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Author: Briggs

February 20, 2009 | 34 Comments

You’re welcome

Dear Mortgage Holder,

Obama’s latest plan must sound pretty sweet to you. You bought a house and paid too much for it.

It didn’t look that way at first because after you bought the house, it went up in value. Prices were rising everywhere fast. Reasoning that nothing could go wrong, you took out a home equity loan on the increased value so you could get that flat screen TV and some other things you “needed.” You really ran up those credit cards.

But then the housing prices started falling to more realistic levels. Sure, they fell fast and some of that decline was caused by idiot bankers making risky loans to people…like you, maybe?

Now your mortgage payments are killing you and you’re complaining about it.

Obama has heard your cries. He has decided to dig into the treasury and give money to lenders so that you can refinance your house and lower your payment.

You remember that I have been renting. I’ve been saving my money, keeping my bills low, scrimping and acting responsibly. When you made your loan, remember how I laughed at you and said you were being foolish? “How can you expect to pay for all that extravagance?” I asked. Boy, was I smug and morally superior.

But you got the last laugh. Because I saved and did well, my taxes are going to go up, so that Obama can pay the bill for all this refinancing.

In effect, the money that I have been saving to buy my own house will be going to pay for yours.

I read in the papers that a lot of “journalists” and politicians think this is “fair.” They want to move quickly, too, because they think if we don’t then the economy will get worse. How do they know? They don’t. It’s just a guess. But everybody will be happy because the government is giving away money. They never stop to ask where the money comes from.

You’re probably so happy that you hadn’t even thought of the best part. See, your payments will go down and you get to keep your house. That part you knew. But your house will also increase in value in a couple of years. That means you’ll be able to sell it at a profit. So you’re getting a kind of double gift; you’re going to be doing pretty well after all.

All thanks to me and my money.

Just wanted to say you’re welcome.

Your Pal,


February 19, 2009 | 6 Comments

Site down last night

Update. The site was down all day, from 7:30 am to about 7:00 pm EST. Any comments you made were lost. Please, please post them again. With hope, the site will stay up from now.

Apologies to everybody. The site was down for over three hours last night because of the host, which is Yahoo. It was down from about 1:30 am to about 5 am EST.

I have emailed them asking for an explanation, but I can’t really expect one. Last time I emailed about this problem, they said, “The site looks like it works to us.” Never mind that I was talking about an outage that occurred earlier.

They do not hire the best people to answer support questions.

I asked for a refund for the down time. I have as much chance of that as Nancy Pelosi finding a sense of humor.

I’m not sure, but any emails sent to me during this period might also have been lost.

February 18, 2009 | 26 Comments

Help finding paper.

Two days ago a report appeared in various places announcing the results of a new paper tying malaria to “global warming.” I’d like to find the paper but I haven’t the time. Does anybody out there have it?

The news report (click here) is as follows. No mention of the journal or paper except that its results are “conclusive.”

Study finds climate change, malaria spread link

Scientists have produced more evidence of a strong link between climate change and the spread of malaria.

A study in the highland parts of Kenya has identified a significant increase in cases of malaria over a 30-year period, apparently caused by a rise in temperature of just half-a-degree Celsius.

Professor Mercedes Pascual from the University of Michigan says the results are conclusive.

“We have asked whether climate change could explain the pattern of increased risk in the size and frequency of epidemics. The answer is yes it can,” she said.

“Warmer temperatures can explain an eight-fold increase of cases during epidemic months according to our models.”

The scientists say the findings show that highland areas of eastern and central Africa are likely to see a rapid rise in the number of malaria cases as temperatures rise and mosquitos become more abundant.


The website of one of the authors is here. No words about the paper there.

Thanks all!

February 17, 2009 | 31 Comments

We made Joker!

UPDATE: apologies to those who tried to comment from 1 am to 5 am EST Wednesday. My hosting service was doing maintenance and comments were locked out. All is well now.

UPDATE 2:The site was also down nearly all Thursday. If you’re reading this, you can see it’s back up.

You won’t have heard of it, but there is a website called “The Wonk Room“. (Stick around until after the quote for today’s Lesson in Logic.)

Sounds like a fun place, eh? Who doesn’t like a room full of wonks?

Anyway, it turns out that they have added my name to 51 others to form a pack of jokers! Climate jokers, apparently. No, not the kind of guys who might say to a cirrostratus cloud, “Look who just blew into town”, but those who would make light of “The consensus.”

They grouped my name under the heading “Weathermen”, which is close enough.

Here is my comment (I sometimes worry these kinds of comments won’t make it past the censored list):

Hi guys. William Briggs (“Weatherman”) here.

You oddly list us weather guys as having “expert” as opposed to expert (without square quotes) opinions. I gather this means you think your comments are expert and not “expert” on climatology.

It’ll be fun to see if you’ll have the honesty to publish this comment.

Just for fun, here are my credentials: PhD from Cornell in Mathematical Statistics, MS from Cornell in Atmospheric Science, BS from Central Mich in Meteorology. Associate Editor Monthly Weather Review; multiple publications in Journal of Climate and other such places; Member on the American Meteorological Society’s Probability and Statistics Committee. Etc. Interested readers can go to my web page for more.

Money received from anybody—government, grants, non-profit, industry, etc.—for journal articles or comments in climatology/meteorology: $0.

Industry contacts: 0.

Number of email blasts sent by me on any subject: 0.

Thanks for the interest everybody!

Actually, now that I remember, I did receive gratis travel to give an invited lecture in Spain at the Royal Science Academy last year. I also got some free grub at the Heartland Climate Conference last year. This puts my total dollars received far, far short of one month’s rent payment. But, dammit. Now I have to recant. (I added this comment to their site, too.)

For an interesting exercise in logic, if consensus means agreement by all and some climate scientists do not agree with The consensus, is it still a consensus?

If you answered no, you wouldn’t enjoy yourself in the Wonk Room. Because on their compilation they list “The Scientists: Ph.D.s…[who] are ready to denounce the scientific consensus.” “Scientists…denounce scientific consensus.” But if “Scientists” do not agree then there cannot be a “scientific” consensus, right?

Unless you redefine scientist as one who agrees with The consensus. That move, regardless of what you think of it, does make the argument about consensus valid. All “scientists”, by definition, agree on The consensus, which is therefore a consensus. Do you see what I mean?

This means that those who disagree must not be scientists. Which puts the Wonkers in a dilemma, for they cannot list these folks as “scientists”, which they do.

Those guys must lose a lot of sleep over thinking about these things. Because it gets worse.

Why? Well, none of these Wonkers is himself a scientist. So how can they know who is a scientist and who is not? After all, they do not possess the academic training to be able to tell.

Only thing they can do is to ask a scientist, “Are you a scientist?” If the man says, “Yes”, then the Wonker must also ask, “Do you fervently believe in The consensus.” If the interviewee says “No”, then the Wonker must conclude that the interviewee is deluded or confused.

It’s worse still, because how did these Wonkers know that there was The consensus in the first place? Because somebody told them. And they must have believed what they were told wholeheartedly. And they must have been told by some first person who said, “I am a scientist and here is The consensus. Anybody who does not fervently believe in The consensus is not a scientist.”

This must be the case because, again, the Wonkers have no way to judge on their own the scientific content of The consensus. They must accept, by faith, what the original scientist told them. Arguments against The consensus are not allowed because these would be made by non-scientists, because scientists, by definition, are those who accept The consensus, and who therefore would not—and could not—argue against it.

Whew. What a lot of work, much of tedious and boring, to show that some people have, quite simply, lost their minds.