woody zimmermann 120One of my old math profs liked to say, “For every complex problem there exists a solution that is simple, elegant, and completely wrong.” Over the years since my wasted youth I have seen that waggish kernel of wisdom validated in many mathematical and scientific contexts.

This inconvenient rule has now intruded into politics. Having escaped from the dank cell where she has been chained since the election, Hillary Clinton has sallied forth to instruct her benighted country (and party) on the real reasons for her unexpected election loss last November. In her telling, it was quite simple: somebody – everybody, really – messed up a sure thing. She “takes responsibility” for the loss, but her more fulsome words point elsewhere. By degrees she blames FBI Director Comey, hostile media coverage, the Democratic Party, misogynists, Islamaphobes, homophobes, hydrophobes, racists, Republicans, Trump-campaign operatives, and Russian agents who essentially stole the election. Exactly how that was done she doesn’t say, but there’s no way that she could have lost after President Obama dubbed her the “most qualified candidate in history.” To paraphrase Inspector Clouseau: infamous powers must have been at work.

But Madame’s “solution” – if one can call it that – to this vexing political conundrum is too simple by half. It more or less validates my old prof’s prescient words. Radio talk-host Mark Steyn calls it her post-election “whine-athon.” Others (including moi) have named it her “blame tour.” And Washington Times columnist Charles Hurt compares her to Lady Macbeth desperately trying to cleanse her bloody hands. (“Out, out, damned spot…Will these hands never be clean?”) It is a Shakespearean time as ever was.

The Hillary “blame-orama” is unique in my 65-year experience with American politics. I can’t recall a single failed presidential candidate, of either party, running around the country declaring that his loss was caused by devious agents who subverted his campaign, magnified trivia, and attacked his character. Even Richard Nixon made no recriminations after his 1960 loss (by a whisker) to John Kennedy, although election fraud was manifest in several states. Mr. Nixon did fire some bitter words at the media, however, after losing his 1962 try for the governorship of California. “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore,” he snarled, in a memorable post-election press conference. (Remarkably, though, Mr. Nixon made a dramatic comeback to win the 1968 presidential election.)

Does Mrs. Clinton believe she is helping herself by joining the never-Trump “resistance” and harping on the “Russians did it!” theme? One presumes so. But thinking she’s helping herself and doing so are two different things. From here it looks like the voters are long past caring about what she says. Even Dem-insiders are tiring of her shtick. They are furious that she trashed their efforts to enliven her moribund candidacy. “We were trying to make a corpse look natural,” cracked an unnamed insider. The Shakespearean word “begone” has fallen out of the vernacular, but maybe it should be brought back. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some Democrats using it before long. (“…and your little dog, too, me lady!”)

Another knotty issue currently dominating the news is “anthropogenic climate change” – i.e., the theory that human activity, particularly the burning of fossil fuels, is causing the climate to change. “Change” is actually eco-code for “warm,” although the climate has stubbornly refused to do that for the last two decades. Nevertheless, a determined political cadre insists that climate-change is a mortal threat to the earth, and can be halted only by draconian economic measures to reduce use of carbon-based fuels. They claim that we must act now to avert disaster.

Right now, though, eco-libs and the chattering class are going bananas because President Trump doesn’t see it their way. In fact, he has kept one of his signature campaign promises by pulling us out of the Paris Climate Deal, which his predecessor signed us up for “without benefit of clergy.” The Mainstream Media call the Paris Accords a “treaty” in an attempt to suggest that Mr. Trump can’t undo it. It may be a treaty for other countries, but not for us. Mr. Obama signed us up via executive order because he knew the Senate would never ratify such a crack-brained deal. Mr. Trump needed only to issue his own executive order to unstick us from its job-killing provisions, which would cost us trillions of dollars but do virtually nothing about the earth’s climate.

The air was thick with speculation – desperate hope, really – that the president might not pull the plug entirely. But he pitched the whole works – thus unshackling industries crippled by the deal. His chief complaint was that it imposed restrictions on us, while letting carbon mega-burners like China and India use carbon-based fuels at will, for over a dozen years. The president saw this as injurious to our business-competitiveness, and he was having none of it. He had promised, during his campaign, to release us from the deal, so he knew he had to make good.

In truth, serious scientists – as opposed to politicians who don’t know diddly about climate science – readily admit that the treaty’s draconian restrictions on carbon-fuels would have little effect on earth’s temperature and climate. One study estimates its temperature-reduction at 0.17o C, if all signatories fulfill their commitments perfectly. Economists calculate the treaty’s cost at $1 trillion a year, with the USA bearing the lion’s share of the bill. It would hobble our industrial base in the bargain. Its chief effect, said one analyst, would be making everyone poorer, except for politicians and environmentalists.

“Saving the planet” is a political slogan intended to persuade scientifically ignorant people that a crisis exists from which we can be saved only by radical financial sacrifice. (“Send in all your money, or we’re doomed!”) It has no factual basis. There is no scientific agreement that the climate is actually changing, and even if it is there is no cause for alarm. Earth’s climate has changed repeatedly over eons, but none of the changes was caused by man. Apocalyptic predictions of future climate-disaster are mainly the product of climate “models” known to be flawed, as they cannot accurately predict earth’s current climate from past empirical data.

As an experienced builder of computer-based models, I know something about that business. I can assure readers that computer-models don’t generate “facts.” They produce theoretical predictions calculated from data, assumptions, and postulated interactions – understanding of which may be inaccurate or incomplete. In the best scenarios, inaccuracies derive from faulty data or imperfect comprehension of the science by builders of the models. But in the worst cases, model-builders deliberately install biases to produce results which will enhance their own notoriety and/or funding. Back in the day, we called this “prostituted science.”

Producing results designed to please the customer is not un-common in government-funded technical work. If the customer dislikes your findings, your follow-on funding might dry up. So the temptation to cheat a little (or a lot) in how you construct a model is almost irresistible. It takes a paragon of scientific integrity to follow an honest path in these matters.

When a model is used to study the mating habits of chinchillas, and its results determine whether a handful of chinchilla farmers get a few millions, some modeling-flaws – even if intentional – aren’t a terribly big deal. But when a model’s results propel political decisions which might ruin the economies of entire nations – or even the whole world – it’s another matter entirely. We can chuckle at the “simple, elegant and completely wrong” line in many venues – including politics (as we have seen) – but ruining millions of people today because of a theory whose veracity will be known only a hundred years out is no laughing matter. We need to come up for air on this.

History is replete with destructive actions dictated by crack-brained theories. In the ancient city of Assisi, Italy, where Saint Francis lived, city fathers became convinced that the devastating Black Death of the14th century was being caused by paint in the colorful frescoes which adorned interior walls of the church. On the basis of this theory they ordered the walls to be whitewashed, thus destroying priceless, irreplaceable works of art. A few white-washers made some money, but no progress was made on stopping the plague, which had an entirely different cause.

 “The end is near” warming-craze really got cranked up after 2000, but it started much earlier. A Washington Post article related an alarming report about polar ice melting due to abnormally high temperatures in the Arctic. Well known glaciers had disappeared, and in some places the water was too warm for seals. The report predicted that in a few years the ice-melt would raise the sea-levels and make most coastal cities uninhabitable. It blamed Model T Ford emissions for the “crisis.” That article was published on November 2, 1922. The attempt to ban the Model T went nowhere, however.

Closer to our own time, the Montreal Protocols of the 1990s did produce a ban on chloro-fluoro-carbons (CFCs), on the theory that those chemicals would cause a “hole” in the atmosphere’s ozone-layer. CFCs were much used as refrigerants and propellants, and in fire control systems – applications for which they were ideally suited by being non-toxic, chemically inert, non-corrosive, non-flammable and four times heavier than air.

In his 2010 article, “The CFC Ban: Global Warming’s Pilot,” [1] Dr. David S. van Dyke describes the anti-CFC campaign’s origin. University of California chemists theorized in the 1970s that CFCs would reach the upper atmosphere, where UV radiation might break them down and release a reactive chlorine atom which could catalyze degradation of the ozone layer. Dire warnings of increased melanoma quickly erupted, leading to a ban on CFCs. A costly subsequent migration of air-conditioning systems to new coolants caused complete destruction of the Freon industry – all because of a theory.

To this day the ozone-hole theory remains controversial and unproven. Dr. van Dyke explains that the melanoma predictions were based on imperfect understanding of ultraviolet radiation. He also points out that the successful campaign against CFCs emboldened the eco-left to target other important chemicals. They soon achieved a world-wide ban on DDT – a wretched move which condemned millions to death from mosquito-borne malaria. Dr. van Dyke concludes that in the current overheated political climate, environmental ideology trumps proven science.

Basing expensive and destructive political programs on scientific theories – often “supported” only by models of unproven veracity – is progressives’ tool of choice for gaining increased governmental control over people’s lives and wealth. Citizens need to be on guard against these campaigns. It’s especially important to remember that the media’s primary question is always “where’s the conflict?” – while “what’s the truth?” runs a distant second.

Forcing ordinary folks to ride bicycles and live in grass huts (to “save the planet”), by pricing them out of cars and the gas to run them, will produce endless “human interest” stories and “discussions” by panels of comely TV info-babes. (Africans love living this way, so why wouldn’t we?) [2] It’s doubtful, though, that those young eco-libs expect to endure the degraded living conditions and reduced circumstances which will result from the climate “solutions” they so ardently champion. The real, hands-on experience is always for somebody else to enjoy.

Beware of messiahs bearing “simple, elegant, and completely wrong” solutions. They can really cost you.


[1] See Dr. Van Dyke’s article at http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2010/02/the_cfc_ban_global_warmings_pi.html

[2] See “Climate-change Campaign’s Dark Side” – http://www.ahherald.com/columns-list/at-large/18425-climate-change-campaign’s-dark-side