Climate denial by Left & Right dominates the public debate.

Summary: One of the oddities in American politics is how Left and Right clearly see each others’ faults, but remain blind to their own similar faults. The mainstream media reports the follies of the Right, but less often those of the Left — which are highlighted by their increasing abandonment of science in their quest to alarm the public about climate change. For example, their long effort to hide climate scientists’ work about the pause in warming of their atmosphere since roughly 2000. It’s a kind of denial, much as we see on the Right.

“… first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” — Matthew 7:5.

Global Surface Temperature

Observed (black) and predicted (blue) global average annual surface temperature difference relative to 1981-2010. Previous predictions starting from November 1960 are in red, and 22 model simulations from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5) are in green. Shading in red represents the probable range, such that the observations are expected to lie within the shading 90% of the time. The forecast (blue) starts from November 2014. All data are rolling 12-month mean values. The black line is from Hadley Centre, GISS and NCDC data. {Caption slightly edited}

Left and Right work to mislead us

During the past few years scores of polls attempted to find the source of the public’s polarized views about climate change. Perhaps there’s a simpler answer. One group knows about the pause, and so has skepticism (for some grossly exaggerated) about the certainty of catastrophic future warming. The other group reads only activists and so remains ignorant of scientists’ research about the pause. For example, Joe Romm at ThinkProgress and Phil Phait in November 2013 and  February 2014 (he’s slacked off lately).

Climate scientists speak, even if we don’t listen

Meanwhile climate scientists continue their work, while Left and Right distort their findings to manipulate public opinion. As we see in the new “Decadal Forecast” of the UK Met Office. From the summary:

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“Guardians of the Galaxy” is a well-manufactured entertainment product.

Summary:  As a break from the FM website’s usual fare of geopolitical realism, today film critic Locke Peterseim reviews Disney’s “Guardians of the Galaxy”. He shows how its industrial capitalism applied to the creative industries, Disney’s entertainment product assembly line adapted to the 21st century. Post your views in the comments.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Guardians of the Galaxy Poster


Who Guards Against the Guardians of the Galaxy?

By Locke Peterseim
Posted at the film blog of Open Letters Monthly, 5 August 2014
Reposted here with his generous permission.

Let’s be clear at the start: I enjoyed The Guardians of the Galaxy. Quite a bit, thank you. I had much of the good-times happy smiles with it, and I laughed a whole lot, often heartily and with great joy. It’s a totally entertaining lark (with a bit of heart), and if you like fizzy, funny, sci-fi action and you haven’t already, you should probably go see it — you’ll have a nice late-summer blast.

Keep that in mind, because later in this piece, it’s going to increasingly seem like I did not like Guardians of the Galaxy; that I blame it for some very bad things. Not true. Remember: Liked it. Had fun.

… I increasingly have issues with big-studio, big-budget, big-action, big-CGI, big-franchise, big-box-office blockbusters. Often that’s because the films that get shoved off that particular production line start to all feel the same: all just slightly above mediocre, all carefully packaged so you don’t so much notice the mediocrity but instead smile contentedly, dazzled by all the sparkly familiarity.

But several times a year there are big, expensive, VFX-laden, hyper-marketed tent-pole genre films that frustrate me more because as they suffer for their formulaic bloat, I see down inside them the smart, compelling films they could have been if they weren’t birthed through a studio-committee process intent on sanding off any edgy or unconventional originality that might hurt ticket sales in a key demographic. (Last year it was World War Z; earlier this summer it was Godzilla.)

In that respect, Guardians of the Galaxy bothers me more than most, even as I delighted in watching it more than most. Seeing it the first time, I could almost literally feel the two halves of my conflicted film-going soul separating and floating out to each side, like Angelic Pinto and Demonic Pinto on Tom Hulce’s shoulders.

I watched in utter, giddy glee as Chris Pratt’s “aw jeeze” space-rogue Peter Quill danced and lip-synced to Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love;” I laughed constantly at the non-stop bickering between Quill and his misfit bad of cosmic screw ups as they fly around… um, fighting some bad people to keep them from getting a thing that does something something purple energy.

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Why does the military grow? Because the tail wags the dog.

Summary: The great expansion of the US military, begun by Reagan and boosted by GW Bush after 9/11, has shifted into retreat due to the lack of threatening great powers and the end of our mad occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Now begins the equally fierce papers war to determine what gets cut in our vast armed forces. Experience suggests that our dysfunctional military will cut muscle, not fat.

This is the second in a series about the leadership of the US military, the people who will determine the effectiveness of our military in the ago of 4th generation war. (1st of 2 posts today.)

“It is a commonplace observation that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
— Opening sentence of “Parkinson’s Law“, C. Northcote Parkinson, The Economist, 19 November 1955. He describes Britain’s creation of “a magnificent Navy on land” to replace its fleet.

Admiralty Statistics from "Parkinson's Law"

Parkinson wrote using data from long ago. Let’s shift forward to today, with a recommended reading about our billion-dollar-per-year national defense system: “Pentagon bureaucracy grows as troops are cut” by Tara Copp (Washington Examiner, 25 January 2015). To understand this strange but sad phenomenon we have an analysis by a guest author with experience in these matters..

“Why does the force continue to grow?
Because the tail wags the dog.”

By Danny Hundley (Colonel, USMC, retired).

 

During the 8 years I worked in Manpower (Officer Assignment Branch) at Headquarters Marine Corps I helped develop the Joint Duty Assignment Management Information System. I know that if the military did not have some of the best Manpower processes in the world, the bureaucracy would be much worse than it is now.

So how is the tail is wagging the dog? Manpower is being cut by the bureaucrats without regard to mission. The services attempt to take into account the mission requirements when making cuts but the Congress does not. It just says cut. Also, the Congress continually legislates new requirements that necessitates growing staff to answer the mail. For example, when Goldwater-Nichols became law, the Congress had many requirements for annual reports.

These reports were never required before. To make matters worse, many of the reports required the services to keep data that it had never been required to keep before. Goldwater-Nichols was many years ago but the politics and off-the-cuff requirements still come faster than any physical capability to react. Anyone who understands what is required to maintain proper personnel requirements to meet mission, knows the ability to do a mission is easily destroyed when manpower cuts are required without sufficient time to determine impact to mission.

We can tear down proper manpower structure for military organizations much more quickly than we can build it, especially when we do not properly consider standing down mission requirements as we cut.

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Useful lessons from the blizzard about ourselves & our future

Summary:  Every crisis tells us something about ourselves, and who we’re becoming. This post looks for lessons from the NYC snowpocalypse, so revealing about the state of 21st Century America — its people and leaders. This is a follow-up to Winter Storm Juno warns scientists not to burn away their credibility.

A 21st C American

Contents

  1. Typically outrageous actions by our leaders
  2. Obvious but important observations
  3. Putting the pieces together: the big picture
  4. For More Information

(1)  Typically outrageous actions by our leaders

From the smouldering embers at the Left comes this apt summary, by Jerry White at the World Socialist website.

By 6 p.m. Monday night, Cuomo ordered the shutdown of all transportation, saying only emergency vehicles would be allowed on the streets of New York City — and roads in 13 state counties — as of 11 p.m. “If you violate this state order,” he said, “it’s a possible misdemeanor; it’s fines up to $300.” The governor also activated the New York National Guard, which dispatched 260 soldiers and airmen.

As the storm approached, the chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, Thomas Prendergast, said there would be no reason to close the subway system, which is largely underground and protected from the snow, because “We’d be able to run trains.”

By 11 p.m., however, even as it was becoming apparent that the worst snowfall was well to the east and north of New York City, Cuomo, apparently without consulting with Mayor de Blasio or the New York City transit command center, went ahead and shut down the subway system, the only remaining transportation in the city. This was the first time trains were halted because of snow in the 110-year history of the system, which serves more than four million commuters each day.

As it turned out, the subway system actually continued to run in order to keep the tracks clear, just without passengers.

The Brooklyn Paper reported that the subways ran anyway (just without passengers), that closing it was unnecessary even in a severe blizzard, and in the words of an insider “The closure will strand people and put lives at risk, not because the subways can’t run, but because Cuomo wants to look good.”

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A new format for the Fabius Maximus website!

Your donations have been put to use (see the tip jar to the right). The FM website now runs on a new “theme” (i.e.,  template), one working better with current technology. It appears better on tablets and phones, and has features used by the almost god-like search engines to locate useful answers to people’s requests. Behind the scenes it has more storage, and support from WordPress.

Internet lounge

UpdateIt’s a work in progress.  And thanks to crowd-sourcing (advice from someone who understands these things) I switched to a different theme.

What do you think? Better or worse? Crisp and clear, easy to read? Suitable for our content, or not? Rate it below, and post your review in the comments.

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Women in combat are the real Revolution in Military Affairs

Summary: Women combatants appear in many of today’s conflicts around the world, a change in warfare with few precedents in history and perhaps the biggest change since the use of nukes. Recent examples include fighters in the Eritrean Wars, Middle East suicide bombers, soldiers in western armies, and in the Kurdish forces. With few historical precedents, except in near-mythological tales, large numbers of women in combat represents a real revolution in military affairs. Here we sort through the news for an introduction to this powerful trend.

Warrior Women

Fact catching up to fantasy.

Contents

  1. War by women in the developed nations
  2. The test for women soldiers lies in future wars
  3. War in the less-developed lands
  4. The democratization of warfare
  5. How will this revolution change war?
  6. For More Information

 

(1)  War by women in the developed nations

First let’s look at women’s increasing role in the military forces of the developed nations.

Some have gone all the way: “8 Other Nations That Send Women to Combat“, National Geographic, 25 January 2013 — Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, New Zealand, and Norway. In these nations women serve in roles that include “engaging an enemy on the ground … while being exposed to hostile fire and a high probability of physical contact with the hostile forces personnel” (per a 2010 British Ministry of Defense (MOD) study).

The number of nations doing so is increasing. As in the UK “Women soldiers to serve in front-line combat units” — “Senior Whitehall source says that MoD is ‘leaning towards making the change’ to allow women in front-line combat units after a six-month review” (The Telegraph, 5 December 2014).

But things might not be what they seem, as Martin van Creveld explains in Men, Women & War (2002):

This argues it is all a great illusion: that the influx of women into the military, far from representing a world-historic step in women’s unstoppable march towards liberation, is both a symptom and cause of the decline of the military. The process was triggered by the introduction of nuclear weapons over a half century ago. Since then the armed forces of no developed country have fought a war against a major opponent who was even remotely capable of of putting its own national existence in danger …

The more superfluous they have become — indeed precisely because they have been becoming superfluous — the more society and its leaders feel able to treat them not as fighting machines but as social laboratories …

For more about his theory see his article “The Great Illusion: Women in the Military”, Millennium – Journal of International Studies, 2000.

(2)  The test for women soldiers lies in future wars

The test of van Creveld’s theory and of western nations’ commitment to gender equality in combat, comes when women return in large numbers of body bags. So far none of those nations have had large numbers of women casualties.

Women have died serving America in our post-9/11 wars, but in small numbers (reflecting limitations on their roles) — as shown by this Congressional Research Service report (OIF and OID are Iraq; OEF is Afghanistan): women are 2% of military deaths so far vs roughly 11% of total US troops serving there.

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Winter Storm Juno warns scientists not to burn away their credibility

Summary: We expect our leaders, and the scientists they consult, to warn us of threats. As NYC learned, again, that’s difficult to do. Should they error by warning too aggressively (false alarms), or too conservatively (fails to warn)? The consensus favors the former, ignoring the potentially massive cost of crying “wolf” too often. Someday you warn, but nobody listens. Loss of public confidence in science might be the big risk to avoid.

“To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must be truthful. It is as simple as that.”
— Journalist Edward R. Murrow, testimony as the Director of USIA before a Congressional Committee in May 1963.

The Day After Tomorrow
January has not yet ended and already we’ve had two waves of climate fear.  Last year we had only one, last Spring’s fear barrage about the coming super monster El Nino (that never appeared). 2015 began with reports that the “sweltering” 2014 was the the “hottest year ever” (eventually walked back to “perhaps”). This week we had the “snowpocalypse”.  It’s weather porn, collusion between publicity-hungry scientists, click-bait-seeking journalists, and activists.

But beneath the hype there are serious issues for climate scientists and our weather agencies. When and how do they issue warnings? Should they prioritize warnings — minimizing the number of times they failure to alert the public — or preserve their credibility by minimizing the number of false warnings?

The Snowpocalypse: the aftereffects might be bigger than the effects

New York City and NY State took strong precautions before the storm which so many meteorologists warned would be “historic”. In fact it largely missed NYC, hitting to the North.  Weather.com shows the records for New England, sloppily not stating the length of the record. The Boston Globe did better: NYC had the 6th largest snowfall in past 80 years. Update: these records are comparable only for roughly the past 20 years due to changes in measurement methods.

Now comes the aftereffects: TIME blamed Governor Christie and Mayor de Blasio for over-reacting, seriously inconveniencing NYC’s people — at a large economic cost.

The AP does an autopsy on the forecasts:

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