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Archive for November, 2009

Cultural Differences

I couldn’t help being struck this morning by the juxtaposition of these two stories.

  1. Navy SEALs who captured a most-wanted terrorist are being court-martialed for allegedly giving him a bloody lip in the process.  Isn’t assault what the military is, you know, for?
  2. Saudi Arabia has sentenced a TV host to death for witchcraft. He was visiting from Lebanon and sometimes makes predictions on his show.

I can think of one thing we have in common with the Saudis: we’re both completely insane.

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“Waterboarding the Data”

That’s how Charlie Martin puts it.  He reviews an East Anglia programmer’s notes in detail (in HARRY_READ_ME.txt) as he tries to make sense of the climate models.  The upshot: He finds complete confusion, and can’t replicate the research team’s results!

I think there’s a good reason the CRU didn’t want to give their data to people trying to replicate their work.

It’s in such a mess that they can’t replicate their own results.

Now, it’s worth looking at this in some detail.  It’s not unusual that, in dealing with very large databases, one has to make corrections to the data.  Stations stop transmitting data for a time, and then resume; mechanical problems lead to ridiculous outliers; things break and have to be replaced; and so on.  Sometimes, problems are severe enough that stations have to be thrown out of the sample altogether.  But often problems seem relatively minor, and missing or bizarre data is extrapolated.  There are ways of doing this that are entirely respectable, and improve the quality of the results. (You really don’t want to work from data sets that show that the temperature in Norwich was zero for two weeks in August, or that the temperature in St. Andrews was 938° C one day in March.) Of course, such changes should be documented, and the method for extrapolating should be specified.

The manipulation and confusion in the East Anglia data, however, goes far beyond anything like this.  There are significant errors in the program; a sum of squares ends up negative!  A commenter has a nice joke:

[why does the sum-of-squares parameter OpTotSq go negative?!!]

Because, obviously, the climate data are imaginary.

In the end, the programmer simply plugs in the published 1901-1995 results, because he can’t recreate any of them using the data!  Near the end he comments,

I am seriously close to giving up, again. The history of this is so complex that I can’t get far enough into it before by head hurts and I have to stop. Each parameter has a tortuous history of manual and semi-automated interventions that I simply cannot just go back to early versions and run the update prog. I could be throwing away all kinds of corrections – to lat/lons, to WMOs (yes!), and more.

WMO is the World Meteorological Organization, whose data might reasonably be thought to be trustworthy.  But no; it was “corrected” for unspecified reasons in unspecified ways.

Here are some other excerpts (from Declan McCullogh):

I am seriously worried that our flagship gridded data product is produced by Delaunay triangulation – apparently linear as well. As far as I can see, this renders the station counts totally meaningless.

There are hundreds if not thousands of pairs of dummy stations, one with no WMO and one with, usually overlapping and with the same station name and very similar coordinates. I know it could be old and new stations, but why such large overlaps if that’s the case? Aarrggghhh! There truly is no end in sight… So, we can have a proper result, but only by including a load of garbage!

Knowing how long it takes to debug this suite – the experiment endeth here. The option (like all the anomdtb options) is totally undocumented so we’ll never know what we lost.

There are other problems:

Programmer-written comments inserted into CRU’s Fortran code have drawn fire as well. The file briffa_sep98_d.pro says: “Apply a VERY ARTIFICAL correction for decline!!” and “APPLY ARTIFICIAL CORRECTION.” Another, quantify_tsdcal.pro, says: “Low pass filtering at century and longer time scales never gets rid of the trend – so eventually I start to scale down the 120-yr low pass time series to mimic the effect of removing/adding longer time scales!”

I like Bob Bleck‘s summary: “The emails prove that Mann made global warming is real…we’ve just been spelling it wrong.”

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Robert Tracinski and Iain Murray have excellent pieces today on Climategate, the emails from East Anglia University that give us a look behind the curtain at the “scientific” background underlying global warming hysteria. Tracinski, after giving an excellent summary of the issues, says,

This is an enormous case of organized scientific fraud, but it is not just scientific fraud. It is also a criminal act. Suborned by billions of taxpayer dollars devoted to climate research, dozens of prominent scientists have established a criminal racket in which they seek government money-Phil Jones has raked in a total of £13.7 million in grants from the British government-which they then use to falsify data and defraud the taxpayers. It’s the most insidious kind of fraud: a fraud in which the culprits are lauded as public heroes. Judging from this cache of e-mails, they even manage to tell themselves that their manipulation of the data is intended to protect a bigger truth and prevent it from being “confused” by inconvenient facts and uncontrolled criticism.

The damage here goes far beyond the loss of a few billions of taxpayer dollars on bogus scientific research. The real cost of this fraud is the trillions of dollars of wealth that will be destroyed if a fraudulent theory is used to justify legislation that starves the global economy of its cheapest and most abundant sources of energy.

This is the scandal of the century. It needs to be thoroughly investigated-and the culprits need to be brought to justice.

Most of the posts and articles I have read on climategate say, judiciously, that while this casts doubt on some evidence, and is itself evidence of misconduct, we shouldn’t rush to judgment about global warming itself.  Nonsense.  There are many disturbing things in the emails—the use of tricks to hide temperature declines, for example; the pressure on journals not to publish articles critical of global warming; the channeling of papers to reviewers who will rubber-stamp papers showing warming and reject critical papers; the manipulation of the IPCC and the papers referred to in it—but the response to ordinary scientific requests for data and then Freedom of Information Act requests for data is, I think, most telling.  It contravenes scientific practice and violates the law.

But it does more than that.  It tells us that the data do not support the conclusions these scientists have been drawing. If they did, why not release them?  I have done statistical analyses of data sets in a variety of contexts.  There’s no reason not to give other researchers access to the data—unless you’ve been engaged in monkey business. The only sensible explanation is that the scientists involved have analyzed the data, reached conclusions they didn’t want, and then employed “tricks” to get the conclusions they wanted at the outset.

We’ve recently seen a shocking example of this in the case of the Yamal samples.  The famed hockey stick graph of global temperatures depended on picking 12 trees out of 252. The sample as a whole shows no evidence of global warming.

I don’t know what a fair analysis of the East Anglia data would indicate, or even whether there’s enough uncorrupted data left to analyze, but I’m sure of one thing: a fair analysis of the actual data didn’t show global warming.  If it had, there would have been no reason to hide anything.

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“Hide the Decline”

Right, and hold the inconvenient facts, the objectivity of peer review, and the respect for scientific method.  The astounding revelation of thousands of emails among global warming scientists casts a shocking light on the use of science as politics.  War, von Clausewitz said, is politics by other means.  Apparently, the same can be true of science.  Or perhaps we should say “science.”  Finding “tricks” for hiding data that appears to be incompatible with one’s favored view is not science.

PowerLine has been all over the case, here and here. Gateway Pundit sees South Park parallels. Michelle Malkin calls it “the global warming scandal of the century.” The Washington Post notices the hostility and manipulation of the peer-review process. Charlie Martin explores what it all means.  His conclusion:

But, at least on this first look, it appears that the three scandals are:

  • First, a real attempt by a small group of scientists to subvert the peer-review process and suppress dissenting voices. (For another look at this, by a respected climate scientist who was one of the targets, see these posts on Roger Pielke Sr.’s blog.)  This is at best massively unethical.
  • Second, a willingness to manipulate the data to make a political case. This is certainly misconduct and possibly scientific fraud. This, if it proves true, should make these scientists subject to strong disciplinary action, even termination of their tenured positions.
  • Third, what gives every appearance of an actual conspiracy to prevent data from being released as required by the Freedom of Information Acts in the US and UK. If this is proven true, that is a federal crime.

These emails and the data associated, taken together, raise really important questions about the whole scientific structure of AGW. Is the data really valid? Has the data been effectively peer reviewed and have attempts to falsify been fairly treated? Is CO2-forced AGW really the best hypothesis?

UPDATE: Look at the summary of some key emails at Bishop Hill. (HT: Instapundit, via Volokh.) Good grief.  No matter how skeptical you may have been about global warming—and I’ve been plenty skeptical—the level of duplicity and thuggery these emails evidence is appalling.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds: “I’m thinking “Hide The Decline” could be a slogan for a lot of folks, right about now.”

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Terror in Texas

I have refrained from saying anything about the attack at Fort Hood until the facts became clear.  It is remarkable how much we have learned about the activities and beliefs of Major Hasan, and how clearly they indicate that his act was an act of terrorism.  It is even more remarkable how unwilling the Army, the media, and the President are to embrace that conclusion.  Fortunately, there are signs that the American people have not abandoned common sense.  A friend who has just returned from California told me that most people he talked to raised the issue of the Fort Hood shootings with him, scoffed at the ridiculous commentaries they had been hearing, and found it obvious that they were acts of Islamic terror.  Phyllis Chesler found the same even at CNN, after appearing on the Lou Dobbs show:

And last night, as I was leaving CNN’s very spiffy headquarters in NYC, a tall and handsome CNN man stopped me and said: “You spoke very well. Thank you.” The guest who followed me said, “I agree with you.”

Folks: I am talking about CNN, not FOX. I think, maybe, perhaps, possibly, my God, if not now when, that things might be beginning to change. (The realist in me is scoffing; the optimist has her fingers crossed).

What if the Ministry of Truth insists that war is peace, freedom is slavery, etc., and no one believes it?

There is another interesting angle.  How do we know so much so quickly about Major Hasan?  And why was nothing done?  A. J. Strata puts the pieces together, and conjectures that Hasan was under investigation in 2008, but that the investigation was later canceled.  Michael Isikoff notes:

But although an FBI-led task force undertook an “assessment” of the Army psychiatrist as a result of those contacts, counter-terror officials concluded earlier this year that Hasan’s communications with the terror suspect were “protected” by “free speech” and did not warrant opening up a criminal investigation of him, the investigators said.

Strata observes:

Bingo. The timeframe is perfect with the incoming administration (which we all now know is very liberal and willing to take all sorts of risks with American lives and fortunes). And the excuse is right out of MoveOn.org.  Free speech is protected, that is what the FIS Court is all about – the balance between free speech and protecting Americans from harm. It is why the information is gathered, held closely to protect the individual’s reputation.

There is no harm in monitoring someone who shows the signs of losing his mind and going violent. Whoever called of the surveillance was an Obama official with far left views. Isikoff’s article indicates his ‘government official source’ is trying to turn this into a gun control debate. Of course, he only has this person’s word (who may be trying to cover his ass) as to whether there was no notice of Hasan’s gun purchase.

This is starting to reek of a cover up.

Maybe that’s why the administration and their media groupies are so eager to think of other explanations.

None of this should actually be surprising.  Obama has consistently decried what he terms “false choices” such as that between liberty and security.  But they’re real choices, and tipping the balance away from security has real consequences—consequences we’ve only begun to see.

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Twenty Years of Freedom

the berlin wall

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Amazement

Hugh Fitzgerald over at Jihad Watch is amazed at the cluelessness of the people in charge of Middle East policy in Washington:

I’m amazed — aren’t you? — that more than eight years after the 9/11/2001 attacks we still have people in Washington who do not have a grasp of Islam, do not understand what Islam has to do with the Arab war on Israel, why any further perceived Arab or Muslim victories will whet, not sate, Arab and Muslim appetites, who do not understand the simple concept of divide et impera, and of how we can exploit to our advantage the sectarian, ethnic, and economic hostilities and resentments that could divide and demoralize the Camp of Islam.

I don’t fully agree with everything Fitzgerald says in the article, which is very much worth reading, but I do fully share his amazement.  What will it take for our elites to begin a serious study of Islam?  If not 9/11, what?  If Europe is any guide, they never will.

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The Power of Faith

Another brilliant post from Richard Fernandez, with an outstanding bit in the comments about the importance of religion and the dangers of materialism:

Like Voltaire and perhaps Pascal, I think it is always in a man’s personal interest to claim he is something more than an animal or the equivalent of a barrel of chemicals. There are enough forces out there trying to enslave and kill you without volunteering the proposition that we’re all just jumped up monkeys. You must at least allow for the remote possibility that we truly are sacred; and that not a sparrow falls to earth without a heavenly Father taking note. If a man won’t argue his cause, if a man can’t at least hope that his “individual act of love” will last or try to last forever, then nobody else will. Because sure as heck the bearded prophets of Marxism would like nothing better than to assign, or better yet tattoo a serial number on you with an expiration date and a recycling destination. I would almost say that to believe in God, or at least to allow for the possibility of His existence is the most fundamental act of rebellion possible. You defy the universe and certainly the State to extinguish you….

The most subversive sentences of the Declaration are all to do with the legitimacy of the pursuit of happiness; and the celebration of our dangerously impertinent desire to look up at the skies and call each star by its name.

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Comrade Obama

There’s increasing puzzlement about Obama’s foreign policy.  A variety of voices are wondering what vision lies behind a series of seemingly inexplicable actions.  It’s beginning to dawn on people that, as Glenn Reynolds puts it, a replay of the Carter administration is the best case scenario.  For example:

I have suggested, in connection with President Obama’s dealings with Russia, that to call him a fool is to give him the benefit of the doubt. For Obama’s hat-in-hand approach to Russia assumes that the thuggish, autocratic, expansionist Russian regime is more sinned against than sinning in its relations with the U.S. If Obama believes this, he is anti-American; If he doesn’t believe this but elects to act as if it were so, then he is a fool.

Now, it may be starting to dawn on the more perceptive members of the MSM that portraying Obama as a fool — or, more kindly, as naive — puts him in the best plausible light. This desire to offer an innocent (in two senses of the word) explanation for Obama’s foreign policy may well explain today’s front page Washington Post story regarding the alleged origins of Obama’s approach to foreign policy.

Liberals are starting to notice that supporting Zelaya in Honduras, canceling missile defenses in Eastern Europe, treating Britain, France, and Germany with disrespect, and joining Islamic nations in advocating restrictions on free speech is, to put it mildly, doing absolutely nothing to advance the interests of the United States.

Here’s a hint.  He’s not seeking to advance the interests of the United States.

Add this to his long associations with Reverend Wright (recently taped advocating Marxism) and Bill Ayers, the Communist affiliations and attitudes of White House officials such as Van Jones and Anita Dunn, and the radicalism of his most frequent visitor, Andy Stern, head of the SEIU.  It isn’t hard to draw the conclusion around which Glenn Beck has been dancing for some time without actually stating:

PRESIDENT OBAMA IS A MARXIST.

This has been obvious to me since early in 2008.  The environs of academia he called home are overwhelmingly Marxist.  He wrote of his seeking out the most radical people he could find, and going to Marxist talks to soothe himself and ease his rage.  His “community organizer” (i.e., “radical troublemaker”) past, his fondness for Reverend Wright, his association with Ayers, his “blank slate” voting record, and his vacuous, cliche-riddled, but supposedly inspiring speeches all pointed to a radical in vague, mirrored clothing that would enable each person to look at Obama and see his own image reflected back.  Who wears a mirrored costume, but someone who needs to hide his true self?

 

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Texas over California

William Voegeli compares California’s left-wing, high-tax/high-benefits model with Texas’s right-wing, moderate-tax/moderate-benefits model. People are leaving high-tax states for low-tax states:

One way to assess how Americans feel about the different tax and benefit packages the states offer is by examining internal U.S. migration patterns. Between April 1, 2000, and June 30, 2007, an average of 3,247 more people moved out of California than into it every week, according to the Census Bureau. Over the same period, Texas had a net weekly population increase of 1,544 as a result of people moving in from other states. During these years, more generally, 16 of the 17 states with the lowest tax levels had positive “net internal migration,” in the Census Bureau’s language, while 14 of the 17 states with the highest taxes had negative net internal migration.

Why are they leaving?  They aren’t getting their money’s worth.  Texas schools are now better than California’s; the average Texas student is two-and-a-half years ahead of the average California student.  Berkeley is still the finest public university in the country, but the University of Texas at Austin is in the top five.  Texas roads are better than California roads, and are also much less crowded.  The regulatory climate for business is much better in Texas.

John Hinderaker extends the point:

Texas, increasingly, is the economic and intellectual leader of the U.S. During the last 18 months before the current recession took hold, while the country as a whole was still creating jobs, more than half of those jobs were created in a single state: Texas.

The public sector unions have managed to use government revenues to enrich themselves without providing commensurate benefits for taxpayers.  Maybe a high-tax/high-benefit model can succeed—but only if institutional structures limit public employees’ success at rent-seeking.

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