Why They Don’t Release Raw Model Guidance to the Public

This is called a meteogram:

It is a graphical representation of a model run for a single point on the Earth’s surface, in this case the weather station at Bellingham airport. Note that I should have said “suite of model runs” instead of “model run:” each so-called forecasting model is in fact multiple runs, each initialized with a slightly different set of parameters, all based on current observations. This is done to provide a measure of how reliable the model is: if each run in the suite is all over the map (like they are for the weekend after next), it means the model’s predictions cannot be trusted very much.

By contrast, every run in the suite above is in agreement that we are about to have a lowland snow event, totaling an inch or two. Very high confidence, but wait. This is for the GFS model, the one developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This model has a tendency in our climate to underestimate the moderating effects of the Pacific Ocean and the Cascade Mountains, plus it is generally not as reliable as the ECMWF model developed by the EU nations. What does that model have to say?

Both significantly less snowy and significantly less confident in any sort of snow outcome. Let me let you in on another secret: any time those models forecast a snowfall range in the lighter gray colors, one almost never sees any accumulation unless the temperature is solidly below freezing at the onset of the event. The temperature is not forecast to be solidly below freezing. In other words, this model is saying there is an off chance of seeing some wet flakes in the air tonight, with no accumulation.

Now, if the ECMWF model had shown basically the same story as the GFS one, we would be in a situation much like we were going into the solstice, and I would be making a confident snow prediction regardless of what the official forecasts said. If both models consistently tell the same story, they are almost always correct.

But both models are not consistently telling the same story, so what to do about it? First, what we can do is limited: it’s going to be a lower-confidence forecast, no matter what. The signs are mixed as to what is going to happen. However, the more accurate of the two models is saying little if any snow tonight. Moreover, the less accurate model is known to have defects which can explain precisely this discrepancy.

Therefore, it is wise to go with the ECMWF guidance: an off chance of some wet flakes in the air.

But note what would have happened if a) I liked snow, b) I didn’t know about the defects in the GFS model, and c) I let my emotions cloud my judgement. I would have helped start a false rumor about there being a viable chance for an inch or two of snow overnight.

This is why the models are often called model guidance: they are not there to forecast the weather, they are merely there to help people forecast the weather.

Damp on Saturday, Wet on Sunday

That is both my forecast and the official forecast. On the subject of the official forecasts, they are usually pretty good, and usually the same forecast I would give, were I a professional weather forecaster. The times I make a big stink are the times the official forecasts don’t make much sense to me.

Anyhow, if you’re planning outdoor activities, Saturday definitely sounds like the better day. The source of the moisture that will make Sunday (and the beginning of the work week) so wet is coming out of the tropical Pacific, so it will drag some relatively warmer air up our way with it. Expect some high temperatures in the fifties, maybe well into the fifties (Bellingham is often one of the warmest spots in Western Washington when a strong south wind is blowing, more on why that is the case sometime later).

That means snow levels will be rising, though at this time it seems likely they will stay (just) below the elevation of the Heather Meadows area. Still, if I were skiing, I would opt for Saturday. Some light snow which is drier because temperatures are still reliably below freezing sounds a lot nicer than copious amounts of heavy, wet “Cascade concrete” snow.

This will likely prove to be just a temporary mild interlude to a generally cool pattern that we are for the next several weeks. The long-range models have all been consistent with things staying on the cool side at least through the first half or March.

This also means that we’re not out of the woods quite yet when it comes to lowland snow; yes we can get lowland snow in March, sometimes significant amounts of it. I must emphasize, however, that at this time there is no specific indication of any such thing. The dice are merely loaded so that outcome has a higher chance than normal, that is all.

More Weather Posts Coming Here

A bit of introduction for the unaware is in order here: one of my many interests in the sciences is meteorology. As such, I follow a number of weather forums. Those with more money to their name than I subscribe to professional services that give access to raw forecasting model data.

Maps and other graphics were getting reposted to the forums from those professional services which showed something interesting was probably going to happen, curiously enough, right on the first day of winter: a powerful cold front would suddenly cause the snow level to drop to sea level. Since precipitation rates were forecast to be quite intense at the time, a few inches of wet snow were likely to accumulate.

More interesting is that both of the two historically most accurate forecasting models, the ECMWF and the GFS, converged on that scenario a few days out, and then kept on saying the same thing. It has long been my experience that when this happens, the forecast event almost always verifies. Yet the official forecasts, be they from the National Weather Service or Weather.com, had no mention of lowland snow that day.

That made no sense at all to me. Again, when both those models consistently agree on something, it really tends to happen. So I made a post about the likelihood of a snowfall to the /r/Bellingham Reddit forum. Skepticism ensued, followed quickly enough by flabbergasted amazement as “this guy on Reddit” forecast a snowfall that was not mentioned in any official forecasts.

Last weekend it happened again. The model guidance had converged quite nicely on a significant lowland snow event, with the vast majority of runs clustered right around the 6 to 8 inch range. The official forecasters only reluctantly started forecasting snow, and then only a few inches of it. This time the skepticism was tempered, because I had been right before.

I knew going into last weekend that if I was right a second time with a radically different forecast, a lot of people would have difficulty seeing me as something other than possessing supernatural powers, even though my logic for my forecasts was rather simple.

Eight to ten inches fell. My forecast was off, but only by a bit (10 inches of snow is not significantly more disruptive than 8). It is, however, way more disruptive than 3 inches, which was the high end of the range the official forecast was going for. So my status was assured. For now, at least.

Given that the community is now funding my access to the official forecast models, I owe them some at least semi-regular weather analyses, which I plan to post here.

So Much for the Lincoln Project

One of its co-founders has been exposed as a sexual predator, and a significant number of its top luminaries have departed the organization in the wake of that revelation.

The whole organization now has the stench of death hovering over it. It’s probably only a matter of time before it collapses and is no more. Or maybe it will linger on as a sad shell of itself. The distinction is somewhat academic; what matters is that henceforth, the Lincoln Project will no longer be the powerful influencer it once was.

It was probably a long time coming. I would suspect that there had been significant stresses and strains in the organization for some time, but it was held together largely by the desire to stay united and work to defeat Trump. It is not a coincidence that the collapse happened after Trump lost and Biden took office. A similar thing happened to the Western-Soviet alliance after Hitler was defeated.

There is still very much a need for anti-Trump politics on the center right, and I hope that some new organization (or organizations) rise to take the place of the Lincoln Project.

Yes, It’s War

This is in clarification to my most recent post, where I advocated that Trump and his family be targeted for prosecution so as to ruin their future political prospects (and by implication, the future prospects of American Christian fascism).

Make no mistake: that is precisely what I advocated. This is war. Either the fascists win, or the non-fascists win. Fascism must be crushed, by any means necessary. It is that simple.

There is of course no way on Earth that the present administration could strip the veneer off and say it plainly like I just have. Thankfully, they do not have to.

Pretexts are unnecessary in order to prosecute Trump. All that is needed is to reverse the disgusting precedent that nobody in a position of great power ever gets held accountable in the USA. That is it.

Biden recently tweeted that presidents should not be above the law. Make it so, and the powerful get held to account, in a politically necessary way. Refuse to make it so, and the Republic dies.

It is your choice, Messrs. Biden and Garland.

So Much for Impeachment

Technically, I should have titled this “so much for conviction after impeachment,” because the impeachment part has already happened. But anyhow, it is now clear that there is no better Republican party.

Actually, there hasn’t been for some time. But hope springs eternal in the hearts of Establishment pundits, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. Sure, there’s a few exceptions to the general rule. But the Romneys and Raffenspergers will be dealt with by the Trumpist fascist majority soon enough. The GOP is now the party of Trump and it is not going to be the party of anything else.

And why shouldn’t it be? Fascism sells in the USA. Not overall, of course, but well enough (thanks to an antiquated political system) to rule with minority support. The fascist party lost the last national election by under 50,000 votes, despite being responsible for 75 times more dead Americans than Al Qaeda.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it. If that’s how close to victory the fascists can get in circumstances that abnormally adverse for them, how are they likely to do once things return to normal?

It is imperative that non-fascists use the power we temporarily have to weaken the fascists as much as possible. A critical aspect of this is to target the Trump crime family, for reasons I will explain below. Given that conviction in the Senate is not going to happen, this means prosecution for lesser crimes at the state and federal levels. Conveniently, there is almost certainly a number of criminal acts that various members of that family can be prosecuted for.

And yes, the Trumps really are a head of a monster that can be lopped off. If it’s a hydra, it’s not a normal hydra: a few of its heads are much more important than most of the others. Lopping off those important heads might not kill this hydra, but they will weaken it considerably.

This is because of the nature of the support for political authoritarianism in the USA: it is tightly bound to the support for economic authoritarianism. Americans are indoctrinated to revere the latter. The capitalist is seen as an economic hero, responsible for wealth creation, whose private property rights are to be honored and protected. The workplace is his property, and his employees had damn well better know their place in it.

Even by capitalist standards of profit maximization, Trump was not a very good businessman, but that doesn’t matter: he was seen by many as being a good businessman. In addition to simply being a businessman, his businessman’s authoritarianism was a big part of his whole show business persona; just witness his famous “You’re fired!” tagline. He was, in short, perfectly primed to become an authoritarian leader, if (as he did) he chose to pursue a career in politics.

There really isn’t anyone else comparable. Josh Hawley, Tom Cotton, and Ted Cruz are all authoritarian career politicians. Being a politician is a career that is nowhere near as highly revered as being a businessman. In fact, politics tends to be denigrated precisely because of the threat that a regulatory state can potentially pose to the business class. There are other right-wing businessmen aplenty, of course, but none with the show business background and popular exposure Trump had.

Going after Donald Trump and his family is therefore likely to significantly hurt the prospects of American Christian fascism. The Senate won’t convict, so that means the imperative falls on the criminal justice system.

And yes, the odds probably disfavor accountability via the latter as well. It is why I am so pessimistic about the future of the American Republic. It is also why if, contrary to my expectations, Trump and his cronies do get punished, my outlook will change to be significantly more optimistic.

So, I certainly hope that I am incorrect in my pessimism and that Trump gets criminally prosecuted. It is probably the single most important thing that can be done at the present moment.

The Crisis Is Not Over

Not by a long shot. Everything that Biden talked about being an issue in his inaugural speech (e.g. COVID-19, climate change, race relations, lies/polarization) is still very much an issue, and none of these issues have magically vanished.

All of these issues still threaten our major institutions, and worst of all, those institutions are themselves an issue. They are undemocratic, because they were designed to be undemocratic: they were designed by white, male property owners for white, male property owners. They have mechanisms like an unproportionally-allocated Senate and the Electoral College which were explicitly designed to limit the influence of popular power.

It gets worse: not only do those undemocratic institutions work to limit the power of left-wing politics, they fail to work to limit the power of extremist right-wing politics. Perversely (and counter to original intent), they enable it: Trump would have never won in 2016 in a system that reflects the will of the popular majority.

So the system will continue to resist any attempts to change either itself, or the other crises that it needs to get busy on addressing. COVID-19 is likely an exception to this rule; Biden should be able to address it mostly by fully applying already-existing anti-pandemic tools. It also may be possible to punish powerful individuals responsible for the failed coup attempt (the question is whether the will to do so can be found inside the system).

But as for the other crises, they will continue to work to destabilize the general situation, and the mechanics of the overall system will work to see that right-wing voices get disproportionate influence and power.

Prediction: No Major Violence in DC

Why? Basic insurgency dynamics. The insurgent force has inferior strength, therefore must rely upon surprise and striking soft targets. DC is right now the precise opposite of that.

Violent attacks are more likely at other targets that are not being so heavily defended, or even at targets that are not being much defended at all. It is simply not possible to defend every target of actual or symbolic value.

For example, virtually every community, even many very small ones, has a post office. Any community of appreciable size has multiple post offices. Such facilities are symbolic of the Federal government because the Postal Service is run by the Federal government. There is no way that every post office in the country can be secured.

And that is just one class of symbolic targets. There are Forest Service offices, BLM offices, National Wildlife Refuges, National Parks (and Monuments), FEMA facilities, Federal office buildings, etc. scattered all over the map. (Military facilities, too, but those are not soft targets and thus unlikely to be attacked.)

The only possible exception to the unlikelihood of an attack in DC, one that cannot be ruled out, is an inside job of some sort, one involving disloyal Federal forces. Measures are being taken against such possibilities, but they might not be successful. I will still go out on a limb and say such a thing is not likely.

Somewhere, somehow, something probably will be attacked. But a direct attack on the inauguration in DC is unlikely. If one happens, it will prove to have been a suicide mission for the attackers.

Trump May Really Get Punished

Note I said may. Both political parties are in a state of moral compromise. The Republicans have degenerated into fascism. The Democrats are possessed of an institutionalized Stockholm syndrome, and have long been too timid to seriously confront the Republicans.

This, however, is different. It’s basic realpolitik. If a ruling order cannot defend itself against existential threats, thereby ensuring its perpetuation into the future, that ruling order is not long for this world. If Trump’s putsch is not severely punished, it becomes yet another tool in the toolbox for the Republicans to use, and it will be used again.

It is for this reason that Biden has since the coup attempt backed away from his continual emphasis on unity, making tweets like this:

Our president is not above the law.

Justice serves the people — it doesn’t protect the powerful.

The rest of the party is generally doing likewise. They did drag their feet a bit, but they chose to impeach. All House Democrats, even the most wavering-prone centrists, supported the impeachment. This is in itself quite likely the opening shot in what will be a string of increasingly stinging rebukes, as it gives Trump the unique besmirching of being the only president to be impeached twice.

Even a small gaggle of Republicans voted to impeach. By the time the vote to convict works its way into the Senate agenda, the fraction of Republicans choosing to back away from Trumpism may well be larger. It seems there is political blowback brewing: a majority of Senator Hawley’s constituents now think he should resign.

Another good thing is that, if there is any Attorney General capable of breaking with the precedent of presidential impunity, Merrick Garland is it. He is a Justice Department institutionalist, and he is not a progressive. The latter point is a feature, not a bug. It is politically easier for a moderate to go after Trump than it is for a progressive, because the former is naturally more insulated from charges of political motive.

It took the coup attempt to wake the Democrats (and many in the general public) up and underscore that, yes, Trumpism really is a form of fascism, and must be dealt with accordingly. But wake them up it apparently has.

The Current Situation

The Danger

As I have said before, I do not think most people yet realize the full gravity of what happened at the Capitol. I include myself in that statement; when I first wrote it, I was mainly focusing on what had happened at the Capitol itself, not what it showed about the overall political context.

What it shows about the latter is that we have a powerful leader, a charismatic right-wing authoritarian the likes of a Hitler or a Mussolini, whom millions are in absolute thrall to. The only saving grace is that unlike Hitler or Mussolini, Trump has so many personality defects that his emotions interfere with his ability to plan and strategize; Trump is perpetually stumbling over his own dick.

However, Trump is still dangerous enough to have inspired his followers to orchestrate and execute an attack on the United States Capitol, one that came closer than many realize to causing an extremely serious constitutional crisis.

It is in this light that the recent memorandum from the Joint Chiefs of Staff comes. As Beau of the Fifth Column points out, there is actually an order wrapped inside that memo:

On January 20, 2020, in accordance with the Constitution, confirmed by the states and the courts, and certified by Congress, President-elect Biden will be inaugurated and will become our 46th Commander in Chief.

And make no mistake, that is an order from the JCS. It is the entire military’s duty to cooperate in carrying it out, and if anyone goes against it, they will find themselves court-martialed. There are also news reports of the military conducting internal investigations to identify and deal with disloyal or potentially disloyal individuals. Believe them.

It does not matter if Trump opposes the order. The order is rooted in the basic Constitutional mission of the US military. As such, any countermanding order from Trump is illegal and will be disobeyed by the Joint Chiefs. Remember, military law requires all those enlisted to obey not all orders but all legal orders.

The dangerous thing is how many troops might go against the Joint Chiefs’ legal orders and instead choose to obey any illegal orders from Trump. That is a real risk, and may well cause a civil war between different military factions to break out. At this time, I tend to think any such war will be extremely limited in nature: some scattered mutinies that are quickly suppressed, not a long and bloody conflagration that engulfs the entire nation. If so, it’s questionable to even label the resulting struggle a war.

In fact it is the danger of this, and the related danger of civilian militants also finding inspiration in Trump’s words, that is behind the recent deplatformings of Trump and other influential fascist voices. If you think the national security establishment hasn’t been quitely twisting the arms of Big Tech leaders behind the scenes, think again.

Empire is Dead

One of the things that came to my notice in 2016 was the national security orientation of the anti-Trump democratic right. Evan McMullen, a career CIA officer, was motivated to launch a quixotic independent campaign for president, whose goal was to split the right-wing vote and thereby deny Trump the presidency. Tom Nichols was an early anti-Trump voice on the Right, whose clarity and insight caught my attention (without using the f-word itself, he clearly perceived the essentially fascist nature of Trumpism). Bill Kristol, the dean of national security neoconservatives, was also an early and vocal anti-Trumper. This is but a few examples.

The ironic thing is that Trump is in many ways the logical outcome of neoconservatism. The latter had been turned into a rudderless ideology by the collapse of the Soviet Union. Public support for empire was wavering, and the neoconservatives knew it. Enter the Project for a New American Century and its wish for a new Pearl Harbor moment that got the USA embroiled in a war in Iraq that was founded on a pack of lies.

Trump is very much blowback for that. The obvious failure of the Iraq War alienated many in the GOP’s base from the party’s traditional foreign policy stances, and the lack of consequences for the conspirators that enmeshed the country in it helped give Trump the courage to try breaking even more laws.

Not many people have written about it, but Trumpism has mortally wounded the American empire. First, the very fact a Trump could gain power in the USA illustrated beyond doubt the danger of a unipolar world order led by it. Then, Trump’s buffoonery and betrayal of allies underscored the unreliability of the USA as a partner. Finally, the recent failed coup attempt underscores just how weak and structurally rotten the Republic really is.

For the foreseeable future, we are going to be way too preoccupied with our own domestic security to be able to pay much attention to international security. The American empire is now dead, or soon will be.

The Factions

It has been said, regarding Presidential candidates, that Democrats fall in love while Republicans fall in line.

I experienced the former in 2008, when I would try to point out to my liberal friends that Obama was not going to be the progressive messiah they imagined him to be. It was all to no avail: they would not believe me. They had fallen in love. But Democrats are a famously fractious and disorganized party. Will Rogers once quipped “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.” It didn’t take very long for liberals to get disappointed in Obama and for intra-party squabbling to break out.

By contrast, Republicans really do fall in line, at least they did up until Trump appeared on the scene. The pre-Trump Republican Party was actually very much a coalition between three main factions, who each had different motivating reasons for being a Republican:

  1. Neoconservatives were mostly concerned about national security. In fact, many of them had started out life on the political left, before realizing just what a totalitarian shithole the USSR was, and finding a life mission of defeating the Soviet empire. They liked the Republicans because of their hawkish foreign policy.
  2. The bourgeoisie were mostly concerned about their money and social power. They liked the Republicans because of their anti-union, low-tax, pro-free-trade, and anti-welfare policies.
  3. Paleoconservatives are social reactionaries. They like the GOP’s antipathy towards civil rights and LGBT rights. They dream of banning abortions and making Christian prayer compulsory in public schools. They wave Confederate battle flags around for a reason.

Each faction mostly cared about what it cared about, and was willing to be in a coalition that pursued goals other than its own, so long as those other goals were pursued on a mostly non-interference basis to their own goals. No faction really cared much about those other goals; they just put up with them.

If, for example, the Democrats became big on military spending and empire, the neocons could have happily supported them; they had no strong objections in principle to things like gay rights or racial equality. Likewise, if the opposition to the Democrats became a European-style liberal party (perhaps a watered-down version of the US Libertarian Party), that favored racial equality and gay rights but also wanted low taxes and was against the welfare state, the bourgeoisie could have just as happily supported it.

The social reactionaries are the interesting ones, because unlike the other two categories, they are economically diverse: many of them are working class, while both the national security intelligentsia and of course the bourgeoisie are drawn exclusively from the ranks of the affluent. Working-class social reactionaries in fact used to typically be Democrats, because they favored the Democrats’ economic policies, and only got driven away from that party in response to the Civil Rights Acts.

Many people call that crowd the Christian right (or, less generously and today more accurately, Christian fascists). Their Christianity has its roots in the Old South, in denominations like the Southern Baptists and in other religious traditions that grew out of an ideological need to find justification in Scripture for Negro slavery.

The social reactionaries are large in numbers primarily because of their economic diversity: it is hard to have large numbers if one’s base comes mostly from the relatively small upper strata of the economic hierarchy. They don’t care about Trump’s trade policies causing pain for the capitalist class, because they are not themselves members of the capitalist class, and many of them have in fact been hurt by the free-trade policies of the old GOP. It’s just that they liked the socially reactionary policies enough that they were willing to suffer somewhat economically to see them put into place.

This is why they absolutely love Trump. Trump tells them they can have it all: a socially reactionary state that clamps down on the capitalists and brings back their old jobs that the capitalist class free-traded away. And until he does that, they get to savor the sweet schadenfreude of owning the libs. And if that all doesn’t fly well enough with the rest of America to consistently win elections, well fuck it. Time for a putsch.

Of the other two parts of the old Republican coalition, the one that has the most issues with Trumpism is the neocons. They dislike the increasingly open bigotry of the social reactionaries, because this evil complicates the neocons’ goals. Most of the world is populated by nonwhites and/or non-Christians. Allying with a power that oppresses people who look or believe like you, when there is another world power called China without that spare baggage that is also courting your nation, is basically a non-starter. The neocons know this.

On top of that, racism corrodes the military itself. Harry Truman desegregated the military because he wanted to do something about racism and the realities of political power at the time constrained him from doing much of anything about it via legislation. So he used his power as Commander in Chief to say to the military: you are desegregating, and that’s an order. This gave the military about twenty years’ head start on the rest of society when it comes to promoting the principle of racial equality, a principle now firmly ingrained in military culture. Whites and nonwhites serve side by side, and many white servicemen serve under, and thus take orders from, nonwhite officers.

In fact, the need to strengthen empire was part of the motive for the Civil Rights Acts in the first place. LBJ was a hawk who got the USA deeply involved in Vietnam; he pushed civil rights in part to counter the outreach the USSR was making to the Third World, which was pointing out the hypocrisy of a racist apartheid superpower that made noises about freedom.

All of this means there is considerable antipathy between the neoconservatives and the Trumpers. Since neoconservatism is basically the state ideology of the national security establishment, this means there is considerable antipathy between the national security establishment and the Trumpers.

The Alliance

I recently pointed out that Trump is worse than Osama bin Laden. The national security establishment don’t go around openly saying it, in fact most of them probably don’t consciously even realize it yet, but they realize it on some level. They not only realize it, but they are now in the process of acting on it. Last week’s coup attempt really got their attention.

I am still trying to work through the full implications of what this all means, but the immediate takeaway, I think, is to keep in mind that we are now in an extremely serious struggle against an extremely dangerous domestic fascist movement. Like the past great struggle against fascism, World War II, this is a grave struggle and our victory is not certain. As such, we cannot afford to rule out the alliance with anyone against the fascists, even an alliance with forces that we have traditionally had antipathy with. (You think Churchill and Roosevelt loved Stalin? Think again.)

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be cautious when interacting with our new strange bedfellows, of course. It is common in struggles for alliances to shift and former allies to stab each other in the back. But, for the time being, and like it or not, history has landed both the Left and the national security establishment on the same side of the struggle against fascism.