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Several times each year, the Tropical Meteorology Project team at Colorado State University issues hurricane forecasts.  The April forecast just came out:  this year, there will be 16 named storms and 9 hurricanes.  Governments and insurance companies use these forecasts for budgetary planning purposes.  Nervous residents in West Palm use them to decide how many sheets of plywood to buy.

I’m glad we have a team of capable scientists at CSU who are dedicated to forecasting these things.  These folks use the best available computer models to aggregate thousands of climatological data points and process them with the soundest theoretical algorithms.  But let’s see how the models are actually performing.  The figures below show the April hurricane and named storm forecasts compared with the actual number of hurricanes and named storms that occurred.  Each point represents one year from 1984 through 2010.  If the models were perfectly predicting the number of storms, every point would lie exactly on the 45-degree line.  Since models are not perfect, we would expect some scatter around that line.  But if the scatter is too great, then the model loses its utility.  For the April forecasts, the data points are scattered more or less randomly.  There is literally zero correlation between the predicted number of storms in April and the actual number that occurred.  You would be as well off to roll a pair of dice than to believe the forecasts.  It is frankly a waste of CSU’s time and money to put these out.

Surely the forecasts must be better the closer the hurricane season approaches.  The CSU team also issues a forecast in June, as illustrated in the figures below.

As expected, the predictions are slightly more accurate in June, but still the scatter is far too much for the forecasts to be meaningful for any realistic purpose.  For example, suppose 8 hurricanes are predicted.  This tells you almost nothing about the actual number of hurricanes which will occur, which could range from 4 to 15.

Each year when August rolls around the CSU team issues another forecast.  This one, coming on the cusp of the hurricane season, must be highly accurate, right?  The figures below show the data.

Here we see a definite correlation in the data which approaches a level which may be meaningful.  Still, the scatter is large.  Scientists use a number called “r-squared” to quantify the strength of the relationship between two sets of data, such as predicted and observed hurricane numbers:  an r-squared of 1.0 means perfect correlation, and an r-squared of 0 means no correlation.  In both of the above plots, the r-squared value is 0.42.  Suppose 8 hurricanes were predicted.  The actual number of storms could range from 4 to 12.  A narrower range than complete randomness, but would you bank on it?

A significant slice of the public tends to trust climatological analyses far more than reality warrants.  Climate circulation patterns are simply far too complex to accurately predict, and this will always be the case.  Even if the density of our climate station network were to increase tenfold, there would still be 60% of the earth that could never be measured and could never feed data to the model.  Even if we could somehow solve that problem with an ultra-accurate system of remote-sensing satellites, the circulation patterns themselves would still not be fully tractable by the differential equations which the models solve.

It’s a giant advance in thinking to simply accept this fact, accept that risk exists, and not expect science to solve every problem and predict every catastrophe.

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The administration is directing federal agencies to pay more attention to employees behavior, hoping to thwart future Wikileaks wannabes.  With special attention to those who have access to classified documents, agency managers are to be aware of such behaviors as “despondency and grumpiness.”  Now, be serious.  These are federal employees we’re talking about.  How could you tell?

Time now for the Lie of the Week.  Chuck Schumer, dejected democrat from New York, after the Senate voted down the House bill to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire on incomes above $250,000, said this:

It’s not that we want to punish wealthy people. We want to praise them. But they’re doing fine, and they’re not going to spend the money and stimulate the economy

Chuck Schumer thinks it’s his job to peer out upon the plebians and ascertain who is “doing fine” and who is not.  And if you’re “doing fine” according to Chuck, well then, he’ll simply nail you to the wall.  In less politically-correct times we would call the man out on his desire to exercise such raw power.   Here’s something:  I think Chuck Schumer is doing just fine, so how about I just confiscate all his money?  If I did that, it would be called robbery, but when Congress does it, it’s called making those who have “won life’s lottery pay their fair share” or some other nonsense.

Chuck Shumer wants to praise wealthy people?  This is a man who has built an lucrative political career by stirring the vile brew of class envy.  If Chuck Schumer wants to praise wealthy people, he could start by not vilifying businessmen every chance he gets and by refusing to support any additional legislation to further tax, regulate, and manipulate the private sector of the United States.

And last, Chuck apparently ascribes to the “vault in the cellar” theory, a popular propaganda tool among leftists.  That is, wealthy people will just stuff any incremental increase in cash in a vault in the cellar and not spend it.  Therefore, it won’t help the economy to cut taxes and in fact we should confiscate even more.  This is economic lunacy.  A person may feel bitter toward those with large incomes, but they spend, save, and invest just like the rest of us, and in fact every point of tax rate reduction for the wealthy results in a much larger benefit to the economy simply because of its larger dollar amount.  This may be anathema to the left, but it’s just arithmetic.  So, Chuck, if you want to stick it to the “wealthy,” at least be honest about your ideological leftism and stop trying to make an economic argument.

Congressional approval ratings tend to fluctuate, but they are at an unprecedented nadir right now.  Here’s one reason why:  Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) is fed up.  This is not unusual; senators are normally fed up about something.  But the main source of such angst recently has been that pesky, antiquated liberty thing that just won’t go away.  Jay is really, really fed up with Fox News, but he’s non-partisan because he also doesn’t like MSNBC.  Maybe he’s more of an NPR dude.  And so, hewing to that time-honored senatorial tradition, his idea is to use the force of the state to eliminate that which offends him:

There’s a little bug inside of me which wants to get the FCC to say to FOX and to MSNBC: “Out. Off. End. Goodbye.”  It would be a big favor to political discourse; our ability to do our work here in Congress, and to the American people, to be able to talk with each other and have some faith in their government and more importantly, in their future.

I don’t think a senator would get very far today trying to use the power of the federal government to shut down a news organization.  Maybe in 10 years or so after the last smoldering ash of the Constitution is sucked up by a D.C. street sweeper, but not quite yet.  It’s disturbing, however, that a senator is fantasizing in this way.  He is uneasy that the people might know what the Hallowed Senate is really up to.  He is livid that the people dare criticize his “work.”  You can see where things inevitably lead when liberals have power.  They are the least tolerant human beings on the planet.  They demand uniformity.  They hate to be questioned.  Senators like Rockefeller recoil at the light of day, because – can’t you understand – they are working hard every day to improve your life; now get out of the way.

Frankly, anything that interferes with Congress’ ability to do its work ought to be encouraged.  I don’t want people like Jay Rockefeller to get any work done at all.  I want every waking hour to be utterly unproductive,  because the “work” he wants to do won’t be good for me, for the country, or for liberty.   So I say:  “Godspeed, all Rockefeller irritants!”

Four cheers to John Tyner, 31-year old Oceanside, California man and reluctant hero to millions of us who believe the government has gone way over the line in the name of “safety.”  Mr. Tyner politely refused the full-body scan at the San Diego airport, then also objected to the alternative full-body pat down including groin check.  “If you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested” were his exact words.  The sweetest part?  He got it all on tape.  Mr. Tyner was firm but cordial throughout the encounter, and the TSA agents were businesslike, simply doing their job with the lobotomized drone we’ve all come to know and love.

Citizens of the United States of America:  if the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution does not protect you from having your testicles and breasts groped by a government official who has zero cause to believe you have criminal intent, then what in the name of Pete would it protect?  Police officers on routine traffic stops can’t even open the damn trunk to check for drugs unless they have “probable cause,” or a search warrant.  Suppose the traffic cop reached through the window and groped the female driver – just checking for contraband, you know.  He’d be sacked, and the ACLU would file the next day.

Steve Chapman at the Chicago Tribune summed up how we all feel (or should feel):

When it comes to protecting against terrorism, this is how things usually go: A danger presents itself; the federal government responds with new rules that erode privacy, treat innocent people as suspicious and blur the distinction between life in a free society and life in a correctional facility; and we all tamely accept the new intrusions, like sheep being shorn.

There’s a solid argument for flat-out abolishing the TSA.  Check out the Forbes article on the subject.

It’s hard to get away from it, I know, so this post will be entirely free from serious, frowny-faced cogitations about John Boeher’s humble upbringing, or whether Nancy Pelosi’s next lipstick choice will be Lenin Glow Red or Evil Imperial Rose.

One day last week my drive home was accompanied by an infrequently-heard song from The Guess Who called “Second-Hand World.”  Lyric-wise, this was not Kurt Winter’s best work (“Anybody here see the fuzzy-wuzzy lovin’ cup explosion?”).  But it’s catchy, with the cliched 60s feel so common on Kool Oldies radio stations and that makes Baby Boomers feel all misty and want to buy a rusty VW bus.  Then the chorus played as I was turning into the drive:

Don’t give me no
hand me down shoes
Don’t give me no
hand me down love
Don’t give me no
hand me down world
I got one already

And in these words is the essence, the life-force that possessed The Guess Who’s audience then and continues to obsess their scions today:  this present world is an unwanted old shoe, being foisted upon them by unenlightened rubes, defined axiomatically as anyone born previous to them.  The “hand-me-down” wisdom of generations past is to be discarded as irrelevant.  Don’t give me no hand me down world — I got one already, so I’m going to toss it out and remake the world anew in my own image.  In the 60s, at least these people were armed only with cultural argument and social protest.  Today, they literally have their hands on the wheel of your world and are jerking it leftward with all their might, not caring that the scorned “hand-me-down world” was built on the backs of countless selfless Americans, including men whose blood protects the nihilist’s liberty to spit on it if they choose.

Next time I’m in Starbucks, I’m going to order a fuzzy-wuzzy lovin’ cup explosion.

You must always read Mark Steyn, the effervescent Englishman, National Review columnist, and brilliant observer of the nannification of the World.  In a recent column he said,

No state can insure its citizenry against all risks, although in Nanny Bloomberg’s New York City and hyper-regulated California they’re having a jolly good go.  And that’s the point:  The goal may be unachievable, but huge amounts of freedom will be lost in the attempt.  The right to evaluate risk for oneself is part of what it means to be a functioning human being.

With every line added to the Federal Register, another small part of the human soul vaporizes.  The right to evaluate risk (and, it follows, accept the consequences of being wrong) is a concept rarely discussed, but seen by the left as a direct threat to their utopian dream because once it is admitted that there is something the  government cannot regulate, every regulatory action that it does take must be justified.  And we simply cannot have that.

Economies thrive best when calculated risk taking thrives.  More than that, though, the right of risk taking is so fundamental to human existence that it ought to be a pillar of every Republican candidacy this fall, but it won’t.  It won’t because giving it center stage means saying really hard things that don’t sound soft and fuzzy, like:  the Consumer Protection Agency ought to be dismantled.  A truly free people ought to be allowed to decide for themselves whether they want to buy a lawnmower without a blade clutch, throttle interlock, toe guard, self-drive safety cutoff, and fuel line flash arrestor.  In a truly free economy, manufacturers would produce all kinds of lawnmowers ranging from the inexpensive, bare-bones model, to the full-blown NannyMaster 3000, which is so dripping with safety that with every purchase, Ralph Nader shows up to deliver a scary lecture about how the mower could, under certain circumstances, make you sterile.

Do you see how more freedom exists in that scenario compared to the world we have now?  To the left, freedom doesn’t really mean businesses being free to produce what people want.  It doesn’t really mean autonomous people evaluating every situation, being willing to accept a certain level of risk, and making the best decision they can.  It means government-enforced freedom from worry and risk, as defined not by consumers, but by the left themselves.  The former is elevating to the human spirit, whereas the latter leads to societal numbness and incompetence.

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