Monday, April 08, 2013

Margaret Thatcher -- Memory Eternal!

I read with sorrow this morning the announcement of the death of Baroness Thatcher.

In my youth, while a student at Dickinson College, I and my fellows in the Dickinson College Tory Club sent a telegram congratulating Thatcher on her election. We insisted that it be sent in old form with the word "STOP" in place of periods:

Congratulations STOP Whatever you plan to do don't stop STOP

As one of the giants who led the West in the defeat of the Soviet Union, with the consequent freeing of the Orthodox Church from the Bolshevik Yoke, Thatcher should have the gratitude of all Orthodox Christians, even those who might disagree with some of her stances on some matters involving what the Latins call "prudential judgements".

Memory Eternal! Memory Eternal! Memory Eternal!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Steven Paul Jobs Memory Eternal!

Memory eternal! Memory eternal! Memory eternal!

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Debt Ceiling and the Renunciatory Quest

Let's forgive Senator McCain for confounding Middle Earth with The Shire.

The Senator's sudden insertion of Tolkein's Lord of the Rings into the debate over the U.S. national debt immediately evoked in me the reaction "Senator McCain is, evidently, casting himself as Saruman." Saruman and his minions are the only characters in the entire trilogy to sneer at hobbits, and Senator McCain's brand of bipartisanship so often seems to echo the fallen wizard:

"But we must have power, power to order all things as we will, for that good which only the Wise can see."

"And listen, Gandalf, my old friend and helper!" he said, coming near and speaking now in a softer voice. "I said we, for we it may be, if you will join with me. A new Power is rising. Against it the old allies and policies will not avail us at all."

"This then is one choice before you, before us. We may join with that Power. It would be wise, Gandalf. There is hope that way. Its victory is at hand; and there will be rich reward for those that aided it. As the Power grows, its proved friends will also grow; and the Wise, such as you and I, may with patience come at last to direct its courses, to control it."

Now, President Obama hardly rises (or descends) to the level of the Dark Lord Sauron, the "new Power" Saruman advocates joining, but Gandalf's description of Sauron "weighing everything to a nicety in the scales of his malice" and not being able to imagine that anyone would not want the power he seeks to wield seems to fit the Democrats collectively: they can't really believe that people are motivated to limit government, to destroy the very "ring of power" they want to wield. Tea Partiers can't really be after limited government, they must be racists or be trying to seize the reigns of government for some nefarious purpose.

And McCain, like Saruman, wants to play their game in hopes of the GOP wielding the same power of bloated government in place of the Democrats. Of course, this is a fool's errand, just as Saruman's attempt to set up on his own in competition with Mordor was. America has no need of two parties of big government, and when the GOP try to be a party of big government, making an Isengard as a slave's flattery of Barad-dur, they always lose.

For those steeped in Tolkien's mythos, branding the Tea Party as "hobbits" actually seems oddly appropriate. Tolkien's "little people" lived in the "fly over country" of Middle Earth, the Shire, ignored by the Wise (Gandalf the Grey, excepted) and the Enemy, ignored by the elves who traveled across the Shire on their way to the sea. They were farmers and shopkeepers and artisans, whose government was limited to a postal service, a few "Shirrifs" who mostly served as haywards, the "Bounders", a sort of border patrol, and one elected and one hereditary office. They had fixed laws "ancient and just", and thus no need for a legislature. Mostly they just wanted to be left alone to live peaceful, prosperous lives, very much as the Tea Party really just wants to be left alone.

But there is also a similarity between the Tea Party caucus in Congress and the hobbits who became notable among the Wise: like the Ring-Bearer, Frodo, they are engaged in a renunciatory quest. They did not go to Washington to wield the "ring of power" of deficit spending and powers accreted to the Federal government, if not in violation of the Constitution as interpreted by the courts, at least in violation of its plain meaning, but to destroy it.

Those of us sufficiently hobbit-like to just want to the Federal government to leave us alone, those of us who hope our children can live free, prosperous lives unburdened by the monstrous debt that now drags our country down like the Ring weighing on Frodo as he plodded to Mount Doom, must hope that they do not lose their nerve at the last moment as Frodo did, or if they do, that unaccountably someone from the other side of the aisle will step in to play the role of Gollum, and destroy their "Precious".

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Emmanuel Goldstein Sarah Palin Two-Minutes Hate

It was nearly eleven hundred, and in the RECORDS DEPARTMENT
newsroom at MSNBC, they were dragging the chairs out of the cubicles and grouping them in the centre of the hall opposite the big telescreen, in preparation for the Two Minutes Hate.

The next moment a hideous, grinding speech, as of some monstrous machine running without oil, burst from the big telescreen at the end of the room. It was a noise that set one's teeth on edge and bristled the hair at the back of one's neck. The Hate had started.

As usual, the face of Emmanuel Goldstein Sarah Palin, the Enemy of the People, had flashed on to the screen. There were hisses here and there among the audience. Goldstein Palin was the renegade and backslider who once, long ago (how long ago nobody quite remembered), had been one of the leading figures of the Party a governor, almost on a level with BIG BROTHER OBAMA himself, and then had engaged in counter-revolutionary activities run for Vice President and lost, had been condemned to death political oblivion and had mysteriously escaped and disappeared reappeared as a major media figure.

The programmes of the Two Minutes Hate varied from day to day, but there was none in which Goldstein Palin was not the principal figure. He She was the primal traitor, the earliest defiler of the Party's purity Hope and Change. All subsequent crimes against the Party, all treacheries, acts of sabotage, heresies, deviations, sprang directly out of his her teaching. Somewhere or other he was still alive She was off in the wilds of Alaska and hatching his her conspiracies: perhaps somewhere beyond the sea, under the protection of his foreign paymasters, FOX News perhaps even - so it was occasionally rumoured - in some hiding-place in Oceania itself
on Facebook.

Winston's diaphragm was constricted. He could never see the face of Goldstein Palin without a painful mixture of emotions. It was a lean Jewish face, with a great fuzzy aureole of white hair and a small goatee beard - a clever face genial, WASPy face with whispy bangs--a pleasant face, and yet somehow inherently despicable, with a kind of senile silliness in the long thin nose, near the end top of which a pair of spectacles was perched. It resembled the face of a sheep, and the voice, too, had a sheep-like quality. Goldstein Palin was delivering his her usual venemous attack upon the doctrines of the Party - an attack so exaggerated and perverse that a child should have been able to see through it, and yet just plausible enough to fill one with an alarmed feeling that other people, less level-headed than oneself, might be taken in by it. He She was abusing BIG BROTHER OBAMA, he she was denouncing the dictatorship of the Party, he she was demanding the immediate conclusion of peace with Eurasia end of quantitative easing, he she was advocating freedom of speech, freedom of the Press, freedom of assembly, freedom of thought, the right to keep and bear arms, he she was crying hysterically that the American Revolution has been betrayed - and all this in rapid polysyllabic speech a soothing, folksy tone which was a sort of parody of the habitual style of the orators of the Party, and even contained Newspeak words: more Newspeak words, indeed, than any Party member would normally use in real life. And all the while, lest one should be in any doubt as to the reality which Goldstein's Palin's specious clap trap covered, behind his her head on the telescreen there marched the endless columns of the Eurasian army TEA Partiers - row after row of solid ordinary-looking men and women with expressionless Asiatic faces, American flags and home-made signs who swam up to the surface of the screen and vanished, to be replaced by others exactly similar. The dull rhythmic tramp of the soldiers' boots plodding of the protesters' shoes formed the background to Goldstein's Palin's bleating voice.

Before the Hate had proceeded for thirty seconds, uncontrollable exclamations of rage were breaking out from half the people in the room. The self-satisfied sheep-like face on the screen, and the terrifying power of the Eurasian army behind it, were too much to be borne: besides the sight or even the thought of Goldstein
Palin produced fear and anger automatically. He She
was an object of hatred more constant than either Eurasia or Eastasia, since when Oceania was at war with one of these Powers it was generally at peace with the other John McCain or Ron Paul, since from time to time either would take positions supporting the Party. But what was strange was that although Goldstein Palin was hated and despised by everybody, although every day and a thousand times a day, on platforms, on the telescreen, in newspapers, in books, his her theories were refuted, smashed, ridiculed, held up to the general gaze for the pitiful rubbish that they were - in spite of all this, his her influence never seemed to grow less. Always there were fresh dupes waiting to be seduced by him her. A day never passed when spies and saboteurs acting under his her directions were not unmasked by the Thought Police. He She was the commander of a vast shadowy army, an underground network of conspirators dedicated to the overthrow of the State restoration of Constitutional government.

In its second minute the Hate rose to a frenzy. People were leaping up and down in their places and shouting at the tops of their voices in an effort to drown the maddening bleating voice that came from the screen. The little sandy-haired woman had turned bright pink, and her mouth was opening and shutting like that of a landed fish. Even O'Brien's heavy face was flushed. He was sitting very straight in his chair, his powerful chest swelling and quivering as though he were standing up to the assault of a wave. The dark-haired girl behind Winston had begun crying out 'Swine! Swine! Swine!' and suddenly she picked up a heavy Newspeak dictionary and flung it at the screen. It struck Goldstein's Palin's nose and bounced off; the voice continued inexorably.

In a lucid moment Winston found that he was shouting with the others and kicking his heel violently against the rung of his chair. The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but, on the contrary, that it was impossible to avoid joining in. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge-hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one's will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic.

The Hate rose to its climax. The voice of Goldstein Palin had become an actual sheep's bleat, and for an instant the face changed into that of a sheep. Then the sheep-face melted into the figure of a Eurasian soldier an evangelical Protestant who seemed to be advancing, huge and terrible, his sub-machine gun roaring waving a leather-bound Bible, and seeming to spring out of the surface of the screen. But in the same moment, drawing a deep sigh of relief from everybody, the hostile figure melted into the face of BIG BROTHER OBAMA.

Winston had heard the whispered story of a terrible book, a compendium of all the heresies, of which Goldstein Palin was the author and which circulated clandestinely here and there was a best-seller on Amazon. It was a book without title reputedly entitled "America by Heart". People referred to it, if at all, simply as the book. But one knew of such things only through vague rumours. Neither the Brotherhood TEA Party nor the book was a subject that any ordinary Party member would mention if there was a way of avoiding it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

St. Ignatius of Antioch weeps

Monday, June 14, 2010

On writing on spiritual matters

The occasional visitors to this very intermittent blog may find it odd that despite its name, the posts seldom address spiritual matters. I think perhaps the more prolific "Ortho-bloggers" might do well to consider two passages from The Philokalia:

According to St. Maximos the Confessor there are three motives for writing which are above reproach and censure: to assist one's memory, to help others or as an act of obedience. It is for the last reason that most spiritual writings have been composed, at the humble request of those who have need of them. If you write about spiritual matters simply for pleasure, fame or self-display, you will get your deserts, as Scripture says, and will not profit from it in this life or gain any reward in the life to come. On the contrary, you will be condemned for courting popularity and for fraudulently trafficking in God's wisdom.

--St. Gregory of Sinai, On Commandments and Doctrines

. . .through your writings you converse also with those who are not present, and often what you write falls into the hands of others, sometimes of those whom you would not wish to read it, since writings usually survive the death of their author.

For this reason many of the fathers who practiced extreme stillness could not bear to write anything at all, although they were in a position to set forth great and profitable things. It is true that I myself, who totally lack the strict observance of the fathers, have a habit of writing, although only when some great need compels me to do so. Now, however, those who look upon certain of my writings with malicious eyes and seek to find in them grounds to do me wrong have made me more reluctant to write.

--St. Gregory Palama, To the Most Reverend Nun Xenia

Friday, February 19, 2010

An Oblique Reply to the Editors of the New York Times

All of the discussion of policy and scientific issues related to the earth's climate since "Climategate" broke has, quite reasonably, focused on the corruption of data by the "homogenization" techniques used by various and sundry research agencies throughout the English speaking world and on the bogus claims found in IPCC publications based on use of advocacy sources in place of actual scientific papers, or on just plain, stupid errors (always favoring the preconceived idea that AGW is taking place and getting worse--one supposes the plain stupid errors in the other direction were caught in the editing).

All of this calls into question whether there has really been any global warming going on at all (at least if one takes a much shorter time scale than from the end of the Little Ice Age, c. 1850, to the present)--Prof. Phil Jones of "Climategate" notoriety has admitted there has been no statistically significant warming since 1995.

What I find maddening is that critics do not put front and center a thoroughgoing critique of the method by which the supposed causal link between CO2 emissions and changes in mean global temperature was supposedly established: computer modeling.

The last big enthusiasm in science journalism before most science pages turned into AGW propaganda rags was "chaos theory", a sexed-up version of an observation Poincaré had made around the turn of the 20th century, that solutions to non-linear differential equations with nearby initial conditions could diverge radically over the long-run, meaning that physical systems governed by them were predictable only in the very short-run without perfect knowledge of the initial state of the system, supplemented by the discovery that the same sort of unpredictability could arise in other sorts of dynamical systems, including symbolic dynamics and the dynamics of iterated polynomials that leads to all those lovely pictures of (approximations to) fractals.

One of the popularized phrases thrown around in that era was "the butterfly effect", describing the sensitivity of the non-linear equations governing the dynamics of the earth's atmosphere to initial conditions in the terms "If a butterfly flies across a field in China, the weather in New York will be different three days later."

The mantra "weather is not climate" shows a fundamental misunderstanding, not in what it denotes, which is true enough, but because it papers over the fact that climate is weather, averaged and aggregated over time and place. Certainly in the popular mind, and I strongly suspect in the minds of a great many of the climate modelers who have contributed to this debacle, there is the idea, supported by the "weather is not climate" mantra, that the unpredictable short-term variations in weather are simply "statistical noise" overlaid on a predictable system. This is not the case. The variations in weather are the short-term dynamics of the system climate modeling seeks to predict long term. Creating time-averaged variables (turning weather into climate) and discretized space-averaged variables (gridding) out of the actual continuous moment-to-moment measurements that describe the earth's atmosphere do not magically turn a non-linear system into a linear system, even if done honestly.

The only proof offered for the causal hypothesis that CO2 emission from human activities cause whatever warming trend, whether really existing in the world or conjured by dark means out of "homogenizing" data, have been discretized computer models of a chaotic dynamical system, that perforce leave out both the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns among influences on the earth's climate, but also have, by and large, left out known influences (for instance, the causal mechanism, proposed and verified in experiments by Svensmark, linking solar magnetism to cloud formation that accounts for the long-noted correlation between sunspot number and mean global temperature).

To the extent that the AGW hypothesis leads to testable predictions: a hot-spot in the troposphere over the tropics, and a decrease in out-bound infrared radiation correlating with rising CO2 concentrations, or, for that matter, the most elemental prediction that rising CO2 levels would correspond to rising temperatures, which they have not over the past decade and a half, the hypothesis has been falsified by observation.

The "proof" of AGW was never science, it was a pack of grant-funded nerds playing an apotheosis of SimEarth on supercomputers. And we now know they were cheating.

It is the AGW-believers who are at war with science, with their notion of "settled science". Computer modeling is not a "new way to do science" whatever Steven Wolfram may think or want so he can sell more software. The "skeptics" or "deniers" are, in fact, the defenders of science, defending it by making war on "settled". Real science is never settled, it is always provisional. As I have observed before, Newtonian physics seemed "settled" for two-hundred years, but came apart when it couldn't explain the precession of Mercury, the photoelectric effect and the constancy of the speed of light in a vacuum--observations that falsified its predictions.

I wonder whether the authors of the New York Times' recent lead editorial which still hawks the "need" to hobble the world economy and impoverish the world's people to "cut greenhouse emissions" consulted with James Gleick, their old science correspondent who wrote the popular "Chaos" back in 1987. I suspect not.

(A disclaimer: I do not know Gleick's views on AGW, and do not mean to attribute any view to him. But were he true to the science and mathematics he described in his 1987 book, he could have warned the editors of the folly of their position.)

We have seen the results of over-reliance on models that make false assumptions about short-term variability in the financial sector. What is needed from policy makers is not ploughing ahead with greenhouse gas emission regulations, but a recognition that they have been sold a bill of goods. As I have opined before, the correct, useful, response to climate change (which is real and has been going on for 4.5 billion years without human agency) is to make contingency plans against droughts, floods, rising sea levels, advancing glaciers, and the like and to throw a lot of money at making sure our agricultural infrastructure can grow food in hotter dryer, colder wetter, hotter wetter, and colder dryer climates than we now use.

At least seed money for the agricultural research might easily be found without raising budget deficits by defunding supercomputer climate modeling.