolution.” There was no indication of who had paid for the mailing. It was a dark episode in the annals of scientific discourse.

That was from the September 2003 issue of The North Texas Skeptic, and is posted on the What’s New site at http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN03/wn080803.html.

The Motley Fool site also took a dig at beloved old OISM and included remarks from Bob Park:

The Oregon Petition again! Definitely one for a putative FAQ.

Here are some facts about the petition; the text was authored by the late Frederick Seitz. Seitz used to be the chairman of both the Science and Environmental Policy Project and the George C.Marshall Institute. Both organisations are funded by ExxonMobil and both deny that manmade climate change is happening

The petition was widely circulated “Virtually every scientist in every field got it,” says Robert Park, professor of physics at the University of Maryland at College Park and spokesman for the American Physical Society. “That’s a big mailing.” According to the National Science Foundation, there are more than half a million science or engineering PhDs in the United States, and ten million individuals with first degrees in science or engineering.. (Emgineers outnumber Earth scientists in the petition by about 3 to 1).

Seitz attached what appeared to be a reprint of a scientific paper – a ‘review’ of the science of climate change. The review mimicked the font and format of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, of which Seitz was a past president, but it was in fact written by a Christian fundamentalist called Arthur B. Robinson, who has never worked as a climate scientist, his 22-year old son and two employees of the George C. Marshall Institute, Willie Soon and Sallie Balliunas. Robinson runs theOregon Institute of Science and Medicine which sounds impressive but is in fact a barn in the small rural town of Cave Junction. Soon after the petition was published, the NAS released a blunt statement:

The Council of the National Academy of Sciences is concerned about the confusion caused by a petition being circulated via a letter from a former president of this Academy. The petition was mailed with an op-ed article from The Wall Street Journal and a manuscript in a format that is nearly identical to that of scientific articles published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The NAS Council would like to make it clear that this petition has nothing to do with the National Academy of Sciences and that the manuscript was not published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences or in any other peer-reviewed journal.

The petition does not reflect the conclusions of expert reports of the Academy.

Chicanery indeed. Anyone claiming to hold a degree may sign and it has been repeatedly spoofed by environmentalists; previously signed by the cast of M*A*S*H, (Dr. Frank Burns, Dr B. J. Honeycutt etc geddit?), Michael J Fox, John Grisham and ‘Dr’ Gerri Halliwell (twice).

Scientific American took a sample of 30 of the 1,400 signatories claiming to hold a Ph.D. in a climate-related science:

Of the 26 we were able to identify in various databases, 11 said they still agreed with the petition – one was an active climate researcher, two others had relevant expertise, and eight signed based on an informal evaluation. Six said they would not sign the petition today, three did not remember any such petition, one had died, and five did not answer repeated messages. Crudely extrapolating, the petition supporters include a core of about 200 climate researchers.

and in 2005, journalist Tom Shelly found In less than 10 minutes of casual scanning, I found duplicate names (Did two Joe R. Eaglemans and two David Tompkins sign the petition, or were some individuals counted twice?), single names without even an initial (Biolchini), corporate names (Graybeal & Sayre, Inc. How does a business sign a petition?), and an apparently phony single name (Redwine, Ph.D.). These examples underscore a major weakness of the list: there is no way to check the authenticity of the names. Names are given, but no identifying information (e.g., institutional affiliation) is provided. Why the lack of transparency?

So, still waiting for those scientific facts,
Sources :
Frederick Seitz:
http://www.exxonsecrets.org/html/personfactsheet.php?id=6
Marshall Institute
http://www.exxonsecrets.org/html/orgfactsheet.php?id=36
SEPP
http://www.exxonsecrets.org/html/orgfactsheet.php?id=65
Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine :
http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Oregon_Institute_…
http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/10/oregon…
The ‘paper’ and petition
http://www.realclimate.org/wiki/index.php?title=OISM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oregon_petition
http://naturalscience.com/ns/forum/forum01b.html

[Some text deleted]

From first appearances it would seem John Hawkins draws from fraudulent sources to make his argument. Let me add that he also also appears to do so from second, third, fourth and fifth appearances, as well.

The real scientific consensus is available to all who care to read:

The scientific opinion on climate change is that the Earth’s climate system is unequivocally warming, and it is extremely likely (at least 95% probability) that humans are causing most of it through activities that increase concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such as deforestation and burning fossil fuels. In addition, it is likely that some potential further greenhouse gas warming has been offset by increased aerosols. This scientific consensus is expressed in synthesis reports, by scientific bodies of national or international standing, and by surveys of opinion among climate scientists. Individual scientists, universities, and laboratories contribute to the overall scientific opinion via their peer-reviewed publications, and the areas of collective agreement and relative certainty are summarised in these high level reports and surveys.

National and international science academies and scientific societies have assessed current scientific opinion on climate change. These assessments are generally consistent with the conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), summarized below:

  • Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as evidenced by increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, the widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level.
  • Most of the global warming since the mid-20th century is very likely due to human activities.
  • “Benefits and costs of climate change for [human] society will vary widely by location and scale. Some of the effects in temperate and polar regions will be positive and others elsewhere will be negative. Overall, net effects are more likely to be strongly negative with larger or more rapid warming.”
  • “[…] the range of published evidence indicates that the net damage costs of climate change are likely to be significant and to increase over time”
  • “The resilience of many ecosystems is likely to be exceeded this century by an unprecedented combination of climate change, associated disturbances (e.g. flooding, drought, wildfire, insects, ocean acidification) and other global change drivers (e.g. land-use change, pollution, fragmentation of natural systems, over-exploitation of resources)”

No scientific body of national or international standing maintains a formal opinion dissenting from any of these main points; the last was the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, which in 2007 updated its 1999 statement rejecting the likelihood of human influence on recent climate with its current non-committal position. Some other organizations, primarily those focusing on geology, also hold non-committal positions.

[Some links removed]

The critical wording is in the last paragraph: “No scientific body of national or international standing maintains a formal opinion dissenting from any of these main points…”

Hawkins’ second point is without merit and mirrors a gross misconception of all science, including climate science, held by the scientifically uneducated.

3) Arctic ice is up 50% since 2012:

The first thing that can be said about this is that it is not a scientific reason “that global warming isn’t happening.” Actually, that’s the only thing that needs to be said about Hawkins’ point 3, but I will say more.

Joe For America posted a similar claim last year, and I countered it at the time:

JFA does not say which polar ice cap—there are two, one north, one south—so I’m going to have to look at both. First the Arctic cap. Here’s a news item from that left wing liberal source, the New York Times:

Sea ice in the Arctic Ocean underwent a sharp recovery this year from the record-low levels of 2012, with 50 percent more ice surviving the summer melt season, scientists said Friday. It is the largest one-year increase in Arctic ice since satellite tracking began in 1978.

The experts added, however, that much of the ice remains thin and slushy, a far cry from the thick Arctic pack ice of the past. Because thin ice is subject to rapid future melting, the scientists said this year’s recovery was unlikely to portend any change in the relentless long-term decline of Arctic sea ice.

Hawkins is batting 0 for 3 so far. In real science Hawkins should be playing defense by now. Instead he keeps on throwing out unsubstantiated assertions. This is getting to be fun. Here’s the next:

4) Climate models showing global warming have been wrong over and over:

This is not even close to being a scientific argument. Hawkins’ argument is supposed to be that global warming isn’t happening. A statement about failed predictions has no connection to his argument. I will go to Hawkins’ final point:

5) Predictions about the impact of global warming have already been proven wrong:

Really? Somebody makes wrong predictions about the impact of global warming, and this is supposed to disprove the science behind global warming? This in no way resembles a scientific argument. Let me give you a parallel example:

The theory of gravity states that the attraction between two bodies is inversely proportional to the square of the distance between the two.

  • Somebody says, “For example, two spheres.”
  • I say yes.
  • They say “A big steel ball the size of the earth and a small steel ball the size of a bowling ball.”
  • I say yes.
  • They say, “At or near the surface of the big ball the centers of the two are about 4000 miles apart.”
  • I say yes.
  • They say, “Now I bore a hole 3999 miles deep into the big ball and lower the small ball to the bottom of the hole. Now the center of the big ball is only one mile from the center of the big ball. The attraction should now be about 16,000,000 as great. But it isn’t. In fact, it’s almost zero. This is a contradiction of your supposed theory of gravity, so the theory of gravity is all wrong.”

Somebody please do the physics. Isaac Newton did it over 300 years ago.

I have not gone to the same depth in analyzing every one of Hawkins’ points. I should not have to. Analysis of the first three has demonstrated the scientific vacuity of his argument. If any reader wants me to I will provide additional detail to back up my statement that Hawkins’ argument is lacking in either scientific merit or factual basis or both. This is a case of politics attempting to trump science. It’s the same approach political conservatives took against the health effects of tobacco and the facts behind ozone depletion, and it’s the same approach they are currently taking against the science behind biological evolution.

The strident conservative who posted the Hawkins link has since unfriended me on Facebook. She likes to post a load of crap like this and then avoid taking the heat when it is due. I have called this tactic Ring and Run. I get this a lot from people who cannot withstand a serious challenge to their world of myth, and I have lost multiple conservative Facebook friends over time.

Take it as you will, readers. The title of this blog is Skeptical Analysis, and I do like to give bullshit a rough ride. Learn to live with it.

The Hinge of Fate

This post is about the movie The Petrified Forest, but the real story is in the book by Winston Churchill The Hinge of Fate from his collection The Second World War.

The movie came out in 1936, and it’s about Alan Squier (Leslie Howard), an out of work drifter making his way across the Arizona desert during the Great Depression.

People, it just doesn’t get much worse than this. This part of the world is absolutely dry, and besides that, economic opportunities are close to nil. There is one bright spot, however, and that’s the gas station and eatery run by Jason Maples with the help of his attractive daughter Gabrielle (Bette Davis).

Poor Alan is trudging along the desert road and finally arrives at the gas station, where he mooches a meal he has no money to pay for. He is a failed intellectual and writer, and in Gabrielle he finds a kindred soul.

Lurking in the background, however, is infamous gangster Duke Mantee (Humphrey Bogart). Constant radio updates alert everybody that Mantee and his gang of desperadoes are the subject of a police dragnet and are headed in the direction of the Maples gas station. The tension mounts.

I’m not going to lay out the plot, but eventually Mantee and his gang arrive and take over the gas station, holding all captive while Mantee waits for his girlfriend to come by separate transportation. Then they are going to take hostages and make their escape.

Alan sees his own escape. He makes a deal with Mantee. He wants Mantee to shoot him before he leaves, ending his miserable existence. In the end the police arrive, and two surviving members of the Mantee gang escape in a hail of gunfire, but only after Mantee fulfills his final promise to Alan. Alan dies in sweet Gabrielle’s arms as word comes that police have caught up with and killed the remainder of the gang.

How heroic.

Of course, being the critic that I am, I notice some gaping flaws in the script and the production.

  • Early on Gabrielle’s grandpa is reading a newspaper. The headlines blare that in a recent exchange Mantee has killed six people and fatally wounded two others. Does anybody besides me notice that “fatally wounded” means the same as “killed?” The headline should have stated that Mantee killed eight people.
  • Also, in the end Mantee shoots Alan then skedaddles out the front door and speeds off into the night. Alan dies, and a phone call comes announcing that the police have killed Mantee and the other surviving gang member. People, this is during the Great Depression of the 1930s. There were no cell phones in those days. The nearest other habitation is miles away. And the police have phoned in the results of the encounter barely three minutes after the gang drives off. Are you kidding me?

All right, I will give allowances this movie was drafted straight from a stage production, and on live stage you don’t have the luxury of dissolving the scene to 30 minutes later when the police are finally able to make their phone call.

And that’s the end of the story, except for British actor Leslie Howard.

Howard was born Leslie Howard Steiner to a British mother, Lilian (née Blumberg), and a Hungarian father, Ferdinand Steiner, in Forest Hill, London, UK. His father was Jewish and his mother was raised a Christian; her own grandfather was a Jewish immigrant from East Prussia who had married into the English upper classes. He was educated at Alleyn’s School, London. Like many others around the time of the First World War, the family changed their name, using “Stainer” as less German-sounding. He worked as a bank clerk before enlisting at the outbreak of the First World War. He served in the British Army as a subaltern in the Northamptonshire Yeomanry, but suffered shell shock, which led to his relinquishing his commission in May 1916.

[Links removed]

Howard went on to bigger movie rolls, including Ashley Wilkes in Gone With the Wind. When World War 2 came along he returned to England:

Howard’s Second World War activities included acting and filmmaking. He was active in anti-Nazi propaganda and reputedly involved with British or Allied Intelligence, which may have led to his death in 1943 when an airliner on which he was a passenger was shot down over the Bay of Biscay, sparking conspiracy theories regarding his death.

Here is what Winston Churchill had to say:

Eden and I flew home together by Gibraltar. As my presence in North Africa had been fully reported, the Germans were exceptionally vigilant, and this led to a tragedy which much distressed me. The regular commercial aircraft was about to start from the Lisbon airfield when a thickset man smoking a cigar walked up and was thought to be a passenger on it. The German agents therefore signalled that I was on board. Although these passenger planes had plied unmolested for many months between Portugal and England, a German war plane was instantly ordered out, and the defenceless aircraft was ruthlessly shot down. Thirteen passengers perished, and among them the well-known British actor Leslie Howard, whose grace and gifts are still preserved for us by the records of the many delightful films in which he took part. The brutality of the Germans was only matched by the stupidity of their agents. It is difficult to understand how anyone could imagine that with all the resources of Great Britain at my disposal I should have booked a passage in an unarmed and unescorted plane from Lisbon and flown home in broad daylight. We of course made a wide loop out by night from Gibraltar into the ocean, and arrived home without incident. It was a painful shock to me to learn what had happened to others in the inscrutable workings of Fate.

Churchill, Winston (2010-07-01). The Hinge of Fate (Winston Churchill World War II Collection) (Kindle Locations 13472-13481). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

War on Christianity

I am so very sorry

I have this feeling. Haven’t I been over this before. Maybe yes:

I previously wrote about the war on Christianity. I made a big joke about it then. There is more, however. Apparently there really is a war on Christianity, and it’s being waged by no less than the United Nations. A conservative friend posted this on Facebook. I have copied and pasted the ensuing exchange with some editing to remove superfluous text and to obscure the identity of some participants:

The post centered on a short Facebook exchange and ended when I posted the whole mess on this blog. In the result I was unfriended and lost the ability to comment further on the thread. I groused about my misfortune and in a fit of poor sportsmanship I posted my final say so:

It’s an old game, but I got the title from a not quite as old TV show. It’s called “ring and run,” and what you do, if you’re a kid, is to ring somebody’s doorbell and skedaddle before they can get to the door. See what fun it is? You make somebody go to all the trouble for nothing, but the best part is, you don’t get caught. You get to leave your message and not have to answer for the consequences.

That’s all come and gone, but the supposed war on Christianity surges forward, at least in the minds of some:

Conservative Tribune

We’ve seen this happen in Syria, where the destabilization that the civil war caused allowed the allies of al-Qaeda come in and begin slaughtering Christians.  In Egypt, the Coptic Christians had no help from the Muslim Brotherhood as they suffered serious persecution after Mubarak’s regime fell.  In Iran, Christian pastor Saeed Abedini has been imprisoned since September 2012 by the Islamic radicals who run the country.

Well glory be. What a stunning news break. Muslim extremists are killing people, especially Christians. Who would have thought it?

Wait! Here’s an even later news break. Al-Qaeda operatives are also killing Jews, Hindus and Muslims. These snarly rascals are giving religious conservatism a bad name. They are killing anybody who looks at them sideways.

And the president is not jumping up and down about the murder of Christians? Conservative Tribune, you need to find some real news to report.

Of course the outcry doesn’t end there, and am I ever glad. Else I would have little to write about. Now we have this:

Arizona SB 1062 is a legislative Act in the U.S. state of Arizona, introduced by Senator Steve Yarbrough. The bill is one of several state bills that would allow anyone in the state to legally refuse business or service to LGBT people based on religious freedom. The bill was passed by the Republican-controlled Senate, along party lines, it was also passed by the Republican-controlled state House. Governor Jan Brewer, also Republican has until February 28 to act. The bill will become law if she does not either sign or veto the bill, only once has she allowed a bill to become law without her signature.

It would be a first-of-its-kind amendment to religious freedom laws in the U.S.

Section 41-1493 of the Arizona Revised Statutes regulates who can claim religious freedom or exercise thereof as a defense in a lawsuit. AB 1062 revises that law by expanding the definition of who is a person to “any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, religious assembly or institution, estate, trust, foundation or other legal entity”, and allows for religious-freedom lawsuits “regardless of whether the government is a party to the proceeding.”

[Extraneous links removed]

Here is the text of the bill.

Many believe the bill was prompted by litigation in neighboring New Mexico. I touched on this in a previous post:

BEFORE THE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO
VANESSA WILLOCK
Complainant, v. ELANE PHOTOGRAPHY, LLC,
Respondent.
DECISION AND FINAL ORDER
HRD No. 06-12-20-0685
THIS MATTER came before the New Mexico Human Rights Commission for determination of a discrimination claim based on sexual orientation, brought by the Complainant, Vanessa Willock, against the Respondent, Elane Photography, LLC. The designated hearing officer, Lois Dogliani, heard the above-captioned matter in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on January 28,2008. The Complainant appeared, gave witness testimony and was represented at the hearing by her attomey, Julie Sakura. The Respondent appeared through its representative and co-owner, Elaine Huguenin, and was represented at the hearing by its attorney, Jordan Lorence.

Conservative legislators in Arizona don’t want the same kind of thing to happen in their state, and the bill is their defense against businesses having to work with unsavory members of society.

A prime mover was the Alliance Defending Freedom:

Alliance Defending Freedom is a servant ministry building an alliance to keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel by transforming the legal system and advocating for religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family.

Recognizing the need for a strong, coordinated legal defense against growing attacks on religious freedom, more than 30 prominent Christian leaders launched Alliance Defending Freedom in 1994. Over the past 18 years, this unique legal ministry has brought together thousands of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations that work tirelessly to advocate for the right of people to freely live out their faith in America and around the world.

There’s additional information on Wikipedia:

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF, formerly Alliance Defense Fund) is an American conservative Christian nonprofit organization with the stated goal of “defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.” ADF was founded in 1994 by Bill Bright (founder, Campus Crusade for Christ), Larry Burkett (founder,Crown Financial Ministries), James Dobson (founder, Focus on the Family), D. James Kennedy (founder, Coral Ridge Ministries), Marlin Maddoux (president, International Christian Media), and Donald Wildmon (founder, American Family Association), along with the leadership of over thirty other conservative Christian organizations.

ADF supports the inclusion of invocations at public meetings and the use of religious displays (such as crosses and other religious monuments) on public lands and in public buildings.[3] The ADF opposes abortion, and believes that healthcare workers have a right to decline participation in the performance of abortions and other practices an individual health worker finds morally objectionable. ADF opposes same-sex marriage and civil unions, as well as adoption by same-sex couples based on their belief that children are best raised by a married mother and father. ADF believes parents should be able to opt their children out of sex education in schools that run counter to a family’s religious beliefs.

ADF states that it has “had various roles of significance” in thirty-eight wins before the United States Supreme Court, including such cases as Rosenberger v. University of Virginia,Schenck v. Pro-Choice Network of Western New York, and Boy Scouts of America v. Dale. ADF is representing a litigant in Perry v. Schwarzenegger.

On July 9, 2012, the Alliance Defense Fund changed its name to Alliance Defending Freedom. The name change was a strategic initiative designed to reflect the organization’s shift in focus from funding allied attorneys to litigating cases.

Alan Sears heads up the ADF:

Alan Sears has served as president, CEO, and general counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom since its founding in 1993. He leads the strategy, training, funding, and litigation efforts of this alliance-building legal ministry that brings together thousands of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations to protect religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family in America and around the world.

He is also author, along with Craig Osten of The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today [Kindle Edition]:

Authors Alan Sears and Craig Osten expose the goals of the homosexual movement and its rising legal activism. The homosexual agenda has as its primary aim to “trump” the rights of all other groups, especially those of people of faith. The saddest part of the story is that it is working. In 1988, 74.9 percent of the American public thought that sex between two people of the same gender was always wrong. By 1998, the percentage had fallen to 54.6 percent. Sears and Osten provide well-documented proof that America; is not only becoming more tolerant of homosexuality, through the indoctrination of children, positive exposure on TV, and the support and approval of corporate America, it is becoming less tolerant of those who disagree.

I have purchased a copy of the book and will be doing a review in the future. If you don’t see my review after a few weeks have passed, then send me a hammer by e-mail to remind me.

Some people call me cynical, but I am beginning to suspect that AB 1062 is a lot about protecting religious people from having to deal with homosexuals. Apparently others feel the same way, and you all know how it makes me feel whenever I find myself in the main stream. However, I’ve gone this far, so let me plow ahead.

What got me onto the Arizona case tonight was watching Anderson Cooper on CNN. If you have just come back from several years at the South Pole, then I need to remind you that Cooper is a major news anchor and commentator on CNN. And he is also openly homosexual. How about that for adding juice to his interview with Arizona State Senator Al Melvin:

08:06 PM ET

Arizona Republican State Senator Al Melvin voted for SB-1062 and wants Governor Brewer to sign it. His interview tonight with Anderson ran too long for air. The full unedited conversation which included NYU Law Professor Kenji Yoshino is available here in two parts.

Andy Towle has posted significant text of the interview:

Anderson Cooper Destroys Arizona GOP State Senator’s Defense of Anti-Gay Law: VIDEO

02/24/2014

On AC360 tonight, Anderson Cooper confronted Arizona State Senator and gubernatorial candidate Al Melvin about SB 1062, the bill that would allow businesses to discriminate against gays based on religious beliefs. Constitutional law professor Kenji Yoshino joined the debate and spent the segment rebutting Melvin’s arguments.

Melvin either didn’t appear to know or didn’t want to admit that his state can already fire someone for being gay because sexual orientation is not included in the state’s anti-discrimination statutes. Melvin also couldn’t give an incredulous Anderson Cooper a single instance in which someone has been discriminated against based on their religious beliefs.

Said Melvin:

“Not now. No. But how ’bout tomorrow?”

Using a hypothetical situation under the proposed law, Anderson went on to ask the Senator if, because Jesus spoke against divorce, he would support a business person who wanted to discriminate against a divorced woman or an unwed mother.

“I think you’re being far-fetched with all due respect sir. As a Christian, as most God-fearing men and women would respect unwed mothers, divorced women, who would discriminate them? I’ve never heard of discriminating against people like that. I never have…”

Melvin’s only response was to return to his wingnut talking points:

“All of the pillars of society are under attack in the United States, including religious freedom…We want to protect traditional marriage. Traditional families…”

Finally, Anderson blasts Melvin when he can’t say if he believes it is discrimination if someone is fired for their sexual orientation.

There’s probably a good reason I’m not a TV anchor. However, I would like the chance to interview somebody like Al Melvin in this case. I watched through the video, and there were questions I kept wanting Cooper to ask:

“How is this bill going to protect religious liberty? Let’s play through a scenario. I’m sure when you were considering whether to vote for this bill you thought about how enforcement would play out. Please do that for me. Run the tape starting at the point where a religiously repugnant person pushes through the front door of an Arizona business, and demands service. Finish up at the point where the deeply offended business owner invokes SB-1064 and tells the deviant to get lost.”

Senator Al Melvin refused to consider any of the cases Cooper proposed in the interview. When it was brought to his attention he shrugged off suggestions that a business might show an unwed mother the door.

In all sincerity, it is unlikely a real business would do exactly that. I mean, there are varying levels of repugnance. Why turn down the sale of a $3500 wedding gown just because the bride is showing six months already? There is, after all, the business bottom line.

And it appears the bottom line is about to win out in Arizona:

As expected, the measure has drawn criticism from Democrats and business groups who said it would sanction discrimination and open the state to the risk of damaging litigation.

On Friday, the LGBT group Wingspan staged a protest march to the governor’s office that drew about 200 people. Some carried signs with messages “God created us all equal” and “Shame on Arizona.”

Tucson-based Rocco’s Little Chicago Pizzeria posted a photo on its Facebook page of a sign with a message for state lawmakers: “We reserve the right to refuse service to Arizona legislators.”

“It’s a ridiculous bill,” pizzeria manager Evan Stevens told CNN on Friday. “Arizona has much bigger problems than allowing businesses to discriminate against people.”

In a statement, Anna Tovar, the state senate Democratic minority leader, said: “With the express consent of Republicans in this Legislature, many Arizonans will find themselves members of a separate and unequal class under this law because of their sexual orientation. This bill may also open the door to discriminate based on race, familial status, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability.”

The Greater Phoenix Economic Council, in a letter to Brewer on Friday, urged the governor to veto Senate Bill 1062, saying the “legislation will likely have profound, negative effects on our business community for years to come.”

“The legislation places businesses currently in Arizona, as well as those looking to locate here, in potentially damaging risk of litigation, and costly, needless legal disputes,” council President Barry Broome wrote, adding that four unidentified companies have vowed to locate elsewhere if the legislation is signed.

He added, “With major events approaching in the coming year, including Super Bowl XLIX, Arizona will be the center of the world’s stage. This legislation has the potential of subjecting the Super Bowl, and major events surrounding it, to the threats of boycotts.”

Some of the Republican lawmakers who originally voted in favor of the bill are now wishing to change their vote. There is religious preference, and there is profit. A little hand-holding with evil may not be all that bad. I am reminded of a Russian proverb that I came across reading Winston Churchill’s book Closing the Ring from The Second World War. It’s a long clip, and the cutting line is at the end. I have highlighted it:

From the moment when the Armistice was signed and when the Italian Fleet loyally and courageously joined the Allies, I felt myself bound to work with the King of Italy and Marshal Badoglio, at least until Rome should be occupied by the Allies and we could construct a really broad-based Italian Government for the prosecution of the war jointly with us. I was sure that King Victor Emmanuel and Badoglio would be able to do more for what had now become the common cause than any Italian Government formed from the exiles or opponents of the Fascist régime. The surrender of the Italian Fleet was solid proof of their authority. On the other hand, there were the usual arguments against having anything to do with those who had worked with or helped Mussolini, and immediately there grew an endless series of intrigues among the six or seven Leftish parties in Rome to get rid of the King and Badoglio and take the power themselves. Considering the critical nature of the battle and the supreme importance of getting Italy to fight with a good heart on our side, I resisted these movements whenever they came to my notice. In this I was supported by Marshal Stalin, who followed the Russian maxim, “You may always walk with the Devil till you get to the end of the bridge.”

Churchill, Winston (2010-07-01). Closing the Ring (Winston Churchill World War II Collection) (Kindle Locations 3056-3065). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Shroud of Evidence

I do believe I covered this topic before. It turns out it was nearly 24 years ago. The following originally appeared in the September/October issue of The Skeptic:

The Shroud Comes to Plano

by John Blanton

On a Saturday in August a friend of mine who is an ardent creationist phoned me to tell me about an exhibit he had just attended. A shopping mall in Plano was featuring a rather impressive display of photos and history of the famous “Shroud of Turin,” said by its proponents to have been the burial cloth of Jesus, and said by its detractors to be a fourteenth century artifact. The evidence, I was told, was impressive. I took this as some testimonial by someone who was not a Catholic and resolved to take in the exhibit before it closed.

The display lived up to all of its billing. The centerpiece consisted of three large color transparencies fitted together to form a life-size photo of the cloth (which usually is kept in a silver case at a church in Turin, Italy). Mounted display panels told the story of the Shroud and vouched for its authenticity. Furthermore, two highly articulate speakers lectured at length to a very attentive crowd.

The two speakers (who later introduced themselves as Larry and Chuck) were with the Shroud Society of Texas, which may or may not have some association with STURP (the Shroud of Turin Research Project). After Larry had talked mainly about the historical and the religious significance of the shroud, Chuck got into the meatier aspects.

Allowing the carbon 14 dating tests to be performed, Chuck told his listeners, was a big mistake. Proponents had miscalculated gravely in letting a single test determine the shroud’s authenticity. The tests, he announced, had been badly botched in a number of ways: 1) The chain of custody of the samples had been broken (they had been left unattended for some time in a room). 2) The samples had been taken from a region where reweaving indicates some repairs have been made using newer material. 3) Besides that, carbon 14 dating is old hat. The uranium-thorium process has superseded the C-14 process. Chuck further related how the results of the tests had been unscrupulously leaked to the press in October of 1988, prior to publication in a legitimate scientific journal. Fortunately, Chuck explained, an unauthorized test (that presumably did not have all of these problems) had dated the fabric at AD 200, which, apparently, was close enough.

Chuck saved his best for last. He told of STURP scientist John Jackson’s “vertical mapping” process which led him to conclude that the image on the cloth had been imprinted as the cloth (previously resting on the supine body of Jesus) fell straight down through the body to the table below. This, we were told, was an example of a new kind of physics. This was the physics of miracles. An event that happens once and cannot be repeated is not natural, but is miraculous. When I later asked Larry about this analysis, he referred me to Jackson’s published work. He told me to check Applied Optics, 1982 and 1984 for particulars, and he went on to say that Jackson will publish his actual calculations in the future (where, we were not told). NTS Secretary Mark Meyer was able find “Correlation of image intensity on the Turin Shroud with the 3-D structure of a human body shape” in Applied Optics, Vol. 23, No. 14 (pp 2244 – 2270). It is a very detailed article, with charts, photos and computer-generated images. I have not had the time to read it.

After Larry’s talk, and before Chuck got up to speak, I went up and introduced myself to Larry. He saw that I was taking notes and asked me if I was an interviewer. By way of introduction, I gave him a copy of The North Texas Skeptic (a mistake, as it turned out) and allowed him to read it while I listened to Chuck. When Chuck was finished I once again conversed with Larry, and he began by stating that he hated to offend me by accusing me of being non-objective (I told him to go right ahead).

This is disturbing. Apparently I was as unpleasant 24 years ago as I am now. Obviously my people skills still require some work.

Anyhow, it’s a story that just will not go away:

The historical records for the shroud can be separated into two time periods: before 1390 and from 1390 to the present. The period until 1390 is subject to debate among historians. Author Ian Wilson has proposed that the Shroud was the Image of Edessa, but scholars such as Averil Cameron have stated that the history of the Image of Edessa represents “very murky territory”; it cannot be traced back as a miraculous image, and it may not have even been a cloth.

Prior to the 14th century there are some congruent references such as the Pray Codex. It is often mentioned that the first certain historical record dates from 1353 or 1357. However the presence of the Turin Shroud in Lirey, France, is only undoubtedly attested in 1390 when Bishop Pierre d’Arcis wrote a memorandum to Antipope Clement VII, stating that the shroud was a forgery and that the artist had confessed. The history from the 15th century to the present is well understood. In 1453 Margaret de Charny deeded the Shroud to the House of Savoy. In 1578 the shroud was transferred in Turin. As of the 17th century the shroud has been displayed (e.g. in the chapel built for that purpose by Guarino Guarini) and in the 19th century it was first photographed during a public exhibition.

There are no definite historical records concerning the shroud prior to the 14th century. Although there are numerous reports of Jesus’ burial shroud, or an image of his head, of unknown origin, being venerated in various locations before the 14th century, there is no historical evidence that these refer to the shroud currently at Turin Cathedral. A burial cloth, which some historians maintain was the Shroud, was owned by the Byzantine emperors but disappeared during the Sack of Constantinople in 1204.

The pilgrim medallion of Lirey (before 1453), drawing by Arthur Forgeais, 1865.

Historical records seem to indicate that a shroud bearing an image of a crucified man existed in the small town of Lirey around the years 1353 to 1357 in the possession of a French Knight, Geoffroi de Charny, who died at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356. However the correspondence of this shroud with the shroud in Turin, and its very origin has been debated by scholars and lay authors, with statements of forgery attributed to artists born a century apart. Some contend that the Lirey shroud was the work of a confessed forger and murderer.[28]

The history of the shroud from the 15th century is well recorded. In 1532, the shroud suffered damage from a fire in a chapel of Chambéry, capital of the Savoy region, where it was stored. A drop of molten silver from the reliquary produced a symmetrically placed mark through the layers of the folded cloth. Poor Clare Nuns attempted to repair this damage with patches. In 1578 Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy ordered the cloth to be brought from Chambéry to Turin and it has remained at Turin ever since.

Repairs were made to the shroud in 1694 by Sebastian Valfrè to improve the repairs of the Poor Clare nuns. Further repairs were made in 1868 by Clotilde of Savoy. The shroud remained the property of the House of Savoy until 1983, when it was given to the Holy See.

[Extraneous links deleted]

Then I came across this last year. For your convenience I have re-posted the entire piece:

New research removes ‘shroud’ of doubt

Experiments prove sacred Christian relic in Turin dates back to Christ

author-imageby Garth Kant Email | Archive

Garth Kant is a WND staff writer. Previously, he spent five years writing, copy-editing and producing at “CNN Headline News,” three years writing, copy-editing and training writers at MSNBC, and also served several local TV newsrooms as producer, executive producer and assistant news director. He is the author of the McGraw-Hill textbook, “How to Write Television News.”

Shroud1

A new book on a scientific analysis of the Shroud of Turin confirms what WND reported more than a year ago – the relic is not a medieval forgery. The latest tests date the shroud to between 300 BC and 400 AD.

The results of the tests are documented in the book “Il Mistero della Sindone” or The Mystery of the Shroud, written by Giulio Fanti, a professor of mechanical and thermal measurement at Italy’s Padua University, and Saverio Gaeta, a journalist.

Scientists measured radiation intensity using infra-red light and spectroscopy to analyze the shroud, which is kept in a climate-controlled case in Turin, Italy.

Fanti said the imprint was caused by a blast of “exceptional radiation.”

That is essentially what WND reported in Decemeber 2011, that the imprint on the shroud was likely caused by a burst of ultraviolet light that was beyond the technical capabilities of medieval forgers.

Get the full story in “The Case for Christ’s Resurrection,” “The Fabric of Time,” and “Stunning Science of the Shroud.” Then enjoy the fictional adventures in “The Shroud Codex.”

That finding is also remarkably similar to the fictional explanation WND staff reporter Jerome R. Corsi provided in his 2010 novel on the Shroud of Turin, “The Shroud Codex.”

In 2011, Corsi told WND, “What the Italian scientists are saying is that the image was created on the shroud in a burst of energy that Christian believers would understand as physical proof of the Resurrection.”

And, in 2010, Corsi had reported in WND that scientists were building the case that the Turin image was created by radiation that emanated from the body itself, a theory remarkably supportive of the traditional resurrection account that is central to Christian theology.

A scientific paper co-authored by attorney and historian Mark Antonacci and physicist Arthur Lind argued that the shroud image might constitute what amounts to a photograph taken at the instant Jesus’ body transformed as he rose from the dead.

Scientists had been unable to explain the image of a bearded man’s body with wounds in the wrist, feet and chest on a 14-foot linen cloth. Many Christians believe it the burial cloth of Jesus Christ.

WND reported in 2011 that experts from Italy’s National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Development found, “The double image (front and back) of a scourged and crucified man, barely visible on the linen cloth of the Shroud of Turin, has many physical and chemical characteristics that are so particular that the staining … is impossible to obtain in a laboratory.”

Experiments in 1988 by laboratories in Oxford, Zurich and Arizona indicated the shroud dated back to only 1260 to 1390, suggesting it was a fake.

But, as WND reported, those findings were suspect.

In 2005, a scientific paper by chemist Ray Rogers of the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, a member of the 1978 Shroud of Turin Research Project, argued the samples taken from the shroud in 1988 for the radiocarbon dating were contaminated by medieval reweaving.

He argued that after a fire in 1532 nearly destroyed the shroud, French Poor Clare nuns repaired the shroud by adding 16 burn patches and stitching to the back of the shroud a reinforcing cloth that is known as the Holland cloth.

The nuns were able to repair the edges of the shroud by expertly reweaving with cotton much of the damage the fire did to the shroud’s original linen cloth.

Rogers was able to detect under a microscope the reweaving because the cotton had been dyed to match the linen, and the fibers could be distinguished in the reweaving at the edges of the shroud because linen is resistant to dye, while cotton is not.

Rogers’ change of heart made an impact on the Shroud of Turin research community worldwide, largely because immediately after the results of the 1988 radiocarbon dating were made public, he was an outspoken leading voice among critics charging the shroud was a medieval forgery.

The shroud will be on display on Italian television Saturday, the day before Easter. Pope Francis has recorded a voice-over introduction.

The designated “pontifical custodian of the shroud”, Archbishop of Turin Cesare Nosiglia, said, “It will be a message of intense spiritual scope, charged with positivity, which will help (people) never to lose hope,” and, “The display of the shroud on a day as special as Holy Saturday means that it represents a very important testimony to the Passion and the resurrection of the Lord.”

An app sanctioned by the Catholic Church called “Shroud 2.0″ will let users see details in the shroud invisible to the naked eye.

“For the first time in history the most detailed image of the shroud ever achieved becomes available to the whole world, thanks to a streaming system which allows a close-up view of the cloth. Each detail of the cloth can be magnified and visualized in a way which would otherwise not be possible,” said Nosiglia.

You can also examine the shroud in close detail at shroud.com.
Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2013/03/new-research-removes-shroud-of-doubt/#lxHUoEYyf0D24SAC.99

[Extraneous material deleted]

Call me a skeptic if you want, but I have always considered the Shroud of Turin to be in small part religious idolatry and in large part wishful thinking. I was curious about just who it is pushing more nonsense about the Shroud. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about WND:

WorldNetDaily (WND) is an American web site that publishes news and associated content from the perspective of U.S. conservatives and the political right. It was founded in May 1997 by Joseph Farah with the stated intent of “exposing wrongdoing, corruption and abuse of power” and is headquartered in Washington, D.C.

In 1997 Joseph Farah created the news website WorldNetDaily as a division of the Western Journalism Center. It was subsequently spun off in 1999 as a for-profit organization with the backing of $4.5 million from investors, Farah owning a majority of the stock. The site describes itself as “an independent news company dedicated to uncompromising journalism”. In 1999, WorldNetDaily.com, Inc. was incorporated in Delaware with offices in Cave Junction, Oregon. According to its website, WND has a staff of approximately 25 people. In 2007 it was headquartered in Medford, Oregon.

[Extraneous text and links deleted]

Who would ever believe it? An organization with a conservative lean pushing religious nonsense. What next?

Here’s what’s next. This is from that liberal front organization Fox News:

Could ancient earthquake explain Shroud of Turin?

By Megan Gannon

Published February 12, 2014

The authenticity of the Shroud of Turin has been in question for centuries and scientific investigations over the last few decades have only seemed to muddle the debate. Is the revered cloth a miracle or an elaborate hoax?

Now, a study claims neutron emissions from an ancient earthquake that rocked Jerusalem could have created the iconic image, as well as messed up the radiocarbon levels that later suggested the shroud was a medieval forgery. But other scientists say this newly proposed premise leaves some major questions unanswered.

It would seem that WND had the news as far back as 2010. So why is it news again? Is Easter approaching? Maybe it’s time to read more about this enigmatic artifact, and there are multiple sources. You might want to read Inquest on the Shroud of Turin: Latest Scientific Findings by Joe Nickell:

This authoritative book about the controversial “shroud” of Turin, claimed to be the burial cloth of Jesus, presents overwhelming evidence that the cloth is actually the creation of a clever medieval artist.

From the earliest known document that mentions the shroud – a letter from a 14th-century Catholic bishop reporting that the artist had confessed – Joe Nickell traces the historical, iconographic, pathological, forensic, and physical and chemical investigations of the purported relic. He details the microchemical tests that revealed artists’ pigments on the image and tempera paint in the areas claimed to be bloodstains.

Working with a panel of distinguished scientific and artistic experts, the author links the reported medieval confession and the scientific proof of pigments by demonstrating that the much-touted “photographically negative” image can actually be convincingly simulated by means of an artistic technique employed in the Middle Ages.

For the faithful the available literature is ponderous. I have not read this, but you might start with The Sign: The Shroud of Turin and the Birth of Christianity [Kindle Edition] by Thomas de Wesselow. If this kind of stuff interests you, then you may also want to read Scientific Creationism by Henry Morris:

The story of the origin of all things: Does the scientific evidence support special creation or atheistic evolution?

Authoritative and thoroughly documented, Scientific Creationism is easily understood by readers with non-scientific backgrounds.

Teachers, students, pastors, and other witnessing Christians can now be equipped with the convincing evidence for special creation. Updated and expanded, Scientific Creationism is a book that has changed the lives of people for Christ ? people who have been blinded by the current origin-myth, evolution.

“All ministers of the gospel, teachers and professors of our Christian schools on the primary and secondary level, should read this book. A copy should be placed in every church and school library, and used as a textbook in our Christian high schools and colleges.” -Rev. C. Van Schouwen

284 pages 5-1/4 X 8-1/4 Paperback

From there you can go on to Alien Contacts and Abductions: The Real Story from the Other Side by Jenny Randles:

This author strikes me as having the mind-set of a True Scientist. Leaves it up to the reader to choose to believe in this subject, or reject it. The book contains many, many old sightings which I had never heard of, so is highly informative. Heartily recommended to all who wish to gain an unprejudiced look at this fascinating subject. One major disagreement: the author makes the assumption that any advanced alien culture would have just as much rapid change as we have. I believe this would indicate the beings to be from Earth. If an alien technology were 1,000 years ahead of us, would they have our half-yearly change in auto design, or would their autos (and space ships) have reached fruition, and be more static? MUST MUST read this book!

The Skeptics Dictionary also has a take on the Shroud:

“All empirical evidence and logical reasoning concerning the shroud of Turin will lead any objective, rational person to the firm conclusion that the shroud is an artifact created by an artist in the fourteenth-century.” —Steven D. Schafersman

Wikipedia concludes:

In 2013, new peer-reviewed articles were published in favor of the hypothesis that the Turin shroud is the burial cloth of Jesus of Nazareth. One followed a “Minimal Facts approach” to determine which hypothesis relating to the image formation process “is the most likely”. Another analysed the wounds seemingly evident on the image in the shroud and compared them to the wounds which the gospels state were inflicted on Jesus. Another regression analysis by Riani et al concluded that the validity of the 1988 radiocarbon dating test is questionable.

A team of researchers from the Politecnico di Torino, led by Professor Alberto Carpinteri (and published in the journal Meccanica, where same Alberto Carpinteri is currently the acting Editor-in-Chief ), believe that if a magnitude 8.2 earthquake occurred in Jerusalem in 33 AD, it may have released sufficient radiation to have increased the level of carbon-14 isotopes in the shroud, which could skew carbon dating results, making the shroud appear younger. This hypothesis has been questioned by other scientists, including a radiocarbon-dating expert. The underlying science is widely disputed, and funding for the underlying research has been withdrawn by the Italian government after protests and pressure from more than 1000 Italian and international scientists. Dr REM Hedges, of the Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit of the University of Oxford, states that “the likelihood that [neutron irradiation] influenced the date in the way proposed is in my view so exceedingly remote that it beggars scientific credulity.” Raymond N. Rogers conducted various tests on linen fibers, and concluded that “the current evidence suggests that all radiation-based hypotheses for image formation will ultimately be rejected.”

[Links to footnotes deleted]

I have a final take, as well:

  1. First you have to assume that there is somewhere in the universe a magical person who exhibits certain human qualities but is invisible, inaudible, untouchable and imponderable. This person is supposed to be deeply concerned with human welfare, having created the universe in which she dwells plus all the people in it. This person can work many feats of magic and is, on top of that, all powerful. For example this person is said to have helped defeat the “people of the mountain” but could not defeat the “people of the valley,” because they possessed chariots of iron.
  2. Now that you have swallowed that, there is Jesus. Jesus is the son of this magical person and at the same time is the earthly embodiment of this person, and Jesus was sent to this planet in the womb of an unwed teenager to save us from the punishment for sin that the magical person had caused two stone-age people to commit, namely engaging in sexual copulation.
  3. The scheme by which Jesus was supposed to save us all was to have himself tortured and executed on a cross, as was the practice of the Roman government at the time.

Now, and only now, do we get to the issue of the Shroud. You have to believe all the foregoing in advance. Trust me, if you have bought in to the previous, then belief in anything is palpable. Convince me of the first three, and I will eat the Shroud, without catchup.

Sumerian Confusion

So, I was reading my Bible lately, and the news was reassuring:

1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

I always take comfort in those words, because they remind me the Earth and the Universe have not always been here, but they were created by a person of superior power and not in a physics lab somewhere at Princeton.

You can imagine, then, my distress on reading this news item:

Sumerians Look On In Confusion As God Creates World

NewsScience & Technologyyear in review 2009 ISSUE 45•51 • Dec 15, 2009

Members of the earth’s earliest known civilization, the Sumerians, looked on in shock and confusion some 6,000 years ago as God, the Lord Almighty, created Heaven and Earth.

“I do not understand,” reads an ancient line of pictographs depicting the sun, the moon, water, and a Sumerian who appears to be scratching his head. “A booming voice is saying, ‘Let there be light,’ but there is already light. It is saying, ‘Let the earth bring forth grass,’ but I am already standing on grass.”

“Everything is here already,” the pictograph continues. “We do not need more stars.”

Historians believe that, immediately following the biblical event, Sumerian witnesses returned to the city of Eridu, a bustling metropolis built 1,500 years before God called for the appearance of dry land, to discuss the new development. According to records, Sumerian farmers, priests, and civic administrators were not only befuddled, but also took issue with the face of God moving across the water, saying that He scared away those who were traveling to Mesopotamia to participate in their vast and intricate trade system.

Moreover, the Sumerians were taken aback by the creation of the same animals and herb-yielding seeds that they had been domesticating and cultivating for hundreds of generations.

According to recently excavated clay tablets inscribed with cuneiform script, thousands of Sumerians—the first humans to establish systems of writing, agriculture, and government—were working on their sophisticated irrigation systems when the Father of All Creation reached down from the ether and blew the divine spirit of life into their thriving civilization.

Well, if this does not beat all… If those ancient Sumerians wrote all of this stuff down, how come the Bible got all the credit? Scientific findings are where you find them, folks, and it pays to be the first to publish.

But, there’s another thought. How come the Bible doesn’t mention all the Sumerians standing around watching it all go down? I mean, if you read the Bible, there were only two people at the time. What’s with this? Don’t the Sumerians count as people? Shouldn’t the Bible have said something like:

1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

5 And lo, the Sumerians stared in amazement, for these were primitive people and easy to amaze.

Actually, the Sumerians deserve a closer look:

Sumer (from Akkadian ŠumeruSumerian, approximately “land of the civilized kings” or “native land”) was an ancient civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia, modern-day southern Iraq and Kuwait, during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age. Although the earliest forms of writing in the region do not go back much further than c. 3500 BC, modern historians have suggested that Sumer was first permanently settled between c. 5500 and 4000 BC by a non-Semitic people who may or may not have spoken the Sumerian language (pointing to the names of cities, rivers, basic occupations, etc. as evidence). These conjectured, prehistoric people are now called “proto-Euphrateans” or “Ubaidians“, and are theorized to have evolved from the Samarra culture of northern Mesopotamia (Assyria). The Ubaidians were the first civilizing force in Sumer, draining the marshes for agriculture, developing trade, and establishing industries, including weaving, leatherwork, metalwork, masonry, and pottery. However, some scholars such as Piotr Michalowski and Gerd Steiner, contest the idea of a Proto-Euphratean language or one substrate language. It has been suggested by them and others, that the Sumerian language was originally that of the hunter and fisher peoples, who lived in the marshland and the east Arabian littoral region, and were part of the Arabian bifacial culture. Reliable historical records begin much later; there are none in Sumer of any kind that have been dated before Enmebaragesi (c. 26th century BC).

That explains much that was left untold in the biblical account of the Creation. Like, when Cain killed his brother and then had to leave for parts unknown, where did he get his wife? Yes, the Bible doesn’t answer that. The story of the Sumerians takes care of this detail nicely. All hoodlum Cain had to do was to head over the next hill and meet up with the local Sumerians and latch onto a local underage girl desperately in need of a husband, and never mind about his criminal record. It’s happened before, folks.

Bad Joke of the Week

Not yet

On their first date, a man asked his companion if she’d like a drink with dinner.

“Oh, no, what would I tell my Sunday school class?” she said.

Later, he offered her a cigarette.

“Oh, no, what would I tell my Sunday school class?” she said again.

On the drive home, he saw a motel. Figuring he had nothing to lose, he asked if she wanted to stop in there.

“Okay,” his date replied.

“What will you tell your Sunday school class? he asked, shocked.

“The same thing I always tell them. ‘You don’t have to drink or smoke to have a good time.'”

The Question That Was Asked

I’ve had a number of job interviews over the years, and in the last few decades something subtle has crept into the process. Somewhere along the line interviewers got the dubious advice that they should attempt to probe the psyche of the applicant. Some odd questions have come up.

For example, one interviewer (it was at Nokia) asked me if I could have any job in the world, just what would my preference be. Of course the obvious answer came to mind immediately. I would want to be the guy at the Las Vegas casino who helped the showgirls put on their costumes. I couldn’t say that, so I just lied and told the man I would like to be a research scientist. I didn’t get the job. He was interviewing for somebody to develop software. A few weeks later I did get a job as a research scientist.

On another occasion I dared take a chance with the truth. Somebody deep into human management science decided that interviewers should put applicants on the spot and give them the opportunity to dress themselves down. The popular question became, “What do you consider to be your greatest shortcoming.”

When the question was put to me, the answer just came out of my mouth. I said, “I have a tendency to answer the question that was asked.” I didn’t get the job.

About 24 years ago I purchased this book. It’s “The Geography Quiz Book.” It’s Everything is Somewhere. It’s chock full of questions, with answers, about things geographic. The title has also gotten me into some trouble around the house. The wife sees my computer on the breakfast table and asks, “What’s this doing here?” My response is “Everything has got to be somewhere.” That doesn’t work, either.

Anyhow I plowed through the book and attempted to answer the questions without flipping forward to check the answers. Some of the facts are quite provocative. Others are seriously dated. A lot has changed since 1990. Another thing I also noticed brought me no end of amusement. It was the nature of some of the questions. Examine the following questions and see if you find what I found:

  • Can you name two important cities, very far apart, that are known for their cherry blossoms? For extra credit, can you tell how they are connected?
  • At Babson College, in Welesley, Massachusetts, there is an unusual map. Do you happen to know what sort of map it is?
  • Tropical savannas have rainy summers and dry winters, but are warm all year. The vegetation is usually some sort of open forest with scattered grasses and shrubs. The largest areas of savanna are on two continents. Can you name them?
  • Can you name a fruit you probably eat at least weekly, perhaps even daily, but that only a hundred years ago was grown only as an ornamental?

This is a sampling of many such questions in the book. If you have been paying attention, then you know an appropriate answer to all of them, and the answer is the same for all. The answer is “no.”

So, be careful what question you ask. A question properly put will elicit the information you want. The wrong question will get you information you cannot use.

The book is by Jack McClintock and David Helgren, and it is loaded with hundreds of noteworth questions that do not have trite answers.

Dirty Jobs

This just in: Wal-Mart is promising to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States:

How Mike Rowe became a lightning rod for Walmart

When it comes to dirty jobs, Mike Rowe is finding that hawking for Walmart (WMT) leads to plenty of mud-slinging.

Rowe, the deep-voiced host of Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs,” sparked the controversy when he provided a voice-over for a heart-tugging Walmart ad touting the company’s pledge to bring manufacturing back to the U.S. The spot first aired during the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics, a prime night for advertisers seeking a large audience.

Sounds great, right? After all, who isn’t for a return of U.S. manufacturing? But the ad campaign took on a life of its own, with some consumers taking Rowe to task for championing what they view as an anti-union company that offers rock-bottom wages.

The ad might not have sparked such a fierce debate if another spokesman had been tapped. But Rowe, thanks to his seven-year run on “Dirty Jobs,” is viewed by many as the voice of the underdog, the overworked and the underpaid. In short, the champion of the types of people working in Walmart jobs. Rowe then threw a bucket of fuel on the fire by writing on his Facebook page in response to one consumer, “Who gives a crap about your feelings toward Walmart?”

This blog is not called Skeptical Analysis for nothing. I decided to do some skeptical analysis. Here is what I found out.

The big complaint against Wal-Mart seems to be they are buying foreign-made goods. Call me a bleeding heart liberal if you want, but I find that to be absolutely disgraceful. So I decided to investigate further (skeptical analysis). Here’s what I found out.

It’s not Wal-Mart that’s buying products from foreign manufactures. It’s you. Yes, dear reader, you are the guilty party. You are the one who’s buying foreign-made goods. And don’t try to deny it. I have photographic evidence. See the above photo that I took earlier this week. That’s your car parked in the Wal-Mart while you’re inside buying foreign-made goods. Shame on you.

So, readers, here’s the solution. Quit blaming Mike Rowe, and quit blaming Wal-Mart. I have not done a rigorous scientific study on this, but I feel deep down that if you quit buying foreign-made goods Wal-Mart will quit selling them. Like tomorrow.