Global Warming XVII: “… it was getting too cold all over the place.”


In the week of this year’s Davos conference of world poobah’s and muckety-mucks, Donald Trump spoke to journalist Piers Morgan. There was so much ignorance on display that most commentators neglected to mention this disgraceful exchange: (I copied this extract from a transcript here.)

PM: Do you believe in climate change? Do you believe it exists?

DT: There is a cooling and there is a heating and I mean, look – it used to not be climate change. It used to be global warming. Right?

PM: Right.

DT: That wasn’t working too well, because it was getting too cold all over the place. The ice caps were going to melt, they were going to be gone by now, but now they’re setting records, so OK, they’re at a record level. There were so many thing happening, Piers. I’ll tell you what I believe in. I believe in clear air. I believe in crystal clear beautiful water. I believe in just having good cleanliness in all. Now, that being said, if somebody said go back into the Paris Accord, if we could go back into the Paris Accord, it would have to be a completely different deal because we had a horrible deal, As usual, they took advantage of the United States. We were in a terrible deal. Would I go back in? Yeah, I’d go back in. I like, as you know, I like Emmanuel… No, no, I like Emmanuel, I would love to, but it’s got to be a good deal for the United States.

I think that Trump is trying to repeat the climate change deniers’ truism, that the climate is always changing, getting warmer or cooler. Thus, why concern ourselves about the warming that may, or may not, be occurring now?

But what does he mean by “…it was getting too cold all over the place.” I’m sure that he is referring to his December tweets about the bitter cold Eastern weather, calling for “… some of that global warming now.” He misunderstands, or more likely is ignorant about, climate scientists’ predictions for the fate of polar sea ice, in the Arctic and offshore in the Antarctic, and the ice covering Greenland and Antarctica. None of the experts claimed that the Arctic sea ice would be gone by now. They can’t say exactly but it looks to them as if it will be gone in a few decades. Even now the Northwest Passage north of Canada or across the Russian arctic opens each summer to commercial shipping without accompanying ice breakers.

Skipping over his “beliefs”, which apparently are being undermined without Trump’s knowledge by Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator, Trump displays his ignorance of the terms of the Paris Climate Accords and the US commitments to the world as part of that deal. Those commitments are voluntary. Each nation volunteered what it would do to meet the world’s goals. In addition, the wealthy advanced nations each promised funds to help poorer and developing nations to achieve their goals while continuing to increase their nations’ wealth. If Trump thinks that the US made imprudent voluntary commitments, all he has to do is issue new ones. There is nothing to re-negotiate, and, indeed, the deal is not open to re-negotiation.

It happens to be the case that the Paris Climate Accords are an excellent deal for the United States, and for all the other nations of the world, each of which has signed on. Trump is turning the US into a rogue state.

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“The Father of Lies”


The Pope has gotten into the business of denouncing fake news, and we can all applaud his effort. His example of the first fake news, however, has a problem.

The AP reported on the Pope’s annual social communications message (which I read about in the Tampa Bay Times, January 25, 2018). Pope: ‘Fake news’ is evil, journalists must search for truth .

Francis writes that the first fake news dates from the biblical beginning of time, which Eve was tempted to take an apple from the Garden of Eden based on disinformation from the serpent.

“The strategy of this skilled ‘Father of Lies’ is precisely mimicry; that sly and dangerous form of seduction that worms its way into the heart with false and alluring arguments,” Francis said of the snake.

The Pope is citing from the second creation account that begins with Genesis Chapter 2, verse 4, and continues into Chapter 3. In case you’ve forgotten your Sunday school lessons from 60 years ago, here are the relevant portions, which I take from the pew bible at my darling wife’s Presbyterian Church, the New Revised Standard Version:

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall die.”

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Confederate Black Troops statue proposed


Responding to the charge that Confederate monuments, flag displays, public school names, streets names, and more are obviously racist because they only honor white Southern men, South Carolina legislators have proposed a monument to the (fictional) black Confederates. Of course, these legislators do not acknowledge that the people they propose to honor have no more reality than unicorns. The headline for another news account of this proposal says Newspaper review of records show no black armed Confederates.

Here are two more accounts, with details, from South Carolina news sources: This from Fox Carolina, Monument sought to recognize blacks who served Confederacy, from October, 2017. This from WIS, Channel 10, in Columbia, SC, 2 Upstate lawmakers call for monument honoring African-American Confederate soldiers at State House, also from October. This last one has illustrations:

African American soldiers in the Civil War (FOX Carolina/ October 11, 2017)

African American soldiers in the Civil War (FOX Carolina/ October 11, 2017)

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Book reviews: Two computer science books


I’m sure that you remember the two books by Charles Petzold that Brad DeLong showed on his Recommended Reading part of his blog. You told me that you had worked with Petzold.

As I’ve gotten some excellent recommendations for economics books from DeLong, I bought and read the two Petzold books.

The first, Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software is a pretty, clear, and simple book. You certainly know all of the material in this book, which starts with a battery, a light, and a switch, and ends with diagrams on the internal works of an Intel processor, and about the instructions it knows. He tells a little about the people who made the key advances along the way. You will enjoy looking at this book to see a lucid explanation of these elementary matters, but probably not to learn new things.

The second, The Annotated Turing: A Guided Tour through Alan Turing’s Historic Paper on Computability and the Turing Machine is a different matter. It’s lucid, but more advanced. After a couple of introductory chapters, the book alternates paragraphs, even individual sentences, from Turing’s famous paper and remarks by Petzold. Of course, you may well have read Turning’s papers in your academic study, probably did. Petzold puts them in their mathematical context, which why I was reading this book, but he also gets into the nitty-gritty of “programming” a Turing machine, which might intrigue you. Petzold sometimes corrects evident typos, but he shows that he has read and knows the subsequent literature criticizing or expanding upon Turning’s paper and ideas. As with the first book, I was impressed with the profound understanding of the material (so it seemed to me) that made it possible for him to explain things, some complex and deep, with such clarity.

If you are familiar with Godel’s amazing incompleteness theorem, you know that the astonishing “trick” has to do with inventing a way to give any possible theorem, or even proposed theorem, proven true, false, or as yet unproven, a unique number, and then to use number theory to prove theorems about those theorems. That’s the metamathematics part. Turning figured out a way to give one of his Turing machines a unique number that his Universal Turning Machine could process and reproduce the operation of the enumerated Turing machine. Well, it would be slow, so no one would actually do this. But the idea was that since the Universal Machine could do what any other Turning machine could do, if you could prove theorems about the Universal Machine, which you, Turing I mean, could, then you’d be proving theorems about any possible machine, including all of our modern computers.


I’ve read other books on these topics, so Petzold’s book was not entirely new to me, and I wasn’t reading to learn the details of how to instruct a Turning machine, but I thought it was worth reading. As you are a computer professional, and I’m but an amateur, you will enjoy learning about “programming” a Turing machine, which is not at all like programming today’s computers.


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“… there must be a way …”


A young and thoughtful correspondent posted a question on his Facebook page, and some of his friends had a Tweet-like discussion. As I don’t do Facebook, I’ll respond to his question by e-mail and post that message below. I added remarks about the debate between his friends too. I re-named the friends: Decent and Sensible Canadian, Bleeding Heart, and Movement Conservative. On these conditions, my correspondent agreed that I could post this to you, to my correspondent, his friends, and to our readers.

Here’s the question:

I don’t understand all the complexities in our healthcare system. However, something compels me to think that there MUST be a way to creatively engineer a system that will provide excellent, low-stress, equitably priced, easy-to-access healthcare for all Americans while reducing waste, fraud, abuse, corruption, and unnecessary bureaucracy. I am open to public, private, and hybrid systems. Let the quest for the Holy Grail continue. However, on second thought, I’m probably being a naive moron to think such a thing.

Here’s the friends’ discussion: Continue reading

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When is 1.5% > 2%?

Yesterday Doug Jones defeated Roy Moore in a hotly contested Senate election to fill out the rest of former senator Jeff Sessions. This was Alabama, of course, and I read that there were plenty of typically Alabama oddities about the many candidates in the primaries, the Republican primary run-off, the circumstances that led the scandal-tainted now former Alabama governor to appoint the state’s Attorney General to the seat until this special election, and many others.

Here are the election results reported by the New York Times:

Jones was close to 50%. Indeed, Moore was close to 50%, a frightening thought. But 20,000 more votes, 1.5%, for Jones than for Moore gave Jones the seat.

Here are the election results for the 2016 presidential election.

Notice that 306 > 232, but Clinton received nearly 66 million votes to Trump’s 63 million votes. American voters chose Hillary Clinton to be their president by a margin of 2.1%.

Thus, the title of this post: When is 1.5% > 2%?

The presidential election is the only election at all levels of government in which the candidate who wins the election may not win the office.

It’s not as if this is for some insignificant office, say, school crossing guard. Indeed, it is the only nationwide election.

We have a system that about every four of five elections, at random, gives the office to the candidate rejected by the voters.

The Founding Fathers created this odd system in 1789 to solve problems they thought would make the choice of a suitable candidate in a nationwide election difficult and might lead to poor candidates.

In their day, communication between the colonies and then former colonies was difficult, roads were poor where they existed, and land travel was on horseback or stage coach. There were few newspapers, which did not maintain reporters in other colonies. A paper might re-print news from other colonies when a paper or news report showed up by mail. Many citizens and potential voters were illiterate. How could voters, white men with a certain amount of wealth, of course, select a suitable national chief executive? Presumably, in elections for state legislatures or for a Congressional Representative the locals might well be acquainted with the gentlemen about town or important wealthy planters. The Founders, who were from those groups, expected that voters would have the good sense to choose appropriately among their social betters. How could a backwoods subsistence farmer have the knowledge to make a proper choice among the half a dozen men of sufficient wealth, education, piety, and stature to serve in the single elected national office?

Let the local voters chose among those people they knew because they were also locals. Have these superior choices meet in a central place to discuss among themselves and chose the best man to serve as president and chief executive (and a Vice President too). Let the number of these electors be mostly in proportion to population.

This is a reasonable solution to the perceived problem, but the mechanism began misfiring almost from the beginning. You can read about the troubles that arose after the first two elections of George Washington.

A key reason for the Electoral College was to insure the preservation of slavery. The details of this may be the subject of a future blog post. But it was one of the so-called compromises to encourage the less populous (counting only white people of course) slave states to join the new nation. Those Southern whites had been frightened during the Revolutionary War by the British offer of freedom to their slaves were the slaves to escape to British lines and fight with the British.

It is usually the case that the winner of the popular vote wins the presidency, but if that is our modern intention, why not let the popular vote decide?

What we have now is that every four or five presidential elections, at random, we award the office of the president to the loser of the election.


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AlphaGo Zero Masters Chess in a Few Hours


Having mastered the game of Go over the course of months, Google’s AlphaZero machine-learning AI was supplied the rules of chess and no other information whatsoever about the game. It learned to be a superhuman chess master after 4 hours of playing games against another instance of itself. Later that same day it also mastered Shogi, the Japanese version of chess, which is more difficult than Western chess. More here.



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