The Black Monster of Santa Barbara

It is no shame to die for love. It has been the mark of many a noble death. It need not be a shame to kill for love, though it often is, but there are times when it can be right.

The Lily Maid of Astolat begged Lancelot to love her, to marry her or -- if he would not -- at least to take her as paramour. He would do neither, the one for the love of Guinevere and the other out of respect for her virtue. She took herself to her bed and died, but revenged herself on him by having her body brought to Camelot with a letter complaining that he had refused her love. It is a bitter story and a sad one, but a better story than today's.

Elaine understood that her complaint, though the sorrow of it brought her to her death, imposed no duty on Lancelot. He might be ashamed to have caused her such pain, when she had done him only good. But his defense was valid, as Camelot agreed:
And when Sir Launcelot heard it word by word, he said: My lord Arthur, wit ye well I am right heavy of the death of this fair damosel: God knoweth I was never causer of her death by my willing, and that will I report me to her own brother: here he is, Sir Lavaine. I will not say nay, said Sir Launcelot, but that she was both fair and good, and much I was beholden unto her, but she loved me out of measure.

Ye might have shewed her, said the queen, some bounty and gentleness that might have preserved her life.

Madam, said Sir Launcelot, she would none other ways be answered but that she would be my wife, outher else my paramour; and of these two I would not grant her, but I proffered her, for her good love that she shewed me, a thousand pound yearly to her, and to her heirs, and to wed any manner knight that she could find best to love in her heart. For madam, said Sir Launcelot, I love not to be constrained to love; for love must arise of the heart, and not by no constraint.

That is truth, said the king.

Rewarding failure

Why and how an institution gets money directed to it may be more important than how much it gets.  This morning's Wall Street Journal article argues that the VA has gotten all the money it ever asked for, and yet it's failing.  The same disturbing pattern afflicts public school financing, which increases endlessly even as its results deteriorate. Paul Krugman argues that freeing the V.A. from the "perverse incentives" of "profit" should be a great thing, but Daniel Greenfield points out his lunacy:
“Crucially, the V.H.A. is an integrated system, which provides health care as well as paying for it,” Krugman wrote.  “So it’s free from the perverse incentives created when doctors and hospitals profit from expensive tests and procedures, whether or not those procedures actually make medical sense.” 
Of course ‘perverse’ profit motive incentives don’t go away.  They just morph into targets that have to be met at any cost.  A quick look at anything from Soviet agriculture to No Child Left Behind would show how that works. 
Krugman was either being dishonest or remaining steadfastly ignorant of how the world works.  And the VA met its targets and budget issues by rationing health care and killing patients. 
The way socialized medicine always does.
Or, frankly, any monopoly that manages to disconnect its funding from its performance by exempting itself from the rigors of competition and therefore from the discipline of consequences of failure.

"The more you tighten your grip . . ."

". . . Lord Vader, the more star systems will slip through your fingers."  This might be a good message for the author of "When Sprawl Hits the Wall," a piece in Urbanophile bemoaning the "doughnut" syndrome around dying cities.  Indianapolis, he claims, enacted a brilliant strategy of co-opting its suburbs some decades back.  You can't let those people move out to the outskirts without expanding your perimeter and trapping them in your tax-base, right?  But then the suburbs themselves inexplicably decay, too, which evidently has nothing whatever to do with their having been trapped in your crazy urban scheme to begin with.  Then new suburbs spring up even further out and, dang it, the people with all the money and resources insist on living there instead of in your demonstrably superior urban paradise.  Sometimes they even move to a completely new city or state.

The problem continues to be that choice thingy.

On Reparations

There's been some talk about this essay in the Atlantic, which makes an extended case for reparations from the perspective of the harm done to black Americans over several centuries. (A rebuttal from the National Review is here.) We should consider it, because I think the case is even stronger than the author makes it.

The strengthening element comes at the union of two points he does make, which I will quote. The first one is about the way in which black slaves were increasingly subject to an emerging racism:
When enslaved Africans, plundered of their bodies, plundered of their families, and plundered of their labor, were brought to the colony of Virginia in 1619, they did not initially endure the naked racism that would engulf their progeny. Some of them were freed. Some of them intermarried. Still others escaped with the white indentured servants who had suffered as they had. Some even rebelled together, allying under Nathaniel Bacon to torch Jamestown in 1676.

One hundred years later, the idea of slaves and poor whites joining forces would shock the senses, but in the early days of the English colonies, the two groups had much in common. English visitors to Virginia found that its masters “abuse their servantes with intollerable oppression and hard usage.” White servants were flogged, tricked into serving beyond their contracts, and traded in much the same manner as slaves.
Indeed it is no wonder that poor whites and blacks found themselves in a similar case in 1619, because racial theory in general did not exist at that time. The Wikipedia article on the subject alleges some 'classical' theories, but comes up with two very minor examples; and the choice of the word 'race' is the translator's, not the original author's. (The Latin is "gentium.") That different peoples are different is not news, but the idea that there was some sort of quasi-species difference is not an ancient concept.

It is certainly not a Medieval concept. The distinction that interested them most was not biological but religious. Indeed European society during the Middle Ages was much more diverse ethnically than we realize today without careful effort, largely because they themselves didn't make a big deal about it. Likewise in Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival, the hero's father's first wife is a black African princess. His half brother is half-black (literally, in the novel: half his skin is black and half white, in patches). The marriage isn't considered illegitimate because of the difference in skin color, but because the wife was of a pagan faith and Parzival's father was a Christian. Meanwhile, when he and his half-brother meet, they meet as equals and treat each other with great joy. That is not to say that there were never Medieval remarks about those differently-colored foreigners that were disparaging: the Jewish philosopher Maimonides makes some very vicious ones in his famous work Guide for the Perplexed. But there was no sense of this concept of "race."

The invention of racism in the Enlightenment is "early" during the life of Robert Boyle, who was not born until 1627. The concept was not well accepted even in his day. Three of the great thinkers of the Enlightenment did much to change that: Voltaire, Kant, and Hegel. (Kant, who advocated so strongly for universal rights coming from internal rational nature, is the most surprising name on this list; but nevertheless, as philosopher Charles Mills points out, he made a complete commitment).

So there was a move in philosophy, including natural philosophy -- father of the sciences -- toward racism. The sciences became enthusiastically embraced on this point by culture, politics, government, and art. Why? Because it provided slave owners with white support to help them suppress the danger of rebellion from a black population that greatly outnumbered them (as historian Kenneth S. Greenberg demonstrates), while also providing a justification for the generation of the greatest wealth in human history to that era.
In the seven cotton states, one-third of all white income was derived from slavery. By 1840, cotton produced by slave labor constituted 59 percent of the country’s exports. The web of this slave society extended north to the looms of New England, and across the Atlantic to Great Britain, where it powered a great economic transformation and altered the trajectory of world history. “Whoever says Industrial Revolution,” wrote the historian Eric J. Hobsbawm, “says cotton.”

The wealth accorded America by slavery was not just in what the slaves pulled from the land but in the slaves themselves. “In 1860, slaves as an asset were worth more than all of America’s manufacturing, all of the railroads, all of the productive capacity of the United States put together,” the Yale historian David W. Blight has noted. “Slaves were the single largest, by far, financial asset of property in the entire American economy.” The sale of these slaves—“in whose bodies that money congealed,” writes Walter Johnson, a Harvard historian—generated even more ancillary wealth. Loans were taken out for purchase, to be repaid with interest. Insurance policies were drafted against the untimely death of a slave and the loss of potential profits. Slave sales were taxed and notarized. The vending of the black body and the sundering of the black family became an economy unto themselves, estimated to have brought in tens of millions of dollars to antebellum America. In 1860 there were more millionaires per capita in the Mississippi Valley than anywhere else in the country.
This telling dramatically understates the importance of slavery to the Industrial Revolution. Historian Eric Williams famously declared that the British participation in the trans-Atlantic slave trade underwrote the entire industrial program. American slave shipping followed the same model, developing a variation of the "Triangular Trade" that had funded the development of British industry. Based in the Northeast, it shipped rum to Africa to trade for slaves, slaves to the Carribean to trade for sugar cane, and sugar cane to New England to make into rum.

The American South was not much involved in that trade because it was involved in the British triangle, which took cotton to its mills to make into textiles, traded the textiles for slaves, and the slaves for cotton. It was not until the American Civil War that the South was brought into the North's economic system, as the northern American states had developed cotton mills of their own, and the blockade closed the South to British shipping for years, forcing the British to turn to India for cotton -- a change that was never undone, once it had finally been made. As a consequence, the market for Southern cotton after the war was in the North. The huge "gilded age" boom of industry was funded first by the slave trade, then by slavery, then by the oppressive systems of sharecropping and Jim Crow. Thus was there money to build factories and railroads!

The Atlantic piece makes much, rightly, of the suffering that attended sharecroppers under this new system. What the author misses is that this affliction was not entirely race-based. The intense racism was wielded as a way of keeping Southern poor whites -- who once again had very much in common with poor blacks -- on the side of the system run by the elite in places like Atlanta, capital of the "New South," which made business ties to New York its guiding light. Jim Crow was not just to keep blacks down, but to keep the poor divided and distrustful of each other. Official, government-enforced racism intensified during this era because it was the only thing holding the system together, as grinding poverty worsened every year under the law of monoculture: every year cotton production must go up, which means that -- supply and demand -- the price per bale came down. Until the Boll Wevil destroyed the crops three years running in the late 1920s, nothing got better in the South.

What all that means for reparations I couldn't say. The proposal is to study the issue. It's worth studying. It's worth understanding.

Off-road thinking

More on graphene:  How a greater fear of being boring than of being wrong led to levitating frogs and a Nobel prize.

Genes and culture

Reading half a dozen reviews of Nicholas Wade's new book "A Troublesome Inheritance" had almost reduced me to despair of ever finding one that didn't get stuck in the long-running "tastes great, less filling" quarrel between nature and nurture, or in sterile quibbles over whether the word "race" has any meaning.  (I can't say for sure when red becomes orange and orange becomes yellow, but I know that colors can be usefully distinguished.)

This New York Books review, amusingly entitled "Stretch Genes," avoids the usual excitable excesses.  Wade's book sounds like an interesting romp through theories about how traits like willingness to trust non-kin, or ability to delay gratification, can profoundly affect the structure of civilization.  It also sounds like an inexplicable effort to attribute to genes a number of global differences that could as easily be attributed to culture.  Wade looks, for instance, at the hesitance of some Southeast Asian cultures to adopt successful strategies from Chinese immigrants.  If it were only a matter of culture, he wonders, why wouldn't people readily adopt the new strategy as soon as they observe its success?  It must be genetic.  Or . . . could there maybe be some huge non-genetic hurdles to adults' ditching one culture and adopting another that seems to offer an advantage in one sliver of life?

There are fascinating studies involving identical twins separated at birth.  They are almost the only line of inquiry that I find persuasive on the knotty problems of disentangling nature from nurture.


Two concerts stand at the very core of the Boomer mythos, Woodstock and Altamont. The one was good, the other evil. Woodstock was -- in spite of mud and hardships -- a festival of love and the new way of thinking. Altamont somehow became tainted, and the source of the darkness was pinned on the violence of the Hells Angels.

The matter is of interest because a new feature about them, which 'of course' will address the concert. The initial press is not encouraging.
Of course, the project will include the 1969 Altamont concert in Northern California where the Hells Angels provided a barrier to make sure that the crowd didn’t come onto the stage when the Rolling Stones played. As the story goes, their “payment” was in beer. The Angels got into brawls with the fans and a pregnant woman ended up with a skull fracture and another young man was stabbed to death. It was total chaos. After that, the Hells Angels were persona non grata, and public opinion about the club changed for the worse.
The woman was hit by a beer bottle thrown from the crowd, not by the Angels.

As for the other matter: 'A young man was stabbed to death.' True, as far as it goes.

Here's a documentary on the matter.

The young man in question had been thrown out of the concert for trying to climb onto the stage. He went somewhere and obtained a revolver, returned, drew the gun, and charged the stage again.

Another story built into the mind of the Boomer generation is the assassination of John Lennon. The Hells Angels stopped a similar attack on the Rolling Stones, perhaps the only band of equal stature to the Beatles.

The Angel who saved the Rolling Stones did it without shooting into the crowd, without hurting anyone else, and by charging a gun with a blade.

That's not bad. The failure to understand what they had seen right in front of their eyes was not the first such failure. We are still today living with the consequences of many other failures by just the same people, of just the same kind.


'And then it hit me! By which I mean, my wife pointed it out.'

I wonder how much this insight applies to the one show -- which, like most television, I haven't seen at all -- and how much it is a barometer for the current society.



Well, this is encouraging.

Live by the Viral, Die by the Viral

One of the key problems in American foreign policy is always the maintenance of political will among the American people. It's hard to sustain a long-term and difficult operation if the American people's interest in or support for it wavers; harder still if the opposition party is actively undermining you.

It turns out a particular problem with the use of social media as the forefront of your diplomacy is that, on the Internet, interest wanders quickly.

Intellectual disarmament

Here's an exceedingly odd article in Foreign Policy about the accelerating collapse of Libya, because Republicans.  What I apparently didn't understand before is that the purpose of a Congressional investigative committee is not to look into malfeasance by United States officials but to solve Libya's internal problems.  The author sputters with outrage that Republicans in Congress have obsessed about the President's "bungled communications" about Benghazi rather than about how to transform Libya into a paradise without committing either treasure or blood.  That turns out to be the proper task of the opposition party rather than, say, the White House or the State Department.  Here are the helpful ideas of the State Department, by the way:
"Libya has many challenges, and we're aware of that," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday.  "We believe they cannot be overcome if its leaders don't settle differences through dialogue and work together." 
Last week, in London, Secretary of State John Kerry pledged to do "all we can to help the Libyans" solve their political problems. "We need to try to accelerate the effort to bring about stability and security and the governance that is necessary to provide the time and the space for Libyan authorities to be able to confront the threat from extremism and the challenges that their country faces of just providing governance to their people. . . ." 
But it seems the problem wasn't the flabby emptiness of these sentiments; it was Congress's inexplicable refusal to provide "resources":
With the hours upon hours of hearings dedicated to Benghazi, very little of that time focused on how Congress could help provide the resources the administration might need to improve the situation in Libya.  The fact that this isn't likely to change bodes poorly for the country's future.
The article mentions the administration's alert readiness to evacuate the Libyan embassy as soon as things go from desperate to nightmarish this time.  (Not gonna make that mistake twice!)  Imagine the morale in that embassy.  "Yes, this cesspool of a country's blowing up, and I can't imagine what professional sins I must have committed to have been assigned here, but I take comfort in knowing that Washington has my back."


Tolkien's Beowulf is out today.

Two True Things From The FBI

The FBI has issued a couple of interesting statements lately: worries about concentrated government power, and a confession of defeat in the War on Drugs.

It would be nice to hear more frankness like this. Well done.

A Debate For Our Times

The truth about the National Democratic Party: Communist or Sith?

Clue bat

The president boasted that wait-times at the VA have been slashed by 50% in the last year.

But wait, wasn't there some kind of scandal about fudged wait times?  Maybe he hasn't heard about it yet.

I shouldn't blame him too much.  Most of the coverage I've seen lately is depressingly confused, focusing on the wait-times themselves instead of the fraudulent coverup.  The wait-times have been with us for a long time and are unlikely to be fixed as long as we're moving in the direction of socialized medicine instead of away from it; they're also an extremely comfortable issue for the current administration, being one of its many "inherited" problems.  The current scandal is, or should be, about the fraud, the coverup, and the President's refusal even to acknowledge it, let alone to effect a remedy.

Even though, as he says, "That's the good thing about being president, I can do whatever I want."  You've got a telephone and a fountain pen, Mr. President.  How about putting your tush in gear to solve a purely executive-department problem?  You may not be able to supply decent medical care to vets (or at least, not until you reform your philosophy), but you can sure address fraud in your own ranks.  It might even be easy to get the voters and Congress behind a solution if the problem isn't deliberately buried.

Books, Covers

Sometimes judgment may be legitimate.

The Quest for Bannockburn

In the run-up to the celebrations attending the 700th anniversary -- 23 June, remember -- BBC Two has put together a fairly neat short history. If you aren't fully familiar with the Bannockburn, you could do worse than to look it over.

Price-fixing, Part . . . oh, I forget

Health insurance rates too high in California?  No problem, we'll respond just as we did to unruly prices on other necessities.  Remember the fabulous success of California's artificial "market" for energy prices?  Me, too:  most of my work starting in 2001 arose out of the nationwide wave of electrical power generator bankruptcies that began with Pacific Gas & Electric, a business failure caused 100% by barking-mad state power utility regulators who thought they could repeal the law of supply and demand with a regulatory wand.  Regulators never dreamed that micromanaging PG&E's business would lead to brownouts.  It worked for the Soviet Union, right?

The more critical a product is, the worse idea it is to jack with its market.  Price caps mean crashed supply and stymied innovation, last time, this time, and every time.

"There Is No More Molly"

Mark Steyn remarks on the fourth anniversary of the disappearance of cartoonist Molly Norris:
[Four years ago]

You may have noticed that Molly Norris' comic is not in the paper this week. That's because there is no more Molly.

On the advice of the FBI, she's been forced to go into hiding. If you want to measure the decline in western civilization's sense of self-preservation, go back to Valentine's Day 1989, get out the Fleet Street reports on the Salman Rushdie fatwa, and read the outrage of his fellow London literati at what was being done to one of the mainstays of the Hampstead dinner-party circuit. Then compare it with the feeble passivity of Molly Norris' own colleagues at an American cartoonist being forced to abandon her life: "There is no more Molly"?


Because of the Muslim death threats, Molly Norris, who started the event, had to go into hiding and change her name. She disappeared completely and nobody knows whether she is dead or alive.
The latter quote is from an article about the "Draw Mohammed Day," which was the event she started. This year it was shut down by Toronto police.

Against Rutgers

P. J. O'Rourke has posted a spirited defense of Madame Rice, a harsh indictment of Rutgers' institutional culture and college education generally, and a reminder of an excellent poem that I hadn't read in many years. Indeed, I had forgotten the poet -- not the poem itself, but for some reason I thought it was Thoreau's work, and not Robert Frost's.
SOMETHING there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
He is all pine and I am apple-orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbors."
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
"Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down!" I could say "Elves" to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there,
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."
"Elves" is not a bad explanation, after all.

A Day of Civic Duty

Today I both voted and, shortly thereafter, donated blood to the Red Cross. Tonight we'll have the exciting tabulation of the winners and losers, and see how the general election will shape up.

I went with Todd Robinson over Michelle Nunn not out of any strong sense that she was a bad candidate, but just for the reason most people will vote for her: her father was Sam Nunn, a man I greatly respect. On reflection, though her career in charitable organizations is worthy of respect, the real reason she's the out-front favorite is just because she comes from a famous family and has a famous name. Robinson has earned the respect he has all by himself, as for example when he served with the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.

In a way that's unfair to Ms. Nunn, who isn't at fault for having famous parents, nor for coming of age at the same time that Jimmy Carter's grandson is going to be a candidate for governor, or at the same time that we've recently had two Bushes and two Clintons as serious contenders for President (and a third Bush on the way, according to reports). Of course we have had the Kennedys for years, and of course every President we've ever had has been kin to George Washington.

Nevertheless, I believe that if there is a natural aristocracy, it must be an aristocracy not of blood but of virtue. We should look for the ones who have earned it. I have no doubt that Mr. Robinson will say, at his victory or his concession speech, that he owes everything to his family. In a way he will be right, but not in the same way. Doubtless he owes them a great deal, but not a direct ascension to the top of the ticket; doubtless he couldn't have done it without them, but it was him all alone there in the mud and the night.

UPDATE: With 2% of results in, NBC already feels safe calling it for Michelle Nunn.

Battle of the Nations: Good Parts Version

Well, "best parts version," but that loses the reference.

That Ukrainian in the beginning may have had an unfair advantage in terms of real-world experience.

Foreign Cars Do Sometimes Resemble Trolls

[A]round 7 a.m. as she drove her red BMW by the intersection of Southeast 7th and Morrison.... A man dressed in chain-mail with a helmet, shield and carrying a sword and staff ran into traffic and started attacking her car.
Apparently she called the police and reported that "a pirate" was attacking her. A gross mis-identification!

Pointing the gun turrets in

States are operating under an unfair disadvantage.  Companies are voting with their feet, moving in large numbers from California to Texas and in lesser numbers from New York to just about anywhere with more reasonable gun-control and right-to-work laws.  What's a state to do?

Foreign countries showed us the solution a long time ago:  the Soviet Union, Cuba, and North Korea made the border more secure.  That is, secure not only in the sense of controlling immigration, but in the even more important sense of stopping those terrible rich people from leaving in disgust.  California and New York don't have the power to shake down emigrants at the border, though California has toyed with the idea.  In contrast, the U.S. federal government is quite prepared to give it a try.

That's the ticket:  Never influence economic behavior by persuasion, or by applying incentives out of your own pocket, when you can do it by force.

Debate, equal sign, over

The time for talking is past. The experts have reached a consensus. We’ve come too far to go back now. The people have decided. The toothpaste is out of the tube. We’re not going to return to the bad old days. Sure, there are some who insist on being anti-science. There are people who are still clinging to their Bibles and their guns. I don’t know why they’re working so hard to keep folks from having health insurance. They want to put y’all back in chains. They want to put women in binders.

Stop me before I buy or sell again!

Two good articles about the market.  First, the healing powers of the minimum wage:
So let’s break down what she does for her $8 an hour.  She says “may I help you” to a customer, a customer gives her their order which she enters via a touchpad computer.  The computer computes and totals the order.  She enters the amount of cash tendered and it tells he how much change to give back.  Or she swipes a credit card, waits for the receipt to print and hands both back to the customer.  At some point after that, she hands the customer a tray with food on it or a bag containing it. 
Guess what else can do most of that?
Second,  Harry Binswanger confesses his guilt for playing a part in "market failure":
You see, a "market" is the interaction of individuals, buying and selling.  A market trade is distinguished from seizing goods by force.  In the supermarket, I trade my dollars for the items I take from the shelf.  That's, as the name says, a market.  If I just grabbed stuff from the shelves and ran out the door with it, hoping to evade capture, that would not be "the market" operating but theft. . . .
. . . When people like me are left free to make our own decisions, we screw up. We create chaos. We can't be trusted with freedom. That's when the government has to come in to clean up the mess.

The heartbreak of GMO food

Oh, come on.  Who wouldn't want to grow this?

The Elise Situation

I waited for a few days to comment on this, in the hope she might change her mind. Cass has shut down a few times, and come back on second or third thought. Elise seems determined to deprive us of her insights.
I’d also like to thank Cassandra over at Villainous Company for encouraging me early on: You made a world of difference to me, Cass. And I’d like to thank both Villainous Company and Grim’s Hall for taking me seriously as a blogger and for making me feel welcome as a commenter; I’ll be stopping by from time to time.
You're welcome. If you want to post here from time to time, just once every few months or years as interests you, let me know. We've been glad to have your company, myself especially.

Public Pianos

A great idea, if the guy who stops by to play it is this guy.


I'm not sure when it happened, but I noticed several years ago that every damaging admission from a leftist was explained as having been "taken out of context."  (I'm open to correction here; maybe I don't notice it when right-wingers do the same thing.)  (But see "Gaslighting.")  The primary defense to the Climategate emails, for instance, was that some dozens of jaw-dropping admissions of the politicization of the peer review process were taken out of context.  Sure enough, when peer reviewers recently rejected a mildly skeptical climate paper on the ground that it would only provide ammunition for those terrible denialists, it wasn't surprising to learn the next day that their remarks had been taken out of context.

I confess, though, that reading their remarks in context hasn't much cleared things up.  The paper was rejected because it pointed out an inconsistency in an important recurring feature of climate models, which the reviewer considered a "false comparison" because rational people always understood that no consistency was to be expected on that point.  Sorry, not helping.

Mark Steyn is on the case, as usual, with a fine piece about the "Clime Syndicate," entitled "The Descent of Mann."  He has not, to put it mildly, reacted to the Michael Mann lawsuit by describing his adversary with more gentleness or caution.

The rejected paper put its finger on the sore spot: the unjustifiable assumption that CO2, a weak greenhouse gas, has suddenly become a greenhouse gas that dominates even its much stronger cousin, water vapor, because of what is often called "forcing" or "sensitivity," which means an assumption that there is a positive feedback loop that is causing greenhouse warming to spiral out of control.   There is no physical explanation of why a positive feedback loop should be present, when Nature abounds with far more examples of negative feedback loops tending to equilibrium.  The assumption that the feedback is positive is entirely inferred from historical data, then plugged into computer models to create predictions.  The problem is that the historical data don't particularly support the positive sign on the feedback loop:  at best they support widely varying estimates of its magnitude, and they can with equal rationality be seen to support a negative feedback loop.   Nor does a positive feedback loop assumption make for a predictive model that matches experimental data, particularly during the last inconvenient 17 years, which have seen an inexplicable pause in inevitable warming that is sure to be followed by the apocalypse.

Here are the peer reviewer's comments explaining why a paper pointing out problems with various models' feedback assumptions would be "unhelpful":
The manuscript . . . test[s] the consistency between three recent "assessments" of radiative forcing and climate sensitivity . . . . The study finds significant differences between the three assessments and also finds that the independent assessments of forcing and climate sensitivity within AR5 are not consistent if one assumes the simple energy balance model to be a perfect description of reality. . . . . The finding of differences between the three "assessments" and within the assessments . . . are reported as apparent inconsistencies. The paper does not make any significant attempt at explaining or understanding the differences, it rather puts out a very simplistic negative message giving at least the implicit impression of "errors" being made within and between these assessments . . . . Summarising, the simplistic comparison of [forcing ranges] . . ., combined with the statement they they are inconsistent is less then helpful, actually it is harmful as it opens the door for oversimplified claims of "errors" and worse from the climate sceptics media side. One cannot and should not simply interpret the IPCCs ranges for AR4 or 5 as confidence intervals or pdfs and hence they are not directly comparable to observation based intervals (as e.g. in Otto et al). In the same way that one cannot expect a nice fit between observational studies and the CMIP5 models.
Oh. Well, all right, then. The silly author expected a nice fit between observational studies and models. Can't be printing unfair criticism like that! Especially if he's some kind of wet-behind-the-ears arriviste or a well-known looney denialist:
For a decade, [the author] was director of the Max Planck Institute of Meteorology. For another decade, he was Director of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts.  He's won the Descartes Prize, and a World Meteorological Organization prize for groundbreaking research in numerical weather prediction.  Over the years, he and Michael Mann have collaborated on scientific conferences.
That's what peer review is for:  to elevate the tone.