How I Learned To Love Climate Modeling

I’m annoyed by the New York Times hire of Bret Stephens, more annoyed by the defense that Times editors are mounting on Twitter. I’m annoyed that this has to be said again, but here we are, as Times editors tell us that any criticism is merely trying to silence a conservative voice. My objections have nothing to do with Stephens’s political views, except that it is clear that those views drive his views of climate change.

I was once a climate skeptic, with a great deal more basis than Stephens’s sense that life is uncertain and therefore we should eat dessert first. My skepticism arose BECAUSE I knew something about the climate models. Read more

Guest Post From Cheryl Rofer: The Department of Energy, What Does it Do? 🤔

(Not Cheryl Rofer!)

Fails Dancing With The Stars, Wins Nuke Prize

by Cheryl Rofer

According to the New York Times, Rick Perry, former governor of Texas, presidential aspirant, and now Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of Energy, um, didn’t know what the Department of Energy does when he accepted Trump’s nomination. “Sure I’ll be Ambassador for Oil and Gas,” he said. Twitter is meeting this revelation with humor and “We’re all going to die.”

In a better world, like the one we’ve been living in the past eight years, Cabinet secretaries actually know something about the organizations they are leading. It’s time to disrupt that fusty idea. We have Betsy DeVos, who wants to eliminate public education, as Education Secretary, a fast-food executive as Labor Secretary, and so on. Rick Perry has advocated eliminating the Department of Energy, so he was the natural pick.

Does that mean we are all going to die? That’s not so much the purview of the Energy Secretary. The President has a military guy who carries around the “football,” which is the most immediate starter of nuclear wars. As far as policy goes, the Secretaries of State and Defense have much more to say about starting wars nuclear and conventional. And, surprisingly for this administration, they actually seem to have responsible views on nuclear weapons. Here are excerpts from James Mattis’s and Rex Tillerson’s testimony to Congress. They are quite different from what Donald Trump has tweeted, and much more like the policies that Obama has followed.

Mattis almost says something that the arms control community has wanted to hear from the president:

the role of nuclear weapons is “[t]o deter nuclear war and to serve as last resort weapons of self-defense.”

Change that to

the only role of nuclear weapons is “[t]o deter nuclear war and to serve as last resort weapons of self-defense.”

and a lot of arms-controllers would be very happy.

The Secretary of Energy is in charge of building and maintaining nuclear weapons, so there is some concern about accidents and such, but fortunately it will not be Rick Perry handling the wrenches or working the gloveboxes. A big downside of someone like Perry is that there is no way he can play the role Ernie Moniz did in developing the nuclear agreement with Iran.

Now the question is how much influence Mattis and Tillerson will have on their boss.

Tuesday Evening Open Thread: Stay Watchful

The Geminids are the last meteor shower of 2016, and you should be able to catch them between December 12 and December 15. The peak of the shower will be late at night on December 13 and early in the morning of December 14.

You’ll see the most meteors at around 2 a.m. local time, when the meteors radiate from directly overhead. The supermoon will also be visible, and even though the bright moon will make it harder to see the meteors, the Geminids are large enough that you should still be able to catch the brightest shooting stars.

Anybody going to be out there watching for meteors tonight?

(Our attempt this summer to see the Leonids shower was a major #FAIL, which ended with us & three wired little dogs stuck in a six-hour pre-dawn traffic tie-up, so I’m not even gonna mention this to the Spousal Unit… )

Speaking of immense fusterclucks, here’s a small piece of good news from The Resistance:


Apart from scienterrific scienterrorism, what’s on the agenda for the evening?

Open Thread: Trump’s Chosen Secretary-of-(Exxon)-State

From Ioffe’s Politico article:

It’s hard to imagine Tillerson publicly chiding Putin today because he is now so very dependent on that friendship. In 2011, he negotiated a multibillion-dollar deal between Exxon Mobil and Rosneft, the Russian state oil giant cobbled out of Khodorkovsky’s seized empire and run by Putin’s former KGB buddy, Igor Sechin. The deal would have allowed Exxon access to the Russian Arctic shelf—which, according to U.S. government estimates, is thought to contain some 22 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas deposits—in exchange for helping Rosneft, which didn’t have the technological capabilities, drill for the stuff.

In 2014, Russia invaded Ukraine, seized the Crimean peninsula and started an insurgency in Eastern Ukraine, triggering a wave of American and European sanctions. But that summer, Tillerson thought it best to stay away from the St. Petersburg Economic Forum and instead sent his deputy, who, acting on behalf of Exxon Mobil, signed another energy deal with Rosneft and Sechin, who had ended up under sanctions…

… Russia had become an international pariah, and its economy—to say nothing of its rule of law or judiciary—was in shambles, but Western companies were bowing and scraping before a man who had just shocked the world by violating international law. Tillerson was at the head of that line. Instead of using their deep ties to Russia—by this point, it is said Tillerson had become buddies with Sechin—to push the Kremlin on the “rule of law” that had so bothered Tillerson six years prior, Russia’s new friends pushed on the White House. Shortly before sending his emissary to St. Petersburg to sign the deal, Tillerson told reporters in Texas that he was lobbying Washington against sanctions…

The lesson of Putin’s 16-year tenure is a lesson that all businesspeople, foreign and domestic, have learned: To do business in Russia, you have to be on good, personal terms with Putin and Sechin. And you have to understand that those two gatekeepers to Russia’s riches are fickle and sadistic, and, as former KGB operatives, know little of real friendship. To do business in Russia—both for Exxon Mobil and for Tillerson’s own massive retirement fund, whose fortunes would rise significantly if a Trump White House lifted sanctions—you have to dance to Putin’s tune, and take whatever favors and humiliations he sends your way. Putin may act a friend and pin state medals on your breast, but he is, ultimately, a cynic. And to play ball with him, you have to be a cynic, too. Forget your honor, your rule of law, your independent judiciary, your human rights, your international law, and focus on the gold coins he throws to your feet. And forget looking dignified as you gather them up.

Read more

Breaking News — “No (DAPL) Pipeline?”

Goddess, I hope this isn’t another lie from “our” government…

The secretary of the Army Corps of Engineers has told Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault that the current route for the Dakota Access pipeline will be denied.

The proposed route led to a protest encampment by the Standing Rock Sioux and other activists.

The 1,172-mile pipeline is nearly complete except for a small section beneath a Missouri River reservoir near the encampment, which is about 50 miles south of Bismarck.

Archambault cheered the decision in a statement Sunday.

“I am thankful there were some leaders in the feral government that realized something was not right even though its legal,” he said. “For the first time in hisopry native American, they heard our voices. This is something that will go down in history and is a blessing for all indigenous people.

I heard the army corp of engineers will not grant the easement and they will reroute.

I would say that it is over.”…

Story’s been picked up by the AP / Washington Post.


Overnight Open Thread: Shocking!

Here’s an actual Tesla coil rifle to shock you awake on this early Sunday morning/late Saturday evening. If you want to build your own, the details are here. I’m going to bed, amuse yourselves!

It’s a beautiful day in Utah. Open Thread.

Doing some renovation on our house. There were relatively minor things wrong with it, with a couple of exceptions when we bought it, but it was a short sale so we got a very good deal on it.

Today, we’re moving a garage door opener from the big garage door to the small one. The opener on the big door is really undersized for the job, and even more so that the spring/counterbalance isn’t working. We’ll get that adjusted by a professional since everything we’ve read about adjusting or repairing it was essentially “YOU WILL DIE ARRRRRRRGH!” But in the meantime I can install the new, bigger one.
Fixed a couple of leaks, including a temporary repair until the spring, when we’ll pull the window in question and re-frame it. It wasn’t framed in properly and it’s 1/2 inch out of level/plumb, but for now it’s not leaking. It’s the window in the kitchen, so it puts off tiling the backsplash for now.  I didn’t figure out that it was out of plumb until I started layout lines for the backsplash and found it.  No way around it except to pull it and reframe it.
Getting ready to upgrade the main electrical panel and run some new circuits in the garage, basement, and the bonus room office. I can pull the wire and connect the outlets and even install breakers, but upgrading the panel itself needs doing by a professional for the same reason as above.  My challenges are nothing like John’s, though.
Landscaping–talked to the county extension office because I want to get the right plants in the right places and save water, and there’s a study going to start in the spring of some native grass/hybrid plantings. I volunteered for that. We’ll see how that goes.  We’re going to replace the water heater with a gas tankless heater next month, and we’re going to install solar panels on the roof as well.  There are a LOT of Green contractors here. People are very serious about this kind of thing here in this red state and there are a lot of state laws that support green building and renovation here.  It’s not like Oklahoma where the oil and gas interests run everything. Tourism is king here.
On the political side here in UT, this is what’s happening:
UT will NOT go for Clinton. It just isn’t going to happen. It MIGHT go to Evan McMullin (which would deny the EVs to Trump, which is almost as good) but I’m not holding my breath. Trump holds a steady 3-4pt lead over McMullin in the local polling, and local political reporters aren’t getting too excited. McMullin is pulling in the crowds, and he comes off as a clean-cut, reasonable person. That kind of thing is important here. The Mormons don’t like Trump, and McMullin is a nice alternative, but they REALLY dislike Clinton.  If it wasn’t for the fact that every single member of the UT delegation is a Republican, McMullin would have a strong chance at a House or Senate seat if he were to run and maybe he’ll primary somebody in a couple of years.  To get a feel for the Mormon mindset on politics, think of Mitt Romney. Handsome, articulate, not (overtly) a bomb-thrower, (appears) reasonable, etc.
The House campaigns are going about how one expects them. The UT3 has gotten particularly nasty but Mia Love will win. The Salt Lake Tribune “endorsed” her along the lines of “she’s useless and incompetent and probably corrupt, but the House is likely to stay Republican, so better to have an in with leadership than not.”  In the UT2, where I live, the race is between the incumbent Republican who makes a huge deal out of having been a B-1 Pilot in the Air Force and strong national defense.  The biggest single site employer in the district is the US Army, with Tooele Army Depot and Dougway Proving Ground.  His opponent is a Social Worker and Community Organizer whose main campaign thrust is about doing things for the people of the district like homeless shelters and increased access to healthcare–things the incumbent has ignored.  The Trib’s endorsement of the Republican incumbent in UT2 is essentially the same as the UT3 with the names changed.